Moving on From a Startup

Have not posted in awhile. The reason? I’ve been “studying” abroad in Sydney since mid-August. My co-founder Eric and I made an agreement going into Summer 2010. If the pieces didn’t fall our way, we were to move on once the summer ended. As two 21 year olds, we’ve dedicated the last year to Hangchillparty, learning heaps about startups and entrepreneurship. What we haven’t done though is do what normal 21 year olds experience. Going out, mingling, and taking the day as it comes. Working nonstop is a great experience I will not take back, but at the same time, there is more to life than working toward a monetary or idealistic goal.

I really hoped Hangchillparty worked out, but I believe it will be a project we will return to. I believe the niche is still there for a real-time online socializing tool. Facebook may be taking a step in that direction with check-ins, but there is still a market for such a tool.

When it comes to life moving on away from the startup grind, it’s has an interesting effect on the mind. For one year it was all that really occupied my thoughts, so like a long relationship, there was a void that had to be filled. When you focus so intensely on something for so long, your brain adapts to those thoughts and changes. It caters to your area of focus, and physically changed the neuronic structure of your brain (check out the Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge for more details).

I was constantly looking to work toward to something, which is my brain being used to constantly working. In mid-August, I decided to go back and work as a camp counselor for two weeks at one of my favorite places, Camp Orkila on Orcas Island, Washington. It’s an enriching job that keeps you continuously occupied, so I didn’t have time to dwell on Hcp much. I transferred that energy to throwing dodgeballs at kids and acting absolutely ridiculous.

With only one day at home between camp and my departure for Sydney, there was not much downtime at all. Before I knew it, I went from the nature of the San Juan Islands to being engulfed in the urban landscape of Sydney.

Again, there was little time to think about what we could of done better with Hcp. It was all about socializing with the 70 kids in our program, exploring Sydney, and meeting locals. This has been my number one priority, which has been a refreshing change. You appreciate the pleasures of real-life socializing more after sitting in front of a laptop for 12 hours a day.

So what has triggered me to write this post now? Well in the program I’m in, we are given an internship for the 2nd half of the semester. I’ve been lucky enough to get the opportunity to contribute to another very early web startup. It’s an awesome chance to contribute what I’ve learned from Hcp into a fresh, new idea. But because I’m back in the startup environment, it has brought back a lot of memories from grinding away on Hcp.

Also, watching The Social Network brought back startup emotions as well. The theme of building nothing into something is a strong belief and feeling every entrepreneur holds near them, and it is a dream of all of us to have even a fraction of Facebook’s success. After seeing the film, I had to rest and even write in my journal because of our dream to be that “next big thing”

I’ve realized that when someone dedicates their life to something for an extended period of time, it takes time to adjust to real-life again. It’s not a positive or negative, it’s just the way things are. So if you’re adjusting your life after a long dedication to a project or craft, I’d say keep yourself busy with new experiences and hobbies. If you’re planning to move on, then move on by adapting your life to the way you wish to live.

That’s all I got, hope you enjoyed this post.

 

When your product needs developing.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. The reason? It isn’t fun to write about months of product development that end in a less-than successful soft launch.

After months of developing Weutt 1.0, we released the beta version in April and realized within about a week in that this site needed to be revamped. We pushed it hard for three weeks and learned people did not want to use it. The color scheme was gross. The interface offered way to many options and buttons to click on. One of our testers said it looked like something that “carried a virus”.

Once Eric and I saw this, we had a huge decision to make. One thing we kept noticing though from feedback is that people thought Weutt was a “great idea”. We kept hearing the word “idea” because it wasn’t a great product. It was just a demonstration how we wanted to solve the online problem of  “Who wants to hang out in real life. Right now.”

So we decided to give the great idea one more shot. This time, instead of naively building what we believed to be the dream product, we used user feedback from college students to help us craft the simplest way to solve a problem. Before developing, we met with experienced product designers in the industry to help mentor us in product development and experience. We started redeveloping Weutt from scratch, leaving no evidence of the old site.

The new thing looks like a new animal. We’ve been calling it Weutt 2.0 and have now been working on it full time since the summer has started.

In the development of 2.0, we’ve focused on each problem with the first site and worked to solve it. In addition, we wanted to make this site DEAD SIMPLE. That is the theme and we believe it shines through in the new interface.

Screwing up the first time was tough, but we’re actually more excited now about Weutt than before since we’ve realized a lot of mistakes we’ve made. Weutt 1.0 was built by two excited college students as a passionate hobby. Weutt 2.0 is being built by two startup founders who failed their first iteration, but have commited to Weutt as a passionate career because we’re solving a problem college students want solved.

So get ready, because we hope everyone gives Weutt another shot. Coming soon the 2nd version of Weutt…

oh, that’s where you go to school?…

Dumb Girl- Run-D.M.C.

oh, that’s where you go to school?…

Recently, I’ve been getting out in the startup community and meeting great people with amazing advice and connections. A lot of people I meet come from or go to prestigious universities. Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, and a lot of amazing schools with amazing students.  Most everyone has been great, but there’s a very select minority who have given me a weird vibe after I told them where I go to college. It’s the “oh, that’s where you go to school…(pause)” vibe.

I go to the University of San Francisco, which is a nice little school, but has hardly the reputation of the ones listed above. Eric, the co-founder of WEUTT, goes to a school everyone mistakes for UT Austin when it’s really the University of Texas at Dallas. When first meeting people, our college resumes don’t sound very wowing for two guys starting a company.

For instance, I was talking to some alums of a prestigious university recently working for a well known tech company. One of the guys asked “so where are you going to school?”. I responded with the University of San Francisco in the city.

“oh….that’s.. nice..”. He said it like there was a dark cloud now hovering over my head.  I could feel the smarties reserving their conversational energy for when they met someone worthy of talking to. I’m not a brainy person, but I can definitely tell when someone starts interacting with me differently just because I’m not from their likes.

This kind of stuff happens rarely, but it still happens. It makes me think, “wow, you are an incredibly intelligent person, but your people skills would get crushed by a four year old”.  Would they like me to instead try and excuse Eric and I’s universities by saying we should of gone to schools with better reputations? I’d rather not. Because when those few “I’m the shit” brainiacs see that even dumbasses like Eric and I can build and start a little something something, it’s going to make them really confused and think really hard to how that happened.

The Website Lowdown

Little Brother- Dreams

What up everyone,

So people have been wondering what I’ve been doing with my time since last semester. This post is spilling the beans to WIBUTWML (what I’ve been up to with my life).

Lately, my friends have been asking me “why haven’t I seen you out lately” or “who do you hang out with now”. I’ve been answering these questions vaguely with “I’ve been working and stuff and shit…”. Sometimes I’ll say I got homework to do. I just get funny looks, “it’s Friday Drew, get a life…”. These excuses have all been code for I’m working on the sickest idea ever.

Here’s a summary on how a little idea has turned into a site we’ve been building:

Eric and I go back to 5th grade. We grew up in Olympia, Washington, which is one hour south of Seattle. As kids, we gamed Nintendo 64 like mad, and played a bunch of tennis together. We’re basically BFFs (omg!!!). So after high school, Eric attended the University of Texas at Dallas and I went to the University of San Francisco. Eric got a full ride to UTD for his grades and tennis, and since it’s a good engineering school, he couldn’t pass that deal up (this is a different school than the big famous UT school). I wanted to get out of Washington and go to a real urban college, and USF gave me some scholarship money so I made my way to the Bay.

During the summer of 2009, we were both back home in Olympia. Eric came up with the basic idea, and wanted me to help him work on it. We casually messed around with building the site. During the summer, Eric got his coding skills amped up and I picked up graphic design through playing with the Adobe platform.

In fall 2009, we decided to both put everything we had into the site. The trickiest part was staying in on weekends and telling our friends we were “busy”, which meant we were geekin out on our computers the whole weekend. Eric would code his ass off. I’d mess with design, research venture capital, and cheer Eric on over chat. We made a pact to stay in because we knew there was a ton of potential in this idea. It became our duty to build a tool to help everyone socialize, in real. With a lot of time over winter break, we are now close to getting a version of the site out.

So here were are at the beginning of March. I’m not going to say how close we are, but we are  slowly making progress, which is good. I’ll definitely keep everyone updated on when the site comes out. Hope this post answers to everyone WIBUTL ( what I’ve been up to lately)

Normal college student turned semi– geek out of necessity,

Drew

Life Wasted in Virtual Reality

Teenage Wasteland – The Who

The “average user spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook”

That’s more than 334 hours on a year, which is 14 days of life per person spent on Facebook each year. 2 weeks of life on Facebook a year. That is a lot of time.

I understand some of this time is spent at work or in class but still, people waste a lot of their free time on Facebook.

Let’s figure out how we are spending so much time with virtual friends.

First off, I often open up Mozilla and sign into Facebook without realizing it. Within a blink I’m logged into the same calming blue all social networking sites have. I wonder, “how the hell did I just login without clicking? Oh, it’s subconscious now, sweet.”

Once I login I see all the pointless stuff my friends have on their minds. “Cold Oatmeal sucks ASS!” says Fred. I think, “wow, really should delete Fred for the stupid comment, but for some reason I like reading random stuff like this.”

Then there are those days where we wasted way too much time on Facebook. We had a little free time during the day, so we decided to just check the Facebook real fast with no intention to stay on for more than a minute. Thirty minutes later, we wake up from our vegged out “surfing profiles” state of mind and realize we just spent half an hour looking at Betty’s entire “Karaoke Keggar!” album. It’s especially embarrassing since every picture has the girls posed with the same fake album smile, and you don’t even know any of the people.

There’s a term for wasting time on social networking sites: Social Masturbation (I’ve also heard Faceturbation from my friend Graeme, which is good too). Social networking sites help us fill a need to be social, when really it’s all just virtual. Our minds are tricked into thinking we have the company of people when really it’s just a screen and pixels. Profiles and pictures stimulate our social senses without actually having to hang out with friends.

I’ll be the first to admit to a bad social masturbating habit, but I’m working to change that. If you see me signed on tell me to sign the fuck off and chill with people in real life. Nothing’s better than actually getting together with friends and just kicking it. In real life, there’s no need for wall posts and comments. In real life, there’s no need to judge someone on the wittiness or their profile.

What’s tricky though is that it’s not always easy to hang out sometimes. Maybe we all login to social networking sites because we’re too lazy to figure out what everyone’s up to. We could text some friends and make a few calls, but sometimes we’re just too lazy to make the effort. It’s a waste of time when we text a few friends and none of them can chill. We put out the effort, but sometimes it’s just too inefficient. This is when we sign on and veg out to a session of social masturbation.

Enter Weutt. Coming soon.

Cafe bans laptops hoping people will talk.

The Way of the Dodo- The Streets

Oakland Cafe Owner bans laptops in hopes people will socialize.

SF Gate link

This is sad. Cafes and Coffee shops were created as a place to interact and talk to people. They were places to enjoy a drink and conversation. Wake up people, unless you want to be a stupid drone that has no real-life awareness.

In the year 2010, a cafe must ban the use of laptops in the hopes of bringing back real. If you think about how coffee shops and cafes are used now, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

I’m going to dissect coffee shops and the psychology behind them.

Today, people will often go to a coffee shop to study or get work done. They’ll bring their books, papers, or laptops and chill for awhile. Coffee shops are not normally the quietest places. The latte machines are churning; people are constantly entering and leaving. They are often cramped. They simply aren’t great places to get work done, so why do people work at these types of establishments?

A few of those people may have dumbass roommates, annoying roommates that have no respect. I understand that, but most roommates are respectful enough to be quieter than a coffee shop. You can go to a library if you really want a good place to work.

Maybe it’s because the drinks are really good. Coffee shops normally brew better coffee than people can at home. It makes sense to buy coffee (some would argue), but wouldn’t you rather bring it to your library or home if you want to get work done? Some people do this, but the rest decide to set up camp at a table and sprawl out their work.

So what’s the real reason people work at coffee shops for? For the same reason people have always been going to coffee shops, to be around other people. What’s screwed up now is that people don’t give a shit about interacting. People will often sit next to each other, and never acknowledge each other.

Humans have an innate need to be around other people. We are social creatures that enjoy being around other humans. We need company. Company is so important to us that it comforts us just to be in a room with other people, even if there is no interaction whatsoever. This is what coffee shops are turning into. Places of social comfort that have no social interaction. Ridiculous.

Maybe you’re someone that believes coffee shops have a great “atmosphere” to get work done in. Bullshit. First off, most coffee shops have the same neutral, natural looking tones as the next one down the block. Saying a coffee shop has “atmosphere” is just an excuse to be at a place where you have the company of others.

This article made me think what our future as a society holds for us. If we continue to sink deeper into the clutter of technology, what real experience will be left? Our generation is beginning to make people think and act like the very technology we use.

It’s year 2010. Imagine what coffee shops and cafes will look like in 2020 or 2030. If we don’t acknowledge the importance of real interaction today, then you can kill me now because I’m not down with becoming a drone. I know it’s weird, but I enjoy interacting with people in real life.