Punchbowl gets a new HQ

February 6, 2008

The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Punchbowl team. We’ve moved!

We’ve opened our new office in Framingham, MA just a few minutes away from the I-90 highway (for those of you not from this area, we’re about 30 minutes from Boston, without traffic). It’s a great location for our employees, and provides room for us to grow in the future.

The new office is pretty spacious and has a couple of great rooms: one we’ve nicknamed “The Bowl” and the other “The Cave.” I work in the Cave– despite it’s nickname, it has a nice window and lots of natural light. The Bowl is the main room where the real work takes place. We’re really happy with the setup and vibe of that room in particular.

We have plenty of space in the office, with room for brainstorming on the whiteboard and meetings. There’s also a “lounge” area which is great for lunch and impromptu discussions. We also have a conference room which we can use for more formal meetings with investors or partners.

There are a few other tenants in the building, and it’s a dog-friendly office. Don’t tell his owner, but we’ve adopted one of the other residents of the building… meet the newest Punchbowler (his name is “Mozart”):

mozart.jpg

If you’re a friend of Punchbowl (canine or otherwise), we hope you’ll get a chance to come by and see our new digs at some point. But make sure you come with a plant or other foliage in hand– we could use some!

The new Punchbowl office is located at 873 Concord Street, Framingham, MA 01701.

Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


Groundhog Day Party: What I’ve learned

February 1, 2008

There’s an saying in startup companies: “you don’t really know your product until you’ve eaten your own dog-food.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve been using MyPunchbowl on a daily basis as I planned our 12th annual Groundhog Day party. I’d like to think that I know my own product very well, but these last few weeks have helped crystallize my impressions of the product that I’ve helped build. Here’s a quick list of what I’ve learned:

Co-hosts: By far, one of the best features of MyPunchbowl is the ability to have co-hosts. I wish every MyPunchbowl user knew about this feature. As far as I know, we’re the only party planning website to offer true co-hosting. I made my wife a co-host and she’s been able to keep track of the guest list and party checklist by logging into her own account. Awesome.

Manage Guests page: I’m surprised at just how many times I’ve interacted with the Manage Guests page. It’s very useful and has all of the key features that I need. One problem that I’ve spoken with the team about: in my opinion, the page loads too slow. I have about 65 guests on the page, and it takes about 4 seconds to load. Too slow. Look for performance enhancements on this page in the future.

Party Checklist: Very, very useful. It’s great to be able to make a list of everything that we need and have guests choose something off of the list. It really helps relieve the burden of having to handle everything. Example: We put “6 packs of beer” on the list (8 of these), and they have all been taken care of by the guests who are coming. Wishlist: I wish I could set up SMS reminders for checklist items so that the people who agreed to bring something would get a reminder on their phone. Look for SMS integration throughout MyPunchbowl in the future.

RSVP Responses: Another fantastic thing about MyPunchbowl. I love that those who are not coming can send me a private note easily. The people who aren’t coming took the time to write significant, personal notes to me. On other sites, a guest who responds ‘no’ has to try to come up with a witty response (because everyone is going to see it). On MyPunchbowl, the guest can send the host a private note, allowing for a more personal connection. Awesome.

Party Themes: I’m really happy with all of the great themes that MyPunchbowl provides. I was quickly able to find a Groundhog Day party theme that fit what I was looking for. I love how easy it was to sort through the hundreds of templates. My favorite feature on this page is how I can find templates using keywords. I simply went to “G” and chose Groundhog. Simple and easy to use.

All in all, I’m really happy with MyPunchbowl. It really helped us with our party planning, and my wife and I feel relaxed and ready to welcome around 30 guests into our home on Saturday.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


Hey Mike Arrington, get your hands off of me

December 19, 2007

Before the TechCrunch Boston Meetup, I had never met Michael Arrington. (For those of you who don’t know, TechCrunch is a very popular blog in the startup world, and Mike is the founder. As a result, he enjoys “celebrity” status in the startup world and also has his share of detractors).

Now before you read further, you should know a few things. First, I’m not personal friends with Mike — in fact, I don’t know him very well at all. Like most startup entrepreneurs, I simply sent TechCrunch information about MyPunchbowl.com a few days before we launched. I have some experience in PR, so I wrote Mike a pointed email telling him why he should care about MyPunchbowl. Of course, I was very happy when he emailed me back to say that TechCrunch was interested in taking a look. A few days later, I met with Nick Gonzales. Nick is a great person and he really took the time to understand why MyPunchbowl is different. TechCrunch covered our initial launch and again when we launched “Pick a Date.”

Throughout my dealings with TechCrunch, I’ve mostly dealt directly with Nick, but Mike and I have traded a few emails and spoke on the phone once. No interactions of consequence.

Fast forward to the TechCrunch Boston Meetup. I spent most of the night around our demo area talking to users, VCs, and press folks. One of Punchbowl’s board members is Don Dodge, and at one point towards the beginning of the night, Don pulled me aside to introduce me to Mike. We said our pleasantries, I thanked him for inviting us to sponsor, and I moved on. What transpired after our initial introduction was amusing to say the least.

The announcement podium was near our demo area, so Mike was back and forth near our demo area throughout the night. We were very crowded, so it was a tight fit to get by. At one point, as Mike walked by, I put a MyPunchbowl “World’s Greatest Host” sticker on him. With a smirk and a sarcastic comment, he accepted. Here’s Mike sporting the MyPunchbowl sticker:

mpb_techcrunch_boston_21_sm.png

Later, Mike inadvertently bumped into me as he passed by our demo area. He jokingly asked, “Who are you? Have we met?” Apparently Mike didn’t know I’m from New York. I pushed him back, pretty hard. Mike’s a big guy, and he was pretty amused at all 155lbs of me leaning into his shoulder. He smiled, and continued on.

20 minutes later, the scene repeated (Like I said, it was pretty crowded…). A smile, a smirk, a slightly harder bump — and he moved on. I’m pretty sure I talked trash and said something to rile him up, but I don’t remember what it was.

About an hour later, the scene repeated yet again. This time he leaned his shoulder into me pretty hard as he passed by. And then we had this exchange:

Matt: (I got in his face.) “Hey Mike, I’m going to kick your ass.” He seemed to liked the challenge.

Mike: “When are you going to stop busting my balls?” He towered over me.

Matt: “When the %^$* are you going to actually look at my site?” (note: although TechCrunch has reviewed the site and we sponsored their event, Mike has never actually registered on the site as far as I know).

Mike: “Give me one reason I should bother.”

Matt: “Because I spent the last 3 years of my life and most of my savings on this startup.”

Mike: (Thinks for a second, takes my card and puts it into his shirt pocket) “Yeah, ok.”

And then….. Mike hugs me. It was a kind of sarcastic “I feel your pain” hug, and he held on as if to prove his point. I laugh and tell him that I won’t let him forget that moment…

Later, I’m downstairs and I tell Don Dodge about what happened upstairs earlier. And he insists on a picture between Mike and I to reenact the moment.

matt__mike2.jpg

I’m sure Mike gets hundreds of emails a day — and my guess is that at least 80% of them are people kissing his ass and pitching for coverage on TechCrunch. I don’t know exactly what that’s like, but I have a good idea. When I was at Adobe, I got hundreds of emails a day. It was a constant battle to separate the noise from the gems. Eventually you turn cynical to just about everybody — that is, unless they do something to show you that they are different.

So what have I learned about what Mike Arrington and Matt Douglas have in common? Like me, Mike has a sarcastic sense of humor and enjoys a challenge. He’s got a soft spot for the “truth” about what it takes to start from nothing and build a startup. And while he geninuely enjoys recognition, he can laugh at himself and the absurdity of it all.

I’m not friends with Mike– but get us away from the tech/startup world and I think he and I would enjoy having a few beers and playing competitive air hockey. Just for the record, I’d win.

Here’s another shot of Mike and I at the end of the night:

mpb_techcrunch_boston_27_sm.png

So Mike… if you’ve read this far: when are you going to create an account and let me know what you think about MyPunchbowl.com? Don’t make me hunt you down — I may be small, but I pack a hell of a punch.

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Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


The Kiva.org CTO

December 16, 2007

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Kiva is an interesting company. They are in the business of “micro-lending.” Here’s the basic jist: individuals like you and me can donate small amounts of money (e.g. $10 or $25) directly to businesses in developing countries. Kiva processes the money, and connects to the organizations that provide financing to small (often entrepreneurial) businesses. It’s a great startup, and I’m proud that I’ve (finally) joined Kiva as a user.

But I’m even more proud that my cousin Sam is the Chief Technical Officer of Kiva. (For those keeping track at home, Sam is actually my cousin-in-law, but since I’ve known him for many years, I’ve now adopted him).

Sam is the perfect software engineer. He’s got the geek thing totally down: the type of programmer who talks to himself as he’s coding and who sees the best solution for any problem. The Kiva job is great for him too. It appeals to his sense of responsibility for the world and offers its fair share of technical challenges.

Sam is a very generous person. I’ve been to San Francisco four times already this year, and I’m going again this coming week. Sam not only picks me up and drops me at the airport, but he gives me a place to sleep at his apartment (usually for a week at a time). If that wasn’t enough, he provides me his car so I can shoot up and down the peninsula. Sam has literally saved me thousands of dollars in hotel stays, airport transfers, and car rentals. On my last trip, he wouldn’t even let me pay for gas. Well, sorry Sam—I’ve just made the first of many donations through Kiva in your honor. If you won’t let me pay it back, I’ll pay it forward.

I hope all of the readers of this blog will visit Kiva.org and sign up for a free account. And if you see any problems with the site, let me know. I know the guy who can fix them.

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Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


Nominate MyPunchbowl for the Crunchies

December 3, 2007

A few of the leading tech blogs are sponsoring a new awards competition for 2007. The blogs involved are TechCrunch (thus the name “Crunchies”), GigaOm (we like them, although they’ve never written about MyPunchbowl), VentureBeat (great blog for any VC deal news), and Read/WriteWeb (good blog for up-to-date product news).

You can participate by nominating MyPunchbowl to one of the 20 categories. To nominate MyPunchbowl or yours truly, visit the Crunchies nomination page.

Thanks for your support of MyPunchbowl.com.

P.S. Shameless plug: Did you miss that?!? You can nominate me….

crunchies2.jpg

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Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


Are we in a bubble?

November 27, 2007

Scott Kirsner wrote an article this past weekend for his Innovation Economy column in the Boston Globe. In the article, he looks at the question of whether or not we are in a economic bubble. As is typical with Scott’s longer form pieces, he sought out opinions from both sides and he does a great job of interviewing people with many different opinions.

Along with the article, Scott produced a video with short interviews of people with opinions on the subject. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Scott at the TechCrunch Boston event.

I’d like to take a moment to add to the few points I made in the video:

  1. I believe that startups whose sole business model is advertising will have a hard time as we go deeper into 2008 and 2009. Although the market for online advertising is growing rapidly, there simply is not enough demand to fill the supply of startups who believe they can build a business solely on advertising revenue.
  2. I believe that we are in a “startup bubble.” It seems everyday there is a new social network that launches and yet another website that aims at a specific vertical. They can’t all co-exist. At some point, the startup activity will slow down.
  3. Companies (like Punchbowl Software) that have a hybrid business model will be able to adapt more quickly to any economic downturn. At this point, we have more business development opportunities for e-commerce partnerships than we can handle. While we believe that a large percentage of our future revenue will indeed come from advertising, we’re building a diverse business that we believe will help us weather the storm of any economic downturn.
  4. I expect that merger and acquisition activity will pick up significantly during 2008 and 2009. As small companies feel less sure of their ability to survive in an uncertain market and large companies look to invest in new technology and services, I think we’ll see a lot of consolidation in the market. In the past, this would have fueled even more startup activity — over the next 1-2 years I think you’ll see this will have the short-term effect to dry up the startup community.
  5. As always, the market is goes in cycles. A few years from now, everyone will be asking if we are in a recession. I believe that the cycles will be much shorter over the next decade– so we will see more highs and lows. In this kind of a market, timing is everything. Let’s hope Punchbowl Software is in the right place at the right time.

Whether or not we are in an economic bubble this time is debatable and maybe even laughable, but I think one thing we all agree on is that it is a great time to be an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Scott for including Punchbowl in his interview. Scott is great for Boston– he’s asking the hard questions and raising the consciousness of the entire community. As a journalist, I can’t imagine that there is anything more rewarding.

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Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl


Holiday Party Planning: MyPunchbowl gets a Face-lift

November 19, 2007

This morning, we announced a brand-new version of MyPunchbowl.com. We’re very excited about this new release — it’s a complete face-lift of the site and we’ve added a few new features as well. It’s been quite a team effort, and we’re all really proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s hard to explain how good it feels to ship a new release after months of feature spec’ing and testing, and this one feels better than most. We would love to hear your feedback: particularly we would love to know what you think about the overall new look as well as the new theme selector. To send us feedback, click “Feedback/Support” at the bottom of any page on MyPunchbowl.com. So what are you waiting for? Go check out our new release and start your holiday party planning!

Follow the link for the press release….

MyPunchbowl gets a face-lift in time for holiday party planning

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Party Planning and Online Invitations with MyPunchbowl