Office Buildout – It never gets old for me

I just completed the buildout of BrightWave’s new office in the heart of Buckhead (Tower Place 100, Suite 400, Atlanta, GA). It’s a phenomenal space that I’m extremely proud of, and I hope the team, our clients, vendors, and BW friends & family will enjoy using for many years to come.

This is technically my 8th office buildout (see list below) and although I’m very comfortable executing projects like these, I learn more than I expected each time and have a deeper appreciation for the talented team that execute these buildouts.

Buildouts for me are a lot of fun, it’s a way I can express my creative side, while still getting into the technical details which I also love. Each office I’ve built has been very different, with its unique opportunities and challenges (team makeup, financials, culture, etc.). I have to constantly challenge what I already know in order to improve the space for our people and learn the changes/trends that have shifted from the last time I did a buildout. It’s fun as you can see from the mixture of various buildouts I’ve done.

  1. BrightWave Atlanta Office – 2018 – 17,800 RSF
  2. Moxie Atlanta Office – 2014 – 65,000 RSF
  3. Moxie New York Office Expansion – 2013 – 10,000 RSF
  4. Engauge Columbus Office Expansion – 2011 – 10,000 RSF
  5. Engauge Atlanta Office – 2010 – 22,000 RSF
  6. Spunlogic Atlanta (Promenade) – 2006 – 14,000 RSF
  7. Spunlogic Atlanta (Zonolite) – 2003 – 8,000 RSF
  8. Spunlogic Atlanta (Colony Square) – 2001 – 4,000 RSF

I thought I’d share some considerations when embarking on projects like this. Continue reading

Bucket List Interview question

I recently heard the tail-end of an interview on Sirius Radio (no idea who it was) about candidate application questionnaires when interviewing for jobs. One of the questions asked was so telling on what really motivates a potential employee. That question was simply, “what’s on your bucket list?”.

If you are unfamiliar with bucket lists, here is a quick google definition:- “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”.

So what does this question have to do with hiring employees? Take the marketing agency I’m currently with (50 person agency in Atlanta). If someone answers the bucket list question with: Own a super yacht, own a gulf stream to travel the world, have a mansion in each continent….Bucket list items like these are most likely not going to be attainable working for an agency, and as a result, we’d never be able to make someone like this happy during their career with us. What’s more likely is that they’d work for us for a few years (or less), then move in search of fulfillment of their dreams (successfully or unsuccessfully), but in that time as an employee we would have done little to effect the experiences and achievements they desire. In other words, at some point they won’t value or feel enriched with the employment experience with us.

On the other hand, if the candidate answers the bucket list question with: I’d like to go sky diving, fly first class one day, learn how to speak Spanish, drive a race car, live in a new city, give back to the elderly….These bucket list items are items our company can work to full-fill. If someone is performing like a rock star and we have the means to give them a certificate to go sky diving as an example, or perhaps live in a new city when the company expands into new markets, etc.; the net effect is that we are helping them enrich actual experiences they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime. Items like these (not all) are within our means and as a result you’d have an employee that’s happier and loyal. As a company, I’d rather we have an ability to positively effect an employees happiness and dreams than disappoint them during there career life journey. I’d rather give them something from there bucket list than a random bonus that has no meaning.

So next time you are interviewing someone, ask the question and see if your in a company that could actually help that person achieve some of the bucket list items. The theory I heard on the radio interview was that, if you can, hire the candidates with attainable bucket list items (not all the items, but some), then you’ll have a solid hiring experience and equally the employee will as well. I like the theory, what do you think?

Staying focused and organized in leadership positions

Over the past several years I’ve developed, borrowed, learnt from others, and adapted techniques I use to keep myself focused and organized in leadership positions. There is nothing earth shattering about these techniques, but I’ve found that when I give this advice to friends and colleagues they find it very valuable. So I figured I’d share it with you, in no particular order…

Keep your calendar free in a given week at 40% to 50% availability.
Many years ago, I asked a very successful VC how he gauged if a CEO/leader was going to be great. His answer was so simple and so telling; he looked at the person’s calendar and if it was packed full of back-to-back meetings he knew the leader was likely a “reactional” leader, as they’d have little to no time to reflect, think about where the business is going, or fire fight critical issues without canceling existing meetings. The reality is that it is easy to book up your calendar 100%, heck some even book 125%+ (and disappoint folks often); if you do this, you really are reacting to what you are hearing from one meeting to another or emails/text’s you might be getting between meetings. It’s much harder to keep your calendar 50% open in a given week, however, I’ve found that the net positive effects/traits are plentiful and was what the VC was looking for in this simple calendar observation. Continue reading

BrightWave @ 48in48

What brought 17 rockstar BrightWave employees to donate their weekend (48 hours) in-order to build over 57 email templates for 48 local Atlanta non-profits?

Several weeks ago I rebooted a program at BrightWave called “Day of Awesomeness”, which was originally created by Simms Jenkins (Founder of BrightWave) to encourage employees to spend time on non-billable projects that would help us internally, push ideas for clients, and most importantly, do some good for our community.

In resurrecting the program, we defined some categories folks could focus on, provided some examples, extended the number of days folks could use (and the investment into the program), enabled folks to work in teams as opposed to individually, and introduced the concept of “Shared Values”. Continue reading

BrightWave, A New Journey Begins

Last week I started a new and exciting chapter in my career by joining BrightWave as President. I’ve known Simms Jenkins (Founder) for many years and have watched his agency grow over the years. BrightWave has one of the best reputations in the industry, specifically known for ground breaking work within Email and CRM marketing, which is no small feat in the ever-evolving agency environment and the marketing technology ecosystem. I’ve been lucky enough to consult with the agency over the last 5 months, providing advice where I could, but more importantly getting to know the DNA of the agency and the wonderful people that make BrightWave a special place.

The foundation, culture and reputation that BrightWave has been able to create provides an exceptional springboard for the agency to scale and become a dominating powerhouse in the space; the future potential is one of the key reasons that attracted me to join the agency as I can clearly see a path forward. It’s common for someone in my position to enter an organization that has a weak culture or a horrible reputation and have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort defining/executing in order to build a foundation to scale. In the case of BrightWave, we know exactly who we are, we have a strong culture, we have passionate and talented people (the most important element in any agency), we have pride in the work, and we are recognized as leaders in the space.

So, why did Simms and the BrightWave team want to bring in a President like me you ask? Its really quite simple:-

  1. Divide and Conquer – Simms and I have complimentary skills and we see this relationship as a partnership. This feels much like my first business, Spunlogic, where I had fantastic partners who all focused on different things and we shared the burden and adventure of growing a company. Running any company, small or large, is no easy job; you learn quickly that you can’t do everything, at least to the level of depth the business needs when growing. Therefore, having someone in the trenches with you, especially someone who’s gone through growth (good and bad) can help validate and keep the organization focused. In the case of Simms and me, I’ve got a heavy operational, creative and technology background, while Simms has a heavy sales & marketing background. We can easily carve out areas of focus that don’t conflict, while sharing a common vision and mission for the agency. This allows us to focus our attention on the front of the house (Simms) and the back of the house (me) in an effective way that can activate growth and scale while maintaining and building upon the culture, people, and reputation of the agency.
  2. Playing to win – You could say that I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to agencies, having founded one and merged/operated two larger agencies. I don’t have a secret recipe for success; however, I “get agency people”, the work we do, what it takes to operate an agency at different sizes and at different maturity levels, different types of work and clients, etc. This experience has exposed me to different challenges in scaling a business, mentoring and coaching our people, identifying new talent needs during growth, maintaining a strong culture, activating tools/process in order to deliver quality and ground breaking work, and finally, pitching creative ideas to clients utilizing complex technology products. In short, I hope to provide value to BrightWave and our clients, helping build an unmatched agency that’s sought after by the best brands and the best agency talent.

I look forward to a successful partnership with Simms and the team, and I’m thankful for the people at BrightWave I’ve already had the pleasure of working with. I’m truly excited to grow with them over the coming years.

Here is a link to the official PR:


Innovate for the Inevitability

I don’t consider myself a futurist, however I do enjoy thinking, learning, and discovering about new possibilities that will fundamentally change the fabric of society and our day to day lives. Elon Musk famously talked about “Accelerating the Inevitable” as a reason he set-out to create Tesla and SpaceX. For Musk, he believed Electric Vehicles (EV) were as inevitable as is a manned mission to Mars. His motivation wasn’t to create a company that generates huge profits for shareholders, but rather to accelerate what he believed would happen at some point in the future. Both Tesla and SpaceX have pushed new boundaries in innovation and have fundamentally accelerated the Inevitability of EV’s and space travel to Mars and beyond. Whether Tesla and/or SpaceX become market leaders in these categories is yet to be determined, but what Elon Musk and other mavericks like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos has been able to achieve has and will accelerate their vision of inevitability in how they view the future we will experience and live.

If you think about the future and what will be inevitable, you can quickly see how industries will be disrupted, how new types of companies/innovations will be needed, how our society and daily lives as we know them will be effected (positively and negatively) and the types of products and services that could deliver new types of value to fill these voids.

For example, it’s inevitable that we will have automated EV’s in 10 years or less, and within 20 years it’s likely our cultural norm will be to travel in automated EV’s exclusively. So what could this effect and what are other inevitabilities? Continue reading

How my Executive MBA recharged my career

The past 28 months have been the most stressful and exhilarating period of my professional and personal life. In that time, we sold Enguage to Publicis Group, I embarked on an Executive MBA (at Georgia State University), while also merging Engauge and Moxie, and then became the CEO of BLiNQ Media (formally part of Gannett Ventures), and finally, took an extended sabbatical with my family. Yes that’s a boat load over a short period of time.

Looking back, the decisions to take so much on (i.e. new roles while doing an EMBA) prepared me for a C-level role more than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to think I did pretty well as an entrepreneur and team player with my first company, Spunlogic, and then later with Enguage, but in fairness I was extremely lucky to also have some tremendous partners to share the risk, rewards, hardship, and decisions with. I didn’t lead on my own, but rather as part of a tight group of friends that worked extremely well together for the most part of 15 years until I went out on my own in August 2013 when we sold Enguage to Publicis Groupe.

Ironically, my plan after Enguage was to take some time off (18 months), embark on my Executive MBA and welcome our second child to the world (plenty of time to study and help with Family, so I thought). That all turned up-side-down when I decided to stay on with Publicis and help with the merger of Engauge and Moxie. This was also the same day I started my domestic residency (School puts you up at the Intercontinental Hotel for 4 days of intense sessions to see who can survive) for my EMBA.

I can honestly say at that moment (Aug 2013) I had doubts on what type of leader I might be without my old co-founder and partners to support me and whether I could survive grad school in-general. My domestic residency was nothing short of a wake up call to my hunger to lead, inspire, and motivate a team. I can’t stress the confidence I gained on my domestic EMBA residency to do this on my own; it truly opened my eyes to what more I could do and how I could confidently stand on my own as a leader.

I found that leadership comes very naturally to me, as did confidence in laying-out a plan-of-attack for a team and seeing it through with conviction. But most importantly, I could bring a team together with different strengths/weaknesses and get the most out of them as a collective. This is what you’d expect from a leader, but along the way of Spunlogic and Engauge, I forgot what this felt like to do on my own and the excitement of leading the troops from the front.

In truth I was also hesitant to work for someone I didn’t know or hadn’t co-founded a business with, but thanks to the show of confidence from my then CEO, Suzy Deering at Moxie (Publicis Groupe), I was empowered to assemble a team and lead the charge for the merger of Enguage and Moxie (over 600+ people). It felt good to head-up that team as well as work with a largely new leadership team I was unfamiliar with. This further gave me confidence that I could do more and for the first time I wanted the #1 seat, CEO. Several months later I become the CEO of BLiNQ Media and absolutely loved every moment of the experience even though it was short lived due to a corporate spin-off of the publicly held holding company a year later. However, in that time, my initial experience at my EMBA residency of leadership aspirations and ability were reenforced. I thrived in the role, learnt how to assemble a new team from the ground up and provide a clear vision/plan to attack and win, and had an extremely positive experience working for Vikram Sharma who oversaw my business unit within Gannett Ventures and whom, like Suzy, gave me the freedom to lead and inspire a team on my own.

So 28 months since I started this transformation in my career from co-founder/partner to a C-level executive within a publicly traded company, I can truly say my EMBA experience helped me realize and awaken my leadership aspirations and confidence to tackle any C-level role within a public or private company. I’m a better executive and leader from it, and the experience with Publicis Group and Gannett Ventures have only strengthened my abilities to work with a new and much larger team than I originally co-founded. On to the next adventure, whatever that might be!

Take a Sabbatical – It will change your life

I just returned home after a 17 week family RV trip across Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest with my wife, Tovah, our two kids, Nina and London, and our two dogs, Stella and Chai. Read about the trip on Tovah’s Blog. It’s odd to be back and tough to get back into a “normal” routine. But, I’m ready to jump back in the game, my mind is clearer, I’m healthier, I’m more connected with my family, and my career options have only gotten better since I unplugged.

In the US, taking a sabbatical of this length is unusual and both Tovah and I have been lucky enough to take the time off and break from our careers/life. Actually, this is the second time I’ve taken a Sabbatical (took 4 months off in 2009 to travel the world with Tovah pre-kids) and it (hopefully) won’t be the last. In Europe, doing something like this would be common place and highly encouraged. 34 of the top 100 companies in Europe offer a paid sabbatical, 37% of UK companies provide Sabbaticals, and in Japan its 25%.

Luckily, the concept of taking a Sabbatical and the benefits are starting to take off with US companies. In fact, 24% of small businesses and 14% of large businesses allow their employees to take sabbaticals (paid or unpaid of six months or more). Technology (Google, IBM, eBay, etc)  and consultancy (Accenture, Bain & Company, etc.) companies have been leading the change in the US. However, even if companies in the US are offering these types of benefits, the average professional in the US still has a hard time committing to taking this amount of time off (paid or un-paid) for various reasons (cost, break in career, etc.). It’s not our cultural-norm to do something like this in the US, but I can tell you first hard it’s absolutely the right thing to do for your life, your health, your family, and surprisingly yes, your career. Continue reading

Over our half way point and leaving Canada

I’ve been MIA on this blog for some time, mainly because I’ve been exhausted from the days’ events and the last thing I wanted to do was open the laptop and write. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had downtime and some nice quiet evenings, but the way I’ve preferred to spend that time is in front of a fire with a glass of wine, or tucked up in bed watching a movie, or playing Drop7 (very addictive game that does not require the internet). Also, Tovah has been doing such an amazing job writing about our adventure on her blog, that it’s given me an excuse to go dark on my blog.

My last post was about reconnecting with my family on this adventure; that’s still the case 6 weeks later and I’m still loving it. I sense Tovah wondering if I’ll go back to work, and we’ve talked at times about what I want to do next. It’s hard to describe why, but I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. I certainly have a world of options and some very exciting opportunities with a few companies I’ve briefly talked to already. I guess I’m not ready to plug back in yet; my time frame to jump back in the game is the end of the year once we get back to Atlanta. For now I just want to experience these moments, live without a worry, without knowing where my future will take me and my family. When the time comes, I’ll know what’s right and what feels right.

So, as we leave Canada and begin our Pacific NW segment, here is a quick summary of what’s felt right over the last 6 weeks:

Looking down on the clouds as we drive through glacier national park (US side, going to the sun road) and my daughter saying “It looks like the sky fell down”.

Watching Deer roam around our camp site without a worry, even if our dogs wanted to chase them.

The kids love Canada, but what they love even more is their grandparents visiting for 10 days. It was great to have Dee and Joel join our adventure, and our bridge playing skills improved too.

IMG_0447 IMG_0467

Celebrating our 10 year anniversary with a pretty adventurous hike in Glacier Park (Canada) and then staying at Chateau Lake Louise without the kids (thanks to Dee and Joel). OK, they visited the first and last day- I think London liked the room. Oh bliss, did I mention how much I love room service and how much I miss fast internet connections.

IMG_0490 IMG_0500

London loves trains.What’s even more sweet is that he wants to hug you or hold your hand when he hears a big train. I think he gets a little scared at first and then can’t stop yelling “choo choo” with a smile. And I love London Hugs.

Look at Tovah’s face, she so loves being on a horse. What’s even better is when the horses are all around your camp site. Checkout Tovah’s latest post about an awesome ranch we stayed at.


Finding remote 4X4 roads with amazing views that are hard to capture in a video or photo.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few panoramic photos of the stunning landscapes we’ve seen in the past 6 weeks.

One month on the road and a new Jeep!

I’m in Missoula, MT as I write this post; it’s been a month since we left Atlanta on our adventure with our two kids (Nina & London) and our two dogs (Stella & Chai). My wife, Tovah, has been doing an amazing job writing about every segment of our trip on her blog ( and I encourage you to check it out – she is a much better writer than I am!

So what can I tell you after being on the road in an RV for a month with kids and dogs? Well, for starters, I can tell you I don’t miss work at all, and in-fact, I haven’t given it much thought. To be honest, I haven’t thought about work because this trip has consumed our lives and every waking moment we have. It’s fun, but it’s hard work, especially with young kids and dogs. Driving 4 – 6 hours in an RV (that’s now 55 foot with the new Jeep we are towing, read Tovah’s post on how we ended up with a Jeep) requires a decent amount of concentration, not to mention entertaining a 3 year old and a 1 year old during the drive (Tovah has been a rockstar entertaining them while I drive). At this stage I can listen to the words of Frozen, Bolt, and Dora the Explorer and envision the movie or the scene. Once we get to a new camp site, we need to level the RV, extend the slides, hookup the RV to power, water, sewer, cable (not that we’ve been able to watch any TV), and battle trying to get a decent WiFi connection (thank god for our MiFi and Verizon LTE). I’ve also gotten pretty good at un-hooking the Jeep tow bar, moving the child seats back and forth between the RV and the Jeep, and figuring out how to use the new braking system. So yeah, how could I have time to miss work – all I do is work!

Driving days can be hard for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything because from the RV, we have an amazing view (huge glass wind shield and high up), and we’ve seen some amazing landscapes as we’ve travelled though several states. From the rolling hills of Tennessee, to the surprisingly beautiful landscape of Kansas, to the jaw dropping beauty of the rockies, and rugged wilderness of Wyoming and Montana, it’s rarely boring.
IMG_0029 Along the way we’ve winded along breathtaking canyons, rivers and lakes with farms and ranches bordering them, we’ve seen cows, moose, elk, bison, deer, and countless of our personal favorite, horses (especially when they are running along side us). We’ve tried to use smaller roads rather than big highways, and this has worked great for us as we get to see more of the rural side of America (good and bad) and I think enriches the overall experience. Of course my trusted navigator (Tovah) has also had to check to make sure these routes don’t have any bridges under 13 foot and since towing a Jeep, our RV (named Gypsy) has found some of the country hills and winding roads a little tough. It would have probably been easier and faster on a major highway, but that’s less fun!

We haven’t stayed at any camp sites that I could drop everything to live on; this has been somewhat of a disappointment as a lot of the camp sites are glorified parking lots. Having said that, there have been a few that are off-the beaten track (typically ranches or state parks) that have been nice and I expect we’ll stay in some amazing places as we head into Glacier national park, and then into some remote areas of Alberta, BC, Washington State, and Oregon.

What has been particularly amazing on this trip is seeing my kids experience new things and grow in front of my eyes. The smile on Nina’s face (my 3½ year old daughter) as she rode a horse for the first time,
London’s excitement (my 1½ year old son) on a train through a ranch to see Bison, the kids on their first carousel ride, going to a rodeo and eating Pie with ice-cream for the first time, riding our bikes with them in the chariot behind us, finding bumps in the Jeep and hearing London’s squeals, getting sweet hugs and hearing Nina whisper each night, “I have a secret to tell you- I love you the mostest to the moon and back“, watching London learn how to climb, say new words every day, and find new ways to make my heart melt as I watch him grow…so many moments and memories to treasure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What’s crazy is that in the last month, I’ve spent more time with my wife Tovah and the kids, than the last two years. The last two years have been crazy for me with work (lots of traveling) and an EMBA (weekend classes and studying in the evenings). I’ve also had to adjust to being around the kids 24/7 which is not the easiest sometime, especially during bath and sleep time (keep in mind we are living in 300 sqft RV). Tovah had taken on so much with the kids over the last 2 years to allow me to work and pursue my EMBA, I really don’t know how she did it. She’s also helped me ease into this, knowing I wasn’t used to being around the kids for long stretches. This trip is a crazy concentration of parenting, we both have little to no breaks, no in-laws to help (Very grateful Joel and Dee), baby sitters (except one night in Bozeman, thanks Katy Walker Osterloth), pre-school, no nights out with friends, etc. Tovah and I have always been a good team, this trip has really showed how well we can handle stress, parenting, and backing each other up instinctively. We both have our strengths and weaknesses and have found ways of complimenting each other, I forgot how naturally this is for us. That’s not to say that living in 300 sqft doesn’t have it’s challenges, we both need a little break from each other and the kids sometimes. Taking the dogs for a walk or going for a bike ride with the kids has helped the other person get a little break or a much needed shower. Tovah has and continues to be the core of our family, she is my love and my life and I’m so glad she’s my partner on this adventure.

Yes, we bought a 38 foot RV for a epic trip across the NW and Canada

Eight weeks ago l parted ways from my corporate gig as CEO of BLiNQ Media and have been planning an epic summer trip with my family. My wife (Tovah) and I decided we wanted to see some of the great National Parks in the Northwest US as well as Western Canada (Alberta and British Columbia). We started off thinking we could just rent Airbnb’s and travel with a rented minivan, but soon realized traveling with our daughter Nina (3½), son London (1½) and our two dogs (40 lb and 80 lb) wasn’t going to be easy. So we then had the brilliant idea of doing this in an RV and it solved a lot of the space issues and gave us a lot of freedom to travel. We looked at renting a 22 foot RV but we needed to get something bigger and it was more cost effective to just buy something, especially for a 3+ month trip. Within 10 days we went from renting to buying a brand new 2016 Forest River Georgetown 364TS. IMG_2476It’s an amazing RV that gives us a floor-plan and features that’s perfect for our little adventure. Prior to this experience, Tovah and I knew nothing about RV’s; I can tell you I learnt so much in that 10 days and buying one was an interesting process, especially as its a new model and we’d never seen or test driven one (did all our research online). I can also guarantee that this is the first RV of it’s size (38 foot, with our bike racks it’s 42 foot) to enter the Sherwood Forest neighborhood in Midtown Atlanta. And yes, I was able to back it into our backyard.

We worked with a local RV dealer called National Indoor RV Center (who have been amazing and i’d recommend highly) to special order the RV from the manufacture. It took around 3 weeks to deliver and since then we’ve been doing some test runs to make sure we know how to operate it and get used to living in a smaller moving house on wheels. We’ve also added some safety features and made some tech modifications that will make things easier. As I’m a tech geek, I figured i’d share some of these if anyone was thinking of doing what we are about to do.

Safety Additions

  • Tire On – The Georgetown 364tS has six 22.5 inch wheels (which are big). in the event of a blowout on the front wheels the tires can come off quickly resulting in a horrific RV flipping (see this video). This product prevents the tire from coming off in an event of a blowout and reduce the risk of flipping the RV.
  • Tire monitor sensors – My landscaper, Stan, asked his sister (experienced RV’er) for some advice for us before we take off on our long trip and one of the items she mentioned was a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). I bought the (TireMinder A1A) and installed it before we left on a test run to Cape San Blas (beach vacation that’s a 6+ hour drive). The normal pressure on the RV tires are 90 PSI but the monitor alerted me that the rear inside right tire (dually tires) was only 45 PSI; I would have never noticed the inside rear tire was low otherwise. I bought a portable air compressor called Porter-cable (highly recommended) and got the tire back to 90 PSI. However, by the next morning the TPMS system showed the the same tire had gone down to 79 PSI. We’d planned to leave for the beach in the RV that afternoon, so I called the dealership who arranged for someone to come to our house and fix the tire (again National Indoor RV Center have been amazing). Turns out the issue was a valve stem extender that had a slow leak and the tire was OK. I check the TPMS system before we leave any stop and it can alert me to any issue with any of the tire pressure or temperature issues while driving.
  • Child seat harness – RV’s don’t have the same safety requirements as cars, and although the Georgetown 364TS has seat belts, they are not designed for kids’ car seats. So, we had the dealership make some modifications so we could safely lock down the car seats to a secure anchor point.
  • Bunk Bed Guards – A big reason we bought the Georgetown 364TS was the bunkbeds for the kids. We didn’t want to setup the sofa-bed or dinette every night so the kids could sleep; the built in bunkbeds give the kids a permanent place to call there own. However, the bunkbeds are designed for adults or older kids); i.e. you can easily fall out if you roll over, and that’s very likely for our 3½ and a 1 ½ year olds. I solved this pretty easily by wrapping some MDF wood in nice fabric and wedging it in to act as a guard. Problem solved – kids are not falling out of bed and can still get it to the bed by crawling through the rungs in the ladder.

Some tech I added

  • WiFi Ranger – Because we are constantly moving from one location to another, signing up for WiFi at each location or determining if the WiFi signal/strength is any good can/will be problematic on many levels. For one, entering a new WiFi code for every device (iPhones, iPads, laptops, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick, etc.) will get old fast, and with some camp grounds having WiFi only near the registration office, it’s unlikely we’ll get good signals. Lastly, I could use my MiFi, but cellular bandwidth can cost a lot (or not exist in remote areas), especially if we are streaming a bunch of shows (Game of Throne’s season finale anyone? this Sunday! I can’t wait). I found a solution to all my worries. It’s called WiFi Ranger, and it’s perfect for RV’s. I bought the mini pack that includes an Antenna called WiFi Ranger Sky2. The Sky2 mounts on the roof of the RV and can extend your range up to 2500 feet, boosting a weak signal from a distance. Sky2 connects via PoE to a pretty smart router called the WiFi Ranger Mini. The Mini integrates with the Sky2 (but can also find it’s own short distance repeaters) and will tether to my Verizon LTE MiFi via USB (and power the MiFi). The Mini will prioritize a WiFi signal (from the Sky2 or itself) based on signal strength, security, etc. If it can’t find a good WiFi signal it will then go to the MiFi, but will continue to prioritize a free WiFi signal if it becomes available in order to save my MiFi cellular bandwidth. Additionally, the Mini also has a multi-WAN feature that can blend multiple signals together and create hot standby’s incase one WiFi or cellular signal goes down and load balance them all. I also configure it to shut down the MiFi based on the amount of bandwidth my Verizon plan has. If that wasn’t enough, the Mini creates a signal private SSID (called Choudhury-RV) that all our devices connect to (regardless of the WiFi source) and creates an internal network the internal devices can use regardless if you have an internet connection or not (see Plex Server below). The Mini will also attempt to say yes to T&C on WiFi splash pages automatically or if it requires you to enter something, you just have to do it once through the WiFi Ranger control panel and all devices get instant internet without having to check a box or see splash screen. Pretty sweet.
  • Plex Media Server – A big thank you to Marc Kagan for this awesome suggestion. I’m running Plex on my laptop and have my movies, music, and photos mapped so the Plex server can make those available through any device. If your are not familiar with Plex, you need to check it out; the interface is kick ass on desktop, iOS, Android and on other devices. Additionally, Plex just reads your files, determines what they are and downloads additional information such as movie thumbnails, trailer, and meta data of the movie, actors, directors, etc. Because the Plex server just runs on an internal network (the WiFi Ranger Mini), i don’t have to go out to the internet to stream anything to any of my devices. I can use a browser to play any of the content Plex is mapped to, but in most cases I find a Plex app on mobile devices, smart TV’s, Blue-ray players, etc. As an example, in order to view movies on the TV’s on the RV (we have 5, btw, which is crazy), I bought several Amazon Fire Stick that can run the Plex app, so now any TV, even a stand-alone TV not connected to the internet or internal network, can easily stream content from the Plex server (different content per connection). As a side-note, I chose the Fire Stick over chromeCast, Roku, and Apple TV (although i also have an Apple TV in the RV, as I’m a die hard Apple guy) because it’s generally faster, ties easily to my Amazon prime account (free Movies, TV shows, Music, and storage) unlike the Apple TV, has Netflix, Sling TV, HBO, PBS kids, and a whole lot more for $39.
  • Automatic – Again, my friend Marc Kagan hooked me up; he gave me a beta version of Automatic he’d been testing out before they released a general release product. Automatic connects to my vehicle computer system via a standard connector (the one used by your mechanic to figure out why the check engine light is on). It connects to your phone via bluetooth to the Automatic app and can give you all sorts of info, such as the shit gas millage I get from the Ford V10, or that I applied the brakes hard one time today. It can also notify folks if i get in an accident (including the police) and of course I can get notifications on the engine light vaults and clear them myself if I want to:-)

Our journey began Thursday June 11th and I hope to share some stories on this blog as well as Tovah’s blog In fact here is Tovah’s latest blog post; so follow us both and let’s see where this journey takes our family.

Goodbye Promenade Building

Yesterday was my last day as CEO of BLiNQ as we moved forward with the merger of PointRoll, Shoplocal, and BLiNQ Media. I fully support this move as I believe it will make all three companies much stronger in the market place as a combined company and properly leveraging the strong content and data assets owned by Gannett. At the same time, it was hard to make the decision to part ways with the people at BLiNQ and G/O Digital; I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of them, and I’ll miss working with them and wish them all the very best as the units come together in the coming months.

I was originally hired into BLiNQ to access the business, re-stabilize the unit, and determine a new vision for the company in a post acquisition era. I’ll leave it to my peers in the industry and to Gannett to determine if I accomplished my objectives.  From my stand-point, I’m extremely proud of what my team was able to accomplish in less than a year; what’s most gratifying to me is that the product strategies and vertical focused pivot I put in place at BLiNQ will be used as the blueprint of the new combined company.

Reflecting back, what’s amazing is that I’ve been at the Promenade building in Midtown, Atlanta since 2004.  First we moved Spunlogic into the 17th floor (from Zonolite Road), then sold Spunlogic (2008) which become Engauge and moved up to the 22nd floor (2010), then sold Engauge to become Moxie (2013) still on the 22nd floor (2015 Razorfish moved into the 22nd floor, space looks great Patricia Camden-Peterson), and lastly, I moved down to the 12th floor as the new CEO of BLiNQ Media (2014). That’s 11 years of great memories and experiences I just said goodbye to.

So what’s next for me? No idea yet, but what I do know is that I’d like to take a little time off. The last 19 months has been pretty crazy for me. Selling Engauge, helping integrate Engauge into Moxie, undertaking an Executive MBA and finishing it a few months ago with an awesome international residency in Vietnam and Thailand, moving from Publicis and taking on the BLiNQ role as CEO, having our second child (who is awesome), and generally traveling a lot and missing out on family time. Wow, pretty crazy when I think back.

Before I jump into the next work adventure, Tovah and I will be heading to the beach for a few weeks and then we are planning an RV trip across the US, Pacific NW, through British Columbia, Yukon, and Alberta. Yes, you read it right, an RV, and no, I’ve never been in an RV before. As we plan more I’ll write about it, but that’s the plan for now.

The Idea and a great product before anything else.

A colleague of mine at BLiNQ Media, Zack Adams shared a series of lectures by Sam Altman called “How to Start a Startup“. The first lecture (video below) provides some great insights for anyone considering starting up a company or part of a company that operates like a start-up (Like BLiNQ). Sam’s lecture on the importance of an idea and especially on getting the “product right” was relevant to me in my role at BLiNQ Media. It’s a big reason I took on the role and why I’m excited about BLiNQ’s feature and ability to create great product for a specific type of customer.

The fundamental lesson Sam points out is that you need a great product you can stand behind before you purse anything else. Great press and articles about the CEO, your company, your past, or speaking engagements, etc. should not be a priority until you have a product you believe in and a mission you and the company can drive towards. Success and/or fame will come only until you’ve build a great product and your obsessed with it’s perfection. It’s an important reminder to any entrepreneur or CEO. I hope to embody this believe at BLiNQ.

Enjoy the video.

If you want to change the world

Some friends shared a post on Facebook about a commencement speech by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven at University of Texas (Austin 2014). I just watched the video on Youtube and it’s inspirational and humbling. The video is a little over 19 minutes, but worth taking the time to watch. Great speech, hope you enjoy.

My favorite lessons are #6, #7, #10. Which ones did you like?


My first few weeks as CEO of BLiNQ Media

On May 12th 2014 I started a new adventure as CEO of BLiNQ Media, and 18 days later I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made to take this role. I feel incredibly privileged to be leading a group of very talented BLiNQers who have welcomed me into their family.

The past few weeks have been fun, and I’d like to share some highlights.

HelloRajMy first day started off with opening remarks to the company. Hopefully I made a few folks laugh and I gave everyone insight into who I am, what my leadership philosophy looks like, and what they could expect from me. I also felt it was important for them to know right off the bat what I expect from them. I  introduced them to a feedback report called 15five that I put in place to gain insight each week from our folks and I can tell you, it’s been very insightful to listen to our people and understand the wins, frustrations, and ideas that come from the hard working group of folks, spread across the country.

Outside of conducting some 1-1’s (still have a lot more to do), I also got exposed to the core products, future products, team structures, tools, financials, HR + Recruiting, and more. What you’d typically expect. I can tell you, BLiNQ has some exciting things in the oven I can’t wait to share soon, but more importantly we have some incredible solutions today and a group of talented professionals using our tools to deliver incredible results for our clients.

Over the last few weeks I also had group breakfasts, lunches and drinks with the majority of the staff in Atlanta and New York. I had a blast getting to know folks and hopefully they got to know me as well. I learned some interesting things.

  • We have 5+ competitive fencers. One of them was a Junior Olympic fencer. What other company has that many fencers, really? 4 of them were on the same group lunch table and didn’t know that about each other. Amazing.
  • We have a lot of talented musicians, folks who love to travel, folks who love to dance, folks who love to act.
  • One of the guys in Atlanta is actually from Atlanta, in-fact his family have been here since the 1800’s.
  • One of the ladies was Wonder Women at Six flags, not saying who.
  • Our engineers are bad-ass in so many ways. A lot have creative outlets, crazy good at math, and ridiculous at ping pong.
  • We have someone who played professional poker in Vegas at a very young age, made a good amount of cash and put it into a 401k. Actually, that’s not true, he did make a lot of money, but no idea if he actually put it into a 401k, that’s something I might do. Not… Maybe a BMW i8 and a “round the world ticket” again 😉
  • One of our new team members in the Chicago office got engaged last weekend. Congrats!
  • Everyone loves dogs, some more than others.
  • Everyone has a unique background, with a different journey that has brought them to BLiNQ.

What’s amazing about BLiNQ is that you don’t realize how great these people are and the potential this company has, unless you are in the company. From the outside, the perception is so different and I’m here to change that! Yes BLiNQ has had some hard times (and some great times), but the past is behind us and ahead of us we need to be fearless and forge a new future.

I invite the staff of BLiNQ, their family and fiends, our trusted clients and partners, and supports to come on a new journey with me and to discover a new BLiNQ.

Thank you,
Raj Choudhury
CEO – BLiNQ Media

Bittersweet goodbye – Spunlogic – Engauge – Moxie

Today (May 9th 2014) was my last day at the agency I co-founded nearly 16 years ago (November 1998); it was bittersweet and difficult to leave my work-home.

After 15 years and 6 months with the “same” agency (Spunlogic, Engauge, Moxie), it’s time for me to explore a new chapter in my life/career.  I’ve loved the agency from the day I co-founded Spunlogic (from a backpackers hostel in Toronto, Canada) with my college roommate, Jeff Hilimire. It’s part of who I am, in my DNA, and it will always be in my heart.

On May 12th 2014 (this coming Monday), I embark upon my new adventure as CEO of BLiNQ Media in Atlanta. I’m truly excited for this next chapter and will continue to write of my experiences. Nonetheless, for tonight, nostalgia compels me to formally bid farewell and share some of my favorite memories from a wonderful career in an agency I created.

In no particular order, I’d like to say goodbye to the following.

  • Goodbye “Beer cart Fridays,”-  probably my biggest contribution to the agency :-). I may need to implement this in my new space.
  • RIP Netsuite, OpenAir, and Central Desktop – The almost perfect agency systems I put in place with the hard work of some amazing folks at the agency (Dave Burke, Mark Unrein, Jenn Leahy, Jenni McDonough, Victor Wise, John McElroy) and our vendors (especially Mark Fordham from Central Desktop, Carolyn Turley and David Sussa from Netsuite Openair).
  • Adios Suite 2200 at Promenade, the crown of my career, and a space I hope inspired our people to thrive and enjoy the work space. Special thanks to Gensler (Erin Greer ), HITT (Erik Kandler), and JLL (Mike Dolan) and Collier (Brenden Welch) for making the space speak for itself.
  • My red chair and desk that I’ve had for 10 years, I know Kelly Ruggles (best Office Manager ever) will find a good home for them (and not throw them away!).
  • Fun crazy trips like the Spun Cruises (the entire agency on a ship together, you can only imagine…), Tennessee leadership trip (moon bow experience and everyone getting drunk on the bus), and some of the more interesting executive retreats (I’ll say no more).
  • I think I was good at was throwing parties and the more control I had of the budget the bigger the party:-) Halloween parties, Casio/Speak easy holiday parties, Paris on Ponce, etc.

Above all, the hardest goodbye was to the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I wish all my friends success in their careers and personal lives and hope we cross professional paths again. Thank you for teaching me, evolving with me, laughing with me, and forgiving my bad spelling and grammar. By being the best you can be, you’ve brought out the best in me.

CES 2014 – Raj’s picks from the show

I just spent last week at CES in Las Vegas and had an absolutely amazing time. This years trip to CES was a little different as I had access to Publicis Groupe events and private parties. Needless to say, I’m just now recovering from the parties!

Here are some of the highlights from CES for me.

  • Qualcomm’s Gimbal Platform – This is a context awareness platform using beacon technology as well as mobile app to create pretty much any awareness situation you can think of.
  • Cisco Retail Solutions – Cisco had some amazing concepts showing how they could connect the entire retail experience with beacon’s, tracking camera’s, and some pretty amazing store level and executive analytic’s (user foot track patterns, inventory, transactions, etc.). They had partnered with Aero Scout for the beacon technology.
  • Street Line – Pretty cool stuff when it comes to parking and other data for urban areas. Saw I nice demo with them and Cisco.
  • Google Fiber – I was lucky enough to attend a private meeting with Google to learn more about new products in the market. Outside of getting a nice pair of Google glasses, one of the best road maps I saw was for Google Fiber. Alot of us are familiar with Google Fiber, so I won’t bore you with the details, checkout the site. What’s amazing is the approach Google is taking to dominate the Fiber network not only in the US, but in other countries that have poor infrastructure or countries that have a monopoly (higher prices as a result). If you don’t own Google stock, you should, this one division will dominate the world in 5 years and give Google a diversified portfolio outside of just search. Some interesting terminologies I learned from Google; they call neighborhoods “Fiber Hoods”, their retail stores are called “Fiber Space”. The Google VP in-charge (Milo Medin) of the division was telling me that he has seen credit ratings for cities increase because of Google Fiber (installed city), he also told me that if a house in a Fiber Hood signs up for Google Fiber (free internet), that account stays with the house, so if you sell the house the new owner gets Google Fiber as well, this helps home values and rental values. Not to mention, a city that helps bring in Google Fiber (make it easy for Google in install) gets free fiber to schools, libraries, etc. Milo was clear to point out that he only goes to cities that make it easy for him, it doesn’t matter about the size of the city. Amazing stuff from Google, including how they roll out and install a Fiber Hood. Continue reading

What’s on my current pre-order product list

Over the last 12 to 16 months I per-ordered a number of products and have received them. In general I’ve been really happy with what I got. Pre-ordering is becoming more common, but I’d say that I’d never really done it until I went to CES a few years ago and got excited about specific products I saw. What’s accelerated this even more is sites like Kick Starter and others that have introduced new products/ideas and built confidence in purchasing products pre-release/pre-review.

Here are my top 3 pre-order products I’ve received:

  • Nest – Love it and works perfectly in my house.
  • DropCam – I have 2 of these in my house and have given them out as gifts.
  • Leap Motion – This has been OK, it’s not delivered on the wow for me, but I enjoy using it as entertainment.

Here are my My current pre-orders:

  • Coin – I’m really excited about this card. I hate all the cards I carry in my wallet. Hoping into get this summer 2014.
  • Airo –  Man, this is cool, I’m not into fitness, but know what my body is consuming and tracking this all to help me live well simplifies how I track this and why I won’t do this today. Hoping to get this in fall 2014.
  • Tesla Model X – I’ve been excited about this SUV. I put in my pre-order in early 2012. This is a big purchase item for a pre-order that I haven’t seen/touched. I can’t wait. Hoping to get this in early 2014, we’ll see.
  • August – I loved the design and simplicity of this home lock system. Lots of new products coming out, I’m hoping this one is the winner and it simplifies life again. Hoping to get this in early 2014.

What else should I consider?

Back in School getting my Executive MBA

I never thought I’d go back to school, yet I just took the crazy, and somewhat unplanned, leap and enrolled at Georgia State University, Robin College of Business to get my Executive MBA.  Many of my friends, fellow entrepreneurs, and investors questioned why I was doing this.  It’s a fair question.

I’m 37 years old, co-founded an agency, successfully sold two agencies, and have No Limit Ventures, LLC as an investment vehicle for start-ups I believe in. Is an EMBA valuable for someone like me or should my time, effort, and money go towards something else? Another fair question.

Here is why I decided to get an EMBA.

  • I know I can do more in life/work.
  • I really only know one industry very well and wanted to broaden my knowledge.
  • I only know what I know, and I don’t know what I’ve never been exposed to.
  • I want to validate what I know and improve on it if I can.
  • I need to better understand and speak the international language of business, accounting and finance.
  • I want to be exposed to other types of thinkers (people from other industries, company sizes, career situations, etc.)
  • I have context I can apply in classes and discover alternate methods of decision making and learn even more from my past mistakes.
  • I’m playing to win!

The EMBA I’m doing has a strong focus on global business and accounting. It will take 17 months and is based in the Buckhead campus. So far I’ve enjoyed every moment of the program and I’m learning more than I’d ever imagined. Most importantly, I’m discovering my passions again!

A special thank you to Marc Kagan, my friend that introduced me to program and gave me the inside track. Ken Bernhardt, my mentor who logically helped me make this decision. And finally and most importantly my wife, Tovah Choudhury who’s encouraged me and supported this decision knowing I’ll have less time to devote to our family (oh and we are having our second child in November).

Thank you all for the support and encouragement. This is the right decision for me, I hope it helps some of you make similar decisions.

Jeff Hilimire – Memories to Share

My friend Jeff Hilimire and my first business partner is leaving the roots of the company we co-founded some 14 years and 10 months ago today. It’s a sad moment for me (and him) as we’ve shared a journey and this is the first time in our professional careers we’ll be apart. We have been close friends from the day we met 17 years ago and I know we’ll always be close friends regardless of our professional lives.

I met Jeff in August 1996 when I was an international exchange student at UNC in Charlotte, NC. Jeff was my roommate and we quickly became friends. At the time Jeff was a straight A student, great at math, tennis, computers, and a master of Tetris (really, the guy is bad-ass at Tetris). He was dating his high school sweet heart, Emily (his wife and the rock now behind him), and was the oldest brother to sisters that all looked up to him. His family took me in as another member of the family, especially his mum who welcomed me into a country I knew little about. Jeff’s commitment to his family has never waivered, and I’d say it’s been a model for a lot of us who know him and his family well.

Jeff and I had very different social lives (I think he’d agree), but one thing that bonded us was our love of the internet and the uncharted possibilities for a couple of guys who didn’t know any better. To observe us back then, we were unlikely friends or business partners; in fact, I’m not sure either of us ever considered working together. Yet, fate and pure luck brought us together a few years later and we never looked back. Continue reading