A look back at my first internet love…

In 1996, before the start of the giant swerve known as the internet era, I had the idea for an online travel directory and a contract with Microsoft to provide content for it's gated portal, MSN. When it became obvious to everyone that the internet would be open, the decision to turn my attention elsewhere and start MeetingSource.com took me less than thirty seconds. My timing was perfect – lucky in many ways – but perfect. It was the first of its kind.

During this first iteration, I was working alongside five programmers who I shared space with in a rented loft in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. The elevator opened directly to wide pine floors and a seemingly endless array of old fashioned arched windows overlooking Broadway. It had plenty of open space with glass tables for people to work, except for an enclosed theater for demoing all our great designs.

Always shopping in SoHo
DW labs Incorporated -Shutterstock Inc
It was a space for parties as much as a place to work. One night we hired the doorman downstairs to dress in a tux and let people in for such an event. The only drawback was one small bathroom, but given all the other amenities, we made do.

When our online community surpassed 11,000 meeting planners and 8000 suppliers, I thought that was pretty good given there were only eight of us.

Ten years later, during a slowdown which I didn't prepare for, I had mere access to my programmers by phone; the office in SoHo was gone; I was living in Pittsburgh with my wife and kid and eating peanut butter sandwiches while staring at a blank wall and asking how it happened – to me!

Still, after all that time, I couldn’t shake my first internet love, MeetingSource.com. I felt that its mission should continue and had dreams of a strong return to the forefront of its market.

Tall windows in our loft along Broadway
Emin Kuliyev-Shutterstock Inc
I felt that there was a need to catalogue the primary site selection attributes of convention cities because these were pre Trump-Is-President times and facts and figures for these things were not available, and I didn't think it was right to just make this stuff up like... (See my related story "My early experience doing business with Donald Trump's organization".)

So audaciously, I began to catalog this information for 500 meeting places in American - from Chicago to Hawaii including Alaska - how many direct flights; what's the average cost of hotel rooms. Initially called the Site Selection Optimizer – it was too ambitious of a project for me in Pittsburgh. My programmers were not up to the task, or at least that’s what they told me, and I didn’t have the funds to find new ones. It never took off. It was probably more than I could handle - or my programmers could and the effort, quite frankly, faltered.

Just recently, a decade later, my friend Tim Ivanov, a media designer who I’ve known for years, mentioned a WordPress theme that could organize all that information I'd been working on.

“Isn’t this exactly what you were doing?” he asked.

"Yes, yes, it is."

So I'm back with my first love - at it again. Thankfully, these days, you don't need 5 programmers and a loft office in Manhattan to produce great content...just a lot of hard work and a few friends who believe in your idea.