Chronicles of Summer Startup Accelerator Experience, Insights, and Projects

Archive for the ‘General Assembly Summer Startup Accelerator’ Category

Day 11: WordPress just got complex

After a total of 11 days of 4 hour intensive courses I can say I have the “fundamentals” of HTML and CSS. This is only the beginning of the journey.

Today we focused on adjusting things such as changing the layout and format of pages versus posts, which are  fundamentally different. For example a page might serve a different function that someone simply reading a single blog post. This is where you begin abstracting WordPress as a simple content manager and the “blog” becomes a website. Every page begins to get its own skin and personality and your home page is the most distinct of all with navigation becoming the focus.

All in all it was productive. I got REALLY stuck when the FTP messed up. Basically when I saved my local copy and transferred them over to the server, it didn’t update my template. I eventually hacked a half-ass solution by deleting the theme and then reinstalling it each time to update. Thus far it’s worked out splendidly, but I do need to get to the core to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future with other web pages I create.

Tomorrow is our last day with Chris, but thank the lord I have his email. I’ll give him a quick disclaimer: I will bother the hell out of you when I cannot google, stackoverflow, codex.wordpress.com the answer. You’ll get the occasional dumb question with a copy of code. I will kindly ask you to debug =).

It’s been great having you as our front-end web development teacher and I couldn’t have asked for someone more friendly and welcoming into the programming environment. I look forward to going deeper into the rabbits hole.

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Craft Coffee presentation – Better than expected, but under my par of excellence.

Overall we winged the presentation. I wish there had been a lot more depth and thoughtful insight put into all of our suggestions. After the presentation I immediately went straight to reviewing “The McKinsey Way”. I couldn’t believe how far I strayed from the problem solving methodology. Because of this, I will be sending Craft Coffee some personal notes and tactical recommendations and samples of implementations of these so they can move forward. I want to see a direct impact from one of our recommendations. Perhaps a small change in messaging that ups conversion by 10% would mean the world to me!  I just hate that we had about 10 off the cuff recommendations that didn’t have enough facts to back them up. We didn’t really clearly understand what the key drivers of Craft Coffee growth was. Regardless, I will thank them for giving us this opportunity.

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Other daily stuff: Just finished errands, prepped for a busy Tuesday, and read another 50 pages of Lean Startup. I should be finished in the next 2 days or so in preparation for the NYC Lean Startup Machine Workshop.

Additionally, I visited the Strand bookstore and took a pictures of a list of books worth looking into. I found HUGE 8 POUND business encyclopedia aptly named, “Business: The Ultimate Resource”. This is going on my list for sure.

At the end of the day I ended up buying “Exposing the Magic of Design” by Jon Kolko, whose writing has fascinated me for the past few months. Not to mention I bought a ticket for the Design Extravaganza he’s hosting in Austin in October.

Day 9-10: Almost done with Front-End Web Design

This past week was a short week since July 4th fell on a Wednesday. We spent the past two days reworking our own wordpress templates and getting them hosted in a subdomain. Mine currently needs to be fixed, but it should be at blog.summeratga.com.

Tonight I’ll be working on editing the content and the structure so the page is more “me”. By me I mean it should host a portfolio of work, link to affiliations, and in general a great place to keep track of all my stuff in addition to my about.me page This will also be my practice page once front end web development. This domain name might end up having a lot of pages that holds all my work in process stuff.

Regardless, I’m glad to have had someone as skilled as Chris teach us all the necessary skills to take the next step into web development. This is only the beginning of my programming journey. I’ll make sure to hone my skills each and every week with exercises and some side projects so that I’m constantly executing the basics and adding new functions as I find them across the internet sea. Not to mention finally honing some graphic design skills.

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On another note, I was referred to Drew at Lean Startup Machine by a fellow intern and friend Sam Hysell. After meeting with Drew this past week, I am the new sales intern. I’ll be helping Drew setup for the two new full-time hires who are coming on. We both agreed that I should be able to close a sale or two from warm lead to finish by the end of my experience. Considering the pay is solely commission based, I know I’m incredibly hungry to get started.

Drew decided it would be a good idea to start by going to the New York City Lean Startup Machine workshop this weekend to begin mingling with the entire team, the mentors, and participants. Really I think Drew just wants to see me in action socializing, generating leads, even getting some sort of “intent” closing by word of mouth. More than anything I’m looking forward to learning about Lean Startup methods in a workshop format versus reading the books. I’ll be there adding value however I can. Take out the trash, get drinks, order food, and schmooze with everyone. Maybe I’ll be able to impart some limited wisdom that a participant will find useful. All I want to do is add value!

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Craft Coffee Project – Boy am I worried. I know the core team has been working pretty diligently on it. I wouldn’t say we’ve come anywhere near nailing it, but I do know we better ship and ship good tomorrow. We have good data, good insights, and good advice, but it needs two more things.

1) We need to structure together a logical consulting presentation so Craft Coffee can leave with something actionable that they believe in.

2) Overall we need to assess the core competencies and interests of the intern class. I feel like the leaders are starting to come out, but we are still walking around with guns that we’ve never used before.

Day 8: Had to take off – Finale between me and accounting

Sadly, I had to miss Day 8 of class since it was the day of my managerial accounting final. To those who are either: A) Great at accounting or B) Not in the business school, you’ll think it’s a completely trivial and not worth taking the day off to prepare for the final, but to everyone else whose ever taking financial or managerial accounting, you know the pain. Even the 10% who do well in class bitch and moan because of how difficult the course is. Perhaps it’s going to the business school that has the #1 program in the country?

This 3-week online intensive course was no different. The past week I have been sleeping at 5 AM and waking up at 8:30 AM. I had to take the day off since I needed to take my Exam 3 in the morning and my Comprehensive Final in the afternoon. I’m glad to report it was totally worth it. I got a B! This is below par for me, but considering my goal was to pass and get credit at UT, I feel pretty damn good!

While waiting outside the exam room, my heart began pounding. I feared failing. I was taking this summer intensive course and was actually fearful of failing. If I failed, then I wasted all my money and time. The pain in my chest prompted me to my go to for calming myself: meditation.

As I sat in the chair, I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing until my chest stopped rising and lowing. I began breathing with my diaphragm. I slowed my heart rate. I began to visualize answering every question. I saw myself checking my grades and rejoicing. I felt so present. It was like a dream, but I wasn’t sleeping and in full control. It was the most serene I’ve felt in years.

I took the test, and it went very similar to how I visualized. There is true power in meditation and visualization. When you’re stressed and feeling strung out, STOP. Take the time to sit, breath, and be present.

Now that it’s all over I literally feel like a weight has been lifted. Time feels unlimited, and I have freedom again. I was literally jumping and running up and down the streets of New York. I had a spring in my step. I finally could CHOOSE to sleep or stay up. It’s truly liberating to accomplish and achieve something. It’s an addicting feeling and I never want it to end.

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Craft Coffee Project

Now that I have time to burn, I’m spending it working on the Craft Coffee project we were given. Our presentation is on Monday and I’ll probably be working with the team this weekend to synthesize it into edible, effective chunks to deliver to the Craft Coffee team.

Today Sam, Devante, and I will be going to Starbucks and doing some customer development and research for Craft Coffee.

1. Do you brew your own coffee.
2. Do you have a problem with brewing your own coffee?
3 can you tell us a story about the last time you went to buy coffee
(people will naturally highlight their pain points)
4. What would be your ideal solution?
After that, we pitch craft coffee and see if they’re interested enough to
give us their email. (In this case, their email is a form of currensy
proving demand)

– Those are the basic questions, and we’ll be adding on as the conversations go on. We will add more questions more specific to gifting coffee.

Additionally, I’ll be asking the Craft Coffee team for a sample box so I get better understand the experience of the recipient. There has to be some disconnect between the communication and the experience if people aren’t raving about it and sharing it. For Seth Godin fans, I’m trying to turn Craft Coffee into a Purple Cow.

If possible, I want to screencast my girlfriend going through the site and gifting coffee and if possible, getting others as well. I think this will yield the most results. Any bottlenecks in the process should be found here.

Day 6: Responsive Design + Business of Gaming

Today we focused on design responsive navigation bars and touched on HTML 5 and CSS 3.

Either someone read my blog and responded or the pace or things just went back to normal I loved class today.

I loved class today because it had great structure and I felt like we accomplished a lot in 4 hours. Within our time we learned about HTML 5, and checked out a few cool links like —>

http://html5readiness.com/

http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/30/google-chrome-html5-arcade-fire/

http://slides.html5rocks.com/#landing-slide

After that we spent time on 3 separate projects today

We did a basic navigation bar with links only. From this very simple project, I was reminded of the importance of the “.clear” hack we learned to make sure containers don’t collapse on each other.

Our second navigation bar we made focused on turning a link into a button. One application might be that making a link’s environment active, then people can use it on a touch screen. Additionally, we got the background to hover behind a text link. This came with a lot of confusion until I learned the syntax to code it. It was a nested CSS, which gets long and looks like this: nav ul li a {}

Our last project Chris introduced us to SPRITES! He did this by showing us the Google pacman HTML5 page that’s just a series of images. He showed us that sprites were essentially an entire picture that the internet would download and call once versus make a call every time you needed the site to respond. We turned an images into responsive active links. I loved this. I’ve always been curious about how to make the web more reactive than just words. This really resonated with me. Basically, we had to re-position the picture within the container for each element’s attribute (i.e. a:hover a:visited a:active etc.)

*I apologize for shorter and shorter blog posts. Last week of a 3 week intensive managerial accounting class has gotten me sleeping sub 5 hrs every day.

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The Business of Gaming – This was taught by Brad Hargreaves, a co-founder of General Assembly.

– It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, since I thought it would be about game design or gamification, but understanding the gaming economy was fascinating nonetheless. Great live class, with great production quality! Would definitely recommend it!

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Craft Coffee Project: So far we’ve had a difficult time coordinating. Today we finally came to the conclusion that we’d have to synthesize a series of insights and surveys into one short and sweet deliverable along with a short presentation.

Problems:

Lack of communication between everyone.

Some people leave right after class…having nothing to do after class the first week set precedent saying that it was over after that. We need guidance and someone to tell everyone that this is a program where we have to stay until 5-6pm and work on the project after class. Thus far I feel like a few people take this project very seriously and some people just don’t care. Maybe it’s just all poor communication.

Regardless, initial efforts are being made to putting together break into sub-divisions,  target websites for survey, systems of communication, standards of reporting, etc.

Tough Times with a new team. We are all still in the forming stages of team development…I don’t think we all know each other’s name by heart yet, but professional excel regardless of circumstances, so we will excel.

Awesome Part – Beginning to get a feel for everyone in the program. Making great friends!

Day 5: Grid Based Design & Typography + Craft Coffee

As we move forward with more and more projects, class has become a little less dynamic. We spend a lot of time in class working now versus learning new things. As Chris mentioned earlier today, this is the point where you begin to see some people start to excel and other lag behind. I know I need to focus on organizing my code and making sure I focus on the separating the uses of HTML for structure and CSS for style. Additionally, this means making sure I note everything while I code, and open and close accordingly. I think this will come with time, but today Chris got confused looking at my code…not a good sign. On a brighter note, Chris has been super helpful and hands-on when it comes to debugging our code or explaining things individually.Starting with some templates he gave us which included separation of header, body, footer, etc. helps a ton. Not to mention understanding how to use tags.

Unfortunately, we’ve either gotten behind or strayed away from the proposed curriculum. This may be for our own sake, or we are just slower than we should be. I’m hoping it’s simply to make it more personal. I actually wish we could go a little faster because I do want to learn Grid-based design, typography, and navigation in relation to UI design for websites. That’s the subject that really fascinates me, but I appreciate slowing down the pace to begin mastering the basics of what we’ve learned. If I remember anything from years of martial arts, it’s that the basics (main 20%), will give you 80% of the desired results.

Today we worked with FileZilla which is a free FTP client. After the ordeal of buying a domain name and hosting, we finally uploaded some of our work. Check out my Hans Zimmer page. Super basic, but glad to have something to show for the first time in a long time.

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Craft Coffee – Giving you fantastic, new coffee experiences

Today we met with Mike, Angie, and two interns. Mike gave us his history as well as how Craft Coffee came about. He openly answered more detailed questions I had about building out the backend and the relationship.

4 Key Messages:

  1. DO NOT start a company without an idea that has been festering and slowly but surely been in your head for a while. It needs to be something you really care about and make the extra effort to do with or without pay. For Mike, he was already keeping his eyes peeled on the entire coffee industry. When you talk to people and they think you’re insane…then you’re ready.
  2. Take notes wherever you go…especially about people’s complaints and bitching. You could start an entire series of companies based on a few people bitching and moaning.
  3. Act on insights – Craft Coffee pivoted after understanding users wanted:
  • Convenience – which came in the form of a subscription
  • Guidance – Craft Coffee curates what goes in the box
  • Tactile – People wanted to see, taste, touch, and smell the coffee beforehand, which is where coffee samples came about

        4.   TEST, TEST, TEST

  • His conversion rate tests were exactly on point when they finally did an official launch. This was great for planning and lowered risk for future investors.
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Mike gave us a very important project to work on this week and I’m very excited to get working on it. I know that this is the sort of stuff that needs to get done in any startup. Not to mention I’ve been wanting to do some UX research!

Day 4: Navigation & HMWK Project + Visual Storytelling

Today we spent most of our time polishing up our websites, which for me covered Hans Zimmer. I can show you my initial work next week since our class all got domains today. Mines at www.summeratga.com. Nothing is on there yet, but there will be by next Monday or Tuesday.

Second we spent time learning the process of buying a domain and hosting. Funny enough we had our own little hacks today to get them for the price of $0.01. Basically, set up an affiliate account and a coupon for win. Cha-ching. We used Godaddy.com to buy the domain and Hostgator to host it.

1) Type in cheap domains cheap and Google should pull up a coupon for $4.95 for rights to a year.

2) Go through the GoDaddy steps to buy your domain. You should receive a confirmation email with information critical to connecting to the host server.

3) Go to host gator and sign up for the cheapest hosting possible. Customer service is really awesome and will cancel at any time and return your money.

4) They will call you to verify the account so don’t be surprised by a strange number

5) Type in the Server name you received from GoDaddy.com to HostGator. This should connect and route your domain name to a specific place on the web.

<!– NOTE: You can also use BlueHost and others to buy both your hosting and domain name all at once and forego a few steps–>

6) Set up FTP at filezilla.com, which is free FTP.

7) Download the client, and then type in your information. Lot’s of random code will run generally and you just need to identify that it says, “Status: Directory listing successful”

8) You should be set. FINISHED!

That process is definitely the first babysteps anyone should take when venturing into the web 2.0 space. If you haven’t done that, it’s like not owning a piece of land. Your property is who you are. Just take a stake and plot your spot on the interwebs.

On a more technical note we are working on a website for eCard.ly and should debut Monday.

Ought to be good.

Notes*

Catered Lunch = Godsend – We got WichCraft to cater gourmet sandwiches and they were DELICIOUS!

Attending Visual Storytelling: An Introduction to Sketchnotes and Infographics tonight taught by Alexis Finch of Graphitemind.com

  • Always wanted to take more visual notes
  • This will help put complex ideas into simple visuals to share
  • Possible start for storyboarding for UX/UI Design
  • Drawing is a skill every designer, businessperson, engineer, and leader should have

Announcements by Jordan:

  • Next week we’ll be introduced to 2 startups to begin working on projects.
  • Ruby on Rails classes will be available in the afternoons next week
  • User Acquisition Workshop, Friday from 12-4pm
  • Cocktails from 5:30-7:30pm
  • Breakfast on Monday
Meetings:
  • Need to find more people to meet, interview, connect with, and enchant
  • Need to identify events and spots to visit during time here. Meeting with GA planner with Dean to work out logistics and identify key spots.
  • Coffee with CEO of VoiceBunny
  • Date nights with Kimmie

Note to self:

  • Write memo to internship mentors with insights and achievements
  • Follow up on any emails missed

Day 2: HTML & CSS + Introduction to 3D printing

Another day slides by too quickly.

Today, I learned one thing very quickly when opening up a new project. Organization and clarity is key. If your desktop is filled with clutter you’re only slowing yourself down. Even excess tabs can kill workflow. I had about ten tabs open from the previous night and I felt them cluttering my mind the entire class. In the future I will only have the task at hand open. Basically, using the same principle Christopher taught us for web design called a reset, and applying it to your desktop before you begin coding, will help make everything easier.

/* reset using either normalize.css or Meyer’s reset */

On a more technical note, we did two main things today. Chris sent us a “blank-template” file that will help us whenever we begin a project. Through this run through he showed us the importance of organizing code and inserting notes. He’s trying to make us as organized as possible and instill good coding habits so that once we begin more complex projects, which we inevitably will, we have a better time managing all the artifacts. At the end of the day, we ended up with a Brook & Lyn fashion page, which will be improved upon tomorrow.

Some of the most important basics was creating the right div id’s. At least four are necessary:

<div id=”container”></div>

<div id=”header”></div>

<div id=”main”></div>

<div id=”footer”></div>

This would give you a basic stack for the simplest website.

Additionally, a point on method. When creating a website, Chris suggested getting all the content into HTML before starting on the CSS. This way you can look at all the basic artifacts you have on the screen and play around with the position and style of the page in CSS.

I can’t wait to touch on JavaScript. I want to start digging into the function of a website, particularly because I want to help redesign my girlfriend’s fashion blog. I do love front-end web development since it’s focus is on the visual aesthetic, which I find particularly important considering most technology doesn’t get the human touch as noted in this design mind article. Most people don’t bother “getting it” because it’s too difficult. Then you watch a three-year old use an iPad effortlessly and you begin to realize that with great design anyone should be able to pick up something and feel curious versus threatened.

Looking forward to another day!

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I attended this class: Introduction to 3D printing led by Shapeways. They just announced a huge round of funding recently as well, so I know I’m getting educated by a company whose shaping the future of manufacturing and fabrication. I’ve heard a ton about personal manufacturing and fabrication. I want to finally get my hands dirty and make something simple with this emerging technology.

Even though I’ve been to a ton of these I wish I could attend Introduction to Entrepreneurial Ideas. It would just be nice to go through a select method for focusing on new, groundbreaking ideas.

Also, I hope I can talk to Sam and free up my schedule to either attend Lean Startup Machine New York or the Lean Startup Machine in Austin in September

On another note, I’m also keeping track of Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program by regularly reading #gsp12 tweets

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So far I’m getting closer to Dean as a friend and find him to be genuine and willing to share everything. Love that personality. He has a true love for technology and the entire NYC tech scene. He’s been the most open thus far. I’ve also found the most in common with him from going to extra classes at night to having 200+ tabs open all at once.

I’m partnered with Andrew and on a technical note I think we’re about even. He’s a quick learner and we’ve had brief chats while debugging code. I think we have more in common and I’ll try to speak to him more.

I’d really enjoy it if the class began randomizing seating so we could meet everyone even briefly. There’s so much diversity in the room. I want to make sure I rub shoulders with all the amazing people!

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