Hacking The Ultimatum Game

Ever heard about the ultimatum game? It’s probably one of the most important concepts related to entrepreneurship, and one that had profound impact on my business.

Here’s how it works:


How To Validate And Bootstrap New Product Ideas

One of the most valuable skills to have as an entrepreneur is the ability to strip an idea down to its core essence so that you can validate it quickly and cheaply before creating the full product. This is the story of my most recent launch (GUIToolkits.com), how I tested the market demand for the […]


How to Turn Failures Into A Lifetime of Success

Every one fails at some point or another. However, very few can survive so many failures, and fewer would take one hit after another, and turn them into a lifetime of accomplishments. The following is the true story of a man who did exactly so…


How To Die With No Regrets

  It all happened too fast… The raft entered the rapid, heading directly toward the rock wall, and bouncing up and down through the waves. I heard the guide yelling something about leaning in and holding on. The side of the raft hit the rocks and was thrust by the strong current further up the […]


Should you quit your job to work on your startup idea?

Over the years, I’ve heard mixed opinions about this topic. Some people say keep your job and work on your idea on the side, because you need the income and you never know if your idea is good enough. Others say having a job will prevent you from giving your full attention to your idea, […]


Escape Velocity

  I recently learned an interesting fact: Most of the fuel in a space shuttle is burnt in the first few minutes of launch, in order to bring the shuttle to enough speed and altitude to escape Earth’s gravity without falling back. That speed is called escape velocity. Once the shuttle breaks free, much less […]


What We’re Really Afraid Of

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a friend who recently launched an online business, and it surprised me how our fears are never what they seem to be It went something like this:


You’ve Got To Be A Little Selfish

Do you check your email first thing in the morning? Do you answer your phone when it rings? Do you reply every message and tweet you receive? If so, you might be sacrificing a lot more than just your time and focus; When you do these things, you are playing your role in the selfless […]


How I Outsourced Product Development to Customers

The past couple of months have been very interesting. Since launching Keynotopia, I’ve witnessed many serendipitous events that made me believe that the simple act of starting up something without knowing how to finish it ends up attracting those who can help finish it. This is one of those events: One of the most frequent […]


Corporate Designer vs. Startup Designer

In 2007, after four years of serving time in a large organization, I decided to work with startups. Here are some memorable conversations I’ve had in both environments.


Hackers vs. Coders

Photo Credit: Pranav Mistry Being a good hacker is an invaluable skill. But is being a coder the same as being a hacker? Is it possible that coders are at a creative disadvantage to hackers who don’t know how to code? Here’s a story that helped me see the difference. I was recently invited to […]


Hacking The Status Game

Last year, I played a game that changed my life. I was taking an improv class, and the instructor gave us a game to play before getting on stage, so that we can turn off our over-rationalizing minds and get into the flow. The game was called Status, and it went like this: A stack […]


Having The Best Tools Doesn’t Really Matter

Several people asked why I chose WordPress as a platform to launch Keynotopia. Before answering, I’d like to share a short story: When I was at Microsoft, I worked with great developers. But one of them stood out: He was extremely productive, his code was clean, well commented, and almost bug-free. One day, I got […]



Why A Launched Product Beats A Perfect Idea

Which one would you rather have: A finished perfect product that you spend a year or two creating and optimizing before launch? or a half-baked product that you launch in a couple of weeks, and that people start to use right away? I was lucky enough to experience both cases first-hand. Here are two stories […]


What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Startups 4 Years Ago

  The year is 2007, and I had just left Microsoft to dive into the startup world. Like many first time entrepreneurs, I was very excited about the adventure. And like many first time entrepreneurs, I didn’t know where to start. So I attended events, meetups, conferences, and mingled with the local startup community in […]


How To Choose Your Startup Idea

  Ideas can be paralyzing, and it seems like the more ideas we get, the less likely we are to pick one and act on it. When the paradox of choice kicks in, some of us opt for postponing the choice, others choose one idea and feel guilty about the ones they left behind, and […]


Is My Business Idea Good Enough?

So you have a startup idea that you’re very excited about. You believe it’s going to be the next big thing. You passionately share it with few friends asking for their opinions. And you spend your lunch hour daydreaming about TechCrunch’s post on launch day, and on acquisition day. Then comes this little voice saying […]


So You Wanna Be an Entrepreneur?

“Do you think I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”, asked Laura. The question took me by surprise: She’s been considering leaving her corporate job for the past couple of months, and do her own startup. I was afraid my answer might alter her decision one way or another. “I don’t know,” I […]



Extreme Customer Development – A true story

  Dina’s foot hit the curb, and her body jolted forward.  The cane fell off her hand, and she felt her palms and knees hitting the hot sidewalk. The fall reminded her of her days at elementary school, but her body was now much older to take it gracefully. It was painful. And despite the […]


How to make the right decision every time (3 minute story)

I hung up the phone and sat shaking on the floor. What have I just done? Blood rushed to my head, and I realized that I’d been holding my breath probably since the phone rang. A let a long exhale out, and glanced once more at the contract in my hand…


How I launched a profitable product in 3 hours

Today, Keynotopia is two months old. What started as a single blog post in June of 2010 became a product that got over 1,500 customers in the first 60 days. Before jumping into the story and lessons learned, here are some quick stats: Total time spent creating the minimally viable product: less than 3 hours […]


Lean Interactive Requirements – The End of Specification Documents

One of my most dreaded tasks as a program manager has been writing product specifications. It seemed unintuitive that, after brainstorming and discovering the details of the user interface and interaction, the best way to describe it all would be screenshots and endless pages of pre-conditions, action, post-condition, edge cases, etc… I wasn’t surprised that […]



Cheap and fast interactive web prototypes with Apple Keynote

Apple Keynote has become my favorite rapid prototyping tool for putting together iPad and web interfaces, and testing them with real users. It quickly replaced all my previous prototyping tools, and I am constantly discovering new tricks and hacks to prototype more productively. First, let me thank you for all the feedback that you provided […]



Finding the G-Spot: startup lessons from Lady Gaga

I was intrigued by Lady Gaga’s latest music video, Alejandro, and I started thinking about what makes her so spellbinding to millions, and whether startups can learn to create their own spellbinding success. Lady Gaga’s best feature is her voice. Her strong and unique voice will likely capture your attention if you hear to it […]



Docverse acquired: An Inspiring Success Story

Working with Docverse has been one of the highlights of my career. When I reconnected with Shan and Alex after they moved from Seattle to San Francisco, and heard their pitch, I got totally hooked by their vision for the product; what excited me wasn’t just how great their technology was, but how focused they […]


The Elephant in the Dark: A Story

Once upon a time, there existed a village that was completely inhabited by blind people.  One day, an elephant came to the village. Since none of them had ever seen an elephant before, they all gathered around the animal to figure out how it looked like.


Customer Development Hacked: How to find and interview 10,000 customers in one day

If you’re creating a new product, a question might be lingering in your mind: How do you find the right customers to interview? Here is one of the traditional methods for conducting customer interviews: 1. Make an educated guess about your target audience’s demographics 2. Look in your contact list and social network for people […]



Which moment does your product own?

During a pitch practice at the Founder Institute, I heard something that really captured my attention and  inspired me to think about product stories in a new way. After describing a scenario, the founder in the hot seat said: “… I want to own that moment.” I started thinking about which successful products own which […]


The User Journey – How to Design for Ecstasy

Yesterday, I read a post on Derek Sivers’ blog about how drama can be mapped on a two-dimensional charts, and I was inspired to think about the user’s journey through a product in a similar fashion. One of the most useful design practices to create good landing pages is to visualize each website visit as […]


The eagle who lived as a chicken

One day a young eagle fell off the nest and was picked up by a farmer. The farmer was kind enough to bring the small bird to his barnyard so that it doesn’t perish. The young eagle found a good home with the chicken and grew up believing he is a chicken. He waited for […]


Don’t violate design laws – even if you’re Apple

I love taking voice notes on the go. But when I started using the voice recording app that comes with the iPhone, I was frustrated by its horrible usability: the application dedicates the largest screen real-estate to a giant microphone screenshot that does nothing, and places the functional buttons of the app in the two […]



The Day Death Spared Me

Based on a true story Traffic on the freeway slowed down to a halt that Friday evening. Everyone was coming from the same direction and going to the same destination. After a long sunny week, clouds were starting to gather, looking down at the streets in sarcasm, and preparing the town for another rainy weekend. […]


THE MON(K)EY TRAP

There is a popular method used in the East to capture monkeys: A hunter places a banana in a bowl with a narrow opening at the top, and fixes the bowl somewhere in the jungle. A monkey passes by and notices the smell of banana coming from the bowl. He inserts his small arm through […]


Listening

Today I asked myself: Whom am I listening to? Every day, I am presented with dozens, if not hundreds, of voices and opinions. The voices of news anchors, journalists and bloggers. The voices of book authors and narrators. The voices of actors and show hosts. The voices of my teachers. The voices of my family […]


D3 – Designing with Clients

Few months ago, we started experimenting with a new Design workflow that we called D3. D3 stands for Deep Dive Design. Prior to D3, we used a communication-intensive process where we involve clients and users in the input and output of each design iteration: vision, usability metrics, stories, tasks, requirements, brainstorming, sketches, wireframes, and visual […]


Home

“Welcome back home”, the immigration officer smiled, before handing me back my green card. I dragged my luggage and started walking across San Francisco International airport. “Home?”, I wondered. “Is this now home?” When we travel to different places, we typically have a place to return to. That’s typically home. But those who move away […]


Useful advice from Lao Tzu

Act without doing; Think without effort. Think of the small as large, and the few as many. Confront the difficult, while it’s still easy. Accomplish the great task, by a series of small acts.



Design thinking for startups

During the 2008 web 2.0 expo in San Francisco, I held a round table discussion about design thinking for start-ups. The premise of the discussion was to 1) learn the difference between design (the artifact) and design thinking (the mindset), and 2) to discuss how to integrate best practices for design thinking into the product […]


Client testimonials’ word cloud

During the last startup weekend, a friend pointed me out to a fun tool for creating  typographic word clouds called wordle. Today, I decided to play more with it and I gave it the testimonials that clients left in my LinkedIn profile. After some tweaking to the fonts and colors, here is what the output […]


Delve Networks ranked among the top 50 Most Usable RIAs

Last year I worked with Delve Networks to design their user experience. This week, O’Reilly’s InsideRIA blog mentioned Delve as one of the most usable Rich Internet Applications. Here is what Theresa Neil thought of the design: Delve designers realized content creators weren’t interested in navigating through a bunch of screens to accomplish tasks. They […]


The human side of business

When I first came to the States, I carried with me a lot of stereotypical expectations nourished by the American media that I was exposed to before I arrived. One of them was about medicine. And of course, no show gave a better stereotype about it than E.R. My first month in America proved the […]


The secret life of ideas

About a year ago, I had an experience that taught me one of my life’s biggest lessons. I learned it the hard way. Probably the most painful way. A couple of friends and myself got together in Borders and sat down to chat about some ideas we had, and pick one to start working on. […]


The catch

Two young MBA couple graduated and landed great jobs in California. They realized that they had some time before their job starting date, so they flew to California a couple of weeks earlier and enjoyed spending their days on the beach. One day, the Devil walked by and saw them, so he approached them and […]


The circus elephant

When I was a kid, my school used to host a circus every summer. In the morning, I would sneak behind the circus tent and watch the animals being fed and trained. That was one of my greatest joys. I remember looking at the elephants, and noticing something that fascinated me and kept me wondering […]


Finding a way around constraints

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: Dear Vincent, I […]


Adobe Flash Catalyst – First impressions

Yesterday, Adobe made a pleasant surprise and quietly announced that the Beta version of Flash Catalyst is finally out. I’ve been teased by many presentations over the past few months and I was excited I could finally get my hands on this product and try it out. In case you don’t know what Catalyst is, it’s an […]


Standing out – Advice from Seth Godin

In his book, Purple cow, Seth Godin gives very valuable advice on how to stand out from the crowd.  Here are some key points from the book: Being remarkable doesn’t mean likable. Remarkable means “worth making a remark about”. Whether it’s positive or negative, that’s up to you.  Or as Oscan Wilde put it: “the […]


Purpose

This past Saturday, I had three different discussions with three different groups of friends about purpose. I almost believed there is a self actualization bug going around town. But I’d feel selfish if I didn’t share the main highlights of these conversations, hoping to hear more about what others think about this topic. The conversations […]


How to spot a good designer in an interview

Few weeks ago, one of my friends asked me to help him hire a full time designer for his startup. As it takes a theif to spot a thief, it takes a designer to spot a designer. There are of course questions that I ask about the person’s background, experience, style and ethics. There are […]


Every man dies, but not every man lives.

When I was at Microsoft, I attended a presentation where Dean Kamen talked about his inventions: an iBot, a power generator, a water purifier, etc…I was really moved and inspired by one man’s ability to change the world by creating many artifacts that benefit humanity in this magnitude. A friend of mine who was sitting […]


2008 – A year in review

Last year has been good. It’s been actually good beyond our wildest expectations. We met great people, worked with amazing startups, and enjoyed designing a wide range of exciting products and services. Here are some of the highlights of 2008: In January, blist was shown to the public for the first time in Demo 2008.  […]


Malcolm Gladwell outliers – A very personal review

I’ve recently finished reading “Ouliers” by Malcolm Gladwell (or rather, finished reading the first half, and skimmed through the second one). At the end of the book, I was both inspired and frustrated. I was inspired by the author’s demystification of success as a singular hero’s effort, and frustrated because there was a missing chapter […]


Don’t be a wimp

In Non-Designer Design Handbook, Robin Williams gives a very valuable advice on design (and life). I quote: Don’t be a wimp Don’t be afraid to create your Design (or your Life) with plenty of blank space-it’s rest for the eyes (and the Soul), Don’t be afraid to be asymmetrical, to uncenter your format – it […]


Is your product a “hot chick”?

Back when I was a research assistant at the Human Computer Interaction Lab in Maryland, a very interesting study was carried by Kent Norman on the acts of rage against computers. Kent surveyed people and asked them to “vent” their feelings and frustrations with their computers and software. The results showed that people screamed, swore, […]


How it all began (A personal story)

A year ago, I walked into my manager’s office and told him that I was quitting. I was probably more surprised at my decision than he was. I just changed teams, and I couldn’t have been happier with the new team: every person was cooperative, positive, and respectful. My decision wasn’t based on any rationalization, […]