Back in 2008 Wil and I dusted off our finest wrinkle-free dress shirts and sports coats and hopped on an expensive flight to Los Angeles. We went because a woman who worked in HR at a large pizza chain had emailed us about the possibility of rolling out Schedulefly to all of their restaurants – I think they owned a few hundred and she wanted an in-person demo. Back then we only had a hundred customers or so and a slightly blurrier view of where our business was headed – so we hopped on a jet. I remember thinking at the time that flying across the country wearing a suit to demo a terribly simply internet based software that I wrote in my underwear seemed wrong – but damn – it was Hollywood!
There are two great parts to this story. The first, is that we got to spend an evening in LA. We started the night having dinner with one of our customers. It was a great independent place and the GM hung out with us at the small bar before we were sat and then spent time with us during dinner. It was fun. We then headed to Sunset BLVD for a few drinks. We hit a couple of bars, enjoyed a few drinks and once we got some courage up we headed to over to the rooftop bar at the Standard Hotel – a famous place where we could certainly see some beautiful famous people. We walked up to the door and there was a guy holding a clipboard. The closer we got to him, the less he smiled. We eventually stood right in front of him while he gave us a once over stare – from our shoes to our hair. Nothing, and I mean nothing, about us gave him any reason to think we would be on that list he was holding….and of course we were not – so we were denied. He didn’t even look for our name. As we walked in defeat down the sidewalk to find another spot – we were laughing at our sorry attempt to get in. I mean we could have tried a tad harder. Instead of having $1100 jeans on – we had $65 j-crew khakis. Instead of a fitted t-shirt and a beanie on – we had on casual fit dress shirts from brooks brothers and sported a couple of nice haircuts. Instead of tattoos, there were none. We would have looked great at a casual Friday business meeting in North Carolina – but a bit out of place at 11:30pm on the Sunset strip. Oh well – we did end up a cool small place sitting right next to Johnny Galecki from “The Big Ban Theory” – who in my mind should have won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rusty Griswold in Christmas Vacation.
The 2nd great part was our Schedulefly demo. Wil and I found our way to the HQ of this pizza chain at the top of a large sky scraper and were seated in a beautiful conference room that had a giant window perfectly facing the famous giant Hollywood sign on the side of that mountain. So in walks the nice woman from HR that Wil spoke to and introduces herself. I recall her being very nice and appreciated us flying 3000 miles for a meeting. A few moments later we were joined by the Chief Technology Officer of the company – a nice guy. I don’t remember too much chatter before I hooked up the laptop to the projector. About 15 minutes later – I was done. It was all over – no more clicks to make. After a few moments of him taking in what he had seen he said “You’ve built a nice system, but it seems too simple. It seems like something is missing.” Awkward silence followed and I recall asking what was missing and then listening to how complicated their organization has become and how hard it is to control costs and manage employees and blah blah blah. We chatted a bit more and then we left. Funny thing is – I think they really liked the idea of simple tools – but it was too late for them. Complicated needs complicated I guess…and since we were not interested in being a complicated business ourselves – it wasn’t a good match.
On the plane ride home – Wil and I debriefed over some tired peanuts and a tiny glass of diet coke. We felt a tad bit stupid for traveling so far for a 15 minute meeting with a customer who was never going to be right….but we fist bumped when we realized the CTO’s comments were actually exactly what we needed…..and the night getting denied in Hollywood was worth the trip.