Austin: Day Three

SPF: 45, It’s not Chicago

This morning was very slow. One of the other exhibitors set up his laptop to display a live feed of the space shuttle Discovery launch. The new cameras were cool, but everyone was wound up about it and nearly flogged a woman who made lame attempts at humor with comments like “what was that flash? juuuuust kidding.” My friends at NASA were in a mixed mood. They’re glad it launched, but unhappy they’re going to be spending the next week analyzing debris trajectories.

When this afternoon’s door prize drawing commenced, my direct competitor came over and introduced himself. He was an amiable fellow, probing for my background (inapplicable to this industry), opinions on open source competition, and any other useful competitive information. He said he’d love to have my market share (8x his), which I immediately countered I’d love to have his price point (5x ours).

Our door prize was slated to be given out, so I kept half an ear out for the winner’s name. In my haste to pack Sunday, I left the box of software sitting on my desk. I wrote an official-looking letter festooned with the company logo (since I don’t stock corporate stationery at home) congratulating the lucky winner and asking them to contact me with information on where to send it and which version. A business card and tress were enclosed, and the envelope was sealed with a wax ring imprint making it official looking. Just kidding about the hair and wax ring.

After another series of highly technical books, including two of the same titles given away Monday re-donated back, I heard my company’s name mentioned and some randomly-generated dollar value of the prize. I’m not sure where they got the number from, because it was about 1/5 of what we normally charge, but two hundred eager researchers stood by hoping to win whatever it was.
The winner’s name was announced and he was given seven seconds to claim his prize before another lucky winner would be selected, and so on, until someone took the damn prize.

While the last two items were being drawn, the winner stood facing the other way (his back to me, basically) reading the letter. Soon, the crowd filed out of the exhibit hall to rooms featuring heroic yarns with “Mortared” “Frictional Contact” and “Chip seal” in their titles. Mr. Winner walked over, letter in hand, looked perplexed. As my competitor listened, Mr Winner said he already used another, tangentially competitive product and didn’t have use for ours, what should he do with it. My competitor walked away chuckling. I glanced at Winner’s name tag and suggested he offer it to a colleague, because many people in his organization already use our product. Being the helpful, consummate capitalist, I added he might even barter it for a pizza or CD or something of value to him. Later, it hit me that I could have probably gotten the license back for a T-shirt, auctioned it on eBay and used the proceeds to pay for a new set of wheels for my bike. Live and learn.

Even though the exhibit hall is slow, the contacts I’ve had have been great. As an extra bonus, the wireless link is both fast and free. (The convention center folks wanted to charge us $400 for three day’s of ethernet use. For comparison, the cost to rent a 10×10 piece of carpet at the Reno show was $295, and it included vacuuming.) I have whittled down my work-related email queue to only one screenful. I also learned that Glocks don’t have safeties. This is useful knowledge if Lunanoir’s boss has left town and she’s found the vodka in her boss’ right desk drawer.

I walked around 1st Avenue south looking for a place that didn’t exist, gave up, and got food at Guero’s again. It wasn’t as good as last night.

Today is the last day of the show. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with a partner company, renting a bike (to get some miles in along Loop 360 and FM 2222), having lunch with my friend Elisa, then flying home.

I did the off-airport parking, but neglected to leave the ticket on my dashboard. There’s going to be some ‘splainin’ to do if my car’s towed.

3 thoughts on “Austin: Day Three”

  1. Hey there Jim. Its good to be back in the land of computers! Your story about the competitor cracked me up. We had the same thing happen to us many times over when selling our software. Actually we would mail you starbucks card if you filled out a form…you would be surprised how many competitors really wanted a free cupa joe.

  2. Your background doesn’t apply to your current job? And I thought you called your recent experience as a gas station attendant a “launchpad to my future”.

  3. “I walked around (…) looking for a place that didn’t exist.” Does it happen to you a lot, Jim? I’m getting worried with you, dear…

    Hug’n’a *

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