A Year of Travel

Starting in July f 2015, I was on the road a lot – and all the way into 2016. I was wracking up the frequent flyer miles and living out of a suitcase like a road rat.

First up in July of 2015 was Swainsboro, Georgia, where I worked with a new client on Raceday. Learned a lot that day about the state of Kart racing!

swainsboro

In August I headed to Spokane Washington to work with a new car group up there. they were fantastic and I had a blast. Gorgeous area I would like to explore again when I have more time!

luckydog

In September, I was off to Chicago – partially for work, but also to wrap up some loose ends from some of the snowmobile stuff. A lot of my junk was stored at a friends house there, and I was finally ready to get it out of their way. On the way back, I was delayed for hours from this truck fire along the interstate.

Chicago

In October it was time to start doing some Raceday trade shows. First up was the Off-Road Expo in Pomona, California, where me and Grant Klinsing tried out the new booth for the first time. The show was good for us; we found a lot of new customers and then slowly started getting them signed up.

pomona

When I got home, I found the trucking company, Total Quality Logistics, had mangled our cases, but we had no time to fix them as we were off to the AIME expo in Orlando, Florida a couple days later.

pmona-booth-damage

Also in October, I was off to Los Vegas to work with another client out there.. and talk to a few more.

vegas

In December, Grant, JD and I all went to the PRI show in Indianapolis. We did not take the booth – instead we just walked around and talked to potential clients.. this turned out to be one of the best shows yet, netting about 40 leads.

PRI

Later in December I was back up in Minnesota for the Holidays. Drove up, and got to meet my newest nephew whose name I can’t pronounce nor spell, so I am just going to call him Thor.

thorCHristmas

In early February, I was off to Northern Michigan to work with another client. Nerve wracking, as this was super-bowl weekend and my beloved Broncos were in the game! Fortunately I was able to get back to Colorado in time to watch it with friends… I was also thrilled to see Gabe Bunke win again at the famed 500 lap race!

michiganbroncos

Right after that, I was back up in Minnesota working with the Oval Racers Alliance at the Alexandria Winter Spectacular – and watching Jacob Goede race my 340 RXL for the last time. After nine years, she was getting worn out and ready for a rest. She won 7 of 9 tries at Eagle River, and so many other races that I cannot remember all of them.

340

Then on the weekend around February 10th, I was back to St. Germain, Wisconsin for a benefit ride for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame, including getting to see the Polaris factory race truck I wrote about in Starfire Kids finally arrive at it’s new home at the Hall of Fame.

trailer

Then at the end of February, I was back in Chicago for the Race and Performance Expo. Another good one where we landed a great many leads. I no more than got home and I was back on a plane for the Kartmania expo in Myrtle Beach, Florida.

myrtle-beachchicago-expo

Whew! That was quite a schedule… all good and good for us, but I am so glad to be home! In the immortal words of Forrest Gump. “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go home now…”

New Guitars

I swore I wouldn’t start collecting “stuff” again… but I did splurge a little on some new guitars, hoping it would spark some interest in doing some recording or just playing for the heck of it. The jury is still out on that.

Number one is something I always wanted since seeing the Minneapolis based band known as Chameleon with them in the early 1980’s. I had it custom made by Wayne Charvel (yes thee Wayne Charvel). It’s mean, nasty, loud and beautiful.

IMG_6791

Next up is a slightly refurbished 1974 Strat. Sounds amazing and is the one I pick up first now when I feel like playing a bit.

IMG_6818

Finally, this beauty is a Fender custom shop tele that sounds and plays absolutely amazing. This one came from Wildwood Guitars, a required destination if you’re into guitars at all.

I’ve got a new studio setup in the basement and have, on occasion been in there tinkering.. but to be honest, the fire create in that fashion just hasn’t caught yet.

IMG_6785

Five Signs That It’s Time to Seek Investment

I’ve always admired those who have organically built a business, bit by bit, day by day until it became successful. With each business I’ve started, I did the same, never seriously attempting to raise money.

I admit I’ve had a real aversion to giving away equity and bringing investors on board. Both me and my two partners at Digital Opera have witnessed some real horror stories with incredibly bad CEO’s, over-bearing & power-mad investors, clueless boards of directors and virtually insane analysts. This is why we find HBO’s Silicon Valley to be so intriguing and gut-busting funny. We could have written any of the scripts for that show based on our own experiences.

But the question that keeps banging around in my head is “How far and fast could we keep increasing the rate of our growing momentum if we focused on doing just that?”

I’ve come to realize my reluctance in considering investment has a lot more to do with what I didn’t know, than what I did. So after a great deal of running numbers, reading, talking with others and working on our product, I’ve found five good reasons why investors make sense for us at this time.

1. We need to move faster than we can by bootstrapping. When I looked more closely into those “bootstrapped” businesses that I admire so much, I found that all of them, at some point, took investment money. Usually when they found themselves sitting on a big opportunity that, if not acted on, they could lose. Our product is gaining traction at a good clip. The people using it are really actively using it, talking about it, and talking to us about it. The metrics all look good, and there is huge market potential.

Bootstrapping only lets you go as fast as the cash you can generate can carry you. We need to move much faster.

2. We don’t need the money, but we could use it. Big difference. We won’t starve or be out of business if we don’t find the capital.

Because we don’t need the money, we are in a better position to negotiate. Yes, we are going to give away some of the companies equity and we will have to make time to work with the investors.

But frankly, worrying about the equity is kind of stupid. Do the math. If you are structured correctly, then what your giving up in equity is nothing in the big picture. Nothing. You and your people stand to make insanely more money by growing faster than you will if you keep trying to bootstrap it.

Also, those people who are writing a checks to your are doing something incredible: Taking a risk on you. They know they could lose that money. Most likely, they could put that money in a lot of other, safer places, but they have decided to risk it on you. Structure the deal right and it will be worth it.

As for the distraction, investors could become a distraction. But they may also become a great source of ideas, experience and awesome suggestions. Most of the people I have gotten to know who could invest large sums of cash into a business are damned good people. Yeah, there are some jerks out there… but use your gut, do your research, and don’t just take whatever deal someone hands you and you’ll find investors that are a good fit.

3. When you’re got something that is gaining traction, investment will allow you to focus on it. Perhaps this is just a happy side-effect of getting older, but I’ve really become focused on being focused. I’ve paired down or sold off as many companies, projects and distractions as possible – it’s paying off. Giving up some equity is a great way to induce greater focus company wide, instead of chasing whatever you can to keep increasing profits.

4. You have the burning sensation that you have to get to the market first or better than the other guys. Very, very few companies have no competition. In our case we have some competition whose product is beyond awful, and some that are pretty damned good. But we can beat them. We have advantages they cannot touch. We need to capitalize on those strengths right now – not when we can afford it.

Things happen faster when you’re funded. Much faster. They have to because a large part of what your doing with that money is making sure you can get there faster and better than the other guy.

5. investment makes sense when you’re mature enough to handle it. Are you good with money? What’s your personal credit score? Have you handled really large sums of cash before? Are your companies finances good?

If you can’t answer positively to all those things, you should fix them, or seek assistance from someone who can, or don’t look for investment until you know you can handle it.

I know now that had I sought and received funding for my first company back in the 1990’s, I probably would not have had the skills to really put that money to the best use. But that’s changed radically over the years as I have managed through the best and worst of times.

The temptation to spend money out of emotion, ego and ignorance, rather than logic, probably ruined more startups than any investor ever could hope to.

The fact is, once you have money, even if you tell no one, some how ass-loads of people crawl out of the woodwork and try everything they can to take it from you. I’ve seen this first hand… and knowing that I can make quick decisions about what’s a distraction (and thus should be eliminated quickly) feels awesome.

I’m not making the case that everyone should abandon bootstrapping. I love bootstrapping startups. But with where we are right now, investment makes sense for our growth, for us, and would be great for the investor.

I no longer see any downside.

Here’s to the journey.

beermug

Where Did Winter Go?

Yesterday, me one of my partners at Digital Opera, Grant Klinsing, climbed “The Incline” in Manitou Springs, Colorado. We both just wanted a really good workout and we got it. Today I’m sort of paying for it in sore muscles. It was my second time up The Incline, and I did it in two hours and nine minutes. It felt great… and it got me to thinking about how my Colorado exploration and hiking had slowed down over the winter.

So today I looked through my photos and realized I really had done quite a bit of hiking and I certainly did a lot of travel. Here’s some highlights:

Early in January – Nerissa, Grant, Kayla, Kyan and I all went up Table Top Mountain in Golden, this time going up the parking lot side. Nice quick climb, with as much hiking as you would want to do at the top – on thankfully flat terrain.

Table Top Mountain

Table Top Mountain and Nerissa Hendrickson

Towards the end of January, I flew to Chicago and then rode with my friends up to St. Germain, Wisconsin, were we went snowmobile riding as part of a fund raiser for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame. Sadly, the only photo I have is the of the plane taxing over the freeway in Chicago.

The riding was great, as it always is up there, and my hosts for the weekend are, I am convinced, amongst the finest people on earth. As a bonus, I got to go to one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the world: McGregor’s Blink Bonnie. If you are ever in the area, go there, and go early. It’s usually totally packed by 5:00 PM.

I also got to ride some crazy machines. A brand new 1000cc Firecat, and a turbo-boost Yamaha that was going well over 114 MPH when I was able to glance down at the speedo going across the lake.

Landing in Chicago

When I got home, the weather had warmed up again, so I re-visited Three Sisters hiking in Evergreen, Colorado on February 14th. It was a very nice day out, but there was certainly some snow to trudge through.

Three Sisters Evergreen

Three Sisters Evergreen

Three Sisters Evergreen

Three Sisters Evergreen

On the weekend of February 21st, I continued my Colorado exploration with a trip to Fairplay and South Park. Yes, South Park is the basis of the Comedy Central cartoon of the same name.

The highlight of the trip, by far, was the people I met at the Hand Hotel. The weather was not great, so everyone just kind of hung around the fireplace, shared some wine and chatted. I met two very nice families, one that was just visiting, one that was working on building a house nearby and needed to hang at the hotel.

South Park was not open – and when it is open, I would love to go back and take a look at the 1800’s town they have set up there, complete with the interiors all period-correct. The ice cream shop in town also has some amazing old gear for running the shop. I brought home some hand-crafted tea and coffee mugs to replace my generic ones.

Abandon Cabin in Fairplay

Fairplay

Fairplay

The famous South Park

Fairplay ice cream shop

On March 7th, I revisited Green Mountain in Littleton. I just went to get some exercise on what was a beautiful, sunny day. It was a nice hike, but I took a wrong turn and found myself in butt-deep snow for about 4-5 blocks. Even with all that snow, I got my first really good sunburn of the year.

Green Mountain

Green Mountain

Green Mountain

On March 21, I met Tom Metza, and old friend I know from the snowmobile world. Tom took me sledding way up in the mountains, on the Tin Cup Pass. At over 12,000 feet, this was some of the nicest riding I have ever done. I got to ride in a mountain bowl, something I wanted to knock off the bucket list, and I was not disappointed. I did manage to get stuck twice, and both times I was sure my heart was going to explode trying to get myself out of neck-deep snow.

At one point we got sort of stuck in a valley – the way we got in was incredibly steep and covered with rocks. The way out was worse. We wound up going back the way we came. It tested the limits of the machine I was on to get back up that hill, but it looked worse than it actually was.

tin1

tin2

tin3

tin4

tin5

tin6

tin7

On March 28th, I was invited to go with the Hendrickson and Enger family to hike south of Castle Rock, Colorado. This was an extraordinary, gorgeous day and having the kids be outside and having a blast made it that much more fun.

enger1

enger2

enger3

enger4

enger5

enger6

April 5th I made a solo trek to Deer Creek Canyon Park. Gorgeous park, great day, great views. A pretty long hike, with the drive it took up most of the day, but was worth every minute.

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

Deer Creek Canyon Park

So that almost gets me caught up. I was also doing a lot of travel for work, giving presentations in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, as well as visiting with some of my Minnesota clients.

The weather is getting much better now, so as it heats up, I plan on seeking out new and different experiences and sharing them here. It turns out my hiking and exploring over the winter wasn’t really slowed down – just impeded somewhat by work travel and some unfortunate weather.

Beaver Brook Trail

This one is in the Genesee Park. The web listings had it at 4.5 hours, but we made it in a little over three. Rated as moderate, it certainly was. Long uphill hike on part of it, and we had to cross the river about 15 times over logs and rocks. We followed it up with lunch with friends in Evergreen at a place called Cactus Jacks.

IMG_4574

IMG_4573

IMG_4570

John Brisben Walker

Took a hike in Morrison yesterday and learned a little about a man named John Brisben Walker. Mr. Walker is why Colorado has the red rocks theatre, thousands of acres of park land, Regis University and much more.

In 1905, Walker sold Cosmopolitan Magazine to William Randolph Hearst for $1 million, divorced his wife, married his Cosmo secretary, Ethel, and moved back to Colorado. In 1909 he began the construction of a castle on top of Mount Falcon for his family. Built by stone masons from Italy, it had 10 bedrooms, a music room, an observation deck, eight fireplaces, a library and servants quarters.

John and Ethel had four children together before Ethel died suddenly in 1916. In 1918, lightning struck the mansion and it burned to the ground.

He had plans to build a summer palace for the President as well, but Woodrow Wilson ignored requests for his backing of the Summer White House scheme.

Soon after the house burned, Walker left Colorado for the east coast, married a third time (to a much younger woman) and then died in 1931 at the age of 83. He was penniless.

You can read a great article here that details his life at the Are We There Yet? Blog.

Exterior shot of the house in the day.
Exterior shot of the house in the day.

Drawing of would have become the President's summer residence.
Drawing of would have become the President’s summer residence.

IMG_4170

IMG_4164

IMG_4161

IMG_4162

IMG_4175

IMG_4185

IMG_4174

IMG_4159

IMG_4204

Tech Is The New Hollywood

I just spent two days at a conference called “I Love APIs” here in San Francisco. I heard a great many speeches on how large organizations are getting their digital groove on.

This is one of the very few conference in my chosen field I have ever attended. I have an aversion to them that stems largely from my overly sensitive radar for bullshit. Although most of the speeches and break out sessions were thinly disguised sales pitches for the event sponsors, there was some very good messaging on what it takes to turn any company into a digital company.

But what was fascinating about the trip was some discussions I got into around and after the conference, as well as conversations I overheard while grabbing a bite, or while working in a co-op space.

It appears HBO’s “Silicon Valley” has nailed what life is like in the home of so many tech giants. Tech has become the new Hollywood.

Everyone has an app. Everyone is chasing VC money. Everyone is pivoting. Everyone is analyzing big data. Everyone is on the cloud. Everyone is agile. Everyone knows every buzz word and never fails to mention them or drop the name of their buddy at Twitter, Google or Facebook.

Still, I had to admire the energy. Despite the blatant vapidity, there is an underlying sense of urgency and enthusiasm that is fun.

As for San Francisco, I’ll take Denver or Minneapolis anytime. San Fran is just way too crowded, has way too much traffic, and it’s a very smelly city – and it rarely smells good.

Although I enjoyed the conversations and meeting some new people, I kept coming back to the thought that those who can really do something big are just too busy doing it to spend all day talking about it.

But then again, sometimes it just takes the right conversation with the right people to radically rock your world.

Posted from my iPhone, so ease excuse the auto-correct typos until I can check it from my laptop!

IMG_3688.JPG