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 good...now 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.

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.
<?php
$twitterObj = new EpiTwitter($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 decided...you 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.

Passing up an oppurtunity

Today I had to pass up on a very good opportunity. Just a couple days ago I met an MBA student who had started his own business and wanted se technical help. I loved the idea, loved his plans, really liked him as a person, and they already had pretty good traction. I wanted equity if I took the gig because I knew it was gonna be a winner, and sure enough he said yes. Unfortunately after thinking about it, I knew that with all these projects I love starting myself and with school still on my radar, I wouldn't be able to give said MBA student my 110% effort. I never want to do anything if I feel I can't do it all the way and to the best of my abilities. Though I would have LOVED to work on this project I knew it wouldn't be right to commit. So it was very hard for me, but I had to turn it down. I still hope to see this in 5 years hugely popular with a huge valuation. I know it's going to do well, so the best of luck you-know-who.

General update and such

I have been on somewhat of a posting hiatus for the past week so I decided I should give a general update before getting back on the horse: Spring break wasn't as productive, from a development standpoint, as hoped but we got a lot of things done that were unexpected but outstanding nonetheless. From a programming standpoint: - Started two impromptu exciting projects but reprioritized and decided not to ship - Familiarized myself with MongoDB a bit (unfortunately not so much with Rails) - Finished reading Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug. I think we made the right decision not to ship and refocus on a different direction, am disappointed with the amount I learned about rails, and am very excited with the new perspective Don't Make Me Think has given me in terms of creating the best possible user experience. So mixed reviews. On the other hand, programming aside I did: - Get to meet with some VERY awesome and generous mentors and people - Had several fantastic opportunities present themselves (will talk more about them later if we make them happen) - Got featured on King 5 Local 5 o'clock news!!! - And spent a lot of time with my beautiful girlfriend Overall, I'd say the status of Spring Break was: #winning (Woops overused joke alert). And to make up for the mixed bag development status, as soon as I got back on campus Sunday night at 12AM I met up with Dan to work all night to finish a very basic product of what we hope to be a future business. We accomplished that and spent tonight polishing up a little. If you would like a taste of the alpha product send me an email or comment. Oh and Dan and I are going to be in the Daily Pennsylvanian this week (our school newspaper)!! So things are looking good and great opportunities are popping up left and right and I'm excited to keep steam rolling ahead. Will keep you posted on any updates.

A new lens to see the world

I recently read an article by the founders of Hipmunk (a new travel advisor site) about what makes some startups so cool that users can't help but use them. They said was the more unsexy the problem, the cooler the solution can be. They cite Square's sexy solution to unsexy payments, another eSolution to faxing you probably never heard of, and Hipmunk (of course) in the unsexy travel search space. And also no, I don't have an obsession with the word sexy, it's just how they describe it and I think it connotes something unique and true. Basically... I'm going to need to pay special attention in my life as I go through my daily routines as to what am I doing that is a pain point and especially not sexy. Can I make it sexy? If yes, has anyone else tried? If no, then let's go for it! If no then... Let's beat them! I'll keep you updated on what I find. One thing that immediately crosses my mind is airplane passenger boarding, waiting for luggage, checking in your luggage, and moving through security...I'm sure some of things may not be solveable, but I'll spend my flight trying to think of one, in between reading Don't Make Me Think, in between sleeping.