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Introducing Valet

Valet Login thumb 620x369 45801

Well, the cat is out of the bag. I decided to start another company called Valet back in January, and this past week we told a couple of friends, who told a couple of their friends, who told the whole world that it was now live. We had an overwhelming response. Completely blown away.

The concept is pretty simple. As readers of this site know I spent the last few years traveling around the world living in and out of hotels in more than 20 countries. I noticed two things that I wanted to turn into a product I could sell.

The first was that most great hotels were willing to part with some of their normal rate and give me a break as a creative professional, an online influencer, a writer, and an entrepreneur. I thought, wow, would they do that for other people like me?  I found inspiration within other businesses I saw that were exploring this model and breaking away from the standard online travel agent business.

The second part was that in all these new cities I went to, I found finding basic intel about where the design-centric crowd gets their coffee or spends their time incredibly tricky. There are a myriad of sites you can search, but most of the time I’d end up on Twitter asking who has tips for XYZ foreign city. So, I started to tap my local friends and influential types in different places to see if they would be willing to share their favorites with a closed group of people– and the answer was an overwhelming yes.

We launched with city guides in two cities, New York and Tokyo (I write this from Japan). More than 130 places in New York and 40 (and growing as I write this) in Japan. I tapped people from all different walks of life to be curators. We launched with about 80 hotel partners that gave 10-20% and sometimes much more off their normal rack rates to us. Some of the deals are exceptional, some of them are okay and will be getting much better. I knew I had to start somewhere.

I also knew this was a product I had to charge real money for, and keep gated behind an application process to protect the partnerships and the curators from too much exposure.

This is totally 1.0. Many more hotels are coming and many city guides will follow. Tread softly, be nice and send feedback.  We have big plans for exploring what the 21st century travel agent might look like.

This wouldn’t have been possible without my partner in crime Aaron Rutledge, the incredible design duo Ian Coyle and Duane King, and identity master Takashi Kusui, as well as a few other people who were working behind the scenes to get this going. You know who you are.

More reading here: Inside Valet on Cool Hunting, Skift News and Beta Beat.

If you signup, put down you’re a reader of my site in your ‘Facts’ and I’ll do my best to get you in faster.

Education City Commencement Speech

I was invited to give the commencement speech at the Qatar Foundation 2012 Convocation. An incredible honor.

Qatar’s Education City includes branches of the following universities: Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, HEC Paris and UCL.

Video is now up!

IWC Globetrotter

Supporting my friends at IWC around the opening of their flagship NYC store, they filmed a series of short videos– small snippets on a fewindividuals who call NYC home. Naturally for my video, I grew out a beard and then went in for an old fashioned New York hot shave for the Globetrotter video, as well as stopping by some of my favorite NYC establishments. Check it out, I think it turned out nice!

My Year In Cities: 2011

S bn

Image via Visual Complexity (not my actual flights)…

A good tradition, looking back before I look forward. Where did you go in 2011?

* indicates cities visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Vancouver, Canada*

Whistler, Canada

Sydney, Australia*

Melbourne, Australia

Munich, Germany

Davos, Switzerland

San Francisco USA

Los Angeles, USA*

Long Beach, USA

New York City, USA*

Salt Lake City, USA

Sundance Utah, USA

Palm Springs, USA

London, England*

Seattle, USA*

Florence, Italy

Jackson Hole, WY USA*

Shanghai, China

Beijing, China

Dalian, China

Tokyo, Japan*

Hakone, Japan

Kyoto, Japan

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Dubai, UAE*

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jakarta, Indonesia

Johannesburg, South Africa

Austin, USA

Boulder, USA*

Denver, USA

GoDaddy Debacle

GoneDaddy

Image via Soshable

I have mostly been watching the SOPA news from the sidelines the past few weeks– at least until the supporter list came out.

Not so surprisingly, GoDaddy was on there, and the internet went into an uproar. Next stop seemed like a complete domain name exodus. Grab your pitchfork.

Truthfully, I’ve wanted to bail since I watched the CEO slaughter and kill an elephant. Not long after that, there was another debacle. A billing error on my account caused me to loose a domain name (which I previously acquired for $1,000). It didn’t auto-renew, yet somehow everything else does (even when I try to turn off auto-renew).

And then, like a movie, of course they pulled their support of the bill, which is odd because they helped write it in the first place:

GoDaddy not only helped write #SOPA they are also exempt from it.

So they’re not for it, and they’re not against it. Perfect. I’m not one to get into the backstory much further. I had heard enough and I wanted to bail.

This was all a real bummer for me because I’ve done a lot of business with GoDaddy– so much so I have an inside guy there that helps me out with transfers and changes. But between slaughtering elephants, SOPA, and annoying Super Bowl commercials with boobed out models it seemed like it was time to take my business elsewhere.

It was actually a tweet from Ben Huh of icanhascheezburger that pushed me over the edge.  I love those damn cats, what can I say.

And that’s when the epic journey began.

I found this handy-dandy step by step guide to transfer domains out of GoDaddy.

NameCheap looked and felt like a fine place to land my domains. They had a pretty strong stance against SOPA and GoDaddy. I found a code (SOPASucks) that would give me a little bit of a break on the transfer costs. They didn’t accept .be domains, so I used name.com for that.

I headed over to GoDaddy, unlocked all of my domains, batch downloaded the authorization codes and plopped them into the Namecheap.com transfer spot.

I thought that was it, but then I started getting bizarre messages from GoDaddy, like:

Dear Josh Spear,The transfer of JOSHSPEAR.COM from Go Daddy to another registrar could not be completed for the following reason(s):

Express written objection to the transfer from the Transfer Contact. (e.g. – email, fax, paper document or other processes by which the Transfer Contact has expressly and voluntarily objected through opt-in means).

The express written objection may be the result of a pending or recently completed Change of Registered Name Holder. This is an opt-in process during which the new Registered Name Holder agrees not to transfer for 60-days. This domain will be transferrable on 2/24/2012.

Perplexing. All of my other domain names came back with that response or something like that as well. I had read somewhere that if my WHOIS information wasn’t correct, I should update it. Turned out to be a terrible idea. I did update it, and changed the email– because the last time I registered a majority of those domains, the email was wrong. I also added a little more information to be sure I could be contacted if there was any problem.

It turns out had I not changed my WHOIS information I would not have received the email for the New Registration Agreement– an email they send to the WHOIS administrator and only the administrator.  And because I changed it, I did receive the email, but it was already too late.

I’m not a huge fan of leaving dozens of domain names ‘unlocked’ for long periods of time crossing my fingers all would work out.

I pinged NameCheap and chatted with a nice enough tech support person in their online chat for a few hours.

I made sure all my domain names had the privacy feature turned off. (I’ve since sent Domains By Proxy my companies EIN and a copy of my passport to get my login, because I didn’t remember my login, and the ‘forgot login’ box sends an email to a whois email that no longer exists. Vicious cycle.)

NameCheap refunded me and said try again. Oh, did I try again.

And then another alert came. My domain names were locked by GoDaddy for 60 days because of the Whois information change. Despite being told to make sure the info there was up to date!

I have zero pending transfers and I’ve now paid NameCheap, been refunded, and paid again.

As far as I can tell, the locking of domain names was part of the GoDaddy T&C’s I agreed to– not an ICANN rule. A call with a GoDaddy person confirms that. And even more peculiar is that apparently it was okay for me to change the contact email, but not anything else. And yes, I updated all the information. Whoops.

The saga continues.  They sure do make freedom of choice hard.

Giving Back To Japan

History

I’m back in Japan, but this time the purpose of my trip is much different than usual. I’m not here to shop, I’m not here to meet people on business, or to sing karaoke.

I’m here in service, and I’m here to give back.

Long story short: I’ll be joining a mental health team led by my father up to parts of Sendai and nearby Fukushima.

I’ve been given my radiation dosimeter and mask, and will be taking other precautions to remain safe– but this will undoubtedly be a difficult and reflective experience.

For decades, my father has led mental health care professionals into places of terrible natural and man-created disasters. I rarely have had a chance to join him, but the tragedy in Japan hit me too close to my heart to not do my part.  I owe Japan infinitely for it’s inspiration and impact on my life.

Primarily, our team will conduct trainings for volunteers, school officials, nurses, social workers, as well as workshops directly aimed at local children affected by the earthquake and tsunami disaster– all to fight off PTSD which affects so many people after these kinds of disasters.

This is his team’s second trip here already this year– you can read (and see) more about the first trip here.

To help raise money and pay for the hard costs and realities of this kind of work, we broke down the prices of travel, airport shuttles, gas for the cars, translators, food, radiation detection equipment, and more. Check it out, and if you can kick in, every little bit helps.

You can read our journal containing updates from the field and reflections here.

I will also be tweeting as much as I can from the field, and updating with pictures on here.

Wish us luck, and thanks for reading.

Help Amit!

Brownbones eventbrite

My friend Amit Gupta (interviewed on here back in 2007) needs our help.

The best thing you can do is get anyone you know of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, or Sri Lanka) to take a very simple, free, painless test and spread the word to their friends.

Seth Godin will give $10,000 to the match.

More info here. Go swab yourself.

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