Photo Of The Day: Vendor In Delhi

Street vendors – you seem them everywhere. From the newsstands of Las Ramblas in Barcelona to the Pad Thai carts of Bangkok, street side commerce is an inevitable, enjoyable part of daily urban life for most of the world. In today’s photo, taken by Flickr user clee130, we find a balloon and toy seller in New Delhi, India. The bright colorful orbs create a striking visual focal point to the image. The man’s comical devil ears add another element of whimsy to the scene.

Taken any great travel photos of your own? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

The Dealmakers’ Ballroom: What the future holds

Right now, at the hotel a few blocks from where you live or work, there’s a good chance that something exciting is happening. It isn’t a dropped tray in the restaurant or a housekeeper walking in on a tryst. It’s far greater: the future is being planned, defined. Two partners are putting the finishing touches on a presentation to venture capitalists. A person who has spent years developing a product is pitching it to the person who might be his first customer.

Some of these meetings will amount to nothing, a lifetime’s effort yielding nothing but a story. Others, however, will produce everything from satisfaction to incredible amounts of wealth. From the crowd of startup jockeys occupying space in hotel lobbies, jobs will be created, and countless lives will be changed.

If you want to see the future from conception, it’s happening now – and it’s happening in a hotel lobby.The entrepreneurs gathering behind the shroud of people in motion may not be allowed to meet in the spaces they have claimed, but they are using the skills they have developed or been taught to evade detection with the ultimate goal of seeing their dreams come to fruition. They are staying below the radar and working diligently to pick the right hotel lobbies for the tasks at hand. No move is unplanned, with the hope that one conversation – one of many, most likely – will deliver the desired outcome.

It’s a strange situation, no doubt.

The next time you pass through an urban hotel lobby, don’t bolt for the elevator bank or the front door. Take your time; look around. Try to discern the pockets that form among the guests. You might just see the next big thing long before it happens.

This is a week-long series from the writer of White Collar Travel about the role hotels will play not only in the recovery of our economy, but in giving an early home to the businesses that will define tomorrow.

The Dealmakers’ Ballroom: Pick the right lobby for your meetings

If you want to hold a business meeting in a hotel lobby where you really don’t have any reason to be, it’s worth doing a little homework. Pick a hotel without doing a little reconnaissance, and you could suffer an embarrassing moment in front of a potential client or investor. You’ve worked hard enough for the meeting – and a faux pan may ensure that you won’t get another.

Invest some time in choosing the hotel lobbies you want to use (and you should definitely use more than one). Take a day to wander the city and look for big hotels that have spacious seating areas. Conduct follow-up visits to see how the traffic flows through the lobby on different days and at different times. In general, get to know your environment.

Once you have a feel for the hotel lobbies that could define your future, it’s time to take a closer look. You want to make sure you have everything you need at your disposal. Keep the following in mind when selecting hotel lobbies to use for business meetings:1. You need power
Make sure the lobbies on your list have plenty of power outlets. You may have a laptop with a long battery life, but you don’t know how long you’ll need. If you’re running around from one meeting to the next, you may not have time to stop to recharge in between. The best hotel lobbies for business meetings not only have lots of power outlets but have them (a) near seats and (b) in parts of the lobby that are out of the way.

2. Stay connected
You may not think you need internet access for your meeting, but it’s good to have a connection in case you need to look something up. Also, you’ll probably arrive early, and that connection will make you productive while you wait. If you can score free wi-fi, that’s fantastic. A good backup is a hotel that has a service anyone can tap into for a fee. What’s $10 when you’re future’s on the line?

3. Lots of motion
A busy hotel where nobody spends much time in the lobby is ideal. The action around you will camouflage your activity, but you won’t be taking up space that a paying guest might want. Hotels near financial or business centers are great places for this dynamic.

4. Busy employees
A staff that is regularly and fully engaged with guests won’t have time to think about you. A hotel lobby that has employees actively engaged in efforts to look busy is dangerous. A bellman looking for something to do could find a reason to hassle you.

5. Make sure there’s a “Plan B” nearby
This is what I loved about the Westin Copley Place Hotel. It was adjacent to a Marriott with a large lobby, and there was a Starbucks right around the corner (and across the street). Within a short walk, there were countless other hotels you could use.

This is a week-long series from the writer of White Collar Travel about the role hotels will play not only in the recovery of our economy, but in giving an early home to the businesses that will define tomorrow.

The Dealmakers’ Ballroom: How to use a hotel lobby and not get caught

You’d figure that hotel management might be a tad irked by squatters. The entrepreneurs who take up space in hotel lobbies generally aren’t paying a dime, and there’s always the risk that they could get in the way of hotel operations or wandering guests. And, let’s get back to that part about not paying a dime. The entire reason a hotel exists is to turn a profit, and just about every aspect of a hotel is designed to engage you in the process.

Even with this notion of essentially robbing the hotel of a profit opportunity, entrepreneurs use lobbies all the time to conduct business. I never had a problem when I was a part of this scene, and at a recent meeting, I was told ahead of time to let the front desk know who I was and where I would be, to make it easier for my cohorts to find me. This goes beyond merely taking up space – it involves broadcasting our presence and engaging the staff to help us out. I opted not to take this step, preferring to roll the dice when it came to identification (and had no problem finding my contacts, thanks to Twitter profile pictures).

Back in my day, we weren’t so bold. In fact, we made an effort to blend in, even though simply being quiet and not bothering anybody would have been enough to keep us out of trouble. Those among us with paranoid streaks (including me) shared tips on how to stay below the radar.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a new business off the ground and need some cheap meeting space, here’s how you can use a hotel lobby without getting busted (not that anyone will really care about your presence anyway).1. Dress for success
If you look like a business person, you’ll probably be treated like one. You don’t have to don your best duds for the occasion, but you should at least step it up to business casual. Dress like you could be at the office of some Fortune 500 company. This increases the likelihood that you’ll be mistaken for a guest who is traveling on business.

2. Maintain a small footprint
Taking ownership of a large portion of table space or stretching out on the couch will invite unwanted attention. Remember: this isn’t your space – you really shouldn’t even be there at all. When your fellow business folks show up, keep your meeting contained. You don’t have to sit on each other’s laps, but you should avoid the temptation to sprawl out.

3. Use your inside voice
This is smart for two reasons. First, you don’t want to broadcast your strategy, particularly if (a) you actually have a good idea and (b) you’re in the early stages of developing it. Running your mouth at an inappropriate volume could effectively deliver your entire business to a would-be competitor. Also, you really don’t want anybody to know why you’re in the hotel lobby. Get loud, and an employee may decide that the hotel doesn’t need your non-revenue-generating presence.

4. Clean up after yourself
Again, you don’t want anyone to know what you’re working on – nobody needs a head-to-head competitor that’s seen his playbook. Also, a great spot is worth revisiting. If you plan to have meetings at a particular hotel lobby again, you need to show that you aren’t going to create work for the staff that isn’t being offset with money you spend.

5. Stay at the perimeter
Plant yourself as far out of the way as you can – out of sight, out of mind. Further, you won’t be taking prime real estate that a guest could want, which means you won’t be interfering with the hotel’s effort to make money. Simply not screwing things up for anyone else can buy you plenty of latitude from the staff. Don’t give anyone a reason to care, and they won’t.

6. Spend some cash every now and then
Give a little. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than rent, and the space is much less embarrassing than where you live (especially if you have roommates). Stop at the restaurant for lunch or the bar for a drink every now and then … and tip well. Don’t go into any details about why you’re choosing these venues; just spend some money and let the staff know that it’s appreciated.

7. Have a rotation
Show up at the same hotel lobby every day, and you’re bound to generate some suspicion. Mix up your routine. Test out several hotel lobbies, and vary your meting spots. You’ll undoubtedly have your favorites, but you don’t want the employees to know you by name.

This is a week-long series from the writer of White Collar Travel about the role hotels will play not only in the recovery of our economy, but in giving an early home to the businesses that will define tomorrow.

The Dealmakers’ Ballroom: Where the future is conceived

The seeds of economic recovery will be sewn in the travel industry. No, it will not be the hotels that pump new jobs out onto the market, and it certainly won’t be the airlines, which seem locked in perpetual battle against any positive influence the economy can have on them. Rather, the future will come from inside the hotels – specifically their lobbies. Historically, this venue has been the den of entrepreneurs with high hopes, small starts and an opportunity to pitch their wares. When lobby action heats up, you can forget about the unemployment rate or the value of the dollar against the euro – the economy will begin to come back.

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent most of the past decade not paying too much attention to hotel lobbies and the people in them … you know, like every other traveler does. Lobbies constituted a space between the present and the goal, whether you were entering the hotel or leaving it. To me, they were nothing more than a space to be traversed. My perspective changed this year, and I haven’t been able to get out of my head that every time I walk to my guestroom, I might be passing my next boss.

Hotel lobbies are an obvious choice for business professionals and startup jockeys. They tend to be large, have plenty of seating and afford a considerable degree of anonymity. People come and go all the time, and they generally mind their own business. Even the hotel staff will leave you alone, as long as you stay as unnoticeable as possible and don’t disrupt the guests (it also doesn’t hurt to buy a drink at the bar every now and then). The confluence of these factors means that the entrepreneur can flip open his laptop and walk a potential client or investor through his hopes and dreams, all crisply and clearly detailed in a PowerPoint presentation.I have been to my share of hotel lobbies. My most recent experience came only a few weeks ago, at the Union Square W Hotel. A friend of mine (no names, it’s still early in the proces), invited me to discuss with her and her partner a new business venture they were exploring. On the corner of E 17th St. and Park Avenue South, I dropped my cigar to the street and nudged it softly with my toe through the sewer grate underfoot. With that one fluid motion, my mind raced back to Boston, almost a decade earlier.

The carnage from the collapse of the dotcom economy was still visible back then. Two years after the NASDAQ took its initial plunge and a year after Enron hit the skids, the tech industry up there was in disarray. Networking events held by the Massachusetts eCommerce Association had become job-hunting dens, populated only with buyers – there were no sellers to be found. Of course, entrepreneurship is born of economic woe, as bright minds unable to find a paycheck from someone else are forced to turn to the dreams they’ve nurtured quietly for years – decades, even.

It was against this backdrop that I let my cigar butt fall to the ground where Dartmouth, St. James and Huntington converge and pushed through the revolving doors to the Westin Copley Place Hotel. I met a familiar face in the lobby at the top o f the escalator. No names, of course, even this far down the road – but, he was tall, a tad gaunt and had the obvious look of the academic he had once been. Doc, I’ll call him, had developed an unusual and interesting bit of software – the kind of thing that would have mattered only to a relatively small community of people with deep pockets – that he was trying to peddle in a market that didn’t favor anything with a price tag.

I joined Doc on the couch in the Westin lobby, which was buzzing with the activity of tourists and locals milling around the adjacent Grettacole salon and spa, and he began to discuss his appreciation for hotel lobbies. They offered plenty of space at the right price, and the comings and goings of people who aren’t permanent provided a sufficient screen behind which to hide from employees. He’d held meetings in countless lobbies, he explained, and had no plans to abandon the practice.

I was in no position to criticize. Having just started a consulting firm of my own, I’d done the same thing on a few occasions. My partners and I routinely met in public spaces, including the Amtrak/commuter rail station on Route 128, but none compared to hotel lobbies, which were closer to home, far more comfortable and within stumbling distance of an endless list of restaurants and bars. If the conversation went well in a hotel lobby, you could always go celebrate with a drink afterward.

Doc and I used the same hotel lobby regularly for more than a year, sometimes to meet with each other, and often to pursue our own separate agendas. I ran into other entrepreneurs there, as well. So, I wasn’t surprised when I was summoned to the W at Union Square this year – twice (by two different entrepreneurs).

When I strode into the lobby this year, in the comfortable position of being pitched rather than doing the pitching, I took a look around. The couches weren’t packed, but you certainly wouldn’t get one of your own if you wanted to sit for a moment. There were individuals working alone, fixated on computer screens and scribbling on notepads. I also saw a few groups, huddled around glowing screens, looking over each other’s shoulders and whispering ideas. They could have been business travelers and guests of the hotel, putting their heads together for a quick strategy session before dashing off to see a client, but I sensed otherwise. Memories don’t fade all that easily.

Finally, I saw a hand wave and quickly made my way to the meeting I was about to attend. In a strange way, it felt like home. Within seconds, I was tete-a-tete-a-tete with two people ready to change the world. I felt 30 pounds lighter, nine years younger and almost like I had a full head of hair again.

If you feel down about the current state of our economy, stroll through a big city’s hotel lobby. It might be hard to feel better, but you can be sure a few people in there are working on the cure for what ails you.

This is a week-long series from the writer of White Collar Travel about the role hotels will play not only in the recovery of our economy, but in giving an early home to the businesses that will define tomorrow.