When The Daily Courier catches up with Doug Manning at noon on Monday, he’s already been up for eight-and-a-half hours.
“I was awake at 3:30 a.m., and couldn’t get back to sleep,” explained the 63-year-old.
“Jet lag is no fun.”
But the nine weeks in Europe before his return to Kelowna at midnight on Saturday was fun.
“A nine-week trip is something you can do when you're retired,” Manning said with a laugh. “It allows you to travel deeply. You do all the touristy stuff the first week and then you get to do what the locals do.”
Manning and his wife did back-to-back
river cruises spanning from Prague to Bucharest. They lived for a month like locals in Croatia and ended up in Sicily for some pasta and Italian wine.
On a previous trip, they lived like locals for three months in the south of France.
Manning officially retired in 2010, and while he and his wife are travelling as much as possible, it’s not all globetrotting.
“What’s been unique in my life is I’ve worked in the public sector, the private sector and now the not-for-profit sector,” he said. “I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work in all three sectors. The private sector and the public sector tend to disrespect each other. What each has to realize is the people in both are caring and hard-working. The private sector is needed to pay for the services the public sector provides.”
For 20 years, Manning was firmly entrenched in the public sector as a social studies and gym teacher and career counsellor at Kelowna high schools. As a career counsellor, he saw the need for exceptional education and career planning programs for high school students.
So did fellow teacher Dave Cousins.
The two educators joined technology businessman Pat Montani to become tech entrepreneurs themselves to found Bridges, an Internet-based career development program for teenagers to access through their high schools.
“This was 1994 and we were an Internet pioneer," said Manning. “But a lot of people didn’t understand the Internet yet, so they didn't see how paying $2,000 for a password to access an Internet-based program was worthwhile. So, we also captured all the information on CD-ROMs and would send them out three times a year to high schools.”
Bridges soon became one of Kelowna’s few publicly traded companies on the Alberta Stock Exchange, debuting at 85 cents a share. At its peak, when the Internet became hot and Bridges was in 40 per cent of high schools in North America, stock hit $9.
“That was back in the days when the Internet was still new and there were no technicians in Kelowna,” remembered Manning. “We hired lots of technicians from India and Korea and China and moved them to Kelowna. We had as many as 170 employees in Kelowna.”
By 2006, with the Internet firmly entrenched in daily life and increased competition, Bridges stock had settled around $1 and it was time for a buyout.
Xap Corporation from California bought Bridges for $17 million and combined it with its similar career planning platform for post-secondary students.
“I did fine financially from the sale,” said Manning. “But, more so than the financial paycheque, Bridges provided me with a tremendous emotional paycheque. We were on the leading edge of the Internet; we helped students and teachers and employees and I was able to work with people who made me a better entrepreneur.”
Manning also developed a free app called Pop Savvy, a party or personal game that asked tough questions like: Do you sleep naked? Are most people having more sex than you? Is your phone more important than your car? And, do you take the soaps when you leave a hotel room?
“It was a fun business and I felt it filled a need,” he said. “Thousands of people played it, but we needed hundreds of thousands to pay it. It ended up to be a good idea that didn’t connect.”
Much of Manning’s time now is dedicated to his volunteer work with Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts.
The group organizes rugby 7s, 15s and touch leagues.
“We don’t get paid, but we work like we are,” said Manning. “It again comes back to that emotional paycheque.”
Manning is also on the B.C. Rugby board, helps small start-up companies with strategic planning and has an “odd little hobby” of posting quotes from movies on the web at ReelLifeWisdom.com.
His favourite quote?
“The older the violin, the sweeter the music,” from Lonesome Dove.
It’s also the title of a 1974 hit country song by Hank Thompson.