In June, I will be travelling to Los Angeles after an long, 11 year gap. In 2005, 2 years after starting the company, we headed off to Hollywood to present Object Matrix and demo MatrixStore to the tech team behind the Jay Leno show. The dream was on!
Whilst we still maintain our frugal ways today, back then we had €100k startup cash to keep 6 of us going for almost 2 years. I won’t go into detail as to how we managed that in this post, but usually, it meant working out of attic rooms, experiencing some pretty basic modes of travel and staying in semi-dangerous accommodation.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
When you are watching the pennies international travel hurts. Back in 2005, we used every conceivable method to get to LA on a shoestring. The flight I took had more hops than a bunny in spring but it was cheap. The hotel was, well, a motel in an area that would today have Police Camera Action written all over it. Most things in the room ended up in front of the door the first night. It was actually not that bad in the end, not as bad as other dodgy accommodation experiences at Object Matrix, three words: Shared Toilet, Transvestites (expect a blog post on that alone). Anyway, I was glad to see the car was still in the parking lot the next morning we headed off our first meeting.
Being a film fan, and growing up watching American imports, seeing the places my favourite films are made always gives me a buzz. Who hasn’t lain on the floor whilst letting a child’s pram cascade down the steps in Chicago’s Union Station re-creating the awesome scene from The “Untouchables?? .. OK, only me then. Being brought up on all things Hollywood the
prospect of meetings on the studio lot was very exciting and it did not disappoint. From seeing the muddy field that M.A.S.H was filmed on (my Dads favourite) to being back stage on the Jay Leno show the whole experience was incredibly positive. Of course, on the way back we got the obligatory pics in front of the Hollywood sign:
I haven’t aged a bit. Much.
Riding the Shiny Wave of Optimism and Getting Schooled in Setting Expectations
In the 13 years of Object Matrix, I’ve learned a thing or two about patience and not to believe anything until money is in the bank.
- Firstly, I have discovered I have no patience (ask the godfather @CISGRP or Neil @NMRUK, or in fact any number of people who have worked with me).
- Secondly, in the early days we believed the hype, we rode the shiny wave of optimism that came with anyone showed an interest in our company or products.
So being invited to demo to NBC Studios, in Hollywood, setting up the kit backstage during rehearsals for the Jay Leno Show. What could possibly go wrong? Pretty much everything:
- No real contact with the end user beforehand to understand the problem and how we could solve it.
- Selling an API in 2005 when well, would you buy an API in 2005 from 6 Brussels based engineers?
- The demo was over in 5 minutes and none of the benefits conveyed.
- Opportunity gone.
Put simply “twas simply a disaster darling!”. It was, however, a fantastic lesson for the future and the gut wrenching feeling of failures like that, oh yes there have been more, made us more determined than ever to continue. Why? Because during those disastrous demo moments, and the following conversations, it became clear that there was a need, that industry was changing and it needed people like us to solve it. Being there gave us access to people and ultimately people buy from people. Which is why, 11 years on we do not have a customer on the West Coast. Something that is about to change.
Back To The Future
If we could go back to 2005 we might impart some words of wisdom upon our younger selves.
- Gather as much information and intelligence as you can on the local market and the local challenges. Even in our fast-paced technological world different regions evolve at different paces
- Think Global Start Local: If you aim to export B2B products globally then start selling them locally
- Prove and improve your product and approach to the market.
- Iterate and validate the model with smaller, more agile,, customers
- Engage with global organisations that have a local presence
- Leverage local successes and expand to new territories
From 2009 onwards that became the Object Matrix model. It’s the model we have followed ever since.
11 years on I’m Returning to LA.
This time, things will be different!
- This time, we have 150 clusters installed with an impressive list of global broadcast and media clients.
- This time, we have a growing list of clients in the USA.
- This time, we will have a deeper knowledge of the industry and the sectors strategic problems.
- This time, we have a proven product that solves current challenges at editor, CTO and CFO levels
- This time, I will be flying direct, though as usual, turning right not left!
- This time, we have a stronger network of partners. My patience may not have improved much during those 10/11 years but we have developed a fantastic network of local partners (technical and commercial) including Edel, Guilherme, Marcia and Craig (not Cregg).
I am very excited to be going back. The trip marks another milestone on our long, amazing, long, did I mention long? Journey.
If you are in LA the week of the 13th-16th June and fancy saying hello then please do drop me a line.