Lean Startup

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

We all love hardware. It’s something all consumers can touch, feel, and experience. However for the entrepreneur, hardware is a far more challenging business than software. Making changes to hardware involves more time and money when you’ve got manufacturers involved, especially and most likely when they are overseas.  Plus you’ve got to take into account the cost of production and shipping.

If any flaws are discovered after production such as the case with Nest’s smoke detectors not only are you dealing with potentially disastrous PR but also delayed shipments, additional costs to fix the problem, and lost time of two to three months.  What about after a company has made sales? Delivering customer service extends beyond making the sale. Consider the resources and opportunity costs expended  when a business like Fitbit faces a class action lawsuit over rashes developed on some consumers wearing the fitness tracker.

With additional challenges that characterize the hardware business, how are we as a small startup managing the risks? Through the lean startup methodology.  Martin built Rover using LEGO parts to allow rapid prototyping.  With LEGO parts we can take it apart and build the robot into various forms and shapes to experiment with how and which segment of potential customers respond. At some point we may use 3D printed parts but for now LEGO does the job.

The lean startup methodology is about managing uncertainty, reducing waste, and ultimately surviving and thriving. It influences not only in what we do directly for the startup but also our lifestyle. Eric Ries wrote a great book that shares not only techniques to achieve operational excellence for new and innovative endeavors but also relates to the psychology and emotions of entrepreneurs . If you’re a tech entrepreneur or even someone working in a big company responsible for rolling out a new product or service I highly recommend this read.

LinkedIn’s Rising Competitor


I’ve been using LinkedIn since 2006 but even more in the last several months for a variety of purposes such that I may not log out for weeks. Though I love staying on the site to keep up to date with my current connections, I’ve had to unfortunately leave momentarily to look for information I need.  As an avid user, I hope my suggestions below can give a little nudge for a feature request.

For a company whose mission is to expand economic opportunities for the global workforce, LinkedIn may want to consider allocating space for users to anonymously share company and salary reviews in part to compete with rising star Glassdoor who recently closed $70 million in a new round of funding led by Google Capital. Similar to how Facebook quickly launched an app called Rooms to compete with rival social network Ello, LinkedIn may want to test the waters with a mobile app that allows users to anonymously share salary and company review information to keep us on the site. Here are some interesting stats I found through Glassdoor’s blog:

Furthermore, Breitbarth’s infographic reveals that 74% of LinkedIn users found value in the site from being able to research people and companies.

Salary and company review information are indeed highly sensitive yet critical topics, not only for employees but employers as well. Employees worldwide spend at least a third of their adult years at work, which in turn impact life outcomes and choices not only for themselves but their families. Work environment and compensation are among some of the top reasons employees move on to seek new opportunities, impacting a company’s operations and bottom line.

Organizations compete for talent and compensation package is one way of luring and retaining the people that drive the mission forward. A colleague of mine worked at a consulting firm where she conducted compensation package benchmarking studies among tech companies in Silicon Valley. Companies participating in the study paid good money for this information. Nowadays recruiters and candidates can get a range through Glassdoor where users voluntarily and anonymously post this information.  Perhaps it is the very nature of this information, sensitive yet critical, that is contributing to Glassdoor generating 3x more traffic than LinkedIn.

Glassdoor’s got some impressive traction and metrics. Take for instance Apple whose profile includes 4200 reviews, 9800 salaries, and 2600 interviews. Or LinkedIn with 908 reviews, 1200 salaries, and 552 interviews. How many more visits does Glassdoor get from people searching for these terms? These are numbers that could boost LinkedIn’s metrics if users stayed on the site -when researching company reviews, salaries, and interview processes I’ve had to leave LinkedIn to go to Glassdoor.  Recruiters are also increasingly citing more interviewees who reference Glassdoor in finding new opportunities.

If I worked at LinkedIn and wanted to estimate a cost/ benefit analysis of building and rolling out an anonymously user generated mobile app for salary and company reviews I would look for data that could answer the following questions with hard numbers:

-Within LinkedIn’s database, how many search for “salary”, “interviews”, or “ company reviews”?

-What percentage of LinkedIn users are going to Glassdoor? How many log out entirely before going to Glassdoor or are they logged into both simultaneously?

-How many users are coming to LinkedIn from Glassdoor?

-What is the user behavior and demographics?

-Which current LinkedIn clients are also using Glassdoor? Has there been a drop or increase in revenue from them?

Returning to LinkedIn’s mission of expanding economic opportunities for the global workforce, allowing users to anonymously share salary information falls right into the bucket. Glassdoor proves that this information is highly sought after. As a business, keeping more users on LinkedIn for longer periods of time and inviting new ones to join could benefit overall revenues as well as keep its current standing for the world’s largest professional networking site.

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The Value of Oculus Rift For Facebook Users

Sergey Orlovskiy using the first version of the Oculus Rift.
Sergey Orlovskiy using the first version of the Oculus Rift. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

What Facebook adds most to my life is the ability to keep in touch with friends and family near and far within an immersive  and interactive environment. Within seconds I can see what’s going on with family in Indonesia or friends in Australia. Right now, that ability is limited to pictures, videos, and chat messages. Oculus Rift can change that by allowing 3D experiences.

I first tried a pair of the Oculus Rift before Facebook acquired the company at the 2013 Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara. When I used it I was instantly teleported to a villa in the French Riviera with geraniums and hanging terracotta pots and all.  When my head turned, I was able to virtually go into a different room in my French Riviera villa.  The eyepiece was heavy and I got a little nauseous after a few minutes but overall the idea and the experience of being able to move in a completely different world in 3D was awesome.

Facebook’s investment into the company would do well to improve the user experience – to make the eyepiece easier, more comfortable to use for longer periods of time, and yes let’s admit it – a little cooler. Ok much cooler.  The coolness factor is so critical in consumer technologies.  Just ask Apple’s shareholders whose investments have paid off hundreds of percent over.

Another Facebook initiative, Internet.org, strives to get every person on the globe, even in the remotest corners of the world, on the internet.  Imagine a doctor being able to conduct a live medical appointment and give treatment via the Oculus Rift.  Think Ebola patients and their team of medical providers. Or being able to join your sister’s wedding in Venice when you can’t attend because of work. The benefits can span from saving lives all the way to reducing carbon emissions by not having to fly as frequently.

The company has also reported that online video advertisements will increase in the coming years.  Imagine being able to run in the Amazon jungle solely by putting a pair of glasses on.  One of my recent favorite commercials was done by Dawn documenting a bird rescue.  I’d definitely pay a few hundred dollars for a pair of glasses so I can be right next to the birds as they fly off into the horizon or to instantly be teleported to a relative’s wedding on the beaches of Bali.

With Oculus Rift, the internet, and the Facebook platform, the world would be a much cozier and richer place.


Latest Trends in Tech

This live demo of water simulation provided an awesome user experience at Augmented World Expo, quickly and effortlessly generating a group of eager testers including Metaio co-founder and CEO Thomas Alt who wanted to buy one for his young daughter.

As software continues to pervade every aspect of every day life, from ordering food to creating music, Silicon Valley is trail blazing the yellow brick road paved on new evolutions of technology including robots, wearables, and IoT innovations.  The big question that needs to be addressed first and foremost is how to design, market, and deliver for the end user in mind since they are after all the constituent that can make or break these huge capital-intensive endeavors.

Marketing and PR can only go a short distance without meeting fundamental human needs and desires. During graduate school I learned for the first time about human development theories which shed a deeper and more complex perspective on human behavior. Understanding, empathizing, and connecting with end users will be critical in delivering products and services that would be adopted with open arms.

Behind every wallet or time bank is a consumer with emotions and needs.  Some of these universal needs can include the need to feel safe, the need for privacy, the need to be connected with others, the need to be reassured that something will be done in the time they want it and the way they want it.  Before customers’ wallet/ time bank can open, the emotions and needs must be met first.

Smart 3D Glasses for the Visually Impaired

I was introduced to Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) through Martin Wojtczyk’s intelligent sensing robot, Rover. Then I learned about Google’s Project Tango which brings a decade of robotics and computer vision research onto a 5 inch smartphone.

A theme in computer vision aims to replicate what human eyes can do.  Let’s envision the software to assist those who don’t have the capability to see.  Equipped with 3D tracking, Smart Glasses would allow localization, mapping, and collision-free path planning to give the visually impaired the human scale of depth and perception needed to successfully steer through their environments. Voice prompts or subtle vibrations emitted from the glass frames can help navigate.

White Dog

Guide dogs are used to assist the blind to plan a clear path as well as locate important landmarks such as the bus stop, pedestrian crossings, places to sit, one’s house. However service dogs present certain disadvantages:they require extensive training, daily maintenance, care, affection, and replacement when the service dog can no longer perform due to age. Smart Glasses can strive to replace guide dogs to give people with visual impairments a greater degree of independence and sense of control over their own lives, two elements of living we can all relate to as important.

Google Glass Demo Interview #4: Drop


I saw a few cool blue t-shirts hanging at Drop‘s table recently and couldn’t help but come by to ask what these guys are all about. Drop is in the business of letting iOS users leave location-based surprise digital messages along with an optional photo.  Founder Eric Noeth demos the app here:

Sounds like a work of tech I can surely try for WIPJam at Mobile World Congress. What happens however if reception at the conference will be minimal to non-existent? Text messages would not go through but could Drop still deliver?  This capability to transmit messages regardless of reception would be critical for me.  The use case for the app with this feature during emergencies would make it indispensable if not life saving.  During the last big California earthquake we had a friend who was in downtown San Francisco while we were in Berkeley, an area of lesser impact.  We couldn’t locate him even after walking around the vicinity of his office in the dark. Emergency response times could be vastly expedited if at least one of us had reception to send a message on where to meet.

When I contacted Drop’s support  they responded with this message:


Thanks for reaching out! To answer your questions:

– You will need at least a little reception in order to leave a Drop
– While it is possible to receive Drops in areas of little or no cell reception as long as your phone’s GPS is active, your location will be less accurate which could mean spottier deliveries. Note that you are able to send and leave Drops if there is a wifi network available even if there is no cell reception.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Team Drop”

When the last big northern California earthquake hit, we didn’t have wifi yet.  With some sort of data connection, messaging apps during emergencies would come in handy for communications.

Drop is winner of the TechCrunch Boston Pitch Off. You can download the app on iTunes under “Drop Messages”.

Google Glass and Privacy. But Whose Privacy?

Privacy has been a hot topic for Google Glass. Some people fear being recorded or photographed without their permission or awareness.  Don’t we already live in a world with hidden cameras and stealth smartphones?  Some businesses like restaurants and bars have even banned the use of the device on their establishments to protect the privacy of their customers. However based on my experience and that of my husband’s, we have found that strangers are in fact lured to us each time we wear Google Glass out in public everywhere we go, curious and fascinated by the wearable computing device.


My husband and I are both Glass Explorers. Every time we wear it beyond our home strangers, without fail, will approach us to ask us about the Google Glass experience. My experience?  I have found that Google Glass is the antithesis of Harry Potter’s Invisible Cloak. This thing has drawn strangers to us like a magnet. We will always make new friends whenever we wear it out. We have walked down the street in Berkeley and a group of fraternity guys asked us “Yo man is that Google Glass? Can we try it on?”

When we were in Kauai at the far end of Polihale Beach Martin attempted to help a flustered couple whose car got stuck in sand. When Martin came around to the car to introduce himself to the guy, the first words out of his mouth were “Is that Google Glass?”

Or take the example of us sitting down to eat after a long day at last year’s Augmented Reality Expo in Santa Clara.  From the corner of my eye I noticed a lady looking at our direction.  She was pointing a large camera at us.  I heard several clicks from her camera  though she never asked us if she could take our picture.


Later that same evening, as we met up with Glass Explorers Libby Chang, Keith Achorn, and Saad Mafia, a mother and her son ran up to us, being unequivocally excited about Google Glass was unaware that they were interrupting a conversation. “Can we try it pleeeease pleeeease pleeease!!??? We think it’s the next big thing. It’s so awesome. We think it’s just so cool. We will be so grateful if we can just try it on. You will make a dream come true for us.”

In Munich, Germany during last year’s holiday season, we were followed by curious stares and side conversations.  People are culturally much more mindful of privacy there so no one ever stealthily took our pictures or randomly interrupted our conversations, at least we weren’t aware of it.  I would hear whispers in German, people curiously looking at us, and the only thing I understood was “Google Glass”.  But we did manage to get a table at a busy restaurant, invited by a couple of Grandma’s who were curious about Google Glass.  By the end of lunch, one of the ladies gave Martin her email asking him if he could send one of those free Glass invites to her grandson living in Cape Cod who is an artist by profession.  A group of college kids also approached us in Marienplatz as we exited the train station to ask about the experience.  We’ve made friends sharing tables at restaurants and the conversation starter was always Google Glass.  Once we settled down and ordered we would put our pairs away then our neighbors would ask us about what we were wearing.  By the end of dinner, they gave us their business cards to stay in touch.

At the world famous Nuremberg Christmas market, someone from the crowd politely asked “Is there a camera in there”?  The only person who approached us mob-style was, in fact,  and unsurprisingly an American.  She tapped on my shoulder as I was looking at ornaments at a vendor’s booth.  “Hi my name is _____ and my husband over there works for the tech company _____.” She began to give me the elevator speech when a relative had to whisk me away.

Recently at AppWorld 2014 a booth vendor suddenly stepped  in front of Martin, standing no farther than one foot away, introducing himself then saying “Is that Google Glass?” Then proceeded to ask more questions about it.

Based on my experiences above, and so many others untold, banning Google Glass from certain establishments is a wonder to me.  Martin and I have never had a rude, violent, or otherwise bitter encounter wearing the device in public.  Since so many people flock to us when we wear it, responsible, respectful patrons like ourselves seem to be followed by a group of curious fans. Wouldn’t that be called free advertising for the business? Marketing? Whatever the term, Google Glass has been a magnet for healthy curiosity and a hands-down easy way to make new friends.

Robots Released to Examine Areas Too Dangerous For Humans

Radiation levels in some nuclear reactors at Fukushima have recently been reported to be higher than originally announced, thereby employing the use of robots and remote cameras critical to protecting workers’ health.   NPR’s Anthony Kuhn recently visited Japan to report on the ongoing efforts to cleanup the site:

The reactors were damaged by the tsunami nearly three years ago but the Japanese public is highly suspicious of TEPCO. Is Fukushima the result of a natural catastrophe or a man-made disaster?

Google Glass Demo Interview #2: Shyp Your Stuff Off With A Hero

I’m a big fan of conference t-shirts so when I spotted a nice logo of wings on a soft baby blue one I couldn’t help but stop by their stand at Apps World North America to inquire what business these guys are in. Turns out Shyp is something all of us could use.  If you’ve got anything under 50 pounds you need to send anywhere in the world, you can just call a Shyp hero who will come to your home or business and they will pack and send it off for you.  If you’ve got just one item, there is a $5 pick up fee otherwise it’s free.  Shyp makes money solely from wholesale shipping prices.  Lucas and Ari breaks down the  service here:

As a frequent shipper myself, I could get discounted prices by buying postage online but the time and effort I would save in packing and printing out labels by using Shyp would make me a returning customer any day.  Plus Lucas affirmed that the company uses recyclable packing boxes and air packs over styrofoam peanuts making their service eco-friendly.

Shyp raised a total of $2.1 million in seed funding from a total of 22 investors by September 2013.  They entered beta for San Francisco in December 2013.  When you guys comin’ to Berkeley? I need a Shyp hero 🙂

Tomorrow’s interview will feature Moxtra, a beautiful personal and/ or enterprise application for collaborating on projects. Come back for more mañana ya hear?

Google Glass Demo Interview #1: Play With Your Friends in Candy Cane Casino

I was immediately captivated by Candy Cane Casino’s luscious and sparkly visuals at Apps World North America at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  Kahn Jekarl, former Zynga employee and Founder/ CEO of Flow State Media gives us a demo of his deliciously eye-popping mouth-watering game:

Flow State Media, a company of six guys from Zynga, has other games in the works. Kahn is an alum of MIT and UPenn.

Stay tuned for more of my Google Glass demo interviews with the startup community!  Tomorrow will feature Shyp, a venture-backed consumer web company that promises to make your life simpler!