How to Start a Two-Bit Operation: Small Business Tips

From start to small business. Learn and live vicariously.

Chicago, IL (AP) April 13, 2007 — Coming off a wave of solid growth fueled by a clean site redesign and exciting new features, ran away with the title of “fan favorite” at last night’s renowned Tech Cocktail 4 event. Menuism dominating the shell-shocked competition, including the notable new 37 Signals product, Highrise. Attendees were attracted by Menuism’s eye-catching booth setup and demo video, swayed by the suave pitch of the co-founders, and finally sold by the valuable giveaways offered by the alluring web debutante.

“Menuism rocked the house at TC4!” exclaimed one attendee who asked to remain unnamed. “It seemed like they were everywhere – I couldn’t resist being lulled by the sweet siren song of Menuism gospel. It was like those Highrise guys weren’t even around at all.”


Well, that’s how I imagine a PR firm would have spun it. We did attend and demo at Tech Cocktail 4 last night at John Barleycorn, and here’s the real breakdown of how it went:

  • Tech Cocktail is renowned, and was fantastic last night. The venue in Wrigleyville was perfect, with plenty of space (and drinks) to accommodate the huge crowd.
  • Menuism did win the crowd voting last night via Interactive Mediums‘ neat SMS-based voting system, but it wasn’t a blowout victory – the race was pretty tight with the other demoing startups, including the cool guys at ParkWhiz.
  • Highrise was scheduled to be demoed last night, but those guys couldn’t make it in the end. There’s little doubt they would’ve been the most popular demo there – the 37 Signals guys are icons of the web world, and Menuism‘s built on the framework they created. Highrise itself is a neat product tackling a real tangible market opportunity, so kudos to them.
  • Justin and I did snag a great demo location, taking over a small bar on the side of the room but the only thing we had on tap was Menuism propaganda. 🙂
  • Our booth was eye-catching, but probably because it looked like something from a high school carnival – paper tablecloths, orange helium balloons holding up printed signs, and laptops looping a video slideset about Menuism. And the “valuable giveaways”? Lifesaver mints – avoided by all. 🙂
  • We did talk about Menuism to lots of people, which I felt was the best part of Tech Cocktail for us. Practice really does help when it comes to networking and talking, and we were better this time around, but still far from totally comfortable or relaxed. Any smoothness was probably due to the free booze.

That pretty much covers how TC went for us last night. We were looking forward to it all week, and as we were looking for supplies and setting up it totally felt like something out of the Apprentice. 🙂 Here’s a representative picture of our setup, with me posing for the camera while Justin’s in the background, demoing his heart out. 🙂

Like many other companies there, we held a raffle to try to get more attendees to talk to us, with our prize being a $50 restaurant gift certificate. Congratulations to Clint from Stone Ward for winning our raffle – we’ll be in touch with you soon. =) We were able to meet a bunch of great new contacts, visible in card form here.

tc4 cards

If you were there last night but didn’t win our $50, never fear – you can still win $50 in our monthly Food Fight Contest for April. We’re looking for the best salads around, so just review some salads and you’re automatically entered!

You can read more about TC4 with writeups by hosts Eric, Frank, and on the Tech Cocktail blog. All in all, we had a fantastic time at Tech Cocktail 4, thanks to the grand efforts of Eric and Frank. Thanks guys!


April 14th, 2007

Posted In: Entrepreneur, Food Fight, General Business, Leisure, Networking, Publicity

As mentioned in the previous post, the focus of this working session in Chicago has been on networking and setting up a marketing plan. One of the biggest highlights of the trip so far has been attending Tech Cocktail 2, a quarterly networking event for techies and entrepreneurs in the Midwest. We’d been eagerly looking forward to attending since we had just missed the first one in July, and we were definitely happy that we went.

The event was held at The Gramercy, a narrow, modern lounge in downtown Chicago that was far too small to accomodate such a massive turnout. Who knew that it was so easy to assemble 400+ motivated and enthusiastic entrepreneurs around the Chicago area? I’m sure some of the enthusiasm (ours included) was due to the open bar, which ended up being extended on the spot by the founder of Vonage. 🙂

The evening started off slow for us but picked up quickly as the lounge filled up with people and we filled up with beer. Midway through the night we took off our standard-issue collared shirts to expose our nifty Menuism t-shirts as we recorded a video podcast with LiquidTalk Networks. Having matching black tshirts with an attractive design (available for purchase soon…!) and being two of a handful of asians in attendance got us a lot of attention, and we had a fantastic time meeting with notables from operations like Feedburner, AOL, TechnologyEvangelist, NBC 5 and many more. We even got to meet and greet with the organizers of Techcocktail, who are absolutely awesome for providing the midwest tech community with a much-needed forum to mingle (and cool guys to boot). All in all, Tech Cocktail 2 went far better than we could have hoped – you can read the official writeup here.

So what’s next? On top of the work we’ve already planned, we’ve got a bunch of great leads to follow up with, and we need to start thinking about the next big networking event on our horizon: Seattle Mindcamp.


October 22nd, 2006

Posted In: Chicago, Community, Learning, Leisure, Networking, Startup, Vonage

Fill out this survey and it says they will send you 2 movie “redeemable at your local theatre”. It’s worth a shot. I did it and it says it should arrive in within 2 weeks. It looks like they are trying to get you to move to Sun Ultra-Sparc IV server by giving you Oracle DB for free. We’re using Linux and MySQL now on a shared host and I don’t see us moving to such an expensive platform (Sun/Oracle), but I’ll let them take a shot at me 🙂

Here’s what the site said after the survey:

Thank you for time. You will receive your 2 movie tickets within 2 weeks.

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They’ll probably start sending you some spam though so just be on the look out and try and unsubscribe when it starts coming.


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May 18th, 2006

Posted In: Leisure

I got so excited when I saw this article on digg. Now while programming John and I can also relive the fun and pain of college by listening to lectures from Berkeley – oh wait, I don’t remember if we went to lectures…I guess we can finally get our moneys worth and listen to them now 😉 All the classics are there for my fellow EECS nerds (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science for the lay person), including EE40!

Here are the iTunes URLs – I hope they work (and yes you need iTunes):

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If you need an intro course to computers:

Some just for fun:

Hope all you Cal alumni get some book knowledge back in there after rotting away in the corporate world and relive some good memories. For the non-Cal alumni, if you listen to these lectures, you can say “I’ve taken courses from the best public university in the country“. Some Cal football pics:

Campanile Cal vs. USC

Go Bears!

– JC

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May 12th, 2006

Posted In: Berkeley, Learning, Leisure

UPDATED May 18th, 2007: I updated all the links and info for 2007.

Thanks to a tip from my friend Newton, we now have a free way to watch movies (although only G and PG ones) this summer. While they’re geared towards kids and families, I think it also works for cash-strapped entrepreneurs looking for low-cost entertainment. Here’s a rundown:

They aren’t the summer blockbusters, but if you need to get out of the house, it’s the right price…and boy do I need to get out of the house 😉

May 12th, 2006

Posted In: Leisure

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