Feeling Right at Home on a Minneapolis Business Trip

It was good to be squinting.  The rising August sun beamed off Lake Minnewashta, fragmenting into millions of diamonds around my paddle as a gentle breeze offset the rising temperature.  It’s a business trip, and I’m on a paddleboard.  Sweet, right?

Minnesota, paddleboard, SUP, lake, travel

Experiencing a place like a local resident is a desire for many travelers these days.  Lately, it’s increasingly a key ingredient for business trips as well.  Just look at airbnb’s business travel tagline: “Travel for work, feel at home.” 

On a recent trip to a Minneapolis conference, I rode this trend like Paul Bunyan on Babe the Blue Ox. Here’s how I rolled (in an intentionally non-numeric list, because the world has reached listicle peak):

No Hotels for Homies.  Like most business travelers, I usually stay at hotels.  But for this trip I pulled an “airbnBRO”, staying at my brother’s house about 25 minutes southwest of the Minneapple.  No big deal, right?  We’ve all stayed with family.  But the traditional conference strategy is to stay close to the event so you can gorge on the precious face time (the real, in person kind) that paradoxically eludes us in today’s hyper-connected world.  A growing number of business travelers however, want to a more feel at home.  Nowadays it’s not rare for a team of colleagues to rent a house for a business trip.  Staying at an airbnb – or a bed in my brother’s pinball arcade basement – is increasingly a viable business stay option for those who want to feel at home.  Feel me, Homie?

Early bird get that worm.  This isn’t a new trend but if The Wire’s Marlo Stansfield says it, you better listen up.  Conferences often beget late-night benders, but keeping a disciplined at home routine is key to bringing your A game on the road.  This means carving out time by getting up early to meditate, plan the day, hang upside down – whatever gets you going.  If you’re not a morning person (or binged the night before) it may be tough.  But you’ll feel better afterwards, and will have the rest of your day to maximize your chances for serendipitous meetings like Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh does.

Work Work Work Work Work (out).  Keeping a home routine on the road often means exercising, even if only to help clear your mind.  As an entrepreneur my mornings are often chock full of ideas that gestate overnight.  Multiply that by 10x on a business trip.  I was lucky to be staying where I could get out on the lake by paddleboard or canoe for 20 minutes each morning.  It set the tone for the day and let me reflect on a previous day’s meeting that sparked a new go-to-market strategy.  No lake, you say? Poor soul. Try this 15 minute high intensity routine in your room.  Any time, any place.

Get some culture.  Wherever you go, there’s a local culture to explore.  For me, it was the Minneapolis music scene.  For those who aren’t fans of Prince (BTW what’s wrong with you?) Minneapolis is where he got his start.  The week Prince died, my brother planned to go to one of his many public, come-as-you-are house parties at his home/studio complex in Chanhassen.  I missed out on those but made the pilgrimage to share in the outpouring of love and support shown by the mass of mementos placed in tribute to the Purple One.  It had special significance for me as a fan but also as a former DJ on the station credited with “breaking” Prince, KMOJ-FM (shout out to Q-Bear, Chazz and the crew).  For more culture in Minneapolis, try the Walker Art Center, and if the elevator tries to bring you down…go concert crazy at legendary First Ave, where Prince filmed Purple Rain’s concert scenes.

MInnesota, Paisley Park, Prince, travel

Eat Local Fare.  This is definitely one area where you’ll need to be flexible about breaking from routine.  At home I usually don’t consume much dairy, and have recently explored gluten-free options (even though I’m not celiac – another trend).  Traveling to the milk and grain midwest heartlands forced me to suck it up and eat local fare: bring on the deep-fried salty cheese curds and local walleye fish tacos from Lake Minnetonka!

Take Care of Business.  Oh yeah, that.  The main reason for my trip.  No trend here – your bottom line should always remain first.  Even though I stayed outside of the city and it required more effort, my “feel at home on business travel” approach yielded insightful meetings, creative inspiration and a chance to dip my toes in the local culture.  Plus quality time with my brother and his family.  A win on all fronts! #StayTTuned

 

 

 

State of the ‘Tuner 2015

Most TV stations here in the US will be broadcasting the Presidential State of the Union Address tonight, but we’d like to offer a much briefer alternative. Ladies & Gentlemen, I submit to you our State of the ‘Tuner Address, with last year’s highlights and what we’ll bring in 2015.

Check out a preview of our sleek new TripTuner 2.0 design.  It’s fully optimized for mobile and tablet, for instant travel inspiration on the go – whether you’re in line at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office or stuck in a boring meeting.  Same addictive sliders, plus a rich tapestry of photos that wrap across your screen to help you find the right place for your next escape.

Click for a preview of TripTuner 2.0!

Whether or not you’ll be listening to O, you should know about our “MO” – the MOmentum gained from 3x growth last year.  We’re using it as a springboard to innovate even more than we did in 2014.  Some high points:

• CNN picks TripTuner #1 of “12 websites that’ll make you a smarter traveller.”

DressTuner 2.0 goes live on Zappos (yeah, we do that too!)

Bahamas’ Wedding Tuner debuts at the posh Per Se restaurant in NYC.

Visit Florida’s Beach Finder launches featuring Google Street …er, Beach View

• Brazil’s TAM Viagens arrives as our first airline partner, with “Inspire Me.” Belleza!

Soccer Tuner helps agnostic World Cup fans pick which team to back. Gooooool!!!

• Kempinski Hotels announces their “Tune in to Summer” promotion.

• Utah launches our latest project with Brand USA: Alpine or Red Rocks, anyone?

• France’s Havas Voyages unveils a rebranded “Inspirez-Moi” in our 3rd year together.

• October 15, 2014 marked our 3rd anniversary.

We’ve got much more in store and we’ll continue to listen to you, our loyal fans on how we may improve.  So enjoy TripTuner 2.0 on your phone, keep the suggestions coming and thanks for all your support. We wish you all the best for a fantastic 2015! #StayTTuned

Celebrating Three Years of TripTuner

Three years ago tonight, my lead developer Pablo and I were pecking out messages on Skype, knocking out a seemingly never-ending checklist of tasks.  It was a Friday night and we’d been working nonstop all day until around 8pm, when we flipped the virtual switch and pushed a web app called TripTuner live.

There was no launch party.  No throng of users enticed with sneak previews, or bloggers given special codes in a cleverly crafted pre-launch marketing plan.  We didn’t have time to build hype.  We wanted what we built to BE hype.  So our launch went completely unnoticed.  But man was it a great feeling to see an idea come to life.

Three years later, with equally little fanfare we – and by “we” I mean a virtual team spread across three continents — celebrate the sucessful culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.  A rollercoaster of ups and downs, sometimes on an hourly basis.  Quick reactions, changing priorities and rapid iterations are the norm, but the vision of discovering ideal options — for nearly anything — remains unchanged.  We’re executing on that vision and are well on our way with a growing, profitable company.  And a kick-ass product.

TripTuner began as a great way to find personalized destination ideas.  But we had no idea if it would work.  There wasn’t a test that could prove whether or not it was viable.  We had to build it to see if users thought it was as cool as we did.  Of course, everyone we showed it to said they liked it.  But everyone will tell you that.  There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to put it out there.  Fortunately, users responded with enthusiasm.  “It’s like it knows me”, tweeted one.  “So freaking obsessed” twote another.

Now, in addition to TripTuner.com, we create custom “discovery engines” for a growing array of partner sites that help users find their ideal destination, beach, island wedding, hotel…or dress.  As a result, we’ve focused more on our partner’s needs than our own over the past few years.  But we’ll be updating TripTuner.com soon to give you, our fans, an even better way to discover great places to go.

I thank you deeply for your support during these first three years and look forward to many more years with you as we move into the next chapter.  #StayTuned  – Tedd

The Fisherman: You’re Already Home

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting to the DC Lean Startup Circle community.  The theme was around the hidden costs of following the Lean startup methodology, and I closed with an abridged, slightly mangled version of this parable about a fisherman in Mexico.  As a make-good I’m posting the complete version below.

The point I was making is that in life there’s often a tendency to size up how you rate versus something else: another person, company, or lofty goal.  This is exacerbated in a startup, and particularly for practicians of Lean, where close monitoring of metrics, A/B testing and constant challenging of assumptions are key tenets.  It can be often grueling work towards what seem like moving targets.  But if we’re passionate about what we’re doing right now, that won’t matter.  We’ll still be making progress, but we’ll enjoy the journey.  LIke the fisherman, we’ll “already be home” (a phrase inspired by a similarly named Jay-Z track).  Here’s the story:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Not very long,” answered the Mexican. “But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs … I have a full life.” The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. “And after that?” asked the Mexican. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.” “How long would that take?” asked the Mexican. “Twenty, perhaps 25 years,” replied the American. “And after that?” the Mexican asked. “Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!” “Millions? Really? And after that?” “After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

 

 

 

So Much Things to Say (about why we’ve been quiet)

It’s been WAAAY too long since we’ve posted here – but all for good reasons.  We’ve been busy working behind the scenes, and for better or for worse we’re generally more focused on DOING than TALKING about it (which isn’t the best PR strategy I must admit – but I’m getting better :).

Bob Marley photo thx to The Independent UK / Getty Images

 

Becky and I have both been travelling on and off over the past several weeks.  Just this month I went to London for World Travel Market and met with my partner par excellence Pierre Alzon in Paris.  After just a few days at HQ in Washington, DC I flew off to Scottsdale, Arizona for the Phocuswright Conference where we introduced TripTuner to the heavy hitters of the online travel industry.  Add in some travel to see family and a few days of skiing in Vail, Colorado over Thanksgiving here in the US and it makes for a busy month.

Since our last post we’ve also received a ton of new fans from some great press in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Kim Komando Show (which is huge…who knew?), an Italian blog and even from a Danish magazine.  ALSO we’ve also put a few new wrinkles into the TripTuner based on feedback from our users: larger photos, a regional filter so you can find new destinations within a certain region (our default setting: ANYWHERE, of course) and a cool map view that will adjust to your regional settings as well.

Now filtered by region for your enjoyment.

Fine-tuned reccs, all across the map.

All of which means we have a ton of work to do amid the end of the year rush, so I thought it would be appropriate to ease things up a bit with a Bob Marley-inspired title to this post.  But then, you already knew that.  Thanks for hangin’ with us, there’s more to come soon (or “soon come” as they say in Jamaica).  Stay tuned!

Destination Inspiration from the Headlines

Thanks to Arian Zwegers for the photo

Read the news headlines of late and you know that parts of Europe are going through some hard times with budget cuts and austerity programs. Read between those lines, however, and you can be inspired with trip ideas. With the dollar strengthening against the Euro and demand for hotels in those areas softening, now is the time to take that shoulder-season vacation to southern Europe. As such, we’re highlighting our favorite Greek Island, Santorini, as this week’s #WhereToGoWednesday destination.

There have been some sporadic demonstrations in Athens (hey, we have those here too), but Santorini is worlds away from any tension. You’ll feel all of your own tensions melt away when you arrive to this idyllic postcard come to life with its cobalt-blue-topped, white-washed buildings spilling down the hillsides of the crescent-shaped volcanic island. Winding alleyways, public walking paths, hillsides terraced with bushy grapevines and mesmerizing beaches await the traveler. What’s not to love?

Santorini, also known as Thira, is the southern-most island of the Cycladic group of islands located in the Aegean Sea. It’s 63 nautical miles north of Crete, has a population of about 14,000 distributed among 13 villages, and covers 28 square miles. Here are some of our recommendations should you find yourself visiting this light-bathed beauty:

Take a Walk
Our favorite times on the island have involved unscheduled exploration. The six-mile walking path from Fira to Oia, along a ridge that used to be the lip of the volcano, is not to be missed. You’ll follow the path through small villages and churches that practically demand dawdling. If you can time your meanderings to end up in Oia (also known as Ia) at sunset you’ll be rewarded with one of those moments that sears into your memory for years. Just follow the troops of Apollo worshipers to the zigzagged levels of walkways that offer the best viewing spots and watch a red ball of fire descend into the Aegean.

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