Friday, September 21, 2012

pin up duckface

i get it. duckface is just a modern bastardization of classic pin up art pouts.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Hi, and welcome to my blog post about a little side project I created for the iPhone called LazyAlarm. To get technical support and see the FAQ, scroll to the bottom of this blog post or email me at The app in the iTunes store is

LazyAlarm is a simple alarm clock tool where you can basically toggle between two alarm settings: LAZY or NOT LAZY. You do have to set two alarms, but other than that there's just a large red switch that you use to tell the alarm that you have decided to be lazy and sleep in, or not.

The idea stemmed from when I used to work at a job where there was a shuttle service. Unfortunately the shuttle came every two hours because the commute was about an hour away. So the options for getting up and catching the shuttle would either be at 7:30 or 9:30. And sometimes, when I was really bad, I would miss the 10 AM shuttle and be super lazy. These things happened often enough that I wanted to be able to switch between 7:30 and 9:30 by only smashing my thumb on the phone interface, instead of actually having to go to alarm settings, turn one on and the other off, etc.

LazyAlarm v1.0 is a really simple, perhaps buggy product that I built just to see how fast I can create a simple iOS app, and see how the submission process and sales process in the Apple store works. There are a few shortcomings that I'm trying to fix in the next release. One, the alarm settings don't automatically renew each day. So the switch is only really efficient if you change your mind in the middle of the night, but each day you'll have to set it again. Two, the app doesn't allow custom alarm alarm sounds yet, or repeating alarm sounds or snooze. Three, for my own benefit, there are no analytics or feedback. That means it's hard for me to understand what my users are doing in the app and whether the interface is confusing.

FAQ/Instructions for LazyAlarm

Q: How do I set an alarm?
A: Click on the info (i) button on the bottom right. To set an alarm for either the Normal or Lazy modes, you have to change the time settings when you are under the Normal or Lazy mode by clicking on the selector. As soon as you move the time selector, the alarm will be set. Clicking done simply goes back.

Q: How do I know if I'm on the Lazy or Normal mode:
A: The big red letters that say YES or NO is the answer to the question/statement "I want to be lazy today." When it says YES, the alarm you set for Lazy will go off. When it says NO, the alarm for Normal will go off.

Q: How come it says "No alarm currently set!" or "No alarm currently set for sleeping in!"?
A: You have to set an alarm each day (after the last set alarm goes off) by clicking on the info (i) button.

Q: How do I set a snooze or repeat alarm?
A: You can't in this version...I blame Apple. But it should be in future upgrades.

Q: How do I disable my alarm if I set both alarms already?
A: When you set the Lazy mode for the alarm, there is a switch that turns it on or off. If this is set to off, then the Lazy mode becomes super lazy mode, ie No Alarm.

Q: How do I send more feedback or ask more specific questions, or send hate for this buggy app?
A: Email me at

Sunday, June 24, 2012

if you need motivation guy skydiving has an accident with the chute and lands breaking his neck. he's a parapalegic now but still making the most of life. the last seconds of the video are pretty scary, probably as close to death you'll come. so why not go and do something with your life?

Friday, May 4, 2012

good bye and thanks for all the tisch

techstars demo day was yesterday and it basically ended techstars 2012 with a bang. (btw tisch refers to dave tisch of techstars new york and though i don't really know him or see him around ts boston, his name rhymes with fish.) it ended as an overall amazing event. aside from every company being super cool, and doing great on their demo day pitches though i didn't get to see most of them, it was a great way to bring together everything i am involved with. and i guess in a way it allowed me to define myself in the techstars context and also let techstars know who i am. part of what annoyed me before was that i was getting lost. and having random people i don't know come up to me saying that i did great at the demo was very rewarding. kind of like, techstars wasn't for nothing. we did a taekwondo demo at demo day. of course, it's not really what i wanted recognition for at TS primarily. but in the end, when someone comes up to me because they recognized me from the tkd demo, they would then also ask, "so what do you work on at techstars? you're the Stix guy too right?" and like Stix, it's the initial recognition and conversation starter that can really lead to places. sure, people know me as the tkd guy from techstars (or, some people use the misnomer ninja). but maybe it's not so bad to mix a bit of work and play. i started collecting and giving out business cards. throughout the day I had none of my own, and only gave out dan's tbos cards and will's Neroh/Stix cards. But i'm finding meaning in receiving cards. it used to be that the cards i'd get were those of a lawyer, or recruiter in college, or some other meaningless exchange of information, but it seems that every card i get now is meant for me. and it's kind of cool. miro of testive found me in the locker room after the tkd demo. he said that "you looked good, and you made us all look better." that really hit a chord with me. more than anything i want to contribute to the success of all our techstars companies. so if they're looking for an ios guy, that's what i'm there for. but it seems that taekwondo, which i've done for 10 years plus and has contributed to my life and other people's lives in many ways, can also contribute in a way i didn't really plan on. so if it helps my colleagues by entertaining investors and getting them pumped up, i'm glad to have done the demo. after the big event we all went and celebrated first at estate for happy hour, then at royale for the official party, then jacob wirth for the ts only after party. needless to say the vibe was actually great at royale. it was an interesting mix of techstars people (ie familiar faces, people comfortable to be around because they're in some way techie and not stuck up), and a great party vibe. and lots of drunkenness. and today waking up was strange because my basement window was curtained off so it seemed like still the night even at noon. and it was gloomy outside, and my head wasn't feeling well so there was no reason to crawl back out into the day. but when i made it into the office again, everyone was there, moving along as usual, still pushing forward. but no huge burden looming over any of our heads. and though i was officially done with techstars, it still felt like we had things to do there. unlike the usual graduation, we'll still see each other for a while longer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

stropping a razor

I learned to strop today. actually it was much easier than i thought. the straight razor i started to use has begun to pull so i finally ponied up the $35 for a leather and canvas strop. then i was afraid that either i'd wear down the blade or wear down the canvas if i did it wrong.

turns out a little stropping does a lot. it was probably the quickest and cleanest shave i've had in a month (during which time i've probably shaved 3 times, let's be honest.) but also, it's been a while since i cut myself because the blade was so dull. this time i didn't even know i had been knicked until i started bleeding through a tiny cut...that's how sharp the knife became.

something about stropping is deeply satisfying, just like shaving with a straight razor. there's something about making a tool do what it's supposed to do, and making it better at the job.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

TechStars: March Thoughts

If I've learned one thing at TechStars, it's that I'm a decent iOS developer. Maybe the scope of the projects I've taken on here for the various iPhone possessing companies has been small enough to be fruitful and *possible*, but I have learned a lot and feel that I've accomplished a bit just as a hackstar.

It is now totally more viable for me to be an iOS developer/contractor than a bartender.

A few days ago when I was doing work at the local coffee shop I realized that with my iPhone and developer's license, I could build anything I wanted. That's kind of the gist of being a tech startup person...we're able to build anything we want, with little cost and overhead and initial investment, and be more visible and viral because of the medium. I simply never had the web skills or design skills to do it...but package everything neatly into a little mobile phone and I am empowered.

I feel like I now have a different outlook on startups. In some ways, it takes very little to make a company, and to turn it into something. If you have just the right resources and the right idea, it's not a pipe dream. At TechStars, we make things into reality, or at least a static landing page indicating that the reality is just a few steps away. And sometimes having the right landing page is really all it takes to make others believe, and to get the ball rolling.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Techstars: February 22

I don't remember if it's the third or fourth week now. I think the middle of the fourth.

I just finished two days of Ruby on Rails workshop that we were allowed to go to for free. Otherwise it would have been $1099 for two days. It was actually a really useful workshop, and I feel like I learned a lot. The way I learn is to follow examples. And when code is written and put into my computer, I can always return to it. That's the same with xcode projects.

I've been doing some work on the hackstars side for gympact and ubersense. They're mainly small projects that involved getting code down from git or a zip file, and getting them compiled on my mac. It's really interesting to see how other people code because I never really went through any formal training for objective C, so to see code that follows the same convention is a big surprise, but also to see how people approach certain problems differently from me is also very revealing.

I just heard some cheering from the classroom. There's the weekly techstars company standup. I'm sure people are doing great things. Last week there were a ton of changes, with all the companies showing a large amount of redirection. Then Katie made me and will stand up and do a pitch. It surprised me, and i was so nervous that I kept trembling beforehand. But I grabbed a beer, did a bar pitch, and literally talked out of my ass about Stix for the first time in front of a real audience. Of course I much rather do it at bars.

Stix itself is going through a lot of changes. Mainly we've finally discovered (or come to accept) that the interface needs to be simplified, made quicker, and overall needed a facelift. (or heavy operation). We're going to try to do that. And I'll be busy at US Open this weekend so I'm not sure how much i'll actually be able to get done between Stix, some hackstars obligations, and my tkd training. Already, I feel the startup lifestyle is wreaking havoc on my physique. I look like I'm made to do keumgang.

There's a lot of interesting feedback we've gotten from some mentor types. One iphone app guy really made us reevaluate the value of Stix. Another made will think more about the product instead of focusing so much on monetization. And last week I had my "I suck" moment but I think i've gotten over it now. For me it's better to dig into the code and get lost in the programming. I'll think about the bigger vision when we're out at bars.

Monday, January 30, 2012

TechStars Week 2

Today's the first day of week 2 of techstars. I woke up early even though i haven't slept much. I guess I caught up on sleep quite a bit over the weekend. But also I kept dreaming about our project last night...upgrading office spaces, integrating in two ways with face book, etc etc. big dreams that indicate success. i just couldn't sleep after that.

Last week was quite eventful and everyday was eye opening. On Wednesday, the HackStars team went around and interviewed/chatted with every TechStars company to see what they were about and how we could help. Boy, there are a lot of incredible people here. We also had a session to meet the CEOs from last year, and they were a bunch of well composed and weathered people. Out of that meeting I got a lot of good advice:
- Write down who you are/think you are in the beginning of the program, before you get torn down and changed around.
- TS is mentorship driven - the goal is not to answer a mentor's questions but to understand why they ask a question
- The product is as good as the pitch. The ultimate goal for TS is demo day. In 3 months the product, your user base, or your business may or may not change much, but the pitch must improve.
- The agile process/3 month plan. in month 1, build relationships. In month 2, prepare those relationships for fundraising. email everyone and keep reminding them that in month 3 you are preparing to fundraise.
- The rule of thirds: leading up to demo day, aim to have a third of funding rounds closed. Try to have investors that will bring credibility for the rest of investors already agreed to fund.
- Everyone has an "I suck" moment when they realize they have to step it up.
- There will be mentor whiplash. Do not be a mouthpiece for your mentor. They will pitch a lot of ideas to you that you've already thought of. Instead of saying "we thought of that", understand why/how can that help, why they said it.

Wednesday was the most interactive day I had that whole week because we talked to 6 of the 13 companies. It seemed like so much yet we didn't even cover half of them. I didn't even get to code at all that day; my computer was used mainly to take notes. At the end of the day we sat in on some mentor meetings. Everyone was scheduled to meet with Brad Feld, author, entrepreneur, and star mentor. Listening to him listen to the companies pitch definitely gave me a lot of insight on both how mentors try to understand the business, and how we must think about improving that first mentor meeting.

The first thing was that the presentation must be ready in a technological sense. I'd gotten a lot of experience at Lincoln panicking before a demo because the software wasn't working, and the same situation happened twice: the computer was too slow to demo the product and basically wasted 5 minutes of their time with the mentor.

The second is that Brad could understand the product quickly, then immediately tie it into his experience in the industry, and connect with people who would be better to help with it.

On Thursday, we had a session about how to best make use of your mentors. I got two big points out of that:
- Mentors are not smarter than you about your business. If you are not the smartest person in the room about your company on demo day, you're in trouble.
- Sometimes a mentor might not want to give advice if you are blindly following them. Letting the mentor know that you will take their advice intelligently will make them less afraid to give it.

And in a separate meeting about product development, I started thinking about how to organize the feature list for Stix. At this point in the week, we were TechStar team Stix, so we started working on our own product. For a feature list, one way to organize them in order to prioritize them is to rate each feature on three factors:
1 - Does a feature help new users adopt it?
2 - Does the lack of a feature risk causing a current user to stop using the product?
3 - Does a feature help an existing user share/promote the product?

And finally, on Friday, we had product workshops where we created a business generation canvas, wrote down assumptions, and turned one assumption into a testable hypothesis. The business is modeled as an ecosystem where all the entities in your business's world are modeled as circles, and --> arrows show what an entity provides for another.

My group included two big retail-focused startups: Murfie and Shopsy, and their charts were incredibly complex compared to mine. Murfie was already far along in their funding process and had a much more detailed idea of the agents in their business. Psykopaint was more similar in the product and audience to mine, but when we looked at my chart, I realized that Stix was still in the phase that only cared about Stix <-> Active stix users, and had no need to look anywhere beyond that (Stix artists, retail brands, non stix users).

The assumptions I made were simple, like People will enjoy adding stickers to pictures. But Katie wanted me to dig down and make even more fundamental, deeper assumptions about the business such as people enjoy putting their mark on their own space. For a business these assumptions are really assertions that must be true, and should be testable.

So now begins week 2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hacking at TechStars

I recently changed jobs and I joined the TechStars incubator program in Boston as one of the "HackStars". This is all the result of a long story which started last year when I joined up with William Ho and created Stix in May 2010. And since then my life has drastically changed. We found out we got into TechStars right before New Years, after they decided that our company would not be a TechStars company, but they still wanted us as individual hackers but also as a company. So we get to work on HackStars half time and try to build our company, along with the help of all the same mentors and entrepreneurs the other TechStars companies have.

So here we are; today was the first day of TechStars. Some of us had been there for a few days or weeks already. And the rest of us were there since yesterday when we had our official HackStars orientation which wasn't really anything interesting. But today for all the companies, we got to hear Katie, Reed, and Aaron talk about their backgrounds, then all the companies got up and gave their elevator pitch.

Everyone is a genius. Especially Reed.

Well, more that the whole place has such a techie atmosphere that it practically makes you exude creativity. Just hearing about everyone's technology and knowing that they'd all been working on this to such an extent was a spur. but not everyone's elevator pitches were super fine tuned...i seriously think that our practice in bars and parties with Stix has made us more aware of what kind of content is good for capturing a random stranger's attention in 30 seconds, and we could really see what worked and what didn't in the other companies' pitches.

However, one thing Katie said during the session really resonated with me, and I could feel my understanding of the business increase, and I could feel myself learning entrepreneurship. That's the one moment when I suddenly felt like I was back in school again; like when I joined MIT and realized it was a way better place to be than Harvard, Princeton, or even my high school; when I joined taekwondo and realized that each practice was contributing something to my knowledge and physical ability; it was (almost) like joining Hogwarts where I'd actually willingly go to each lecture, because literally they were teaching us MAGIC.

Basically, Katie said that it was vitally important for everybody to give feedback. Initially I wanted to just listen to other people give feedback because it seemed they all knew what it was like to be in the startup business and what kind of feedback was good and useful to the guy giving the pitch. But then Katie got mad at us and said that it was vitally important for everyone to learn how to give feedback. And that it was important for a founder to know how to listen, because most people will just try to respond and give more info to an already overloaded audience. And finally, we must understand that when we give feedback we think we are right, but often we will be wrong. And that a founder must realize that of 6 pieces of advice, only two will be right and good for his company. And he has to be able to listen and process that feedback. For some reason this all resonated with me, with the history of trying to work with Stix feedback and beta users, and with our own limited experiences as founders.

Next, Reed gave a talk about precision question answering. It is exactly how it sounds. But when Reed gave an example of precision answering it sounded so much better. Some of the founders will constantly have trouble bringing their explanations into a form that everyone can understand; they have trouble stopping their explanation when it makes sense, without using buzzwords. Reed turned one description of a company into a simple yet captivating catchphrase that even the founders themselves ended up adopting it. And it really made me realize how much experience helps you simplify things...almost in the exact same way that the best poomsae actually makes a form look more simple, not more complex.

And finally tonight we had a mentor dinner, which was basically meet the mentors and eat leftover chinese food and drink beer and wine. It's great that the TechStars office is about 3 blocks from my house because we were there until 10:30 and basically it felt like I could stay as late as I wanted at a local party, and just walk home and crash whenever I needed. But also we met a few random mentors, grizzled veterans of business and entrepreneurship, and a few got quite a good laugh and reaction out of Stix. Hopefully we will be able to sell our product as much as any other TechStars company, and get some incredible feedback from them as well.

Finally, a few faux pas came out of my mouth that night, like saying that our audience is geared toward a younger female demographic in this way: "We need more 12 year old girls." And in comparing our app to instagram, something to the point of "Instagram makes your photos artsy. We make your photos fartsy." That's the new slogan of Stix.