A fiery rocket to the stars.

Google BikesGoogle was just a search engine until they opened an office in next door Venice Beach and Santa Monica became “Silicon Beach”. Google became a place I’d like to work. Some sort of a Valhalla where great developer warriors went. The biggest thrill was when I got to park my metallic green bike with the pastel Google bikes. I wanted to stay out side and just look at my bike. I still locked it before walking around the front past the Claus Oldenburg two-story binoculars and pressing the intercom to speak with the door guard not more than 10 feet away. A xeroxed and hand colored letter sized page that looked like it could have been advertising a garage sale was the only indication that this might be the entrance to Google. After a brief negotiation I was buzzed in and directed to find my pre-printed name tag, then bade to ware it at all times. The badge clips where color matched to the Google logo. We were escorted past the guard through a tunnel with hundreds of the Google Doodles on the side. Here was the celebration of wonder I had come to witness. I had entered the Google. Cafeteria to our left. Because we were walking with Lee Shartzer who traveled in a wheel chair, we where taken the long way round to accommodating ada ramps. I hope Lee did it on purpose, because he seemed to get a lot of speed and skid up on two wheels as he rounded the tight corner at the bottom. He was smiling. We walked past my bike locked up with her new pastel friends, before turning right and to the conference room.

IMG_2384_2The speakers this month, Peter Olpe and Edward Arenberg had won an Android TV hackathon at USC, “a long time ago in February” Matt Kaufman, the group’s leader told the crowd of about 35 Android developers. Their challenge had been to develop an app for Android TV. “We sat thought a two hour orientation lecture and then had six hours to get an idea and code it up till it worked. “Eight hours for a 5 minuet presentation”, Edward said. The attentive Android developers did their best to ignore the presenter’s black tee with the white Apple logo. Peter, the coder of the pair explained the virtues of the Lean-Back Library, so named because you lean back in your couch as you thumb through screens. The Library, developed by the good folks at Google to enable rapid development of ideas and formats is available on line. (go ahead, Google it). The pair came up with the idea of a QVC style video app. Because Peter was doing all the coding, his partner and Apple tee wharer Ed had time to go around and shoot video contnet (presumably on his iPhone). As if brought in from central casting, a girl scout was out back selling cookies. She delivered a brilliant sales pitch. Too bad there was no audio at the final present. The point of the hackathon was to show off the Android TV and how little content had been developed. So get to work!

Matt Kaufman, the organizer of the monthly event showed us the web site www.udacity.com and demonstrted the free 10 week courses on Android Dev. You can pay if you are such a sissy that you need someone to talk you through it (my editorializing). The web site also featured “Nanodegrees” and courses that can be taken for credit toward a Google issued certificate. Matt finished by explaining the complex point system he developed that would qualify attendees for prizes at the end of the year. 1 point for attending. 10 points for giving a presentation. I have one point.

Google Development Group LA is awesome unless you’ve got an iPhone. Nearly everyone at the meet-up had an android enabled devise. In all, it would have been better if I’d won the tablet.

Mobile Camp LA 2015 review

App monetization panel

App monetization panel, @cjbeauchamp from @crittercism presenting.

Our mothers kissed us good-by and tucked a sack lunch into our backpacks and sent us off to Mobile Camp LA  at WeWork Hollywood, January 31, 2015. We were greeted at the door by a gauntlet of sponsors including T-Mobile , Appery.io and Zukini Mobile. In the demonstration of virtual reality I was asked to sit in a chair as I placed the virtual reality goggles on my head. The contraption featured a Samsung Gallaxy positioned about 2 inches from my eyes. The contraption was switched on and I was virtually seated in the center of an empty movie theater. I turned my head to look behind and saw more empty seats. At least I wouldn’t be bothered by talkers. The Titles began to roll on the screen as the demonstrator switched my environment to a lunar surface with rocks. I wondered if he had a room with cartoon monsters. Monsters make for a great audience. The ones that don’t live in swamps anyway.

Plied with stickers and key chains we made our way into camp wework. There was a full day of speakers lined up for this “open source” event with two speaker tracks.

rock and roll the robot

Ron rocks and rolls the robot photo by Jen Blatz

Ron Evans told us The robot “evolution” is here and his company has created  a number of frameworks to control them. Chief among them is Commander.io, a mobile app to control robots and connected devices. You can think of it like a “Universal remote control for the Internet of Things”. Developed using PhoneGap and Ionic Framework, it is open source software. It can communicate with any device that supports the Common Protocol for Programming Physical I/O. Cylon.js, Gobot.io and Artoo.io; all frameworks that implement an compatible API’s. His live robotic demo included a round pill shaped thing that spun around (out of view of the audience). What made it interesting was the small amount of Commander.io code he wrote to accomplish this daring feat. @deadprogram

Justin Woo is a Developer Evangelist at PayPal in Seattle. He talked about what not to do when coding a credit card form and what merchants should not do when trying to make a customer buy more stuff. He demonstrated with his e-commerce site that sold the opportunity to walk or pet his dog. Petting $75. 20 minuet walk $120. He assured us it was a really nice dog. His humor got us to laugh about a potentially dry subject. He went through customer time wasters on credit card purchase forms and showed us how to improve them. Many of the tips involved jQuery form verifiers. My favorite was the simple way of using the correct Virtual keyboard by coding <input type=”email”>. This presents the keyboard that makes it easy to enter your email. Simple. Review all of the keyboard types at www.mobileinputtypes.com. I used the code on www.chocolatefortunes.com on the check out page and they work great! Buy a football sized chocolate dipped fortune cookie on your cell phone to see it in action. My sister loved her’s at her birthday party. Although the custom message was probably too risque for grandma. @jzwoo

I missed the phonegap session in favor of Karim Varela presentation: “14 Tips for Starting a Mobile App Business (and not sucking)” His tech credits include Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel where he was a Software Architect, you could say he did the back end at Tinder at lest for Android. He told the story of one of his early web businesses, a liquor and mixed drink delivery service in Seattle. The law shook their finger at him for selling to inebriated people late at night. Fortunately they didn’t throw the book at him.

Here are as many of the 14 as I could capture in my notes:

  1. Don’t suck.
  2. Make your idea matter.
  3. Have a Business Plan; He recommended, when interviewing, you ask the start-up “what is your path to profits”. Include this in your decision to work there.
  4. Don’t out-source your core competency. If you are getting your tech done overseas, you are not a tech company and everything is taking longer than it should.
  5. Build a team. a) don’t do it alone. b) hire passion c) hire doers.
  6. Make design matter.
  7. All-in and passion: founders need to be totally committed.
  8. Virality
  9. (oops missed this one)
  10. Roll out slowly.
  11. Customer Service still matters.
  12. Measure Everything. • cutover service (survey monkey, google forms • landing page (when developing an app, have a page people can visit on the web) • have (Google) Analytics installed and study them.

@KarimVarela

I am looking forward to next year. I am told the lake will have alligators.

Dogvaca.com at GA

In a room usually crowded with coders and feverish start-up crews, dogvaca.com took over General Assemble’s main hall with wagging tails and conversation. The Puppy Adoption Pen got lots of play and maybe a few people became pet sitters at this sure to be repeated event.

Next time I’ll get dogs’ names and maybe a few people. (Comment or tweet me with the dog’s and your name)

click to enlarge.

New Co. LA

IMG_0767 Organizer John Battelle, thinks of this two-day event to be part art opening, part music festival — like a field trip in a city. Battelle had been organizing “industry events” for lots of years, until one day he just got tired of the rent-a-banquet-room-listen-to-speakers treadmill. He enjoyed the moments between stages at music festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza and wanted to find a way to get that dynamic operating in the start-up movement.  In 2014 New Co. events have popped up in Silicon Valley, Amsterdam, New York, the United Kingdom, Detroit, Boulder Colorado and San Francisco. Los Angeles is his eighth.

IMG_0774The first night of the event, was held at the offices of CBRE‘s Downtown Los Angeles Commercial Real Estate offices. Jason Nazar, Founder Docstoc and Start-Ups Uncensored sponsored my VIP tickets to this brilliant event and “Fireside Chat” between John Battelle and Ze Frank, President of Buzz Feed Motion Pictures.

IMG_0778_2Ze broke down the meaning of morality and why dancing babies go viral. He instructed us, “to better understand post structuralism, put down your C++ manual and pick up Marcel Duchamp, Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes”. Frank also talked about how we tend to “characterize events” (like watching a movie or traveling in Italy) “is different from your actual experience” and “social media is a place to talk about that experience”. Continue reading

Instagram for Business

Presenter Shannon Drake, a.k.a. @shantastical, talked about her experience using instagram to promote client work. After showing the basics of lighting and filters she moved on to the questions central to social media: “How is my company’s presence on Instagram improving my brand?” What information am I presenting about the company?” “Do I have a call to action?” “What is my tone?” “Am I approachable vs aspirational?”

Drake talked about building audience through the use of commonly used hash tags. She recommended developing your own industry specific list of tags and not to use more than 3 tags in the description. The sky is the limit on comments however…

Shannon is an enthusiastic presenter who knows social media. She presented at General Assembly in Santa Monica.

Data Science Meetup

In an attempt to broaden my horizons, I went to a meet up on Data Science. I figured, I could hang, I took statistics one summer at UCLA, I paid attention in math class. The two speakers at Cross Campus, a shared office for teck start-ups in Santa Monica, presented cogent words on this burgeoning science.

Szilard Pafka presents at Cross Campus

Szilard Pafka presents at Cross Campus

Szilard Pafka shared ten pit falls on data science. He admitted there were many more, but he only had 30 minuets to give his talk. He presented a graph that outlines the “science”. “This is my only slide” he admitted. It out lined the circular elements that make up the field: Understand, collect, explore, clean, model, validate, communicate and understand. It is a circle after all. “The point” Pafka said “is to extract business value from data; Collect more money or create actionable information; Do ‘B’ instead of ‘A'”. Pafka warned about coming up with ideas, procedures or goals that were so complex, they could never be implemented.

The second speaker of the evening was Eduardo Arino de la Rubia: “Bootstrapping a Data Science Practice at your Company and in your Career”. Eduardo was a personable speaker who engaged the audience first with photos of his dogs and then of the $6 million dollar printing presses he performs data science on for INGRAM. He outlined his career, and how, with the help of paid and free on line resources, he taught himself data science. “Ask simple questions to smart people” is his credo. The science was more about choosing which algorithm to use than writing them. “Stand on the shoulders of giants” he told his audience. He also counseled “don’t order a big computer system on your first day. You can do the whole job on your lap top.”

“Art” could be substituted for science, but with all those numbers and statistics and upper management wondering why you are employed, “science” is better for the ego, until your work saves the company $100 mill; again.

10 Tips on How to Get a Gig at a Startup

Uncubed Job Fair

The Uncubed Job Fair at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica aka “Silicone Beach”

The Uncubed Conference came to the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.

Part of their mission is to present a traveling job fair to find talent to staff the the dynamic companies that are looking for new ways to think, organize and build apps. Tarek Pertew, Cofounder of Wakefield Media, started the day off by presenting these tips for landing a gig at a start-up:

1. Go with the familiar.

  • Do what you know

2. Skip the blind date.

  • Know who they are and what they do before you talk to them.

3. Don’t forget to tip.

  • Provide your own thoughts
  • be positive

4. Link outside the box.

  • web presence //find your medium and be a part of it.
    • blog
    • be big in at least one social media
      • facebook
      • corra
      • twitter
      • instagram

5. Talk to strangers // Its a small world get to know it.

  • The Honest Company Jessica Alba

6. Take one a day.

  • Specific and attainable goals
  • Pick a person a day

7. Stack the deck

  • Resume – easy to read
  • Look different – presenter plopped a thumb print on his b-card

8. DIY

  • Meetups on Project managment
  • learn in the morning (find the best time of day for you to learm)

9. Bookmark these pages

10. Ditch the tie and perfect your pingpong serve

  • interviewing is different

Bonus: Be patient and follow up.

  • Thank you note
  • how you doing?
  • Great to hear you passed 10k down loads

What goes around comes around. If your community has silicon in its nick name, you will probably hear from them soon.