Closing Up

Finishing work up at KnowledgeTree has been exciting but bittersweet at the same time. I have gotten pretty close to everyone at the office, and am just going to miss the period of success I believe they are about to hit. Thankfully, with the office so close, I am sure that I will be able to pop in and catch up with the guys sometime.

Looking back at the journey, I am fortunate to have gotten the chance to sit down and study almost all aspects of the business. Recently, I was invited to sit in on a sales demonstration. The company was hesitant at first, reluctantly agreeing to sit and watch. However, little did they know how perfect of a solution the product was. They were blown away that such a product existed. The momentum for the company is really building!

Its great to see the journey that sales has been making through this whole product development cycle. When I first got there, only the basic capabilities had been built. A couple months before that, the salespeople were having to sell an product that was not fully operational. Now that the product is reaching the point where additional capabilities are being added, its only going to be easier from here.

I look forward to being done, but will write one more blog post detailing the lessons I have learned next week. Anyways, I would like to take this chance to wish all the fantastic people I have met on this program good luck, and I am sure I will see you all in the near future.

Peace and love,

Will

Reverb, This is My Goodbye

This post is part of a series written by Abhishek “Bobo” Bose-Kolanu on his Summer 2013 Duke SIP experience. Read more on the author’s personal blog, SomethingWorthReading.

There are two emotions. A sensation of loss and a sense of opening up.

Loss

I can feel pieces of me being left behind. My entrails spool out behind me as I move forward, but with each step they fray, the tie that attaches them to me weakens, and they shudder, convulsing into their own tightly packaged, hermetic containers of yesterday.

My now is becoming memory. This hurts.

Each moment of pain is also a point of pleasure. Each part that hurts reminds me that it mattered, that it will continue to matter. That what transpired was both significant and enriching.

Opening Up

The sensation of stepping through a door and feeling the enormity of the space I am entering. A desire to turn my face sunwards, to grow forward with the future. A powerful, pleasant sense of becoming.

There is a sense of lift. There is a gentle and reassuring strength pushing me upwards. This is support. This is the value of my experiences at Reverb.

How did this happen?

The above is a valuable emotional reaction to elicit, both for myself as worker and for the company. Someone who feels the way I do will work harder and better than someone who does not, and they will get more out of their time. How did Reverb produce such an acute response in me?

People who care

From bottom to top, people here care. This is not just a company, and it’s not just a job. This is a group of intelligent, hard-working creators pooling their talents to build something greater than themselves.

Along with the dramatic there is still the mundane. The tasks I didn’t feel like doing, the work I had to prioritize but wasn’t as excited about, the miscommunication that comes along with being a speaking, thinking, feeling creature.

The difference here is that these frustrations are minor. They are not the bigger picture. At Reverb the big picture is inside each and every one of us – and we all know it.

A commitment to truth

Reverb has a unique culture. It is committed to “finding the right way, not my way” as one of my co-workers put it. We all have ideas we believe in, but everyone here is devoted to finding the right ideas. It’s not about pushing my thoughts above someone else’s. It’s about allowing the two to interact to produce the best product for our customers.

Ego is checked at the door

I remember my in-person interview with Jed Carlson, co-founder and COO. It was exhilarating. I was able to speak and think with him at full speed – no brakes. This might sound like a story about intellect, but it’s not. It’s a story about culture.

Jed was willing to engage what I had to say based on its merits. I’m 24, still in school, and interviewing for a summer internship. He’s older than me, has successfully founded companies before, and is a co-founder and COO of the company I am interviewing for.

Despite these differences, he did not look down on me. He did not create obstacles to hearing what I had to say. This doesn’t mean he agreed with everything I said (which is really just another way of not listening). He took the time to listen to the words and evaluate the ideas, instead of looking at the speaker and pre-judging the person.

I have had this same experience with every single person – both new and old employees – that I have worked with at Reverb. This is an astounding accomplishment.

What next?

For now I return to school. In the future I hope to run an organization like Reverb. I want to lead a place where people feel welcome, where they enjoy coming in each day, where they leave feeling satisfied, where they can work with each other to build something great.

The world needs these places, and I won’t be happy anywhere else.

Abhishek “Bobo” Bose-Kolanu is a researcher at Duke University, where he is pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science and a PhD in the Philosophy of Computer Science. He interned in Product at ReverbNation in the Summer of 2013.

My New Housing Experience

When I initially booked my housing for this summer, I thought for some reason that the program ended on July 29th. As a result, I set up my lease to end on this past Monday. When I realized that our last event wasn’t until August 7th, I scrambled online to find a place to stay for the remaining 10 nights. No one on Craigslist was willing to give me a 10-day lease, so I had the choice of living in a cheap one-star motel for $50/night or a shared space on AirBnB for $18/night. I chose the latter option.

This decision upset my parents quite a bit, as they were worried for my safety. They had every right to be, because all $18/night bought me was a twin-sized air mattress in the living room of an apartment with 6 other strangers. I transitioned from having my own room and bathroom in a nice neighborhood to sharing one bathroom and sleeping just a few feet away from random people. Several reviews on AirBnB expressed shock and that the first impression of the apartment was that it was “a human trafficking center in the middle of Redwood City.” However, aside from the outliers, the space had mostly positive ratings, and I paid my $180 to move in this past Monday.

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m surprisingly content with how these past two days have turned out. Yes, work takes a little longer to get to, and I wake up with an hour to spare in the mornings in order to get a spot in the bathroom line. There’s a cat that seems to exclusively sleep on my air mattress, and one of the guys who lives there may or may not snore for a profession.

Nevertheless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my two days here more than my entire experience living on my own. I had previously stayed in East Palo Alto, which was 30 minutes by bus from the closest CalTrain station. This meant that it took a lot of motivation for me to leave the house to meet people or try new things, especially before or after work on the weekdays. I didn’t meet as many people as I wished I did. Also, one of the downsides of having a private room was that there was no one to make me feel bad about sleeping in an extra hour or not having anything fun or interesting to share.

My entire lifestyle has flipped, and I love it. I have no reason (yet) to believe that any of the individuals who I share the apartment with are serial killers. Everyone comes from a different background, and we all share the passion of being an entrepreneur or engineer. I’ve learned how Russians like their steak cooked (take a guess), how Ruby Skye has deteriorated in the past few years, how Netscape came to be, and also how the Google Mountain View campus might be the best place in the world.

The culture in the apartment is also fantastic. I’ve pitched multiple ideas to my roommates and received beneficial feedback from a Google employee, a financial consultant, and a college professor. Everyone leaves early in the morning, meaning that I no longer really have the option of staying in bed an extra hour. Even though I can’t cook to save my life, some of the guys can, and I’ve tried some delicious food that I’ve never heard of before. There’s a person that used to be a DJ, and he listens to some of my recent material as I continue learning and gives some useful suggestions.

I’m only here for 7 more nights, but I look forward not only to work each day at my company, but also to coming home and entering a welcoming and lively environment. I can’t see myself living alone during a temporary stay ever again. Especially in a place like the Silicon Valley, there are just too many brilliant minds for me to do otherwise.

Summer is slowly winding down..life at ruzuku

Hello friends and family!

I woke up this morning and seeing “August 1st” on my calendar nearly threw up. This summer has gone by incredibly fast; between work, class and my final SIP presentation, I feel like I haven’t had time to breathe in the past few weeks. I can’t say I mind it though, I like being busy to keep my mind off other things, and chose to take the Markets and Management class in early July and love it. Just Tuesday, we went to my Professor, George Grody’s house to swim and eat catered food. It doesn’t get better than swimming outside with friends from the football team and basketball stars like Rasheed Sulaimon and Jabari Parker (who are all in my class!).

For SIP, I have been spending considerable time perfecting my presentation – video and powerpoint. On Monday, Will and I collaborated for three hours working on our Powtoons, which is a cartoon video that Ashwath talked about in one of our earlier posts. I spent seven hours yesterday finishing mine up, and it can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LqWwRKg75A&feature=player_embedded

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, but would love to hear your feedback too! I may be making one for ruzuku too in the coming week, which you can expect to be pretty awesome!

For ruzuku, I just finished looking for themes in our customer support inquiries, in hopes of making a few courses to help answer customer support questions. I’ve found that many people want other payment methods, such as ClickBank, and could use more analytics about what their students/clients are doing. It’ll be interesting to see what courses, if any, we will make after this analysis.

Gotta go, see you next week!

Last post

Next week I will be in Wyoming and without stable internet access, so this marks my last SIP post. The last week I’ve mostly been wrapping up SIP stuff; working on the video and powerpoint so Judy doesn’t have to. She’s already giving the end-of-summer presentation, so I figured the more I could take off her plate the better. We finished our video yesterday.

On top of finishing up presentation stuff for SIP, I’ve been putting together business materials for Refrackt. Most notably I put together a serviceable 1 pager to send off to companies we are trying to talk to. I got some guidance on this from Duke Alum and SIP recommended contact, Jason Ethier. He has been a very helpful contact for us.

That aside, I’ve been finishing up reading some of the SIP books. I’m just about done with The Lean Startup, and I’ve been going through Business Model Generation and The Startup Owner’s Manual piece by piece.

We’re also trying to do some “getting out of the building” and getting out and talking to oil and gas companies about their water treatment needs. Notably we will be talking with someone from Schlumberger, one of the largest fracking companies in the country, tomorrow.

The Start of the End

The past week has seen me do a number of small projects. I have been just tying up and cleaning project data, helped the company analyse prospective website designers and collect some potential lead generation information. This has seen me work on a number of work platforms, with work in klipfolio, atalassian, Microsoft office and Ruby. The recent exposure to Ruby is great for my computer science so have really been enjoying that.

Additionally, the sales department has been very busy recently, with the product being discovered by a number of big companies. Also, the company has recently seen a big following amongst marketing teams, but sales departments are more hesitant. One company was almost lost because one guy refused to change from the old ways, unable to support his argument with any logic. Luckily the rest of the team managed to override him.

This week has also seen me take a break from working out for rugby, which has given me a lot more time everyday to focus on dealing with the SIP work and my own mini-projects. Going from 1 hour of free time a night to 3 hours or so is nice. It has really made me appreciate how difficult it is to maintain extra curriculars with work commitment.
Anyways, as I promised, here are two great articles that everyone should read:
Great article that highlights the rules Jonathan Rosenberg (SVP of Google Products) lays out for students at Claremont McKenna College: http://firstround.com/article/42-Rules-to-Lead-by-from-the-Man-Who-Defined-Googles-Product-Strategy#
Paul Graham of Y-Combinator talks about scaling a start-up: http://paulgraham.com/ds.html