Category: Personal Thoughts

My Top 5 Ted Talks

TED, or Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a group started in 1984 to bring together the smartest and most interesting people from the year to talk about what they’ve been doing in an 18 minute speech.  In 2003, TED put all of the talks online, free for anyone to watch.

It’s one of my favorite sites and I try to watch a few per week.  Here are my top 5:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVvn8dpSAt0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIiAAhUeR6Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaSF1gPBKrA

Madison Property Management: How Not to do Business

I currently rent from Madison Property Management and absolutely hate it.  

Dishonesty, unfair treatment, security deposit theft and outright lies has caused MPM to quickly jump to the top of my list of Worst Companies I Deal With.  They’ve found a way to beat out my old Worst Company, Charter Communications.  I am not alone.

Our house is nice, the rent is reasonable and the owner is a great guy.  
Enter MPM.
When we first saw the house in July, about a month before the leases in Madison turn over, the MPM rep told us that we would receive August rent free.  We were expecting this, as this was MPM’s special on their website.  When we went to sign the lease, we were told that we would receive this discount.  My roommates and I trusted them to be true to their word and we were pressured to quickly skim the lease.  We signed the lease and did not pay August rent.  In the first week of September, we received an eviction notice.  I called and asked why.  They said that we had not paid August rent and that it did not say anything about it in the lease.  The guy who showed us the house, plus the guy who had us sign the lease both denied that they had said anything.  MPM also changed the website.
I know it is our fault that we did not re-read the lease carefully, but come on.  Can you be more dishonest?  I am waiting for the WayBackMachine to show MPM’s website from the summer with the special on it and then I will go back and demand the money back.
We should have been wary about renting from MPM because of a previous roommate’s experience with MPM. Upon move out, MPM deducted $300 for a “hole in the door.” He demanded that they accompany him back to his apartment to see this “hole” so that they could justify payment. Three hours later, MPM called back and said “sorry, it’s just a nail hole. we won’t charge you.”  That’s a great response from a reputable company.
Next, it is their job to show the house for people who are going to live here next year.  Our rent is 1995 per month.  MPM has raised the rent to 2475 for next year.  Nice try ripping off students.  Not only have they raised the rent by almost 25%, but they have also lowered the quality of the house.
They also show the place at ungodly hours for a college student and for whatever reason, do not have a key to our house.  This means that they get locked out and cannot show the house unless someone is home.  We’ve alerted MPM about this, but they do not seem to care.
The next problem with MPM is their snow removal people have twice created 2 foot high snow banks across the front of our garage that I have to shovel out.  When I called to complain, the MPM rep said that they “do not do the snow removal” at our house, so they can’t do anything about it.  This is the second time they have lied to me.
Going to college and renting from MPM has taught me exactly how not to run a business.  Incompetent employees who are not responsive to customers, managers who tell outright lies and ridiculous prices will not work for most companies.  MPM gets away with it because students are lazy and do not know their rights.  I will never live in an MPM house or apartment again.

What do you DO all day?

What do you DO all day?
I’ve been asked this question by so many people in the last few weeks since ExchangeHut was acquired.   Its been asked with varying degrees of disdain what seems like hundreds of times in the last few months.  From professors to friends, to other entrepreneurs to people at the bars, not to mention my parents, I try to come up with something interesting and meaningful for each audience.
So, what does a college student who just sold his first business do all day?
Class
At the start of the fall semester, I was 11 credits from graduating with a degree in Poli Sci from Wisconsin.  I decided it would be worthwhile to take these 11 credits in two semesters for many reasons, which I will go into later.  As a result, I’m currently taking two classes, both on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Consulting
I try to work 1-2 hours per day consulting for other startups by doing research, coming up with marketing ideas and helping with business plans.   Its usually some of the most interesting parts of my week.
Reading
I love to read.  I always have, ever since I was in grade school.  I read the Economist cover to cover each week, along with lots of random blogs and books that I find.  I try to spend 2 hours a day reading various books, blogs and magazines.
Research
I’ve also been trying to spend at least 2 hours per day researching new business ideas.  Many days, I spend closer to 4 hours and as many as 8, but on average, its probably closer to 2.  I’ll usually try to read just about anything relating to new ideas that I get to try to get a better feel for new markets.
Working Out
I try to either ride my bike every day, whether its outside or on my trainer.  Other days, I’ll play racket ball with one of my roommates or just mess around at the SERF.  Depending on the day, I’ll try to spend at least an hour a day doing something active.
Sports and Entertainment
Since I’m still a college student and am only taking two classes, I try to make sure I enjoy the college lifestyle while I still can.  I also have student season tickets to football, basketball and hockey and go to all of the games with my friends.