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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Welcome-to-Genius

Design Teardown of the Genius (YC S11) iPhone App

Disclaimer: Rap Genius was in the YC S11 batch along with Ridejoy. I’m friendly with the founders but have no financial stake in this article nor many details of their future plans (besides world domination of course =D)

On Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014, Rap Genius launched their iPhone app, Genius, a project cofounder Tom Lehman called “the true launch of Rap Genius“.

Having started as an annotation platform for rap lyrics, Rap Genius has since branched into rock, poetry, and even news. Until now, they were only available on the web or via a mobile website. But a native app has been in the works for a LONG time – remember their ad for a “Mobile Czar” way back in October of 2012?

Lehman also says that 50% of Rap Genius traffic is mobile and they only expect it to grow, so Genius is basically represents their first iteration of the future of their product and company. Given how crucial this app is, I thought it’d be valuable to study the app’s design for lessons and ideas.

The Genius Design Teardown

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Onboarding

Genius takes us through a basic set of explanation screens when you first open the app. The key feature being the reading of annotations, with three secondary features of getting lyrics and annotation of your own music library, playing the actual song of the lyrics you’re reading, and a Shazam-like music recognition feature. You’re then prompted to sign up, sign in or, if you’re reading carefully, use the app without doing either.

Thoughts

I think they’re right to focus on the music annotation as the primary benefit. I assume they are not only trying to satisfy their core user base, but also expand their audience, many of who might not even be aware of their core offering. The other features seem pretty neat though – we’ll see more about them in a second.

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One Woman’s Incredible Startup Journey in Peru

The other night, while wandering the bustling streets of Barranco, my adopted neighborhood in Lima, Peru, I walked into a Chinese restaurant called Chifa Hong Fu. [1]

I was struggling with the Spanish-only menu and was attempting to ask the waitress what was in the various dishes, when this woman popped out from the back and asked me

Ni hui shou zhong wen ma?” (Can you speak Chinese?) My Mandarin is passable so I said I could.

She started explaining the menu to me and I asked her if this was her restaurant. She said it was. And thus began one of the most fascinating and inspiring stories of entrepreneurship I’ve learned in a long time.

Huang: The Relentless Chinese-Peruvian Restaurant Entrepreneur

Jason and Huang

(Huang and Me in her restaurant)

Chifa Hong Fu was founded in 2009 by Huang’s nephew [1] and she bought him out in 2012 to become the sole proprietor when her nephew decided to move back to China. Before that, she was helping her younger brother run another restaurant for about eight years. Chifa Hong Fu has about 15 tables and I’d guess her dishes average out to about 14 Peruvian soles (equivalent to $5.2 USD) a plate. Continue reading…

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A Year in the Life of a Founder After Shutting Down His Startup

I don’t know if this has always been happening but I noticed this year that a lot of people were sharing a summary of 2013 on Facebook around New Years. They’re usually a little “braggy” but honestly, I don’t mind that at all. I’m happy to celebrate all the wonderful things my friends have done or experienced this year and don’t feel particularly envious or annoyed. We are all on different paths.

I very much enjoyed reading a recap of 2013 through my friends’ eyes  and decided it would be a good exercise to reflect back on the last 365 days myself.

As you might know, Ridejoy announced that it was no longer being supported – a decision that my cofounders and I made this spring, after months testing new ideas and soul-searching. It was a hard decision and marked the psychic end of my first startup.

But life goes on and I went on to have a wonderful year in 2013, which I shared on Facebook. Continue reading…

Around the Web: The science of “practice makes perfect”, Are Asians the new Jews at Ivies? and more

While this blog is where most of my content goes, from time to time, I’ve written articles for other websites and it’s nice to be able to share those with you. Here are five articles ranging from neuroscience, higher education, digitization, fitness, and personal development for you to enjoy!

~ Jason

Buffer – Why practice actually makes perfect: How to rewire your brain for better performance

rewireOne of my favorite blogs out there is run by the social sharing app Buffer. As many of you know, I’m very passionate about behavior change, new skill acquisition, and research on improvement. So a few months ago I did some research on how practice actually changes the way our brains work and how a fatty tissue called myelin super-charges our neural connections. My post was published on the Buffer blog and then picked up by Lifehacker, which is always a neat thing.

A quote from the post:

One compelling piece of evidence comes from brain scans of expert musicians. There’s been a lot of research done on how musician brains differ from the brains of ordinary people – and one specific study used a particular brain scan called Diffusion MRI, which gives us information about tissues and fibers inside the scan region in an non-invasive way.

The study suggested that the estimated amount of practice an expert piano player did in childhood and adolescence, was correlated with the white matter density in regions of the brain related to finger motor skills, visual and auditory processing centers, and others — compared to regular people. And most significantly was that there was a directly correlation between how many hours they practiced and how dense their white/myelin matter was. [4]

Read more on the science of practice here. Continue reading…