Category Archives: Personal

StartupBus 2013: Day 4, Semi Finals

On day four of our StartupBus hackathon we arrived in San Antonio, Texas. Unlike on the previous days, we settled in a nice Four Points by Sheraton hotel. The West Coast bus came first, then right after us came the bus from Mexico City, representing the whole country of Mexico. Despite being exhausted, buspreneurs filled the hotel lobby with loud voices and cheers in English and Spanish. In a few hours, the rest of the buses arrived:

  • Chicago representing the Midwest,
  • Tampa representing the Southeast,
  • New York City representing the East Coast,
  • Alumni bus from NYC representing people who participated in the previous years competitions.

Because semi-finals and finals were supposed to take place on the next day, after the dinner pretty much all the teams kept on working till late at night.
The next day, after breakfast in the hotel, we (over 150 StartupBus participants) were transported to the Rackspace HQ, a.k.a. The Mothership. It is situated in San Antonio, and was just a short ride from the hotel. Although our driver managed to get lost due to roads blocked by construction. The Rackspace HQ building is a huge box-like structure resembling a shopping mall. It is surrounded by parking lots and construction (they moved here recently) in a suburban area. We were met like rockstars, but were told not to explore anything outside of the huge hangar-like room. Knowing that most hackers disrespect any rules, Rackspace management wisely put lots of employees and security guards around us. The lunch food was subpar. Elias Bizannes (the founder of StartupBus) and other judges listened to each of more than 40 teams pitch individually. Here is a list of the teams:

StartupBus 2013 North Americacs

StartupBus 2013 North Americacs: facebook.com/startupbus

  • AdventureCo.de
  • BriefSkate
  • CareerMob
  • Chromatix
  • Cloudspotting
  • Coderswb
  • Deliverish
  • DrunkSpotting*
  • Dry Erase Web
  • Emplify
  • Eventee
  • ExVersion
  • Fitchallenge
  • FlightShuffle
  • Friends Judging Friends
  • GhostPost.io
  • Gifdme
  • Grassroots.io
  • InstaLodger (alumni)
  • Jobber.io
  • MyBestRx (alumni)
  • NextChaptr
  • Nomscription
  • Ovrviews
  • Payvine
  • Portioned
  • Producers
  • Readin.gs
  • RepCheck (alumni)
  • SkillMeUp
  • Storedrobe
  • TagSet
  • Thumbtrotter
  • uSupply.me
  • Wrong Credit Score
  • Yaank (alumni)

More information on each team is available at StartupBus.com LeaderBoard.

  • DrunkSpotting was formed after the main competition on the way from San Antonio to Austin.

The judges looked at a few criteria such as working prototypes (or the lack thereof) and team commitment, and chose twelve teams. Here is the list of the finalists and the descriptions of their projects/startups:

  1. CareerMob (NYC): website that helps military professionals to find their civilian career
  2. Usupply.me (Mexico): marketplace for construction industry)
  3. NextChaptr (Chicago): book publisher with a kick starter model
  4. Grassroots.io (SF): kick starter for activism campaigns (e.g., [FixTheDMCA.org]http://www.fixthedmca.org/)
  5. GhostPost (SF): anonymous chat
  6. Coders with out borders (SF): code for a good cause/experience
  7. Deliverish (NYC): marketplace for delivery tasks
  8. Portioned (Chicago): single portion food delivery
  9. Readin.gs (NYC): curated book recommendation and store service
  10. Cloudspotting (Mexico): draw on photos of clouds
  11. Exversion (NYC): GitHub for data
  12. Gifdme (Chicago): animated way to share emotions via GIFs.

Next, those twelve teams pitched on-stage to Robert Scoble of Rackspace, Nicholas Longo of CoffeeCup software and GeekDome, and other judges from sponsors such as Elance and Rackspace. That was probably the most entertaining part of the whole competition! GhostPost and Cloudspotting had killer presentations. The former had a live anonymous chat on huge screens with all the unfiltered messages from the audience shown in real-time. GhostPost grabbed everybody’s attention when Elias read a Cease and Desist email, and people fell in love with GhostPost’s beautifully crafted PAC-MAN-like avatars. The latter team spokesperson can easily perform stand-up comedy: e.g., he said that Cloudspotting is not the first company to make money on clouds (Google, Rackspace, Dropbox). To appreciate the joke, you need to know that Cloudspotting allows users to draw on pictures of clouds and share their creations. :-)

The competition was set up that there would be one winner and one runner up from the pitch competition, two winners from the alumni bus (NYC) and two winners from the score competition. They selected six out of twelve teams for the finals:

  1. Grassroots.io
  2. NextChaptr
  3. CareerMob
  4. GhostPost
  5. Cloudspotting
  6. Usupply.me

Tired but relieved (for most of the people the competition was over), we went on to celebrate. The six finalists kept on working for the second sleepless night.

Read more about the finals and the conclusion summary in my next blog post.

Look at social story on Storify storify.com/azat_co/startupbus-and-sxsw.

Android to iOS or Why Guy Kawasaki Is Wrong

I know that many of you perceive Guy Kawasaki as some sort of genius and visionary. Indeed, he’s published 11 (eleven!) books, worked with Steve Jobs, and has strong opinions. Not that long ago, I attended his talk at TheNextWeb event where he was promoting his new book APE: Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur. The book is about self-publishing woes. Although his tips and APE have come in very handy for my lean-pub edition of Rapid Prototyping with JS, I somewhat disagreed with Guy’s casual remarks about two Google products: Google Plus and Android. Mr.Kawasaki said that Google Plus is to Facebook, what Apple was to Windows: not many people use it, it’s better and everybody thinks it’ll die soon. :-) Then the acclaimed author half-jokingly said: “Android is for real men”. Seriously?! Here is my story of going from a hard-core Android user to an iOS fan in less than a year.


Guy Kawasaki about Android at TheNextWeb

I jumped on the smartphone train a little bit later than most of my type (early adopters, geeks, etc.) because I didn’t like Apple, Inc. and its products. And I also had this notion that each device should do its own distinct function well rather than try to be a Swiss Army knife of gizmos. For example, taking pictures with a photo camera, listening to music on an MP3 player, voice calls with a dumbcell phone, taking notes on a PDA and waking up to an alarm clock. ;-) Of course, my conservatism started to fade away as hardware and software improved. Slowly I’ve noticed that I’m watching videos on my 4“ MP3 player, reading books on my Dell Axim X51 and using an alarm clock ”app" in my Nokia cell phone.

I guess it was time for my first real smartphone. I’ve already used many Google web application so I went with T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G with Android 1.6. The device was slow and buggy like hell. The phone was unusable to the point that I had to root it, and to install an aftermarket firmware CyanogenMod to make the experience at least somewhat bearable. Despite all of that, what I’ve come to realize is that I really needed a smartphone in my life (surprise, surprise!). Boy, I was wrong when I thought that if I had a computer at home and one at work, then I didn’t need yet another one in my pocket. ;-)

Then, a few iterations of Android OS and a few devices later — I had an entry-level LG Optimus One and a gorgeous 4.5" display Samsung Infuse 4G — I really started to appreciate:

  • Seamless integration with my everyday apps: GMail, Google Docs, Calendar, Reader and Maps.
  • Abundance of free apps.
  • Customization done by device manufacturers and those I can do by using widgets and aftermarket firmware.

It wasn’t always roses and butterflies. Here are some of the problems I experienced using Android-powered devices (I also had a 7" Samsung tablet):

  • No Instagram-like hip apps when they’re already available at Apple App Store.
  • Phone barely lasted one day, despite multiple replacements and having an extended battery.
  • Constant “Force close” (analog of a blue window of death on Windows PCs) and the need to restart the device.

Nevertheless, I was blissful in my ignorance which was totally destroyed by my switch to Max OS X from Windows XP/7. The reason for this was that I had to sync data using 3rd party apps and adapt to new behaviors. I wasn’t happy. Because when I’m not happy I usually find way to fix it. :-) The perfect timing of iPhone 5 and sluggishness of Android 2.3 (I had over 100 apps installed) made the pre-order of iPhone 5 64Gb a no-brainer.

Things that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate since then:

  • iPhotos, Photo Steam and Photo Roll are a simple and robust way to sync photos across Macs, iPads and iPhones. Also, seamless integration with iCloud and iTunes makes my life easier.
  • iPhone 5 battery life is amazing, on a typical day I use only 30–40% of a charge which means I can go for about two days without recharging.
  • iMessage/Messages is a superb feature with allows me to take conversations I’ve started on iPhone or iPad to my MacBook or vice versa.
  • Retina displays on both iPad and iPhone 5 are feasts for my eyes.
  • Last but not least, LTE is lightning fast compared to the fake 4G standard of HSPA+.

Again as with Win vs Mac, iPhone doesn’t make me think about unnecessary things like updating to a custom flavor of OS or about solving synching issues.

I know that Guy Kawasaki plays hockey, which is no doubt a manly recreation, but I think that he was wrong about Android. In my humble opinion, Android is similar to Windows because:

  • Android OS is loosely integrated with hardware (except for Google Nexus produced by HTC).
  • Google has a licensing revenue model which is similar to Microsoft selling a copy of Windows. By the way, Google licenses Android for $10 per device.
  • Android devices are very fragmented; there are dozens of companies, each with its own modified version of Android, and even with apps and entertainment stores, e.g., Samsung Hub.

All of these make apps development slower and introduce more challenges for developers while being less appealing products for end-users. As with Windows, the main advantage of the Android platform is its lower price and growing army of users!

Switching from Windows to Max OS X

I’ve been a Microsoft Windows user for the most of my professional career. It all changed a year ago when I moved to Mountain View, California to participate in 500 Startups program, a summary of my experience in my blog post 15 things I learned from 500 Startups (aka Fail Factory).

People in Silicon Valley, especially developers and engineers, virtually all use Mac OS X or some flavor of Linux. But peer pressure wasn’t in itself enough for me to make a switch. After all those years I’d have amassed a set of tools and habits as well as assumptions about Mac OS X and Apple. Therefore I never owned any Apply device, even an iPod or iPhone, and thought of them as overpriced and limited gadgets. At that time we were using Ruby on Rails and I often stumbled upon some weirdness here and there within my setup. Very soon I’d discovered that Ruby on Rails just wasn’t meant to be run on Windows machines by design :-( The thing is that 37signals (company behind RoR) and other power contributors to Ruby on Rails are Apple users, as a consequence when they build a new gem or release a new version of core framework they do it for Mac OS X first. Then for Linux because the difference is minimal (Mac OS X is a Unix-based system, hence the X). A very few Ruby on Rails Windows enthusiasts are vastly outnumbered and that’s why it’s harder to find latest libraries, solutions and answers to specific questions (which there are many).

As always, the fear of a pain from switching is bigger than the pain itself. In a month or so I learned all the trackpad tricks, most of the shortcuts and installed the best developers tools (most of which are not free but they’re way better than free alternatives on Windows). Another great factor is a quality of the hardware: the keyboard, battery, charger (I have MacBook Air), etc. is superb! The look and feel of Mac OS X itself is not very different from some Linux distribution like Ubuntu but OS X has two huge advantages:

  1. All the drivers will work out of the box and with future OS updates; I often had discovered that either a microphone or a some other periferieal device is not working after installing Linux on my laptop;
  2. It has nice small but very convenient features.

A year after the switching I’ve sold all my Windows machines and I work, run errand and entertain myself solely on 13’’ MacBook Air. Recently I even was brave enough to install 240Gb Aura OWC SSD instead of a stock 128Gb SSD drive, it took an hour of cloning and 15 minutes of working with a tiny screwdriver :-)

So far Max OS X is a best tool for me and I highly recommend to make a switch if you’re still on Windows. The investment in Mac OS X machine has high ROI. It’s essential if you want to be an a bleeding edge of technology (Ruby on Rails, Node.js, etc.). As an added bonus, MacBook can simplify and organize your life better leading to a higher productivity, less stress (no worries about the brand, color, shape when the time for an upgrade comes, because I’ll just get the latest MacBook with the maximum everything) and a zen-like life :-)

My Social Media Policies

Social media is developing rapidly. Only 5–10 years ago our lives and communications didn’t spin around Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Path. I consider myself being somewhere in the middle of the adoption curve because two years ago I had less than 200 Facebook friends and no Twitter or Instagram accounts. Nevertheless, I find social networks greatly enhancing my life and allowing me to communicate better and more efficient with the people who are on these networks.

Social Media

Social Media

Facebook

I request to be friends with any person I’ve met in real life. This is my way of introducing myself. I rarely friend people I’ve never met in real life.

Twitter

I follow all my friends and any interesting company or person.

Instagram

I post my own photos and almost none of them depict any of my friends.

Google Plus

I put in my circles and follow all of my friends and some of the people with whom we’ve exchanged emails.

LinkedIn

I connect to anybody with whom we’ve exchanged communication means.

Foursquare and Path

I follow my real friends and don’t let strangers for geosecurity reasons.

Pinterest

I follow random people mainly based on contents of their boards.

Here, in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco, it’s often easy to forget that there’re some people who are not on social networks yet. Saying that, I think it would be a hard thing for me to be a real friend with somebody who doesn’t have a Facebook account — it’s just weird!