Monday, December 15, 2014

most and least supportive people

As a startup founder, your own morale is an important resource.  So it's smart to be careful who you spend your time with.

I've discovered that the most supportive people are founders of successful companies.  They know that it takes courage and getting 1000 details correct in order to build a good product from scratch, so they respect what you are doing.  They have the visionary foresight to look at your lumpy product and see flashes of diamond inside.

The least supportive people I've encountered are a subset of founders of startups that are still finding their way.  They will say things like "you should try doing X, and if that doesn't take off within a few days, then maybe just shut down the company".  What on earth -- why wouldn't you iterate instead of giving up the very first instant!  Perhaps they wish they had stayed at a comfortable job instead of starting their company, so they are projecting onto others.

The second-least supportive people are a subset of employees who joined a large company after it already became a behemoth.  They weren't around for the "ugly duckling" part of their company, so they never saw firsthand how all products start out from humble beginnings.  They look at your fledgling product, and it looks so puny compared to the honed product they work on, which has been polished over the years.  They can't imagine one turning into the other.

Founders of successful companies are the busiest people, but they are often the most helpful.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

through all the world there goes one long cry

I really like this quote, at the end of Babette's Feast (a movie about a superb Parisian chef):
Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My new company Evertoon

I'm finally ready to talk about my new startup Evertoon, and my work transition!

Earlier this year, I left my role as CTO of Minted, in order to start Evertoon. It was a tough decision, since Minted is a wonderful company and succeeding extremely well as a business. But starting a company in Evertoon's product space has been a long-time dream of mine, and I eventually took the plunge. Minted and I have been very mutually supportive. I interviewed all of my replacement candidates to lead Minted's engineering, and was delighted with the hiring of Charlie Rice, a fantastic engineering leader from Amazon. For three months after my departure until Charlie started, I advised Minted 3 to 4 hours per week. I still help out from time to time, and am very happy to see that Minted engineering is thriving.

I'm very excited to share about my new company Evertoon! Evertoon lets users create 3D animated videos by taking regular text and having avatars act it out, with animations and special effects. Many people have ideas in their head that would be entertaining videos, but lack the budget and resources to find actors, create visual effects, and locate an appealing physical setting. It only takes a few minutes to use Evertoon to turn your humorous story or marketing message into a video. Add explosions! Make your avatar punch your friend's avatar and send him the video! Express your quirky humor in a video! By making these easy, Evertoon seeks to unlock the visual stories trapped in people's heads.

For me personally, this is a culmination of my love for products with beautiful art (like Minted), slick 3D graphics (like Microsoft Flight Simulator), appeal to consumers (like Gmail or Google Desktop), and enable storytelling (like Google Lively). Everything has led up to this!

I'm showing the product-in-progress to people who are interested in this space. If you have an interest in this area and you know me in real life and want to give me product feedback, drop me a line!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


My high school reunion was held a few weeks ago.

Last month, I was debating whether to go, and googled "should I go to my high school reunion".  Some of the webpages said "no, I already stay in touch with everyone I'd want to see".  Others said it was a pleasant evening but nothing special.

My classmates on the reunion planning committee got into a dispute.  One person wanted a formal sit-down dinner.  My senior class president wanted a casual bar gathering.  They could not agree.  So they each held their own event, at the exact same time.  Every day I got a promotional email about the sit-down dinner, and an email encouraging me to come to the bar event.

I was intrigued by how much people cared.  So I decided to go to the reunion.

You'd think there is no way that two conflicting events would be held at the same time.  Surely they would merge into one.  One half would come to their senses and combine with the other.  But no, both events were held.  35 people attended the dinner, and 35 people went to the bar.

I went to the bar.  Every hour or so, we'd look at Facebook and see photos of our classmates at the dinner across town.

My overall experience was off-the-charts awesome!  It was so nice to see my friends.

Real estate outside of the Bay Area is a lot more affordable. This is my high school friend's home. He lives alone.

This is my friend's master bedroom closet.

We hung out all weekend and cooked a meal the final night of the weekend. My classmate "Annie" made amazing roasted potatoes. 

I'm very glad I went to the reunion! I felt a great sense of community and connection. It was far beyond my wildest hopes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

inspiration by kiwis

I am reaching the end of watching 54 hours of Lord of the Rings behind-the-scenes commentary, and am freaking out that it's almost over.  The commentary teaches cinematography, and is filled with bromance and love of filmmaking.  Now what will I watch in the background when I work in the evening?

The final bonus disc is filled with tearful goodbyes as the actors and postproduction crew wrap up 5 years of work, and then the wonderful clean sweep of 11 Oscars.  There is a photo of Peter Jackson next to a table laden with golden Oscar statues, and I think of the quote, "For every 2 minutes of glory, there was 8 hours of hard work."

There was a time at the end of making LotR 3 when Peter Jackson kept adding new shots, which meant the composer had to change the music and the visual effects team had to re-do the effects.  They were all panicking.  Peter Jackson was quoted in a newspaper saying "Everything is under control."  So the visual effects people xerox'ed 30 copies of that quote and put it all around the office.  Ha!

The chaos and "chipping at a mountain with toothpicks" reminds me of every great software project I've ever worked on. 

Then because I didn't want the DVD to end, I watched a final extra feature, and it's about a 17-year-old brilliant young filmmaker who was winning awards at age 12.  But he developed cancer and only had two months to live.  So he made two short films in that time.  And they're really, really good.

I am in awe.  He spent his last time on earth using his gift, for the pure joy of creation.  Every minute mattered, and he used his final ones to do night shooting and explosions and running through mud, so he could tell his story. 

"No regrets," he said in his short film.