During February and March 2016 I’m traveling North America to meet the Chew community, DJs, partners and investors.
This is part one of my updates on meeting and staying with top Chew fans and DJs. For updates on investor, brand and partner meetings throughout the trip subscribe the the Chew Insider newsletter using the form to the left.
When I booked my ticket to New York the JetBlue website had promised me the most legroom compared to any other airline. They didn’t mention every seat locked at ninety degrees. The seat cushions had the padding of used plastic bags covered by a thin layer of faux-leather . After six sleepless hours in my middle seat I landed in a complete daze of tiredness. Winding through rows of families pushing buggies and backpackers with large rucksacks I made it down to the metro. On the third attempt I swiped my new Metrocard and headed into Manhattan on the train.
But why did I ended up flying across the country letting ten states pass below me? A few weeks before the trip I was invited to New York by UK Trade and Investments as part of a trade mission. UKTI is a government body with the amazing job of setting up meetings and parties for British companies in embassies around the world. At the same time the startups accelerator Ignite. The Ignite program is the reason Chew exists in it’s form today. The fact that both trips aligned this one week had me booking a ticket right away. I’d be able to work back across the country in the coming weeks. Down to business first.
Walking block to block I struggled to find the British Consulate building. The arrows and lines on Citymapper processed slowly through my tired brain. After walking around a few blocks I noticed the building across the road had two huge Union flags hanging above the entrance.
Inside the office building up on a high floor the UKTI space was a little home away from home. They had even managed to ship a post box and a few telephone boxes across the atlantic to make the place feel like a carpet tiled version of Westminster. The introduction to the weeks program was a four hours of panels. They started with information on the best Visas for starting a company or working the country. There was a primer on meetings, pitching and hiring Americans.
In each break I met some more of the companies who were on the trip. Most having flown out from the UK the day before. Most of the fellow companies were agencies with a couple of creative media companies thrown in.
While everyone else headed off to Social Media Week I headed to my hosts Ric and Corina. I’d met the pair two years ago on a work trip to New York. In the two years since I’d signed an important immigration document for Corina to come on holiday into the UK with a Venezuelan passport.
Corina had started working for Red Bull Music Academy since we last met. I headed down to meet her along with a couple of people from the mission. We entered the bar and gallery space form the street and had a look around. In the event space we snuck in late to join a talk from Nicky Siano. The gritty voiced New Yorker spun some amazing tales of life at the origin of disco music at Studio 54. He even claimed at one point to have invented beat matching.
As the week progressed the panels, programs and meetings passed by at an increasing pace. Some of the meetings appeared to be more focussed to the agencies on the trip. I soon learn’t which ones to fit into my schedule. My Metrocard got some great use traveling the length of Manhattan and the depths of Brooklyn. One evening we pitched our companies to a gathering at the British Consul General’s Residence. The house had an stunning nighttime view of the Manhattan-Brooklyn bridge. The large flat had British themed paintings on the walls, commemorative coins on the shelves and a tacky collection of mugs by the toilet. I started to wish I’d become a diplomat not a DJ. Later in the week we headed into the Facebook office on Broadway. The security was tight and the panel started slow with a run through of how to create a Facebook advert. Once that presentations ended I jumped in with some direct questions about live streaming through the platform. They answered as directly as I’d asked and the session was over.
By the end of the week my inbox was overflowing so much I had worried messages from friends asking if I was still alive. The Ignite team arriving in town didn’t help the situation. I had arranged to meet my host for the night Graeme so we all closed in on the Brass Monkey down by the water. Graeme was a massive Hospital Records fan from the North East of England.
The stress of the week had build up and so had a strong cold. and as I headed to the pub I dropped into the CVS pharmacy. The cold and flu isle on it’s own dwarfed any drugs store. I picked a particularly colourful packet and taking two tablets with a Vitamin C boosted smoothy which turned out to be full of sugar.
Several hot toddies down I felt more and more ill but more and more awake. These pills were strong. We headed for dinner at the local german sausage shop before calling it a night and heading back to Graeme’s Brooklyn apartment.
My final host over the weekend just happened to be in a different state. Justin, known as Rozi, was a DJ and producer based across the water in Jersey City. The journey on the PATH from Brooklyn across the entire of Manhattan took less time than the overground from Croydon to Shoreditch.
His flat is in the old city hospital. The amazing complex had a roof terrace, cinema and games room. The space of the front room was filled with speaker and the latest Pioneer DJ setup. The evening before I need to travel on to Washington we ventured further into Jersey with the promise of some barbecue. While we waited for the food to smoke the Oscars came on the muted tv on one wall. I’ve never watched the Oscars from start to finish before. The ceremony was bizarre. The impromptu Oscars party ended with a standing ovation in the room as Leonardo DiCaprio won.
It was time to get out of the city and explore the rest of America. Several people has warned me against taking busses. Rumour had it they were popular among ex cons and use as prisoner transport in some cases. I walked in the bright sun through a part of Manhattan that looked like the set of I Am Legend. The week had been the most exhausting yet but the most useful at the same time. The stress of back to back meetings from UKTI, the Ignite trip and everything I’d filled into every spare hour were already beginning to pay off. At the same time the community was so strong in the city. It felt good to make roots in a city with such a strong underground music culture. I sat down and waited to see who would choose the seat next to me.
Find out about my time in the rest of America right here on the Chew Founders Blog.