Posts Tagged ‘atlanta’

Microsoft: What’s in Store?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I stopped into the brand-new Microsoft Store in Atlanta on opening day last Friday. On the whole, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of unifying hardware with Windows, but I wasn’t totally sold on the execution.

What could have been better

Remind you of anything?

Boy, were they trying hard. Even down to individual elements, design inspiration from Apple was very obvious. Pricetags next to each machine looked very similar to the inclined plane-esque placards that used to grace the Apple Store (before the iPads), and the screens wrapping around the wall were probably the exact same dimensions as their upstairs counterpart. I could go on about the similarities – everywhere you look, the physical design screams Cupertino.

The music inside was also a little too loud; I couldn’t hear much outside of the blasting of Ke$ha. Hopefully that was just a little first-day overzealousness, but that extended past the decor. The employees were really aggressive in approaching people; walking in felt like being in a gauntlet of being asked how I’m doing, if I needed any help, or if I knew that “this computer is touchscreen!”. At the Apple Store, the employees are bombarded by the customers, but at the Microsoft Store, the customers are bombarded by the employees.

What they got right

Even if the idea was far from original, there’s an interesting twist on the wraparound wall displays: they’re actual screens, not just sheets advertising products. Information about different products is rotating marquee-style, and even cooler, Xboxes are connected in certain areas and can be played on the screens.

Two Microsoft Surfaces were also sitting out - if nothing else, this is the one element that makes the store unique. Most of the people that’ll come in from foot traffic will likely have never seen a Surface before, so at least for a while, it’ll be a good way to generate buzz.

Big picture

Over time, the idea of the store will come to settle with people, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy a PC, it’s one of the better environments for buying a PC that I’ve seen. I doubt it’ll convert many Mac users, but it’s a great option for the existing base of Windows fans who are itching to buy a new machine.

Thoughts on Presenting at Startup Riot

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Last Wednesday, I pitched Layer, a new startup I’m working on, at Atlanta’s Startup Riot. Held at The Tabernacle, this was the fourth iteration of the event, and it’s without a doubt the best gathering in the area. I’ve been to the past three – Startup Riot 2009 was one of the first forays I made into the local tech scene.

For those that don’t know, Startup Riot is an annual conference where 50 startups each get a 3 minute pitch in front of other entrepreneurs and investors. The pitch is done in only four slides, but booths with more schwag are available in an adjacent room. The format’s great, because if you get bored with one presentation, you can check Twitter and it’ll be over before you know it.

Flickr: sanjayparekh

In the weeks leading up to the big day, I’d been practicing and writing out the pitch a good bit, as well as attending feedback sessions at ATDC and 151 Locust. I’m really appreciative of the helpfulness of everyone and their willingness to give an honest, cut-and-dry opinion – something that’s extremely hard to come by. I had a lot of improvement to do, but my performance would have been awful if not for the recommendations of Ed Rieker, Paul Freet, Jeff McConnell, and Linnea Geiss. I spend a lot of time driving, so my car was one of the best places for me to compulsively work on the talk, despite the fact that my wild hand motions at traffic lights probably made people think that I was insane or something.

I was less nervous than expected in the hours before the pitch. I had a pretty good idea of what was going down, and figured it’d be better to just get up there, be myself, and have a good time. When backstage, I also got to cross an item off of my bucket list: meeting David Hauser, one of the guys behind Grasshopper’s New Dork video.

The three minutes flew by. For the most part, I didn’t even look at the timer onstage; I knew I had plenty of time to work with. The most important thing I tried to remember was to slow down, enunciate, and make things easy to understand.

Flickr: sanjayparekh

2009 seems like yesterday. I remember the awestruck, elevated view I had of the community, and despite a few nerves here and there, I jumped right in. I’m equally humbled and proud to participate in what I’ve been observing for the past two years. If you’re an entrepreneur in Atlanta, pitch at Startup Riot.

New Dorks for life.

LessConf 3010

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Last weekend, LessConf, a two-day conference about technology, startups, and business, was held at Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown Atlanta. This was the second iteration of the event; last year’s was in Jacksonville. Organized by Steve Bristol and Allan Branch, this was without a doubt the best tech event I’ve ever been to. Both Steve and Allan were incredibly chill and, more than anything else, just wanted everyone to have a good time. And that I did.

Day 1

Flickr: jay_tennier

Upon registration, attendees were able to pick up a copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin, as well as various other stickers and giveaways. After a hilarious intro, the talks kicked off around 10:30. The lineup for the first day consisted of the following amazing speakers:

I especially enjoyed Cameron’s talk about finding inspiration in design. The difference between influence and inspiration was an interesting concept: influence is actively sought, while inspiration is not. Valuable insight was also given on how to capture inspiration when it surfaces; Cameron mentioned setting up a wall of paper next to a workspace, as well as keeping a dive slate in the shower. As someone primarily focused on front-end web development, I was able to gain new perspective on how to approach a project by taking a step back and becoming passively engaged. The revelation also hit me that good design shouldn’t always be focused on logic, but on how you feel.

Lunch was a great networking opportunity; my associate Adam and I had the chance to sit down with the Grooveshark team and exchange ideas. Shane’s Rib Shack catering provided by Balsamiq was also much appreciated.

The afterparty was held at Whiskey Park, inside the W on 14th Street. It was a prime location to talk with Shane Reustle, Geoff Hamrick, Chris Wanstrath, Julia Roy, and many more awesome people. Like everything else associated with the conference, it was about as off-the-hook as it gets. Loud music, dim lighting, flash photography, and free drinks (sponsored by MailChimp) made a perfect close to a day full of intelligent geekiness. It’s just how New Dorks roll.

Day 2

The second day of the conference started with bacon-infused pancakes, sponsored by Storenvy. After a good half-hour of catching up from the last night, the second round of speakers kicked off with:

Clay’s talk about becoming a linchpin was extremely inspiring; the value of resumes was discussed, with him outlining that a traditional PDF leaves little room for creative expression. A great example was shown through a Foursquare mockup resume, in which badges represented positions and achievements. In short, be so good they can’t ignore you.

The education portion of the talk also spoke to me; Clay expanded on how the current educational system trains the factory workers of tomorrow, primarily instilling the ability to follow instructions in graduates. From my personal experiences, I can unilaterally vouch for these observations. Question the status quo. Break rules. Be a leader.

At 11 that night, the final afterparty kicked off at Noni’s Bar and Deli, where Regator’s Kimberly Turner was DJing. I was interviewed by BZD Films about both Rank ‘em and the conference in general, and also had great conversations with Jessica Barnett, Janette Crawford, Chris Turner, and everyone else who made it out. I really didn’t want the two days to be over, but had an outstanding time and look forward to next year.

Final Thoughts

LessConf rocked. The end.