Chronicles of Summer Startup Accelerator Experience, Insights, and Projects

Posts tagged ‘summer startup accelerator’

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, 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.


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.


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 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 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 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 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, 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 and should debut Monday.

Ought to be good.


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

  • 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
  • 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!


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


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!

Day 1: Programming for Non-Programmers & Fireside Chat

The first day was FILLED with productivity.

I woke up eager and open for class. The commute was a brisk 20 minutes. A mix of walking and short subway ride. The entire weekend I had tried to visit the office only to realize I was going through the wrong entrance. This morning I hedged my bets and walked into the “5th ave” entrance, and I succeeded! Finally the fourth floor. The journey had begun as I took my initial steps into the still being renovated space. While still under construction, the space still had the same vibrancy and character of the other space if you’ve ever been to General Assembly’s 902 address.

Amidst the constructive chaos by Jordan Hepner greeted me. Jordan has facilitated and organized the entire summer program. Finally I could put a face to a name. He was friendly and led me to the room where I met Andrew Byrk and Darren Hakimi. Andrew is a board member of TechatNYU, which is the largest student-run tech organization. Darren is a high-school student, who impressed me with his youth and his questions throughout the day.

By far my most high fidelity relationship so far has been with my new friend Dean Cooney, a student of the University of Chicago. We spoke a little earlier about what to do on the Friday’s we have off. Aside from tech cocktails and free lunch, we thought we scramble together a few meetups and events for all the students to enjoy. So far the list is: IDEO, Frog Design, RG/A, Dumbo in Brooklyn, Creative Morning Breakfast Lecture, Protege Party, Parson New School of Design, Betaworks, and many other tech, design, or startup offices we wouldn’t get a chance to otherwise.

It really is a proud moment to wear the badge as a member and intern of General Assembly. There’s real pride that comes with being a part of such a successful organization and one that really helps the community.


Our teacher Christopher Castiglione, who created the website, thrust us into the world of front-end web development.

First, he told us the most important part of this introductory class was learning how to communicate our idea. How do you boil down your idea into the fewest words possible that give the listener the most resonance. Can they “get it”. He finds that most of the time people have an idea, but when he asks them to explain it, it comes out very unappealing. So the basics of programming for non-programmers was to parse our idea and boil it down to a simple story and value statement.

Second, We began the process of UX Design and the iterative design process by brainstorming current pros and cons of the current General Assembly website. Some comments were that the simplicity made the website very useful, and the color scheme was friendly, and the video really resonated with new viewers. However, many more negatives arose from those who know GA quite well. GA has a lot of content posted online, but there no link to access it from the home page or for any page in the information architecture of the current website. Additionally, Olivia, who has designed websites before suggested using a landing page/portal versus a home page that could be scrolled.

Third, We walked through the basics of programming languages and the dominant advantages and connections of them all. Additionally, Chris led us through the proper vocabulary used by front-end and back-end programmers so that we could better communicate more clearly in the future.

More specifically I learned my first CSS code, which has a lot of {}. At this point we are learning the 20% that makes a lot of the internet including how <h1> tags help Search Engine Optimization and how Google reads your website versus a basic viewer. Also I learned how to edit links which I didn’t know before. 1) How to open in new tab 2) How to edit visually

1) You make a typical link say <a href=”” target=”_blank”> /* target=”_blank” opens the link in a new tab*/

2) Using CSS you type in:

color: #35C0F2;
text-decoration: none;

The color element changes the font color and the text-decoration takes out the underline.


The last two hours were the most fun. We finally got to get our hands dirty with a little basic HTML and CSS code. We were led in baby steps through the entire process. What was great about the teaching pedagogy, is that Chris just wanted us to type code in and play with it. The content he gave us was already there, but along the way he challenged us with mini-exercises to test our organization and competency. /* I also got to clean up my entire desktop thanks to his rant on organization…not to mention writing text like code */

By the end of the day we ended up with a website that looked like this , but it was about the Cookie Monster. We learned a few advanced methods thanks to some prying and good questions as well.

All in all it was a GREAT day of learning. I learned with more clarity in this 4 hour span than I have in  my time at UT Austin.


Taking advantage of the free classes, I attended the Fireside chat with Ed Gilligan, Vice-Chairman of American Express who oversees 85% of all the revenue generated by AmEx. He has also been the lead on many of the partnership initiatives such as the one with Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and the creation of Small Business Saturday.

He had tons and tons to say about big business and their steady reinvention over the 162 year history. The focus was also on how big, giant, clunky, slow-moving big businesses have a place in the fast, chaotic startup world where people tend to break things. I want to post the notes, but there’s so much. If you’re interested, please feel free to email me at or if I get enough comments I’ll post them up.

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