Where I Work And What I Do

Working for a tech startup like isocket is unlike anything that I’ve ever done before and from the outside looking in I can see how it’s hard to understand what I actually get paid to do on a daily basis. I’ve never really talked much about what’s going on at isocket, which is crazy since I’m spending a majority of my time there and we’re doing some really cool stuff in the digital ad space.

It seems like a lot of my family and friends are interested in what I’m doing and I feel bad for not writing more about what I’ve been up to. From here on out I’m going to write about more of the things that I think about when it comes to my job and the problems that we’re trying solve with our product. I’m going to do this in hopes that it will help you (or anyone else who’s curious) figure out what I’m doing with my time and energy in Silicon Valley.

Where do I work and what do we do?

One of the first questions that I always get asked when in conversation with someone I’ve just met or someone I’m catching up with is “So where do you work now?” or even better “What do you do?”. My answer to this question changes dramatically depending on who I’m talking to, which is the marketing and sales guy coming out in me. The online advertising rabbit hole goes pretty deep, so I’ll save you the details and give you a nice overview, how’s that?

For simplicity’s sake I work for isocket, which makes direct, display ad sales easier for advertisers and online publishers (which is the industry term for larger websites). We’re developing some awesome technology that makes the money flow more efficiently between advertisers and publishers. Display advertising (those banner ads that you see everywhere) is an $11 billion market and the fact is that it should be a lot bigger (TV advertising is a $190 billion market), but right now it’s just too hard for advertisers to buy display advertising and for publishers to sell it. Good thing we’re here to help, huh?

So what do I actually do at isocket?

Before I get too far into what I’m doing for isocket now, it’s important to know that I was the first employee that we (or “they” at the time) hired (we’re up to 11 people now). That was just over two years ago and if you want you can read the official blog post that I wrote welcoming myself to the team over here on the isocket blog.

Being the first employee means that I’ve pretty much had my hand in everything that we’ve done up to this point. I was the main point of contact with our first customers, I came up with new features that we added to the product and I even helped with recruiting new people to join our team. When there’s only a few people and you’re trying to change an entire industry, there’s a lot of work to do.

When you’re the first employee of any company you need to be able to do whatever it takes to keep the momentum moving in the right direction and you also need to be able to thrive in chaos on a daily basis. One of the main reasons why I wanted to join isocket in the first place was so that I could see firsthand what it’s like to get a startup off the ground and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten so far. Has it been crazy? Oh yeah, but it’s been a lot of fun, too.

As we’ve grown I’ve been able to focus my responsibilities on sales and marketing and my official title is now Director of Marketing, although I think that sounds kinda lame. It makes me sounds important, but it’s just not nearly as fun as my last title, which was Customer BFF (Best Friend Forever).

Sales and marketing covers a lot for a startup that’s trying to move as fast as we are. At the stage we’re at now it’s all about creating as much surface area in the market as we can for our brand and vision all while building relationships with as many premium advertisers, publishers and media planning/purchasing systems as possible. I help us do this through lots of different ways which I can explain later, but I’ll just say that it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s moving fast.

So in summary…

I’m hoping this all makes sense, but if you need one more short and sweet explanation for what I’m doing out here in Silicon Valley, here’s a cliff notes version.

1. I work for a tech startup called isocket and we’re an advertising company that’s making it easier for advertisers and websites to do business together.

2. I was the first employee at isocket and have been there for just over two years. I’m currently the Director of Marketing and my job is to get our vision out into the marketplace and to create relationships with as many advertisers and websites as possible.

3. I get to bring Frank to work (I don’t think I mentioned that earlier).

If you have any questions about my job or about isocket, please let me know and there’s a lot more where this came from.

 

Steve Jobs Had The Pug Bug

I had dinner the other night with my friend Amanda, who is not only a fellow Pug owner, but also runs the awesomely entertaining Daily Puglet, and she let me in on some great Steve Jobs trivia. I’m not sure if you happened to know this (or if you even come close to caring), but apparently Steve Jobs had the Pug bug.

I didn’t believe Amanda when she first told me, but once I got home I Googled it and here’s what I found:

I’m not sure what his Pug’s name is, but I’m I think that Amanda said it was “Baby”. Not a great name for a Pug, but regardless it’s a good looking fawn that might be Frank’s doppelgänger (I love when I get to use that word).

Where Do You Get Your Energy From?

Everyone wants more energy. The more energy we have the more we can do, the more we can do the more productive we can become and the more productive we can become the more valuable we are to society. Energy is an interesting thing that I think about a lot. When I feel energetic I love it and I can’t get enough. It’s like a drug that I want to keep using as long as I can. I get more things done, I think clearer and I have an increased interest in other people.

Most ways that people get energy are temporary. This could be from a cup of coffee, a Red Bull (who just gave my office a couple cases yesterday) or a 5 hour energy shot. These various energy drinks are a multi-billion dollar industry and believe me, I’ve spent my fair share of money on them (and sometimes I still do). I have no idea what the long-term side effects are, but if taken at a higher than recommended level I can’t see how any of these options can be good for you. Plus, I’ve always found that they become addictive over time, which is never good.

Of course there are other ways of getting more long-term and sustainable energy, but it’s not going to be as easy as picking up a can of caffeine at the gas station. Eating healthy, getting more sleep and exercising can give you the same results all without the side effects that you’re going to have from drinking energy drinks.

Is it easy to tap into your natural energy this way? Heck no, it’s actually pretty hard and it takes time and focus to sustain it. But, I can guarantee that if you stick with it and start to see the difference between getting your energy from a can or from a run — there’s no way you’ll ever go back.

I’m working to keep my energy sources natural, but I’ll admit that sometimes I fall off the horse and end up buying Big Gulps full of Mountain Dew on a daily basis. Although it does feel pretty awesome for the first couple days or so, eventually I get hit with the side effects and the fact that I can’t rely on the tasty, yellow caffeinated goodness for all of the energy that I need to make it through my week. It just doesn’t work for me and it won’t work for you as a long-term way to keep you productive.

 

My Fascination With Consistency

I’m fascinated with consistency. Mainly because it’s something that you can’t fake and it’s the key to seeing success in everything you do. I don’t care if it’s brushing your teeth, moving up the corporate ladder, getting in shape or a relationship with your neighbor — consistency is key.

I’m not good with consistency. In fact, I’m really bad at it. I love when things change and I seem to enjoy chaos in whatever I do. I think this makes me a great startup guy, but it tends to make me a bad husband, friend and long-term employee. I’m a lot better at being consistent than I used to be, so apparently it’s something you can learn, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Something that I’ve learned about consistency is that there’s a breaking point where my fight and struggle against being consistent is overtaken by the positive feeling of staying on course and turning something into a habit.

I’m not sure if that makes sense for anyone outside of my head, so let me give you an example. Once I’ve been running consistently for a few weeks and I start to feel in shape my fight against consistency starts to fade away. This is due to my growing sense of accomplishment which comes from the recognizable evidence that my efforts have, in fact, resulted in me getting what I initially wanted.

This is when it gets interesting because my new sense of accomplishment results in more motivation to continue with the consistency, which then leads to even more positive results and the cycle continues.

At this point you’re usually on top of your game. You’re running farther than you ever have before or you’re making more moves at work than you ever thought you could. At this point truly consistent people keep on pushing and move on to bigger and better things while others take this sense of accomplishment as an opportunity and right to be less consistent.

This, my friends is called complacency and when you let it creep into your mind it will make all of the work and consistent focus that you’ve had up to this point completely worthless. I don’t have time to go into it now, but this is something that I’ll dig deeper into some other time.

Until then, be consistent and don’t give up too soon. Consistency over time equals results, so stick with it!

Need Sleepy

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself over the past couple of years it’s the fact that I really need my sleep to be a positively contributing member of society. If I have 7-8 hours of sleep under my belt when I get out of bed in the morning, watch out world because I’m coming at you full force like a boss.

The words that would describe me when I get some sleep would be:

– motivated
– fun
– loving
– creative
– spontaneous
– patient
– relaxed
– social

On the other hand, if I don’t get any sleep (or enough) then I tend to be better described as:

– cranky
– boring
– uptight
– anti-social
– a terrible husband

The funny thing is that I used to be able to go with practically no sleep and there was usually one day a week when I didn’t sleep at all (p.s. that’s not a good idea). Of course, that was also when I worked by myself most of the day and wasn’t married. I’m sure that I was just as bad back then, but the thing was that I was a lot younger and there was no one to let me know about it. Plus, I would put back some caffeine like it was going out of style so even if I actually was tired I would never know it (p.s. that’s not a good idea, either).

So, what now? Well, I don’t drink any caffeine anymore and I’m doing my best to get some sleep and it seems to be doing the trick. I’m not saying that I’m getting all of the sleep I need (it’s really hard for me to go to bed early), but I am giving it a good effort.

I know that it sounds really lame, but figuring out what keeps you energized throughout the day is really important and for most of us it’s getting the sleep that we need to cover the amount of activity we do during the day. Do a lot? Well, then you better sleep a lot, too.

Want to hear what people who are way smarter than me say about getting sleep? Check out this Harvard post from 2006 titled 6 Reasons Not To Scimp On Sleep.

 

Socializing Your Issues Is The First Step To Healing

Do you ever wonder why you have to go through some of the hard things that you face in life? I know it’s hard to believe, but you’re not the only one who goes through tough times. Even though it seems like there’s no rhyme or reason why you, of all people, have to deal with the problems you face in life there actually is an explanation.

There are two reasons why you have to endure pain, suffering and other issues in your life:

1. It forces you to rely on others and to break out of the thought of self-reliance.
2. Once you’ve made it through the issue, been forced to socialize it and have healed from it, it’s then your opportunity to help someone else through the same situation. You’re healed, so now it’s your turn to heal others.

I know it’s hard to believe that we, as Americans, need to rely on other people. But, at some point in our lives we’re going to get to a place to where we’re no longer in control and at that point we will need the help of others to get us through.

We’ll have a choice to either socialize our issues and start the healing process or keep it to ourselves and let our pride, shame, embarrassment or self-reliance get in the way. One way you never have to let others know you’re not perfect and the other way will start you on the road to recovery. Which choice will you make?

An Awesome Date Night And Getting To Know My Wife

Tonight I had an awesome dinner with my wife Stephanie — it’s our weekly Friday date night (which I highly suggest all married and crazy busy couples should do). We decided to go to an Afghan restaurant near my office in Burlingame. It’s a little expensive, but the food is tasty and the atmosphere is perfect for our end of the week dinner date. We had a nice seat next to the window and the candle light was flickering off of the table, creating dancing shadows across the bright white tablecloth. I could tell is was going to be a great date night.

We ordered ourselves some drinks and toasted to a work-related accomplishment that I had achieved this past week and after that the conversation just started flowing and things felt right in the world. Date night is there to bring us back together after a hectic week of work along with all of the other things that seem to always sneak their way into Monday through Friday. Some date nights are better than others, but they’re all good in my book. I love my wife in a big way and any time that I can get her attention all to myself in this type of setting is a blessing in my book. With that being said, tonight was good.

Why was tonight so good? It was good because we had some real talk about some real things that matter to both of us. It was good because we can communicate with each other in such an open and honest way (it wasn’t always like that). It was good because Afghan food is so ridiculously tasty. It was good because I was with my wife and nothing else mattered tonight besides the fact that we were together and talking and enjoying each other’s company.

I’ve realized that it’s possible to be married to someone and not really know who they are. In fact, it’s real easy and it’s too easy. Date night helps us find each other again each week so that we can continue getting to know each other. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop learning about my wife and I hope I never do.

Check please — until next Friday.

 

Losing Your Writing Voice

Writing, just like anything else, is something that you need to keep in shape. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. I call this losing your voice. Not losing your voice like the time when you drank too much with your fraternity brothers and kept on screaming “I LOVE YOU GUYS!” every 5 minutes.

I mean like losing your voice in a different way. Losing it in a way that means that the longer you don’t write on a regular basis the weirder and more awkward it feels the next time that you decide to put some thoughts down on paper. You lose your flow and what was once easy slowly becomes more and more difficult. It really sucks and whether most of them know it or not t’s usually the reason why most bloggers end up leaving their blog for dead.

Of course, that also can go the other way and I would have to say that learning your voice and continuing to refine it is one of the most important thing that a writer (and especially a blogger) can do. The bloggers and other writers who can nail this and keep at it until their voice is well known, admired and listened to over and over again will become the one’s who can turn it into a fulltime gig. You gotta love the web for that.

So where is my voice at these days? I would say that between learning to type the right way and being terrible with making time for this blog my voice has a long way to go.But, it’s up to me and for the rest of you to find the voice that we all have inside of us and let it be all that it can be.

Does anyone even care about our voices? If we don’t get to the point to where we really know what our voice is we’ll never know that answer. How about we keep on writing and we’ll figure it out together.

Time, Your Most Valuable Asset

As I’ve gotten older and my life has gone through several major changes over the past few years (moving, getting married, becoming a Christian) I’ve realized that time is the most valuable asset that I have. I’ve just started putting some thought into this, but here are some reasons why I say this.

For one, it’s a limited resource and none of us know how much of it we have left. Although many of us don’t think about time like this, it’s true. We’re here now, but we might not be here tomorrow. This means that what we choose to spend our time on is what we feel like is most important in our lives. It’s really that simple.

Also, even though we don’t know how much time we have left in our lives we still have control over what we decide to spend our time on while we’re still here. There are only 24 hours in a day and it’s up to you how you spend them. As you get older you’re going to have more and more restrictions on your time which will make it even more important to manage the time that you have free to spend doing what you want.

As a recently married man (my wife and I just celebrated our two year anniversary), I would have to say that I’m pretty bad at managing my time. Ok, that’s not the truth — I’m really bad.

This is because when I was single I had all of the time in the world to get the things done that I needed to do, but that’s changed. The minute you add a wife that you love and always want to be with into the mix things change. It’s been an incredible learning experience for me and thanks to the amazing patience of my wife I’m slowly getting better with my time and how I spend it.

We’re learning all of this together and it’s tough. It’s really tough. Bringing together two selfish people who have ideas of what they think is the best to do with their time is always going to be hard. We’re still learning how do best manage this and I’m sure we’ll still be learning twenty years from now.

One thing I’ve learned through these first two years of marriage and something that all married men should be aware of is that if you want to show your wife how much you love her then you need to show her that she’s worth your time.

How can you show your wife that she’s worth your time? Here are a few ways that I try (remember, I’m still learning):

  • Watching TV together (even if it’s Jersey Shore)
  • Plan things ahead of time (dinner/date night/weekend trips)
  • Cards and flowers (what you write is more important than you think)
  • Take the time to look nice for your wife when you go out (I still suck at this one)
  • Hide notes in places that you know she’ll find later (sunglasses case, purse, clothing pockets)
  • Don’t go straight home after you do something together — go have some coffee or dessert somewhere (it’s good to have time to simply have conversations with no distractions)
  • Keep the phone in your pocket (that Facebook update will still be there when you get home)

I hope these help and if you have any other ways that I should add to the list, feel free to let me know in the comments below. I’m going to be writing more about these types of things that I think a lot about and anything that you can along the way is always appreciated.

 

The Mailing Ruth Project

Several months ago I got into the habit of writing my 95 year-old grandma hand-written letters and it was awesome. Very quickly we became pen pals and every week or so I would send out a new letter to her and in return I would get one right back. It’s an old school way to do things, but it’s how she was used to doing it (she doesn’t use email) and it was always cool to get something in the mail besides bills and junk pre-approved credit card offers.

My grandma and I did this for a few months or so, but I broke the commitment when Stephanie and I went on our mission trip to the Congo. Fast forward about six months later and even though I would love to start writing more letters to grandma I haven’t found a way to make it happen. Sad, I know, but it’s the truth. It’s something that I’ve thought about doing quite a bit, but I’ve never pulled the trigger on actually sitting down and writing another letter.

The Mailing Ruth Project Idea

But, a couple of weeks ago an idea hit me. If I had liked sending letters back and forth to grandma I bet that the rest of the family would enjoy it, too. Not to mention that if grandma loved getting letters from me I bet that she would be ecstatic to get some from the rest of the 80+ family members that are listed under her on the family tree. This idea of creating a way for the rest of the family to send letters to grandma got my wheels turning and quickly I came up with a way that I thought I could make it happen.

I named the project “Mailing Ruth” (that’s my grandma’s real name that I never call her by) and decided the goal would be to create a way for me and the rest of my family to send grandma something every, single day until the end of the year (without telling her we were doing it — surprise!). If I could help make sure that there would be something new in her mailbox everyday from now until New Years I would be happy and I knew that grandma would be, too. It’s also worth noting that she’s not getting out as much as she used to these days so finding something from her family in her mailbox each day would mean ever more to her.

The Details To Make It Happen

I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible and since I needed all of my family to participate it needed to be quick to join and easy to understand. I decided to set up a spreadsheet in Google Docs that included two columns — 1. Date and 2. Mail Sender. The dates extended until the end of the year (which was about 150 days) and the instructions were simple:

1. Choose 4-5 dates when you can send grandma something in the mail.
2. Add your name next to those days.
3. Mark the days you choose on your calendar and don’t forget to send out something to grandma on those days.

Here’s what the spreadsheet looked like after being filled in by a few family members:

Socializing The Idea And Getting Early Adopters

I added my name to the spreadsheet 5 times and then chatted with my sister to tell her about the idea to see what she thought and to also get her involved. She instantly loved the idea and quickly went and added her names to the list, too. This was an important moment as I had scored my first contributor with little effort which made me hopeful about getting the rest of the family to join in, too.

Next I called my mom and told her about the idea and although she didn’t instantly add her names to the list she seemed to like what I was trying to do and gave me some ideas on how to reach the rest of the family. I sent her an email with some instructions on how to pick her dates and she ended up filling it out within the next 24 hours after I followed up with her a few times to make sure that she knew what she needed to do.

Spreading The Idea To Influencers And Beyond

After my mom added herself to the list and now that I had a few spots filled out it was time to reach out the rest of my family so that they could join in. This meant that I needed to come up with an email that could be forwarded around the rest of my family so they not only understood what I was trying to do with the project, but that also got them all excited enough to join in and participate (and get other family members that I didn’t know how to reach involved, too). I needed the email to be short and sweet, but it also needed to clearly explain what I was trying to do with the Mailing Ruth Project and why they should participate.

Here’s the email I sent:

———-

I wanted to send you a message real quick about a new idea that I’m working on called Mailing Ruth. It’s basically a way for grandma Honnold to get a new letter or card from one of her family members until the end of the calendar year. Of course, it will also be a really cool surprise for her that she’ll enjoy (be sure not to tell grandma anything about this, it’s a family secret!). It’s a pretty simple idea and it actually got kicked off today by Angie (she sent off the first letter to grandma this morning) — all I need now is the rest of the able members of the Honnold family tree to join in the fun, too (this means you, of course).

Here’s what I need you to do:

1. Add your name to the Mailing Ruth list under MAIL SENDER 4-5 times, which you can do over in this spreadsheet: https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Avsar8uugozCdGJfdmtpQV (please list yourself individually and not as a couple/family so that we can have as many people involved as possible)

2. Be sure to mark the specific days on your calendar so that you can mail out your letter or card to grandma when you’re supposed to (it’s very important to send them out on time)

3. Send this message to the as many other members of the Honnold family so that they can add their names to the list, too.

4. Send the cards and letters and help give grandma Honnold an awesome surprise!

If you have any questions about this please feel free to email me back at ryan.hupfer@gmail.com or call me.

Thanks for playing along and I can’t wait to hear all about this from grandma – she’s going to love it! 

———-

After mailing that out to a few of my more communicative family members (the family influencers, if you will) the spreadsheet started to fill up before my very eyes. Family members of all ages and from all across the nation added their names to the list and picked out the 4-5 days that they were dedicated to sending grandma something in the mail. Of course I had to follow-up with some of the emails to make sure that people were following through with adding themselves to the list, but as the spreadsheet filled out more and more it became more appealing to the rest of the family since they didn’t want to miss out on participating.

Mailing Ruth Project Update

As of now, we’re 10 days from the first date on the spreadsheet (which is when I sent out the first mail to grandma) and we only have 35 spots left to fill out of the original 151. Now that most of the family is involved it’s going to be easy to get a few more so that all of the dates are filled. I know of a few family members who want to join, but who haven’t added their names, so what I’m going to do is make it easy on them by adding their names myself and emailing them the days that they’re responsible for. I’m more than happy to do this and doing the work for the last few people is all part of getting a project like this 100% completed.

I can’t wait to talk to my grandma to see how she’s been and to hear about what’s new. For some reason I feel like she’s going to have some news to share about getting mail from the family. That’s going to be really fun to hear about.