Category Archives: Meeting CEO’s

Doing Handstands with Tim Ferris

I don’t consider Tim Ferris a HUGE celebrity like Elton John or Lance Armstrong, but I do consider him a big celebrity in certain circles.

Most of the people I know have heard of Tim Ferris, or at least occasionally read his blog….and if they’re even semi-nerds, they DEFINITELY know him.

Ok, typing this is boring, I’m jumping to the pen:




It was actually pretty fascinating to hear him talk about his quick rise to fame…and how it was no accident.  He used a lot of VERY CLEVER and untraditional ways to get his book out there…and it’s amazing how well it worked.

I have a new found respect for him.

It was also  very cool that some very high up people at the conference during their speeches said how The Four Hour Work Week changed their lives! I previously thought the book was meant for not-very-big-time people…but I was very wrong.

Kelleher Speech – 3rd Time Seeing

I saw Herb Kelleher the founder of Southwest Airlines speak again on the University of Texas campus, this time in front of a huge audience of around 800 people.

If you recall, Herb is the completely out-of-the-ordinary chairman of a very out-of-the-ordinary airline. The last time I saw him I pre-empted taking a funny picture with him with his favorite things: Wild Turkey Whiskey and cigarettes!

Ended up getting this picture with him last time:

He was a great sport about it, and I thought it was a hilarious and completely unique picture! This time for the photo I tried upping the ante and taking a funnier picture, but it was hard to top the last one. I tried dressing like an airline pilot (using a black suit and an old hat) but it didn’t work so well….it basically looked like I was wearing a black suit and old hat. So instead I got this picture with him:

Cigar smoking!

If you look closely at the enlarged picture you can see he kept the cigar tube on so he didn’t have to put his mouth on the cigar and waste it. He smokes like crazy, but not cigars apparently (Last time I saw him he smoked about 7 cigarettes in one sitting)!

He spoke predominately on the extreme importance of a good company culture, and unfortunately didn’t show the absolutely hilarious “Malice In Dallas” video like the last appearance I caught.

Incidentally the Southwest Airlines Archives JUST posted a short YouTube clip of the Malice In Dallas video (I’m actually quite surprised it’s not fully up on YouTube already):


(Thanks to Drew)

It’s crazy how precisely the companys attitude reflects its leader. What he seemed to be most proud of was keeping a fun company culture despite being such a large company (something most of his peers said couldn’t be done).

Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist

I had the opportunity to see Craig Newmark speak at the brand new AT&T Center over here in Austin, TX., and it was an interesting speech. He is the “Craig” of Craigslist.org….one of the largest and most heavily trafficked sites on the planet (roughly 22 billion page views per month).

I’ve personally used Craigslist to find programmers, sell stuff, find stuff, buy my car, buy my scooter, found an apartment, got feedback on issues and the list goes on…all for free.

Most CEO speeches I’ve seen say “Work as hard as you can and you might make it to the top” …something like that. However Craig ended up founder of one of the worlds largest websites through a slightly different…some would say “lucky” story.

Directly from his speech:

  • In 1994 he was doing IT for the financial firm Charles Schwab, nothing big.
  • 1995 he started regularly sending out an email to about 12 of his friends with a bunch of events around the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • His friends would forward the email to their friends, and then their friends etc…
  • Eventually he had 100+ people on the email list, and people would also send him notifications of events they heard about.
  • It started building some momentum, but he never thought of it as a big deal. Lots of people on the list said, “You should make this into a website.”
  • Since he was a programmer, he made an easy tool that would convert the emails into webpage format and post them on a website.
  • He was going to call the website “San Francisco Events” or something along those lines, but many people suggested he keep his name in the title to make it personable. So “Craigslist” was born.
  • The site was hosted on some cheap server, and when it hit 240 users, it broke….so using his own personal funds he got some better web hosting (still very cheap).
  • Around this time the housing market in San Fran was going through some bad times, so people using Craigslist thought it would be nice to help each other out with apartment listings. So after everyone pushed him to do it, couch potato Craig (his own words) got around to making an apartment listings section.
  • After this new section, people wanted more sections. So requests for a dating section came in, then more like “For Sale” and “Free Stuff”
  • Through organic growth and word of mouth the site started getting 1,000,000 page views per month. Not bad!
  • Microsoft approached him about placing banner ads on the site which would make him money. He didn’t like banner ads, and they didn’t add to the user experience, so he declined.
  • In 1998 people wanted to start running the site on a volunteer basis. He let several volunteers take over the site, and the plan failed miserably.
  • In 1999 he made Craigslist into a real company by incorporating it.
  • The site is 99.99% free, but in a select few cities people posting job ads must pay $25 per listing. This makes Craigslist plenty of money to keep the rest of the site free, and also eliminates lots of spam and scams in the job listings sections. They are starting to do this in more cities because it increases quality of the postings and brings in needed revenue to keep up with Craigslists massive infrastructure demands. They are also starting to charge on some of the housing sections of certain cities.
  • He eventually hired Jim Buckmaster to be CEO and run the show, and Craig now only does customer support. He works as a normal customer support representative.

Some interesting facts I picked up from the speech and Q&A:

  • Craigslist has only 25 employees, and they are looking to hire (just FYI).
  • When asked about Craigslist’s relationship with eBay (They took money from eBay at one point), he simply responded, “You can go on the Craigslist blog and lookup the post called Tainted Love.” You can view that post here. He wouldn’t comment further.
  • Server wise, he said they have several co-locations in different server facilities….and he doesn’t even know where they are since he doesn’t handle those network aspects. He said, “I know we have several co-location facilities, with about 200 servers in each one.”
  • He said the idea behind Craigslist is , “Giving people a break, people giving other people a break, people helping each other out and treating people well.”
  • He frequently gets invitations to weddings from people who met their spouse through Craigslist.

So the really unique thing about Craig is his ideology of keeping Craigslist mostly free. He said, “Once I made more than enough money to satisfy my current and future needs, I didn’t want anymore.” Not something you usually hear from the founder of a big company.

Usually companies try to keep expanding their profits, but Craigslist tries to keep them flat.

So anyhow, before and after the speech I got some pictures with him. I made a “Free Stuff” sign signifying my favorite section on Craigslist:


Ihad to bend down because the sign didn’t come out because of too much sun exposure.


I’m bending down so the sign could be read, but now I really look like a hobbit.


So finally I got a decent picture with my free stuff sign!

Bill Gates Rolls in an Escalade

Kind of last minute I heard that Bill Gates was delivering a speech at the University of Texas campus to a crowd of only computer science students. I’ve already seen Steve Ballmer speak, so now I wanted to see Gates.

Problem was only current computer science students had admission to this speech, which is bad since I’m neither a computer science major nor a student….but there’s ALWAYS a way around those little rules.

A little recon showed the admission “ticket” was simply an inch wide, hot pink wristband that CS students stood in line for hours to get. They were making this almost TOO easy! After a quick trip to Office Max for some different shades of pink paper and double-stick tape, I was going to cut the paper to an inch wide and double-tape the ends to make a bracelet. However I quickly realized that two standard-sized wristbands put together looked like the real thing. Even easier.

So a strip of scotch tape plus two hot pink wristbands and voila…

…instant fake Bill Gates admission pass!

So I walk in the Texas Union Ballroom, flash the wristband and they let me in. It was a packed house, and I literally had to sit in the LAST seat at the very back.

One of the first things he did was show the (very well done) “Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft” video that’s supposed to be a spoof of “The Office” ….in case you haven’t seen it:

He then gave his speech which was mostly about how software and philanthropy can help each other, it was pretty interesting stuff.

Some stuff I found interesting:

  • He was actually a really charismatic and good speaker. I was pleasantly surprised by this.
  • Instead of water at the podium, he drank a Diet Coke.
  • He never bashed Apple or Google, and in fact spoke very highly of both.

So of course I wanted a picture with him, unfortunately since this was so last minute I didn’t have a great plan to get one. As the richest man in the world, he is probably also the most bothered man in the world, so I knew his security would be really high, and since the Obama/Clinton debate was taking place at UT the following day, the whole campus was on high alert already.

So after the speech I went around the back of the Texas Union where the VIP’s leave from, and spotted his entourage. There were two vehicles which looked associated with him: one red Cadillac Escalade and one black Chevy Tahoe.

Three “normal” looking guys were standing around these cars which were obviously positioned for a quick escape out of the building. The guys were obviously his security detail…all looked tough but were dressed to blend in the crowd. It didn’t quite work, since it was three strong guys dressed in similar, gray North Face jackets. There were also several police officers positioned by the doors where he would exit from. I tried casually walking through the doors several times just to push my luck but was stopped each time.

It was funny because one of Gates’ guards looked a lot like Tim Ferris!

Once his security guys got the word Gates was leaving, they re-positioned the red Escalade right against the stairwell and opened the doors. Right then, Gates and two other guys walked down the stairs together as his security guys stood in a flanked position to block any access to him. I was about 10 feet away from Bill Gates when one of the security guys (who I was chatting up earlier) stopped me. I asked, “Is there any way I could get a quick picture,” to which he replied, “Sorry man, not today.” By the time he finished his sentence, Gates and the two other men hopped in the backseat of the Escalade.

Two of the security guys jumped in the front driver and passenger seats and drove off with the third security guy trailing them in the black Tahoe. Judging by the tires, windows and side-profile of the opened doors, none of the SUV’s looked armored.

I snapped this quick picture right as they were leaving. That’s Bill Gates sitting by that window (can’t really see him through the tint).

Al Carey – CEO of Frito Lay

Somehow I forgot to post this, but sometime last year (circa September 2007) I went to go see Al Carey, the CEO of Frito Lay speak on the University of Texas campus.

I go to a lot of these things, and for the most part I don’t post anything about them, but this one definitely deserves mention. I say this because he was actually an interesting CEO to listen to! Most big time CEO’s that come speak basically give a one hour promotional speech about their company….but it’s not entirely their fault.

The student groups that bring the speakers say, “Hey (insert name here), come to the University of Texas and say words for an hour.” If I had to speak for an hour given such a vague subject matter, I’d probably talk about something uninteresting for an hour also. They also select a HUGE auditorium where the front row of the audience is at least 25 feet away from the speaker. This causes the whole thing to seem very un-personal.

I thought that’s what this speech would be also, but was pleasantly surprised to find otherwise. For the speech, I wanted a more memorable picture with Mr. Carey, like the one with me and the CEO of Gibson Guitars, or the Herb Kelleher with booze & cigarettes picture. While I wasn’t dressed very well, I did come prepared with a big bag of Fritos so I could get an interesting picture. Long story short, I lost my camera a few days before, so I was using an old camera with a crushed screen…so I couldn’t see the pictures as they were taken. I ended up getting two awkward looking pictures:

Me eating out of the Fritos bag:

HA! He was more than happy to take the photos, and even re-do them due to technical difficulties. I was also happy to hear him give a pretty good speech which the audience ate up! Unlike a lot of other CEO’s who end up inadvertently boring the crowd with information about how great their company is, he knew he was speaking primarily to college students, and therefore tailored his speech to what he thought college students were interested in. It worked great, and the audience enthusiastically asked questions all throughout.

He also just seemed down to earth and interesting. He spoke confidently, looked like he was having fun up there, didn’t hide behind the podium and usually walked right at the edge of stage, close as possible to the audience.

Like many CEO’s I’ve seen speak, he never came into the company with the intentions of going all the way to the top. He just did his job and did his job well. He also spoke very highly of several bosses who simply gave him a chance and challenges when he first started. In fact that was a big part of his speech….simply give the new blood in the company A LOT of responsibility and creative leeway (if they want it) and see what happens. He says more often then not they exceed all expectations.

He gave a great example of how a small group of brand new, young marketing employees wanted to take control of the entire Frito Lay Superbowl campaign (their largest, most expensive and important campaigns). He let them “do their thing” which was an interactive internet campaign where users submit homemade commercials for Fritos, and the winning video would be aired live at the SuperBowl plus a bunch of other prizes. The winning video had a budget of $8.00 and was featured on a $1.5 million SuperBowl ad. Frito Lay product sales went up 18% as a direct result of the campaign! When you consider that sales are in the BILLIONS of dollars, an 18% increase is massive….all because of some young marketing kids who took a risk.

What I Did Today Wednesday Jan. 16th 2007

Exciting title no?

  • Woke up at 11:00am (I went to bed late last night)
  • Sent out HouseOfRave & BodyMonkey orders + handled existing customer issues.
  • Created a new section of Neon Signs to HouseOfRave. Added the section + all the products. Went faster than normal because everything in this section is priced the same.
  • Created the banner for the above Neon Signs page.
  • Created the copy, screenshots and other images for my upcoming sale of PalmReport.com.
  • Rode bike to gym. 4.6 Miles.
  • Rock climbed for one hour at rock gym + weights. My fingers and forearms are starting to get re-acclimated to the large stresses placed on them when climbing. I’m getting to the point where I can complete level 3 tracks decently well.
  • Rode bike back from gym. 4.6 Miles. Going back is was so much easier after a good workout gets you pumped.
  • I’ve started eating a whole lot more fruit recently. Today I ate 4 bananas, 8 clementines and 2 tomatos.
  • Read several chapters in the book I’m currently reading: ‘CIA, Inc. Espionage and the Craft of Business Intelligence’
  • Wrote out this list of things I did.
  • Timed everything I did.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep time of the things I do so I can speed everything up and do more work. As the old saying goes, “Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” Actually, that’s from What Would Bob Do.

So about a week ago

so I could start timing all the little tasks I do. So whenever I start handling the HouseOfRave.com orders for the day, I start the clock and try to beat my estimated time.

One of the scary things about timing yourself is seeing how LITTLE work you actually do. Whenever I have a boring task to complete, it feels like an hour, but unless my $12 Wal-Mart stopwatch is wrong, it only took me 18 minutes. Instead of going downstairs to get a quick snack after the task, I’ll realize it only took a few minutes and keep working on something else.

On the flip side it also keeps me from spending too much time on something. For example as I was making the Disco Ball section banner for HouseOfRave I had to stop myself and just upload what I had as the clock started ticking past 10 then 15 minutes. I usually have fun doing those kinds of Photoshop tasks, but tinkering around with different backgrounds and fonts for an hour doesn’t increase productivity.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff I don’t document here, but I like looking back to see what I was doing at a similar date the previous year. This at least gives me a little snapshot.

Barry Salzberg and Some House Of Rave Updates

A couple of short updates:

I went to see Barry Salzberg, CEO of the giant accounting firm Deloitte & Touche speak on the University of Texas campus. He spoke to a surprisingly packed house about the company etc. etc….mainly typical CEO talk.

The Q&A session was far more interesting and we got to hear a little more about him. It was pretty impressive because he came from a working class family with none of his parents being college educated, his dad died at a young age and he managed to his college degree, MBA and even law degree. As most of the CEO’s I’ve seen speak, he steadily started rising through the company by simply doing the best job he could at every step of the way, all the way to the top.

It was funny, because I was in the back of the room for the speech, so this way my view:

…however when I got closer I quickly realized who he looked like!

HA!!

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I’ve been working on changing up HouseOfRave a little to start going for version 3.0. One of the things I did was change up the right navigation pane with more illustrated banners:

I’m not exactly sure if I like it or not the new way. The old version shows off the products a little better, however the new version might make people curious to see what each banner holds when clicked.

I’ve also replaced some of the YouTube embedded videos on the site with my own HouseOfRave branded video player. YouTube shows related videos at the end of each clip which distracts users and takes them away from my site. It also puts its own brand on the video player which looks slightly unprofessional. You can see an example of the new video player at the glowing hair gel product page.

I’ve also added a Disco Balls section to the site and some more miscellaneous products. A bunch of much needed functionality updates, templates and features are on the way, but a more versed programmer is handling those.

Pete Coors of Coors Brewing Company

The University of Texas brought Peter Coors to speak last week and I got a chance to attend. He is the current chairman of Coors Brewing Company. 20 minutes before the speech I Googled everything I could about Mr. Coors, and not to be mean, but he wasn’t my type of person.

The business people I most admire are the ones who start with very little and turn it into something great. Pete Coors is a 3rd or 4th generation family member who was handed his company. Of course there is a great amount of work in building upon a family business, but it’s not something I am familiar with or have much interest in. However I would have loved to meet his great, great, great grandfather Adolph Coors who started the whole thing from nothing.

I enjoy hearing inspirational stories of how people took nothing and turned into something despite great odds. However the focus of this talk was how the family runs and passes on the business. Not a bad speech, just not my cup of tea….althought it was rather dry.

After the speech, I didn’t particularly want a picture with him, unless I could hold up the Coors beer can I brought to the speech. This wasn’t nearly bad as the Wild Turkey Whiskey and cigarettes picture with Herb Kelleher!

However I was told by lots of people who had met him before that he wouldn’t do it. Naturally I didn’t listen to them and tried anyways….but I was flat out denied to take the picture with the beer can. I found this funny that I couldn’t take a picture with his own product.

It was a “decent”speech, and a little different…to hear about such an OLD company that is still run by the same family. I didn’t really pick up any useful information to share other than some small company facts which can be easily found on the company website.

Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines Speech

Yesterday I went to a speech given by the famous founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher. As always, watching Herb speak was a great time!

I have great admiration for this man and his unconventional ways of running things. His willingness to be different and exciting eventually earned the envy of all other airlines.

“Professor” Kelleher speaking:

The speech started off with the actual professor of the class (Who is a Southwest Airlines board member) showing “Malice in Dallas” which was a spoof video about a Southwest Airline lawsuit where an aviation company threatened to sue Southwest for using the motto “Just Plane Smart.” Herb Kelleher challenged the CEO of the company to an arm wrestling match to settle the issue (seriously). The video ended up being shown world-wide and is sometimes billed as the greatest publicity stunt ever. The video was absolutely hilarious!! It really showed Mr. Kelleher’s funny side:
http://youtu.be/51a5xuxxxZQ

The entire time Mr. Kelleher spoke mainly about company culture….constantly instilling into everyone in the room just how important people are, and how if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. I’ve heard the same thing from other CEO’s, but he literally talked about it the WHOLE time…..and he’s obviously quite serious that his #1 priority is the people within Southwest. Some quotes from his mouth were:

“If you ain’t got culture, you ain’t got shit.”

“Competitors can buy tangible assets, but they can’t buy culture.”

He also just like last time lit up a cigarette soon after he started speaking. The man is notorious for loving cigarettes, Wild Turkey Whiskey and candy bars. So the day before I bought some props from the liquor store to use in the picture I would inevitably take with him!

It was actually the first pack of cigarettes I ever bought. In the Q&A session he answered questions pertaining to his many law battles all the way up to the Supreme Court (half the room was law students) and questions about how Southwest became the envy of the entire airline industry….and has become the only one to be profitable for so many years in a row.

One thing I really admire about him is his personality. The second he entered he room, he turned it from dull and quite to loud and FUN. He obviously loves having a good time, and you can see that reflected in the Southwest staff. A great example of leadership by example.

At the end of the speech I got out my Wild Turkey whiskey and cigarettes and took a great picture of me and Herb. I still get a kick out of this picture!

Then after the speech we both went to Cancun and ripped it up!!

Ok, that last part was obviously fake….but the speech was fun anyway! The guy is absolutely hilarious, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a sailor….but is one of the most famous CEO’s of all time because of his willingness to put people first and do things different.

FacebookProfile Stats, Entpr Year, New Apt

The condo I was living in with two rommates was sold, and we have now moved to a college-based community of apartments like I used to live in. These apartments are great because everyone living there is a student of some sort, they have lots of great amenities, and best of all individual leases. This means if you have four people living in an apartment, and three of them move out, the last person is not stuck paying the full rent….just their share. This way I can be very flexible about my living arrangements.

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I recently followed an idea for starting a Facebook based site which offers Facebook Tricks etc, and it’s coming along nicely. I’ve been getting some decent traffic, up to 350 unique visitors a day and growing.

Right now the site is making less than $1 a day from the one Google Ads, but it’s not even been online for two weeks….so I’m not worried yet. A problem with Google Ads is they base the ads on page content….mostly Facebook talk. Needless to say the pay per click rates are low, even though I’m getting a lot of clicks.

It’s sometimes getting above 1,000 impressions a day, so I’ll start looking for other ad systems that pay higher rates for page impressions. Here are the stats from the last few days:

This is actually turning out to be a fun little project!

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Thanks to “Bob”, I was tipped off about the Austin Entrepreneur of the Year awards last week, and I attended the event with Kunal of Grade-A-Books. It was one of the better events I’ve been to, with a great pre-event, event, and after-party. Then later out to Downtown!

This picture is a good sum-up of the night!