Digital Everything

It took me 25 years to meet Mickey Mouse

By now, hopefully you have heard the news — Punchbowl has been named the exclusive provider of digital invitations featuring Disney characters. To say I’m excited would be a gross understatement.


This is the kind of deal that doesn’t come easily and requires many, many meetings. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve had countless phone calls and exchanged numerous emails with the folks at Disney.  I’ve gotten to know my counterpart at Disney very well through this process. And yet, I’ve never met him.

I’ve seen a picture of him online, and I’m sure he’s seen mine. We’re connected on LinkedIn, I have his cell phone number, and I know some details about his family. In the past few days, I’ve been on the phone with him several times per day as we prepared to launch this partnership. But we’ve never shook hands, shared a meal, or looked each other in the eyes. This significant deal was completed without ever meeting face to face. Like many people I do business with these days, neither of us felt the burning need to get together. Oh, we tried a few times. The latest attempt was when I was in Southern California for a conference. He even gave me a great tip about flying out of Long Beach instead of LAX. But our schedules didn’t align and I wasn’t able to stick around an extra day. “That’s ok,” we both agreed, we’ll catch each other next time.

Perhaps it’s fitting, because it took me 25 years to meet Mickey Mouse. Unlike many kids in America, I never had the opportunity to go to Disney World or Disneyland as a child. Of course I loved all of the characters, but growing up in a middle-class family with six kids it wasn’t practical to go on a Disney vacation. Many of my friends went, but I grew up without seeing the live Disney experience. That didn’t quell my desire to go.

In my mid 20s, I was living on the West Coast and my girlfriend (now wife) and I took a trip to Disneyland. I loved it. I’ll never forget seeing the Muppet Studios or flying on the California Dreamin’ ride (I even bought the soundtrack). A few years later, I went to visit my family in Orlando and had the opportunity to visit Disney World. I loved Epcot, the parades, and the rides. And I even got to meet Mickey Mouse up close and personal.

I hope it doesn’t take 25 years for me to meet the person at Disney who helped make this deal happen. As I’ve told him numerous times, I wanted this deal badly, and I did everything I could to get it done. In the new world of online business, he didn’t need to meet me to know that I am who I appear to be online. I’m a passionate entrepreneur who loves hard work and doesn’t like excuses. And I didn’t need to meet him to understand that he was looking for a great partnership with a company that has a best-in-class product and team. Together, we learned everything about each other without the need to meet face to face.

SWAMI SAYS: Big deals can happen between companies even if you never meet face to face with your counterpart. So it’s more important than ever to make sure that your digital persona matches who you really are in-person. In this day and age of business online, it’s a whole new world. It’s a magical world, where when you wish upon a star, sometimes dreams do come true. Check out the new Disney Digital Invitation Collection.


Where did all of the bookstores go?

Here’s the thing about great start-ups and new technology: old established markets get disrupted. It’s inevitable, even if it takes longer than we initially expect. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, in light of Punchbowl’s announcement today about our new product, Digital Greeting Cards

Here’s what we wrote about Digital Greeting Cards in the press release: “Digital Greeting Cards is a suitable alternative to traditional paper greeting cards complete with attractive folded designs, matching envelopes, realistic postmarks, and the complete mail-opening experience. The cards can be personalized with accents such as envelope liners, custom postage, and rubber stamps. Digital Greeting Cards eliminates the need to visit a store, find a physical mailing address, and purchase postage stamps. (more…)

Should Google search be regulated?

This past week, I got a call from Scott Kirsner who writes for the Boston Globe. I’ve known Scott for several years now, and he recently invited me to speak at the Momentum Summit. Once in a while, Scott calls me to get my opinion about an article that he’s writing. I’m always happy to spend a few minutes with Scott and he’s always been great about helping Punchbowl get exposure in the Boston Globe. (more…)

The Honor System in Business

As a company, Punchbowl owns a bunch of domains. Some of them we acquired when we first launched the company and were testing various URLs, and others we’ve acquired from our acquisitions of GroupGo (I’m in) and Socializr.

A few times a week, I get a random request from someone who wants to buy one of our domains. Most of the time I respond telling the person to make an offer. And most of the time, the offer is way too low-ball to make it worth the time or effort. However a few weeks ago, I got a nice email from a guy named Mitch who was interested in one of the domains: “My wife is looking at opening a small business, and liked the domain name xxxx. I see that you own it, but it’s not in use. Would you be willing to sell it?” (more…)