My Thoughts

Book A Month 2016: January

With 2016 right around the corner it is time to put together my list of books that I will be reading during this upcoming year. While I don’t know the entire list yet, I do have the first four picked out in no particular order:

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton

When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

January

I don’t remember exactly when I heard about Elon Musk first (although I think it was around the time I first watched this) but this past summer I stumbled upon Wait But Why right as Tim Urban started his series on Musk. After reading through those (which I highly recommend you do as well) I became fascinated with Musk’s mission and drive.

There are other books about Elon Musk but this is the only one that the author was authorized to write, which means there are hours and hours of interviews behind it making it the best one available. After reading the first chapter already, I can say that it is worthy of the accolades. Ashlee Vance is very open about the process and has a very relaxed and casual writing style that makes this an engaging and fun read. Before I get too carried away I will get back to reading and let you know how it turns out.

-Adam

Publications I Can’t Live Without

While many people look at Sunday as the day of rest, I look at it as the day of reading. It’s the one day of the week that I have enough free time to sit down and go through my ever-growing Safari reading list. Besides the startup/VC blogs, three publications constantly find themselves in that list and they consistently have fantastic content.

Vox

Starting with the 2012 election, since that was the first time I could vote, I have constantly had one ear listening to politics. The problem I had with reading and hearing about political news is there is a knowledge barrier. Gaining access to the articles is easy but the problem is understanding what they mean when they throw around things like “The US and China are engaging in a cap-and-trade program again…”. A what-now?

What Vox does is combine the headlines with the background so you actually know what is going on and you don’t have to do multiple Google searches every time you read an article.

Note: subscribe to their newsletter, they do an excellent job outlining the top headlines succinctly so you can get back to living your life while still being in-the-know.

Wired

For science class in sixth grade we would have to pick out an article from a magazine and then write a summary and our thoughts on it every so often. I would always write about Popular Science since they would talk about the latest gadgets and developments in the different science fields. Wired is the same thing but with better writing and a thoughtfully designed pages that make for an enhanced reading experience.

Note: I despise looking at ads. I find them to be intrusive and clutter up a page. Because of that I subscribed to Wired and get an ad-free version sent to my iPad. Speaking of ads, if you hate ads like me but want to still pay for the content you are viewing, check out Contributor by Google.* Instead of seeing an ad, you see a box saying, “Thanks for being a contributor”. Paying $5/month blocks hundreds of ads a month but you don’t feel you are cheating like when you use AdBlock.

Wait But Why

WBW is hands down the best place for amazing, long articles that will change your perspective for the better. I discovered Tim Urban’s website this summer right before he published his epic three part story on Elon Musk and his companies. He takes a concept – be it Tesla Motors, Graham’s number, or mundane Wednesdays – and breaks it down until you have a complete understanding of why it exists and what makes it important. Plus he adds in comical drawings that make things like artificial intelligence easy to digest.

 

-Adam


 

No, I am not being paid to write about any of these, I just truly enjoy their content and want to spread the love. Plus, the more people reading WBW and using Contributor means they will be around longer so I’m partly doing this for my own selfish reasons. But after you check them out you won’t be able to blame me so go check them out.

*You may need an invite to join, if so, leave a comment and I can send you one. For whatever reason I have 50 that need a home.

A Genuine Interview

I’ve never quite understood the interview. It’s fake.

We dress up in clothes we rarely wear and often don’t feel comfortable in. We put so much importance on a single block of time which results in tons of build up, stress and anxiety. Why are we creating this fake environment instead of showing our real selves?

When looking at a full time job, a third of our day, if not more, is going to be spent in the office working with these people who we are dressing up to impress. During all those hours we are portraying the true versions of ourselves since we are doing what we, hopefully, enjoy. While the interview feels gross and awkward.

Let me take a step back. There are examples where dressing up in our Sunday best makes sense, specifically when the interview outfit and work day outfit are one and the same.

However, I’m talking about jobs where in the interview we are dressing up and for the average work day we are putting a slight bit of thought into our outfit and that’s it. These unofficial uniforms then carry over to the overall culture.

The first time I met the CEO of National Galactic (formally Colupon) I wore a button down and jeans. My average outfit during the week? A button down or sweater with jeans (it gets cold in Connecticut). And during that first meeting at our local Starbucks, it was a relaxed conversation where we were getting to know each other and the opportunity at hand. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, I was simply being myself.

On the other hand when I worked at Apple in retail, during every part of the interview process I felt obligated to dress up. Wearing those clothes made me feel uncomfortable and made the experience more formal than it was. When I started working there, dressing up was optional. Wearing shorts or jeans with our Apple shirt was the norm. Almost every day I worked there it was a fun and engaging experience, which is the exact opposite of the interview process.

Again, one size doesn’t fit all but I think there is room for us to rethink what an interview is and how it plays into the overall culture that the company is cultivating.

Review: Apple Watch

This device needs no introduction. If you don’t know what I’m wearing on my wrist in that picture, then skip this post. I recommend this one.

Apple Watch Sports 42mm Black
Apple Watch Sports 42mm Black

After having my watch for almost 2 months, here is what I think of it.

TL;DR – I think this is a great first step for Apple’s watch but there are some core improvements that will bring it into its own.

 

“What are those core improvements, Adam?”

Well dearest reader, let me expound.

Processor

This aspect is two fold, the first being the processor residing inside of the 42mm device, which plainly put, is simply not powerful enough. Basic functions such as opening the Activity app, displaying the glances view, or even loading the settings app take twice the amount of time they should. The apps by nature are lightweight but still not enough so for the weak processor Apple put inside. Apple knows this and will show us a lovely graph over the coming years

The second factor being how painfully slow apps that primarily use my iPhone take to load. Even on the glances view, the screen will shut off before the glance view will finish loading. And while app logic will soon run on the device rather than the paired iPhone, with the processor being the way it is, I’m doubtful we will see much of an improvement.

Not all actions take more time than they should, some are rather snappy such as going between menus. But this device is meant for interactions that consist of seconds which is currently being used for only loading.

Taptic Engine

This is my most loved feature of the Watch. With my iPhone, 90% of the time it remains on silent as to not disturb those around me but this has resulted in many missed calls because I haven’t felt the vibration. With the haptic feedback being applied directly to the forehead to my wrist I know when a notification has come in without bothering anyone else in the process. With that said, there are times when I am on a walk, driving, or when I have my arm such that gravity isn’t pushing the watch against my wrist that the vibration isn’t enough to get my attention. This creates a similar phenomena to when my phone is in my pocket and I swear it vibrated but hasn’t. Although sensitivity is at the highest setting, a more powerful engine needs to be in the future versions.

Battery Life

I was pleasantly surprised with the length of the battery. Most times I am getting two full days out of it, given I have it off while I am sleeping. As someone who charges their phone every night and since I don’t plan on wearing it while I sleep, taking it off at night to charge isn’t a problem. Battery life in any device could be improved but for Apple Watch it’s not necessary to increase its lifespan.

Everything Else

At first I thought the phone feature was useless but there have been times where I walked away from my phone or it was hard to get to and answering a call on my watch was the easier and better option. The speaker needs to be improved if Apple sees it as a real feature (which they should).

The sounds are perfect. None of them are annoying, they are quite nice actually, and I know exactly what each means. Light sleepers won’t be woken up by the alarm sound which is why we should be able to choose which sounds play.

Predictive text is very helpful when all you need to respond to a text with is yes, no, ok, an option (e.g. “Should we get pizza or tacos?”), and similar short, simple replies. Replying to messages with my voice works but when it doesn’t or it takes to long for Siri to figure out what I said (due to my distance from my phone or the network connection) it ends up making the interaction frustrating and thus, I have stopping using it.

“It’s our most connected device ever” that statement is true but after the novelty factor, I have forgotten I can tap people’s wrist. And to be honest, I don’t know why I would. And drawing a picture on the tiny screen is hopeless.

I have played two free games, Four Letters and BoxPop. Both are great games for the Watch. They are quick, fun games that are perfect for filling a 3-5 minute gap of time. They run surprisingly well but a faster processor could definitely improve the experience.

Why did I get one?

The answer also satisfied why I still use it. While it is a good notification manager, with great exception to the fact that if an email notification is “dismissed” that also means that I have “read” the email. Since Apple Watch can’t handle most dynamic content that is in today’s newsletters, I haven’t read a thing except for code.

Why I got it and still use it is for the activity tracking. Consumer Reports showed that it is the most accurate out of the leading watches. The process of tracking an activity and monitoring it during the exercise is straightforward and comprehensive. And the awards are a great surprise after an exhausting workout. Even though my watch isn’t the best at tracking when I have stood up or not, once you tell it you are working out it is a very diligent tracker.

Should you get one?

Wait for the second or third version to come out and then submit your order. The model I got plus AppleCare (I’ve had some close calls since I forget it is there when reaching my hand into a tight space) came to $230*, $460 for non-Apple employees. Currently is the Watch worth $460? No. $230? Yes, but only because it is integrated into the Apple ecosystem and is a good activity tracker.

Once the Watch finds its niche and its true purpose (I’m looking at you third party developers) and gets the improvements noted above, then this will be the number one watch on the market, hands down.

 

*I worked for Apple Retail starting in October 2014 and left shortly after being able to order my watch for a discount. The timing was a lucky coincidence.

How Not to Do It: Landing Pages

A great landing page is made up of two things. If you simply hit those two points you are golden and if you execute on those two points well, it pays dividends.

What is it?

Unfortunately this is where a majority of startups fail. As a general consumer or as a potential b2b client, you can’t mess this up. I have a limited attention span and you lucky to get me on your site in the first place.

When I go to your site, I want to know what you are doing as quickly as possible. You can craft great copy but if it’s more than two sentences, it doesn’t matter how great that copy is. Excuse the shameful promotion but go to colupon.com. Straight away you see our app and our tag line, “work hard, save easy”. And just under the fold is “DOWNLOAD THE FREE APP AND START SAVING TODAY.” In under 5 seconds you know exactly what is going on, we are an app that saves you money.

Where startups go wrong is when they have crafted this arbitrary paragraph full of marketing bs that sounds great but tells me nothing. The general consumer is intelligent but we are simple people, just tell me what’s going on. And don’t forget that yes you are doing b2b but the potential client going on your website is still a person, a general consumer. Your copy can sound professional while still being easy to understand and to the point.

Once those two or so lines are nailed down, have more information below that goes into detail about what you do. This helps when you are a disruptor and need to differentiate yourself from the competition. We save people money through an app but how? Well we tell you under Who We Are.

How does it benefit me?

This extra set of text leads into the driving points. How does this benefit me? Why should I take the time to download your app or pay for your service? And again, don’t waste your time with marketing bs, get to the point. I love bullet points (or bullet-less points like under the Who We Are section).

If I am going to pay for your service, and especially if there isn’t a free trial or free tier, you better have screenshots or examples of what I am getting myself into. If I take the plunge and pay for a service that I find out is not what I thought it was, you are going to have one unhappy customer on your hands.

My favorite section of colupon.com is We Start With The Savings. These are some of the deals that are currently on the app and that you can take advantage of as soon as you download the app and create an account. There is no easier way to explain than to show.

It is good to have details about exactly what your startup does but leave those for the products and services pages for the hardcore customers that need to know every detail. A majority of the traffic to your site will want the two main points and will decide quickly based on those points. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

-Adam

Why I’m Working at Colupon

Colupon is an online platform, mobile and desktop, that helps students to save money when shopping at local businesses. To learn more, check out our website, colupon.com.

“Why do you work at Colupon?”

This question has two sides to it. Why I joined and why I’m still working.

Why I joined

I was in the middle of running a successful (for an 18 year old, amateur entrepreneur) website design and SMM company but that was a means to an end. Colupon, the beginning of the end, was the logical choice for me. Daytaro was an experiment and a way to satisfy my boredom. Colupon was my ticket to getting where I wanted to be in life.

That is fairly straightforward, I didn’t have anything to lose so I took the position.

Why I’m still working

“Well why I am still working?” middle-of-the-night Adam asks myself. “Is it the right choice?” “Maybe there is something better out there?”

Shut up middle-of-the-night Adam, go to sleep.

This is why I’m still here:

  • The potential is there. When I first joined, our only plan was to get coupons from businesses and give students access to them. Over the past 6 months the core idea has been refined and reworked to what it is now. More features, more value, and a better pricing model. Not to mention ColuponApproved (you’ll just have to wait to find out what that is). What we are doing is a “why hasn’t this been done already” scenario and leaving an opportunity like that would garner an appointment with a psychologist.
  • Fun only begins to describe a typical day. And when I say typical, I mean every single day that we have been together working, I have laughed. We work long hours and there is a lot still left to be done but when you are having fun, none of that matters.
  • This is what I want to do. Starting/being a part of a software company has been my goal for the past couple years now and now I am actually doing it. I can’t picture myself working any other job or doing anything else. It feels right waking up every morning and walking into my office.
  • I wish I had a way to quantify the amount I have learned. I am surprised by the amount of information has been jammed into my head in the past 6 months. I thought I knew what it took to build a website, but building a website like this has taken my understanding to a whole new level. And managing the team that builds the website is something that I haven’t done before, but again, it feels right. While I am not the guy making all of it happen, I am in a majority of his meetings and we work together on a constant basis. “Shadowing” or being around a CEO is something that very few have the opportunity to do and the amount you can learn from that alone is enough to make it worth it.
  • Students need help. Sure, the DOW is hitting all-time highs and the housing market appears to be getting better but look around. Too many people are still unemployed, college students have unprecedented amounts of student loans that they won’t be able to pay off because finding a job fresh out of college is near impossible. If we can help save the typical student 10%, 20%, or more a month I will be thrilled.  And that is what is driving us to make Colupon a reality. (See this great article for more on the state of our economy)

TL;DR – Working here feels right and a couple of years down the road, Colupon is going to be a huge success while helping millions of students.

I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months are like.

-Adam