CEO Forest Key and CXO Brad Becker introduce themselves, share their life experiences and chat about their latest project, buuteeq, the digital marketing system for hotels; providers of rich hotel marketing and custom hotel website design.
Want to see what Forest and Brad worked on in the past? Check out these videos.
Forest Key announces Microsoft Silverlight – April, 2007
Forest Key gives a Microsoft Silverlight demonstration – April, 2007
Brad Becker performs Better than Nothing At All with his band, Admiral Twin – 2000
Brad Becker demos Microsoft Silverlight – March, 2007
Interviewer: So what do you fellows do on this fantastic orange couch?
Brad: It’s actually made of helium and we’re holding it down, or else it blows around the office. It’s really awkward.
Forest: Here we are at buuteeq. This is our entrance and our famous orange couch. You can see we have orange walls and I’ll give you some office tours later today so you can get a better sense of the layout here. I’m Forest Key, CEO and Founder.
Brad: And I’m Brad Becker.
Forest: And Brad and I have known each other for a long time. And have worked in a lot of technology areas involving design and thought it would be kind of fun to introduce ourselves in that context. We wore our designer garb today, our designer shoes and want to talk a little bit about design. So Brad, when did we meet? We met about 12 years ago.
Brad: Something like that. Yeah.
Forest: 10 years ago? In Macromedia where I was a Flash part Manager, and worked on the video and kind of animation and graphic design capabilities of the Flash part.
Brad: That’s right. Forest helped introduce the video, kind of, wave of Flash that started in, when was that?
Forest: 2003 and it was fun technology. Didn’t make Macromedia a lot of money, but made YouTube a lot of money.
Brad: It did, didn’t it? And other people too. And I came there, I was when I met you I was the Flash Product Designer. So I was responsible for designing Flash and the Flash Authoring tools and if you click on your browser in Flash and open up the settings and look at some of the icons in there, some of those I designed in my spare time. And, you know, worked on the user interface for Flash and all that.
Forest: It was at a time that Flash was pursuing two different business goals. One was to continue to be an advertising platform and skip intro platform. You know, most people would use Flash to do really rich broadband enable kind of websites including some hot hospitality sites. Flash was kind of hot in 2003, 2004 times, trying to do some hotel websites. Not a good idea today, in 2012.
Brad: In fact, the first rich internet application that they talked about was for a hotel.
Forest: Yeah. For a hotel booking engine. And at the same time, Flash was being increasingly used for applications for doing banking interfaces, or dashboard for data analysis, or things like that. Because, you know, the graphic capabilities and rich interactions made Flash a good option at the time, for doing better applications in the web. Of course, that’s gone the way of the dodo bird as [inaudible 00:02:28] 5 or 6 minutes, we’ll talk about that. But after Macromedia, I left first. I went to Microsoft in Seattle, which is what brought me to this part of the country. We met in San Francisco and I started working with Microsoft. On similar technologies. Things that would allow for richer web experiences, a really strong emphasis on graphics interactivity and how to convey information through rich visuals that would improve the usability and retention of information for users. And Microsoft traditionally an enterprise company, didn’t have a lot of designers. Didn’t have in this area, in web technology. They had designers, of course, that work on the XBox and on the Windows interface but in the area, like, developer tools there wasn’t a big design philosophy component. So I was one of the first people hired that worked on creating tools for designers. Microsoft Expression product line and a series of programming interfaces that eventually became Silverlight. Which is pretty similar to Flash and then it was a plug-in for browsers. And not a year or two after I joined Microsoft, you were compelled to follow me up to the Pacific Northwest and we had quite a [inaudible 00:03:30]. What did you do at Microsoft?
Brad: So, I came up to Microsoft to work in Product Management, for the same things that Forest was working on. So the same things you were doing. I worked on Expression web and Expression design and Expression interact. We went through like nine names for that product. Sparkle, which I really hated that name. But that was a code name and then, yeah, so we had a whole bunch of products and I ended up as the Director of Product Management for Silverlight. And also worked on as your analyst time, and worked at Visual Studio and worked with the Windows group.
Forest: A lot of the fun we had because we both are more designer guys. In fact, we should mention prior than when we met, I was a filmmaker. I worked at Industrial Animagic which is George Lucas’ company in Marine County in California. And I had the amazing opportunity coming right out of college, to be working on the Star Wars films, Star Trek films and some other things that were really my passion as a kid growing up in the industry that I wanted to work in.
And actually, my first two weeks that I had the chance to present to both Spielberg and to Lucas in two different projects. I worked on the Dreamworks logo animation that you see at the beginning of most Dream works movies with the kid fishing off of the moon. And they still use that today and it was a project that I literally, as a 22, 23 year old kid, right out of college and presented it to Spielberg, you know, in my first two weeks. So I got off to a really fast start in terms of that aspect of my career. Really enjoyed it, but found myself increasingly interested in the production and technology of storytelling and that led me to start a company with special effects tools for that industry called Puff ‘n Designs. Which I did for 3 or 4 years as a young CEO and Founder, prior to Macromedia. What were you doing before Macromedia? You had an interesting background?
Brad: Yeah. So I was a fisherman. A commercial fisherman.
Forest: I don’t remember that.
Brad: No. Actually, I was in a rock band. So that was a big thing. I was also a developer, so I had to…
Forest: No, no. We’re on the rock band.
Brad: I did both at the same time. So I was like, you know, traveling around with a rock band in a van, and on planes We played, you know, the Hollywood Bowl and we played all over the place and…
Forest: And that was because you were opening for a extremely famous act.
Brad Becker The Hollywood Bowl, that’s right. The Hollywood Bowl we were opening for the Hanson Brothers, who had just had the huge success.
Forest: Sing a couple of lines of “Um-bop.”
Brad: No, I let them sing it.
Forest: Let’s hear you sing it.
Brad: They would just squirt me with water guns.
Forest: Come on.
Brad Becker: It’s really, it’s very nostalgic for me. That was like 10 years ago.
Forest: If you had a 16 year old daughter at the time, or you were a 16 year old daughter at the time, you would have known the Hanson Brothers.
Brad: Everybody did. I think there was a Saturday Night Live skid where the whole skid was the Hanson running an elevator and the song came on and the people were fighting with them and it was pretty funny, because it was everywhere.
Forest: So you were the opening act? That was the height of your fame?
Brad: Yeah, and that was good. I had a song that I wrote that was in a Warner Brothers movie and we got to do that summer sort of when things were peaking for us, I got like 30,000 fan emails so it was pretty crazy. For me and the band.
Forest: That would have been 3 million likes in Facebook today.
Brad: Yeah. Like that was in 1998. So now it all kind of vanish without a trace. So this was, like, when it was Lysenko and GeoCities and AOL. And so there’s like the sands of time have swept us off the face of the Earth. It’s like we never existed.
Forest: And the digital record. In the hearts and minds of the 16 year olds.
Brad: Yeah. I got a bunch of faded newspapers so that counts for something.
Forest: So from rock band to software designer. How did that transition happen?
Brad: Well, you know, the thing is I’m a very cautious individual, so I kept a day job the entire time. So we were in the studio recording. We were touring on the road. All these things were happening, and I never stopped working at my crappy old laptop, back then, and I’d be working in the van and the band guys would go out, the other guys in the band would go out at night and I would stay in the hotel room and work. So I kept a job the whole time and I was a developer. My degree was in Computer Science but I always gravitated towards the user experience side of things because at the end of the day the technology should be serving us and most of the time it feels like it’s the other way around. People would apologize because they don’t know how to use technology but the technology is tools and you shouldn’t have to apologize. It should work for you. So I always thought that was the most important thing. Gravitated that way and so now I’m the Chief Experience Officer here and focused on user experience and making sure that our software is easy for people to use and powerful and flexible and does what they need.
Forest: We jumped around a bit after Microsoft. I left first. I usually am the one to leave first but then I’m the one to give you a call and say “Hey, here’s what we’re doing next. What do you think?”
And out of my passion for travel in particular I spent some time in China, working for Microsoft, traveling a ton, I really came across this horrible landscape of really, dysfunctional hotel marketing that I found which is, now that we’ve learned more of the industry, because we weren’t hoteliers and industry people, we learned that in fact we were correct in our assumptions. As consumers, we saw this really bad websites, really difficult discovery of hotels. Really difficult booking online, and wanting to connect with smaller properties, with independent properties, with luxury properties.
So that was the genesis for buuteeq. Hey, let’s make a platform that’s really well designed. To not only allow hoteliers, operators of properties, be it owners and keepers to control their own marketing through a simple ownerface on the web. But then consumers can experience those hotel marketing [collaborative] materials to have a delightful encounter, find it easily, understand what they are shopping for, what the rooms look like, the amenities, the location, etc. And then to be able to complete a high trust, kind of immediate reservation directly with the property. This is something that I was very passionate about. Had a clear vision. But really needed your design expertise in help with. Because so much of what we’re doing as a software company and many software companies today, is really about design. So design is a fundamental component of everything we do. It’s the genesis. It’s kind of our personal DNA as two of the principal guys here and certainly two of the principal people on the product along with the engineering leadership and product management team. This is going to be the beginning of many conversations where you and your team go deep into the concepts of design and how we approach design philosophy and periodically I may appear on camera talking a little bit about some of the approach from a business perspective. But really an important component of our business that we want to share frequently, so that people that don’t have the benefit of visiting us in person here at the office can get a sense of this design DNA and how it [inaudible 00:10:08] our company.
Brad: And the orange.
Forest: And the orange. And there is an orange light back there as well. So I think that’s it for this orange couch experience. Maybe we’ll make this a pattern. Have people sit on the couch together. But this is the inaugural video and thank you for watching.