Time to get down to business

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I’m glad to be home, but I’m really missing Helsinki. Maybe its not Helsinki specifically. Maybe its just being in a new place and experiencing new things, meeting new people, eating new food. If going to Helsinki proved anything, it is that I could really get use to traveling more.

So I’m back to work on Timmo’s Challenge. This morning I got the Coventry and Helsinki versions (final) uploaded to the Windows Phone store for final approval. Coventry it suppose to go live next Saturday!

Coventry Start Screen

Coventry Start Screen

I’ve updated the app quite a bit in the past month adding some improvements to the user experience. Like, for example, when you are registering a player it can sometimes take a few seconds to return the call to the web service. So I’ve adding a “working” animation to let the user know it is doing something. And I’ve changes the keyboard to shows numbers by default is the answer is a number. Things like that to make the user experience a but more enjoyable.

Level Screen

Level Screen

I’ve also gone through the clues for each level of each of the episodes to make sure they are as challenging as I can make them without making them too hard. That’s is a difficult balance and I’m realizing that this is where this app with fail or succeed. Everything else could be great. If the clues are boring than the app won’t go anywhere.

I really think the New York, Boston, and Helsinki episodes are in good shape. The clues there are really challenging and – I think – fun.

I guess we’ll see starting a week from today!

 

A life changing experience

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Sitting here in Detroit waiting for my connection back to Connecticut I’m trying to digest the past month a bit. Its pretty hard for me to fully appreciate how this experience will change my life, but I know it will.

Well maybe a little bit about yesterday first…

Yesterday was our last day at AppCampus. We each gave a final, 4 minute, presentation – mine went pretty well I think. I’ll upload it when I get home. Then we got our graduation certificates.

It's official now

It’s official now

We then started to say our goodbyes. I can’t say enough good things about the AppCampus staff. They are really amazing at what they do. They made us all feel welcomed and special. I could tell from each of them that we were important them. And that made us work harder and get better.

Mike Bradshaw is great. I’m convinced he had previous careers as either a first grade teacher or a cat herder. How else could he have kept 20 teams from around the world busy, out of trouble, and productive for 4 weeks? Seriously Mike, I really appreciate the hard work you out in to make this a success.

Tiina and Anna in the office helped me get my app QA’d and all issues resolved! Its because of the that our apps will be much better than the average apps in the marketplace. Thanks Ladies!

Alina was extremely helpful with some marketing ideas for my app from herself and others. Us geeks don’t really have marketing brains so her knowledge and expertise is extremely valuable. Thanks Alina!

Speaking of geeks, Teemu – the guru – was a great technical resource. And what I like about Teemu is that he always has a smile on his face and is always willing to help. Thanks Teemu!

Paola Borella and Pekka Sivonen were really great mentors. They pushed us to strive for greatness. They helped us see our unique value and to develop ways of translating that into something meaningful. You guys had more impact on me than was probably apparent. Don’t worry, I’ll make you proud.

Friends for life

You know when you connect with someone that know you will be a friend for a long time? Well that happened dozens of times for me with the group of fellow AppCampers. I hope to feature a blog post on all of the teams at some point, but to mention couple…

My roomies Jodon and Doug from Vancouver were really great guys. We had tons of laughs. And I really respect their work. They released their app Fling Theory yesterday. Its super cool! Check it out here… http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/fling-theory/3fb05fa1-03e6-467f-9355-3b3778ca2858

BTW guys – its on the front page of the store! Top row!

Another cool couple guys are Anthony and Laurent from France. Their company is Monkey Moon check it out. http://www.monkeymoon.net/ They are working on a cool puzzle game called HarshQuad. When they learned Debbie liked puzzle games they put a special version on my phone just for her. That was a really cool gesture guys!

We really bonded last night – our last together in Heksinki. First we went to Sky Express for large pizza and beers.

Yeah, we took over the place

Yeah, we took over the place

Then we all hiked down to Swengi, a karaoke bar. And we took over that place too. We sang We Are The World and a bunch of other songs and had a really great time.

We are the word!

We are the word!

 

I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again. Maybe AppCampus will offer a Masters Program?

If you think this is the end of this blog – its not. I’m going to keep it up until I’ve accomplished my goals for Timmo’s Challenge. More on my next adventures coming soon.

Thanks AppCampus! It was really a life-changing experience thanks to you all!

Ode to Omena Hotel

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Our love affair was a brief one
only 23 days I enjoyed your pleasures
but 23 days I will never forget.

Some say you are strange
for not having a front desk.
But you always were a rebel.
Be gone front desk! Be gone helpful staff!
Be gone iron! The neat and tidy are wicked, wicked people!

You could never be taunted as wasteful
with your 3-in-one green goo soap… stuff
and your once a week cleaning
a finer clean there never was

Unscented, mostly water, green translucent gel

Unscented, mostly water, green translucent gel

Ah, but your greenish amenity shall never be taken!
For if he tried it would leak all over his underwear
because you do not even provide a cap!
Be gone caps!!

And you clientele – you shun no one
surely that is a character trait worth noting
Your lowest of prices welcome all sort of drunken being
and foreign gymnast team
(much acclaimed for their early morning door slamming)
and destitute Russian tourists

Ah - the drunk peoples poetry!

Ah – the drunk peoples poetry!

 

But alas I has fallen for another
her name is Radisson
She cannot compare to your charms
But we will always have the 2 am fire drills
and Ha! The memories of being woken up
by the cleaners of the rooms and their smirks
as they barge into our rooms unannounced

Farewell my love!

We'll always have fire drills

We’ll always have fire drills

 

 

Last Sunday. Last Capture.

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Well today is my last Sunday in Helsinki. It seems that Sunday has been my best day each week. Lots of walking around, good weather, good food, etc. Today was no exception.

I’ve got tons of photos, so I’ll just kick it off…

Parliament Building

Parliament Building

Level 4 (which may now be level 3) started off with a tour of the official buildings on one of the main streets in Helsinki. The Parliament building was especially interesting. The clues for this one are going to be pretty hard to find. 🙂

Overlooking the Olympic Stadium

Overlooking the Olympic Stadium

There are miles and miles of parks in Helsinki. I followed one part and saw the hill. I climbed it to get a better look of what was around and whammo… the Olympic Stadium. Pretty awesome!

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

On the way around to the front of the stadium I found this really cool rose garden. The building was really interesting. I bet in the summer it is even better to visit.

Football

Football

On the other side of the stadium there were several soccer fields (football here) and there was some sort of tournament going on because there were lots of matches going on. Note the girl in the lower right… carrying cross country skies. You see that all over the place here because there is so much snow everywhere that people ski from place to place.

Another semi-outdoor arena

Another semi-outdoor arena

Then there was one of the highlights of the day… The Olympic Tower. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

Olympic Tower

Olympic Tower – 1952 Olympics

There are plenty of naked lady statues in Helsinki – if that’s your thing. This one seems to have a fascination with seagulls. Seems kind of weird to me. So I took a picture of it of course.

Whatever floats your gull

Whatever floats your gull

Then came the real highlight of the day. The Sibelius monument. I loved this thing so much it deserves several photos. Its really a lot larger than it looks. (That’s what she said)

Sibelius 1

Sibelius 1

Sibelius 3

Sibelius 2

Sibelius 3

Sibelius 3

Artists signature

Artists signature

This is what the texture looks like up close

This is what the texture looks like up close

Sibelius

Sibelius

Nearby there was an AWESOME little café. It was right on the shore. Besides selling coffee you could have a campfire and cook assorted meat products on a stick. Smelled spectacular, but the place was busy and I was on a mission so I couldn’t partake.

Yum

Yum

 

Small place, big line. Must be good.

Small place, big line. Must be good.

Its hard to see… but here is the hot dog cookery. I wish I could insert smells into this post. :o)

Smoking hot

Smoking hot

 

Apartments on the water

Apartments on the water

The apartments on the water are awesome looking. These all look out over the sea. I took the photo from basically the docks on the other side of the road.

Ok, time for pizza and beer with the gang. Probably our last beer drinking shin dig of the trip.

Chow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do a good turn daily

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Well I did my good turn for the day. And it will probably be one of the most memorable events of the trip.

I was walking back to the hotel when I see this woman who looks lost, looking around the hotel. As I opened the outside door she said something, but I didn’t understand her. Crazy Finnish language. I tried speaking to her in English, but she didn’t know any. That was weird because every Finn I’ve met so far has been able to understand English.

So I motioned inside, thinking she needed to get in. She followed me in. Then she was looking around still while I waited for the elevator. She said something else to me and I got an idea. I lead her into the pizzeria next door and asked them to translate. But they didn’t understand her either. I could see she was getting frustrated. I tried different things to understand, but no use.

I motioned upstairs. Maybe she is looking for a friend. So we got in the elevator and headed up. She passed a few floors then followed me off of mine. Great, now I have a tag-along. That I don’t understand.

Next idea – maybe she can use my laptop to translate somehow. So we go into my room (I know what you’re thinking. No.). But she couldn’t even type anything! Finally she motioned for a pen and paper, which I gave her. I totally couldn’t understand that either.

Say what?

Say what?

But that gave me another idea – to find her nationality. Russian. Ah! I know some Russians and they are right down the hall. So I go grab Andrey and Roman and they determine that she was basically dumped here by some “friends” and needed to book a room. but, since the lovely Omena doesn’t have any on-site staff she couldn’t. And, she only has cash.

So she gave me the cash and I got her a room. Yeah, I made someone’s day. Maybe three people’s day… Andrey and Roman thought it was pretty funny.

 

 

One week to go!

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Just a short post today. No pictures. Just want to make sure I keep posting something!

Anyway, this week has been exhausting. I started off exhausted and haven’t fully recovered. We’ve been working on our business plan a lot lately. We’ve been using a cool method (found here: http://businessmodelgeneration.com/) and taking apart our business plan bit by bit. We’re challenging things, changing things, challenging more things and trying to get it down to exactly what it should be.

Today we had a group of venture capitalists and angel investors in. This morning they gave us some presentations about their perspective when investing with our types of companies. Over the past couple weeks I’ve come to understand this more and several of my assumptions were proved wrong. Today clarified it even more.

We also got to meet one-on-one with these investors and get their take on our individual apps. I got some good interest in what I am doing. But also what the main challenges I will face.

Don’t Assume

So, some things I was wrong about.

PROBLEM 1: I thought I would build a ‘race’ in each city and make my way around to lots of different places. There are several problems with this thought. For one, I have limited content and limited budget for marketing in each location. So if I spent X in Boston I will get a certain number of people to play. They will soon run out of content and will go away. And since I had run out of budget to market no new players will find it. And eventually that market will die.

SOLUTION 1: A better approach would be to kick off in a limited number of markets (ie. Boston and New York because they are close) and nurture those markets with additional content. Probably even find a way for user generated content. Even if I have to test when users create before it goes live it is better than be spending all the time to create myself. As I build a community in those markets I can tweak the business model and once it proves itself sustainable I can move into other markets.

PROBLEM 2: I thought I could build this thing up by myself. But in order to do it right I need to do this at a large scale I need to build the products, design it well, create new content, market it to users, sell advertising opportunities, organize testing, monitor statistics, do my bookkeeping, handle customer support issues, and whatever else come up. That’s all well and good at this point. I am a generalist and can do most things reasonably well. The problem comes with doing any of those things REALLY well. I’ve experienced the pain of not doing things really well and also taking on too much myself. Don’t want to do that again.

SOLUTION 2: Networking. One of my favorite things to do. And one of the things I do best. Networking is one way to build a team. There are communities of people interested in working with/for startup companies that have the capabilities I need. It may not be all of the things I listed above. But maybe I can find a good business development person or sales person or designer that is willing to work for equity. Its not unheard of these days.

There is more…

Of course this is a small portion of what I’ve been going through this week. But its a good example of what an “accelerator program” can do. it would of taken me a long time to come to these conclusions on my own, if I ever did at all.

I won a monetary reward from AppCampus of about $25,000 (US). But I’m quickly learning that the time I’m savings, the connections I’m making, and the knowledge I’m gaining is worth many multiples of that for this project and any future projects I work on.

 

Design is like food

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I am running on fumes.

The weekend was exhausting. After walking all day Saturday a group of us went out to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Let’s just say, I’m not as young as I use to be, but I pretended I was. And paid the price. But is was a lot of fun!

Last night (Monday) was a really special event. The leaders of AppCampus hosted a dinner party for us. It was called the “Design Excellence Dinner”. The night was about being excellent when designing our apps including the look/feel and user experience.

There was a comparison to excellence in food. In order for someone to be excellent in the food industry they…

– First need to learn to cook… other people’s recipes

– Then they learn to modify recipes and add their own influence to make them unique

– Then they learn to create their own recipes

– Then they learn to create a language using food

And so they showed us this in action. They invited in some outstanding chefs and a wine expert. And we had an amazing dinner of several course with champagne or wine before (and after) each course. Not just normal food. And not just normal wine. For example the champagne was from the top 1% of stock of champagnes.

The course started off with this dish that was an egg yolk cooked in the shell with a foam on top. I would be terrible in describing exactly what it was, but beforehand the French chef explained that the eggs themselves came from a very small farm specializing the low quantity/high quality eggs. It was amazing to here.

The eggs before they were cooked

The eggs before they were cooked

The second course was a sashimi with a white fish from Finland. Raw. On the plate was a gelatin made from granny smith apples and several other ingredients that included salty things and things of different textures and flavors. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was also fantastic!

Sashimi

Sashimi

 

With each small course a matching wine was brought out and discussed. When done right matching wine with food is that type of unique experience that cannot be easily duplicated. And it makes the food I have been eating seem like cardboard.

The wine kicking in

The wine kicking in

We had one female guest – one of the coaches, Pauliina. She reminds me a lot of Deb. Loudest laugh in the room and highly infectious. Everyone was laughing just from hearing her laugh. She even got us up dancing to some Brazilian music that Danielle queued up.

The main course was a French dish with beans, prosciutto, and smoked pork that was out of this world!

pork

 

Pork part two

Pork part two

Dessert was an amazing pastry with fruit syrup and some sort of fancy liquor.

Dessert

Dessert

I am hoping for an early bedtime and lots of sleep tonight. But then again, I’d trade it for another night like last night!

 

 

 

 

 

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