Beware of deals too good to be true

Early in the year I bought a hotel package deal. Nothing special there – I know a lot of people who buy daily deals, groupons etc.  but this was my first deal and I have to say I was a little exited about it.

The deal was from and it was for a nights stay in the Prince of Wales in Athlone with dinner for two, a bottle of wine, breakfast and a late checkout. The price? 79 euro. Bargain. It was from but it could have been from anyone.

I rang in May looking for a Friday night but couldn’t get a Friday Night – “All the Friday & Saturday nights for boards vouchers were gone”. I also rang in June & July and got the same response. It seemed only mid-week slot were available which doesn’t suit most people. With the voucher due to expire in September I decided we would use it when we got back from holidays .. to help us ‘adjust’ into the Irish Summer.

I booked it for a Thursday night.  The Prince of Wales (if you google them) states it’s a recently refurbished four star hotel but it doesn’t really have the facilities that you expect for a 4 star hotel. If you put the Sheraton (also 4 star) beside the PoW it’s hard to understand why the Prince of Wales is a four star hotel.

We checked in fine, the receptionist asked what time we’d like to reserve our meal for – we agreed 8pm. The room, on the 2nd floor, was  clean and typically what you get from Irish hotels today. The room was a little stuffy so we opened the window to get some fresh air. The window looked out over the square and towards the entrance of the town shopping centre and consisted of a main window and a second separate sliding window.

Around 8pm we went to have our dinner. We headed towards the Restaurant but we were told it was closed and that we could have our meal in the Pub arena. The pub had the usual combination of high tables and low tables with plenty of televisions showing a championship soccer match on all of them.

There wasn’t many tables left as most people were having a drink so we ended up under a large flatscreen TV – not ideal as you think most people are staring at you!  We got menus only to find out the usual menu wasn’t the menu for voucher holders. The voucher menu didn’t really have a great choice but we found something to eat. Having dressed up a little bit we felt a little overdressed in the pub to be honest.

The bottle of wine was a very cheap and cheerful Cono-Sur bottle which retails about 5euro but listed as 18euro in the wine list.

The mushroom soup starter was dire, one of the main courses (beef) was dry and tasteless. The other main course (chicken) was fine but the vegetables were over cooked and soggy. Desert wasn’t anything to write home about either.

As we were finishing up we noticed the pub was starting to fill up with people out for the night – as it turns out the Prince of Wales has a nightclub and it swung into full swing by midnight. We went back to the room and the noise from  the people coming and going was booming into our room with the windows opened so they had to be closed. With no air-con the room was hot & stuff and not conducive to sleep. Also the low-frequency booms from the nightclub music didn’t help at all in getting some sleep.

It was about 3am when the music had stopped , the people had gone home and when we eventually got some piece and quite.

Not being happy campers we left early in the morning without the breakfast . Being a bit peeved with the whole experience and just wanted to get out of the place as quickly as possible and promising never to return.

It’s left me very wary of hotels that advertise via daily deals, I also put my hands up that  I didn’t do my research either – the Prince of Wales on their homepage advertise the nightclub and hen parties – so the moral of the story is beware of the deal that seems too good to be true and do your research!!

Putting my mini-rant aside – the bigger picture is that hotels could be getting a quick revenue injection from deals like this but if the experience is bad it will hurt them in the long run. A bad customer experience will ensure that customer doesn’t return and tells other people of how bad it was and to avoid them. The exact opposite is also true – so hotels – if you’re listening – get it right. Give Friday/Saturday nights, open the restaurant, give good food and wine.. and for the love of gaud put guest miles away from the noise if you have to have a nightclub!

BlackBerry Torch (9800) review

I’ve had the BlackBerry Torch for about a month now and I have to say – it’s a keeper. It’s now my main day-to-day phone. I get about 2 days between charges which is good considering the large touch screen.
The phone is in my preferred form factor: touch screen slider with a full qwerty keyboard (much like the palm pre I love so much). (9/10)
The keyboard isn’t as good as the one I’m familiar with to on the BB 8900 but still it’s a pleasure to type emails/messages on it.  (9/10).
The trackball has been replaced with a trackpad which works really well for navigation and scrolling. (9/10)

The touch screen is responsive and quick. It still doesn’t handle ‘pinch-zoom’ in the browser as well as Apple devices which is disappointing but all in all the screen is good compared to the terrible BB Surepress Storm attempt. I was expecting the resolution to be higher but it’s okays for the job. (7/10)

The call quality is very good, the headset works really well – so well that most people don’t realise I’m driving which is nice.

The phones charges off USB (most of nokia’s phone still fail here!) and nice and quickly (8/10) the camera is okay to take daytime photos. The flash isn’t great and a lot of photos I took in poorly lit areas didn’t come out too well. (7/10)

The top 3 things I like about the phone – (1) the single message inbox which shows all my emails and social network messages. (2) The universal search i.e. just start typing to find what you’re looking for (app/contact/email etc.) (3) The voice command feature is just fantastic. Spending a lot of time in the car, with a press of the button the phone asks for a command like ‘Call Ian, mobile 1’ and it will dial @ricei in and instant. The voice dialing just worked straight out of the box with no training  at all. (9/10)


The app store is okay but not great. (8/10). Apps are easily found and installed.
BlackBerry has most _but_ not all the regular apps. Here is a flavour of what I’ve installed: Facebook, Twitter, 4Sq, Opera, Rove Mobile SSH (handy for checking our cloud instance), Google Maps, Gmail, Gist, Linkedin, HulloMail, DropBox, and QR Scanner.

I keep my phone on silent for new emails/text/SN updates etc. so I rely on the LED notification. RIM doesn’t allow you to customize it but BeBuzz is a small app that allows you to customize the LED colour to suit your needs. It’s really handy with one quick look I can see if it’s a Cauwill mail (blue),Google Mail(red), @twitter/facebook (orange), text message (green) etc.

Just a quick mention to which reads your emails and SMS out loud to you while driving makes things a lot safer. (9/10)

The native social network apps integrate nicely with your existing contacts by updating them with photo’s, email, phone numbers etc. from all the networks into one comprehensive address book. (9/10). Sweet.

BlackBerry Travel is terrific for keeping all travel related info in one place.  It automatically picks up email confirmations from hotels, airlines and creates a new ‘Trip’. It pulls information like weather etc. about your destination, who in your Linkedin network is there and things around your hotel destination. It also pulls flight information too.. just awesome!

So that’s a round up of BlackBerry apps I’ve got installed – however BlackBerry is missing some key apps like: skype, spotify, plendi, xero 🙁 .. Get on it developers and get them released!!

No angry birds 🙁 to be honest I haven’t found any games worth playing on it. (1/10)


BlackBerry Torch 9800 Specifications

Size (LxWxD) Closed: 4.4″ x 2.4″ x 0.57″  /  111mm x 62mm x 14.6mm
Open: 5.8″ x 2.4″ x 0.57″ / 148mm  x 62mm x 14.6mm
161.59 g / 5.7 oz (includes battery)
Operating System BlackBerry 6
CPU Speed 624 MHz
– 512 MB internal flash memory
– 4GB built-in storage memory
Expandable Memory
– 4GB microSD card included
– Supports up to 32GB microSD card
1270 mAhr removable/rechargeable cryptographic lithium cell
Battery Life
GSM Talk Time: 5.5 hours; GSM Standby Time: 17 days
UMTS Talk Time: 5.8 hours; UMTS Standby Time: 13 days
Audio Playback: 29.8 hrs
Video Playback: 6 hrs
Physical keyboard: 35 key backlit QWERTY
Touchscreen keyboards: portrait/landscape full qwerty, condensed portrait
High resolution touch scree
Half-VGA+ display (360 x 480 at 188ppi)
3.2″ (diagonally measured)
Navigation – Capacitive traditional touch screen (no SurePress)
– Optical trackpad
5.0 MP camera, flash, auto focus, face detection, image stabilization, scene modes, 2X zoom, video recording
Video Camera
Normal Mode: 640 x 480 pixels
MMS Mode: 176 x 144 pixels
Voice Input/Output
Integrated speaker and microphone, hands-free headset
capable, Bluetooth headset capable, integrated hands-free speakerphone
Integrated GPS with A-GPS (assisted GPS) ready
Media Player
Video format support: MPEG4, H.263, MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile H.264, WMV
Audio format support: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC, OGG
Ringtone format support: 32 polyphonic – MIDI, SP-MDI, MP3, WAV
WiFi Wi-Fi Band: 802.11b/g/n, support for UMA (carrier-dependent)
Bluetooth v2.1; Mono/Stereo Headset, Hands-free, Serial Port Profile, Bluetooth Stereo Audio (A2DP/AVCRP) and Bluetooth SIM Access Profile supported
3.5mm stereo headset capable
SKU1 UMTS: 2100/1900/850/800 MHz (Bands 1,2,5/6)
SKU2 UMTS: 2100/1900/900 MHz (Bands 1,2,8)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS networks

Voltaire Says

Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

— Voltaire

It’s TV but not as we know it Jim.

Chair of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minow said:

When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better,” he began. “But when television is bad,” he warned, “nothing is worse.

And boy is he right!  TV programs are always changing even season to season you can get good shows and you get bad shows gracing our TV  – nothing new here. What is new is how we are consuming  TV program. It’s changing in transformational ways. The concept of beaming TV signals to be displayed on a TV via “boxes”  is disappearing day by day. Also changing is the “conceived value” of existing traditional services. Let me explain the “conceived value” bit first because it leads on to my point of how we consume TV. @lukejr pointed out to me a couple of days ago that you can get a Combo Receiver that will receives Free HD Satellite TV & DTT and can act as single personal video recorder (pause, play, record)  for 143 euros ex-vat! I was gobsmacked at how cheap it is.  So for 143 yoyos you get the usual sat FTA and the Saorview channels.

1 RTÉ 1 46 CBS Reality 91 STREAM-5
2 RTE 2 47 CBS Reality+1 92 STREAM-6
3 TV 3 48 Zone Horror 93 T7 STRM-0
4 TG 4 49 Zone Horror+1 94 T7 STRM-1
5 RTÉ News Now 50 Film24 95 Community channel
6 BBC 1 NI 51 True Ent 96 Vintage TV
7 BBC 2 NI 52 True Movies 97 Record TV
8 BBC HD 53 True Movies 2 98 Al Jazeera Eng
9 BBC One HD 54 movies4men 99 France 24
10 UTV 55 mov4men+1 100 Russia Today
11 ITV1 HD 56 movies4men 2 101 PTV Prime
12 Channel 4 57 mov4men2 +1 102 Abu Dhabi TV
13 Channel 4 +1 58 BBC ALBA 103 PCNE Chinese
14 FIVE 59 BBC PARL’MNT 104 Create & Craft
15 E4 60 S4C 105 The Active Channel
16 E4+1 61 S4C2 106 Body in Balance
17 More4 62 Luxury Life HD HD 107 QVC
18 More4 +1 63 Fitness TV 108 Thane Direct
19 BBC Three 64 Horse & Country 109 Travel Channel
20 ITV2 65 Wedding tv 110 Travel Ch +1
21 ITV2+1 66 Propeller 111 JML Direct
22 ITV3 67 Information tv 112 JML CookShop
23 ITV3+1 68 BET 113 Ideal & More
24 ITV4 69 BET +1 114 Shop on TV
25 ITV4+1 70 Food Network 115 price-drop tv
26 Film4 71 Food Netwrk+1 116 Entrepreneur
27 Film4 +1 72 Controversial tv 117 BBC 1 London
28 BBC NEWS 73 The Vault 118 BBC 2 England
29 Sky News 74 Chart Show TV 119 BBC 1 Wales
30 CNN 75 NME TV 120 BBC 2 Wales
31 CNBC 76 Flava 121 BBC 1 Scotland
32 Bloomberg 77 Bliss 122 BBC 2 Scotland
33 Euronews 78 Scuzz 123 ITV1 London
34 CBBC Channel 79 DanceNation TV 124 STV
35 Cbeebies & BBC4 80 Lava 125 ITV1 Wales
36 CITV 81 Clubland TV
37 POP 82 oMusic TV Radio
38 Tiny Pop 83 Brit asia tv 1 RTÉ Radio 1
39 Tiny Pop +1 84 Channel AKA 2 RTÉ 2FM
40 Kix! 85 B4U Music 3 RTÉ Lyric FM
41 PopGirl 86 STREAM-0 4 RTÉ Raidió na Gae
42 PopGirl +1 87 STREAM-1
43 jazeerachildren 88 STREAM-2
44 CBS Action 89 STREAM-3
45 CBS Drama 90 STREAM-4

The site in question is and I probably will be buying one of these boxes for the folks as the analog signal will be turned off soon enough..

So that’s a lot of channels – admittedly some are absolutely crap but you get about 25 watchable channels. If we compare it to the basic Sky package @ 23 euros a month (that’s 276 euro each year) you’ll find that it match’s a lot of the Sky channels. What you don’t get on Sky is the HD channels without paying for the HD pack. (I know you can tune the FTA channels manually on Sky.. it’s just a pain to get to them via Other Channels!). Once you do the comparison you have to question the value of the basic product Sky is providing.. is it worth it when a ‘free’ version is available?

So we can conclude the cost of receiving TV is decreasing (it ain’t really free).  Another thing we always knew is  TV/Video is data hungry however data costs are falling so this problem will eventually go away.  Another fact is the rise of devices capable of receiving TV. If it’s got a screen and has a data connection then it’s feasible to think it can receive a TV feed, notice I’m using feed now instead of signal because that’s what I believe TV signals is going to transform into.

This transformation is very similar to the transformation that voice went through in the past. Once upon a time it was unthinkable to be able to be tele-communicate with someone while 37,000 feet above the ground and while traveling at 880 km/h. So why can’t we be able to watch our favourite show on our own personal TV device while crossing the Atlantic? We’re not there yet but it’s coming.

I just saw an ad for a DVD rental provider who is beginning to switch to streaming movies instead of renting DVDs  – it’s becoming evident our TV viewing behaviour is changing. We are moving away from devices that sit under and are connected to our TV and becoming accustomed to having TV on demand.  Just like the voice transformation we are moving towards a tether-less world –  a world where TV can be displayed on any device with a screen and data connection.  It’s TV but not as we know it Jim.

Companies providing TV have realised this and started showing tv programs via different feeds – laptop, PC, mobile, tablets. Apple and Google of course are in the mix and it will be really interesting what feathers get ruffled when they roll out more solutions.  We don’t need to look far to see great local Irish companies developing solutions in getting TV feeds on just about anything with a screen  – I’m looking at you @askehill and @davidconde who provide the magic behind the solution. If you haven’t checked out this free site ..what are you waiting for?

This area is a real hot topic but a lot question (not to mention technical questions)  still need to be answered like how to solve the copyright issues? What’s the story with paying ‘TV licences’ if we don’t really watch TV on traditional TV’s?  I for one would be glad to stop paying that tax!

I’ve noticed myself in the past year I watch more TV from online sources because it’s just more convenient. Will the TV be replaced by the laptop? No. Will our habits change? Yes.  What’s the next thing that’s going to happen .. I’m not sure.. but I can’t wait to find out!

In an Internet based startup? You should apply for iGAP.

iGap is drawing to a conclusion, just one more session on funding which will be delivered by  Brian Caulfied @BrianCVC . Brian, who gives VC’s a good name, is one of the main organisers of iGAP along with Ray Walsh (EI) and Sarah Buckley (EI).

iGAP is a programme that is designed specifically to help early-stage internet companies to develop that clarity and to give them tools to help them to execute on the strategy they have defined.

It’s the “clarity” bit I’d like to explore a little more. At Cauwill we have a great product that works well internationally. We have (international) customers in the travel sector some of which pay, others are very slow to pay 🙁   Before embarking on iGAP we identified a few concerns with the sector which would prevent growth & scaling. iGAP  confirmed our concerns and has helped us to formulate a plan to tackle a new sector i.e. get our value prop and promise statement for the sector,  how best to approach it and the best route  to market. We had a tendency to build things first and then go  to market. iGAP helped to us to step back from the product & features and focus on a strategy before building/coding anything.

So how did iGAP change the way we do things?

I firmly believe it’s a combination of quality speakers and the format of iGAP that makes it a success. I’ll get back to the speakers in a moment but I’d like to focus on the format.

  • Training – I hesitate to call it training.. it’s more than training. Speakers provide insight into their businesses, how they run things, how they set the team up and how things work in web businesses.
  • War Stories – we get to hear from those ahead of us about how they got there.. and in some case what they did wrong to cause the company to fail. for example Colm Lyon of Realex Payments, Ray Nolan of, Feargal Mooney of HostelWorld, Niall Harbison of Simply Zesty, David Lenehan of Polldaddy and others too numerous to mention here but thank you all for coming in and talking to us.
  • Networking – everyone on iGAP is encouraged to network, get to know everyone one the programme and the past programme. iGAP also run several events/panels in parallel where more networking is possible. They even had the Telegraph in and several iGAP companies got profiled on it. A common thread with a lot of the speakers was that b2b business can be very personal and finding the right person is half the battle.
  • Open and Sharing Environment – after ‘training’ we go to our cohort groups which is run by the facilitators. Here we openly discuss the day and discuss the ‘homework’. Companies bounce ideas off each other and a lot of good stuff comes out of the cohort meetings. We are all in the same boat so it’s easier to row together and share our pains than remain in isolation. Some of the feedback at times can be brutally honest.

I know many such management training and incubation programmes exist, we were on LEAP which was good for us at the time, but iGAP is different because it focuses specifically on the needs of internet businesses.  Over a period of seven months, six modules were led by international lean start-up and customer development experts such as Eric Ries, Scott Rafer, Paul O’Dea , Justin KnecthSean Ellisand Oren Michels .Over the programme they addressed issues such as lean startup theory, product market fit, monetisation strategies, internet customer acquisition, business development using APIs, etc.

Here is a quick synopsis of the content covered by the speakers

Paul O’Dea : Provided the Business battle card. This a great way to get an overview of the your business in 5 questions:

  • What do you want to be famous for?
  • Who are selected customers?
  • Where is your measurable value?
  • Why should customers choose you rather than your competitors?
  • How will you get your product to market?

Eric Ries : What can I say? This guy has changed the way we do things in Cauwill. We love the lean startup theory and before we do anything we pause and think  – how can we do this the lean way? If you’re reading this – thank you so much Eric.  #leanstartup #MVP

Scott Rafer :  Scott dealt with the business models and understanding your customers sales funnel. The better you know your customer – the better chance you have in closing out a deal with them. “Startups fail because they lack customers and a profitable business model” – Steve Blank

Sean Ellis : Delivered content on Marketing and Customer Acquisition. Really enjoyed this talk. Everything in the presentation is based around the Startup growth pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is correctly finding product market fit. He provided us with a set of questions and one very tough task – asking your customers how they would feel if they could no longer use your product. It’s a horrible question because we live a world where we (startup companies) think our product is super cool and everyone should love/use it .. we just don’t want to hear potentially bad stuff from customers. You know what? This was a great (tough) task and helped us to improve our product market fit.  Do it here

Justin Knecht : I was too ill to attend Justin’s talk, but catching up from Ian and hearing his thoughts on the module this was also another great presentation with real insights into user centric design. I’m currently going through the slides so I’ll update this post with my thoughts at a later stage.

Oren Michels : Up there with one of the best speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. This guy is all about biz dev. Very clear delivery on how to be stronger with customers and help prevent the sales funnel from filling up with ‘Barney Deals’. Oren mixes in stories from The Valley which are very entertaining! The timing of this talk was just serendipity.

iGAP has provided us a framework to structure our decisions and do things faster. It’s not rocket science but it is definitely some form of science – mixed with a bit of luck. We still have things to fix but we’re confident that with a clear focus and sticking to a good strategy we’ll be fine.

Walking on Water.

Tuning BBC One HD on Sky

From  November, viewers who have HD, either via Freesat, Freeview, Sky or Virgin, will be able to tune in to the new, dedicated BBC One HD channel, which will simulcast with BBC One. Like its standard definition counterpart, BBC One HD will broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It hasn’t made the regular Sky EPG so you’ll need to tune it in. It’s really easy – here’s how on a Sky HD box.

1/ With your digibox turned on, press the “Services” button

2/ Select ‘Options’  and then scroll over to  “Add Chnls”


Update: (July 2011)
Frequency: 10847
Polarisation: Vertical
Symbol: 23000 (used to be 22000).

Press the Yellow ‘Find Channels’

Select BBC 1 HD and Press ‘Select’ when complete.

You’ll now find BBC 1 HD in the ‘Other Channels’ . Just in time for Match of the Day (which is just amazing in HD!).

Off to Leweb & leaving Ireland behind for a few days.

Woohoo.. Ian and I are off to the Leweb tomorrow. Our journey starts tomorrow, first stop Dublin airport. Let’s hope the roads are okay – we are promised snow, ice and another big freeze tonight.

Tomorrow is the start of a few big days for Cauwill in Paris, but it’s an even bigger day for Ireland. My excitement for Leweb is toned down by one thing tomorrow. Tomorrow is Budget 2011 in Ireland and the four-year adjustment plan beginning in 2011  will be “somewhat frontloaded” – focussed more on spending cuts than tax increases. No matter which way you look at this it’s going to be the hardest/toughest budget on the people of Ireland. We are all going to pay for the wrong doings of few for a very long time. This makes me more than a little angry to be honest.

Anyway, when we get back from Leweb, Ireland will be awash of doom and gloom, the papers will be full of articles analyzing every detail of the budget.  Lets hope Cauwill can bring back a little good news.


Seedcorn Presentation

I’d like to share with you the format of our Seedcorn pitch. For those who don’t know what Seedcorn it’s a business competition where you submit your business pitch, do two presentations pitch and you could walk away with an investment!

The business plan submission part is over, but don’t worry it happens every year, for those companies selected for the regional finals they will be doing a pitch in the next week or so. For those who make it past the regional final they’ll get to pitch at finals late in November.  Our pitch changed a bit from the regional to the final but not radically. Both of us presented. We divided it up into 3 separate parts, one of us did section 1 and 3 while the other did section 2. We also made sure the person that did section 2 introduced themselves prior to section 1. This helped the panel hear from both of the team on the first slide.

  • 1st part focused on the problem and the product.
  • 2nd part focussed on the customer and business model
  • 3rd covered business operational topics

So what did our slides cover? Well there was a lot of pictures and we tried to storytell rather than lecture.

Slide 1: Company Logo, Name of Promoters,  Contact details.

Slide 2: We wanted to make the problem real to the people we were pitching to. We wanted from the get-go to connect with them. In our case we help people from getting lost, so we showed pictures (no text!) of a GPS device, Sign Posts and an arguing couple!  We wanted to convey the problem of getting lost, how current technology (gps/signpost) can let you down.

Slide 3: We focused on the GPS device and its evolution towards mobile platforms and what this meant ( again all pictures). We had done  research on the people on the panel and we would mention hard to find place names that were local to the panel. Again trying to make a connection.

Slide 4 : We showed the panel pictures of smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia). Again we were trying to connect with them and the phones they had in their pockets and making the product real to them.

Slide 5: Showed big badges of SMS, EMAIL and Twitter and an example of our product.

Slide 6: Then was a demo of the product. (video swf – 35 seconds long)

Slide 7: Benefits of product in 10 words. (1 big logo of our product & 4 bullet points)

Slide 8: Who would Buy our product? Outlined ALL the various sectors that would buy it, about 20 words. (5 bullet points)

Slide 9: The sector we targeted first and the value of the addressable market. (2 big graphics & 25 words)

Slide 10: Was a slide with why companies in our target market would buy from us. (2  Big graphics & 4 words)

Slide 11: What our customers say. A big and very positive quote from our customers (name and logo) (20 words)

Slide 12: How we charge for the product. (4 bullet points & 15 words)

Slide 13: How much money the company could make. Table y1,y2,y3.

Slide 14: Who’s the competition.(4 big graphics, no text)

Slide 15: The Risks. What are the risks and how we mitigate these risks. (1 big graphic, 20 words)

Slide 16: Who is going to executive the business plan. (brief outline of the founders and advisory board) (Only names were shown)

Slide 17: A big graphic of Milestones of our achievements to date and looking into the future milestones.

Slide 18: What we need and Why. This is basically the Ask Slide “we want XXXk euro and this is what we are going to spend it on”.

We then left this slide up and did a quick summary of the presentation. Then we invited the panel to ask questions.