Tag: Personal Thoughts

My Decade in Review

I started the decade as the class of 2000, about to finish up 8th grade.  I was 14 years old and remember going to y2k party at a friends house, wondering if the lights were going to shut off because of y2k.   I thought 24 was really old and couldn’t imagine being that old.  It seemed so far away.  I can remember the city of Milwaukee’s city hall bells ringing the new year in a few minutes early, thinking it was funny, but also being a bit disappointed that y2k was a bust.  After watching far too many episodes of Jerry Springer, Maury and countless 24 hour news channel interviews of crackpots who were preparing for society to break down, it was a little underwhelming to my 14 year old self that the lights didn’t so much as flicker.

The defining event of the 2000s was 9/11.  I still remember being in geometry class my sophomore year when someone told me “planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York.”  We were scheduled to take a test that day and our teacher was one of the only in the school who didn’t want to get off track.  Instead of allowing us to watch the news, she told us “it was only a small private plane, like a Cessna, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal, let’s take the test.”  We took the test and by the end of class, we rushed out to the library as the first tower crumbled.  I remember watching as the 2nd tower fell and not really believing it was happening.  It looked like something out of a movie.  After school, it became real as I went to get a splint for my recently and unrelated broken wrist.  I remember the real fear the next time I heard a plane fly overhead a few days later.

So much changed after 9/11.  America went to war, we had to take our shoes off to fly on airplanes, cable news stations adopted scrolling bars along the bottom of the screen permanently and the media began its full descent into the all out 24 hour news cycle.  Americans had to think about terrorism and our role in the world.

The Internet matured and became a part of everyone’s daily lives.  After the tech bubble of the late 90s, Americas really started using the internet for everyday tasks.  Now, 95% of Americans use email at least once per week.  Throughout the decade, Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Last.fm and tons of other online services changed the way we live, learn, work and play.

More personally, I got to travel all over the United States and the world.  Between 8th grade and my freshman year of high school, I took at trip with my Aunt and camped on the beach along the pacific in Olympic National Park.  The next summer, I went to Rocky Mountain National Park and camped for a few days.  I got my first taste of Europe just before I turned 16, when my Aunt and I walked across Northern Spain and went to Paris.  I got to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona and walked from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.  I loved it and I knew I had been bitten by the travel bug.  I knew I would go back to Europe and see the world.

Back in the states, I learned how to drive and got my license.  I played a ton of soccer and still have friends and great memories from my soccer teams from the 2000s.  I also continued reffing soccer, a job that I had started when I was 12 in 1997 and continue to this day.  I even got to play high school football for a year.  I made some great friends in high school and had a ton of fun, learning along the way how to get things done.  I think my biggest lesson learned in high school is that authority figures do not know everything.  I think that this realization helped me get to where I am today.

I also continued to travel.  Our next door neighbors moved to Belgium to teach in an international school and we visited them twice.  By 2004, I was able to travel to Netherlands, Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany.  I biked around the Netherlands with my Dad, went to the 2003 Confederations Cup in Lyon, France (where the French booed our national anthem) and went to the top of an alpine mountain in Switzerland (and the site of a Bond movie).  I traveled around Spain with my class senior year and stayed with a great family in Segovia, Spain for a week.  I knew that I wanted to travel around the world.

In 2004 I applied to colleges, knowing that I really wanted to go to the University of Wisconsin.  At first, I was waitlisted.  After a few weeks, I finally persuaded admissions that I should be let in and was accepted to Wisconsin.  I remember being utterly shocked when I was waitlisted and even more angry when I lost the lottery for football tickets.  Little did I know that losing the football lottery would be one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I got to college in 2004 and loved every minute.  I made some amazing friends, learned a ton and attended hundreds (yes hundreds) of Badger football, hockey and basketball games.  I went to the Wisconsin vs. Purdue game where Scott Starks returned a fumble for a touchdown.  I remember the crushing defeat at Mighigan State and then traveling to Iowa to visit a friend and go to the Wisconsin football game.  If the Badgers won, they would go to the Rose Bowl.  Unfortunately, they lost and it was a long drive back to Madison.  I was in Milwaukee with one of my best friends, sitting on the glass, when Wisconsin won its 6th hockey national title.  I rushed the court when Wisconsin won the Big Ten title and was there when Wisconsin had a #1 ranking in basketball.  I loved all of our road trips that my friends and I took as well as the fun times we had doing all sorts of things throughout college.  I entered college being able to cook a few things, but not that well.  I left loving to cook and being able to make a whole bunch of things.

I ended up buying football tickets on ExchangeHut my freshman year.  I was the 1117th registered user.  After freshman year, I ended up buying the site with one of my best friends from high school.  I learned a ton and met some amazing people and realized that I was an entrepreneur and didn’t ever want to have a boss again.  Besides my friends, this realization was the most important part of my college experience.

I was lucky enough that I got to testify before a Congressional Committee, compete in a business plan competition, travel to Facebook for their platform launch and pitch ideas to angel investors.  By the end of my first senior year, ExchangeHut had been acquired.  I took a second senior year and graduated with a degree in Political Science.  By 2009, I started my blog, a consulting company and another startup.  I started Capital Entrepreneuers and have started to become part of the Madison community.

I also was able to check a few things off the bucket list.  In 2006, I went to the World Cup in Germany and saw the US in action.  After the US was eliminated, my friend and I traveled all over Europe, trying to be in countries when the teams were playing.  I’ll never forget being in Paris when France beat Spain in the Round of 16, being in an Italian bar in Barcelona during the semi-finals and being in Dublin for the final.  It was a great trip and I decided that I would do everything in my power to never miss another World Cup in my lifetime.  I was lucky enough to get to live in downtown Chicago for a few months, attend the Superbowl and go to the Final Four.  This past summer, I was able to visit my friend Beata in London and travel with one of my best friends in Ireland, England and the Netherlands and went to my first two weddings of friends from college.  I also got to do the punt pass and kick competition at halftime of the Wisconsin vs. Michigan game and succeeded.

The 2000s were amazing.  I can honestly say that each year has gotten better than the one before it.  I can only hope that my next 10 years are as much fun as these past 10.  At the end of the next decade, I will 34.  That seems old, but not as old as 24 seemed when I was 14.  I hope to travel to South Africa this summer to see the World Cup and be able to visit Australia, China and the rest of Asia sometime in the next decade.  I would love to go to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and tour South America.  I know I want to live in a foreign country for at least a year at some point and become fluent in Spanish again.  I want to continue working for myself and continue to create successful startups.  I hope to be reading at least two books per month and continuing to write my blog.  Maybe even write a book.  Who really knows.  I hope that I am healthy, happy and continue to have the good fortune to live like I have in the past ten years.

What are your best memories of the 2000s?  What do you think was the defining event for the world and for you personally?  What are your goals for 2010s?

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Travelogue: Beata’s Trip

Note: This is a guest post by one of my best friends, Beata Rak.  After graduation, Beata moved to London, got a job as a tour guide and bartender at her local pub and has traveled around Europe and the Middle East.  After living in London, Beata is moving to Australia to continue her adventure.  Here are some of her favorite memories from Europe.

Today I fly out to Egypt and I begin my six weeks of travels. I have been living and working in London for about 8 months and wanted to save all my travels for the end of my trip, right before my big move to Australia. I am going to Egypt, Budapest, Berlin, Munich (OKTOBERFEST), Interlaken, Zurich, Paris, and Krakow. I haven’t written a single thing about where I have actually been or done while living in the UK, so as a personal record for myself and travel advice for all my friends, here is my UK wrap up.

St Patrick’s Day

This was celebrated, where else, but in Dublin. I have now been to Dublin twice and each visit was on St. Patrick’s Day. It is really fun. Two years ago the weather was horrible, rain, snow, sleet: everything in one day. All the hostels were booked so a group of 5 of us shared a hotel room by the airport. My best memory is of my friend walking around with a video camera asking the Irish what St. Patrick’s Day meant to them, and all replied “freedom from the English.” (This is not what St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of, but the Irish love to constantly emphasize their freedom from English rule.)

This year’s trip was a little different. I was smarter. I knew I didn’t need a hotel/hostel room. The airport would be enough. I flew in early St. Patrick’s Day morning, changed at the airport bathroom into a ridiculous green outfit and stored my bag at an airport locker. I then went to the city centre to meet my friend Carly who arrived by ferry. We then met my friend Meredith at her hostel, ate the hostel’s free breakfast (I’m sure the free breakfast was for the residents, but oh well!) and got ready for the parade. Parade was crowded and hard to see anything, but you were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the IRISH!!! How cool is that? It didn’t matter that all you saw was the top of a Lucky Charms float, and waited another 20 minutes for the next attraction. Everyone is dressed up in costumes and starts drinking at 10am. The best way to describe it: A mix between a Wisconsin vs. Michigan game at 11:00 and State street on Halloween. Insanity.

After the parade we went to a bar where we heard tradition Irish music. This was awesome. The Irish are so much fun. You just want to get up and join in their tradition folk dances. The end of the night was spent partying in TEMPLE Bar, which is basically an overpriced area of bars. If you go to Dublin, cross the river and you will notice a pint of Guinness is half the price. A fun memory involves my tourists. At the this point I had been a tour guide in London for about a month and a half and I had at least 10 people come up to me on the street in Dublin and yell “London tour guide!”  Then at about 3 am I took a bus to the airport, where I joined about 100 other fools dressed in green to board my 8am flight back to London.  I recommend that everyone experience this festivity even once.
CRUFTS, The World’s Largest Dog ShowBirmingham, England

My friend used to work at the Dog Kennel and was given free tickets to Crufts, the World’s Largest Dog Show, which is hosted in Birmingham every year. At this point I had adopted the philosophy of saying yes to pretty much everything, so when she invited me on a trip to Birmingham for the Crufts, I immediately said yes. This would definitely be interesting. And yes it was. We stayed with absolutely the nicest people. A friend of her’s played host for the weekend and he was amazing. I truly am impressed with British hospoitaly. Everyone is always offering a couch or bed for you to sleep on.

We saw a bit of Birmingham and I am not a fan of the city. The downtown area is clean and nice, but small. Everyone says that the bullring is awesome.  It was a nice shopping centre yes but I wouldn’t go back. I did enjoy our night out by the college. There is a university in the area and our host invited us to his friend’s gig. The band was awesome and the bar was cool. I was told Birmingham had good nightlife and this I am sure this is true. I enjoyed the one night we went out.

But now for CRUFTS, the highlight of the weekend! Dog people are weird. Very weird. There is this whole posh dog society that I had never known existed. And you know the phrase that dogs kind of look like their owners? SO TRUE. Big hairy people would have big hairy dogs. Petite ladies would own poodles, etc. The coolest part was seeing all the different varieties of dogs. Some dogs are so cute!!! But it broke my heart so see how expensive they were and they fact that people could pick a champion female dog and another champion male dog and pay money to have them mate so that they could have the best dog ever. The whole idea just seemed weird. Especially because there are so many stray dogs in kennels that need homes. I don’t understand why people would pay 15,000 pounds for a dog just because it is pure bred.  We watched a few competitions. They measure a dog’s tail, see how fast it can run, and do dog tricks like if they can find a hidden ball. It was all so odd. It really was just like on TV.  Crufts, an experience as I said, but not one I would recommend or repeat.
Stonehenge – Summer Solstice

This is without a doubt one of the coolest things I have done here. So Stonehenge is a site of these ancient rocks about an hour and half outside of London. Like the pyramids, no one is exactly sure how they got there. These huge stones are in the middle of nowhere and have been there for thousands of years. The stones are a huge tourists attraction, but they are not allowed to be touched. You can look at them from a distance. EXCEPT for the summer solstice. To celebrate the longest day of the year, or the shortest night a huge festival is held by the stones, and you can go right up to them, and touch them and everything. It is an ancient ritual to celebrate there and it is continued to this day. It was so cool, druids playing the drums, hippies wearing white, pagans dancing and us. A group of fools with lots of food and liquor. The idea is to stay up till sunrise. Partying from sunset to sunrise, or perhaps playing drums and dancing to the summer Gods who are about to bless us with a nice summer that will produce a good harvest. My friend and I succeeded to see the sunrise, but some people fell asleep. The experience is hard to describe. You are overwhelmed with the number of people, while at the same time shocked at how calm everyone is. There weren’t drunk fights, or people puking everywhere. Everyone was there to enjoy the experience. And a lot of people were there to truly celebrate the ritual. You can tell they had been doing it every summer. This is the only day of the year I would recommend going to Stonehenge. If you go any other time you will be disappointed, because it is only a pile of rocks. Don’t waste your money, or more importantly your time.

Oxford and Cambridge

So before I went to Oxford and Cambridge I sort of pictured two college campuses with tons of parties with hot posh British boys. Even though this is not how the universities are, they are absolutely beautiful and everyone must see these cities. First of all both schools do not have a campus. Both cities are filled with university buildings where the lectures are taught. These are the colleges, so there is the college of literature and law, etc. They are scattered all over the city and there isn’t any sort of quad or student centre really. The cities are gorgeous though. The nightlife is calm. People are out partying yes, but not like what you have on like Madison’s campus for example.

Oxford is beautiful. Gorgeous. We even saw boys playing croquet!! How cool is that. I went with three of my friends. We saw some boys playing and sat down to watch them. Then we started to take pictures. Then a huge crowd formed behind us. They were all taking pictures as well. Poor boys, they became a tourist attraction! A professor in Oxford wrote Alice in Wonderland and the story supposedly takes place there so we visited the Alice in Wonderland shop. There is also a very pretty river walk filled with trees and most of the buildings are covered in IVY. If you have a picture of Oxford in your head, it probably looks like that, except prettier.

Cambridge was very similar, but out of the two I think Cambridge is prettier. We stayed with a friend of a friend who is an absolutely amazing host. She is a tour guide on the river so she took us on a tour.  We went punting on the river and had our own personal guide. We learned a little bit of history about the very prestigious university and observed the many students who had just finished exams, rented their own boats and drunkenly were punting down the river. Then of course it started to rain, but this is England and it rains all the time, so what better way to end the tour than at the local pub. We had a laugh then parted our ways. Cambridge is breathtakingly gorgeous. Visit this city!

Stratford upon Avon, Cotswolds, Burford

One Sunday I decided to leave London and visit the Cotswolds which are cute villages outside of London. I took a day trip there with Viator tours. My group consisted of 7 people from Japan who did not speak a word of English, and American couple and a mother and daughter also from America. The group was interesting. As I did not speak any Japanese I hung out with the Americans. They were all nice, but at one point I was talking to the American mom and telling her how I was going to take a 6 week backpacking trip in a few months. She seemed very concerned, as I was a girl doing this alone. I told her it was perfectly safe and that I had done it before so I was not worried at all. When the sun was setting she came up to me and asked, “So Beata when it gets dark right about now, what do you do with your backpack? Do you just camp somewhere by the road and continue walking in the morning?

I thought she was kidding. But she wasn’t. She literally thought I was going to WALK from one European country to another with a backpack. And what is funny, the American couple thought the exact same thing. Oh Americans, sometimes we are so silly. I explained to them I’d be flying, taking buses and trains, and sleeping in hostels. Anyhow back to the villages. SO BEAUTIFUL!

We visited Burford, which I was very excited about because I talk about Burford on my tours. The villages are very pretty and picturesque.  There are rivers and lakes running through them, and they are very small. We visited about four different villages and you could walk each one in about 15 minutes. They are also very quiet, so a nice escape from London. On the trip I also visited Stratford Upon Avon. This is where Shakespeare was born. Super cool. I love Shakespeare and could not help but think of Mr. Bertenshaw when I was there. This teacher probably had one of the greatest impacts on my life. As I kept walking around the town all I kept thinking about was Mr. Bertenshaw jumping up and down and saying, J C. Juliet Capulet, Jesus Christ. I have to say though, learning about someone or something in school and then seeing it in real life is a pretty amazing feeling. We saw the building where Shakespeare was born, the house his daughter lived in and the church where he is buried. Definitely recommend a day trip from London.


I loved Scotland and wish I had lived there for a bit. It is such a cool country and the people are amazing. I spent a week there and started in Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city. It looks like it comes straight out of a fairytale. I did the free walking tour there. When I do the tours in London I always hear about an amazing guide in Edinburgh, Grant, who wears a pink hat. So I went on his tour, and turns out he had been on my tour in London. What a small world. I also ran into a lot of people in my hostel, who had just been on my tour the week before. (Apparently I am a mini celebrity in the backpacking world!)

I then went on a 3 day haggis adventure tour with Busabout Tours. Recommend it very highly! This trip was awesome. I had a very outgoing guide Kyle who made the trip super fun. I met the three most amazing girls from Australia and the trip was ideal. We went to Loch ness and visited Nessie, the lock ness monster. Now, obviously I did not see her but we took a boat over Lock ness and watched all the sonar devices. Apparently the sonar will often get signals that are unexplained, and this is where we get the idea that there is something in the water. There are stories that villagers have seen a massive animal in the water but nobody really knows if it is true. The town where the loch is located is called Inverness and it small, cute and quaint. The Australian trio and I attempted to go out and meet some of the locals. This didn’t last very long as it turned into us and the bartender sitting at a table, then getting invited to a big party, which consisted of a total of 4 people. Instead we hung out with the group at the hostel bar and watched the most entertaining dance off I had seen in my life.

The next day was spent visiting the highlands. We went to the Isle of Sky. To say that the Scottish highlands are beautiful would be an insult. They are breath taking. I had no idea the extent of this beauty until I had seen it, a mixture of beautiful cliffs, lakes, and mountains. We also saw many castles, including the one from the movie, Maid of Honor, with Patrick Dempsey. We also saw lots of men in kilts playing bagpipes. I did not try haggis but I did eat a deep-fried mars bar, two of the famous Scotland dishes. The Mars Bar was yummy, but you really can’t eat more than half of it, it is sooo rich.

As for the haggis, as yummy as I hear it is, I really cannot bring myself to eat it. It is diced sheep liver, intestines, and heart etc, cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Apparently delicious, but not my cup of tea. I ended my trip to Scotland with a music festival, T in the Park. This was fun. I saw Kings of Leon, Maximo Park, Franz Ferdinand, and the View. What is funny is that the night before we went out to a bar and met some guys who claimed to be in a band. I was like, yah right, sure. Every guy says that. Well the next day at the festival the band really was there. I felt like the biggest idiot, I missed an opportunity schmoozing the band to meet some of the headliners. Oh well…..next time.  Scotland is a country filled with a lot of pride to be Scottish, they blame everything on the English, just like the Irish. The entire trip was filled with stories of battles and of William Wallace, (Braveheart) we even saw his memorial, which is HUGE. I loved Scotland and for sure recommend going.

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Gmail’s Down…Now What?

I’m sure most people who depend on google for their email have noticed that gmail has been down for the past hour or so.  Its not that big of a deal for me today, since I can do most of my work offline today, but it has to be quite the inconvenience for lots of people.

I’ve seen seven Facebook statuses in the last 10 minutes bemoaning the fact that gmail is down.  It just reminds me how much we are all dependent on Google and of one of my favorite South Park Episodes, Over Logging.  Since you can’t work without access to email, you might as well go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, or check out the South Park episode.

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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.