Last Thursday Katie and I attended a performance of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for the first time since my return to the US. We used to be full season subscribers to this truly world class orchestra and it was exciting to be back. That night was a great performance for which to return as it was the world premiere of The Planets--An HD Oddyssey. Something I've always enjoyed about the HSO is its willingness to branch out and explore the integration of other art forms with the music it plays. In this case it meant stunning NASA video to complement each planet in Holst's famous score.
The program opened with renditions (sans film) of Stravinsky's Scherzo Fantastique and Dutilleux's Timbres, Space, Movement (The Starry Night), both fitting for an evening with a fantastic, heavenly, mythical theme. The evening was also the first time I've taken advantage of my office's location in the heart of the Theater District--and it won't be the last!
Saturday was Katie's birthday so we had several of her friends over for dinner to celebrate. I was in an Association of Rice Alumni board meeting all day so unfortunately some of the prep work fell to the birthday girl. However, I rushed home as quickly as I could and we got to cooking.
The first course, as guests arrived, was toasted baguette with olive oil, dark chocolate, and fleur de sel, paired with a sparkling white wine from Gruet. This course seemed to last forever as we all congregated in the kitchen while Katie and I put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal.
We migrated to the dining room for round 2: carrot-habanero-ginger soup paired with our old white wine favorite, Sella & Mosca La Cala vermentino, to cleanse and cool the palette.
This led to our "earthy" course: portabella mushroom caps stuffed with Minnesota wild rice and accompanied by lightly steamed broccolini. We paired this with Valdicava's Rosso di Montalcino as Katie, Cox, and I had all tasted it from the barrel during our vineyard visits.
Not that we needed anymore food by this point but we served three vegetarian cheeses anyway and attempted to continue pairing them with the Valdicava. However, too much wine may have impaired our judgement as we soon found several other bottles of exotic reds on the table. No one complained, though!
Finally we had dark chocolate birthday cake and Banyuls Rimage (kind of like Port, but French) from Les Clos de Paulilles. Miraculously this wasn't all succeeded by tequila shots and running around the neighborhood naked or anything--we really must be getting old!
Sunday the birthday continued as we took a cooking class at our favorite local Indian place, Indika. It was a small, intimate class--just a few couples--taught by the chef/owner back in the kitchen of the restaurant. It was our first time working with commercial cooking tools and very fun to experience a taste (no pun intended) of the chaotic restaurant kitchen environment. The result was a delicious dinner. This is to be expected from Indika when the real chefs are cooking so we were all pleased to have stepped up enough ourselves.
Tonight Katie and I watched Food, Inc., which galvanized our resolve to eat fresh, organic, locally grown foods. It's just amazing how much crap--and how little nutrition--is in most foods we are marketed and sold. The system drives us to buy the cheapest food--but it is so much more expensive when you consider the resulting healthcare, social, and environmental costs. We have to change the system to capture the true costs of food--in much the same way that we have to change the system to capture the true costs of energy--and it starts with consumers voting with their wallets.
A few things you can do right now are here.
Last week was an exceedingly productive one! Smart Office Energy Solutions hit a major milestone as we received our first checks/wire transfers from investors. Sure it is nice to have some money in the account but even more rewarding is what this signifies. At this incredibly early stage, investors really aren't investing in a business plan or a product; they're betting on me. All of our investors are people whom I respect and admire so their confidence in me feels great!
I tracked pretty well on my goals for last week, except that I did not make as much progress on our global business plan as I needed to and, once again, way way too many of my calories came from fat. On the brighter side, though, I hooked up with several friends, mentors, and former colleagues last week, which was wonderful.
The week ended on an outstanding note. My mother flew into town for some meetings with NASA. We then headed to Austin to spend the weekend with some friends of hers from grad school. I thought it would be fun and relaxing but my expectations were far, far exceeded.
For one thing, the house on Lake Travis was phenomenal--which was a good thing since the weather was pretty glum all weekend. Second, we ate very well all weekend, from Z Tejas Friday night to Oasis Sunday afternoon to great home cooking all the meals in between! Third, they had a Wii and a huge TV--enough said. Fourth, both Peyton Manning and Brett Favre won their playoff games decisively on that huge TV. Fifth, we had lots of fun playing cards, playing Scrabble, and just bumming around all weekend. Sixth, we went to visit Flat Creek Estate winery, which had a stellar muscat dessert wine, the Mistella.
Seventh, these friends are both psychology PhDs and they run a leadership development/executive coaching practice called The LDG. Naturally they were fascinated with my leadership development at IMD much as I was fascinated by their work with CEOs and boards of major corporations. We shared a great deal of common interest and the weekend was fraught with discussions and anecdotes about the only thing that really makes businesses succeed or fail: people. These two really know their stuff so it was no surprise that their phone was ringing off the hook all weekend with executives hoping to retain their services--very, very impressive.
Mom and I drove back to Houston last night very relaxed after having spent a great weekend with some wonderful people. Then Mom had an early flight this morning and it was back to focusing on my startup. The weekend left me with nearly boundless energy, though, and today already has been incredibly productive.
As today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I did take some time to read up on MLK and reflect on what his story means to me. There are many things to take from his story, but a few particularly resounded with me, in no particular order.
1. The power of oration: the man was simply phenomenal at not only writing/improvising his speeches, but at delivering them. It is amazing how powerful oration can be--for good or ill--and I wonder how the changing landscape of media and technology will affect it. Certainly an individual voice can reach many more ears much more swiftly than in the past. However, that voice will also have to compete with a much greater cacophony of competing voices. It will be interesting to see. One thing is for certain, though, the early 60's were a grand time for oration, producing both MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech and JFK's "To the Moon" speech--both of which still give me chills.
2. The power of non-violent resistance: whatever happened to non-violent resistance anyway? It seems that now everyone resists with terrorism or overt military action, neither of which seem to be all that effective in achieving desired end results. I'm not sure why non-violent resistance seems to be so effective--perhaps it's because it forces everyone (not only those in opposition but also all the onlookers) to humanize the resisters, creating empathy. Violence does the opposite; according to George Kohlrieser, violence is only possible when human bonding has broken down. Therefore violent acts inherently objectify, rather than humanize, people and humans tend to reach agreements with other humans more than they reach agreements with objects.
3. You don't have to be perfect to make a huge difference: MLK was far from perfect and he was totally upfront about that. He was a notorious adulterer (Again a striking resemblance to JFK!), which is particularly imperfect in light of his being a Baptist minister! The FBI tried to discredit him by spreading reports of his transgressions but, at the end of the day, people forgave him and got behind his mission. We live in a time in which it is increasingly impossible to hide any aspect of yourself--perfect or imperfect--and it takes far less than the FBI to dig up your dirty laundry. No human is perfect, though, and I think the realization that celebrities and role models are not perfect has the potential to humanize them. If they put up a perfect persona and then are inevitably found out, the public turns against them, "AHA! You made be feel inadequate because you were so perfect but you totally are NOT!" Evidence: Tiger Woods. If instead they are upfront about it, the public may not approve per se, but they at least can empathize with the imperfection.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I also unfairly project that on others too. I'll never forget my PDI coach (IMD's personal development program included a year-long interaction with a Jungian analyst, called PDI.) telling me how she felt that I put tremendous performance pressure on her. I'm sure I do it to employees and even friends and family too. I try to be cognizant of that and ease off a bit. MLK is a good example to remind me that, imperfect as I am, I still have the power to make a positive impact. We all do.
The first full week of 2010 has come and gone so . . . how did I do in meeting the goals I set forth in my New Year's Resolutions? Not too poorly so far. Of my daily/weekly goals, I met all of them except for keeping my fat consumption below 25% of my overall calories. Instead I was up around 38%! This isn't a quantity issue (I averaged 2,781 calories in each day, far below my goal of 3,250!); it's about choices. With our trip to the farmer's market yesterday, I believe I'm better armed to make better choices this week.
It was a great week for Smart Office Energy Solutions too as we hit another major milestone. We finalized and sent out investment packages to our first few committed investors. They now have everything they need to send us money and receive shares in return--exciting! While I was skyping with one of my mentors (Recall that one of my 2010 goals is to engage at least one mentor each week.), we talked a bit about this new venture and he decided to invest himself! Any money is good at this early stage but it feels especially validating to receive the vote of confidence (someone literally putting his money where his mouth is) of someone whom I hold in such high esteem!
We have also fully outfitted our office's power sockets with our smart power management solution and the data is extremely compelling. Saturday, for example, our office power sockets consumed 6 kWh of electricity--and there wasn't even anyone in the office! That's three offices, a reception area, and a common kitchen/printer area just sucking power uselessly. By automatically shutting off power to these devices nights and weekends, we could save over 1,100 kWh per year with no adverse impact to our business. This coming week we will begin tracking the other two thirds of office energy consumption that comes from lighting and HVAC.
Personally it was a great week, culminating in a weekend of Indian fusion cuisine. Friday night Katie and I had a hot, spicy date night at The Bombay Pizza Company, which just opened in downtown Houston. Take something I already love, like pizza, and add something else I love, like Indian food, and BAM--winner! We started with veggie masala sliders with sweet potato fries, which were delicious. The piece de resistance, though, was the saag paneer pizza, which I have been waiting for my whole life. So, so, SO GOOD!
Saturday Nick arrived in town and we entertained his son all evening, including dinner. Nick was so enthralled by the idea of Indian-Italian-American fusion that we ordered a couple more pizzas from the Bombay Pizza Company--this time picking them up at the curb right in front of the restaurant and taking them back home. We tried the Munshi, which was full of fresh vegetables, and the Berry Bombay, which had a spicy strawberry sauce--totally unorthodox and totally delicious!
This morning Nick and I had our first lift of the new year. I won't go into details, but I will tell you that, by the time we were finished, both of us had a hard time walking and I could barely get my watch on, such was the extent of our muscular exhaustion. I love High-Intensity Training and it's never better than when I'm with my original lifting partner, my brother.
After such a session we clearly needed sustenance so we and Katie headed to Indika for even more Indian fusion. Their Sunday brunches are spectacular--all you can eat, which is a real challenge for someone who set portion control as one of his 2010 goals! The drinks and food were delicious, though, so we all overindulged a bit--ok, a lot. The upside is that I haven't been hungry all day since!
Pics of all meals are in my facebook album.
So, a great week indeed and I'm looking forward to building on its success in week 2. This has some natural highlights: date night at Antica Osteria and traveling to Austin with my mom next weekend! In the meantime there is much to do at work and only so many hours in the day--ah the sweet life of the entrepreneur!
Santa was good to us this year and brought us many new Wii games:
Beatles Rock Band - words really can't describe how awesome this game is. Those already tiring of the rhythm game genre might not be as impressed with it as I am but this is our first such game and wow, what a way to start! Katie sings beautifully while I strum along on the guitar parts. Like so we're making our way (chronologically, of course!) through the entire Beatles repertoire. Very few things feel as awesome as getting a 100% score on the guitar part of While My Guitar Gently Weeps--hours and hours of endless fun and great music!
Wii Fit Plus - This is an example of evolution-not-revolution as there really isn't that much different from the original Wii Fit. However, I love the original game so the addition of 15 new mini-games was very welcome. I'm not sure how long it will take me to master all the new features but I do know that I'll have a lot of fun and burn a lot of low-impact calories while I'm trying.
Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - This should really be titled "Gold's Gym Cardio Kickboxing" as it is exclusively kickboxing content, no other cardio. Actually, so far it seems really to be only boxing, not even kickboxing. The jury is still out on it as I have only been through one session so far, but it seems like a good way to work up a sweat without leaving my living room.
Big Beach Sports - I wished for this aggregation of beach-based mini-games because it is one of the very few Wii titles to feature beach volleyball. The game on the whole is really weak, maybe even weaker than Deca Sports. However, the beach volleyball is this game's best feature and is definitely better than the Deca version. It's certainly not great, but it could be fun for groups.
Wii Motion Plus - This new technology makes the Wiimote controller infinitely more interesting. Instead of just detecting movement, the Wii can now tell the exact angle at which your Wiimote is being held and moving with great precision. Although there are still only ~10 games available for it, I see this as opening new doors for Wii possibilities--finally we can have a Star Wars game with real light saber action!
Wii Sports Resort - This was one of the very first games available to take advantage of the Wii Motion Plus. It is essentially a sequel to Wii Sports and is a lot of fun. The highlight for most people will be sword fighting, which allows much higher fidelity blocking, parrying, and striking than anything to date. However, the highlight for me by far is . . . TABLE TENNIS! Finally I can virtually return to my IMD days and get back to work on my smashes. It's not quite the same, of course, but it's a much, much more decent proxy than it could have been. I miss the fitness and training modes from the original Wii Sports but I guess you can't have everything.
We're awaiting the arrival of not one, not two, but three tennis games that use the Motion Plus so I'll review them once I've had a chance to form an adequate opinion!
Having looked back at 2009 in my last post, now it is time to look ahead to 2010. Following are my New Year's resolutions laid out by category. I would like to publish these online and report on regular progress to maintain accountability. Can anyone recommend any good tools for this?
1. Weekly date night with Katie--now that we're not on separate continents, I'll have to keep things interesting so she doesn't tire of me and kick me out!
2. Weekly personal contact with family/friends--even though I'm very, very extroverted and a very, very social creature, I tend to "turtle in" during times of stress or great work load (pretty much all the time these days!). This is exactly the opposite of what I should do since I draw my strength from my personal relationships. As much of a technologist as I am, I also can't let myself fall into the trap of believing that tweeting, blogging, and emailing are a substitute for real, in-person human contact. Therefore I resolve to reach out to my friends and family for in-person meet-ups at least once a week. This begins this weekend when my brother and favorite nephew are in town.
1. Daily caloric intake under 3,250 calories--in 2008 I ingested ~3700 calories/day, 3500 in 2009. This year I'm going for a bigger jump. This will be tough now that I am back in the US--and Texas specifically--where portion sizes are crazy. I'll need strength of will to avoid my natural instinct of eating things just because they're there, even when I'm no longer hungry. I'll also focus on chewing slowly and staying hydrated.
2. Consume 60% of calories from carbs, 15% from protein and, at most, 25% from fat--2010 will not just be about how much I eat, but also what I eat. In Switzerland it was so easy to eat well with the farmer's market just below my window, fresh, healthy foods at restaurants, and plenty of support from like-minded peers. It will be harder to meet this goal now that I'm back in the land of Food, Inc. but I'm fortunate to have a tremendous asset in Katie. Her commitment to inventive and delicious cooking with fresh, natural foods may well be my saving grace; here again I'll just need to play my cards right so that she'll share with me.
1. Weekly yoga--The first half of 2009 saw my flexibility increase for the first time since . . . well, maybe ever . . . largely due to my weekly 1.5-hour sessions of ashtanga yoga. I got away from that commitment in the second half of the year and I can feel it. 2010 must see a return to yoga throughout the year. This starts tonight.
1. Daily caloric expenditure of at least 3,500 calories--this will put me on pace to reduce bodyfat by ~10 pounds this year. Sitting at my desk all day and in front of the computer or a football game on TV all evening will leave me with only 2,800 calories burned each day. I must find a way to burn an additional 700 calories each day, whether through more activity at the office, intentional exercise, or both. This should be achievable as last year I averaged 3,750 calories burned each day--but I was also walking around mountainous Switzerland much of the time so I'll need to step it up here in Houston.
2. Maintain lean muscle mass--Although I've been working toward "getting huge" for practically two decades now with, in all modesty, significant success, I am plenty strong and don't really need to be stronger. Although I will still be going all out in the gym, my priorities for 2010 are clearly focused on reducing bodyfat and that will take precedence over gaining strength--no more gorging myself after workouts in the name of protein!
3. Weekly Wii workouts--I'm really impressed with the Nintendo Wii and its ability to provide fun activities that elevate heart rate, burn calories, and improve neuromechanics. This year I will regularly involve the Wii in my workouts and track my progress using Wii Fit.
1. Win a men's doubles tournament at the A level--although my favorite partner is currently based in the UK, I'd really like to take my play up a notch this year.
2. Run at least three races
3. Run a 5k race in under 22 minutes--current PR is 23:45
4. Run a 10k race in under 55 minutes--I've never run a 10k race before but, when I run 10k as an aerobic jog, keeping my heart rate below 160, I currently finish in ~60 minutes.
5. Swim 2k--this weekend I swam 500m contiguously for the first time ever so this should be very feasible. Those who know me are aware that I sink like a rock in water so I've traditionally had to sprint to stay afloat--not very conducive to swimming long distances! However, after recent modifications to my freestyle mechanics, I've found a way to swim ~indefinitely, subject to my fitness level.
1. Help/mentor a peer or colleague at least weekly--as it will be some time before Smart Office Energy Solutions has grown to the point of having many employees and business partners, I really need to be proactive in the early parts of 2010 to reach out to others who could benefit from any expertise, experience, or even just sounding board ability I can provide.
2. Touch base with one of my own mentors at least once weekly--I'm blessed to have some great, talented, brilliant, resourceful, high integrity mentors in my life and I need be proactive about keeping them abreast of how their influence is helping me along.
1. Daily tweets of my goals and accomplishments--When you're the general manager of a start-up that faces a laundry list of to-dos in every business area every day, it is a real challenge to stay focused on the most urgent, critical issues. Therefore I am experimenting with using new media to create some accountability for myself. I will begin each day by tweeting my top few goals to accomplish before I hit the sack (One of today's was to write this blog entry!) and I will finish each day by reporting in on how I fared. 140 characters isn't enough to make excuses so the [peer] pressure will be on to nail them. This creates a virtual board of sorts to whom I am accountable and I certainly hope my followers will chide me when I fail. Perhaps they will also offer helpful suggestions when they see a goal that resonates with them. Each goal tweet will use the #dailygoal tag and my progress can be viewed at TrackDailyGoals. Hopefully this will also create a cool record of Smart OES's entrepreneurial journey.
Smart Office Energy Solutions
1. Close seed friends and family funding round by the end of March--I have $20k already committed and it's time to shake the trees for the remaining $80k.
2. Close first private placement round of funding by July--This will either be $500k of angel money or $3m+ from a VC, depending on a few factors. Either way, I need to begin laying the groundwork for it now.
3. Break even with $1.3m revenue for FY 2010--The clock is ticking and I need to close some more sales myself before we're able to hire up business development staff.
4. Reduce client energy bills by $500k--it will take some time for their savings to accrue but half a million is achievable if we begin installing this month.
5. Reduce US CO2 production by 300 tons--this will occur in the first year if we reach our sales targets. This is the double bottom line that attracted me to this business in the first place: the better we do, the better it is for the environment--and for our clients!
The Bryan Guido Hassin Professional Brand
1. Present original research/thought leadership at least once via conference presentation or article publication--I found the experience at the AAS's imagine09 conference to be very rewarding so I'll need to identify another such opportunity in 2010.
2. Earn 300 total twitter followers--I currently have over 100 after my first year of tweeting and I am very careful about pruning out the spammers. Doubling my growth rate would show increasing professional brand awareness. Here again I am eager to experiment with social media tools to see how they might benefit a a green technology executive in a new decade.
3. 5 daily LinkedIn profile views--this is currently 2-3 views daily. My LinkedIn profile is a good representation of my experience, accomplishments, skills, and recommendations, a great tool for making potential business partners, employees, investors, and others aware of what I offer. I'm not sure what a reasonable target is here as I have only my own historical data to go on--any suggestions?
There you have it, many personal and professional goals for 2010. I really would love to maintain a management-style dashboard for these so that I can map out intermediate progress and publish it. I can use a spreadsheet, of course, but a Web 2.0 tool would really be more appropriate. Suggestions welcome!
Happy 2010 everyone! May we all accomplish all our goals and more this year!
Katie and I spent New Year's Eve with friends at two separate house parties, both of which were a lot of fun. There was a "black" theme at one of the parties to represent the "laying to rest" of 2009. Not one to settle for just black tie, I also donned a head band and katana to be a black tie ninja. Not exactly funeral attire, but much more fun!
At both parties many people seemed very excited for 2009 to be over; it wasn't a great year for most. For me, though, it was pretty awesome. In this post I'll take a look at my journey through this roller coaster of a year.
Of course the story of the first half of 2009 for me was Poken. I came on board five days before product launch as employee #7 and manager #2, originally in charge of Product. As our first product took off, it became apparent that our major challenges weren't in product--they were in delivery. So I shifted in March to become Head of Global Operations, tasked with building the team, systems, and processes to enable our little company (headcount 11 by that point) to grow to the next level. By July we had sold hundreds of thousands of pokens in 30 countries, grown to a staff of 20 in two locations, won major awards, introduced a second product, and my Poken-related travels had taken me across three continents. What a whirlwind! The best thing that came out of it by far, though, was working with such a great team--talented, passionate, and of high integrity.
This made it very difficult for me to decide to leave Poken at the end of August. Everything was going so well and, moreover, I was loving living in Switzerland. However, as most readers know, I am committed to working toward a better energy future and Poken simply didn't match up with that goal. What's more, living so far from Katie was great for our frequent flier miles, but not so great for our goals of being together (She's sitting here next to me on the couch as I type and this is exactly what we were missing.).
So, I made a decision for my career, my relationship, and my ethic of what is right--and I made this decision with my heart instead of with my head, which is something on which I worked a great deal in . . . business school, of all places. But then IMD was hardly a typical business school!
After taking September off to travel around Europe visiting fantastic wineries and even more fantastic friends, I returned to my home in Houston and began work on the next chapter. For the last quarter of 2009 I divided my time between getting settled back into American life and laying the foundation for pursuit of my career dream in 2010.
My quest to find something that marries my skills in leadership, experience in IT entrepreneurship, and passion for green energy culminated by the end of the year in being given the opportunity to join the senior management team of a UK-based cleantech company to help them scale up globally--with particular focus on the American market.
It took us a while to structure the deal and, as expected, the real work to getting the deal done wasn't financial or strategic; it was rooted in personal dynamics. Again, I felt the benefit of IMD preparation throughout the process. Now at the cusp of 2010, we have created a subsidiary company in the US (Smart Office Energy Solutions), raised a modicum of seed capital, imported products from the UK, begun the electrical certification process, and secured our first clients and resellers. There is still a long, long way to go before we've empowered businesses worldwide to reduce their office energy consumption 30%, but the momentum is so exciting!
As many readers also know, fitness is a major part of my life and the end of the year offers a good time to pause, reflect, evaluate how things went, and adjust the future course. In terms of meeting fitness goals, 2009 was really a Tale of Two Halves. In the first six months of the year I shed ~5 lbs of bodyfat while adding 4 of lean muscle mass--both good trends! But, here at the end of the year, I'm only ~2 lbs of bodyfat down with no real change in lean muscle mass. Most men in their 30s add fat and lose muscle each year, so I can't really complain about staying relatively even. However, this is a major disappointment to someone who seeks constant improvement--especially given how well the year began. The second half of the year was filled with travel, change, and adaptation to a new fitness regime back in the States. As I look toward 2010, I believe I have a solid base under me on which to get back on track.
Well there you have it: 2009, not a bad year all-in-all and one filled with great opportunities to be realized in 2010. In my next post I'll discuss plans for 2010 and . . . new year's resolutions!