Esme Vos who I interviewed in 10 Questions for (7): Esme Vos of Mapplr, met Forest and introduced us. So here is my 40ieth interview with the creator of a great product for hoteliers.
1) Who Are you?
My name is Forest Key. I’m the founder and CEO of a new company called buuteeq which makes a system for hotels to manage their online marketing. I’m a father of 2 great kids and together with them and my wife, an absolute travel junkie (have lived long term in Chile, China, Spain, and done many long extended trips throughout the world). I started my career in film and technology and was a editor and CGI artist for George Lucas’ company “ILM” – Industrial Light and Magic (yes, I actually worked on Star Wars and other blockbuster style movies, was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun). Together with another ILM guy I co-founded a company that made tools for the visual effects industry (my first experience as an entrepreneur)—our product “Commotion” was used on many of the most important movies of the era, including Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and the Star Wars prequels. More recently I was the product manager for Flash (I was responsible for designing many of the video capabilities in the platform) and then worked at Microsoft for 6 years in charge of marketing for various web development technologies, before leaving to start buuteeq.
2) What do you like about what you do?
With my current job I am blessed to have many of my favorite things rolled into every day of the work week—buuteeq combines my passion for travel, technology, and starting companies and working with great people. This is not by accident: I founded buuteeq because I wanted just such a combination, and am very happy to say that things are playing out to plan so far.
3) What don’t you like about what you do?
Well, up until a few weeks ago I would have told you that I hate having to spend so much time raising money for my business, because I spent a good part of the first half of 2011 raising cash for buuteeq so we could expand our sales organization to better sell buuteeq to hotels in far flung parts of the world—raising money is very time consuming and takes time away from actually running the business and looking after hotel customers’ needs. However, as of May we actually completed a $3.5m round of funding, and are now all set to get back to 100% focus on our actual business.
4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.
buuteeq’s blog aims to elaborate on digital and online marketing subjects that are intimidating and confusing to hotel owners. A lot of our blog of course will mention our product and service and how we specifically address digital marketing for hotels, but we know that to write a great blog we have to rise above pure “commercial-tainment” content, and I’m proud of the articles that we’ve been producing that cover subjects of Hotel SEO, Google Places, The Evils of Flash (for hotel websites), and other content that we can help the community to understand given our strong technical expertise in these areas.
5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. This dry salt lake at 14,000+ ft (4000+ meters) of elevation is just incredibly beautiful—the horizon is filled with volcanoes, the sky is bluer than blue, and the white salt that pervades the ground forms an incredible image that is surreal and unique in my travel experiences. The 2-3 day jeep tour of the Altiplano, which covers the Salar itself as well as several amazing lakes that are dotted with pink flamingos and alpaca/llamas, is definitely at the top of my travel experiences.
Ranakpur Jain Temple, Rajastan, India. This Jain temple is the most beautiful temple of worship that I have seen—better than any Catholic church in Europe for sure. 100s of granite columns sustain this multi-story building, which you can traverse in your socks (no shoes allowed) while you contemplate the architecture and listen to the prayers from the many pilgrims. Great photographs are impossible to miss, so many lovely angles including those in the minds eye!
Anapurna trek, Himmalayas, Nepal. When I was just out of college I did a 3 week trek in the Himmalayas, “around Anapurna” route, which was such an indulgence! At the time I of course naively thought that being able to take that much time off to just hike in the mountains and stay at tea-houses would be a common occurrence in life—then adult responsibilities such as work and family intervened and I have yet to replicate the experience. I hope to make my boys back to this magical part of the world to complete the trek together once they are old enough for the rigorous hiking.
Huangshang (Yellow Mountain). Sorry, couldn’t pick just 3. Yellow Mountain is a super well known and developed national park for Chinese locals, but foreigners are clueless as to this wonderful playground of amazing paths built into the impressive vertical mountains. My wife and I did a 8 hour hike that was up and down and around the most amazing staircases, really something to be seen to be believed!
6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
LiAn Lodge, Guilin, China. This exotic lodge was the inspiration for my new business—the most beautiful hotel/location-for-a-hotel, with what was formerly a really bad website to market the property (the hotel now has a great website!) The 4 story building is built using traditional Chinese construction (no nails, just tongue and groove assembly of interconnecting timber!), and the views and sounds of nature at night are unsurpassed in my many years of travelling. It is not the most luxurious, or opulent—but the combination of classy design and amazing location make it the most unique.
Park Hyatt Seoul South Korea. This hotel is my favorite “traditional brand hotel”—the design of the rooms, especially the lovely bathrooms with rain showers and floor to ceiling windows out on the city, kept me coming back every few months during my two years living in Asia and working for Microsoft. I’ve shared this hotel with many friends who are passionate about design and architecture and we all agree, this is one very special hotel!
Elquimista Cabins, Valle del Elqui, Chile. I have to call this hotel one of my favorites because my family and I rented one of their cabins for 3 months and lived in the charming town of Pisco Elqui while I wrote the business plan for buuteeq. This town is in the middle of the Andes Mountains, near the Rio Claro valley which is home to wine and table grape producing farms that are surrounded by the drier than bone hills of the desert that surrounds the valley. A truly magical place on earth, and these 4 unique eco-cabins and the lovely proprietors were a wonderful place for my family and I to gaze at the valley from our porch and at the southern stars in the evenings.
7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
French Laundry, Yontsville. Took 5 years to get a reservation, amazing meal (my wife got sick—too much rich/cream, she doesn’t like French food in general)—but just the build up to the experience and the 5 bottle of wine that our party of 4 consumed during our 3 hour meal… very memorable!
Los Ceviches, Lima Peru. I love ceviche (fish and other critters from the sea, marinated in lemon juice), and when in Lima, this chain of cevicherias is a no brainer choice for huge plates of fresh, spicy, delicious ceviche.
Jin Din Xuan, Beijing China. Beijing has such amazing food choices, but this low-rent chain of dim-sum and “late night party food” has the best dish I’ve ever eaten, the “ranmien” noodles—basic noodles drenched in the spiciest “ma-la” hot sauce that you’ll ever want to eat. The mellow spiciness starts off warm in your mouth and will stay with you for 24hrs in your belly!
8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
I don’t usually care to remember bad food or hotel accommodations, as I aim to cleanse myself as quickly as possible and move on. However, on thinking of this the first that immediately came to mind was the horrible meal and experience we had at Che Pannise, in Berkley California USA. This purportedly amazing restaurant was a bust for us—our friend who had travelled to San Francisco specifically to eat at this restaurant (she is a foodie) was heartbroken when her “vegetarian” option consisted of a plate of spaghetti with butter on it (I’m not kidding, that’s literally what she was given) as a main course! As for bad hotels—any hotel in Las Vegas, I’ve been to most of them on the strip, and they are all just horrible. No matter how shinny and new they are, Las Vegas hotels are just without souls.
9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
In Seattle, the best breakfast in town is at Lola’s (famous chef owner, lunch and dinner are fine, but the breakfast is really remarkably good!), if you like oysters (and I do!) try The Walrus and the Carpenter which is a hot new place in seattle’s most fun walk-able old neighborhood (Ballard), and my favorite of the current batch of “mobile truck restaurants” (whereby the restaurant is in the back of a trailor truck, and parked in different neighborhoods from time to time) is the Rancho Bravo Taco Truck which has yummy Mexican fare. As for hotels, as with most locals, I know almost nothing about my local hotel market because I never stay in them nor do my friends and family (who stay with us)—however, I do know a few B&Bs that are both customers of buuteeq, and places that our employees frequently stay: the Bacon Mansion Bed and Breakfast, Bed and Breakfast on Broadway, and right near my house (and lovely views of Greenlake), the Greenlake Bed and Breakfast.
10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
I’m surprised you didn’t ask me what my favorite hotel/restaurant/city/etc. in Holland is?! My wife and I love Amsterdam and have been there 5+ times for vacations and business trips. I was there most recently with Microsoft for a team off site — we had the most fun doing various team activities in the city, including a night of cooking as a team (at a cooking school) which was a great morale event. The hotel we stayed in was crummy/mediocre, but it was right near the Anne Frank House in a great old neighborhood full of character.
I noticed you lived 3 months in an adobe in Chile and couldn’t resist to pinch one of their photos. Adobe as eco building material has my special interest.