I first met Blake and Jason Krikorian at CES 2002, while working for Mediabolic and demonstrating the Pioneer “Digital Library”, a home media server device that was way ahead of its time (and unfortunately never shipped). I still recall the day in May 2004 when Blake called my cell phone and said “what are you doing for lunch?” and upon hearing I had no plans, told me he’d pick me up 20 minutes later. Odd, considering he lived in San Mateo, but that is exactly what happened. We went to Johnny Rocket’s in San Francisco then followed it with a coffee in a Starbucks. About 30 seconds later, Blake’s pulled out his Thinkpad, connected to the WiFi, and started watching and his controlling his TiVo back in San Mateo. By the time I heard the first “do-doo!” sound, I knew I was in (although my buddy Ron repeating the phrase “take the job, take the job” to me about 15 times certainly helped).
My first actual day of work as VP of Product Management was almost three months later, in August 2004, after my wedding and honeymoon. I shared an office with Blake, Jason, and Dee (the uber-executive assistant), and was immediately tasked to write the spec. A couple of hundred pages and a week later, I had a draft. I believe that was the last time that document was ever viewed, but needless to say, we built our product. Our first semi-public showing of the “Slingbox” was at Fall RetailVision 2004 where we won the Best Hardware award, despite not showing the hardware to a single person during the show. Very good times.
Next up was CES 2005, where we formally unveiled the Slingbox at a small “pod” booth in the Innovations Tent. Yup, that’s right, Tent. That was a great CES – the entire team (9 of us) worked together really tightly staffing the booth, doing demos, getting food and beverages, and working the typical18-ish hour days. We captured some phenomenal media attention during the show, and were truly overjoyed when we learned we won the Best Home Media Device award in the Best of CES Awards. This was a very gratifying moment for me personally, as the previous year another product I had a big hand in building and demonstrating (the Denon NS-S100 home media server) won the Best of Show (overall!) award. It’s not quite like the Habs winning 5 cups in a row, but it’s probably about as close as a geek like me will ever get!
My next big demo was a month later at the Texas Instruments Developers Conference, where I joined VP Greg Delagi on stage to demonstrate the Slingbox to about a 1000 TI developers. I demoed after SawStop but before Wakamaru. Nice placement, I must say. Now to properly set up the moment you have to understand, we only had a handful of working Slingboxes at the time, and they were a little delicate. While hauling around my demo kit, the connectors slowly got loose enough to the point where the cables didn’t always fit in right. During my demo, as is the rule, everything was going wrong. When a VP from TI came over to help hold in the cable, he accidentally broke the connector off. I like to think that I didn’t even stutter as it occurred, but something was clearly amiss in the demo. Either way, I still did better than Wakamaru-san.