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.
So as anyone who’s tried working in distributed teams knows, working virtually can quickly turn into virtually working – all the motions but not all the output. It can be particularly difficult for collaborative and time-sensitive projects such as ours. (You can read all about it in a book co-written by Rob Oyung, my group manager when I was at HP: Working Virtually) One way to increase productivity is, of course, face-to-face meetings like the one we just had for 2 weeks which really helps get the momentum going. Once you return to your virtual ways, here are some tips for staying synchronized virtually.
- Define objectives and tasks SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible.
- Track them with online tools such as Basecamp. Basecamp is quite lightweight, easy to use, and free to try for single projects.
- Have constant and open communications through:
- Unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes: we’re on Sprint
- All-in-one printers that can scan/fax to share documents: I have an HP, John has a Brother. Doing this over the unlimited minutes landline from Vonage and emailing PDFs.
- Instant messaging of course: GoogleTalk, MSN, etc.
- Web-based group chat: Campfire looks really interesting, but we haven’t set it up yet.
- PC-to-PC calling: Skype. Sometimes this is easier when you’re at the computer and just want to do a quick call with no headset.
- If you’re doing code development, you’ll definitely need a version control system. We’re using Subversion on our site hosted by Site5. In addition to code, once you have it setup, you could also use it for other business documents.
- Share bookmarks online: del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site that makes it really easy to share and find bookmarks online.
Any other tips you want to share? Let us know.
So I read in the news today that Vonage is filing for an IPO to raise $250 million. I think this is really cool since I just started using their services and I’m quite pleased that they’ll have some money to keep operating (their subscriber aquisition costs have caused them to remain unprofitable). For those of you that don’t know, Vonage is a Voice over IP (VoIP) service that lets you get phone service over your broadband connection (cable modem, DSL, etc.). What’s nice about the service is the flexibility and many features that come bundled.
Flexible: When you sign up for Vonage you have the option of moving your existing phone number over from current phone service, similar to how you can do it with cell phones now. While I’ve read some nightmare stories on how long this can take for some people, it only took mine 2 weeks to transfer (the transfer also automatically cancels that old line). The service is also flexible because you can take your phone number anywhere you go. I haven’t tried this yet, but supposedly you can just take the phone adaptor (which goes between your phone and your router) to anywhere with a broadband connection and receive phone calls there. This flexibility is nice for us since we are in two different locations. You can also opt to get a wifi-phone that will let you make and receive phone calls anywhere there is wifi.
Features: With some of the features, you might not even need the flexibility to move your phone adaptor around. You can have calls forwarded or have multiple numbers ring simultaneously, or you can just track all your missed calls through the web interface. You can also have your voicemail emailed to you or you can check it online as well. So much fun stuff – I wish I got more phone calls on that line . You also get things like caller ID with name, 3-way calling, unlimited domestic long distance, call waiting, etc.
By now I probably sound like a walking advertisement. I’ll close by letting you know that if you’re interested in the service, you should email me so I can refer you. You’ll get the 1st month free and I’ll get 2 months free!