On April 24th, 2011, I sat down with my friends Kalvin and Randy for an intense 10 minute interview with Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Jessica Livingston and several other partners at Y Combinator (YC). We were hoping to convince the world’s most powerful startup accelerator to accept our Reloveit, our idea for “a Mint.com for photo books”, into their Summer 2011 batch of startups. Continue reading

[intro-text size=”25px”]If a product is to succeed at all, it must first succeed on a smaller scale.[/intro-text]

Small products  do not always succeed, but they are easier and faster to build, test, and tweak than bigger products. This also applies to features. Perhaps John Gall put it best when he said:

[blockquote source=”Gall’s Law”]A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.[/blockquote] Continue reading

jason shen getting his playa name at burning man 2011
Getting my playa name at a booth at Burning Man 2011

Burning Man was one of the coolest things I did last year and also happened to kickstart Ridejoy with our very first rideshare service – BurningManRides.com

Well, we recently just announced the re-launch of BurningManRides.com for 2012, and celebrating with two free Burning Man tickets in a gift-away. If you’ve never been or heard of this awesome festival, my co-founder Randy called it “like being on the moon, illuminated with neon, bass and the warth of the human spirit.”

So a couple things to check out:

I’d love if you could share BurningManRides.com with your Burner-friendly friends. It’ll probably be super-helpful for them and it’d make my day!

“Don’t take too much advice. Most people generalize whatever they did, and say that was the strategy that made it work”

Ben Silbermann, cofounder of Pinterest

When we raised our seed round for Ridejoy, we got lots of great advice from many smart, experienced people. This was wonderful except that much of the advice was contradictory:

We had never raised capital from anyone (friends/family, angels, VCs) before and it was a little frustrating to seek out perspectives from people who had fundraising experience or who invest for a living and get such ambiguous advice!

Ultimately we had to carve out our own path by being relentlessly resourceful. We took the advice that made the most sense, made pitches, learned from our mistakes and iterated till we figured how to make it work.

I could write a “top 10 list of tips on raising a 1.3M seed round”, and maybe I will another day, but the point of this post is that with fundraising, as with many other things in startups and life, you’ll never be totally sure that you’re “doing it right”.

The best you can do is listen to everyone and then make up your own mind.

This is scary because that means if things blow up, you have no one to blame but yourself. On the other hand, this approach affords you the strongest learning opportunity (because you decide for yourself what you’re going to do) and over time, makes you a more capable individual.

I don’t often have an opportunity to share what we’re doing/thinking at Ridejoy but once in a while an opportunity comes up. This time it’s actually three – an article about Ridejoy’s website design, a blog post about how we build community within our team, and a story that mentions how we hired a designer.

Talking about Ridejoy’s Design in the New York Times

Ridejoy in the New York Times

We were connected with David Freedman who wrote a story in his small business column in the New York Times about how we’ve thought about the form and function of the Ridejoy website. Thanks to our cofounder Randy Pang, the site has a very clean look. But design is not just about how things look, but how they feel and how they work.

As David puts it:

Ridejoy is hiding a lot of high-powered complexity behind the intended simplicity of the home page. Consider, for example, that an offered or desired ride can start anywhere, end up anywhere, and happen on any date or time. That means the chances that everyone or even most people who come to the site will find an exact match are not high. So the site’s computers churn through all the possibilities to find the closest matches — perhaps a ride that leaves from a nearby city, or that leaves a day later. If nothing clicks, a notification service lets you know if a new listing comes along that might meet your needs.

Read the whole article at: Would You Trust Ridejoy’s Web Site? (NYTimes.com)


Building the Ridejoy Team’s Culture and Community Through FoodFood Matters - Building a Startup Office Culture One Meal at a Time

We strive to build a culture at Ridejoy that’s supportive and based on mutual respect, trust and hopefully, friendship. One of the ways we try to create that kind of a community is through shared meals. We recently wrote a blog post that attracted some attention about our Happiness Manager Camille.

Inspired by Thumbtack’s Food Rules post, we decided to experiment with home-cooked meals based on my experience as a cook and kitchen manager in 100+ member housing cooperatives. It’s worked out great and the Office Hero evolved into the Ridejoy Happiness Manager.

Read the whole post by Camille at Food Matters – Building a Startup Office Culture One Meal at a Time (Ridejoy Blog)

The International Search For Our Lead Designer

In Silicon Valley, designers emerge as rock stars

As discussed earlier, design and culture are really important to us. So when it came to finding our lead designer, we scoured the planet to find the right fit. This article published in Reuters describes the challenges that companies face when hiring for designers and my cofounder Kalvin Wang shares his thoughts on the topic:

“You do really have to look outside Silicon Valley,” Wang said. “For Bay Area designers, they have literally hundreds of options and they’re going to work at a place where they know people, or a big name like Google.”

Read the whole article at In Silicon Valley, designers emerge as rock stars (Reuters)