What’s the One Thing that Makes You Happy?

I don’t usually gain insight from the morning radio. Yes, when in the car I still listen to the radio, but between songs this morning DJ asked, “What is the one thing that makes you actually happy?”

My first thought was the weather (it’s 75 degrees and clear skies as I write this). Then I changed my mind. It’s my family, my friends, the fact that I really enjoy what I do for work. Or food (they immediately started talking about a sushirrito).

How did I just find out about this. Who wants to go?

Thinking through those things made me smile and it hit me. The common link between everything on my happy list is smiling. When it’s sunny outside, I smile. When I’m laughing with friends and family, I’m smiling. When I feel like I’ve accomplished something at work, I smile. It’s really that simple. Smiling is free, easy to share with others and something I am in complete control of.

What is the one thing that makes you happy?



What I Learned My First Time on Live TV

This week I shot my first live TV segment for FOX on the Napwell (http://www.napwell.com), the world’s first napping mask and a Kickstarter project I launched with one of my longtime friends, Justin Lee.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Having never been on live TV, here are 11 things that I learned:

  1. News anchors are fantastic speakers. The teleprompter moves quickly, and they are consistently poised and speak slowly and clearly. There is a lot to learn.
  2. Plug, baby plug. Don’t assume that people will know what your website is or how to buy your product. In our case, they did not show the website address on screen so make sure to say it out loud.
  3. Know your themes and frame the conversation. The anchor will naturally guide the segment but have 2-3 things that you want to say and work them in.  In our case it was our Kickstarter success, the fact that we iterate to solve real problems, and our target customer scenarios.
  4. News teams are a prime example of operational efficiency. The team is lean and without redundancy.
  5. Know which camera you are supposed to look into. There were a few of them and I wasn’t sure where to be looking.
  6. Take pictures!
  7. Be yourself. I tried to sprinkle in a few jokes because that’s what I do normally. It put me at ease, and hopefully you chuckle at one of them.
  8. Wear something with pockets. They give you a little microphone box that needs to go somewhere so make it easy for them.
  9. Time goes by very quickly.
  10. Wear solid colors. A pro tip picked up from my new friend and airplane rowmate and Director of Public Relations at Reputation.com. Thanks Leslie!
  11. Smile, you don’t get to be on TV every day. It will remind you to be less nervous and have fun.

Still much to learn, but how do you think we did?

Meaningful Conversation 5: Building a Private Car Service Empire in 13 Minutes

I am running a social experiment to have more meaningful conversations. This is a recap of one of my attempts. If you want to see why I am doing this, please read this: My Experiment to Have More Meaningful Conversations.

This time I chose my cab driver.

I wondered what kind of ideas he would have for my iOS problem, but knew that first I needed to learn about his familiarity with his smartphone. We follow the same process when doing user testing for Clippo. Someone’s background shapes the questions you can ask. For a social media app, you’re going to ask a hardcore Instagram user different questions than someone who doesn’t use Facebook.

I started with a basic first check: what kind of smartphone did he have? Samsung. I knew he could not become an immediate user because our Android version has not launched yet.

Second check: what apps does he normally use? Text messages and maps. The fact that he told me texting was an app probably eliminated power user type questions.

Not expecting much, I told him how difficult it was for us to get users and asked if he had any ideas.

“I have not the first clue, but you seem like you know about the Internet – why don’t you help me.”

What can Walter White teach us about a private car business?

Now we were getting somewhere. He wanted to get more customers for his private car service in addition to those coming through using apps like Uber. It was his most profitable type of ride and he wanted to use the Internet to grow his customer base. I told him I would try to help, and started asking him questions to learn more about the numbers.

He told me how much he makes from each service, and I asked him what hours of the day and types of trips were the most profitable. The depth of his knowledge about the taxi business in SF was awesome – I learned so much.

After doing a quick analysis of his revenue streams, we decided the most profitable trip for him was to the airport using his private car service. What I told him was that his focus should be on booking as many of those kinds of trips as possible.

Then I told him that because he lives in the Bay Area, the Internet was probably the wrong way to get customers. For example, if he wanted to create an AdWords strategy for San Francisco, he would be competing against the savviest search marketing specialists from Uber, Lyft, etc. That’s tough for anyone, especially an AdWords beginner. What he could do, however, is try non-scalable tactics that would be hard for those companies to replicate.

Given his target customer was an airport traveler, we decided to focus on hotels. But, as opposed to going to large hotels, I told him he should try to form relationships with boutique hotels.

I think that boutique hotels gave him more opportunity for two main reasons: 1) Utilization – large hotels have lines of cabs waiting for passengers, so it was a fairly large opportunity cost to be sitting in the car hoping for an airport trip. 2) Competition – boutique hotels were less likely to be approached by rival cab drivers and would be more amenable to making him a preferred driver for a cut.

This gave us the strategy:

1. Create referral deals with the bellhops at boutique hotels for airport travelers. Why the bellhops? They are the most motivated to create a deal, because they can use the extra money, and are the ones that call the cabs. Also, skipping the hotel establishment allows the deal to close much more quickly.

2. In the down time between calls from bellhops, use Summon and Uber to fill the time and keep his utilization rate high. This would avoid long hotel lines and keep him earning while waiting for the higher payoff trips.

(Side Note: I had to leave Lyft off the list, because he refuses to drive for them. Apparently for a driver to sign up on Lyft, there is only a simple five-minute application. It upset him that inexperienced drivers could thus immediately be put on the road; he felt that he has paid his dues and needs to be treated differently. Though there is nothing he can do about it, I told him that I definitely agreed with him on principle. In fact, I think this lack of driver experience does make the Lyft product suffer a bit. When I took Lyft on Saturday, my driver did not know the city well (she was from San Jose) and we went the wrong way. I did not use Lyft on the way home. Step up your game Lyft!)

And that was that, we were able to create this plan in the 13 minute car ride. I gave him my contact info and I hope that he tries what we discussed.

Would you have added anything else?

Meaningful Conversation 4: Mongooses and User Experience

I am running a social experiment to have more meaningful conversations. This is a recap of one of my attempts. If you want to see why I am doing this, please read this: My Experiment to Have More Meaningful Conversations.

This is the first conversation in this series that is not centered on my work, but rather focuses on someone else’s work. I was in New York last week and one evening, I went to dinner with two friends and a girl I did not know.  At the table, she and I shared a side.

We started with small talk: the weather, what people did for work, etc. She mentioned that she was in the Columbia Anthroloplogy PhD program and I told her that I ran a startup. We moved on to cover food (we were at a pretty amazing Japanese restaurant), our trip to NYC, and other generalities. Since I am now constantly worried about falling into Type 2 Conversations, the basic trajectory of conversation worried me. So, I asked her more about her research. I told her that at a high level I knew what Anthropology was, but not really much more than that.

She started describing one of her former research projects, a study to preserve the seabird population in a specific habitat of Hawaii. Unfortunately to do that, their team had to control the mongoose population, which was eating many of the birds.

Animal rights issues aside, it fascinated me that someone was able to come to the decision that the seabird was more valuable than the mongoose. There are so many factors that determine an animal’s value in an ecosystem that I think it would be almost impossible to understand them all.

Rikki Tikki Tavi is the only mongoose I know

The thought process seemed unethical, until I found an analog in my life: controlling user behavior in a mobile app.

While not a predatory animal, any mobile app has predatory buttons, menus, and options that all compete for the user’s attention. When trying to determine how to have users take the actions we want, we also run experiments. Much like the researchers did with the mongoose, we have to predict the number one reason users are being led astray from what we feel is the optimal behavior.

For example, we just faced this with our new user tutorial. We created two versions, 1) have every new user make a Clippo and 2) have every new user just watch popular Clippos. We decided that having a user make a Clippo would make them understand the purpose of the app better. Then, we executed on that plan by actively restricting elements that competed for a user’s attention.

Though the teams had Anthropology and software development backgrounds, our experimental approaches were similar. I think the major difference is that unlike the mongoose, our users can choose to participate in the experiment. Then, to take that to the extreme, the mongoose lost its life in the process. This makes me a bit uncomfortable, but perhaps is the result of me not understanding the research industry.

What do you think?