iContact Honored at CED’s 2008 Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards

Tonight I attended the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s 2008 Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards in Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, NC along with 15 of our closest friends from iContact. We had two full tables and a few people even overflowed to join nearby groups for dinner. iContact was a headline sponsor of the event so we were able to bring a ton of people. It was great to have a great showing from our team at the dinner.

The event was as it always is, one of the best I find each year to network with business people, entrepreneurs, vendors, supporters, and friends from the Triangle who support iContact and Preation and Ryan and I personally. I mentioned to Ryan as we sat down for dinner that it was amazing how many more people among the total attendance I knew and had relationships with than just four years ago when we first began to get involved with CED and really with any people outside of the UNC community. We speculated that we could together name 50% of the people in attendance and probably had established relationships with at least half of those. There are few regions of the country that I feel are as full of people as passionate and motivated and willing to help than as in the Triangle area of North Carolina.

iContact was honored with the CED Growth Company of the Year distinction for 2008 which was truly an honor. CED’s website provides the following description of the award: “The Growth Company of the Year award is presented to an entrepreneur of a high growth company who has successfully navigated the early stage waters and had a large impact on maximizing long term value for the company. The nominee should have played a major role in the company’s success and have a large part in crafting the company’s strategic focus for the future.” It’s hard to believe that we’re being considered a Growth Company now. For five years straight we’ve been called and proudly called ourselves a startup. I guess we’ve recently grown enough to graduate to the next level. Very cool.

Ryan and I had the pleasure of accepting the award on behalf of the iContact team. Video of the award announcement is now on YouTube. In our audio presentation, that we recorded at CED in advance, Ryan and I spoke about our strategy for success, how the team has contributed (as if any of this could have been possible without an incredible team), and our unique culture that values fun. It was a nice opportunity to speak briefly about the company and hit some of the high points in front of a local crowd that’s followed our progress for many years now. It’s incredible to think that we’ve been running iContact solid for nearly five years now… although I guess it’s only been called iContact for 12 months :).

Who needs dual monitors anyway?!

Some time last fall we noticed that every employee at Preation had two monitors, either two LCD screens or two flat CRT monitors with the exception, ironically, or both members of our design team. The software developers seemed to have the nicest and newest screens and nearly everyone on the sales team (and myself) used their laptop as one of their two screens having also a free-standing external LCD screen.

Having dual screens become so renowned in the office that our head of web strategy Neil quickly dubbed the term Twonitor (pronounced Twa-ni-ter), the result of smashing the words Two and Monitor together (new word creation through word smashing is also a bad habit of mine, I call it newomashing for short). Also to note, last year Neil coined the popular office term crepulent, for no specific reason that I can recall, to describe something of low quality that shared both crappiness and a generally accepted disgust from the people who had to interact with it. The perfect term for things like printers that constantly get paper jams.

Anyway, after the realization of the odd mismatch in screen equality among company teams it didn’t take long for our lead designer Randall to politely request a second screen for himself. Naturally it made lots of sense, if not the most sense, for him to have the nicest visual displays for his work environment. When he made his request we put the purchase on a list of upcoming hardware needs and then pretty much forgot about it for a few months until the purchase was to be made.

The time came and the additional 19 inch LCD screen was purchased. But as luck would have it Randall was out on a week of vacation when the screen arrived at the office and it enticed several people as it sat there still in its box waiting to be put to work. Finally the tension was too much and it was removed from the box, salivating likely ensued. Since the new screen matched a screen being used by another employee it would need to be part of a shuffle to get everything into a new arrangement.

I was out of town at the same time (luckily my extra monitor was spared) and when I returned I found the following arrangement (see pictures below) among service team workstations (designers and developers). I thought to myself “I love it!”

The team had not only divvied up the nicest monitors for themselves but had made a point to give Randall the dual-screen setup he requested… comprised of the oldest pieces of junk with screens on them that they could find in the building. Truly crepulent! They also iced the cake by giving each of themselves what could only reasonably be referred to as Tronitor. I’m not entirely sure where the old monitors came from but I bet they have some ties back to our early startup days when we used to purchase computer monitors from the UNC Chapel Hill University Surplus store at Carolina North for fifteen bucks a piece. And I mean PIECE, as the pictures show.

Randall returned the following Monday and as one might imagine was less than thrilled with his new computer system. Although being quite low-tech he may still have harnessed the most pixel power of anyone in the office… I think they were 24 inch CRTs. Although, that assumes that all of the pixels were still working which just wouldn’t have been possible considering their age. Naturally the prank arrangement was dismantled and everyone had a good laugh, but not before Randall got at least a few hours of work done as if he was looking through a stained-glass window. We’re all glad he’s got a good sense of humor!

Prank Workstation Arrangement

Workstations shown below belong to team members in the following order: Phil (developer), Christina (developer), Lee (developer), Randall (designer)

Team Preation/iContact Places 3rd in Charity Plane Pull Event

Team Preation/iContact with Special Olympics AthletesTeam Preation/iContact placed third out of 65 corporate teams at the 2008 Plane Pull at RDU to benefit the Special Olympics of North Carolina. Five team members representing both Preation and iContact pulled an American Airlines Embraer Regional Jet (weighing 40,000 lbs) along a 25ft course in a record 10.00 second time.

The pull time of 10.00 seconds qualified us in the top ten overall and we got to pull again to determine the top three placing teams. In the first round of pulls our time ranked 2nd among all teams, including the 10 additional law enforcement teams. In the championship round our second pull time of 10.14 seconds was good enough for fourth overall and third among other corporate competitors. These two pulls were the only attempts our team has ever done since this was our first year to compete in a plane pull competition and since no one could turn up an extra Regional Jet for us to practice on before the competition. Bummer.

Team Preation/iContact pulling American Airlines Regional JetVideo of our second plane pull is on YouTube. Also, video of some commentary from myself and my wife Sarah our photographer/videographer between the two plane pulls for the event is on YouTube as well. Team members on the rope in the second pull video are (from left to right): Dwayne Taylor, myself, Wes Garrison, Lynn Morehouse, and Justin Rauschenberg. The event was held on April 19th at the Raleigh/Durham International Airport in North Carolina.

Special Olympics of North Carolina raised over $150,000 this year from the Plane Pull event.