Tomorrow, we Feast…and every day, we should be Thankful

I keep reading platitudes on Thanksgiving and in the back of my mind, I chuckle to myself as I peruse through them.  I think most of us understand the tradition of Thanksgiving and the theme “thankful for…,” but what I don’t read in these articles is what’s actually happening tomorrow.  And that is, for a day, people are actually nicer, more relaxed, and are enjoying their day without the need of presents or the entrance of the new year.  Thursday marks a day when family and friends gather around a table full of food, laughter, and good company.  Tomorrow, for those places that celebrate turkey day, their is a one day revolution where emailing, texting, facebooking, and general dieting is put on pause so that as friends and family, people can enjoy each other’s company and their time together without the fear of missing a call or calorie counting.

So, tomorrow, I hope everyone feasts!  It is true that every day we should be thankful, but not every day can close friends and family find themselves in one room, free from distractions except from the laughter coming from the next room. So, again, I hope everyone feasts… not only on food, but time with friends, the love that is shared, and the memories made.  Not every day can we spend time together so when you get those moments, feast on them.

Now, what would a Thanksgiving blog be without an ode to the “I’m thankful…”

I am Thankful for:

My company: the opportunity to work with such great people, internally and also with the great venues, hotels and concierges is amazing.

My puppy: Hyphen.  I love you.

My friends:  I really can only count about 5 that have stuck with me through thick and thin.  You know who you are, I love you guys.

My tutor kids: You are an inspiration in life.  If more people could see how resilient you are, then I think they’d understand that their lives are so precious.

My BDB:  Only one person will know what this means.  You are missed.  You are truly the greatest person I have ever met and your happiness is all I hope for.  I love you.

My family:  We may not be close, but you are still a part of my history.  From my birth mother, to the kids in the orphanage, and to my adopted family, I am blessed to have you all in my life and am honored to know you.

My beautiful long hair, Yes.  I have ninja style hair.

Happy Thanksgiving, Readers.

Drew Morrison | Founder | CSO | CityGuru

Who has raised over $700M in his lifetime? My new CEO.

Two years ago.  I set out to create something special.  I didn’t know at the time, how or what exactly I’d be doing, just that it was going to involve travel, concierges and a way to make it easier for travelers to find the best a city had to offer.

Fast forwarding to a month ago, I find myself in a luncheon with Jim Billmaier.   My developer Kevin and I are talking about the company over chicken salad and I give Jim my pitch.  Halfway through, he stops us and says he’s interested in investing.  I recall looking over at Kevin and whispering, “did he really just say he wants to invest? Holy sh*%, I muttered.”

A week later, Jim and I are still interacting.  He’s basically looking up our skirt and us his and then the truly unexpected happens.  Jim tells us he wants to be our CEO.  If you’re wondering now, who this guy is, he’s a seasoned vet in the startup world with over 30 years experience in VC backed companies, ALL with successful exits.  He’s raised over $700M in his lifetime and made a lot of people a lot of money, including local billionaire and entrepreneur, Paul Allen.  Jim’s Bio: Jim Billmaier.

So, what did I do after hearing that Jim wanted to be CEO of my company?  Well, I jumped at the chance and for the past month we have been working diligently and silently, acclimating Jim to our company and working out his terms of employment.

And yes,  I am pleased to announce that Jim Billmaier, successful CEO, entrepreneur  investor, inventor, and overall great guy, is now the CEO of my company, City Guru (formerly On The Go).  As if that weren’t good enough, we also picked up an experienced CFO, Olin Nichols, who Jim had worked with in the past.

Now, what does this mean for yours truly?  It means, that I get to do what I love doing, sales and being in front of customers.  In this case, concierges and local businesses.  I made it my mission to provide them with the best technology and service, elevating the value of their jobs, and bring awareness to just how amazing this group of people are.  With Jim on board, I am certain we can make this happen.

With Jim and Olin on our team and the list of talented people that are coming to work with us in the near future, I’m just astounded and am still pinching myself.

Drew Morrison / Founder / CSO

How we won 1st place at the Seattle Travel & Tech Convention

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A month ago, my company was asked to apply for a Travel and Tech Convention being held at the Four Seasons in Seattle.  The event was put on through a partnership with Garvey Schubert and Barer (www.gsblaw.com) and Zino Society (www.zinosociety.com) and was to debut the top Travel and Hospitality Technology startups in the Seattle metro area.

After an initial screening in early October where I had to pitch to over a dozen GSB and Zino people, we were given the nod of approval to be a finalist at the October 24th event.  The finalist would comprise of only 5 of the top selections from over 25 initial invites.  The competition, though limited, was tough.  One of my competitors had put over $4,000,000.00 into his product and had sold three of his past companies for over $330 Million.  Another was in 17 cities world wide and was gaining traction every single day.  As I looked through the accolades of my competitors, I can tell you, I started to sweat bullets.  This was only the SECOND time I have ever pitched like this at an event and this was only my FIRST startup.

To keep the event consistent, each of us finalist had to present from slides that were  pre-loaded.  We would have only five minutes to tell the judges who we were, the problem in the market we were solving, our solution, how we make money, traction, and why we were so damn awesome, to which would follow was three minutes of questions from anyone in the room.  Now if you’ve never done this, I can tell you, this is really difficult to do; nerve racking is an understatement.  But as with every obstacle in my life, I bit my lip, took a deep breath, and when it came my turn, faced the crowd and did my job.  At the end, I was pleasantly surprised to hear people clapping and we weren’t asked just a few questions, but a lot of questions; good questions.  This told me they were interested and that I had gotten my message across.

An hour later, they did the award ceremony.  There were two awards being given away that night:  1.) Judges Pick for BEST INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY and the 2.) People’s Pick.  Now, just so you know that this wasn’t some backroom event, here is a list of companies that were represented through the judges:

Google, Microsoft, Expedia, Alaska Airlines, UrbanSpoon, Intelity, Sabre Hospitality, Concur Technologies, TNOOZ, Ascension Software, Evergreen Finance Consulting, Virtuoso, Benchmark Hospitality, American Casino, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, & Holland America Line.  Also, in the room were over 200 invite only guests who had to purchase tickets to be there.  The room was filled with just as many well to do people as the judging panel.

So, how did we do?  Well, We took home BOTH awards.  It was one of the greatest feelings of my life.  The first award to be called was People’s Choice and when I heard  On The Go, I literally could not believe it.

After I had gone up to accept the first award, they asked me to stay up at the stage so that a photo could be taken with both winners.  As I stood there waiting, I kept thinking the other winner was one of the guys I had come to know during the event, but when the time came, they called On The Go as the winner of the Judge’s Pick for best investment opportunity.  I am not sure what my face looked like, but I know it had to have been of utter surprise.  I mean, was this even allowed?  I would find out later that no one had anticipated one company to win both awards.  I can tell you, I am truly honored to have done so.

So, how did we win both awards?  Truth.  Hard work.  When I speak of my company and what it is we do, the hard work and effort of the past two years comes through.  All the blood, sweat, and tears is easily understood and the passion behind my voice could travel for miles.  I’m blessed to have been in that position and I thank Garvey Schubert and Barer and Zino for putting on that event so that we could be honored with such wondrous recognition.

I’ve always said that by working hard you can create your own luck.  I’d like to also add that by working hard you meet the most amazing people in life.  This event allowed me to do just that.  Thank you everyone that I met at the event, thank you Greg and GSB, Cathi and ZINO, Jim, Susie, my team and everyone else for making my five minutes worth every single one of them.

Drew Morrison / Founder / CSO / CityGuru (formerly On The Go)

Why you must always be networking…

Many of you have noticed that my blog entries have been few and farther between lately.  I promise, I will get back onto a more consistent pace again so that your daily lives can function as normal again [insert smiley face].

The reason for my absence has been simple;  I’m kicking ass and taking names.  As many of you recall, we are dating for a new CEO and believe we have found the guy.  He is a high level exec with tons of clout, experience, and connections.  I will talk more about this once we finalize the terms, but I can tell you all, everyone will be impressed.

So in between dating for a new CEO and getting adoption of our technology up and working on the business development end of our company, time has been fairly limited.  As if my plate weren’t full enough, I have continued to do what I have done very well for the past 2 years, NETWORK.

For many of you, networking might not come easy or be something you want to do.  I’m telling you now… you need to get good at it.  Networking is not as difficult as you may think to find people that can help you or would be good to listen too.  I love using LinkedIn.  When I first started using it two years ago, I barely had 100 connections.  Now, I have over 1,000 and I can tell you I’ve networked with nearly every single one.  Don’t believe me?  In the past two years, I have met with over 500 local CEO’s, CFO’s, CMO’s, Founders, and other types of execs.  Many, if not nearly all, through LinkedIn.  The results have been the difference between success and failure, I can guarantee that.

After you have located people that can potentially help you, create a really simple email.  One to five sentences, no more.  Tell them how you got their contact info, what you’re doing, and that you’d like to treat them to coffee (no lunches) for 10 minutes of their time because you think they could offer some valuable insight into solving “x” or helping you understand “y.”  And then, list two days in the following week that work for you with time brackets.

Every appointment that I got from LinkedIn was made by that email format and it worked with a really high success rate.  When you get the appointment(s) confirmed, prepare yourself and know what you’re going to say.  I did my pitch in the beginning and told them I was looking for feedback on the pitch itself and then I let them share their insight and advice organically.  I rarely had to ask questions, just sit back and take notes and you damn well better take notes.  My laptop was always open, I wrote down nearly everything everyone said, and reviewed the notes later.

It’s often a numbers game.  I met with a high volume of people and not all helped me tremendously, but a large number (especially towards the end) really made huge impacts on my company and on my life.  I even started to get strong referrals from the contacts I was meeting, which have gone a long way towards the growth of our company.

The reason I bring all of this up is that after our launch, I took a week off where I stopped checking my LinkedIn page and stopped networking aggressively.  I can tell you that this was a  mistake on my part.  I felt that I had come to a point where networking wasn’t needed as much and I could focus on the many other things that needed my attention.  It dawned on me when we were dealing with some questions on how to increase daily usage from our concierges that even though we had a lot of great ideas, the answer would possibly come from someone outside of the company.

Fast track to today.  I just finished an hour long meeting with T.A. McAnn   (www.linkedin.com/in/tamccann).  This meeting was set up to network and was done prior to my company launch.  The timing of the meeting was impeccable as it did several things for me.  The first, I got to meet a high caliber local entrepreneur and exec.  He provided me with amazing insight into users and usage.  The second, it reminded me of why networking is so important.  Had I never reached out to T.A., the information he provided would have been lost and who knows how long it would have taken me to figure things out, if at all.  Third.  It was fun.  I love this type of stuff.  I love meeting new people, talking about my company and yes, listening to them talk.  Interacting with people is a huge part of my day and it should be that way for everyone in my position.  Being out in the community is just as important as it is to holing yourself up in an office.

So, people, always be networking.  There are millions if not billions of people out there with connections, cash, and knowledge that is valuable to you  All you have to do is ask.

Drew Morrison / Founder / On The Go

It’s all about the kids..

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It’s Wednesday, I have my best shirt on, and I keep checking to make sure it’s pressed and tucked right.  I’m pacing the entrance of the building while rehearsing my lines over and over again.  I glance at my phone nervously to check the time and pretend to check my email for one last time.  Then, I hear my name.  “Drew?”  I turn to look and the center manager is greeting me.  I extend my hand and realize that she’s about to shake my phone.  As I drop it, I mutter some awkward apology and attempt to shake her hand and pick up my phone at the same time.  As I do, I get the glimpse of two little eyes gazing up at me from behind her.  “Drew, this is your student Omar.”  And just like that, my nerves vanish;  those lines I had been rehearsing are put aside, as I bend down, I shake Omar’s hand and tell him I’m the new center donkey.  He laughs, says, “no, you’re  not,” and that my friends, was my first few moments as a tutor for a first grader named Omar.

In my adult life, I have often tried to find time to volunteer for stuff.  Often the volunteering felt pretty hollow because I never really chose things that mattered much to me.  That was until I volunteered to teach 2nd and 3rd graders at my church in Arizona.  After a rigorous application process and a week of training,  I was given my first 2nd grade class to teach and run by myself… and wow, I had never had so much fun.  There would be singing, dancing, drawing, games, and yes, lessons.  Each Sunday would always be the highlight of my week and I often wished I could spend more time with the kids.  So, when an opportunity in Seattle came up to tutor underprivileged kids, I jumped at the chance.  Now, my role up here is a little different.  My focus is on teaching the kids skills they don’t have and to lesson them on things that you and I take for granted like reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Even how I approach working with these kids is different, but in a really good way.  I’m going to have to be more attentive, more patient… more creative.

What I love about this opportunity is that I feel like I’m going to be able to help kids that were just like me.  When I read the notes on the children I tutor, I see some similarities in all of their backgrounds: trouble with focus, rambunctious,  likes to tell stories, trouble reading, trouble comprehending words, and so on and so on.  What I see isn’t a troubled kid, but a kid that is just starving for some attention, a kid that is looking for guidance and just wants to know that their life is ok.  How do I know this?  Because these kids are a spitting image of me back when I was a kid.  I’m honored to be a positive force in these kids’ lives.  When I was a kid, if there had been just one person to spend even 10 minutes with me a week and let me know that I can be funny and silly and that things are all going to be ok, then I think I would have suffered less as child.

I don’t really have the time, but I’m going to dedicate a decent amount each week to tutoring and giving to children because they deserve it.   My goal isn’t just to help children in need, but also to help myself.  I hope to be a good father one day and I know the patience and understanding skills I pick up from these coming days will go a long way to the benefit of my own children.  Plus, the smiles on these kids’ faces when you teach them a new word or after they beat you in a board game is breathtaking.

So, all of you out there who are reading… drink one day less a week, workout one less hour a day, complain one time less and find out what moves you and go donate your time.  I think you’ll see, you all have something special you can give.  Mine happens to be making kids laugh and connecting with them and ya know… I’m happy to have that gift.  You?  Well, I hope to hear your story on this matter one day.

Drew Morrison / Founder / On The Go

Concierges….What I know and Why I LOVE THEM.

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I’ve always found it interesting to get to know a new group of people.  The newest to me has been Seattle Concierges.  For the past 18 months it has been my mission to get to know a lot of the local concierges, what they do, why and how they affect this world.

As an avid [past] traveler, I am familiar with the concierge service.  I love how in a few seconds, they’ve basically sized me up, and for the most part, are dead on about where to refer me.  If any of you are unfamiliar with how a concierge service works, let me summarize it for you.

Every major tourist city has hotels.  A sector of these hotels are mid-to high end.  Within these hotels, there often is a local expert, someone who knows the city inside and out.  This expert is also known as the concierge.  These concierges are available to any hotel guest free of charge (I tip them, however, every time I need valuable information, reservations, directions, etc… I mean, c’mon people, these guys work hard) and they can do amazing things from suggesting a simple place for coffee to planning your whole trip from the moment you walk out the door to when you get back and about a billion other things that make your stay at their hotel easy and memorable.

Also, to point out, Seattle has a Visitors Center (as do most cities) where there are concierges that provide free service to the public.

[Concierges are Lucie and Ann, both some of the top Concierges in Seattle]

So, now that you know what a concierge is and where to find them, let me tell you why I love these men and women.

1.) Knowledgeable.  It’s absolutely insane how much they know about a city.  I always thought I knew Seattle well, but these people put me to shame.  If I could live in a hotel my whole life, I would, JUST so I could wake up every day and have them suggest a new route to walk, place to eat, or a weekend getaway that would leave me speechless.  They seriously know the best places for coffee, food, shopping, hang out spots, all based on your needs/preferences, the time of day, the season… it’s pretty impressive.

2.) Work Ethic.  I, by nature and having been raised in the mid-west, am no stranger to working hard.  I find work ethic to be one of the first things I look for in someone’s character and in the past 18 months, watching and interacting with Seattle Concierges, I can tell you, these people work harder then most people I have ever met and they do so without any guest ever knowing just how much effort they put into making something as seemingly simple as coordinating a ride to planning an afternoon retreat.  (I can tell you right now, coordinating a ride from the airport, to the hotel, to an appointment, and then back to the hotel is not as easy as you’d assume.  Imagine the sheer number of people who need a ride vs. how many town cars there actually are in this city).

[One of those great locations that Concierges know about is Victrola Coffee.  They are also one of my favorite places to go as well.]

3.) Integrity.  I was in an investor meeting last week, pitching the value of the technology we’ve created for Concierges when one of the panel members scoffed about Concierges getting tips of sorts from guests and businesses.  He acted as if this was a bad thing and that concierges could not be trusted because of the money.  I’m here to tell you, these concierges have a ton of integrity.  Yes, they are rewarded by doing their jobs, but aren’t we all?  And, when they make suggestions for you, it’s not based on money or the lure of it.  They really do take the time to get to know you and make spot on suggestions based on your needs.. NOT theirs.  I can think of a ton of other groups of people that work solely on making their wallets fatter, Concierges are not one of them.

4.) Zero Planning.  I LOVE THAT I can go into ANY city and truly be on vacation.  I always hear about people who like to plan their own trips and spend hours, if not days pre-planning by using things like Yelp or Google.  To them I say, ok, great!  I’m glad you can make decisions on a city that you know nothing about and read reviews from people that are often wrong about a location.  For me, my choice is to have to do nothing.  Literally, nothing.  I go to a concierge, tell them I want to eat, shop, and have fun.  They size me up, and now, because of the technology we’ve created, a concierge can plan a full day’s worth of events in a few seconds and then email it to me.  In less then 5 minutes, I leave with a great selection of choices in an order that makes sense with turn by turn directions, notes from the concierge, all reservations booked, and tickets purchased (if need be)…  all sent to my phone… and again, the best part, I didn’t have to do a thing except simply spend a few minutes with a friendly and knowledgeable Concierge.

5.) Friendly.  Seriously. These people are always so darn nice!  Who wouldn’t enjoy a smiling face from someone that is genuinely trying to help you?  I rarely see that when I get on bus or order dinner, and even when I’m trying to pay my cell phone bill.

To sum it up, concierges are superior in every way to any technology or other service you may find.  They do so willingly and with zero effort on your part.  They truly love to help people and help through their knowledge and connections to a city.  There will never be a replacement for them and I’m just blessed that we get to work with them.

So, the next time you’re ready to book your trip, ask yourself, is saving a few bucks worth it or would having access to a gold-mine of information and connections that will all inherently make your trip better the wiser choice?  If you’re ever in need of a reference to a great hotel and a great concierge, just let me know,  You’ll be glad you asked.

Drew Morrison / Founder / On The Go

Portland

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Yesterday morning we started our trek to Portland.  The two day trip was scheduled to include an interview with a Portland Incubator and several meetings with local high end hotels.

The incubator we were visiting is a group called Upstart Labs.  For those of you who don’t know, an incubator is a group or company that injects cash, talent, and leadership into a start up to basically accelerate that company’s growth.  I had traveled down with part of my team, Kevin, my Sr. Developer, Susie, my Operations Manager, and Michael, the CEO we are dating, to meet with Upstart and basically sell the vision and team.

Though we do not know yet the success or failure of the interview, I remain optimistic.  The team meeting with us had a lot of hard questions, many that revolved around the revenue.  Whether or not we hit home just how simple our model is, how we can make a lot of money easily, that our model is indeed set in place, and we just need to start collecting soon, I am unsure.  What I do know is that I can tell they really liked the technology, the solution to the current problem, and how simple we now make things.

As usual, I am pleased with my team and how we take challenges, big and small, grab them by the horns, and do what needs to be done.  If Upstart Labs makes us an offer, I can tell you that I will seriously (I mean seriously) entertain it.  In the meantime, we are fortunate to have a few investor meetings this coming week that we are eager to sit at the table for.

So what about the rest of our Portland trip?                                               [Thank you Portland For the Love]

Well, that same day, I stopped by the Portland Visitors Center where I met the most wonderful and friendly of people, Ms. Teri Joly, at the concierge desk.  After introducing myself as being the “man of awesome,” her and I quickly engaged into what makes me awesome and why I needed to talk to her.  Within a few minutes, Teri and I were diving into the app and I could tell by the constant smile on her face that she loved our technology.

I can tell you that as a seasoned sales person, it’s always a good sign when you cold-call randomly and get a new customer.  Now either I am the best salesperson ever or the technology is truly that great.  I’m leaning towards one more than the other, but I’ll let you decide which one that is…

After signing up a few more concierges that day and bullying through about a hundred emails, we called it a day.  A quick workout later, we were off to dinner at Cartlandia, one of several food truck spots.  My meal of choice?  The Urban Cowboy of course.

[Left:  The Urban Cowboy is truly amazing.  Right:  What's dinner without drinks after?  Bourbon of course]

Day two started with breakfast at Pine Street Biscuits (LOVED) and now prepping for our engagements with several high end hotels in the area where I am presuming success as usual.  If any of you are wondering about our success rate, it is currently 100%.  We have yet to be told “no” by any hotel or concierge that has met with us.  That, my friends, is pure proof of the product.

As I begin to finish my Starbucks (yes, on the road I do drink Starbucks), think of the past few days, and what the future holds for us, I smile.  A deal with Upstart Labs would mean I physically move to Portland, get the mentoring I need, and open up city number two like an unstoppable force.

[Left:  Yes, that is Starbucks. Center: VOODOO Doughnuts..YES. Right:  Reggie Deluxe with Cheese at Pine Street Biscuits]

And if we don’t get the deal with Upstart?  Well, it means I’m still moving, but I will spend less time in Portland before packing up my suitcase(s) for San Francisco, then San Diego, then Salt Lake, then… Europe, then…
[Lobby of Hotel deLuxe...WOW]

Yes friends, I will be leaving Seattle soon.   The road will be my home and the hotel my bed.  Holidays will be in new cities and birthdays on a plane.  In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would be at a point in my life that resembles this, but I do find myself here at this moment and I have to tell you, I like what I see.

Soon, Seattle, I will say farewell, but til then, I’m going to enjoy all that I can.  Time with friends, my favorite restaurants, and my own washer and dryer.

Drew Morrison / Founder – On The Go

Grandmother…this is what we do.

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Over email yesterday, I was asked by several friends, “What it is you really do again?”  A little shocked by this question, since it’s obvious that these dozen friends read my blog weekly, I took a few moments, paused, and then realized that 12 friends is enough for me to address the question as clearly as I can.

In the start up community, there is a saying, explain it like your grandparents can understand it (or something similar.)  So, Grams, Gramps, here it is:

We are a Concierge-Management tool for high end hotels.  Currently, one-third of all travelers stay at mid to high end hotels and a large number of those guests seek out concierges for suggestions and directions to places to visit.  That guest is then directed through several online resources or printed maps and handwritten notes to local destinations;  many guests end up getting lost or cannot efficiently navigate the directions.  The businesses they’re sent to either never know they’re coming or never know they were even referred.  In reality, the system is broken and antiquated.

We have cleaned up and modernized this whole process through technology that is simple to use.  We can now validate when a business is referred, if the guest arrived, and how much they spent at each location.  Imagine simply going to a concierge and asking them for a place that is fun, a place that is touristy, a place to eat, and a place to do some shopping and within 30 seconds having an itinerary on your phone complete with turn by turn directions, notes from the concierge (tickets at will call, reservations at 7pm etc.), reservations booked, tickets purchased, information on the places your visiting and if there were discounts, having them in them included, all without a single piece of paper, all without you (the guest) EVER having to search or do anything yourself except ask a professional local expert for suggestions.

The Concierge benefits because we drastically improved how they do their jobs, how they connect with their guests and also validate just how valuable concierges are to the hotels, guests and local economy.  The businesses that are referred benefits because they can now be more easily located and referred to and there is validation through our technology  that a guest did in fact arrive.

Any questions?

Q: I like to use Yelp and sites like that to plan my trips.  How is this better?

A:  First.  You’re more then likely not the customer I really care about.  My customers don’t want to plan at all, simply go to a concierge and tell them what you want and before you leave the hotel lobby.  You have  a simple suggestion to a full days worth of events without any effort.  Second.  Yelp, only tells you what is around.  Our technology actually builds itineraries, directions and notes instantly.  How are we better?  In every way possible.

Q: How is this different then me just using my phone to find stuff and use the GPS on the phone?

A: You’re still having to manually locate things and then one by one, input them into your GPS.  You spend more time looking for places and inputting than actually enjoying your selections.  With our service, you have to do nothing… just ask a few simple questions:  Where’s the best..?  What’s a great place for…? And be on your way.

Q: There can’t be a large market for this?

A: ONE-THIRD of all travelers stay at hotels with concierges (For example:  180M travelers in the top 20 U.S cities fit this bill.)  The Concierge referrals generate over $600 Billion in revenue each year, world wide.  Yes, Dorothy.  This is a very big market.

Q: It doesn’t make sense that a concierge would use this.

A:  Not really a question, BUT you’re obviously not a concierge.  To date, not a single hotel has told us NO and to date, we have a huge adoption rate by the concierges we have talked to.  Concierges appreciate and will use our technology because 1. we worked with concierges to create it 2. we are not trying to replace them, BUT add value to them 3. we drastically simplify their jobs 4. we add validation to their profession by proving to businesses that a concierge was directly responsible for referring them “x” amount of business each month  5. we physically make it our job to funnel guests back to them for this concierge experience 6. we do all of this free for the concierges and their guests.

Q: How do you make money?

A:  Through the local businesses.  It’s not ads, it’s not click-thrus, it’s nothing you’ve seen before.  Just know that the business doesn’t have to learn any new system, adopt any new technology, they don’t have to give discounts, they don’t pay anything up front and the cost associated to work with us will help them know their customers better.  There is virtually zero risk and with very little cost.

Q:  Where can I get this app?

A:  As a consumer, you can’t, unless you go to the concierge.  The technology is specifically created for them.  After visiting them, they release to you an itinerary through your email.  Your interaction is minimal and non-invasive (which you should like).

Q: What cities are you in?

A:  Seattle for now.  But we visit Portland this week and we have our list of top 20 cities in the U.S. that we are focused on.  In year two, we will be international and year three, every major market.

Well, if that’s it for questions, I’ll get back to work.  I hope this sheds some light on just how awesome we are.

Drew Morrison / Founder – On The Go

Dating for a new CEO…

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On The Go is going through some changes.  The most immediate is “dating” a potential new CEO, Michael Grabham: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelgrabham.

I had been debating about hiring on a CEO to replace me for the past 2 months.  I think every responsible founder needs to take a step back every now and then to ask themselves, “am I what’s best for the company in position “x”?”  In my situation, that “x” is the CEO.  I had spoken in a previous blog about how in the early stages, titles are basically worthless.  You’re either a founder or an employee and your roles are to kick ass, take names, and after the dust settles, then you can worry about what your name badge says.  Though the dust hasn’t settled yet  for my company, I feel the timing is right to take the reigns that I have been holding and find a more  experienced and talented CEO that can take us to the next level.

What is this next level? It’s where we now prove all of our theories, raise capital, and penetrate into multiple markets to generate more customers and revenue.

As the founder, my strengths came through by driving the vision, cultivating the passion, and building a team to help make all of what’s in my head a reality.  As the CEO, I would need to take my skills beyond where they are now and instead of  retard our company’s growth, I’d much rather  bring  a guy like Michael on to jump in with two feet, use his talents and experience, and succeed where I could inevitably fail.

So why Michael?  Aside from his experience in building companies, selling them, managing multiple markets, and being a seasoned entrepreneur at over twice the experience of myself, Michael exudes trustworthiness and loyalty which in my book rank highest in necessities to someone’s resume and character.

I can tell you that I am excited to have Michael immerse himself with On The Go and I know Michael feels the same way.  What’s great about this situation is that instead of just taking a blind leap, we were able to come up with a simple dating period where there is very little risk for both On The Go and Michael.  We date Michael to see how he works with us and he dates us to see if we’re a good fit for his talents.  In all situations, if you can do this, I suggest it.  I was lucky to have one of our advisers (THANK YOU JEFF COON) to come in and act as our pre-marital counselor and I can tell you that it helped tremendously to ease the entrance and set the tone.

What does this mean for me?  Well, it means I can focus on the sales and business development.  I am going to begin an aggressive 2-3 week campaign to sign up more hotels/concierges and businesses  in Seattle, but you know, the focus of my time is more important then just Seattle.  This coming Thursday, my team and I are traveling down to Portland to talk to an incubator.  I’ll go into more detail about what this means in Wednesday’s blog.  In the big picture, the CEO addition means that I will be moving.  Possibly to Portland for the next 3-6 months and then after, out of a suit case as I personally open every market for the next 2-3 years.

Am I excited?  Heck, yes.  I hope Michael proves to be everything we expect him to be, I hope that we get the nod of approval for this Portland move, and I hope I can be just as good of a salesman for my team as I have been a founder as I put our mark on every major market world-wide in the next three years.

Drew Morrison / Founder / Nearly Ex – CEO – On The Go

Sweet Smell of Success…

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Last night was the main event to our official launch in Seattle.  After two years, to be at the cusp of the moment was almost terrifying.  Will the product work?  Will the concierges adopt or even enjoy what I’ve given up two years of my life for?  These were just a few of the zillion questions and fears running through my head.

The event officially started at 5pm and I was expecting people to show up [fashionably] late.  I was still busy with my head down getting things prepared for the event when our first concierges walked in; 4:52 pm and my world changed.  They grabbed some wine and sat down on one of the couches.  With a glance from Susie, I knew I had to drop what I was doing and say hi to our first guests.

With laptop in hand, I approached, introduced myself as the founder of the On The Go, and asked if they knew why they were here (yes, weird question).  As we engaged, all my fears quickly left.  All the pressure of two years vanished.  I was in a familiar place and doing what I excel at.  Within minutes, I had them enthralled in the app and was receiving amazing questions and just like that, signed up a several new concierges.

Before I knew it, the room was filling up.  Concierges were literally flooding into the upstairs event room of Amber and I remember thinking, when did all these people get here?  Buzzed, high, on cloud-9 (pick one), I scoped out the room seeing some familiar faces and a lot of new ones.  I recall taking a step back, smiling, and honestly, a quick tear came to my eye.  The sight of dozens of concierges, my team, and my advisers all engaging each other was one of those great emotional moments.

As I managed my way through the room, I was pleasantly surprised to see every laptop (6 of them) occupied with 4-5 other concierges engaging the app.   The best part… everyone was smiling.  Video Concierge Event.  The feedback was equally enjoyable with some of the best compliments that one could ever hear.  Thinking about them again now is actually bringing another tear… I truly couldn’t have been happier.

But you know, I didn’t do this alone.  I may speak about my team a lot, but I think it’s important to know just how blessed I am to have each of them as part of my company…OUR company.  Kevin, Susie, Jeremy, Rob and Hazel (was on lease).  I completely and utterly thank you with all of the emotions and gratitude that a million of me can have.  I could never have found a better team and could never have gotten here without you.  Additionally, my advisers Jeff, Justin, Berny, Quentin, Clay, and David, THANK YOU.  Your support and counsel have been the difference between success and failure.  OH and I can’t forget our sponsors.  Thank you as well.  You were all so gracious in your donations and the event could not have happened without you.

[The team: Jeremy, Susie, Drew, Rob, Kevin]

So, now that we had such a great launch, what does this mean?  More Work.  After a celebration dinner at a Mexican Buffet (what?  YES!  Mexican BUFFET), I went home to dive into our next 3 month strategy which includes signing up more concierges, supporting the ones we have, collecting metrics on all the businesses we refer customers too, new name, logo and design,  new strategic partnership(s), and…dare I say…potentially moving to Portland to open up city number two (more to come on this).

What’s in store for On The Go?  Accelerated growth.  Revenue.  Investment capital.  Stage two of our success, and World Domination as the industry leader in our market sector (yes, this is very possible.)

What’s in store for me?  If things go well, a happiness I’ve never known.  Traveling… a lot of traveling as I personally open every market for the next 2 years or more.  Happiness.  Yes, I know I’ve said this twice, but I mean it.

[Left: Susie showing off Certificate from Teatro Zinzanni won by Ann Peavey.
Right: Concierge with Sponsor Swag  ag]

So Seattle, I hope you treat us well.  Show us the growth I know we can achieve.  I’ve bled for you for the past two years and will make it two hundred years if need be.

Other markets, look out.  I’m a man with a new vigor, a great product, an amazing team, and will not relent until every major market and any concierge, traveler, and destination is somehow touched by our technology.

World, please accept this as my bid to be the number one used concierge technology, positively affecting more travelers and more businesses world wide then any other technology or service.

For all of you readers that are interested, visit our website http://www.onthego-mobile.com and sign up to be kept in the loop or email me drew@onthego-mobile.com.  I’ll gladly show you our technology, walk you through why we are so amazing, and why every hotel we’ve walked into has yet to tell us no.

For my close friends, those few I can count on one hand, you know how to get ahold me.  Over drinks, let me express my gratitude for being there for me til the end and let me introduce you to what could possibly be the coolest new service you have ever seen.

Keep an eye on us.  Bet on us.  Most importantly, use us and our concierges whenever you travel.  I guarantee you’ll always wonder how no one thought of this sooner and how you ever could have lived without it.

Drew Morrison / Founder / CEO / Lover of Mexican Buffet – On The Go

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