iGames Summit 2009 – How @juliejulie Got Her Groove Back

I decided to go to the first ever iGames Summit in San Francisco last Thursday. Actually, it was more like I was led there by the voices of a few smart Sirens, Charles Hudson and David Sachs.

And so, dear readers, my Odyssey from old video gamer wife to new mobile game entrepreneur officially begins.

Please note: for a complete run down of relevant technical and business information presented at iGames, please read this great post by Charles called “What I Learned at the iGames Summit” since what I’m about to write is all about me. As usual.

In true @juliejulie goofball style, I nearly arrived at the conference a week early.

Things are tough in our little town of Bend, Oregon in the middle of the high desert. Our real estate bubble has burst. With our growing unemployment, many failed businesses that were tied to the real estate and banking, and the numerous home foreclosure notices piling up week after week, we could be a poster child for the new economy.

Oregon is trying to make sure small startups like ours get some funding, but the reality is, developer geeks like my husband and Biz Dev girls like me usually have to telecommute for contracts in the Bay Area, Portland, or Seattle.

So, I was ready to get up and go, go, go to California. Ready to make stuff happen. Ready to get in a car, and drive to the action.

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, Charles saw my tweets about packing up to leave, and fired off a quick message to remind me the conference was on March 19th, not on March 12th. Oops. I’d like to blame my Google calendar. It should have a feature that can predict screw ups due to over-excitement.

Because of my very own unemployment and tight boot-strapped budget, I decided to drive the 500 miles down to San Francisco instead of springing for the $528 airplane ticket. But then my car had to go to the shop, so I ended up renting a car.

So finally, a week later, I’m driving. Finally, I’m alone, away from the relentless demands of the Startup Family. The miles quickly spin away under my tires, and the music blares loudly. I can think now, in this nice, new, clean, fully functional car.

What is my goal for this journey? What do I want? Who do I need to meet? How does this trip help our little Mom and Pop game company with the big idea?

Spinning, spinning, spinning. Always spinning. The waves of pavement roll beneath my tires.

Nine hours later, as I crossed the Bay Bridge exactly at the moment the sun set below the Golden Gate, it hit me. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next three months, but I need to trust the journey. I exhaled, and began to relax.

I was happy to be back in San Francisco, where people still have jobs, and energy, and big ideas. These people still believe in magic, and they know how to make games you can play on your cell phone. These are my kind of people.

This first iGames conference was fantastic, and I was reminded of the first Game Developers Conference I attended in 1990. A couple hundred smart people who are creating the infrastructure and the products for this new wave of mobile software entertainment gathered together to help each other figure it all out.

I like to be in the sandbox with the smart kids, watching and learning how to play.

Although I’m not as young and cute as I used to think I was, I’ve found it still just takes a friendly smile and a pleasant hello to meet all the fun, smart people in the room. People like Keith Lee and Brian Morrisroe the boys at Booyah, the amazing Ge Wang of Smule and the iPhone Ocrina fame, and many others told me about their companies, their products, and some of their hopes and dreams.

At 6:00 p.m., after shaking hands and thanking Charles and David for letting me come, I walked outside to grab a cab back to the hotel. Standing at the curb with a big suitcase, was Gian Wilson of Microsoft Mobile. I convinced him to share a cab with me downtown and meet some friends for a drink before he hopped a plane to New York a few hours later.

Gian is a brilliant, sophisticated 25 year old with an amazing story. He grew up in Trinidad, tinkered with tech, and was asked by his government to help build technology awareness and education to bring his country up to speed by 2020. He landed a job at Microsoft after attending business school in New York. He plans to return home eventually, after building his career and connections, to share his knowledge.

I liked Gian right away and thought it was pretty gutsy of him to be a lone Microsoft guy at an iPhone conference, and it was quite gracious of him to allow a 43 year old mother of three to talk him into sharing a cab and buying her a drink while she grilled him on the future of mobile entertainment at Microsoft and what it will mean for independent developers.

Sometimes we like to pretend Microsoft isn’t cool enough to be in the sandbox, but it seems to me they might have a few tricks up their sleves.

For the record, I have a PC and a BlackBerry, @Nosredna has the Mac and an iTouch.  We will be getting iPhones as soon as AT&T comes to Bend, so shut up.  And yes, we will port our games to the BlackBerry and the Android, and make stuff for Facebook. We’re an equal opportunity mobile games start up.

So while I was sitting there in the bar at the Four Seasons in San Francisco with an old friend I met while I was a nanny 20 years ago in Atherton, and new friends I had met two hours earlier, I realized I was in my @juliejulie element. I was starting to figure something out. It was still all a bit fuzzy, but I felt my groove coming back.

What’s my goal? I’m seeking connections and sharing stories with entreperneurs, early adopters, and regular people who enjoy the fun of playing games on their phones and on their computers, and meeting real people online and offline.

How do I get there? I’ll keep you posted. I’m still at the beginning of my Oddessy, after all. And I’m trying to carefully untie myself from the ship to follow more Sirens, without getting smashed against the rocks.

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