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Elliott’s leaving UpTake to pursue new startup passions

Elliott’s leaving UpTake to pursue new startup passions

When Yen first pulled me into UpTake almost 3 years ago, I decided to commit my money and my time to working with a friend of over 10 years.  That’s a rare opportunity, and its been one of the best startup teams I’ve been part of.  We’ve accomplished a lot. Last year, we were honored to participate in the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit.  As far as we know, we’ve exceeded the traffic levels of all the companies that have been so honored in the past 3 years.  With the double-digit traffic growth we’ve been experiencing, I’m excited about UpTake’s future.

It’s with a great mix of emotions that I’m sharing that I’ll be moving from a full-time employee role at UpTake to an active Advisor role, effective this Friday.

Why am I leaving?
I’m leaving to pursue some new start-up passions. After having my 3rd child in May, I quickly began to realize that I had to make some tough choices. I couldn’t pursue these passions to the next level, deliver against the growing demands of a successful company, and be a good dad and husband.

The first passion I’ll be pursuing is China. In 2009, China became #1 in the world in internet users, at over 338 million total users and over 155 million mobile internet users. China also graduates over 1/3 of the world’s engineers & scientists and is a source for talent globally. And China is projected to be the largest economy by 2020 to 2025. That’s only 10 years away. I want to prepare for the world of 2020 starting now.

I’ll be investigating numerous startup ideas to begin with. Some of the areas I’ve already found interest include online marketing/advertising, education, travel, and clean-energy. I’m planning a trip to China in December, and also speaking on the “East Meets West” Panel at my friend Christine Lu’s [Re]Think : Hawaii conference November 1-5 which includes a number of people looking at the China market and cross-border markets. Here’s the agenda, and the signup form. If you’re interested in joining, I have a discount code for 35% off from Christine. Just use the code “elliott”.


The second passion I’ll be pursuing is social media. To early adopters, Facebook & Twitter may not feel that new, but I believe that we’ve only just begun to see the power of social media to transform how companies and media outlets interact with people.

I’ll continue to work with Pat Jenkins and the UpTake team on building up our online research community Travel Insights 100 and helping out with the UpTake Blog Network. I’m also excited to represent UpTake in a Town Hall meeting at the annual PhoCusWright Conference with some great thought leaders on social media and travel, such as Stephen Joyce, Kevin May, and Dennis Schaal.

I don’t have a specific idea to share at this point, but I can say that I think there are great opportunities to bring together human/social curation and automated data aggregation/filtering of data in new and interesting ways.

Here’s a picture that brings together these interests – hanging out with Shel Israel, author of Twitterville, on the Great Wall of China. (David Feng also pictured.)

UpTake new marketing leadership, two years in the making

What makes it possible for me to leave at this stage is my team. Pat Jenkins will continue to lead the UpTake Blog Network and Travel Insights 100, and I’ll be working with her on that. Brian Piepgrass, Director of Marketing, will continue to play a critical role in driving our marketing partnerships, our traffic strategy, and revenue generation. Pat, Brian, and I have worked together continuously for over 2 years together. I think that’s about just about 14 years in Internet years! Reporting to Yen, they’ll lead things from here.

Steve Jobs: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. I’ll be doing that over at

in 2005, Steve Jobs was invited to make the Commencement address to the Stanford community. If you haven’t read it before, go read it right now. He talked about dropping out of Reed College, and as a result, taking a calligraphy class that he otherwise wouldn’t have taken had he stayed in his degree program. His comments:

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography…

If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later…Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

I was never a Steve Jobs worshipper, but this speech has been an incredible inspiration to me.

From experience (this will be my 4th startup!), I know that the idea-to-opportunity stage can take some time. So I’m getting started right away. I’ll be working under the stealth company name Venture Sprout and blogging occasionally over there about my progress. Here’s a placeholder logo.

Staying true to my goal of going global on day 1, the Chinese name is Qiya (Qi3 Ya2), which means “to awaken new sprouts.”

Entrepreneurs start companies with only one advantage — passion. And for me, I need the company of like-minded people to sustain that passion. If you’re still reading this post, then its likely that I’m referring to YOU. You’ve inspired me with your ideas and your support, and I’m thankful. I’ll be looking forward to our conversations! If you want to connect, email me at elliott at ngventures dot com or connect via Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In. See you then.