Thursday, April 5, 2007

Tenuki Update - GDC. Milestone reached! John Rocks!

When I first pitched John (co-founder) on the idea of a blog, he feared that it'd be lame and boring.
Then I explained to him that I'd be blogging the story of Tenuki. But since we're in stealth mode, he felt that I wouldn't be able to talk about all the interesting stuff we're doing, so again boring and lame blog he feared.

Then I wrote a protoblog in Word: twenty entries (most not published) to prove that the blog would be interesting. And he said, it's not boring and lame enough! Mainly because I have a tendency to swear and make sarcastic remarks about our competitors, the government, our close friends, etc.

So I stripped out all the offending comments. Well, most of them anyway and the blog was born.

Looking back over the blog, I've noticed that I haven't been devoting much time to the day-to-day workings of Tenuki. That's bad. After all, that's what this blog is supposed to be about.

So here's what happened in March in the life of Tenuki.

John and I went to the Game Developers' Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Being a miser about cash flow, I refused to pay the four thousand dollars that it would have cost us both to attend. However, recognizing how valuable the conference could be for us, I started begging for passes. Neil Kirby, one of the speakers at the GDC and all around awesome guy offered me the following advice:

I have got to hand it to you for the "never hurts to ask" attitude. At first I laughed out loud (very glad that I'd finished my morning tea). I do actually wish you the best of luck. I don't have a pass to give away. I did have a pass to give away see but it has been awarded.

Here are some real ways to get into GDC without taking the financial spear to the chest and simply paying for it:

1) Be a speaker. My personal favorite, it gets you a Giga pass and puts you next to some of the coolest people in the industry. The speaker/VIP party rocks like nothing else. And you can get papers published this way too.

2) Win a scholarship. Good if you are a student.

3) Volunteer to be a Conference Associate. The deadline for this is way over but the old URL is This is hard work, but the price is hard to beat. I know a number of people who do the CA thing because it fits their nearly-non-existent budget. I once said to my late friend Eric, "always be nice to the CAs, they could be your boss next year." He replied, "Boss? They could be your producer!" This was actually the case for him. To be a CA, you have to be able to work hard and keep a pleasant attitude, even if the people around you are not compelled to have a pleasant attitude. See to see how the CA staff can get caught in the middle. If you can't do the "with a good attitude under pressure" part, please, do NOT pollute the ranks of the CA staff. I turn in rude, sexist, un-helpful CAs to the two guys who run the whole CA staff. I also, when I can,!
point out to those same guys when I see a CA exceed my expectations. Good CA staff members get to be CAs year after year. Bad CAs tend to never make the cut again. As a speaker, I know that my session could live or die based on whether a CA can get something done for me [this has happened more than once]. They are "I can help" and "I don't know how, but we can make that happen" kind of people.
John and I ended up volunteering to be Conference Associates, hoping that missing the application deadline wouldn't be a factor. Fortunately, Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie, the guys in charge of the CA program let us in just two days before the conference. If you ever plan to be a CA, you'll learn to appreciate Tim and Ian. They're great organizers and really nice people for whom to work.

John and I sat in on as many sessions as we could. Being a neophyte to the games industry, I soaked up every piece of information I could get. John, meanwhile, ran into old friends - John's been in the industry awhile - and pitched them on our company. Thankfully, they were intrigued by Tenuki. They were especially intrigued by what John had accomplished technically in the last couple months. Since I'm not a programmer, I'll admit that sometimes I underappreciate John's skills. Believe me, it's validating to hear other engineers speak with admiration about what John's accomplished. It's like hearing cheerleaders talk about how hot they think your girlfriend is.

I networked some myself. By far, the most interesting guy I met was Bob, a director at Newegg. Met him during lunch, and he gave me enormous insight on the entire mobile space.

Unfortunately, a flu bug was floating around the conference and it took out John, his fiancee, and myself for the good part of the week following the conference.

Nonetheless, we were still able to reach a major milestone, courtesy of John's coding skills. I won't say what at the moment, because I feel like being mysterious/annoying.

What was I doing during that time, you ask? What all startup CEOs do? Gnawing my fingers in terror as I saw competitors rise from every quarter. Trying to suss out their strengths and weaknesses. Figuring out how to position ourselves in the marketplace in response to the new arrivals. Reworking the pitch to incorporate new information. Meeting with smart people to get advice. Emailing lawyers about patents and such. Writing this blog and sucking down tons of feeds with my giant cup of tea. Approaching people who I'd like to learn from who have never met me. Avoiding the five ideas I have each day for other companies that I could start by diligently recording them in a notebook and forgetting about them. Cursing myself every day for not being more productive. And wishing Michael Arrington would notice me. :)