A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a guy (Dan Lazarides) in HTC’s EMEA Social Media team (in fact he heads up the team) and asked if I was interested in joining a group of HTC customers who would get the chance to help give a customer perspective on HTC products of the future, and to help HTC in their design and marketing efforts by giving ideas, opinions and discussion. I jumped at the chance; I felt very privileged to be asked! The program is called “HTC Elevate!” and is a truly inspiring place to be.
A couple of weeks after I joined Elevate!, I was invited by the amazing, cheerful and super-organised Hugo Sieiro to an exclusive event being hosted by HTC in Barcelona immediately prior to Mobile World Congress – an absolutely HUGE Expo of mobile communications technology and surrounding industries. Again – I jumped at the chance! (DUH…as if I wouldn’t…!)
So on Saturday morning I got up at 3am and went to Barcelona! It was a long tiring trip; by the time I got there I was ready for sleep… but I instead got to meet up with a couple of others who’d been invited; fellow Elevate! members Droider and Peter were there, and later on, Victor too.
In the evening, we were taken to a bar in Barcelona; where we were plied with Mojitos and made to feel welcome (Special mention to the very beautiful Katya who was our bar hostess – she was brilliant and really looked after us with good cheer – nothing was too much effort). Some time after 9.30 we were taken to a closed room, and had our phones taken away… and had to sign a non-disclosure agreement! (Nothing I’ll tell you here is secret). There were about 20 Elevate! members there I guess from all parts of Europe.
Then, John Starkweather (who’s the Worldwide Director, Digital Marketing at HTC) told us a little about what HTC were hoping to do with their new phones – which is basically to really focus hard on performance, camera and audio. He then let us play with the new hardware – remember this is before the press had officially seen it! This range of phones is simply astounding; the performance, features and quality are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’ll let the media keep you up to date on them; this post is about the trip.
The HTC One range.
After we’d seen the phones, and played with them (while being filmed by the omniprescent Jason Dunn, Senior Manager of HTC Communities) we were wined and dined some more until we all wandered off to our respective abodes.
The next day, we were taken out for a roast dinner (Barcelona Style) and some
The Sagrada Familia
wine; simply gorgeous food and great company – followed by a walking tour of some of Barcelona’s chief cultural architecture – which is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s very strange to see a huge church in a very medieval style parked in between two ultra-modern office blocks! The architecture style changes
Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia
from building to building.
In the evening we attended the official press conference (at The Dome of the Sands in Barcelona City Centre, an amazing building with a sightseeing platform wrapped around the top) releasing information about the new HTC One phone range where Peter Chou (CEO) talked passionately and strongly about what the phone was all about. Afterward we wandered around aimlessly, drinking some beers and watching the press drooling over the demo phones.
The next day was a bit strange – some of us had early flights, some middle ones and some later; but in the end, Victor and I were left and decided to go to the Congress and have a look around. When we got to the gate it wasn’t immediately obvious HOW we should get in… so we tried Fast Track (who couldn’t find us from our bar codes). We made a couple of phone calls, and then tried the same place again to no avail. Then we had a ten minute walk around to the back of the venue where we
The Dome of the Sands
finally managed to hook all our resources up at once and get passes to enter. Once we got in, the true size of this event was apparent… there were 9 halls, each of indescribable size; and a huge avenue with even more stands and displays. Having only a couple of hours, we visited the HTC stand (hooked up again with John, Dan and Jason), then the Google stand, and then went back up on top of The Dome of the Sands to chill and take pictures.
The entrance to MWC
A tiny bit of Hall 8...
Finally it was time to leave; I had been told a car would collect me at 1pm (which I thought a little late – my flight was at 3.20pm). I got a phone call at ten to one saying where to meet the driver (Paral lel Avenue) but they didn’t say which direction he’d be coming from (and therefore which side he’d be on). Barcelona streets are three or four lanes each side; and very VERY wide. I waited… and waited. The driver (we had a very poor language interlock – only understanding two words in four of what each other said) would keep calling me and saying “two minutes” but traffic was AWFUL. We finally agreed on a meeting spot, but not which side; he arrived nearly an hour late, with the car ten minutes away… with me starting to feel a little less than comfortable about the time.
Then we set off – traffic was initially slow, and then stopped completely after we’d been going twenty minutes. We had to turn back the way we’d come, and go a different way to the airport – when I finally arrived I had to dash through every stage, and arrived at the very back of the line of passengers boarding the plane… I could not have been two minutes later and made the flight. The rest of the trip home was completely uneventful… chatting with fellow passengers and generally relaxing… although on that first plane I can’t have smelt very nice!!
Special thanks go to Hugo Sieiro for his calm, cheerful and unflappable organisation of this entire Elevate! event and untold other things; to John Starkweather for being so friendly, approachable and the least director-like Director I ever met; to Jason Dunn for being a cheerful Canuck who knows his customer well but loves learning more about them; to Dan Lazarides, for the initial invitation and for running the facebook page; and last but not least to all the Elevate! members for being so much fun this weekend.
Some names of people I met this weekend (there were others but I never found out their names…)
Some of us waiting for a taxi to the preview event...
Victor “Spartan” Louis; Torbjörn “Droider” Jonsson; Peter Vernelen; Arianeta; Jaume Estruch; Jonathan David; Leigh Momii, Developer Evangelist for HTCdev; and the others mentioned above.
I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos…!