San Francisco Debrief

My business partner Adam and I spent a few days doing business in San Francisco last week.  All business and/or relationship development, no fundraising.  

I've been to San Francisco multiple times, but this was my first visit as the CEO of a start-up.  (If you're new to this blog - my company Argyle Social is based in Durham, NC.)  It was an eye-opening experience.  Turns out that a lot of what they say about the Valley is true.

1.)  Everyone very genuinely wanted to help us out.  We met with 8 companies - some big companies that you may have heard of like Twitter and some smaller companies that you will probably hear of soon.  Every conversation was incredibly transparent and collaborative, even though Adam and I were complete strangers for the most part.  A case in point of start-ups (and former start-ups made big) helping each other out.

2.)  Everybody knows everybody.  The UserVoice guy went to a beer night at Klout.  The Klout guy's brother is the API guy at Twitter.  The business development guy at Twitter went to UNC.  (You get the idea.)  No different than any other start-up community...except that the Valley connections are with the most important companies in the world.  Adam and I made great connections on this trip and I'm confident that these great connections will yield even more connections.

3.)  Start-ups are everywhere.  Adam got the great idea to start using Foursquare on the trip...and he convinced me to join the effort.  It was amazing - and, frankly, frustrating - to do a Foursquare check in at Klout and find that GitHub, EventBrite, EngineYard, a laundry list of other interesting companies are within a 100 yard radius.  There are a handful of start-ups in Durham, NC that I consider peers.  There are a handful of start-ups in every building south of Market in San Francisco.  And we didn't even venture out to Mountain View, Palo Alto, etc.

I'll be making trips like this (at least) once a quarter going forward and I strongly recommend it to any other CEO of a web start-up.  It is useful to get away from the office so that you can think, helpful to build relationships outside of your geography, and energizing to get plugged in to the epicenter of the business.  

Book a few meaningful anchor meetings that actually warrant the trip and then work your network to fill up the rest of your time with spec meetings.  

Back in the Saddle

Kelly and I returned from our trip this past weekend. Photos with C+ captions here.

The trip was fantastic in every way. We spent 3 days in Munich, 3 days in Vienna, and 6 days in Prague. In brief, the highlights include:

- Amazing beer and delicious meats with every meal for 2 straight weeks.

- Easy living in Munich, inspired in part by the naked people in the English Garden.

- A harrowing and gut-wrenching visit to the Dachau concentration camp.

- The view from atop the Schloss Schonbrunn gardens in Vienna.

- A day in Okur* outside of Prague with Lee and Emily. (Pronounced kinda like "O-korjsh" - there should be a little tick over the "r" that WP doesn't allow...)

- A ridiculous night of beer cheese, spare ribs, fried minnows, beer, potato rum, blistering Czech bluegrass, learning Czech slang, and teaching Lee's friend to say "fannypack". (Hate that we didn't take our camera. Highest of high international comedy...)

- The beautiful vistas in Prague at night.

As much as Kelly and I would like to still be in Prague, sleeping on Lee's communist era foldout couch, we're glad to be home and I'm ready to get to work.

I turned around some interesting work pretty quickly since my last post. I'm working 2 part-time gigs this summer. I started at Integrian this week. The company develops intelligent mobile video solutions for public safety and transit. I'll be working on product specs for a couple fascinating applications that originated from the company's R&D arm, Signal Innovations Group.

Next week, I'll start spending some time with a pre-launch online software/media start-up that has a great team and an interesting idea.

I had hopes of brute-forcing a software idea into existence over the summer, but cooled on both of the ideas I was carrying once I started thinking hard about them. So it goes...

All in all, I'm excited about the summer. I'll work a relatively normal schedule and Kelly will have a ton of time off. This should translate into lots of grilling out, lots of basketball, lots of time spent with my KFBS friends that are in town for the summer, and a bountiful harvest from my vegetable garden.

San Francisco

Kelly and I are in San Francisco for a business/pleasure trip.  We wandered around yesterday and have all day today and Saturday for fun.  Tomorrow, I have interviews with 2 high roller Internet software companies...and I'm nervous as hell.

We're staying with friends Alison and Fabian just a few blocks away from Haight St.  Their place is unbelievably nice and located in a great neighborhood.  Per Fabian, Craig Newmark (the "Craig" of Craigslist) lives in the area and frequents a nearby coffee shop.  Kelly and I are dropping by in a few minutes in hopes of a sighting...

Other than that, we have no plans for the day.

Italy Videos

Considering the ungodly amount of work I have to do over the next few weeks, it isn't likely that I'll finish up my grand plans to document my summer travels.

I did manage to upload the following Italy videos this past weekend. Enjoy.

Colosseum Walk - Kelly LOVES guided walks from travel books.

St. Peter's Bells - an empty square thanks to our 6AM wake-up.

Inside St. Peter's - check out the sunlight near the end.

Corpus Christi Processional - the Pope had just ridden by and we followed the swell of people toward Santa Maria Maggiore.

Cinque Terre Swim - Kelly takes a dip in the cool Mediterranean just outside of Riomaggiore.

Driving In Chianti - our Lancia - and my overly cautious driving - couldn't quite keep pace with the speedier Italian drivers.

Floating In The Grand Canal - listen for the singing gondolier.

The Pigeon Queen - Kelly feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco.

Cinque Terre

After Rome, we made our way north to Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre. We only stayed 2 nights here, but managed to stretch out our time by taking the early train from Rome to get there early and then staying late our last day.

If we had it do to over again, we would have stayed longer. Not because the other places weren't amazing, but instead because the Cinque Terre was the most beautiful, enchanting place I've ever been in my life. Check out some of our photos to see for yourself.

Without a doubt, we could have spent our entire time there, eating well, soaking in the sun, and swimming in the clear, cool water.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at Locanda della Compagnia, a boutique hotel run by a lovely, helpful lady whose name we never caught. (She spoke just enough English to get by.) Lodging options are pretty sparse in Cinque Terre and, consequently, the prices are a little inflated. At 100 Euros per night, Locanda was the cheapest we could find that seemed inhabitable.

Upon arrival, we were actually surprised to find the hotel to be bright and charming. Our room was fairly large and comfortable. The reception area had several tables with chairs, arm chairs, and an aquarium. Breakfast - which was included in the price - was the best we had in Italy. Typically, breakfast is a non-event in Italy and usually entails an espresso and a pastry. The Locanda breakfast offered espresso, cappuccino, fresh bread with butter and jam, yogurt, and fruit. Again, a pleasant surprise.

Location was the hotel's only downside. The village is essentially one main road - Via Cristoforo Colombo - that goes straight up the hill. Locanda perches atop said hill in a tiny courtyard beside an old church. The hike wasn't a problem in the cool evening, but was a pain in the midday heat, especially when lugging suitcases.

Where We Ate

Similar to lodging, there weren't many dining options in Riomaggiore. Luckily, they were all superb - though I can't recall any of the names. I had a huge swordfish steak with marinara one evening and pasta tossed with olive oil, basil, and anchovies the next.

My favorite eating activities in Cinque Terre were the snacks at sundown.  Both nights we were there, we bought a cheap bottle of wine, fresh cheese, and crackers and found a place to sit and watch the sunset - one especially lazy evening from the marina in Riomaggiore, the other from the village's hilltop castle.

What We Did

There really isn't much to do in Cinque Terre - which is precisely what makes the place so great.  When we weren't eating at meal or eating/sleeping while enjoying a sunset, we were hiking/swimming/sleeping along the numerous trails that creep through the villages and the surrounding hillsides.

Our first day there, we hiked up the hill from Riomaggiore.  Such a steep climb!  The sites along the way were breathtaking.  Orchards with lemons, limes, cherries, grapes, and olives, backyard gardens, a cemetery, and an endless sea of wildflowers lined our trail.  After stopping for a few breaks - both to drink water and to soak in the scenery - we made it to the road at the (almost) top of the hill for a great view of the village.  We wimped out and took the bus back down to the village.

The next day we hiked from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, city number quattro of the cinque.  Looking back, this was probably my favorite day of the entire trip.

The trail from Riomaggiore to Manorola - also known as Via Dell Amore - was quick and easy, but a little crowded because it is the only trail in the area that is paved and kid/elderly/disabled friendly.  For the short hike and easy terrain, there were some amazing views.  I think we stopped in Manorola just long enough to take a photo of the main drag.

The party started between Manorola and Corniglia.  The people thinned out significantly, thus making it easier for us to take our time and enjoy the sites.  We made a stop to swim in one of the small grottoes along the way.  You can't really see it in this photo, but there was a lovely spot about 50 yards to the right of Kelly.  Basically, we shuffled down a series steps cut into the mountainside and came out on a small "beach" comprised of stones large and small and clear, blue, COLD water.

We stopped in Corniglia for lunch and for more swimming.  The village streets were lined with fresh cut flowers, making for a remarkable stroll through town.  We eventually found a small sign pointing the way to the beach and walked down the ~334 steps (Kelly counted) to the waterfront.  While the long steps were a pain, they also were a deterrent.  Kelly and I shared the area with only a handful of locals, one of which was a young lady that was topless and...ahem...gorgeous.  (Yes - I looked.  Repeatedly.)

After a couple hours of swimming and sleeping, we climbed the steps back up to Corniglia and headed towards Vernazza, where we ended our day with lemon gelato and a 5 minute train ride back to Riomaggiore.

When In Rome

Editor's Note - In order to catch up on previous travels, I'm putting together reviews of our travels to Italy. This is the stuff that I wanted to know before we left, so I suspect that someone will find it useful.


We spent a total of 6 days in Rome - 3 at the beginning of our trip and 3 more at the end. This turned out to be the perfect amount of time in the city. We saw/did everything we wanted and didn't have to rush.

Where We Stayed

We spent our 2 separate stints in Rome in 2 different apartments offered by The Beehive, a quaint hostel/hotel just east of the train station. Kelly and I cannot say enough great things about The Beehive or their apartments.

The Beehive itself had a cute basement cafe, a friendly staff, a fat cat named Ingmar, a small shaded courtyard, and a 4 Euro happy hour deal that Kelly and I enjoyed twice. Plus, they provide a handy "Beehive Recommends" guide that directs their guests to the best restaurants and activities in Rome. For cheap travelers such as ourselves, the price was reasonable at 70 Euros per night.

The apartments were just west of the train station, a 10/15 minute walk from The Beehive. The nearby neighborhood didn't have much to offer, but that wasn't really a problem - we were just a few minutes away from a Metro stop and a 15 minute walk from the Colosseum.

Each apartment had 3 private rooms with a shared kitchen, bathroom, and common room - with a free web-enabled iMac! The bedrooms were perfectly clean and nattily decorated. Kelly was blown away that they provided homemade organic soaps (as opposed to the normal budget hotel sliver of Borax) and a hair-dryer with a diffuser.

We would stay there again without question.

Where We Ate

We dined at two places of note in Rome, both of which came recommended by the BeeHive guide:

Hosteria Isadoro is on a back street near the Colosseum. We actually ate their twice - on our 2nd night of the trip and again on the last night of our trip. Both times we ordered the "eat pasta until you can't eat anymore" option. The waiters served small plates of pasta that Kelly and I shared and kept bringing them until we said "basta", which means "enough"...which I was only able to remember because it rhymes with "pasta"...and because I knew that I was eating more than "basta pasta".

da Alfredo e Ada not far from the pedestrian bridge south of Castel St. Angelo. It is a true trattoria in the sense that it felt like we were eating in someone's kitchen, in this case my grandmother's kitchen. Ada shuffled around rubbing shoulders and pinching cheeks and her son kept bringing us food and REALLY sweet white wine, made in their vineyard. We both had rotini for primi piata. For 2nd course, Kelly had the beef and potatoes, I had the veal, peas, and spinach. Ada served us sugar cookies to dip in our wine for desert. The food was good, not great - but the experience was definitely pretty amazing.

We also drank tons of water from the public fountains sprinkled throughout the city. We saved a lot of money by refilling our water bottles for free...

What We Did

The obvious stuff - toured the Colosseum and the surrounding sites such as the Forum and Palantine Hill, the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's (one of the best photos of the trip) and numerous other massive cathedrals, Museo Capitolini, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc.

Of the tried and true tourist options, I particularly enjoyed Museo Capitolini. It was small and not at all crowded. Plus, it has cool ruins from a huge Constantine statue that reminded me of myself. (I kid!)

The Vatican Museum was an enormous hassle and borderline miserable for the most part. It was so crowded with tour groups that one could hardly move, though the audio guide made it a little easier to momentarily escape from my surroundings. The irritation was all worth it though to see the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

Kelly and I were shocked that so many people were able to stand in a sacred and mind-blowingly beautiful site such as the Sistine Chapel and blather on and on as if they were standing on the street corner. I wanted to scream "People! This is the Sistine Effing Chapel! Shut the #$%@ up!", but instead I just stood silently and alternated my reflections on the beauty of the art and all that it symbolizes and the stupid people around me and how much I hate them.

The most non-touristy thing we did in Rome occurred sheerly through a stroke of luck. We were on our way to dinner and came upon a barricaded street with nuns swarming all around. Upon asking someone, we learned that the Pope was about to roll through as a part of the Corpus Christi observance.  We hung around and watched the crowd grow around us.

45 minutes or so later, the procession started.  15 or so minutes after that, the Pope-mobile rolled by 10 feet in front of us.  After the pope rolled by, a swarm of people followed him. In the photo, you can see the church where he performed the blessing in the distance. People were shoulder to shoulder all the way up the street to the piazza and several blocks behind Kelly and me.

We were lucky to stumble upon such memorable experience.

Home Again

I'm back from 3 weeks in China - the land of screeching brakes, oppressive heat, staring people, dirty streets, deranged taxi drivers, $3 feasts, over-zealous street hawkers, sprawling modernity, ubiquitous poverty, and other varied cultural expressions the likes of which I've never seen.

Oh yeah, and there's the Great Wall and some other stuff, too.

Unfortunately, the People's Internet would not allow reliable access to, so I (obviously) could not update my blog while I was away. Thus, we've got a lot of catching up to do here at The Boggs Blog, including:

- Long overdue recaps from my and Kelly's travels through Italy, by far the highlight of my summer.
- Posts from my travels through China, which will most likely be excerpts from my journal.
- Thoughts on my impending matriculation to Kenan-Flagler.
- Catching up on the usual meaningless tripe that I somehow allow myself to publish here.

More on the way soon.

We're Back...

...and I'm tired.

I just uploaded some of the best photos from our trip. Take a look when you have a few minutes. You can start here and follow the trip chronologically or you can browse at your leisure.

All in all, the trip was the best I've ever taken. It was all at once adventurous, educational, inspiring, and relaxing. (Well, it was relaxing except for returning our rental car in pedestrian and scooter infested downtown Florence and the 3AM cell phone calls from my friends that didn't know that we were in Italy.)

I plan to highlight some of the photos and write more about our adventures over the next few days, so stay tuned.


Apologies for the lull in Boggs Blog action.  As much of my constituency already knows, Kelly and I are in the midst of a 17 day jaunt through Italy. 

Because I'm paying 2.7 Euros per hour here, I'll keep it quick and list some of the highlights:

- Jet lag worked in our favor on our first morning.  Both Kelly and I awoke at the crack of down and decided to just start our day at 6AM local time.  We took the metro to Vatican City and enjoyed a fairly empty St. Peter's square and Basillica.  Lots of good photos.

The place was PACKED a few hours later.

- Our 2nd night in Rome, we walked up on a barricaded street.  One of the many nuns wandering around the street that evening told Kelly that the Holy Father would soon make his way up the street as a part of the Corpus Christi tradition. 

Sure enough - 30 minutes or so later, the massive papal procession rolls up with the Pope bringing up the rear, riding on a platform built into the bed of what looked like a 70s model Chevrolet pick up truck.  (Not joking.)  He rolled by about 10 feet in front of Kelly and me. 

Sadly - he wasn't wearing a funny hat.

- 3 days in the Cinque Terre.  Google Image Search results will have to suffice until I can post my photos.  Best scenery and best food of the trip so far.

- On our first night in Florence, Kelly and I stumbled upon the BeBop Music Club for America Rock Tribute night.  Good times - no cover, decent beer, and the surreal experience of watching a band of 5 Italianos blast GNR and Bon Jovi covers.  "You give low-ve a bad name." and "Reminds me of childhood mammaries." were a few of the lyrics hilariously lost in translation.  Interestingly, the song lyrics and our conversation with Giovanni, one of the managers, were the only words I heard spoken in English the entire night.

- Unlike the US, cheap wine it Italy is actually pretty good - especially when consumed heavily, with cheese, in public squares or scenic vistas.

- I've grown an Italian beard and both Kelly and I have tried to dress so as to blend in.  (No fanny packs, tennis shoes, or baseball caps here.)  As such, locals have greeted us speaking Italian on numerous occassions - at the train station, in shops, etc. We're so cool!

Sadly - we quickly blow our cover when we just smile politely and say "Non parlo Italiano."

That'll have to do for now.  We're in Florence for 3 more days - including day trips to Pisa and Siena (via rental car) and a tour of the Uffizzi Gallery.  Then we're off to Venice and then back to Rome to wrap up our trip.



Pig Pickin' At Lee's

My dear friend and former college roommate Lee Bidgood married Emily Behler in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. I've never attended a wedding that so perfectly and beautifully reflected the personalities and passions of the bride and groom.

Lee - who once said "There is nothing I'd rather eat than food." - hosted a rehearsal dinner pig pickin' (see below) at his house Saturday night that featured a 120lb pig, homemade fixin's, a keg of Starr Hill brew, and good bluegrass music. The wedding took place in the beautiful Albemarle County countryside, though the rain unfortunately moved us indoors. The ceremony itself began not with a formal processional, but with Lee and Emily walking toward the altar and toward one another from opposite sides of the room while singing beautifully to one another. Lastly, the reception featured more bluegrass and - not joking - a thoroughly entertaining juggling routine from Lee's little sister Grace.

While the music, socializing, Starr Hill keg, juggling, and ceremony were all great fun, the best part of the weekend was without a doubt this:

Kelly upon seeing me eat the meat that I pulled directly from between the pig's ribs:

That is enough to make me want to become a vegetarian.

More photos from Lee's wedding at my/Kelly's Flickr page