presidential-innovation-fellows-smithsonian

Everything you wanted to know about the Presidential Innovation Fellowship but were too afraid to ask

I had the good fortune of serving as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Smithsonian, building and launching a crowdsourced transcription website at the Smithsonian that’s leveraged thousands of digital volunteers to transcribe over 5,000 completed historic documents. As we near the end of the application process for Round 3 of the fellowship, I thought I’d share my *totally unauthorized* answers to real and imaginary questions potential applicants might have.

What the heck is Presidential Innovation Fellowship?

The Presidential Innovation Fellowship was first launched in 2012 to pair the nation’s top technologists with leading government innovators to solve the nation’s most difficult challenges and make a lasting and meaningful impact.  If it were a startup, then the graph would be going up and to the right. Round 1 had five projects and 18 fellows. Round 2 had nine projects across 16 federal agencies and 43 fellows. Round 3 applications are now live.

Who runs the PIF program?

The PIF program is run as a partnership between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA ). Learn more in this blog post written by US CTO Todd Park and Administrator of GSA Dan Tangherlini. Continue reading…

Jason at Percolate

How a Potluck Brunch Led to My New Job at Percolate

Update: I realize this post makes it seem like moving to a new city and landing an awesome job was a walk in the park. It wasn’t. There was definitely lots of long days of networking, doing consulting work to bring in extra cash, coordinating with friends for new places to crash, and doubts about what the heck I was doing. I’m grateful to all the help I had along the way.

I moved to New York City in the second half of January as a free agent. I slept on couches, met up with dozens of people for coffee meetings, and explored a variety of opportunities within NYC tech.

After deeper conversations with a number of great companies including Meetup, Invision, and Skillshare, I ultimately decided to join the Growth Team at Percolate. I actually hadn’t heard much about Percolate before I moved to New York, but like many great opportunities, it emerged out of serendipity.

A Working Brunch

I was at a brunch co-hosted by my friend Derek of Greatist, where I met Sandeep, the cofounder of Delve News. We spent some time talking about his product, which is kind of like Reddit meets Yammer, in an email. Then we got onto the topic of my job exploration. I told Sandeep a bit about my background and interests, and he offered to introduce me to the cofounder of Percolate: Noah Brier. Continue reading…

Minimum-Viable-Transaction

Test Your Startup Idea with a Minimum Viable Transaction

The entire startup world owes Eric Ries a huge high five for everything he’s contributed to our understanding of how startups are created and grown. One term that he coined back in 2009, minimum viable product, has stood for the difference between shipping “error-free” shrink-wrapped software, and releasing something barebones that you can test and learn from. And while Corporate America and the Federal Government are just starting to adopt the ideas of lean startups, the term is starting to show its age.

The world has changed a lot since 2009, and I think we need a concept that goes beyond MVP. Many of the fastest growing startups right now – Instacart, Homejoy, Airbnb – they facilitate real-world transactions of goods, services, and money. Sometimes this is called online-to-offline: technology facilitates the transaction, but it is just the beginning.

Transactions are the New Products

When I was in DC, I met a woman working on an interesting app idea: a marketplace bringing together piano players and piano owners who rarely use their expensive instruments. The idea was that pianos could be listed on the marketplace and players, who often couldn’t afford a piano of their own, could play their instrument. When I asked this woman what her current plans were for the project, she said she was trying to wireframe the marketplace for a web and mobile application, figure out payment processors, etc. Continue reading…

Training Makes it Possible

training kung fu panda

(Reading via email? Click through to watch the videos)

Have you ever looked at someone who was really good at what they did and felt a little daunted?

Maybe it’s how they seem to easily make connections with new people, or design an amazing-looking web page over a weekend, or how they casually mention the 6 miles they ran before breakfast today.

It’s natural to feel intimidated by someone who’s really good at what they do and get a little insecure about yourself. It happens to me on occasion. But whenever I find myself falling into that trap,  I remember something I learned from 16 years of gymnastics: Continue reading…

No Silver Bullets: Etsy’s Randy Hunt on Product Design

product-design-for-the-web-randy-hunt

While on my Peru Trip earlier this year, I read a great book  called Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Products for the Web.

As one of two interaction designers who joined Etsy in 2010, Randy Hunt, now creative director, has written the book on best practices of product development for successful modern-day Internet companies. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Randy recently to learn more about his perspective on product design. But before I jump into that conversation, here’s a brief look at some of the big ideas from the book:

Takeaways From Product Design for The Web By Randy Hunt

Note: these are not direct quotes but pretty close paraphrases

  • Great products are understandable (set expectations and live up to them) and meaningful (help people solve problems or accomplish goals) and, hopefully, delightful
  • It can be helpful to reimagine your product spec as a press release defining what the update is, who it is for and why it matters Continue reading…