I used to take time and reflect on my adventures each year. I plan to add those writings to this collection soon, but for now, I’m going to reignite this good habit by sharing a recap of 2014, starting with a special trip in late 2013.
Tiesto in DC
My best friend Paul moved to Baltimore awhile back. It’s been hard to lose my partner in crime and although we remain close, I’ll admit that life in Des Moines has not been the same without him. Paul has really thrived in Baltimore, so visiting him was a great way to finish 2013. The best part of this trip was another mind-blowing encounter with Tiesto in Washington DC. As I wrote about in “Compendium”, another front row experience at the heart of EDM was absolutely outstanding.
After an action-packed trip to visit my best friend Paul, the holidays, and a fresh start to a new year, it was time for Jodie and I head back to Florida for some fun and relaxation. I’ve dramatically increased my interest in golf the past two years, so this short trip was also an excellent opportunity to exchange the snow and ice in Des Moines, for fairways and greens in the warm Florida sun. Let’s move on.
Startup Drinks is a networking event spun off an early idea of entrepreneurial networking in places around the world. dmStartupDrinks is the Des Moines outlet that since 2010, had brought the Des Moines startup community together over beers once a month. This year the organizers were considering sun-setting the event. I decided it would be a neat opportunity to take an event that may have gone instinct, and transition into something awesome. Thanks to the bandwidth my work allows and a passion to build things within our community, I took over the event and became sole organizer. March 2014 was the first dmStartupDrinks event I hosted. I had re-aligned the brand, built a cool little website to showcase event schedules and the two new social media outlets I built and connected. This was the first of 9 more this year, as together with a friendly community of interesting people building some amazing things, I expanded this monthly networking events over what was almost always free beer for the entire 1.5 hour event each time. That relaunch party was at Sakari, followed by Confluence Brewing, Lime Lounge, 515 Brewing, Sully’s Mickey’s, Science Center of Iowa, Glen Oaks, and even a holiday party at a community member’s fun office downtown just last week. Turns out, people building cool shit, also like to build networks, hear what sharp people are working on, and simply have fun. dmStartupDrinks has been a natural fit for me to organize and it’s fun to volunteer my time to build community. Later this year I expanded my efforts even more, as I joined the organizing team of 1 Million Cups Des Moines. More on that in a moment, but first, back to golf.
This was our first season as members at Glen Oaks Country Club. As a “young professional” I was given an opportunity for Jodie and I to join with her parents. This turned into such a sweet piece of the puzzle this year. I can think back in this moment of reflect and enjoy remembering a bunch of great summer days, rounds of golf, and even some creative work at this super nice country club near our house. It’s literally on the way home from our Drake Homes office, so the convenience paired with new friends and one of the nicest/hardest golf courses in the state resulted in enjoying more golf than ever, fine dining, events, and pool days that were all easy to like. Good stuff here.
I developed that Glen Oaks video above and the last paragraph is a good segue to remember something that was more part of my work over the entire year. I built an interesting skill of working with drones and quadcopters in my photo and video work at Drake Homes. I tell people it may have been a result of my abnormal amounts of video gaming experience, haha. As good times and new relationships came together at Glen Oaks, I was asked and commissioned to build some video marketing ideas for my new country club. It was neat to highlight such a beautiful golf course, clubhouse, and pool. I’ve done a lot of stuff for them this year and I’m excited for the big finale of 18 hole-by-hole touring videos in 2015. It seems almost impossible to connect the dots of how this worked into my work, but it’s all in sync with as I think about it…is a lot of motivating stuff. It’s an interesting time for drones, but it’s so awesome to see these new angles of photography and video. I’ve done some pretty neat stuff in the air and then bringing it all together on the production side, it’ll be interesting to see what regulations are accepted by all. It’s hard to think the first regulations will be right, but hopefully we’re progressive enough to know that with the right people utilizing the power of good with drones, it should be allowed to expand the awesome things people are creating in the air.
One super unfortunate thing happened this year for Jet Set Studio. To call what happened with UGC Niagara “unexpected” would be an understatement. After creating and building this regional eSports event in Canada for two years, what I thought were lifelong clients and friends chose to cut us out completely to instead work with someone I thought was an ally in what’s a kinda small community of people building meaningful video game events around North America. The financial blow to a startup that runs so progressively lean was obvious tough, but the time NOT spent continuing to build UGC Niagara was well spent in many other ways. It taught me things and in hardship, I was glad other things were going so well and used what felt like betrayal to work harder. This was something that made a mark on the story of Jet Set Studio and may have a lasting effect on the people we work with on interactive event development, but when I consider this on a high-level, I am able to find perspectives that intelligently convert this situation into something somehow positive. This paragraph will now work perfectly to what comes next. I like the word perfect.
Building IoT Hardware
I use that last sentence because one of the most interesting things spawned in 2014. After 10 years in software development, I convinced myself that I wanted to build a physical, but smart hardware product soon. Along with what’s become a strong 5-person team, my all-new idea may open the door into building hardware within The Internet of Things. It’s called IoT for short and with my work at Drake Homes, I started to assume the emerging conscious home technology would be an opportunity to disrupt with something big. It would be a different industry, but the smart product idea came to me and I was lucky to be with the right person who organically liked building out this new idea together. My co-founder and our team have had to stay patient as hardware development is different game, but I’m treating this special and I’ve really enjoyed leading a new group of people building something crazy. Prototypes and polish concepts are still being developed and under tight wraps, but 2015 will be an interesting time for what I like to think may be an example of my innovative output at it’s highest level. You’ll hear about this soon.
5 Year Anniversary
Although it’s on a very different, much more relationship-oriented wavelength compared to this new hardware project, Jodie and I celebrate our 5 Year Anniversary in June. Knowing you’re with the love of your life is something I will look back and always appreciate the most. Jodie and I have built something amazing and I’m thankful for the time we’ve been lucky enough to spend together.
One thing Jodie and I do well together, is travel. She’s practically a professional travel agent and together we find some really cool places to experience. The tropical vacation is what Jodie likes best and I also love our relaxing times amongst palm trees, the hot sun, cool drinks, great food and fun times together. Since we’ve found Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands early on, we’re now looking to somehow find a comparison in the Caribbean. To continue the cerebration of an amazing life together, Aruba was this year’s summer trip and although it’s in a tier lower than our two favorite places in the Caribbean, Aruba was nice. It sounds snobby to say, but the wind actually does get annoying and the extra 3 hours in a round trip flight really isn’t worth it. I know, I shouldn’t complain about paradise, haha! Along with Jodie’s first horse ride that took us to The Natural Pool, one super cool thing we did experience in Aruba was a 7-course meal paired with a different wine with each course. The nightly seating limit was 12 people, so after securing a reservation many months in advance, we sat with the chef and sommelier as they prepared and poured everything in front of a semi-circle of people really enjoying the fine dining experience. We broke a record for price on a single meal together, haha, but the unlimited wine and 3+ hours culinary tour now gives me a neat memory.
1 Million Cups Des Moines
As I mentioned in my last story, Connectors, and in the dmStartupDrinks paragraph above — my passion, energy, and inspiration within the startup community led to yet another group I’ve been able to plug into and help build. 1 Million Cups is a weekly gathering that is a bit different around the country, but in short, provides an interactive format that invites entrepreneurs to concisely pitch their company in 6–10 minutes. From there, a community audience caffeinated by complimentary coffee responds with questions, ideas, and in the end, accelerates the presenting entrepreneur while learning new things and pulling an innovative energy that hooked me back when it first started 2 years ago. After presenting early on and missing only the events I was out of town for, I had a weekly event that meant a lot to me personally, but also brought a ton of amazing people together. The group’s leadership rotates on purpose, so when it was time to take our group’s identity to the next level the later part of 2014, I joined to align our 1MC event in Des Moines. Working to highlight each week’s presenter with photos on Facebook and Twitter has brought great attention to help accelerate entrepreneurs from around Iowa. That feels good to be a part of, but the innovative energy presenting entrepreneurs provide me mid-way through my week is something I cherish just as much. I also MC the morning event, which boosts the amount of people I’m interacting with through this great event as well. It’s fun growing such a good thing.
In September we were back in Florida. Jodie planned it so she could attended a CLE near the same hotel we got married at in Palm Springs, Florida. We had been to the same hotel in Singer Island once to get married and again for our 1 Year Anniversary, so it had been awhile since we had been back to this special place. It was fun to relive our wedding while again enjoying the huge rooms, wine, fine dining, and effortless days poolside.
Jet Set Studio released an expanded version of Tournament Seeker, managed a video game event at Central Michigan University for the sixth year in a row this year and continued to build in other ways, but the highlight event of the year for Jet Set Studio was easily what we built with Columbia College. A new President was being inaugurated and in a progressive effort to host an event to connect with students, we partnered on a one-day Madden 15 tournament that went big. Along with a perfectly managed event, the Columbia, Missouri community came alive as the event went viral and generated some very positive buzz for the school. In fact, along with many more meaningful things, this event led to my first appearance on national TV, haha! Since this event and when I consider all the events I’ve helped develop since 2007, I believe our company’s MVP client is shifting. When I think about the client we help the most and the client who helps Jet Set Studio the most, I’m starting to come to a conclusion that interactive educational events may be our bread and butter. I’d love to find bandwidth that would allow me (or a team) to reach out to colleges and universities to continue bringing students together in such a fun and positive way. Our formula is perfected. Unfortunately, right now the missing elements are time and the misleading philosophy that business will always come our way because we’re so experienced at such a niche service. I need to be careful to not get too comfortable. Reaching out to new prospects is something I did for years in web development, so I know how to do it well, but for some reason or another, it just doesn’t sound fun and I have so many other things that do sound fun, I just don’t feel the same sense of urgency as leads seem to always trickle in at the right pace. I hope this doesn’t burn me in the end, but I like where Jet Set Studio fits into my world right now, so I take comfort in that and look forward to our eight year in business.
Tournament Seeker was originally released at the end of 2012 and quickly became a powerful resource for video game tournaments. The overall concept achieved some excellent milestones, but this year’s enhancement project turned out to be an interesting story as we worked to build an expanded version of Tournament Seeker built on a flexible new API. I’ll write in more depth about this (and probably more of these topics) another time, but long story short, this enhancement project was something that got drawn out so long that even I got lackadaisical about finishing a project that once completed, would require a whole new cycle of brand and user development that I would be holding the keys to. Even though the endless-feeling development cycle made me wonder if we missed our window and now we’re challenged to really bring this seriously scalable product to market, Tournament Seeker makes me proud of what Jet Set Studio has become and I think if it’s meant to be, Tournament Seeker can make a positive impact as it bridges the gap between event organizers with people looking to compete around the world. Obviously Tournament Seeker strikes an odd cord with me, but it should be noted that although the right launch sequence is still not set, we finished this new API platform that allowed us to rebuild an optimized eSports version, construct the complete Tournament Seeker experience for golf tournaments, publish a handy Wordpress plugin built for websites in the non-strategic choice of eSports or golf, and documented in a way that will welcome 3rd party developers to build while being fueled by Tournament Seeker. Next year I plan to give Tournament Seeker the attention it deserves or find others who will.
TechStars Demo Day
This was one of the most inspiring things to happen in 2014. Like many of my highlights in 2014, it revolved around entrepreneurship. A friend from our Des Moines startup community had been asked to attend TechStars program in Boulder, Colorado. Realizing that although I like to think it may happen someday, if I never go through a startup business accelerator myself, I convinced myself that attending TechStars Demo Day to support my friend may be the closest chance to feel what that type of network meant and to see what the culmination of their three month program looked like. With a business connection with Drake Homes, I was able to expense most of the trip as well, which made this three day adventure even better. Since the company support my adventure, I shared a previewing article and a post-event article that I’ve linked to save me time here. In short, I may not need or get the opportunity to work through an accelerator, but I strongly believe in the process and feel envious of those who take the leap.
Best Friend’s Wedding
I like how this year in review started with a story involving my best friend Paul, and is now finishing with one as well! As I’ve said, the way things work out in my world is something that seems special, but I try to notice even the small things…like this unplanned connection that makes my writings sound so well planned, haha! Alright, so 2014 finished strong with a group of friends meeting in The Hamptons to celebrate Paul and Kristi getting married. As I’ve said a long time now, knowing Paul like I have, it was wonderful to see him finally meet a girl that matched his love for life. Kristi makes Paul better and together they really make a neat couple. We’ve all had good friends who married someone that everyone knew wasn’t right, so I was glad that this was the opposite of that. It was fun for Jodie and I to fly into NYC and drive over into this mystical land of the rich and famous. We told stories, laughed, played golf, visited a winery, and shared a wonderful wedding day. One the journey back home, Jodie and I went to the top of The Empire State Building. She had never been to New York and I had been to The Top of the Rock two times, so with limited time, we snuck into the heart of NYC, paid $26 to park for two hours, and rode an expensive elevator to the 86nd and 102nd floors. Elevation makes me feel successful, so we reflected on the top of the world, snapped some photos, and made our way back to Des Moines to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.
I’m so blessed and appreciate the unique level of adventure I continue to find in life. 2014 was another wonderful year, but as I look ahead to 2015, I can’t wait to launch a brand new IoT product, continuing to build within the startup community, and make more memories with family and friends.
2015 will be interesting and I look forward to embracing every minute of it.