[well]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.[/well]
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
[well]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.[/well]
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
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. 
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
(Huang and Me in her restaurant)
Chifa Hong Fu was founded in 2009 by Huang’s nephew  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
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
I previously wrote about my PIF coworker Sarah Allen’s little rules of working life, which I thought was pretty awesome. I decided to think through some of my own rules, or as I’m calling them, “Best Practices for Making Things Happen”.
The idea is that these are all maxims that I live and work by, that I’ve learned over time and that I believe have made me more effective in accomplishing meaningful things.
The list is neither complete nor fully elucidated, but that’s totally in line with BP #2 and #7. =)
Would love to hear what you think: questions, feedback, etc.
Jason’s 17 Essential Best Practices for Making Things Happen
- Keep the promises you make to yourself. I learned this one from Stephen Covey – we make little promises to ourselves all the time (“I’m going to stop working on weekends.” or “I’ll definitely get a workout in tonight.”) These promises are in fact more important to keep than the ones you make to your customers, your boss or your family. Because private victories come before public ones.
- If you’ve got a good idea, try to take some kind of action on it right away. Too often good ideas slip away, either due to momentum (it was exciting at the moment, but less so now) or just through forgetfulness. So when you have a good idea, send an email to a potential collaborator, sketch out some designs, or at the very least, make an Evernote note for the idea. Continue reading