Dear Silicon Valley, Thank You

Dear Silicon Valley, Thank you for the hospitality. You've been great. This was really my first time here and you sure did deliver. I don't think I have ever been so astounded with a community and its people. Every single person I met (all people who never even heard of me before) extended a gracious hand to give me advice and help me as much as possible. It appeared that every body was connected and every body was friends. World - learn from this. This is a culture worth emulating. Sure, I occasionally felt the competitive nature between investors and the same between startup entrepreneurs, but alas that is the nature of business. All in all, it was a feeling of openness, friendliness, and free-lunchedness. Never heard a bad word about another person come out of another's mouth. It was all, "Oh I love him!" or "He's an awesome dude" and "What can I do to help?" This week has been surprisingly eye-opening and only made me fall more in love with the idea of living here. Honestly though, my heart was warmed to know that such a community exists in this world and that it is possible to develop a place like this., There were several people I met and talked to that really made this week worthwhile for me (skipped a few classes...) and instead of sending them all more thank you emails I will use this as my medium: PG of YC, thank you for grilling us and putting us through the most pressured interview we will ever encounter in our lives. And thank you for making us cry inside :). Now we are ready for everything, and have grown as a team. YC is ours next cycle. Jessica of YC, thank you for making us feel so comfortable as we walked into the interview, lowering our guards to the attack to come. And also thank you for making us feel so much better as we walked out :) You're the best. Harj of YC, thank you for being awesome. @YC_Y_U_NO loves you! Thanks for laughing with us during the interview, the lovely email afterwards, and just being an awesome guy. We hope to run into you and really get to meet in better circumstances. Kirsty of YC, thank you for being so kind about me forgetting to pick up our travel check :). And thanks for letting me stick around to use the Wi-fi. Ev of Mailgun, thank you for just being a great guy - helping us prep for the interview, being there for our interview, and sharing a couple awesome ideas with us. Definitely keep in touch and hope to be able to help you out as well in the future. Daniel of Accel, thanks first and foremost for introducing us to the greatest hot chocolate place in the world (I will keep the identity secret). Second, thanks for showing me around, brainstorming with me, and for some great intros! Chris of and Matthew of, thanks for sharing advice with a fellow young YC hopeful. You guys did something right, and we are going to learn from it! Daniel of Twilio, thanks for showing me around the digs! The office is awesome, I can see how you fell in love with the company. Also thanks for the coffee, and sharing stories about your rise to startup greatness. Nirav and Sarah of Benchmark, thanks for sharing your wisdom to me. It really helped me figure things out a little better. And also thanks for calling Dave McClure with me :). Jack and Rob of Milo, thank you for meeting with a fellow Penn student! You guys are my inspiration and I really appreciate being able to talk to you both and learning from the best young entrepreneurs I know. Also, love the place down in San Jose but also wish it also closer to the city. Allan of YCR, thanks for the kind words and the willingness to help out as well! You're getting famous - enjoy it! Noah and Calvin of Minno, thanks for being super cool and smart guys. Congrats on YC and I know you guys are going to take it all the way. Love hanging with you both and I hope this is a start of a beautiful friendship. Gerry of Google, thanks for being so kind to a kid you met on the airplane. I really appreciate it, really :) Taylor of Mailgun, thanks for sitting with me in Mountain View to chat about ideas, markets, etc. Really helpful to be able to brainstorm with someone with that much experience. Rick of Comprehend Clinical and Michael of Carwoo, thanks for chatting with me at the Y Combinator offices. Definitely calmed my nerves. Also loved just meeting more YC guys - you are all so smart! Dave of 500 Startups, thanks for taking a call from a nobody like me and letting me drop by the office! I know we did not get too much time to talk, but it was super-cool meeting you and hope to catch up soon. Dave of TeachStreet, thanks for being the most helpful person I still have not ever met. Maybe it's a Seattle thing or maybe it's an sv thing, but you are an incredible man. Thanks for the advice and for all the referrals. I owe you one (or a million). Clint of Roblox, thanks for lunch again! And thanks for continuing to meet and mentor such a young guy. Always love chatting and hope you thought up some good stuff on that idea of ours... Adam of True Ventures, thanks for the tacos :). Thanks for introducing me to energetic founders and thanks for just being purely nice to someone that walks in to your office.. Mitch, Courtney, and Amadeus of Kiip/Eightbit, thanks for talking to me! WHAT?? Just met Kiip and Eightbit cool. I'm a very happy. Nathan of InternMatch, thanks for meeting with me at 8AM! So early! Glad you woke up to meet another Penn guy down in the valley. Also thanks for showing me around 500 startups. Christine of 500 Startups, thanks for chatting with a guy awkwardly sitting in your office and listening to our pitch :). Hopefully you liked us! Brendan of AngelList, thanks for giving us the advice on dealing with Angels and thanks for the super kind words! Very glad we got to meet. Hope to bump into you again real soon. Joshua and co of Venrock startup, thanks for meeting up with me while I'm down here and, as always, thanks for the encouraging words! Your guys' product is awesome, goodluck. Semil of Entrepreneurship..., thanks for getting coffee with me and helping me really think through our ideas. It was definitely really helpful and hope to stay in touch! Ryan of Dogpatch Labs, thanks for inviting me to the event! It was awesome getting tips on how to pitch. Also thanks for chatting with me for the few minutes you had free. Thomas of Nowmov, thanks for the cheesecake :) Mmmm. It was delicious. Thanks for also showing me around downtown and just talking startups with me. Most of all, thanks for showing me what I'm really passionate about :). Garry of Posterous, woah thanks for even looking in my general direction! Posterous, what?? You're an awesome and really chill guy so thank you for humoring me as I talked through my experience with YC and all our ideas. Hope to keep being able to bounce ideas off you and get some design tips. Joe of InboxQ, thanks for being so helpful! We only just met at Y Combinator, but you still did us a solid. We learned a lot from talking with you and will keep you updated. Jeff and Charles of SoftTech, thanks for taking a meeting with a nobody 18 year old. You guys are bosses. I really enjoyed meeting more legends of the valley and it was cool just getting your time of day. Hope to hear from you guys soon :) Ashley of SoftTech, thanks for chatting with me before the meeting! You are awesome and hope you are having a great time here in the valley. The weather definitely beats the PNW. YC_Y_U_NO, thanks buddy!!! TROLOLOL. You helped us do most of this. To all I may have missed: thank you thank you thank you for just helping me fall in love with the valley and this pro-entrepreneur community!

Sports today (er yesterday)

Alright another very short post. Today as I ran 20, 100's in the rain what kept me going full force was thinking that I want to show Paul Graham I'm no wimp. It worked kinda. I didnt quit. Just finished brainstorming features or an MVP for our YCombinator interview and started building. Now taking a quiz 2 hour Cat Nap before my 9AM lift... Nice one.

Achievement Unlocked! $1000 grant for the team!

Just a quick blog tonight again - would like to get some sleep :). Earlier today Dan and I pitched Tasteplug to the Innovation Fund at Penn. It was a 10 minutes powerpoint with a 10 minute Q&A and we rocked it. We presented pretty well and had really solid questions to answers. We felt really good about it after we left, but we just heard from a little birdie that we have $1000 now! We can finally scale and build out our SMS infrastructure... Things are going to continue to brainstorm for our Y Combinator Interview.

Ingredients for a successful entrepreneur: Girlfriends and Sports

I don't mean for this post to be a self-toting, I'm-so-awesome, indulgent piece (well maybe just a little) but I just wanted to bring to the table some unexpected view points that I had on what can make an entrepreneur successful - (and as made obvious by the title they are) Girlfriends and Sports. Girlfriends There are a couple common perceptions that may lead someone to believe that having a relationship (girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/whatever) might be of detriment: 1) They will tie you down to a place or lifestyle 2) They will distract you Now let me do my best to rebuttal: 1) They will only tie you down if they are crazy or don't really care about you. For those fortunate to have a real relationship of worth (I fortunately do), the girlfriend/bf/partner/whatever will never be a dream killer. They should and will understand your situation, and you will not be tied down. Again this is under the assumption your relationship is a truly functional relationship. 2) I have found that my relationship has been the opposite of distracting for me. While I see other guys spending nights and weekends chasing after tail, I can happily spend my time working on a project or catching up on homework. I actually have more time since I have a girlfriend and it makes me more efficient. Overall, the point is if the relationship is holding you back, it probably isn't a worthwhile one to keep, so lose the clinger dude. If your relationship is being detrimental your girlfriend is either unreasonable or too needy anyways... I have found that my girlfriend has been ever-supportive and a big reason to my productivity advantage over my peers. I can stay focused for a long time because I have less distractions with my girlfriend. Sports Though I can't really think of any people that would say sports would generally be a bad thing for entrepreneurs I would say it is an unusual characteristic to see in the nerdy hacky enginerd entrepreneur you would characterize as super successful. You know, the poindexter know-it-all that ends up being everyone's boss. I've found that sports actually help tremendously in shaping a successful entrepreneur because of the following: 1) Healthy is good. Along with the extensive research that I am too lazy to cite on this subject, sports keep you healthy and active which keep you happy and more energetic. Metabolism is boosted, which results in being more energetic and less lethargic. Also it is just an all-around stress reducer. I go to pole vault practice tired and pissed off at life and leave happy and thinking about how to vault higher... Also I'm sure every hard worker could lose a few, so yeah healthy is good. But most importantly I would say sports are good in shaping an entrepreneur because it develops 2) Good work ethic. Along with just making someone more competitive and thus work harder in high-pressure situations, sports have really made my work ethic what it is today. I believe well understood 'good' characteristics of being an entrepreneur include persistence, determination, and unwillingness to die, and sports help shape those in a person. I was fortunate to have had a hard-ass coach since 3rd grade playing football. He wouldn't let up on us even if we were barely making it through the last sprint. All the conditioning I've done - and similarly as all athletes do - has really taught me how to just stick it through. No holds barred, just give it my all. I've learned that when it hurts and you want to stop, sometimes you just have to suck it up, regain your strength, and keep going even harder. I will almost completely credit the development of the aforementioned entrepreneurial characteristics to my life in sports. I've learned to push through the pain and never give up. And that's that I guess. The two unusual ingredients I think can really help form a successful entrepreneur. Now I have had no real success yet so I can't speak towards the accuracy of this all. But if I do end up tasting sweet success, I will point back to this and hope someone, somewhere would have learned something.

Mixergy is awesome - successful mentors ONLINE

[caption id="attachment_166" align="aligncenter" width="613" caption="Mixergy with Jessica Livingston"] [/caption] After watching Paul Graham's interview with Andrew Warner at Mixergy, I couldn't stop going. Next I watched Jessica Livingston's (Y Combinator co-founder), Steve Welch's (DreamIt Ventures founder), then Dennis Crowely's (founder of foursquare). I should have been sleeping for my meet tomorrow (got to wake up at 5:30AM). Andrew Warner does a great job as the one conducting the interview, but most of all I really love just hearing these successful entrepreneurs and business people talk about their experiences and share their advice with all of us. I find this to be almost as helpful as meeting with a mentor but instead there are SO MANY of them with such TOP QUALITY people... Though, mentor's still rock my world because there is a personal touch you just can't match. Nonetheless, if you have not checked out Mixergy before, get about 60 minutes of your time free and watch one.

Elated about Y Combinator Interview Opportunity

I am going to try to keep this as short as possible. At about 5PM as I was getting out of Track Practice and in the ice bath to take care of my shins, I logged onto HN with my iPhone and saw a new type of notification I had not seen before. I clicked it, and the result is the image you see above. The Paul Graham had messaged me telling us he didn't like our idea, but he liked us. I was excited just to get a PM from Paul Graham. I thought this might be good news that he liked us. I went on my day as usual, knowing that acceptance/rejection letters for interviews were coming out some time today, and took a nap. At about 9:40PM EST, I checked my email and saw that WE (Ajay Mehta, Dan Shipper and myself) GOT INVITED TO INTERVIEW! I was so excited about it all, I called everyone and told them the great news. I honestly was not expecting it, and so I was very happy that it happened. The next two weeks (we are scheduled to interview on Saturday April 23rd) will be devoted to figuring out our plan of action, implementing that into some form of product development, and prepping for the interview as best as we can. This is all very exciting. I can't wait to meet Paul Graham and the crew and be down in San Francisco. Will sacrifice school stuff, but NBD :)

Python for web - the next frontier (for me)

I just had a great conversation with Rob Eroh, VP of Product Development of Milo, over the phone tonight. He had some great insight on how Milo started, the work they put in, and the things entrepreneurs should think about when starting a consumer web start up. Along with being a great guy, Rob and I talked about the type of codebase that was behind Milo and the expertise I had. I am coding in mainly PHP (I used some Python in my VERY first project), while Milo is build mainly on Python. Rob has directed me to a Python framework called Flask, which he likes a lot. I have decided that maybe it is time for me to learn how to build both more scalable code, and code in something other than PHP. So, I have promised myself my next new project will be written in Python on top of the Flask framework. I am hoping there is not too much of a learning curve and there won't be too many (more than 3 lets say) just staying up learning it all. But, it will be a worthwhile experience that I am sure will be useful for me down the line. Also...if Rob is reading this, don't worry I did not forget to look into Hudson.

More Work and Late Nights

Alright another late night, though I can't complain. 4:30AM is relatively early to sleep nowadays... Just finished doing some work and adding some features to The Grim Tweeper. Now, we store more data so that you won't see the same person twice even if you refresh (unless you cycle through all your followers), and also we keep track of your score so we can set up a leader board and make it more competitive! We shall polish some of these features tomorrow and aim for a re-launch and hope to get picked up by some more big media sites. Though that mention from Time was nice... Another feature I actually helped add last night was something I regret not thinking of earlier... after every 10 kills, a tweet window would pop-up that would essentially say something like 'I just slayed 10 followers via @thetweeper!' I checked this morning and found a lot more tweets about The Grim Tweeper and a vast majority of them were the 'just slayed 10' tweet. So it turned out that was a good way to convert users, to viral tweeters. On a side note, Ajay pointed out to me this article on people who live on no sleep from the Wall Street Journal: The Sleepless Elite Immediately, my egotistical self though OH thats me! I mean, I do really get minimal sleep and have to go to Track and Sprint Football practice. Not that easy. But upon further reading, I realized I am not necessarily among the elite, but just somewhat abnormal.  Either way, good read.

New App - The Grim Tweeper, easy way to clean up followers on Twitter

So the night I spent learning the Twitter API bore fruit! After getting some familiar help from Tess Rinearson (legendary still-in-high-school designer), Dan Shipper, Ajay and I finished another app - The Grim Tweeper. This app was a very simple concept that Ajay Mehta had dreamed up a couple weeks ago, we got busy with other stuff, and finally decided to code up and ship now. We haven't posted to hacker news yet (will do when/if I wake up in the morning) but we believe this has some pretty cool viral potential. The only thing we are thinking might be an issue is the Twitter API rate limit. Each person has about a 350 requests/hr limit, and we make about 3 calls per a person you cycle through in this app which adds up to about 117 people each person will get to play around with until the app will throw an error. We believe people may not get to that mark, but if they do we handled the error and put up a nice error message letting you know what happened and apologizing. Will keep you guys updated if this app takes off, which I (believe and) hope it will.

Working with the Twitter API (until 7AM)

After working with Facebook API extensively, the other night I decided it was finally to learn how to connect via Twitter API (little did I know it would keep my up until 7AM). Just a few words on my overall experience that night: it was pretty difficult to understand at first and there was a huge learning curve for me in the beginning, but as soon as I 'got it' it was pretty easy. The biggest reason why I got it was because of Jaisen Mathai. So I started off going straight to Twitter's Dev site and looked right through their tutorial. I thought immediately after reading that it might be a little over my head. They talked a lot about Oauth tokens and the flow between client/server/Twitter authentication and I will admit I was a little lost and discouraged... but I realized Google exists! So next thing I did was Google through 'how to php Twitter API' and opened the first couple results into tabs on Chrome. I skimmed over them all and noticed they all used a little Twitter php class package put together by Jaisen Mathai. I thought, okay seems pretty standard let me download that. I immediately downloaded it from a web site that was NOT Jaisen's because I thought the instructions were a little more clear (sort of a mistake, I will explain), I uploaded onto a server, and started looking at the code. I read through the tutorial and looked through the code and found it was pretty straightforward. As soon as I started playing with it though and customizing it for a simple app I wanted to make, I kept running into issues.
$twitterObj = new EpiTwitter($consumer_key,$consumer_secret);
$url = $twitterObj->getAuthorizationUrl();
That should have given me a $url with the proper oauth token to go back to Twitter and log a user in to my specific website. However it kept returning a url with the proper url minus the oauth token... I dug into the code and first thing I noticed was in the EpiTwitter class some of the urls were out of date. I tried to change the class variables into the correct ones, then I ran the code again and same issue.. The next thing I did was try to ask @jmathai and hoped that he'd get back to me. He actually responded really quickly saying to email him the question. So I did and while I waited for a response I kept looking online to see if the answer was there. All my search results basically linked back to his page so I know maybe it was wise to look at what he had to say about his own stuff. I didn't notice anything different until I stumbled upon his Github link to the project. I finally realized that, woops, here was my mistake. His Github contained the most updated code and so I downloaded from there and re-uploaded the library. Boom, baby. It worked. I had gotten a very basic version of logging-in via Twitter up on the server and now it was time to play. Of course also I tweeted back at Jaisen and let him know it was just my mistake of getting old files and he was kind about it. The next thing I did was read through all the documentation of the new classes and learn how it worked. It took a couple tries and it wasn't easy at first. But as soon as I learned the structure of the GET and POST requests it became simply a matter of knowing what Twitter methods were available via the API and how to call them. By the time I became familiar everything it was probably 4AM, so I spent the remainder of the night just coding a basic functioning version of the app I wanted to make (details will be released with the app later this weekend, hopefully tonight). It was a great experience and now I know how to deal with the Twitter API! If anyone has any questions about this or needs help getting started, let me know. I feel like I have learned enough to be helpful enough at this point.