Doug Aley – Founder and CEO of Off & Away

Doug Aley has more than 10 years of product, marketing and business development experience across online retail, mobile and Web applications. Before Off & Away, Doug was vice president of marketing and business development at Jott Networks (sold to NUAN ’09). Before Jott, Doug led product management efforts in retail and digital categories at He dropped out of college to start his first company (SSB BART Group) and remains on the board today. Doug received his B.A. from Stanford University (he went back) and his MBA from Harvard Business School. He has an amazing wife and an almost one-year-old son, the latter of which may hit Alaska’s MVP Gold in his first year on the planet. He has the miles for it. Even if he didn’t pay for his tickets, it still counts in Doug’s book.

What are you working on right now?

We’re working on building travel shopping experiences that are fun, entertaining and rewarding. The travel industry has sucked all of the fun out of the most emotional purchase consumers make each year. We’d like to add some of it back.

3 trends that excite you?

1.  Increasing horsepower in mobile devices. In a couple of years, I won’t need a laptop, just a smartphone that will hook up to a monitor (if we have those anymore) a wireless keyboard and mouse. Love the Mozilla concept phone — Seabird.

2.  Intelligent pricing. Some industries are getting smart about pricing. Hit me up with the paid upgrade when I’m feeling the pain — at the airport or when I’m in my seat (JetBlue and Virgin do this well).

3.  Mass consumer shift to responsible consumerism. The product cycle is getting faster, and consumers have more viable options to purchase goods that have less negative impact on our communities and planet. The Sun Chips bag fiasco is a red herring. This trend will only accelerate.

How do you bring ideas to life?

[quote]Start with just a kernal of an idea. Let it marinate. Add some meat over a couple of months. Talk about it with lots of people and get their takes.[/quote] Start with just a kernal of an idea. Let it marinate. Add some meat over a couple of months. Talk about it with lots of people and get their takes. Never ask them to sign an NDA. Ideas are nothing. Execution is everything. Getting real feedback from real or potential customers is beyond everything. Once you’re convinced, run as fast as you can, get the right people on the bus and iterate like mad, all along asking customers to tell you how your product sucks.

What inspires you?

More like who? My son inspires me. Every day he learns something new. Every day he smiles more than anyone I’ve ever met (minus maybe my wife), everyday he falls down, gets back up and tries again. If we could all live our lives like that, the world would be a better place.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Too many to mistakes to mention. If I had to pick one, it is probably not finishing my computer science degree in college. I was a double major in English and computer science before I dropped out. When I went back, I just wanted to finish up as quickly as possible. Really wish I didn’t rush it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Okay, and even with a brand attached. Footprint. Create a secure tool that takes my X usernames and my Y passwords and automatically combs the Web for places I have accounts using every username and password permutation (this is my total footprint). Give me a visual list of those services with descriptions and let me one-click cancel any accounts I don’t want.

What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?

Michael Walton (my co-founder) and Nick Redmond (our amazing designer). Not sure if they are books or tools, but they are the best product/design one-two punch I’ve met. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do. That said, everything starts on a Moleskine, and my favorite book is “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Jason Purtorti, former lead designer of Great guy with an unapologetic approach to design.

If you could pull one important business variable off the table, which would it be?

Funding. Hands down. It’s a huge (albeit sometimes necessary) distraction. Three rules of business: More money is better than less money. Money today is better than money tomorrow. Money from customers is better than money from investors. One of my professors said that once and it’s stuck with me. Especially that third rule.

Why do you live in Seattle? I hear it rains a lot.

Here comes my chamber of commerce pitch. Great people, beautiful mountains and bodies of water all around, the freshest seafood and produce I’ve found, healthy foodie culture and perfect summers. What we lack in sun in the winter (which is true, I won’t deny it), everything else makes up for in spades.


Doug Aley on Twitter: @dougaley
Off & Away on @offnaway