Cannabis, Crypto — Craft Beverages & DOT.Com Observations

Cannabis, Crypto — Craft Beverages & DOT.Com Observations

[ALSO PUBLISHED ON: LinkedIN, MEDIUM]

I spent a fascinating week learning about two of the hottest investment and business opportunity spaces right now. The block chain, crypto and initial coin offerings (ICOs), and the cannabis industry are literally on fire. Given this, I wanted to get an understanding of what’s really happening. I’ve been following the development of the block chain/coin movement along with the emergence of the legal cannabis business as these both are displaying signs of developments that may cause massive disruption (and therefore potentially big opportunities). Venture capitalist Tim Draper has been an outspoken proponent of the block chain and crypto offerings (see Exclusive: Billionaire investor Draper to participate in blockchain token sale for first time), while Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase has been dismissive (see CNBC).

Constellation Brands (STZ-B) announced recently that it had agreed to take a 9.9% minority stake in the $2 billion Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth. The stake is worth about $191 million, though Constellation will have the option of purchasing additional stakes in the future. This aggressive move marks a significant milestone with the first publicly traded US company making a material investment in the cannabis space. For the industry in which I have spent much of my business career — beverage alcohol (beer, spirits and wine), it’s also a taboo shattering wake up call. The financial community apparently agrees with the financial analysts, giving high marks for Constellation’s vision and the market supported it with a gain of over $1 billion in STZ’s market cap (essentially more than paying for the investment). Visiting Colorado frequently, I’ve seen how quickly the legal use of medical and recreational marijuana has ramped up with the state of CO taking in over $550 million in tax revenue as of July 2017.

To learn more about each of these rapidly developing industries and to test my hypothesis of potential disruption, I attended the StartEngine ICO 2.0 Summitin Santa Monica followed by the MJBizCon in Las Vegas which together gave me an interesting perspective. Here I will share some of my observations.

General Observations

First, I met a number of really smart people pursuing these industries with a wide range of business and investment strategies. I had the good fortune to join up at YPO meeting-in-meetings at both events and, as usual, learned a great deal from these informal gatherings and met some of the people leading the way in both industries. I cannot say enough good things about the YPO network and the ability to quickly get to the movers and shakers in any industry or geography, globally.

The hype around these industries surpasses the craft alcohol craze and matches Dot.com in 1997–2000. I know both of these booms well having participated by investing and starting my own DOT.Com eSkye.com raising over $55 million (Tim Draper’s Dad, Bill Draper, invested see Forbes) and my multiple ventures in the craft beverage space. The bright light inevitably attracts all kinds of people and as in both of these examples, there are a ton of people who have limited or no business skills coupled with business ideas/plans/ventures with little to no chance of scaling to success. The cannabis side has more similarities to craft beverages in that it appears that 95% of businesses currently in or entering the space are really “mom and pop” operations that are more lifestyle businesses than scalable enterprises. However, what is absolutely clear to me is that, this is changing rapidly with the addition of serious investors and business operators.

Block Chain — ICO What is it?

The technology of the block chain is real and big. I’m convinced over time, it will fundamentally change the financial side of all industries. This MIT Sloan article does a pretty good job of discussing the potential. Its potential is hard to overestimate but not without controversy. See John Battelle’s discussion of it here Alien, Dismissible, Dangerous, Greedy, True and the fights going on inside Venture Capital firms here CRYPTOCURRENCY MANIA FUELS HYPE AND FEAR AT VENTURE FIRMS .

For my non-technical friends, I’ll try to define it here in my own way. For my expert friends, let me know what I get wrong as I’m still learning. The best simple explanation I’ve found so far is A Blockchain Explanation Your Parents Could Understand. Essentially, instead of a central party (think a bank) keeping track of everyone’s money and transactions with each other, the record keeping takes place in public (without revealing names) with 1,000s or more independent operators verifying the information and agreeing on its accuracy before securing it. While banking and financial transactions are the first use, there are many other uses being worked on and many more to come.

The ICO “Initial Coin Offering” market is booming with new business ideas for the application of this technology. Over $2.8 billion has been raised using ICOs thus far in 2017. These have been unregulated and range from real businesses to potential frauds. The ICO 2.0 Summit put on by StartEngine was really about bringing the ICO market into the regulated security market in the US. It is clear to me, from the many presentations, that an offering for a coin to fund a venture is an offer for a security, and therefore falls under the SEC. There are many in the crypto world who dislike this and will fight it, but governments are not going to simply sit back and allow investments outside their mandated oversight just because they are called “coins”. Given that, I agree with StartEngine’s CEO Howard Marks that the crowd funding Regulation A and also traditional Regulation D exemptions are the proper way to issue an ICO in the US.

Lou Kerner gave an excellent presentation based on his article, Is Crypto (Like) A Religion? & 6 Other Crypto Thoughts .

He followed this with a very interesting fireside chat with Michael Jones CEO of Science who is serious about the space and currently has an ICO in the works.

We heard from 17 companies planning to do ICOs of some kind. Again, I can’t help but compare this to DOT.Com days as there were clearly real business ideas and teams and others that are simply slapping the ICO label on something that is really not well thought out. What was true back in 1997–2000 in DOT.Com is true today — there are and will be billions of dollars invested in the block chain space, some of it will go into real business ventures and some of it will go into not-so-serious business ventures. Sorting these out will not guarantee your investment is the next Google or Amazon, but is absolutely the key to avoiding almost certain failure.

Cannabis — Marijuana Industry — Where is it now and where is it going?

From a story in Fortune Magazine regarding Constellation’s investment — “The wines and spirits conglomerate has no intention of selling cannabis products in the U.S. until it is legal nationwide. But the company is betting that legalization is just a matter of time, according to the  Journal . However, Constellation may soon sell the marijuana drink product in Canada, where legalization of edible and drinkable cannabis products is expected by 2019.

The move comes amid signs that suggest some consumers are reducing alcohol usage in favor of cannabis . “We believe alcohol could be under pressure for the next decade,” Cowen analysts led by Viven Azer wrote in an April note. “Consumer survey work suggests [about] 80% of consumers reduce their alcohol consumption with cannabis in the mix.”’

Given the above, what is the current state of the legal cannabis industry and where is it going?

The legal industry today is estimated at $5–6 billion and expected to grow to $12–17 billion by 2021. While this is only a fraction of the US alcohol market which stands at $200+ billion today, it could take some of that business (especially in beer in my opinion). So it’s big already and its going to get much bigger quickly. State legalization started with medical use and they are rapidly adding recreational. Cassandra Farrington, CEO and Co-founder of Marijuana Business Daily who put on the conference gave a great presentation on the history of the industry. Basically, the timeline she presented is as follows:

· 1996 California passes first medical marijuana law

· 1998–2008 other states follow

· 2012 Colorado, Washington pass recreational cannabis laws

· 2014 OR, AK add recreational. Canada liberalization takes root.

· 2016 11 legalization ‘wins’ in the US — 4 medical and 4 recreational via ballots and 3 medical via legislative action. Importantly, CA adds recreational in January 2018

Here is a map showing the current state status:

Over ½ the US population lives in states with legal marijuana use — with 30 states + Washington DC allowing legal medical use and 8 states plus Washington DC allowing recreational use. That being said, it is still 100% illegal at the US federal level. This means there are significant risks and hurdles for investors and businesses who enter the space. Banking is very difficult as the national banks cannot conduct business in the space. Anyone contemplating investing in the space needs to be aware of these issues. In spite of these challenges and an uncertain regulatory environment, many investors and business owners are jumping in with both feet.

One of the best presentations I heard was by Patrick Rea, the managing director of Canopy, an early stage fund that has made more than 100 investments in the space. He breaks the business down into four investment buckets:

  1. Public Stocks — these are the Canadian companies like the one Constellation invested in.

2. Real Estate — this is the buildings for dispensaries and the land for farms

3. Touch the Plant — these are the actual growing, processing and selling businesses

4. Ancillary Products & Services — these are all the things around the business from software to equipment to banking to marketing.

Canopy is focused on #4 exclusively but there are certainly opportunities in all of these.

From a branding and stage of industry development perspective this is literally a “green field”. I saw some interesting but nascent offerings given the time businesses have had to think about and try to develop brands. With new entrants, this will of course change, but right now I can’t help but think it is like the days when Sam Bronfman and Lewis Rosenteil were at the cusp of the repeal of Prohibition ready to launch Seagram’s and Shenley’s whiskies into the US respectively.

Where is this headed? It’s hard not to believe there will be continued legalization on a state by state basis. With the overwhelming majority of American’s viewing legal cannabis favorably, and importantly with the amount of tax revenue legal markets are bringing, other states will certainly follow to not get left out. Federally it will likely take longer, but like alcohol and the repeal of Prohibition, it will probably only happen if it is left up to the states to decide how their citizens want to allow cannabis regulation.

What’s clear to me is that there are huge opportunities in both these new industries. What is unclear is who will emerge as the big winners. I know from personal experience what being ahead of the market is like. The next few years will be like settling the wild west and a lot of entrepreneurial ventures will be created to try out different ideas in both cannabis and blockchain. I will come back to these topics as I learn more on both and please share any thoughts you may have. Cheers!

included in this article Howard Marks Tim Draper John Battelle Lou Kerner Patrick Rea StartEngine Constellation Brands Canopy Growth Corporation MJbizwire Jamie Skella WIRED Erin Griffith Phyllis Berman YPO Michael Jones Cassandra Farrington Seagram Fortune Magazine Jamie Dimon

Amazon Prime Now – Disruptive Same Day Delivery Arrives In Indy

Amazon Prime Now – Disruptive Same Day Delivery Arrives In Indy

Various Blog Post Banners 2015

I have to admit, when I first read about the same day delivery service I was a bit skeptical.   How would it work?  Why would I really want it?  Could anyone really do it at scale on a sustained basis?

Experience:

Well, early this morning I was reading the news on my iPhone and received a message from Amazon that all Prime members now had access to same day delivery (1-2 hours from order) through its new service called Prime Now.   #PRIMENOW   It piqued my interest.  Is this real?  Can they really pull it off?  So I downloaded the Amazon Prime Now app and started browsing.  I was amazed at the breadth of offerings from grocery to sports to electronics and more.  I’ve been in the market for a luggage rack for my truck and found exactly the type I wanted. I knew we were out of eggs and browsing the groceries made me think about breakfast so I added some free range organic eggs and all natural sausages.  Click click click and my order was in process.

They gave me a delivery window of 8-10am (my order was placed around 5:45am).  I received my order exactly as expected at 9am and was able to make breakfast before the rest of my day unfolded.  The driver told me I was among the first 10 orders in Indy.  This was a profoundly positive experience.

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Amazon Prime Now is currently available in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Manhattan and Miami. The service will continue rolling out to additional cities in 2015

What does this mean?

It is a game changer.  Not immediately, but with a sustained effort, I believe this could drastically change how consumers (and businesses) think about behave with their purchasing.   Home delivery is great and has been around for a long time (think the milkman of old, bottle water delivery etc).  We get deliveries from Amazon and tons of other companies all the time.  Some of these are next day or 2nd day which is super convenient.   We get a weekly grocery delivery of organic and locally grown produce from Green Bean Delivery which is FANTASTIC!  We have to plan our order by Monday at noon and receive our delivery of groceries on Wednesday of each week.

All that said, the idea that one can simply run out of something or decide one “needs” (wants) something, almost anything, and make it so two hours later is different.  This is what 90% of running errands ends up being.  Going to the store for this and that and picking up a few things in between larger shopping trips happens to all of us (or our families) every day. What if we could cut most of that out?  What if you need something you simply think it (a couple of swipes is not much work) and it arrives in about the same time it would take you to go out and shop, pick your items, load your car, drive home, unload your car. This requires a different kind of thinking around what is possible, but I don’t think its a that big of a leap for most of us.

Implications:

For Consumers

  • Time – For no extra cost (driver tip cancels out gas you would have used perhaps), it frees up time.  How much time in a week do we spend running to the store, shopping and returning? 4 hours? 8 hours? More?  What more productive things or fun things can one do with that time.  It is big.
  • Convenience – No need to plan very far ahead, need something, make it appear with no effort.  Wow.

For Small Business

  • Time – Same as above, many small businesses buy things by shopping.  Eliminate that need and do you eliminate a need for headcount manning the store while someone is out buying supplies?
  • Service – out of something? – now you can replenish immediately and provide your customers whatever you were missing in a short time.
  • Investment savings – reduce safety stock/inventory on certain items and replenish each day as needed.  For many small businesses (and large) space to store inventory is a real issue.  What if you could simply replenish as needed?  Though this service is focused on consumers, for many small businesses, it could be a better alternative to traditional distribution or running to Costco or Sam’s Club for stuff.  I’d expect Amazon to build out this aspect over time.

For Retailers & Distributors

  • Increased retail competition – just when you thought it could not get worse for retailers, it is getting worse.  Things that one swings in to just grab could be diverted to this.  Think of convenience, pharmacies (e.g. Walgreens and CVS), grocery (Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Publix), electronics (Best Buy, Costco, Walmart, Target), sports equipment (e.g. Dick’s, Sports Authority).
  • Increased distributor competition – the businesses that source from traditional distributors could shift some of their purchases to this kind of model.  It will create the need for distributors to up their service level to stay competitive which can also drive up their costs.

Overall, I think I just experienced the future today.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium® to Unite Wine, Beer, Spirits Business Leaders, Technology Experts June 25-26, 2015

11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium® to Unite Wine, Beer, Spirits Business Leaders, Technology Experts June 25-26, 2015

wits logo

March 31, 2015                                                                                                                              Contact: Lisa Adams Walter lisa@winesymposium.com

 

(NAPA, Calif.) —The 11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS®), the premier event showcasing the strategic use of information technology and services for the wine industry, has been set for June 25-26, 2015 at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel. www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com

Executives from wineries, breweries, distributors, retailers and restaurants gather annually at WITS, the only annual conference designed exclusively to foster education and debate around technology solutions for the wine and beverage industry. The 2015 WITS program will include:

  • Educational Tracks – Sessions on Technology Leadership, Small Business, Consumer Direct, Trade Sales & Marketing and Vineyard & Winery Operations
  • Speed Dating – WITS created “speed dating” for winery and brewery CIOs and technology companies. This will provide opportunities for quality one-on-one time with key decision makers and thought leaders.
  • Plus Beer, with BITS – WITS has united leaders in the craft brewing industry to add the Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITSâ„¢) track that runs concurrent with WITS.

“The rapid proliferation of craft brands in wine, spirits and beer is creating unique challenges for all industry participants,” said J. Smoke Wallin, WITS Co-Chair. “WITS is the only place where winery, brewery, distillery, retailer and distributor leaders can sit side by side for a day of learning and discussion to tackle these challenges with CIOs and technology leaders from across the industry,” he added.WITS 2008

The WITS Steering Committee, comprised of technology and business leaders across the wine, beverage and technology industries, is currently finalizing panel topics and keynote speakers. Past speakers have included the CEOs, CIOs and other leaders from Amazon, Facebook, Groupon, Gartner Group, garyvaynerchuk.com, FedEx Office, Nielsen and 1800-Flowers, as well as experts from IBM, Oracle, Cornell University, UC Davis, Sonoma State University and many others.

Attendees and sponsors are encouraged to register early, as space is limited and expected to sell out quickly. Registration will open May 1, 2015. For more information visit www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com.

About The Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS)

The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS®) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry. WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry. The 11th annual WITS is June 25-26, 2015 in Napa, CA. For the 2nd year, WITS also includes the Beer Industry Technology Symposium™ (BITS™) track. Join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.

For more information, contact Lisa Adams Walter of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-666-2525 or lisa@winesymposium.com.

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

Excited for #WITS2014 and BITS in 18 days… This wine tasting tweetup has become a highlight of the social aspects of WITS… here is winemaker Alison Crowe at one..

 

 

 

I hope to see as many of you at this year’s event as can join.  Reach out to me if you have any questions.

Smoke

WITS cover impage

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

Tweetup wineries include: Franciscan Estate Winery, Garnet Vineyards, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson Winery, Wente Vineyards.

(NAPA, Calif.) – The 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) has partnered with Taste140 to again host a worldwide virtual wine tasting event June 30 – July 1, 2014 at the WITS event, which this year also includes a new concurrent Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS).

While it is anticipated that conference attendees will naturally be active across various Social Media platforms using the #WITS2014 hashtag over the course of the two-day conference, organized and focused online wine tastings have also been scheduled with participating wineries including: Franciscan Estate Winery (Franciscan Estate 2011 Magnificat Napa Valley), Garnet Vineyards (Garnet 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir), Jamieson Ranch Vineyards (Jamieson Ranch 2011 “Double Lariat” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon), Kendall-Jackson Winery (Kendall-Jackson 2011 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon), Renwood Winery (Renwood 2011 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel) and Wente Vineyards (Wente 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay).

In advance of the #WITS2014 WineTwits Tweetup, Taste140 is shipping wines from each participating winery to online wine influencers and bloggers who have committed to live participation. The wines will also be available for tasting at the event, so that event attendees can contribute to the conversation and post their tasting notes, experience and feedback.

“Having attended WITS since its inception in 2005, I’ve gained valuable insights directly from wine industry thought leaders while forging immeasurable relationships which have continued to grow over the years,” said Stephen Gilberg, Taste140 and WineTwits founder. “Similarly, beverage brands that properly leverage social media are able to build long-lasting relationships with influential consumers. The #WITS2014 Wine Tweetup will likely be one of the most wide-reaching virtual tastings to date.”

“We are pleased to partner with these fantastic wineries and with WineTwits to bring some of the #WITS2014 experience beyond the conference in Napa and to bloggers and consumers around the country. This online event demonstrates the power of a connected wine community and has become a fun highlight of the event each year,” said J. Smoke Wallin, WITS founder and co-chair.

The 2014 Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS), which will run concurrent with the first Beer Industry Technology Symposium, will cover a wide range of wine and craft beer industry topics such as mobile e-commerce, data breach and security, breakthrough marketing, supply chain innovation, leading edge hospitality systems, new on-premise kegs and product tracking. Panels of leading restaurant and grocery operators will also provide valuable insight as they discuss their first-hand experience with wine and beer consumers.

Registration is now open at www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com.

 

wits logo

About WITS: The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry. WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry. The 10th annual WITS is June 30 & July 1 in Napa, CA. This year, the newly formed Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS) will be held in conjunction with WITS. To learn more, join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About DrinkTwits, LLC (Taste140/WineTwits): Founded in 2008, DrinkTwits is a social media firm comprised of interactive food and beverage-related social media channels. Its flagship entity, @WineTwits is a Twitter-powered community with 100,000 followers dedicated to wine consumers, retailers, vineyards and experts. In 2009, through its network of leading social influencers, the firm pioneered the practice of online virtual tasting via its Taste 140â„¢ social tasting platform, which allows brands to virtually pack their tasting room with hundreds of people and have their recommendations instantly reach thousands worldwide. For more information, visit www.Taste140.com or www.twitter.com/winetwits.

For more information about the Wine Industry Technology Symposium, contact Kathy Archer of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8719 or kathy@winesymposium.com. For sponsorship and registration, contact Waunice Orchid of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8716 or waunice@winesymposium.com.

 

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Craft Beer Sales Boom Continues… Best Is Yet To Come.

Craft Beer Sales Boom Continues… Best Is Yet To Come.

This weeks release of the full 2013 numbers on craft beer by the Craft Brewers Association confirms something many of us already knew: this movement is accelerating.  I’d go a step further and say the best is yet to come.  Here is the info-graphic the CBA published this week:

Craft Breweries 2013 Growth-Small_HR

Pretty incredible numbers – going from 4.4% volume share in 2009 to 7.8% in 2013.  On a dollar basis, even more impressive with a 20% increase over 2012 to $14.3 billion, giving craft beer a 14.3% share of the $100 billion US beer market.  The number of breweries grew at a slightly slower pace (15%), giving slightly more sales per brewery.

This is a booming market and with that there are multiple new entrants and there will be inevitably, winners and losers.  That said, a growing market makes up for a lot of mistakes and there are a lot more winners right now than not.  The key is matching investment to real potential in any particular INDIVIDUAL business.   A growing market is good for everyone, but it does an individual aspiring brewery little good if they spend too much on their building, don’t brew great beer that people enjoy, don’t create a brand that resonates with consumers and market place, take too long to get up and running, hire the wrong time, don’t know what their numbers are or what the right things to measure are, run out of money, etc.  I could continue, but there are a ton of ways to be unsuccessful in this space, no matter what the growth is.

That is why I got together with a number of industry thought leaders to create the Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS) being held in Napa, CA June 30 & July 1 in conjunction with the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS)

BITS logo small for web3                  wits logo

Yes, technology is in the name and there will be a bunch of things at the 2 day event that revolve around technology, but that is NOT the main point.  The main point is what I am talking about above.  There are so many challenges with running any new business and craft beer is no different.  With all the new players and the many existing players who are experience growth beyond their wildest expectations, these businesses need sound strategic thinking around what matters.   Technology is not “What Matters”, but it is the great enabler that in 2014, done right, can create the conditions for a successful business venture.  Thinking through the myriad of options and what exactly one is trying to do is critical before you even start your brewery.  If you already have one, and skipped this part of the planning, it is never to early to get on it and address these issues.

I really enjoyed the new Siemens commercial (that seems to be running on TV on every show I watch – which is not very many) profiling the Schlafly Brewery and American manufacturing. Here it is:

 

What a terrific message and a boost to the craft brewing industry at the same time.  I reached out to the Siemens team and they jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the first BITS.  How cool!    This is also true of the California Craft Brewers Association who joined us recently as a GOLD sponsor and are marketing the BITS event to their 200+ members in CA.

CCBA_colorlogo jpeg

 

BITS will be announcing these and many other great contributors in the form of keynote speakers and panels who are lining up to be a part of what we hope will become a must attend event for everyone in the industry who wants to be smart about running their business.  Please reach out to me directly if you’d like to get involved.  Registration will open up in mid April.

The craft brewing industry is in its preteen days… there is much growth in front of us and a lot of learning and growing up.  This is an opportunity for collaboration with fellow breweries and professionals and leading edge thinkers in technology on how to grow up and be successful in your beer business.  The best is yet to come!

Cheers!  jsw at NSB pub

 

Theft Ain’t So Easy Anymore; My iPad’s Incredible Adventure

Theft Ain’t So Easy Anymore; My iPad’s Incredible Adventure

Over the years, I have been an early adapter of technology.  In 7th grade (1978), I won 2nd place in the Manatee County Science Fair for a program I wrote on a Commodore 64 that allowed one to take a quiz on the Solar System.  I had the first MAC in 1984 when I went off to Cornell University as a Freshman.  It was very cool, except when it made that unhappy MAC face (often).

JSW Mac at Cornell

Fast forward a few years in business (and a budget) and I always had the latest devices in laptops and phones and crossover gadgets almost every year since 1992.   From my cool Radio Shack phone (big and rectangular) while still at Vanderbilt for business school in 1993 to the dark grey Motorola Flip to the StarTac (almost $1k when it came out).  Since I had companies I ran outright or for which I oversaw the technology side of things, I had an obligation (it was part of the job) to test out the new devices.  After a long and loyal run on Blackberry’s (I had the original pager shaped device and almost every one since, until 2011), my current device set looks like a commercial for Apple.  It includes an iPhone 5, a PowerBook Pro and an iPad mini.

220px-Mobile_phone_evolution

Over the years, I have broken, lost or had stolen (from me) my fair share of these.   Invariably once missing, always missing with a couple of exceptions of cell phones returning to me from taxis in Chicago and New York and a laptop coming back from the back of a plane seat.   But it was not until this summer that I experienced a fundamentally different experience in attempting to retrieve a missing device. 

 

This story is about my iPad mini’s theft and return.

 

In July we went out to Denver to visit family in the mountains.  After a couple of days up at Grand Lake, CO (amazing lake at 8,000 ft surrounded by mountains at the back side of the Rocky Mountain National Park), we enjoyed an evening of friends and music while Anitra performed with her old band mate Ryan Tracy. 

 

2013-07-25 19.45.27  2013-07-27 18.59.18

 

Sunday morning we had early flights out of Denver International Airport with kids flying in different directions and us heading back out to Napa, CA.   In our hectic exit, my iPad mini (I love it, but it is a “mini”) was inadvertently left wedged between the front passenger seat and the console of our Avis rented Tahoe.  I realized this during my Southwest flight back to Sacramento.   We immediately called Avis lost and found (I have had some success in having things returned if you realize it quickly enough).  In the past insisting on having the rental company re-check a vehicle several times has been required.  I did so this time to no avail.  They said it was not there.  I was 99% positive it was.

avis-logo

That evening after I hosted a beer tasting at our brewery Napa Smith Brewery, I went online and reported my iPad stolen on the very user friendly Denver Police website (which was quite user friendly). The next morning, I turned on the “Find my iPhone” and searched for it using Apple’s iCloud service.  Sure enough, it found it, but it was in an area of Denver that we had not been.  I screen captured the image of the location and sent that on to the Denver Police.

findmyiphone

Note: I password protect all my devices.  While I’m sure a sophisticated criminal technology ring could crack the 4 digit code, I felt I had a little time to keep searching.  The alternative is to “wipe” the device.  This protects all your personal information, but prevents one from tracking the device ever again.  I choose to keep it intact to try to retrieve it.

 

Smoke's missing ipad in Denver

 

At this point my working theory was either Avis re-rented the vehicle and the iPad was in it OR it was stolen by someone at Avis, who had then either taken it home or handed it off to someone else.  I received a call from Denver Police detective Gomez who asked me to send her directly the picture of the location.  She told me she would call me when she got there and I planned on “pinging” it.  iCloud allows one to cause a device to make a sound, very useful in finding a missing one or stolen one.    When the detectives arrived on the site, they called and I began pinging the iPad.  They went door to door.  The find your iPhone is amazing, but it is not easy tell EXACTLY where it is, only within a very small area

Nothing.  The detectives even went into a couple of apartments (with permission).  They told me it appeared to be a retirement home of some kind and they did not think it was there.  I was confident it was on site given the images.  They told me to let them know if it moved or I had any new information and left the site.  Frustrated but with little recourse, I kept checking the site.

Sure enough shortly after the police left the scene, the iPad was on the move.  I tracked it and kept pinging it, hoping that whoever was driving would hear it and either fear they were being tracked or look at it and call my mobile number, which was prominently displayed on the front screen.  For a while it was at what appeared to be a junkyard. My working theory at this point was the perpetrator got scared and tossed it .  However, this theory was dispelled when it went on the move again, eventually returning to roughly the same spot where the police had been earlier.

smokes ipad on the move 2.37mt  smoke ipad new location - by junk yard

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning while my Peet’s coffee was brewing, I checked the Find my iPhone site.  Lo and behold it was on the move.  I kept refreshing it and it was clearly on the way back out toward the airport.  Sure enough, it pulled into the Avis lot.  We immediately called Avis again and told them and sent them a picture of where it was.  Remember, these pictures are a current location overlaying a satellite image that was taken some time ago.  So while you can look at cars and other things on the ground in the image, these are from a different moment in time.  Interesting.

Smoke's ipad route from the old aged home area back to the Avis lot at Denver Airport

Now my working theory was maybe the Tahoe was re-rented and it is now just returned.  Or the perpetrator panicked from the police visit was trying to bring it back. Or it never left the perpetrators car and was simply in it as they returned to work after 2 days at home.  They reported to work at 8am.

 

The image I sent Avis appeared to be in the employee parking lot.

Smoke's ipad current location is at Avis

Our Avis representative Yolanda went out to the area and began searching with some of her colleagues.  3 times they went out looking to no avail.

 

Then all of a sudden the iPad appeared to enter the Avis building.  We called Yolanda and told her it was on the move.  Quickly it moved back out into the parking lot into another area.  My theory at this point was the perpetrator knew there was a search going on, had retrieved the device and was moving around with it.  One possibility was they were part of the search group.  It felt like the Kevin Costner movie, “No Way Out” in which he was the spy but part of the search party looking for the spy.  Crazy.  Frustrating.   I was determined to get to the bottom of this.  Sitting in Napa, CA, watching my iPad move around Avis at the Denver airport – was simply amazing.

 

After a short while, Yolanda called back and gave us the good news that they found the iPad mini.  Relieved, and now more curious than anything, I wanted to know the answer to what happened and who did it.  Yolanda told us it was in a rental truck, but NOT our Tahoe.  My working theory at this point is someone took it, realized it was being tracked (police visits and pings), brought it back when they had to return to work, realized there was a search going on and planted it in a similar rental where Avis found it.  I reported all this to Detective Gomez at DPD.  I believe it’s not too difficult for Avis to figure out who worked on Sunday July 28, had off on the 29th and 30th, and then reported to work on the 31st at 8am.  This person likely lives at or right around the location of the iPad where we had the police search.

I am still curious as to the final outcome.  I’m sure Avis has every reason to find out who did it.

IMG_1787 smoke's ipad

I want to compliment the GREAT service I received at Avis, especially Yolanda.  My expectations were exceeded greatly with the excellent customer service from the Denver Police Department, especially Detective Gomez.  Both were terrific and it was appreciated.  This service from Apple is AWESOME!  I was so glad I had a fully charged iPad so we had the time it took to track it down and get it back.

 

With all the disturbing revelations regarding the NSA tracking, the targeted drone strikes and other technology enabled activities governments are now able to do, at least in this regard, the technology was put to great use!

 

While I can think of some enhancements to make this even easier, perhaps, make the iPad talk to the perpetrator – warning them that “I belong to Smoke, he is looking for me and will find me soon”, current level of function was sufficient to have a positive outcome.

 

It sure ain’t so easy anymore if crime was your chosen field…

9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week

9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone attending WITS on Monday and Tuesday at the Napa Valley Marriott!  Here is our final announcement re the event…

wits logo

9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week 

There is Still Time To Sign Up Today For 9th Annual WITS™  

Beginning Monday, July 15 and 16 @ Napa Valley Marriott 

Leading Technology Innovators Demonstrate Latest Products and Services During Sold Out Showcase 

Napa, CA— July 11, 2013— Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) today announced its final agenda and speakers for the 9th annual event to be held July 15 & 16 in Napa, CA.  Keynotes bring elite leadership, social media and the transformative cloud to the wine industry.

If Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function, WITS mission is the creation of a safe environment to challenge assumptions in order to elevate the wine industry’s strategic use of technology to achieve superior results.

Over the years, WITS has done exactly this, by hosting the Chief Information Officer CIO Forum, providing thought provoking keynote speakers, delivering hands on break out sessions, profiling a technology showcase while fostering extensive networking opportunities for all attendees.  This 9th conference promises to be the best ever!  If you are involved in using, choosing or creating technology for your wine related business, you really don’t want to miss this once a year opportunity.

WITS Promo PHoto

3 Keynotes & A Tribute

  • Jonathan Good,  Senior SMR Solutions at Oracle will speak on “Developing a Social Relationship Management Strategy for Wine ” building on his experience as founder of HelloSocialMedia.com – a social media and marketing agency that focused on the creation and execution of social media programs, including blogging, community development, Internet marketing, design and web development.
  • Miles Ward, Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services will speak about Big Data for Real World Businesses showing tools, techniques and clear ROI for analysis in the cloud.  Miles helped NASA live-stream the Mars Rover landing, developed the online Obama For America 2012 presidential campaign, and has helped thousands of companies make the leap to the cloud.
  • Award-winning serial entrepreneur and successful luxury hotel owner, author, speaker, and former U.S. Army Green Beret Larry Broughton shares his insights on transforming ordinary teams into extraordinary ones.

“I’m very pleased to have Larry Broughton, Jonathan Good and Miles Ward join us on our Keynote program.” said J. Smoke Wallin, founder and co-chairman of WITS.  He continued, “I have had the privileged of interacting with each of our speakers and know they will each deliver inspirational and thought provoking discussions that will deliver real take home value to all our winery attendees.”

WITS 2008

Attendees can register at www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com

About WITS: The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry.  WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry.  The 9th annual WITS  is July 15 & 16 in Napa, CA.  Join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.

For more information, contact Waunice Orchid of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8716 or waunice@swgnapa.com

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