Pic of the Day: Founders in Mountain View
Here we are, together again in our humble Mountain View startup house. Man were we ever glad to be back in the same space!
Here we are, together again in our humble Mountain View startup house. Man were we ever glad to be back in the same space!
So my ma calls me the other day and tells me its -27C at home (Toronto, Canada). And right after cringing and being thankful we aren’t up there right now. We got to thinking, isn’t it supposed to be spring!?!? Like snow melting, flowers growing, spring break = spring? We don’t really know if its spring or not because the weather never changes much here from day to day (Mountain View, California). But we are pretty sure that one one of the things we learned in grade 3 was that girls punch you when they like you, but also that March = spring, and spring = new and fresh (not -27C!). So in the interest of spring, of new, fresh, and exciting, we figured it was about time we sent around another email!
The first big piece of news is that we have finally got users! About a week ago we launched our closed Alpha, which is super exciting for us. To be finally working with our users building the tools they want and need, and to have this incredible base to build on top of is just awesome. We are working tirelessly to add every feature requested, respond to every email, and get the tool to the point where its useful and not just super cool. And I must say we are so grateful for all the incredible feedback! Thanks again to our Alpha users – we really do appreciate it!
So in the interest of setting ourselves up for a lot of sleepless nights ;), I thought I would layout the next big milestone for us. We want to go public as soon as possible. We want to scale, and grow and provide value to as many users as we can. But right now the tool isn’t ready. The following are the tasks and improvements that we are working on right now, and the features that we think once we have, we will be able to open up to a much wider audience. We will probably call this our Beta.
And thats really it for the update! We are continuing to invite people everyday to join the tools and give us feedback and so far the response continues to be incredible, people really are dying to have better tools! We are here in Mountain View hacking away for another month, and we are enjoying our time, learning lots, and meeting tons of incredible people. It really is a very powerful startup scene down here, and we are so grateful to get to participate in that. Oh, and if you haven’t yet gotten an Alpha key, and you want one, send me an email and we will get you in there right away! Cheers, The Upverters
Do we actually want to hire porn stars? No. Its a joke stolen from a recent hacker news posting. And despite being flamed a bit in the forum the author made some pretty good points about how funny the job titles we give hackers are. Avery has some thoughts on the interesting job titles and reason for them, and honestly I like his titles way better than the generic ones. And at the end of the day we don’t really want Rock Stars or Ninjas but something a lot more like Porn Stars (willing to work anywhere and probably keeps working at home, doesn’t show up drunk or invisible, etc).
The important part – that we are looking at doing some hiring soon, and looking into our longer term growth. Interns are very important to us, we all used to be co-op students at UWaterloo, we know co-ops rock, and we know the best way to get talent before it gets into the market is to get it as students. Adam wrote a great article about this and I’m stealing some of his ideas here, but the first big problem is no one knows who we are (see avery’s article). We are generic start-up X. And as Adam correctly points out, students, for two reasons, want to work for the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. They get all of the good talent for free, and its not in the students best interests at all. Adam proposed a YCombinator for interns, and I think its a great idea, but way outside the range of what we can do at Upverter right now. So while he is working to make it happen 😉 we have cooked up our own little hacks to try and solve our part of the problem. But first, the problems as we see them:
We are going to do 2 things to try and solve these problems. The first is really simple. We are going to convince CECS to allow us to start embedding youtube videos in our job postings. We think this would be magic. The vibrancy, energy and passion that would be conveyed by the three of us talking at a webcam from our ‘office’ cant be faked. You cant cover up a cube farm in a video. You can’t fake interesting. And students immediately get a sense of fit. We think this will do a pretty incredible job of tackling the scary startups & crappy postings problems. The second thing we are going to do is talk to students. And honestly this probably wont scale very well, but we think talking to them about what a startup is, what co-ops do in startups, and what we did in startups is a hell of a first step.
We want to talk about what we look for when hiring and why the name Google will never matter as much as the work you do. We could talk about how none of us ever worked for a buzz name and what that means. About where innovation actually happens and why Google and Facebook buy so many startups. We also want to talk about risk, and give the students a vocabulary for talking to a startup; The questions to ask, and how to know if one is going to disappear or not. The goals of this talk would be pretty simple:
And realistically if we could pull off two of these we would be doing pretty well! So whats this look like? We think its us renting a lecture hall and inviting 7 of our most interesting startup friend and colleagues. Fill the hall with a hundred or so of the best and brightest engineering and CS students. Tell stories for about 10 minutes each, no more, and try and get these kids excited about startups. Tell stories that talk about how real and influential the work we do is. Tell stories about the day we killed the internet to Chicago or had a million page views, or changed the world. Tell stories about how the CEO gets the co-ops coffee, not the other way around. Tell a story about hiring and whats really important. A story about what Mom said when PG was on the cover of Forbes. Little, big, passion, excitement, real work, real change, 3 guys in a dorm room. Afterwards we all get pizza and beer together and we can mingle. But the takeaway, and this is where we win or lose, is what the students apply for the next day. Do they still click Google? or do they say “what the hell, why not try a startup”.
At the end of the day its a hack, and we dont really know what will happen, but with any luck we get some great co-op applications. That being said the motivation and the goal is to fix the fundamental problems with the culture around going to work for a startup. I’ll probably be writing more about this as the event gets closer. We think it will be happening May 18th at UWaterloo – but its not set in stone yet. And we are still looking for speakers, sponsors and thoughts, so email me (email@example.com).
Bonus: I found a very cool resume while I was doing some research for the blog post. I’m not sure if CECS would ever allow co-ops to post a resume like this, but it would be monumental in fixing the opposite problem of getting a billion resumes for a co-op posting.
Update: Avery posted a response to some of my points, and I think its perfect. I took a pretty hard line in one direction with this post, and he has done a great job of pointing out where I’m over the edge. I only hope the dialog continues!
February Sucks!!! All of this sitting inside with no new electronics to hack on, or cool web apps to play with… But wait! Whats this I hear Upverter is now (almost) in Alpha?!?! Haha. Thats right! February is going to become officially awesome (or at least less sucky)!
So I just thought I would post a quick update on whats new around the Upverter ‘offices’ in the month of February. And first off we are loving it down here in the Bay Area, albeit missing home sweet home (except for the cold and snow). Last fall we apparently impressed someone enough that they flew us down for a couple months of intense startup training – and its going great! We’ve met so many cool new friends and colleagues. Its awesome.
A very big part of the program is release early and often, and its keeping us true to our original intentions of releasing something (anything!) and working with the community to build the tools they actually would want to use. Expect us to break things occasionally (sorry) but know that its just us trying to add functionality. But please still tell us when stuff stops working, or what features you need, or that you love/hate what were building. Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated!
In other news we are starting to look for a permanent home. We are Canadian boys tried and true so its going to be somewhere in Canada for sure, leaving us with just a couple picks. It will probably end up being downtown Toronto but Montreal was also suggested as an option, and who doesn’t like Montreal?!?! haha. Any suggestions are welcome! We also accept couches, cheap rent, and empty basements… just so you know…
Today I want to share some terrific feedback we have received recently about the tools we are building. First off I need to say that its incredibly exciting getting emails that we know people sent because they want to help us make this whole eco-system friendlier and easier to enter. So thanks for that! And second, that its just super cool when these emails come from people that we think are incredibly smart, and passionate.And when they write about things that we have thought about or feel strongly about, or even considered solving – well thats just super, super cool.
And thirdly, I want to talk about talking about more. I’ve been thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that there really isn’t any harm in talking more candidly about some of our long term goals, but more importantly in talking about some of the bigger problems in the OSHW ecosystem – even problems we can’t fix yet. And the plug here is that they are the same thing, we want to position ourselves such that the big problems in the eco-system and our long terms goals are the same things.
So here goes! The following is a (slightly revised) to-do list from one of our recent feedback emails and I wholeheartedly agree with its content. So over the next few weeks I am going to be writing about our thoughts on Manufacturing, Modularity, Over-Optimization and Packaging. You’ll notice these are all very real world physical problems. Problems that we haven’t talked much about yet, and problems we don’t yet have solutions for. But we have ideas, and piles of ambition!
What a great rundown eh? We have talked publicly a lot about #2 and have some pretty great solutions to it. In fact, I encourage you to head to our landing page and sign-up for the beta of our soon to be released circuit design tool. But over the coming weeks I’m going to give you some thoughts on the others in the list – we have some cool ideas to help fix some of these problems, and we have some great feedback on what other people think is broken. But there is also a discussion that should happen here – and I’d like to start it. As always I’d love any thoughts or feedback, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back when I was working in Waterloo we would occasionally drop our scopes and soldering irons and head to the cafeteria for some much needed beer and cards. It was one of my favorite parts of working with those guys. There is nothing quite like shooting the shit with the boys over cards, drinking beer, and just hanging out. I loved it. Anyways, on more than a few of these nights we would get the (probably beer inspired) idea to host a Soldering Olympics. But we never did. Maybe because it was just the beer talking. Maybe because it really was a terrible idea. haha. But we never came through on it.And I’m both happy and jelous to announce that I have finally found someone else that did manage to pull it off – and its very cool (see the video above)!
I think should I ever get a chance to participate or host version 2 we should make just a couple changes… First, I always dreamed of a freestyle, artistic event, something thats more of a challenge than a time trial. Something like bridging solder between floating 402 resistors and pads, or soldering big parts over small footprints, or i dunno, something that looks just damn artistic under a microscope. Second, bigger irons! Don’t make me work with finger paint when I can use a brush! And third, for a time trial situation there needs to be more paste, or less through hole, or more microscopes, or something. I feel like there is a better test of speed, or that speed is the wrong metric… haha.
Anyways, I’m just glad someone bothered to actually go through with it. And it looks like it was a ton of fun. I encourage anyone and everyone interested in electronics to appreciate the beauty in good soldering and the fun in being able to build electronics. And to anyone hosting version 2 before I do – I want an invite!!
So whats missing? Whats wrong the the open source hardware guys? Why no mecca of sharing? No open cellphones*? Why doesn’t DDWRT run on open hardware? Why haven’t you solved more of the problems in your life with a soldering iron? I don’t have perfect answers to any of these questions, or even good answers really. But we have noticed a spark. There are people working hard to create a great and powerful OSHW community. The hackers with soldering irons want an ecosystem and a community. They want to collaborate and share and grow exactly like FOSS has. And that’s the reason why we are here. At Upverter we are trying to breathe life into the movement and give those hackers what they need to become a great and powerful force of knowledge, sharing and cool hardware. We are betting pretty big on OSHW becoming huge and as a result we spend a lot of time talking about whats missing. And here is the best answer that I’ve got.
That might be it. Its not a big list, and there are probably lots of social and learning curve problems that will come up along the way. But really, I think if there was available software satisfying the list above we would be looking at a very different OSHW landscape. At Upverter we are focused on filling these voids, but despite talking with hundreds of you we aren’t entirely sure what you want. To be honest we don’t think you know what you want either, so we are taking our best guess. BUT (and this is a big one!) if you do know what you want, or have any feedback or opinions on the list above, please by all means contact us. We truly want to build whats best for the OSHW community, what you need, what you want, and whatever is stopping you from going viral.