AdventGX and my experiences

Here it is, almost 13 years after letting go of AdventGX that I am sitting down to write about the various experiences. In many ways it was one of the most exciting times of my life. In other ways, it was the some of the most difficult, primarily I am still trying to recover from the economic challenges and reconnect with my children in Texas.

There might be some dispute whether I can post this stuff as to "confidentiality" - frankly, I don't give a damn. These experiences were unbelievably challenging. In fact, the saga still continues. However, I am still alive, but a three people died during this process, and I am posting this for posterity, in case I were to suddenly die. At the time of this writing I have not seen my kids in Texas since I left in 2009. I have not seen my son Benjamin in Colombia since I left in 2011. This has been a result of economics. Essentially, since I left working for Dr. Ewing, upon his death I have not had a regular income. I did for awhile in Colombia, but it was not adequate to take care of my child support "obligations" in Texas so I returned to Iowa. Only to do work for Alliant Energy and Mid-American, and not get paid $40,000 in commissions. These experiences did however, bring me into Sarah Ford's life, and the resultant activities and experiences that have been equally unbelievable as my time in Texas and Colombia South America.

The description could very easily digress into a description of my being invited to join "the dark side", and in many ways I believe that is what the experience entails and ultimately I will need to write about this. However, at this point I want to record my view of the experience as it happened. The connections, experiences and what I created during this time I feel are serving my future. My greatest concepts, and most productive work life, with written and pictorial records occurred between 2001 and 2008 when I finally walked away from Texas A&M University and, essentially, AdventGX as company that was formed based upon my work and Vision.

In some respects, I think that the company will be coming back to me. Casey Jensen, in one of our phone conversations, expressed the same intuitive feeling.

There is also a more recent revelation about the symbolic aspects of my living in Bryan, Texas and traveling, and working at Texas A&M in College Station. Texas A&M can very easily be identified as a major player in the "dark" side of this current time on planet earth. This relates to George Bush Sr., choosing it as the location for his presidential library, TAMU's connection to oil and military, wealth, Texas, etc. Then on the other side, Bryan being named after William J. Bryan, a pacifist, a silver advocate, and the connection to the book, and movie The Wizard of Oz, and the cowardly lion being Bryan. (see video from Yahoo, "The forgotton meaning of the Wizard of Oz). This whole discussion will be a digression, but a very significant one because it will tie together some recent revelations about the greater, spiritual?, implications of the nature of my experiences while living in Bryan/College Station, and the whirlwind of life changing events such as the passing of Dad and Dr. Ewing, my divorce from Yongxia and all the challenge around getting evicted on Easter Sunday 2008.

I was working away as the statewide extension agent for naturae tourism and the various programs in the Cooperative Extension office of the RPTS department. Because of my affinity and interest in technology I was delving deep into getting content and information posted online because the department as a whole had no real web presence. Plus, there was a significant amount of very useful content in Extension, and an expanding presence that could be very useful to communities and businesses.

I delved deep into building a Web based resource center. I was building lots of online surveys. Yongxia and I were an amazing team. I had the vision of what was possible, and she could make it happen. I also had made a lot of great contacts with state agencies and was envisioning getting technology, or at least some web based tools, working for providing information, but also beginning to gather much needed data about travelers in Texas. This project would naturally blend into the project with Jim Petrick, and 22 state tourism surveys. This was another significant learning experience related to "successful" people in academia and it being truly the anti-thesis of my whole philosophy of what higher education is about. Jim's story is also a digression, and at some level, a funny one, and at another, not.

Development of Market Match, TexBox and gaining attention of Jose Quintana and Ron Robinson

When I got to Cooperative Extension, Carson Watt had developed a concept that I think he had coined "Market Match". I believe this was derived from his awareness of how valuable customer survey information would be to all levels of tourism businesses, and their affiliated organizations. TAMU was top tier in this arena, and a lot of standardized survey research has been conducted. During my time in the department, I believe I was involved in upwards of 40 online surveys as it was the only way to really make this happen. Good ole John Crompton, and tourism academics in general, were still stuck in paper surveys.

One of the most amazing evolutions of developing a "hybrid" was the Big Bend Marketing Study that Scott Shafer, Min Sun Doh and myself conducted. It is one of those research processes that I believe will have significant impacts as we move forward. (See Big Bend Report)

Carson conceived of Market Match, Yongxia could build it. And, in the end, what she created made Survey Monkey look like a joke, but this project never really saw the light of day. Maybe someday it will. A detailed description will be included in the future, as will links to Yongxia's seminal work into human computer "flow experience" in a web environment.

I was working closely with Doris Howdeshell at the TxDOT Travel division. I had an idea to get Market Match put in computers at the travel centers, I believe a total of 10 across the state. I often was a presenter at their annual state travel information conferences. So, I thought she would be a great first launch attempt. She said she really didn't have the need at the moment, but she knew of Andy Keith who was deep in a project to update and upgrade all of the rest areas across the state, and that he had an idea for building a kiosk.

I reached out to Andy and the TexBox was invented. I have shared this story in many ways, and the experience was one of my greatest accomplishments. What I haven't shared in written form, was the entire "substance" of the project was completed in just a few days over a month, including installation of 4 kiosks up in the Texas panhandle. The details are kind of involved, such as the headache of dealing with a contract between two state agencies, bureaucratic incompetence, solving technical issues, while traveling, as I remember, 10 hours, one way, about 8 times during the month. Ultimately we had a successful launch, but there was significant changes that occurred which opened up new, and kind of weird twists to the entire story and experience. Without going into deep detail here, this is a link to the original documents concepts and original contract.

This project then evolved to Coach Connect (failure), Zoom Information Systems (current but struggling), GEICO sponsorship as of last year, but ultimately an example of how slow bureaucracies move. To be continued, maybe . . .

Andy meets Jose Quintana

Carson Watt had said at one point, "I need to introduce you to Jose Quintana". It happened. And, I was chosen, out of all the people across TAMU, to start a company with Dr. Richard Ewing's Technology Transfer Commercialization Initiative (TTCI). Jose and Ron Robinson, Ex CEO of Texaco Science and Technology, had their own project called KD (Knowledge Deployment). I believe they were positioning themselves to "cherry pick" companies that rose up out of Dr. Ewing's Vision. Dr. Ewing wanted to stimulate, and hold technology companies at TAMU and the community. However, I know he also had a very strong desire to create a university culture that was more collaborative across colleges and departments.

Jose Quintana, was an opportunist, although he claimed to be the only entrepreneur to have started successful companies in TAMU history. Ron Robinson wanted to make more money. When I first met Ron, he had stepped into the Endowed Chair position in the Petroleum Engineering department. It was Ron I had to ultimately convince of the merit of technology applied to the tourism industry, but he wasn't interested in the way I was, he just wanted to know WIFME (What's in it for me). That is when I spun the model from the services and benefits, to the places where revenue was generated via the technology. I still don't think anyone has fully comprehended the potential. Most people don't see that the Service and Value provided with drive money exchange and generation. Provide a link to one of the documents "Where's the Money?"

Board Meeting in 2003, meeting Casey Jensen

Coming up with the name AdventGX

Story of when Jose told me it was time to quit my job.

I began working actively with Jose and AdventGX in 2003. We had begun some level of conversation before I completed the TexBox project. I feel that I was in a sort of evaluation phase, whether or not I could pull that almost impossible project off. I will got into some detail on that at a later time.

Things were going terrific with AdventGX. Essentially we were tapping into my network across the state. Interesting diverse projects were coming in and things were really moving. Jose had not introduced me to Joan Tatge, or if he had, she hadn't started steering the boat, via, I believe, Jose's penis.

Things were a whirlwind. I was still working my job with RPTS, Cooperative Extension. I had attended the Federal Reserve Bank Conference in Kansas City. We were making contacts with various communities. Coach Connect's Road Connect project and the developing Vestivo (RV park reservation system and wifi) was underway. One of the more interesting community development proposals was in Marshall, TX. Having my responsibilities with AdventGX and the university had me stretched thin, but I was loving it.

My mom was sick in Iowa, struggling with cancer that the doctors had had plenty of time to deal with, but missed the signs for over 9 months. She passed in August.

I remember that I was literally in my car, getting ready to drive up to visit my mother's memorial, with our whole family, and Jose came up to the window and told me "It's time Andy." I knew what he meant, but I guess I might have asked. "You mean time for me to quit my job with the university?" He said "Yes." And, as per my usual response at these critical junctures of my life I said, simply. "OK."

Now, reflecting back, I can't imagine a more impressionable, or vulnerable point to be confronted with such a huge decision. It was jumping off a cliff. My job at the university was secure. I was thriving. I was a rock star, bringing the department into the age of the Internet. At the same time, there was this sense of being torn. At that point, because the TTCI was brand new, I couldn't hold a joint position with a private company, and my professor job. The official policy had not been established. It is ironic, however, these policies were established. In fact, a professor who was working on the Star Roter (2nd TTCI candidate) was given a dual appointment. I had a sense that I was taken advantage of, but like many points in my life, I wasn't going to look back. In fact, I had had a verbal agreement with Jose with a salary of $70,000 and I was getting paid. This lasted for about a year. The second ten months is when I wasn't getting paid, which combined with all the other factors, elaborated in the section "2007 The Year from Hell"

Contract with Van Horn, Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin

Enter, Joan Tatge, and a loss of control of "the boat". Secret marriage in Van Horn.

Key Projects, examples

Van Horn, Texas

The Silver Trail Project, and death of the principal (pictures)

US China Relations Conference (Roundtable proposal)

Texas Education Vacation

Lobbying in Washington DC

Coach Connect, Vestivo, NOT pursuing Journey Builder, although Jose developed a version for the Big Bend region

Meeting Jeff Bezos, and the North Dakota conference

Meeting Dan Wells, owner of Wells Blue Bunny

Speaking at the 4 midwest Federal Home Loan Bank conferences (Des Moines, Minneapolis)

Returning to Texas A&M with my tail between my legs

The year from hell, 2007

Associated documents

The AdventGX business plan that I wrote AGX Executive Summary

Coach Connect, Road Connect, Jamison Stewart
TxDOT proposal brief       TxDOT complete

Journey Builder

Washington Lobbying Trip
Grassley ltr

Extra Assorted documents
Clinton ltr