Home > Business, People > New Friends, New Technology and an Imaginary Resort

New Friends, New Technology and an Imaginary Resort

Terry Williams at Brasserie 73

Terry Williams, venture capitalist, at Brasserie 73 sharing insights into the new economy over a glass of wine.

Between the money spent on our house in Skippack, the ravages of the current economy and news about full body scans and pat downs at airports, I do not anticipate any vacations to exotic destinations in the foreseeable future. Fortunately the immediate surroundings here in Skippack provide variety.

For example, one of my favorite places to enjoy a drink in our quaint hood is Brasserie 73, a restaurant inspired by a building on the French Riviera. With dark wood paneling, a fireplace, high ceilings, candelabra-style lighting and large French doors, this stylish room creates an atmosphere of elegance and cozy luxury. The fine meals served here I reserve for special occasions but if I need a change of scene, I can get a glass of wine in the bar and soak in the lush atmosphere.

Another way to experience the world without leaving town is getting to know new people, especially people whose orbit is a bit out of my reach. Or so I think sipping wine at Brasserie 73 with a new friend, Terry Williams, a local resident who I have gotten to know during the months I have lived in Skippack. Terry is a venture capitalist who invests in new companies. For twenty-three years, he has helped build companies in the technology and service sectors. In addition, he describes himself as a serial entrepreneur and an angel investor, meaning he not only starts new companies but also invests his own time and money in other businesses.

Right now, Terry is drawing his concept for a new start up company for me on a cocktail napkin and I am nodding my head hoping he thinks I understand. Shooting the breeze with Terry in the surroundings of Brasserie 73 I feel like I am traveling beyond the dingy office cubicles where I have eked out salary, and entering a world where the making a living is an adventure. In this world, technology is slick, a false move is costly, and a profitable deal sends adrenaline flowing through your body like an electric current.

Terry is soft-spoken and modest, and if he perceives I am a step or two behind his conceptual thinking as he starts labeling his diagram of a new company, he does not show any impatience. Terry’s ideas are big but they are rooted in the reality of experience. He has learned how to cross that great divide between entrepreneurial dream and financial reality. I wonder if he will reveal to me any secrets of his success.

Terry tells me that people like him who become risk-taking entrepreneurs are rarely A students; they are B students, who commonly participate in sports or other organized social activities. Terry himself ran track and cross country and played basketball in high school. It makes sense. To get an A in class one has to be a bit too obedient to authority, a bit too much of a conventional thinker, and a bit too eager to please others to grow up to become an entrepreneur. Oh, young people, strive for Bs, not As.

After college, Terry began his career as an executive recruiter and worked his way to become co-founder and managing partner at Next Stage Capital; You can find a brief history of Terry’s career here.

Terry tells me about a new company called Movitas he helped to develop and finance and now oversees as a member of the board of directors. His fellow co-founders, partners and board members are Pat Croce, former President of the Philadelphia 76ers, entrepreneur and author and Mike McNulty, former co-founder of the high-flying Internet company, VerticalNet.

Movitas is a mobile marketing software company that serves the travel and tourism business sector. It provides hotels and resorts with ways to make additional revenue through mobile commerce, messaging and social media. One way Movitas software benefits hotels and resorts as well as tourists: It enables delivery of marketing messages and announcements to prospective visitors and guests who use PDAs or smartphones, mobile devices that can connect to the Internet. Popular examples of such devices include the BlackBerry, Droid and iPhone.

Since my wife Debby and I put our travel plans on hold and I have yet to buy a smartphone, I must use my imagination to understand Movitas: I imagine Debby and I are planning a vacation to a luxury resort:

• Before we arrive, using technology supplied by Movitas, the resort sends us enticing email messages, connects us to local tour operators, informs us of special offers, and enables us to easily make reservations and plan activities by pushing buttons on our imaginary smartphone.

My wife Debby after makeover

My wife Debby shows off the results of the makeover she got at the imaginary resort we visited.

• Once we arrive, my wife Debby decides she wants a makeover at the salon, but the salon is booked up. At the last minute, another guest cancels her reservation and creates an opening. Movitas technology provides a way for the resort to let my wife know about the sudden opening at the salon, and believe me, she will take it.

• Once we go back home to Skippack, thanks to Movitas, the resort has an electronic record of our likes and preferences. Armed with this information, they can sell marketing services to other restaurants and entertainment venues in their local area. The next time we make a reservation at the same imaginary resort (we had such a good time the first imaginary visit), we receive information about additional restaurants, activities, and services, precisely matched to our taste and preferences.

Movitas uses mobile technology to add a new dimension to travel for the tourist and new opportunities for revenue the hotel and resort industry. And someday, Debby and I will be taking to the road again and what I imagine here will become real.

But for now, I am still at the Brasserie 73 in Skippack. A couple thoughts cross my mind: Terry and I both passed the mid-century mark: It is cool to see a man about my age at ease with cutting-edge technology, confidently making deals on the frontier of a new economy. However, I can’t help but wonder what is my own place is this brave new hi tech world. I am an aging would-be poet, most comfortable in my library reading Charles Dickens. I eye my computer warily even as I use it to keep my skill set relevant. Somehow, Terry’s soft-spoken demeanor reassures me that the next economic wave is nothing to fear.

But what about my town Skippack, a town which stubbornly holds on to its identity as a quaint collection of locally-owned shops and restaurants: It is no secret that many stores here struggle to survive. How should our village navigate the new economy?

Photo of Terry Williams

Terry Williams believes business is now all about building community, a valuable lesson for our beloved but sometimes struggling town.

Terry explains his perspective on the Skippack economy: Small business owners with shared interests are learning they are better off joining together and marketing their goods and services jointly to a much larger group of potential customers. He advises the business owners in Skippack to work together to get the word out about this quaint, historic Pennsylvania town.

Business today is all about identifying the characteristics of potential customers and using social media to build communities where potential customers can interact with service providers and each other. Social communities provide the foundation for sharing information and creating greater awareness of products and services.

Start low-tech and then go hi-tech: Put an easily-recognizable bowl in every shop and restaurant in Skippack to collect business cards, email addresses and cell phone numbers of visitors. Then combine all the email addresses and cell phone numbers into a single electronic list that will serve the entire Skippack business community. Using this list as a foundation, leverage the opportunities offered by text messaging and social media. Use technology to create a much larger community out of the people who come to this town to shop and dine and who appreciate its wonderful uniqueness.

Talking about social media with venture capitalist Terry Williams at the lush but cozy Brasserie 73 in Skippack, my friendly mom-and-pop town: It seems like the best of the old economy combined with the best of the new economy. There’s a mixed drink for you. Cheers.

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Categories: Business, People
  1. Barbara Hermansen
    December 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Sounds like a terrific place to visit with friends over a glass of wine. Great insight for parents about the A student v. B student distinction. Food for thought.

  2. Megan Clemmer
    December 14, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Hey Michael!

    Just wanted to see if you would like to set up a time to meet and chat about the events in town
    as we discussed a couple months ago.

    Thanks!
    Megan

    • December 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

      Megan, I am working on a new blog entry now — get ready for the holiday special. Will send you an email as soon as I am finished. Thanks!

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