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Entrepreneurial Journal: Dan Melinger
Day 1 - Monday, July 13
I usually try to start the week with a good night's sleep, but I wasn't so lucky last night. I've got 2 babies. #1's my 1 1/2-year-old, Jack. #2's Socialight. Last night, it was Jack keeping me awake. Come morning, we were all in good spirits, though, and his smile and wave saw me off to the subway for my downtown trek to Socialight's Greenwich Village, NYC office.
The first order of business was a call to a client of ours in London to update them on the status of some integration work and let them know I could be in town next week so we might want to try to schedule a meeting. I love how Skype lets me do business globally without incurring much cost at all. The main friction in working with people overseas is the time difference. Lately, I've been using mornings to speak with Europe and evenings to speak with Australia. It gives me more hours for my workdays.
Monday morning at Socialight means the PowWow, the time when the entire staff gets together for a quick update meeting. NYC-based team-members gather in the "war room" and we bring in Montreal and Munich on Skype. Everyone has an opportunity to speak and update the team on accomplishments from last week and what's in store for the week ahead. I made sure to remind the team that we'll be celebrating the launch of the platform we created for Travel Channel tomorrow evening.
After trying (but not succeeding) to catch up on my email, I spent the next few hours with Stacy Schneider, our new COO who started last week. Lunch was al fresco in Union Square (2 blocks from our office). We grabbed salads and talked about the big picture in the sun as NYC buzzed around us. And we narrowly escaped getting drenched when the sprinklers came on from out of nowhere to water the grass. Since Stacy's first day a week ago, we've been spending a few hours together every few days as an orientation / strategy series. It's awesome to have Stacy on the team. She fits in perfectly and is already a strong contributor to the team. Speaking of the team, I can't stress enough how important it is to create a team of smart, flexible people that works together well. Even our three summer interns are key members. For the most part, our team really hums, but Stacy and I spent some of our time today talking about how we can improve our team dynamics.
I got home early enough tonight to give my son a bath and put him to bed. After BBQing some chicken for my wife and me, it's back to work for a few more hours before getting in bed with a great book, Anathem, by Neal Stephenson.
Day 2 - Tuesday, July 14
My first meeting of the day was with Stacy and a prospective customer over coffee and pastries at a Le Pain Quotidien in midtown. (Note to NYC entrepreneurs: L.P.Q. is an easy option for a casual meeting over coffee or a light meal and there are outposts all over town.) This was a fun meeting, with some open-ended brainstorming about potential opportunities to build community around the prospect's local content.
Then, it was downtown on the subway to Socialight HQ where we arrived just in time for some demos of the latest developments on the next version of our platform. Some members of the development team (including an especially talented summer intern) showed off some recent progress and we discussed a few open questions. I'm so excited to get this stuff out to users.
Next, the crew from Reuters came to do an interview. I guess you'll see the results of that on this website. :-) It's always nice to step away from the day-to-day responsibilities and talk about our service, my dreams and passions, and to reflect on our successes and challenges.
After that, it was time for a meeting with a mobile advertising company. The meeting got me thinking about new ad-related services we might be able to provide to our customers.
Finally, I had a little "down-time" to check my email and catch up with some of the team.
The workday evening was capped off with celebratory drinks with the team and a client, Travel Channel. It was a beautiful night so we had a few beers on a rooftop bar in the neighborhood and toasted to our mutual success. Beers were 2-for-1 so we saved some money. Moral: it's important to enjoy and celebrate your successes, but remember you're a start-up. When half-price Red Stripes will do, there's no need to break out the Dom Pérignon!
Day 3 - Wednesday, July 15
Last night was a late one so this morning I left for the office a little later so I could spend 45 minutes in the morning with my wife and son. It's good to be the boss.
We were able to score a last-minute meeting in London with a customer for Monday where we're going to demo some new Socialight functionality they want to take advantage of. Stacy will be in Amsterdam with her family and is giving up a day of her vacation to hop over to London for the meeting, saving us from paying $1,500 for an overseas ticket. A little flexibility in schedules can go a long way.
I spent a lot of time today on our product. The business behind the Socialight product is my primary concern these days based on my role in the company, but I still like to stay somewhat involved with product design. Today, I worked with the mobile engineers to ensure the finishing touches were in place before we submitted a new version of an iPhone app to Apple.
Tonight, I worked until the wee hours of Thursday morning on prepping my part for next week's London meeting. I wanted to make sure that Stacy was as prepared as she could be before leaving town tomorrow afternoon. Sometimes, those early morning hours are the only real time I can get into "the zone" and have a nice, long block of time for getting work done. I sat in my apartment in my big chair, laptop over my lap, getting things just right. I crawled into bed at 3am, happy with my work. Not a ton of sleep, but restful sleep indeed.
Day 4 - Thursday, July 16
I started the day with a conference call with a company in India helping out with some development. That was followed up by a call with one of our clients to discuss status and planning for the next major milestone. This was the one day of the week that my time wasn't heavily scheduled so I was hoping to catch up on a lot of little things. I had a pile of mail on my desk to deal with (sometimes I can't believe how many companies still deal in paper!). I got to a lot of small tasks, but by the end of the day, I still wish I had been able to get through more. I find myself feeling that way most days when I leave the office.
Day 5 - Friday, July 17
I got into work early today to attack my email and get some documents out before the meetings started. We had two big internal meetings today, both product-related, in which the engineering team showed off its latest work and solicited feedback.
At noon, we started with a mobile demo. This was the first I'd seen of a major new version of a mobile application framework we're working on. I am totally impressed with the work our team has put in and I let them know it. I cannot wait to get this to our customers, but that's still at least 8 weeks away. When it does get into the hands of end-users, I'm confident it's going to change the way people look at local content. Awesome!
I went with two other members of the team out to lunch after the meeting. We went to Piola on our block (Brazilian place with great thin-crust pizza and salads). Most of our conversation was on non-business topics. It's always nice to get to know the people you work with in a less business-y way.
After lunch, it was soon back to another internal product planning meeting. It was filled with more excitement about what's coming in our next platform upgrade. This, combined with our updated mobile offerings, will make for a grand slam. (I'm not just saying this for the diary; I am seriously excited!). There are a couple of major decisions to be made in the next few days about product strategy so I reached out to a couple of people I trust to get their advice. I planned to speak with them more over the weekend.
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