A Gardener's Best Friend

Start Smaller

If a product is to succeed at all, it must first succeed on a smaller scale.

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:

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.Gall’s Law

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Return to the Playa: BurningManRides.com Launches For 2012 With a Ticket “Gift-Away”

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!

Listen to everyone, then make up your own mind

“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.

Design, Community and Hiring at Ridejoy

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)

Why We Started Ridejoy

I’ve been messing around with a site called Askolo, which allows you to ask questions of smart, interesting people like Alexis Ohanian (cofounder of Reddit), Mark Bao (creator of threewords.me) and Paul Graham (Y Combinator founder). It’s like the structure of Formspring with the content quality of Quora.

Here’s a question I was asked and then answered:

Q: What was your team’s inspiration for starting Ridejoy?

A: I’ll tell you a bit about our background because it shows what we’re trying to do with Ridejoy:

I met Kalvin in college while working on a nonprofit and later became roommates in San Francisco. We were living in a 3 bedroom and need to find a roommate, but didn’t just want a random stranger. We found our third roommate (and future cofounder) Randy via a site we had built called http://jasonandkalvin.com. After living together for a year and becoming good friends while working at separate startups, we felt the time was right to start something new and build something meaningful together.

We had shared passions around technology, travel and community and our backgrounds led us into rideshare. (Randy had relied numerous times on the kindness of strangers when backpacking through Europe and Asia to share food/housing/rides, Kalvin had recently experienced the unique private transportation networks of East Africa and I have a lot of great memories of long-distance roadtrips with friends: like driving down Route 1 (http://www.jasonshen.com/2011/road-trips-and-taking-the-long-way/)

Just as we used the web to find a roommate we could have a strong connection with, we’ve built Ridejoy to help people travel easily and affordably and with people they could share this great travel experience with. We were very fortunate to go through YC in the summer of 2011 and going to Burning Man (via our rideshare site http://burningmanrides.com) has certainly influenced our outlook on things as well.

We love the fact that this service helps people get where they need to go (usually to see family or friends or significant others) in a cost-effective way (the recession hurts!) while reducing CO2 emissions and creating real-life human connections.


If  you liked this and want to ask me a question or read my answers to 14 other questions, check me out on Askolo.

Photo credit by stuckincustoms