Repetition- Not So Much

When I was a kid, the one thing that drove me crazy about playing video games was when you would die, you’d have to go back pretty far or to the beginning. ARGHH Especially when you only had 3 lives, there was a chance I could mess up again before I got back to where I was.

As I considered TheMissionZone experience and thinking about it as an experiential learning platform for kids to learn STEM subjects, I thought that repeating part of the Mission would be great to assist in the learning process. That might be true, but repeating from the beginning absolutely sucks for an entertainment experience. As I tell potential Agents, I want this to be like a real-world video game.

For the past few months I have been joking with people that I hated that experience as a kid, and then I built the exact thing. How frustrating!

We’ve now had a lot of people complete Missions, and we have learned a lot along the way.

Matheus and I have been working on smaller cosmetic and functional issues for the past few months. But as of today, I am happy to say that we have corrected the biggest flaw. And with that, I’m naming this the v2.0 of the app.

Agents can now restart the Mission from where you failed!

This is a huge improvement that will enhance the realism of the experience, save time, and generally make a more game-like atmosphere at the Zone.

Everyone fails at Missions, and that is cool. You get smarter and try again. I’m happy to say the process of replaying is now way more fun and feels less like unnecessary repetition. So come on in and give it a try!

Help Me, Help You

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As part of our intro for new Agents, I always make sure to point out that there is help available if they need it while on the Mission. The Help utility does not provide the answer, it’s more like a hint to get you moving. But help is not free. I tell everyone that they will lose a little of your potential points by using help (10% for each clue). Help clues are unique to each task and so they will be relevant.

But no one uses Help. It’s actually become a joke when I introduce the Operations screen and point out how easy it is to use the Help function, “It’s there if you need it. I built this whole utility, but no one ever uses it.” We’ve been up and running for a while, so I thought I would run some queries to see just how helpful Help can be.

Over the past 4 months, Agents have attempted 857 Missions. Each Agent team gets 3 tries to complete the Mission, so these attempts might reflect more than 1 for a single team. Very few missions (<10 so far) are completed on the first try. Many failures are because people don’t read the directives completely and so they guess at a solution. But I see a lot of Agents unable to focus on where their attention should lie. They clearly need a little Help.

I was very particular about the data architecture for processing and tracking Agent performance on a Mission. That enables us to drill in on the data. 404 (47%) of the 857 Missions ended in failure because of completing a task incorrectly. Another 132 (15%) failed because time ran out on the task. Because a single task will cause a failure, that means that on 536 Missions (62%) a team was presented with a task and could not complete it within the time limit. Note, there are multiple tasks per Mission. Agents attempted 5,501 tasks, so the failure rate is only ~10%.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Of those 536 failures, Agents only used the help function 39 times (7%). When they DID use help, 64% of the time (25 tasks), that led to getting the answer correct. Looking at the actual submissions, 3 of the other 14 that used help and failed the task, just typed the answer wrong, so they were close. Counting those would have brought the success rate to 72%. Of the other 11 that used help, I can see in their submission that 2 were on the right path. Interestingly, 9 Help users (23%) received no ‘help’ at all (gotta work on that).

So what can we learn from this? Using Help still has a stigma but maybe not in the way we think. Asking for Help in TheMissionZone app, isn’t like raising your hand in class or calling a staff member in an escape room. It’s literally a button on the app and a popup modal. It could not be any more private. When I ask Agents why they didn’t click the button many will say something like, “I don’t want help, I wanted to do it on my own.” (Note: Many forget it was there when their adrenaline gets going) The data seems to indicate that a high percentage of people would rather fail a challenge than suffer the blow to their pride of asking for help from a computer. Wow. The larger question: Why is this kind of help not still ‘doing it on you own’?

My background in data management enabled me some foresight to realize that tracking this information and being able to quantify discussions would be useful. There are so many data points to examine; Which tasks require help? Which cause the most failures? How long were they working the task before clicking help? How much time is left on the clock before clicking help? Why are people almost twice as likely to use help on our family friendly Level 1 Mission (23 times), vs the adult themed one (13 times)?

I am so excited for the day when employers can talk with employees about getting more comfortable asking for help. I am inspired to think about a teacher talking to a student about how it’s ok to ask for help, not just on a Mission, but in the classroom…look at how much it can bring you success!

There is so much more in the data we are collecting, I encourage researchers to reach out to me so we can discuss even more beneficial ways to derive insights and affect lives.

CEO Update - Q2 2019

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I finally got some validation that I am on the right path. This was a good quarter. We got lots of customer visits and we learned a ton about the experience, how to make it better and segmenting our Agents. The graph above tells part of the story. I have testimonials and notes from talking to every group that comes in and I feel excited about what we are doing. People like completing Missions!


  1. Generate revenue - This really got moving. While we don’t get much cash from Groupon, we are validating that people will pay for the experience. Some will even come back. We are ramping up marketing to generate interest.

  2. New Zone- We found a new home right in downtown Derry. Being close to home has turned out to opening new opportunities and the downtown vibe is great.

  3. Content- We added no Missions in this quarter. There is no excuse here. My execution has been pathetic.


The move was a disaster trying to work with the town. While I am happy that I fancied up the walls and painted them, it still burned a lot of time. I am proud of the small pivot we made to define the roll of Ops and Intel, but I still haven’t updated the video or modified our on-boarding process, which needs help. People really like the product and we are getting a good feel for how to make Missions exciting and interesting. I grade me a D+ and the business a B+. We made progress, but only a few customers are bragging about the experience, that will be the sign that we’ve got it.


  • Marketing. I decided to run a Valpak ad. BIG mistake.

  • Content. Like I said, no excuse.

  • Blocking and tackling. Some of the easy stuff I just can’t get through. I’m falling further behind. Having customers is good, but I am losing critical time.


  • Mission Experience. People are starting to really enjoy what happens here. Getting referrals and repeats has been a huge indicator of a good outcome.

  • Bomb Mission. We’re almost done, I think this will be a big hit. I can’t wait to re-target and get a sense of LTV.

  • Marketing. I’m starting to pay attention and I think there is a real opportunity to grow organically at the new site. Coupled with partnerships, I think we have a lot of potential. I’m excited to work with Snowbird Creative.

  • Chamber of Commerce. HUGE help. We even solidified a grand opening July 25 @3PM.

Jury is out

  • Financing- NEED something by year end. I am hopeful for the Capital Network to help get me closer to the Boston scene. I think our numbers are starting to tell a story.

  • Market Niches- I think we have nailed the Nuclear Family and Baby Boomers with PMF. Can we build more content to extend? Can we hit other niches as well?

  • Demonstrate potential- While I believe this can be a great business, I am not so sure we will be able to demonstrate a model and metrics that will survive the future.

Q3 Outlook & Objectives

  • Grow revenue per customer and total visits while shifting away from Groupon for a lower CAC.

  • Demonstrate LTV by rolling out more content and creative ways to get people to come back for a second and 3rd mission. Ideally build a membership model. Sign partners and sponsors.

  • Other markets. I really want to roll out Missions for STEM school learning as well as firm up packaging for corporate off-sites and special events (birthdays, family reunions, challenge nights)

I am really enjoying talking with customers and getting ideas about where we are going and what we can do better. My favorite quote came from a mom and her 12 year old son after they completed a Mission. They walked out of the Zone and 30 seconds later walked back in asking to do a second. She asked me, "I don't have any money because my husband took my credit card, but can I pay you with Venmo?" That is a good sign.

Key Metrics

Missions on Platform - 3

Average Revenue per customer - $14.10

Burn - $7,600 (per quarter)

Paid Customer Visits this quarter - 176

We Moved!

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Well after a lot of craziness, we are open at the new site in downtown Derry, NH It’s pretty great being right downtown and still having straight-in parking spaces, only 100 feet from the main strip. The farmers market and park is right across the street along with direct access to the Rail Trail. So far all the neighbors have been awesome. We couldn’t be happier.

The Derry-Londonderry Chamber of Commerce is helping us with our grand opening and ribbon cutting, so I hope everyone will come down and check us out. Mark the date, July 25, 3:00 PM Our new address is 16 Manning Street #106 right across from Derry Feed. We’re hoping to roll out a new Mission for the opening. See you all soon!


Intelligence & Operations

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In the coming months, we will be releasing more complicated Missions, and not all of them will allow unlimited replays. Some will have prizes associated with completion. First try completion will be important for an Agent’s competitiveness.

We’ve come to learn some interesting things about Mission success. The Briefing screen has always been the source of Intelligence to help an Agent be successful. No one has attempted a Mission solo. As a result, near everyone operates as a team of at least two. When this is the case, one Agent is the Operations Lead and the other is the Intelligence Officer.

There have been very few (single digit) Missions completed on the first try. So we wanted to share some observations of those Agents that have been most successful.

  • Trust is key. A team of two will absorb a significant amount of data as part of the Mission prep and execution. It happens too fast for each task while operating. You have to trust your partner in their role.

  • Specialization has to be taken seriously. A single team member cannot do both jobs once the Mission has started. You can run in solo mode, but only if you take 5-10 minutes to prepare. Do your job and do it well.

  • Know your job - Operations. If you are running Ops, read each Task Directive completely. Pay attention to each word. Share the clue with your Intelligence operative. Monitor the clock. Watch the door indicators. Move quickly and set the tempo. Make decisions. Use the “Help” if you are running low on time, better to lose 10% of your points total than to fail.

  • Know your job - Intelligence. Intelligence operatives are the most important part of the team. Read the briefing and apply it to the Task Directive as they come up. CLICK THE LINK!!! The background information in each task link is usually critical to the success of the Mission. Try to pair the words in the Task Directive to what you see in the Briefing and link details. Provide actionable intelligence to the Ops Lead. Don’t overthink. The purpose of the clues is not to confuse the team but to provide intelligence so they can complete the tasks quickly.

  • THIS IS NOT AN ESCAPE ROOM. Not everything in the room is relevant or a red-herring to throw you off. These are training spaces designed to simulate real world operations. You should not see something that looks out of place for the space you are in.

  • Understand the actual instruction in the task directive. If it says to find something and then click “OK” to indicate that you have found it, don’t try to anticipate the next step. Trust your Tech Support team to guide you along the Mission…click OK. (but don’t click until you actually have the thing described in the task directive :) )

The purpose of a Mission is to prepare and execute well. While luck may help you, you should not rely on luck to help you through the next task or find the next clue. Missions don’t work like that. The nature of the tasks is sequential and has purpose. These are not arbitrary puzzles.

Remember, prepare smart, train hard, and have fun. Talk with your partners about the respective roles of Operations and Intelligence and learn to be a cohesive team.

The 3 Types of Customer Success

This is Barbara. She’s my best customer. She has brought in 2 large groups and has committed to bringing more. While on a Mission and instructed to text an image of the “operating plan”, she sent this image. I laughed and held the Mission:Fail buzzer extra long. Then we all laughed together.

I talk to every customer after each Mission. I ask what they thought about the experience, what they like, what they think is lame. I encourage everyone to be harsh and to take my business card and email me after if that would be more comfortable. I log all the feedback.


I try to make the best of every interaction and help my customers be as successful as possible. I have divided this strategy into 3 cohorts.

  1. Let your stars work for you. I would hire Barbara to do marketing for me if I could. She sells the product for me. I’m going to reach out to her to see how I can help her enjoy the experience even more.

  2. Look for gems in the masses. Most of my customers have fun and enjoy the experience. They aren’t in love yet. But they have fun, they tell me specific things they liked and I work to enhance them. People tell me they like the app, they like feeling successes and moving from room to room. They make suggestions, like wanting to play in the dark or wanting to restart in the middle of a Mission (it’s coming). I once saw a mom and her adult son hug in one of the rooms when she discovered something that he couldn’t figure out. One family said they liked it more than Boda Borg.

  3. Learn from failures. I’ve had 3 bad customer experiences so far. One showed up without a reservation when we were in the middle of moving. They drove an hour. I felt awful. Another I had to cancel when the town wouldn’t grant my Certificate of Occupancy in time for their reservation. It was a birthday surprise. I felt responsible for ruining it. The last was a birthday party that didn’t go well. I have since changed the birthday format and we had a party last weekend that gave me a 5 star review on Google and they bought T-shirts. I do a better job of communicating and posting our hours. I’m making changes based on every mistake and I try to contact the customer and offer them something for free to make up for it.

One thing I have had to learn is that not everyone will enjoy the experience. Some people come in with preconceived notions of an escape room and are disappointed. One told me the tasks were too obvious but they failed the Mission multiple times. Honestly, I don’t think they liked the idea of ‘failing’. Some want a longer experience, but I really want to stay in the 20-30 minute range.

I hope that all customers will love the experience as much as Barbara. But I know that won’t always happen. We won’t please everyone. We can’t make every interaction delightful. That is hard for me to accept. I want everyone to feel value in what they paid for and come away with a big smile on their face, joking about some part of the Mission and strategizing on how they could have figured something out faster. Not every customer will experience success, but we try really hard to make it the best experience we can.

CEO Update - Q1 2019

Q1 2019 Pic - Customers.jpg

This quarter started out as a disaster, got challenging and then finished on a high note. In January we had a major problem getting approval from the town to begin operations. I lost a little over a month making changes to the Zone to comply with regulations that I thought were exempt. We finally opened and then the landlord informed me that he did not want to renew my short term lease…just as I got things running!. But in the last week of March, after turning on advertising through Groupon, over 40 people came in and paid to complete a Mission! We even hosted 2 birthday party groups. So overall things are looking positive.

The feedback from groups has been amazing. Families with middle school and younger kids love working as a team and sharing the adventure. We talked about future Missions and they are excited. A millenial group of 5 had a blast and wants more with more physical challenges and complexity. The only negative feedback was from a family with young adult children, they felt our base (easy) Mission should be longer. To me, that’s a win…they want more!


  1. Generate revenue - We got some and that is good. I learned about new ways to market and charge for services. Birthday parties work really well. We have a few new ideas for Q2 also.

  2. Hit Metrics- I set a revenue goal for the 1 month of operations in Q1 and we blew past that one. We got lots of people in and are building a customer list that should be the base for extending usage and figuring out LTV.

  3. Content- 3 Missions are in place. That is far less than the 10 I had set as a goal. But we had to refactor the intro video and the “free” mission. So the experience is much better now.


I was in a funk for most of Q1, it was a rough time and some personal stuff didn’t make things any easier. But we weathered that well and things are definitely looking up. I grade myself a B+ for working through those issues, getting a product experience that makes customers happy and continuing to build. I grade the company an A-. We delivered flawlessly and the product worked great. People see the value and they have fun in ways that I didn’t anticipate. The team dynamic is really working well. Some Agents are even coming up with ideas I hadn’t considered.


  • Location Location Location. Not only did the building have scaffolding covering our office for a month, but at the end of April, we will be homeless. The short term lease definitely limited risk, but it made it hard to plan. We still haven’t had a grand opening.

  • Content. We need more and I need to do a better job of creating a points system and Mission levels and conveying those to customers so they can get the experience they seek.

  • Pricing and offerings. Yes you should always go to market with a product that you are a little embarrassed of. We did. I wish I had thought a little more about product offerings and pricing, but that’s always a tough balance.


  • The videos are definitely working. People are starting to get it. We are not all the way there yet, but defining ourselves as not an “escape room” but rather a Mission experience where you break into a space, is resonating.

  • Sales. I was doubtful, glad they are coming in.

  • Experience. Things are working exactly the way I hoped. I got the video cameras working and can watch Agents interact in the space and the concept really works.

  • Feedback. I have been meeting with people at Venture Cafe, teachers, parents, PTOs, etc. Everyone is super helpful and has great ideas. Special hat tip to my Adviser Anita who recommended doing reservations. I never would have thought of this, but people really like making appointments.

Jury is out

  • Need to find a space and the rent won’t be as cheap, can we sustain that level of income to make it work? Can we find a space and move with minimal down time?

  • Schools. I met with teachers who are VERY encouraging. They recommended a new approach and I am hopeful that this can start to catch hold.

  • Financing. I want to hire people this summer. I haven’t paid myself in 15 months. We need to secure financing in Q2 or boost revenue to the point that we are sustaining operations.

Q2 Outlook & Objectives

  • Establish revenue, metrics and contacts for a financing event. I know we can grow at scale. Bootstrapping this MVP has proven that. Time to take it to the next level.

  • New space, grand opening, establish roots. I’ve had to be cautious because I don’t have a future space that we can call home. This must happen or we are done.

  • Content. My current pace is 1 mission per week. I need to double this and find a partner.

Overall I am happy with where we are headed now. This next quarter is another transition to a fully operational concern. We’re ready.

Key Metrics

Missions on Platform - 3

Average Revenue per customer - $10.43

Burn - $4,500 (per quarter)

Challenge: Accepted

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Today I got a little surprise that threw me for a loop. I am not going to be able to extend my lease as I had hoped. We’ve been in this space just 3 months and now it’s time to move. I can’t even really get going before I get pushed back to [START]. Yes I knew this was a risk. Intentionally signing a short-term lease so I didn’t get locked down was the trade-off. So here I am.

I admit, I was a little down at first. After 14 months of building the product (the app, physical infrastructure, electronics, content), I just want to start marketing and selling to prove the concept! This was the last thing I needed.

But then you remember your training. Breathe Josh. Analyze the problem. Talk it out (aka text the wife). Sara started looking for new spaces and encouraged me to look too. Truth be told, this place isn’t that great. I would like a little more traffic and to be closer to some of the industrial companies that will help bring in corporate training, off-site, and new-hire orientation business. And honestly this is a little more space than I need to prove product:market fit.

I’ve been surfing real-estate sites for the past hour and there are some good options out there. Plus, I intentionally built this Zone unit to easily break down in case this happened.

So when life throws you a shit sandwich…throw it the f-out and go make your own sandwich!

Today’s news started out looking pretty crappy. And don’t get me wrong, no matter how big a happy face I put on, this is really annoying. But then I thought about texting with Tay last night. In about 2 hours she starts 3 days of Recognition, out at USAFA. Some might say my problems pale in comparison. So in solidarity with Cadet 4th Class Taylor Rutstein… it’s time to get some!

Hooyah, universe. Challenge accepted.

CEO Update - Q4 2018

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Q4 2018 finishes out a complete year of TheMissionZone’s existence.  We did not go out with a bang as I had hoped.  While it looked like we might catch up on some of our goals, we did not make up the ground I had intended.  As such, we were able to sell gift certificates in 2018 and generate revenue, but we did not actually deliver a product to the market. 

The end of the year necessitated a transition and pivot in distribution strategy.  I abandoned the Mobile Unit approach.  In talking to potential customers, it became clear that this would not work.  Instead, we found a great site and began preparations to open our very first Zone.  We also figured a better way to create a transition room and incorporate that into the Missions as a challenge.  A lot of small developments happened that will enhance the customer experience and having a space to make this real, greatly simplifies our ability to prove product:market fit.  We were lucky to sign a short-term lease, limiting risk in making this pivot.


1.      Tech Development – The app is complete and we have been creating test missions to work with the physical space.  This is a great win.

2.      Physical space – Everything is complete and working. I am very happy with the locks, controller, lighting and other components.  This will make the experience very dynamic and I think create a great sense of excitement for the players.  However, at year end, we still don’t have a permit from the town to operate.

3.      Team/Network - I did almost nothing on this front.  We are focused on product, product, product.


This is a tough quarter to grade.  I grade myself a B, because even though we didn’t accomplish our goals, I am VERY happy with the decision to pivot.  This was a significant commitment, but as I read Blitzscaling, I grew confident in my conviction.  Adoption will require enabling customers, partners and investors to see the potential of the platform.  That would never have been possible with the mobile unit strategy.  Plus finding a site that would give me a short-term lease, was a huge win.  I grade the company a D; we are not operating yet and that is bad.


  • Town permitting process- I could have hired some construction PM to run this for me with better results.  But I learned so much about what needs to happen in the future as we expand to larger spaces.  I made several mistakes here, but I gained great insight.

  • Mission construction- This is turning out to be harder than I thought.  I have the outlines for several critical missions, but I have not finalized the details.

  • Finding partners- Given my acknowledgment above, this turned out to be less successful than I hoped.  We need a video to make it real and put the pieces of the puzzle together visually.

  • Describing the product- Even my best friends still don’t get it.  This is job #1 in Q1-19.

  • Finances- We really needed some significant revenue in Q4.  This will be a strain moving into Q1.


  • Communications, content and videos- We were able to deliver some good content in Q4 that will set the stage for product rollout in Q1.  These were well received. In addition, there is a lot of paperwork required to make this work, it is good to have this complete.

  • Town permitting process- As noted, I consider this a very painful win.  If we see significant success and growth, upscaling to a larger space will be critical.  We now know exactly what this will take.

  • Opening a space- I am so excited about this.  This will prove to be the single best decision I have ever made.

Jury Is Out

  • Product:Market fit- The whole thing might not work as well as I dream.  I am always cognizant of this reality.  Now that we are closer to a rollout, the doubts are creeping in.

  • Revenue- Can a single site generate enough revenue to justify the projections I have made for growth?

  • Continuing at this Zone- From an operational perspective, I have about a month or two to plot out how this is going to work and figure out lease options.  This will be tough.

Q1 Outlook and Objectives

Generate revenue- We need demo videos, content, sales, partners.  A lot needs to happen to create a curve up and to the right.

Hit metrics (Missions, Sales, Customer feedback) – The clock is now ticking.  We are measuring everything.  Q1 means that all the metric goals we have set will now have evaluations at the end of the quarter.

Annual Review and Summary

Despite some serious challenges and complexities for this year, and making much less progress than I had hoped, I am still optimistic about what we are doing.  I believe in this platform.  Most importantly, I stayed true to core values for the company.  I am constantly working, but I have not missed critical events.  I helped my wife sell her house and move in with me.  I went to horse shows.  I spent time with my older daughter when she was home on leave from USAFA.  We took vacations.  I got married.  Our employees worked remote.  These philosophies have matured over the years on my personal blog.  Most importantly, no matter the complexities of the day, I continue to embody the spirit of We Don’t Work on Powder Days.

As I look at the year in totality, I feel pride for what we have accomplished.  In 12 months, we built a patent pending product that incorporates software, hardware and physical infrastructure.  We nearly opened a physical store.  I am a bootstrapped solo founder and proved that good architecture is the key piece to building a virtual team. I have assembled a group of advisers that give me awesome feedback and insight. I have built relationships with educational institutions.  We are getting people excited. 

2019 will be an exercise in bringing all of it to fruition.  Big picture, we need success on our metrics, a fundraising event, and evolving the product to the next level of scale to support that growth.  Challenge accepted.

Key 2018 Financials

Equity Investment -$65K

Software development - $39K

Zone Development - $4K

Patent Filing - $12k

Revenue - $25 :)


We Make the Good GREAT

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Look at our MVP store front, is it the best? No. Nothing ever is “the best”.

As we get started here at TheMissionZone, I’ve been thinking a lot about hiring. Next week I hope to release and start selling an actual product before our Groundhog Day public launch. It should give a good opportunity to figure things out. After all, I am not perfect and I need some time to shake out how things are going to work. Assuming that I am successful and we demonstrate value, I am hopeful that capital will follow and I will be able to start hiring people full time.

You hear about the big tech co’s and especially Netflix and the endless focus on hiring “the best people”. I am not the best, and it would be arrogant to assume that I was. Further, while I agree with the notion of hiring people that complement rather than reflect your own skills, that doesn’t mean that that requires the “best” people. Everyone has their own areas of expertise and I have no idea which of those would be the most important for our success. How could I?

So I am vowing not to even bother searching for the “best” people. I want good people that always want to be better. And by working at TheMissionZone and committing to our vision, employees should know that they are not expected to be great. They are only required to strive for greatness. That is a whole process and one that will be refined over time. We are in the business of helping associates be better at whatever they do or whatever they dream of doing. We will make you better. You will make me better.

If someone is already “great” or the “best”, what possibly could a company see in a long term investment in that person? They are acknowledging that the person can’t get any better. So they reward you based on continued performance at that level? How do you grow?

At TheMissionZone, I want every employee to always want more of themselves. That is defined across all dimensions including professional, personal, physical health and community involvement. We don’t want someone who is great already, we want you to grow and be greater than you were the day before.

How to Teach Problem Solving

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”   -Benjamin Franklin

 There are a lot of ways to make decisions.  There are also numerous methodologies to employ critical analysis skills to help make decisions and choices.  Regardless of your preference, you should at least have one.  Taking the mental steps to walk through a process, no matter how quickly you stop at each step, is a good way to approach choices in life.  Remember the words of Neo when reflecting on humanity, “The problem is choice.”

At TheMissionZone we are strong believers in the OODA loop as a discipline for the decision making process.  OODA is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  It was first postulated by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd in 1961.  Boyd lectured often on the topic.  While we find the methodology useful, we acknowledge that sometimes certain aspects might be overkill.  Nevertheless, having a methodology and using it, is good practice.  Many students have never contemplated that decision making can have structure, since they are often reactionary to life.  And even adults sometimes forget that they can be a little more strategic in addressing challenges. 

Thus we have architected an experience at TheMissionZone around the OODA loop, though it should seem fairly subtle to a player. The emphasis is on learning, and having fun while doing so. But every interaction follows a process. This process is detailed below.

  • Observe.  Players should take stock in the Mission they have chosen, as well as the requirements and outline for the Mission.  This is clearly displayed on the Briefing screen, and in fact all Missions have some sort of plot and guidance for each of the Objectives and Tasks.  The Briefing provides a roadmap for what needs to happen to successfully complete the Mission.

  • Orient.  Preparation is the most important part of completing a Mission or any action in life.  This is where you learn, gather data, and place yourself in the best position to ensure success.  Most often, life gives you clues on what areas need preparation.  Teachers, managers, coaches and other resources are there to help guide you in this process.  In a Mission, most Objectives and Tasks have links on the Briefing page to content that will help you prepare for that Mission.  These could be instructional videos, or websites with documents, or simply images that are relevant.  The successful player will use these materials and be prepared.

  • Decide.  All players are required to complete a Mission Execution Form.  Each player decides how much detail to include, but the idea is to document the plan and how an individual or team will complete the Mission.  For teams, this should be a critical step in the process, but even for an individual, we think it is good to spend a few minutes thinking about what will happen and visualize the approach.

  • Act.  Players gear up and attempt to successfully complete the Mission.  This is the most consequential step in the process.  And we hope it will be the most fun and exciting.  While success is evaluated and scored on performance in how an individual or team Acts, players should remember that many components got them to this phase.

Loop.  After any action, we strongly encourage an After Action Review and evaluation against the original plan.  There are specific steps on the Mission Execution Form to guide this focus.  But most importantly, even in success, there can be lessons learned from any action.  These lessons should be employed for future Missions or in the case of a failed mission, trying again.


“There are no losses in life, only lessons”

Announcing Our Partners Program

A while back we announced this program and now it is here. Check out the video and the new Partners page on our website for full details.

Simply, we created some screens that allow people to configure Missions on the platform. You think of some creative challenge, key it into the website, and then people come and can ‘play’ the Mission at our new site in Londonderry, NH (opening Dec 2018). What’s more, we will share some of the revenue generated from each Mission played, with YOU!

And to kick off the program, we are offering this special…we will pay $20 for each Mission completely configured onto the platform for the first 50 Missions that are created. You can create 1 or all 50, just build some awesome content!

Check out our Partners page for more details. Join our team!

CEO Update - Q3 2018


Q3 was all about building product...again.  To say that we are behind is an understatement.  But fortunately, while we have not completed a lot of items, we made a lot of progress on many of them.  Q4 will be all about closing. As I started looking at all of our deliverables for the rest of the year, I realized that many of them had a long lead time.  And so I had to start working on some of them thinking about elapsed time to still hit them by EoY. Unfortunately that meant that some of the easier short term things didn’t get done.

In addition, I focused on developing the app for our Partner program so that creating content would be much simpler. I believe this is the right strategy as demonstrating the power of the marketplace, will be critical to customer success and getting top quality content. It is clear that we can’t create it all. We added some functionality specifically so content creators will have an easier time crafting Missions.


  1. Tech Development - Could not be happier with both functionality and aesthetics. There is so much capability and flexibility that I think people will really be impressed. We are 95% complete.

  2. Mobile Unit Construction - Behind schedule. But we ran a test and things worked as planned which is a good sign that this will work. We also ran an IoT controller test and I am confident that this will also scale.

  3. Team/Network - I have come to realize that we don’t need 3 people full-time (like a traditional startup), but rather we need about 12-14 people at varying degrees of part-time-edness. Over the past quarter, this group is starting to come together. We just need a few more pieces to the puzzle but this has gone well.


So overall I grade me a C and the business a B-. We certainly sacrificed in this quarter in the hopes of delivering more in Q4. As we used to say, slow down to speed up. It never materialized before, let’s see if I can make it a reality.  


  • There were some small misses on design, missing a few fields here and there in the table structure, but overall nothing major in the tech.

  • I reached my limit with the crappy brand/logo and that needed to be fixed (see successes).

  • VC outreach. This is going to be hard. I met with several potential investors and so far, no one sees the scale play. I’ll have to work on that and generate some data to back it up.

  • The damn magnetic skin-logos for my new truck. Who knew the stupid thing was PLASTIC?!?! UGGGGHHH. I am so annoyed with this one.


  • We have a new mascot (see above)! The Mace is still our Spiritual Advisor, but Goose is the full-time product representative. I mean come on, look at that face, you have to love us!

  • Logo design. Felipe = Genius. I knew I would need to do this last quarter, I am so glad I pulled the trigger. Having professional looking materials, is a huge win.

  • Studio. Can’t wait to start recording videos

  • Decision to find a space. This one is on the DL. Announcement hopefully soon.

  • Team. In the past 3 months I have met with some amazing folks in my network and gotten some great feedback. This is hard for me to do, but the responses have been awesome and I am getting more comfortable with making the ask.

  • With help from Whitney, I figured out how to completely integrate with the OODA loop… blog post coming soon!

Jury Is Out

  • I am a little unsure of whether the design for creating content will work. I skimped a little here going all out for a back-office process.

  • Can we generate creative content? Will it be engaging?

  • Can we generate revenue in Q4. THIS WILL BE CRITICAL, for several reasons. I really don’t want this thing to end before we get started.

Q4 Outlook and Objectives

  • Formalize team. While I am sure this is the biggest reason I won’t get into Techstars again, I like my format and I have an idea how to instantiate the relationships.

  • Open site. This is happening. Get ready for a grand opening!

  • Finish product development. Can’t wait to do a full product demo. I think everyone will be impressed.

  • Begin Marketing. A lot needs to be done here for content, funnel and a plan. I might need some more help. I have an idea so we will see how this shakes out.

Even my Q3 update is late, but better than never. In Q4, I intend a much healthier stream of communication. Keep your eyes open…yes I know I am 31% through the quarter already…shut up:)

Our New Studio

I’m a big fan of video. I believe it is the best way to convey information to an audience. I want to make sure that our videos look good and sound good. But I didn’t want to just sit in front of the camera, I wanted to use the whiteboard to sketch out the big concepts. It looks more engaging when the presenter is up and moving around.

So I converted one of our garages into a studio. Rather than just showing the finished product, I thought it might be useful for other startups to see how $150 can make a decent studio. This video walks through that process. I also detailed a parts list at the end of this post and in the video.

Step by step instructions…

  1. Paint one wall with a flat paint, preferably light and soft in tone.

  2. Make a table that rolls that is at a good height to move your camera as needed. I used a 3 drawer file cabinet that I already owned and made a platform with castors on the bottom.

  3. Hang your company logo and a whiteboard on the painted wall

  4. Buy 2 light strips, LED is best. Attach to a piece of wood, I love using 1X2s for stuff like this. Attach the 1X2s to small blocks of wood like a 2X3, with hinges.

  5. Attach the blocks to the ceiling so the lights can hinge down and up out of the way.

  6. Find some 12 or 14 gauge solid wire (romex style) wire to screw to the ceiling that can easily wrap around the lights to hold them up and out of the way.

  7. Use a light strip with a switch to control the lights if they don’t have a switch of their own. Attach to the ceiling. Usually you can use the outlet from your garage door opener.

  8. Staple the edge of the blanket to an 8’ long 1x2. Then lay 4 mini-bungies over the stapled edge and screw the board to the ceiling with the stapled side facing up (creating friction with the ceiling and better holding it in place) PRO-TIP: find the ceiling joists first.

  9. Find an old blanket that you can lay on the floor to further dampen sound.

Watch the video below for more instruction!

Blankets 3@ 5 = 5

Bungees 1 @ 7 = 7

Lights 2 @ 27 = 54

1x2s 5 @ 2.23 =11

Hinges 1 @ 2.99 = 3

Whiteboard 1 @ 60 = 60

Wheels 4 @ 3.19 = 13

Total $ 151

Working With Josh



I recently heard a podcast with Claire Hughes Johnson of Stripe.  When she started at Stripe, she wrote a document about how best to engage her in a professional setting. This is absolutely brilliant. And I am going to encourage all future employees of TheMissionZone to do the same. In fact, it should be the cover letter for every person that applies to join our team.  This is my own version, though I admit I borrowed several pieces of this from multiple blogs...

Principles that hold true

  • Sense of humor- I have a healthy sense of humor and I love joking around

  • Work:life blend - I call it a “blend” because I want to make it easier to have both throughout any given day.

  • Honesty - Please don’t bullshit me.  I would much rather the truth than blowing sunshine up my ass or holding back reality.

  • Humility - Please don’t fluff me.  I do some things well and I am horrible at other things.  I need a lot of support to get things done, but I will absolutely contribute what I do best to the team’s efforts.

  • Transparency - In reality, not much needs to be secret.  No one dies in our world because of a decision, so make sure that everything you do is clear to others.  Always share with me the “why” of something.

  • Respect - I will always respect your opinions as long as they are based on facts.  Facts are key.  If you have an opinion based on a fact but that “fact” proves to be incorrect, you better be flexible with your opinion as well.  When you cite an opinion, tell me all the relevant facts that led you to believe it and which facts you weigh more than others, including facts that might undermine your argument.

  • Feedback is your friend - No one is perfect.  We can all do better.  So when someone offers you feedback, you need to listen.  You might disagree.  But make sure you have reasons to disagree and have a discussion intellectually.  Do not make it personal and try to attack back.  It’s ok to refute feedback, but do it civilly.

  • Life is not zero sum - I believe that it is ok for two sides to both win, and for two sides to both lose.  It is not necessary for one side to lose if the other wins, in a two sided transaction.  This isn’t sports.

  • Everyone is part of making the world a better place - Do your part.  Set an example.  The outcome of something big is always the sum of many small things, contribute one of those small things.

  • Efficiency- I hate waste.  So thinking for efficiency is important in everything, don’t waste if it can be avoided.

  • Understand ”why” - I believe that knowing the “why” something is/happens/happened is critical to learning.

  • Strive to be smarter - You will never know everything and there is always someone who knows something you don’t.  Try to keep current.

  • Community - Everyone needs to be part of the team for it to succeed.

  • Be sheepdog strong.

 Approaching me

  • I have a system for organization, it’s not great, but it works for me.  Please respect that.

  • Please don’t be too formal.  Talk to me as if you were my friend.

  • Be bold and confident.   If you have an idea, argue your point, have facts to back it up.  If you just have ideas and opinions, be honest that they need proving, I will work with you if I know the purpose is to polish details.

  • I think big picture first and then fit details and examples into a model.

  • DRAW PICTURES.  I love whiteboards.

  • Know how to speak clearly and logically.   Whatever your native tongue, speak it well.  Use correct grammar.

  • If you work for me, you ARE doing something valuable to the company and the mission, if you feel you are not, help me eliminate that role and I guarantee we will find you a better job within the company.

  • Don’t be territorial or a tree hugger, know when to make decisions for the greater good.

  • I respect changing direction and new lines of thinking, but make a decision and commit.  Don’t hedge.

  • If you want to grow or go, tell me and we will work on it together.  Your success is my success.

  • Sometimes I need to be smacked in the face, do it, but be polite :)

Management style

  • I try to be hands off.  Please just do your job, and surprise me with your ingenuity, creativity and ambition.

  • Help me learn.  No one knows everything.  You know something that I don’t and vice versa.  Let’s work together.

  • Propose solutions and then let’s discuss. Never come to a meeting without a proposal to solve a problem.  Write out the broad strokes and then we can assess. 

  • NEVER HAVE A PRE-MEETING MEETING!!!  Don’t ever get a group together to discuss before a larger meeting, what a waste of time.

  • I shouldn't have to assign work.  If you know your job/goals and we defined your role, take it on and nail it.  Don’t make me chase you.

  • A crisis means all-hands, I don’t care where you work.  We are on the same team.

  • I like data and facts.  Be sure you have the correct metadata so we are using the same definitions for those facts.  Don’t play games by slicing some dataset to meet your pre-defined conclusions.

  • I like a plan that speculates on outcomes so we have a benchmark to make evaluations and changes against later.  Always keep track of the history of a project so we know how it is progressing.

  • Tell me about your life.

  • Communication Channels

    • Email - Longer than a thought, but not important enough to save as a document.  Company announcements are a good example.

    • Phone - When something is complex and requires back and forth.  If there are multiple back-and-forths trying to resolve a decision, get on a call.

    • Video - Should be the default for remote conversations.  We both deserve full attention.

    • Text - If you know I am out and asynchronous communication is ok.  Or if you know I need to be stealth.

    • Slack - For most company communications.

    • F2F - I like meeting face to face.  If possible, we should.

    • Meetings - If multiple people need to receive information (all-hands) or if multiple people need to weigh in on a decision. 

    • 1:1 meetings - Personal contact and feedback is important.

Stuff not to do

  • Play the blame game.  Take responsibility, learn a lesson, move forward.

  • Laziness, flakiness.  Come on, Do Your Job.

  • Not taking ownership.  Read Extreme Ownership.  Everyone should live this way.

  • Groupthink - Stand up and challenge a consensus.  The world needs more rebels.  Just do it with respect.

  • Throwing bombs or passive aggressiveness.

  • Screamers - If you have ever yelled at someone in the office, you will not work at TheMissionZone.

  • Insults - Nope, Never.  Everyone is a person and deserves respect...Except Trump.

  • Keep secrets.  Get everything out in the open.  Transparency is good, it helps us succeed.

  • Take a challenge or debate as personal.  We are discussing an idea.  Even if you are wrong, I could respect you more if you help fomulate the reasoning and are part of a discussion.  Just because I challenge you doesn’t mean that I don’t respect you.  If you help me think through an issue, I respect you more.

  • Be stubborn - Know when to stop.  There are times to give up on something, try to see it, or be open to others helping you see it.

To get to know me and the way I think, read my personal blog at


Building a Brand


I have never been particularly happy with any of our corporate logos. I created one long ago in PowerPoint that reflected one of the core tenets of the product. I then tried to crowd source a logo on-the-cheap and tried to reflect again some of the features of the product.

Several months ago, we started working with an exceptional designer to mock up a ‘feel’ for how the app we are building would look to the user. Felipe was able to take all the ideas I had in my head and nail them down in a design and color scheme that really works for the ‘gamer’ feel we were trying to evoke.

Now that we are closing in on product launch, I felt it was important to get our logo and branding to match the feel of the app design. That has culminated with the new logo above. It conveys everything we want a user to feel as they engage with TheMissionZone. We want you to focus on what you need to do and learn, movement around a physical space, a techy aura, and most importantly gaming. We have tried to walk a delicate line with the gaming aspect. But we have come to the stark realization that in order to “Have Fun” you must embody all the concepts of ‘fun’ and gaming does exactly that. We are all in on being a game that happens to let you both learn and play at the same time.

I’m very happy with the new logo. You should start seeing it appear in many of the things we are building and sharing with the world.

Get Smarter. Have Fun. TheMissionZone

Plot Matters


For many of us, playing Dungeons and Dragons was an important part of being a kid.  I admit, it wasn’t a particularly exciting activity in and of itself.  What made it fun was the story lines we invented, the adventures we concocted, the quests we pursued.  Without the story, without plot, we would have just been sitting around and rolling multi-sided dice.  A good Dungeon Master was the key to an exciting night of questing with your friends.

At TheMissionZone, we know that plot matters. An immersive experience is only as exciting as the plot line you immerse yourself into.  That’s what makes the experience exciting.  We employ a comprehensive 3 step review process insure that all of our missions have an intricate and original plot line.  We want all of our Agents to have a memorable mission experience.  Just like those great nights of playing D&D, you should want to tell your friends about the great time you had completing a Mission.  And as a bonus, you learned something useful! 

That part is the key.  Many corporate training lessons already have scenario based plot lines.  "Sally discovers that one of her co-workers has started to..."  Yes it's a story...but that story doesn't have to be boring!  We believe that an interesting plot line not only helps keep your attention to help you learn, but it also makes the experience fun.   Getting Smarter, while Having Fun.

Within the next month we will launch a program to certify people to build missions on our platform.  We call these extraordinarily creative people “Architects.”   Architects will facilitate a community driven approach to building missions.  Architects will also have the ability to share in the revenue generated as Agents try to complete their missions.  The first 20 applications we receive will be part of an accelerated certification process.  If you believe that you have the creativity to be one the first Architects we approve on the platform, please submit your name below and we will get you started on the certification process.  If you know someone bitten with that creative bug, please tell them about this exciting opportunity!

Name *

Atoms Are Better



I have to believe that, you know we’re here in 2018, it’s much cheaper and easier to move bits around than it is atoms...

It strikes me that something like VR or AR or even video conferencing (on the path to that) has to be a more likely part of the solution than just building a ton of infrastructure.  

                                   - Mark Zuckerburg.  Recode:Decode podcast 7/18/18

We agree with Mark, for now.  But in the future, should we accept that moving atoms will always be more expensive than bits?   If that axiom doesn’t hold, should everyone be investing so heavily in VR?

Let’s leave aside that Mark really should have said “photons” instead of “bits”, that is a small detail.  It has long been accepted that a “virtual” world is one presented through some sort of device that sits on your head and shoots photons into your eyeballs, movement is secondary.  There are some companies like The Void that are taking it one step further and allowing you to physically walk around a space with a VR device on your head.  That stuff seems really cool.

But think for a second about two of the most popular references for the completely immersive experience of a virtual world... 

1) The Matrix.  All I have to say is, does anyone REALLY want a computer plug in your skull directly interfacing with their brain?  Yes, this a concept whose day may come to pass, but I can’t see it anytime in the next 50 years.

2) The Star Trek Holodeck.  You use your own eyes and body.  Nothing sits on your head.  It seems real because your actions are real and you ‘see’ things as real.

I’ve been a Trekkie for a long time.  That’s the future for me.  I want to move in a space and feel the space around me.  I want the space to change based on the plot line of the experience I requested.  The visual part is only one of my senses to engage.  There are companies like Looking Glass Factory, that are building real holographic image generators.  Once these become life sized and are paired with the Manipulated Reality platform that we are building at TheMissionZone...the Holodeck will be real!

Stay tuned for some awesomeness in the future.  We think there is a lot of short-termism in the AR/VR space right now.  Moving atoms and Manipulating Reality will be way cooler in the future.


No Shooting


I don’t believe that shooting games are the sole cause of a child developing violent tendencies.  But I do think that they play a contributing factor.  Without proper parental guidance, I think it is entirely reasonable to conclude that there are direct correlations.

Shooting games are easy to make.  Between killing zombies and aliens, there are plenty of genres that make it seem less ‘real’.  Creating that plot, is not hard.

Making an action game that simulates the excitement and challenge of a first person shooter game without the violence, is hard.  But “hard is not hopeless.” *  Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make an effort to take on the challenge.

At TheMissionZone, we believe that a reality based game can produce the same dopamine rush from completing tasks, without violence.  But we also believe that physically moving and challenging the body can produce an adrenaline rush, not achieved from sitting and playing a digital game.  Further, the challenge of completing a covert mission, challenges the brain in ways unattainable by an adrenaline sport like an obstacle course or a video game .  Non-kinetic missions require more focus, attention and concentration than just point-and-shoot games or rock-climbing.  TheMissionZone will combine these experiences in new ways.   

We intend to prove this concept and build a game platform that delivers this capability as part of our core experiential learning programs.  People CAN learn while having fun.  And having fun playing a game, can be more than just mindlessly shooting ‘bad guys.  It’s a brave new world.


* Gen David Petraeus