Discover the Web: Design

Last year, I co-founded a start-up aptly named  The idea behind it is to help people serendipitously discover new sites, articles, and interests online.  Although, its implementation still needs a pivot, I’ve found it to be extremely useful in seeing what my friends, family, and network ACTUALLY do online.  From shopping to reading, etc…

Which brings me to today’s topic.  Where to GO on the web?  Depends on the category of course, so I figured I’d break it down that way.  

Here are a few of my favorite design-oriented destinations…not so much Internet design, but more fashion/home design:

Pinterest ( - UGC Design

Allows me to “pin” photos and links of various designs, fashion, etc that I enjoy across the web.  In web geek speak, it’s like Instragram except for design.

ApartmentTherapy ( - Home Design

This is a cool site with great home design tips from DIY tips to personal home tours.  If you’re wondering how to spruce up your digs, look no further.

Rue Magazine ( - Design Inspiration

Say hello to the “new” kid on the block.  Although, Rue is only on its fourth issue, the founders of this design inspiration machine have built quite the following even before starting the magazine.  With a style all its own, look to Rue for all things chic.

The Foundary by Hayneedle ( - Home Decor Deals

The Foundary is the lesser known (and better, in my opinion) version of One Kings Lane.  The deals aren’t ostentatious and actually seem to be made up of stuff one would actually buy.  Think of that…

Lastly, but not least, is a mention for Everlane (  

Still in beta, but this is one to keep an eye on.  Looks very promising as most things made by Jesse Farmer and company are…


Unwrapping the iPad2

it has arrived…

so far, so good…

they weren’t jokin’…its razor thin!

a little personalized touch…

 the backside ain’t so bad either…

booting up…

and with the “smart” cover…

Entrepreneur Series (Part 3): What’s in a Name?

So, in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I talked about ideation and field research.  Next up: The Name Game.  

So, when is a name, more than a name?  Well, why don’t you ask how it worked out for say…CareerBuilder (big company) vs. Doostang (still alive, but easily the winner of the worst startup name evvvver).  Or how about Mint (acquired for $170M) versus…Wasabe (deadpool).  

Look, no one is saying that a name makes or breaks you…but it certainly helps set the tone for the future.  I have founded two startups…one with a pretty terrible name for all intensive purposes (to clarify, this was somewhat intentional, but we’ll get to that later),, and the other with what I feel like is a great name, StackSocial.

I’ve touched briefly on why a name is important…but to dive a bit deeper, in my opinion, it comes down to a couple things:

  1. Common Sense Translation.  When someone hears the name of your company, they will immediately begin to determine what it means and attach that to your brand.  It’s one thing to name your company a made up word like Zozi (which is a great name), but this method goes completely awry when you name your company something that puts it in the wrong context (like Doostang…sounds like, uh, well…”doo. stain.” Not good).  
  2. Spell-ability. I don’t think spell-ability is a word, but I’m using it anyway.  Yes, we have google so thankfully even if people can’t spell the name of your company…they can google it, but its another barrier.  For example with - first off…no one knows how to spell it. And when you type it into the search bar, Google automatically changes it to: “Showing Search results for instead of”.  Not good.

While there are certainly others such as:  How long is the name?  How easy is it to pronounce?  How memorable is it?…i think it ultimately comes down to the 2 factors above.  Jason Calacanis has some interesting input here on the topic.

How to get the Great Name.

Next is the process for getting the great name.  There really is no secret, it’s usually a painful process.  On both startups I’ve founded, we spent weeks agonizing over the name.  Simply because everything you can think of is probably taken.  This being said, you then have three choices:

1. Buy a kickass name.  Will cost probably at least $1k or more.  This option is fine for anyone that’s funded.  I would probably go this route if money wasn’t an issue.

2. Use a misspelling, a non dotcom domain, or use a prefix.  I would avoid this route.  Sure, it worked for Flickr, Tumblr,, (now Mint) and (now DropBox)…but for the average startup, this route is rife with headaches.  Dropping vowels is cliche, many mainstreamers still don’t get non dotcom domains, and banking on getting big enough to buy the real name violates my two rules above.

3. Mash two meaningful words together.  Facebook, EverNote, OpenTable, StackSocial…etc.  Even if you don’t know what StackSocial is…you at least begin to understand its probably community based and perhaps it has something to do with…say a building things? or maybe software stacks?…or something to do with programmers?…well, you get the picture.  Its close enough and it doesn’t lead the user astray.

Once you have the name, then check the availability using a service like this one.  And obviously vet it by bouncing it off a few friends, googling it, and as Jason suggesting doing a Google images search to see what kind of images are evoked from the name.

Good luck.

Hacking Your Twitter Name

I think we’ve all been there:  crap usernames.  There’s nothing worse that going to sign up for a major a new ground-shifting site like facebook or twitter only to find that your username has already been taken.  ”Yeah, tweet me @joshpayne89234”…riiiight.

Same thing happened to me when I initially signed up for Twitter back in December 2007. So, after not doing much about it for years…I finally did some digging and stumbled across a great blog post by Kyle Reed explaining exactly how to go about requesting a username switch.

Its actually pretty simple.  

  1. First, you go here and make an Impersonation Claim. (that’s right)
  2. In your claim, explain why the username that you want should be yours (you really only have a shot if the person that has the name is a squatter and hasn’t tweeted for at least 6 mos or so.  also it helps is the username is very close to your real name.)
  3. Wait for a response from team twitter with their decision

I was stoked when I heard back literally within hours with a positive response on my claim.  Some people said it takes up to a couple days…but twitter is not a fan of squatters, so give it shot if you have any sort of case.

Obviously there are no guarantees, but its worked for several others.  The one downside is the SEO hit when people google your name + twitter as it will still point to the old account for awhile.  So, once you switch names on your twitter settings page…make sure to go back and claim the old account and let people know that you have switches usernames.

Good Luck!

Entrepreneur Series: Step 2 - Field Research

In my earlier post I covered ideation, so now that you have your rockstar idea the next step is to do some analysis.

In the antiquated days of the 90’s and 00’s entrepreneurs were encouraged to write extensive business plans in detail explaining their concept, marketing strategy, biz model, etc. However, in recent years…the pendulum has swung completely the other way: no biz plan whatsoever…just whip up some code, develop an MVP and get your product out there as soon as possible!

My 2 cents: find a happy medium in doing “field research”. Conducting field research is essentially testing your hypothesis in a very hands-on manner. Rather than tons of unrealistic analysis and conjecturing in a biz plan, you actually go out and interview your potential partners and customers. This can save you considerable amounts of time if you were to build an MVP, but then quickly realize after building and getting a few customers that the model is broken.

Field research sounds easy enough: just go talk to people, right? Right…but trying to do so with no credibility or experience in that particular arena and people are weary of taking your calls. A good way to start building credibility is to start writing about the field you are looking into online. Blog, if you have one, answer questions on Quora about the topic…in other words, do your homework!

Next, develop an online survey or list of questions for the key stakeholders in your potential startup: your customers and your partners.  Generally, you want to ask open ended questions that get some discussion brewing:

  • Which of the following best categorizes you: x, y, z?  (helps determine how to bucket the customer)
  • When was the last time you bought or considered buying x? (helps determine how active they are)
  • What are the best/worst aspects of the existing process? 
  • If you could only change one thing about the current marketplace, what would it be?
  • If this new offering existed, how would that change your decision-making process?

Hopefully this will yield the insights necessary to build a model that will answer other questions around user acquisition, revenue generation, etc.  Most importantly, don’t ignore the advice you get. Take the feedback, let it resonate, and adjust accordingly.