Friday, October 14, 2016

Writing and updates

So, one challenge I quickly learned about after moving to Shanghai is that many internet channels are blocked - including Google. And Google owns Blogger / Blogspot. So my access to my blog became very limited. Hence the lack of updates.

Also blocked are a lot of other things that had become wonderful time wasters, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I like those other things, but I'm not really dependent on them like I realize I have become on Google. Take away Google maps, Google translate and just good old Google search and life as an expat becomes a little more challenging. There are, of course, Chinese substitutes, or other versions that get around the Great Firewall. But they're just not as good.

For instance, you can rely on Apple maps on your iphone. But where's the desktop version when you're sitting at your desk. And if you don't know where you're going, then the search function on Apple maps just isn't up to the task.

For translation, Baidu Translate does a passable job at Chinese. But nowhere as good as Google. And it's pretty useless for other languages. Although I will give it credit for having a nice highlighting function, so you can point clearly at the part you want translated. This was particularly handy when trying to figure out what I was buying in the Chinese grocery store. Was it laundry detergent or dishwashing detergent? Baidu sorted me out.

And, to replace Google search? There's Yahoo. Remember them. And sadly, they're not very good. And there's Baidu, but it's really made for Chinese speakers. And there's Bing, which might be the best option, but still feels kind of odd when you have to search with Bing. Really, who "Bings" something?

Point being, one must adjust. First, you get used to the alternatives. Secondly, you move into your new home, you get set up with WiFi, and you sign up for a nice VPN service. It's not as fast, and it could get shut down at any time, but it gets you around the firewall so you can use the services you became accustomed to - like your old blogging platform.

So, we're back online. Here we go again...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Moving Along

So I moved today. I'm now living in Shanghai, China.

I've enjoyed writing about my travels in the past, but haven't done as much of it lately for a variety of reasons. I'm hoping to do a bit more now that I'm living in a new place. So I'll have two topics to post one - Daption and Life in China.

A few months ago a headhunter, Charlie Thomas from The Talent Business, contacted me about a role in Shanghai, working for AKQA and managing their Nike business there.  Well, the headhunter knew me because I'd contacted him previously to express an interest in working in China, so that was already a positive. AKQA is a great digital agency and one of the firms that I respect the most. And working on Nike has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. So how could I say no.

I paid a visit to the city in May with Franziska. It was nicer than I had expected and the meetings with AKQA and Nike went well. It all came together and here I am.

A few photos:

Here's the customs line. When I came in May I had come under the 144 Transfer Without Visa program, which is little known, which makes it somewhat terrifying, but is really rather brilliant. Particularly as I had had to get a new passport at that time and so had visa problems. (I'll write a post on this to make peoples' lives easier.) This time there was no problem, and I just zipped through.

This is me arriving in Shanghai. (Bad photo, but I had to talk the driver into taking it, and my Mandarin is a little rusty.) These are pretty much my worldly possessions for the past couple of years, which is a little scary, but also liberating. And, of course, the golf clubs always top it all off.

Note the Nike golf travel bag. I've been looking forward to having this client for a long time.

The afternoon was spent settling into the apartment that the agency got for me for the first couple of months, having a wander around the neighborhood, practicing my German online, and trying to not succumb to jet lag. I hit the gym for a bit, and went to the pool. (It's a nice little apartment.) Apparently one must wear a swim cap at all times in the pool. The pool attendant looked disgusted by the fact that I was surprised by this and found one that I could borrow. 

How do you like my new look? (No comments about a Sasquatch wearing a cap allowed.)

After all that I went out for dinner. I'd seen a wonton place just down the street earlier in the day, and it looked friendly, so I thought I'd try it out. The wontons were delicious, but so insanely hot. 

Paying for dinner was kind of funny. They asked for 12 yuan. That's just €1.60. It was so low that I didn't think I'd heard them right. (Well, heard isn't exactly right. Just a lot of pointing and using fingers.) But that's all it was.

Shanghai can be a very expensive city. I'm horrified by what I'm seeing for rent prices. (It is the world's biggest city. 24 million in the municipality. 34 million in the Metro area.) But maybe those high rent prices can be offset by some lower costs elsewhere. I hope so at least.

I'm back in my apartment now. I picked up a Tsing-Tao beer and a bag of Lays Texas Grilled BBQ chips to watch a Canadian play in the the Wimbledon finals. I probably won't make it, due to jet lag. But I'll give it my best.

Stay tuned for more adventures in China.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What's a Daption?

As mentioned before, a Daption is a bird native to the South Ocean. It's also known as a Cape Petrel or a Cape Pigeon. It's a pretty common seabird, but it's still pretty nice looking.

Of course, I had no idea that there was a bird called a Daption. I picked it because I was thinking of Adaptive Clothing and Adaptation and Adaptive Fashion and Adoption and the word Daption seemed like a unique way of alluding to those items while also being unique.

And the URL was available, which was a nice bonus.

I also liked Dapt. And is pretty crisp. But the URL wasn't available. And other people told me that it sounded too "harsh" for what I was trying to do.

Having named a lot of things in my career, I know how hard it can be. So when it feels right you should go with it. Daption felt right.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New opportunities for me and progress for Daption

Things are continuing nicely for Daption, but perhaps not as quickly as first hoped. The biggest reason is because of other things exciting things popping up in my life. In particular, I was contacted about a couple of very interesting jobs that I've been traveling to have some discussions about. It's a very real possibility that I will take one of these jobs, which will require me to move and work pretty intensely back in the agency business. This would, of course, significantly reduce the amount of time that I can spend on this project. It's a tough trade off, but it would be tough to turn down the kinds of roles I've always wanted for something that has a great deal of risk attached. If I do take on one of these roles I'd intend to continue with Daption on a reduced basis, but get additional external help to keep things going. I'm optimistic that I can continue.

Recently I've been spending a lot of time working on product selection. I've had a contractor and various "advisors" assist me with the process. From day one I've known that I don't want to be in the fashion design business. Rather, I want to find great existing designs that people would have liked to wear before they had Alzheimer's and adapt those items for their new reality. So finding these kinds of items has been my greatest challenge. It's an interesting and kind of fun process, but it's particularly time consuming. And, of course, I can't go out and produce hundreds of items from the start, so the culling process is half the battle. We're making progress though. 

On the other hand, I'm also very open to suggestions. If anyone has an item that they believe would be a great fit for what we're trying to  do with this brand (premium, high quality, fashionable but not fashion) please don't hesitate to let me know. You can email me ideas or links at 

Also, we've got a visual identity set and I'm very happy with it. I worked with a freelancer that we found through UpWork. She was very collaborative and easy to work with, but also brought her extensive design expertise and experience to the project. There are a few versions of our logo for a variety or needs and occasions:

This is the primary one...

For horizontal requirements...

And for when we want just a visual...

Oh, and if you weren't aware, the daption is a seabird common in the Southern Ocean. It's better known as the Cape Petrel. I've of course never seen one. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What's Daption all about?

If you're reading this, you probably know me. And if you know me, you likely know that my mom has Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's back in 2007, when she was in her early 60s, but she'd clearly had early stages for a while. 

We went through the amazing caregiver courses provided by the Canadian Alzheimer's Society, and they were very helpful. But in the end this awful disease is a one way trip. It's a long story, and I'll get into it with my therapist but not on my blog, but she stayed at home for as long as possible and then moved into the care facility in late 2010. 

At one point the care facility told us that with my mother's state we should buy her some adaptive clothes. We had no idea what those were, but they explained that they are clothes made to make dressing and being dressed easier for the person with Alzheimers. They pointed us in the direction of a local store and told us to pay a visit.

So I did this and had an awful experience. Simply put, the clothes were very poor. The fabrics used looked like they were the cheapest remnants that the store could buy. Terrible patterns and uncomfortable to the touch. And the quality of the construction wasn't any better, feeling like it might come apart in your hands at any time. Lastly, the service was disappointing. I think the people there meant to do well, but they provided very little help, and anyone that's gone through this knows already that this is an emotional process. Later, when I went back to the store another time, it was almost like they showed up when they felt like it, rather than ran it like a business to serve their customers.

There must be a better option online you'd think. There is a company in Canada that seems to be the market leader, but when I went there the products were no better and the website was very poor. It seemed be going for the lowest common denominator experience, which I understand and is probably good business for them, but it wasn't what I was looking for. It was all just such a terrible experience. 

So it was bad for me as a buyer and a loved one of someone with Alzheimer's. But the worst part of it is that the people who will be wearing these clothes, the people with Alzheimer's, are people who have taken care of themselves their entire lives and cared about what they looked like. My mom was a respected professional who always did her best to look the part. But now that these people can't stand up for themselves and dress themselves, now that they're dependent on others to dress, clothe and feed them, we put them in these awful outfits that they never would have been caught dead in.

To a certain degree it sounds like a small thing. I can hear people saying "Hey, who cares about what they wear when they've got Alzheimer's." Or a friend of mine who recently said "Old people don't care what they're dressed like." But I entirely disagree. These are the same people they always were the rest of their lives, deep down, and they care about many of the same things that they cared about the rest of their lives. If they wanted to be dressed well then, then I believe they want the same thing now.

So that's the idea. There's an unmet need in the world to create a better quality of adaptive clothing for people with Alzheimer's. We can give them back a bit of dignity. And we can provide a better buying experience for the people who care about them. And if we can create a decent business, then we can actually also do some good in the world, and give people just a little bit better life when they've already lost so much.

Feel free to provide feedback. Got suggestions? Think it's a terrible idea? Bring it on...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Some progress. Some.

It's the start of a new week and I'm back at it. Unfortunately last week wasn't particularly effective, as my clients at Nikon had some needs that took up a lot of time, so Daption got put a bit on the back burner. But I don't want to do that too much, so this week it's a priority.

Some things are progressing. Some less so.

I got the introduction to the corporate structure consultant. We're now scheduled to have a call on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to hearing what he's got to say. He tends to take on big clients with big businesses, so I hope he can relate to my small scale.

I hired a graphic designer to put together a corporate identity. She's already come back with a few ideas and directions which I'm pretty pleased with. We may end up having a distinct logo, or we may just go with a wordmark. We'll see.

And I hired a fashion designer to start working with me on product assortment. This is, of course, the most important thing. This is what we're going to be making. So the first step is critical. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if we're off to the best start, so I'll have to make a decision on that in the next day or so. Our first round was far off the mark from the premium feel that I want to have. There are providers out there who already make what we're going to make. I want to make something better, so that we can improve lives.

I also had an amazing call last Thursday with an advisor who was the founder of one of the world's premiere functional apparel brands. He gave me some incredibly useful information on product development, production, brand management and financial challenges. I'm not sure if he's willing for me to say he's given me a hand publicly, so I can't name drop yet, but it was very useful.

I'm not really afraid of the brand management, marketing and ecommerce. That's what I do. The product development and production is scary, but I can take care of that. The cash flow discussion was fascinating and clearly a hurdle for success. As he put it, the apparel business often becomes a financing business. It's obvious once you get into it, but I had no idea.

So, a very good week last week, even if less focussed than hoped.

Now, we need to start making progress on making stuff.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Getting some help - Finding freelancers

At the moment Daption is me and I'm Daption. However, I don't want it to stay that way. I'm not a one man show - I know what I can do well and I know what I can't do. I don't have the need nor budget to hire anyone full-time at the moment, but I do need some people to help with the design and product development. So I've started to search online for contractors that I can work with - which was the focus of day three. I put together some project posts and have put them online. Then I searched for freelancers with the appropriate skills and invited them to a discussion about the project. One got back to me, so we'll start the discussion with her, and I'm excited about her skills, but I hope to hear from a few more. It always feels better when you can pick from a few strong candidates.

Work today was mostly in the Kingfisher Cafe and Starbucks. The site I'm primarily using for finding talent is UpWork. Unfortunately, it was particularly buggy today, and I couldn't view portfolios after an hour or two. In my mind portfolios are the best way to evaluate talent. So things didn't go as smoothly as hoped.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard back from the guy about where and how to register the company. I'll hope to make that connection in the next few days too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Setting up Daption.

April 4 - Day number two at Daption.

It's going to be interesting doing one part-time job for half the day, then going home to do my start-up. But I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity. Not everyone has the chance to pay the bills for the first half their day, then pursue their dreams the other half.

Plus, working with people for the morning will prevent me from going crazy whilst working alone for the rest of the day.

Today was spent sorting out a corporate structure. When you're not really based anywhere, and you plan to sell via ecommerce at first, then you can register your company anywhere. But where? Low taxes and ease of doing business are key. But reputation is also important.

Funny enough, the big news story of the day is the Panama Papers, all about people setting up offshore companies to avoid taxes. The whole idea of registering a company has been painted with this brush of tax avoidance by the wealthy, whereas I'm trying to just set something up in the appropriate way, and I'm certainly not wealthy.

There are a few options that could be good places to base the company. Singapore looks good, but requires a local resident director, and becomes pricey if you have to spend much time there. Ireland could also be good, with nice low taxes and a solid customer service orientation.

I think I need help with this one. A bad decision at this point could be painful down the road. A friend has a contact that does this kind of thing for a living. I'm hoping to talk to him and get some quick input.

It seems strange to focus on setting up a corporate structure at this point, before doing any "real" work, but before I start spending my money I want to make sure I'm doing things correctly. Then we can start moving forward.

April fools

First post in a long time...

On Friday I moved from a nice full-time gig at Nikon Europe to a part-time role, so that I could spend the other half of my time working on a new business idea that I've been thinking about for a while.

Job number one on Friday - I moved.

I had originally taken a small apartment in Amsterdam while I was doing consulting work for Nikon. I thought it was going to be a short term contract, but it turned into a full year's worth of work. Now that I'm going to be working from home for much of the next few months I needed a place more conducive to that work. In short, I needed an apartment with a table, and my prior place didn't actually have that. Plus, since I'm going to be self-funding this venture initially, I was eager to save a few Euros.

So, Friday was a moving day. It didn't feel like much got accomplished on the new company, but having a space to work in is important. So a good start. I guess.