5 Questions with Rishi Shah CEO of Flying Cart

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rishi, but you can call me Gerald for short. I was sent to planet Earth to start FlyingCart.com. It revolutionized life on my home planet because its A) awesome B) easy to use.

All kidding aside, I never had any friends, so I am obsessed with social networking on the internet. I am hoping to have 5,000 friends one day on facebook. Flying Cart incorporates networking to ecommerce.

Tell us a bit about your background.
I pretty much rock it 24/7 on the internet. Seriously, I spend so much time on the internet, sometimes I can’t remember what I do in real life, and what my avatar, Risk does. Its all a blur man.

Everything I learn comes from Jason Fried, my business partners Margo and Brian, JAW, and the Brainreactions community.

Tell us about Flying Cart and how you came about it.
All I want is more stores online that are awesome.  I hate it when cool super niche stores have a hard time competing with the super lame walmart/dropshippers of the eccommerce world. LET’S START THE REVOLUTION!

We want to allow small business owners to connect to each others store to sell online.  Think mini malls for the internet.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I’m a hardcore vegetarian. My roommate thinks its weird, but I think its weird that he locks himself in his room to watch Ryan Seacrest live.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs?
This is what my uncle told me when Flying Cart wasn’t doing so hot.  “You have to give any new business at least 1000 days.  Work hard and keep focused until then.”
Feel free to connect with Rishi in anyway.

Website: www.FlyingCart.com
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/risk
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8613159
Linkedin: http://linkedin.com/rishivshah

Popularity: 5% [?]

Outsourcing Success Episode 1

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Outsourcing is probably one of the most challenging things you can do. Horror stories of outsourced projects to India failing miserably abound. I’ve had a few experiences myself with outsourcing work to India. For the most part, I don’t have a high opinion of outsourcing in general but that may be because of the scale at which I do them and the limited exposure I have.

Recently, though, I’ve had a very pleasant experience with outsourcing. I had a small personal project which required the development of a website. I created the backend and designed the website. I needed to go from the web design to HTML code.

For those nontechnical readers, just because you have a web design doesn’t mean you have a website. A website design needs to be converted into code that web browsers understand. This in itself is a skill that many web developers and designers make a good living off. Often times, it’s an arduous task and if you are thorough, it can be very time consuming because you have to test your code to make sure that it works in all the different web browsers. This is because each web browser has its own quirks and a particular web design might not look the same in all browsers.

Needless to say, I hate writing HTML code. So I looked for an online company that would perform this task for me in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable price. I found this company PSD2HTML on google. I’ve seen affiliate link ads of this company before. In those links, they advertise design to HTML in 8 hours. I found the price to be very reasonable. Sunday night, I submitted by PhotoShop design to them and paid. To my disappointment, they came back to me with an estimate of 22 hours. Man, I was pissed. This was almost triple the advertised time. Of course I didn’t read the small print saying that if they have a heavy backlog then, it would take more time. I wasn’t going to take this so I emailed them back saying that they should either give me a heavy discount for not holding to their advertised word or that they readjust their estimates. I additionally told them I was a blogger which had over 700 readers last month (which I did), and that I was gonna review them and was extremely disappointed. By this time, 7 hours had already passed as I submitted the design right before I went to bed. Once I woke up, I had a note that they had questions about the designs which I answered back and forth.

By 10:40AM the HTML markup was done. About 10 hours had elapsed from when I submitted the order to when I got the markup. However if you take away the time it took to answer all the questions, their turnaround time was more like 2 and a half hours. The markup returned was very clean and of high quality as promised. I did notice that there was a slight visual blemish which I pointed out and they promptly fixed. I am happy to say that the HTML markup is indeed cross browser, and for the small sum of $160, their services saved me a lot of time and grief. I was able to use that saved time to do more important things (like sleep).

Their tracking system is also worth mentioning. Once you submit an order, you get sent an email which contains a link to a page that tracks your dialogue between their team and you. It’s formatted in a discussion thread form where the latest comment is at the bottom. There is no need to login which I find to be immensely user friendly. You just click on the link and you see the conversation. You can reply to the thread and they can reply to you. At the end you get a link to your markup which you can download. The system really is pretty easy to use.

In summary, I would recommend this service to anyone who needed a website developed in a timely manner. This could be used in conjunction with other website services like template sites (which sell website designs but with horribly code which often needs to be redone).

Popularity: 1% [?]

5 Questions With Rock Star iPhone Developer: Shane Vitarana

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Shane Vitarana and I’m currently an independent iPhone developer.

Tell us a little bit of background info about how you got into Facebook application development.
The Facebook platform initially lured me in because of the ability to reach millions of people with little effort. The barrier for many web app users is the login process. On my fitness site, MyFitBuddy.com, 90% of the users drop off at the signup page. Facebook alleviates this problem because all the apps just use your Facebook login credentials. This causes people to experiment with new apps with ease, and invite their friends to use them. Therefore, I thought it was a great platform to develop some fun apps for.

I have a tendency to work with platforms that have some kind of constraints. Constraints open the door to be really creative. Limited screen real-estate forces you to really think about design and layout in a new way. I think this is a factor that got me into both Facebook and iPhone development.

If you’re a Ruby on Rails developer, and curious about developing Facebook apps, check out my book: http://peepcode.com/products/rails-on-facebook.

What made you decide to go into iPhone application development?
iTunes is the #1 music retailer in the world right now. People are used to buying music and movies from it with relative ease. I think applying that to applications was a genius idea. It makes applications immediately available to people with a few clicks/touches, similar to how Facebook made applications easily available. You can buy an app for your iPhone with a minimum of 3 touches (App Store -> App -> Buy), without any login credentials. There has never been a simpler process for buying applications ever.

I saw it as a great opportunity as an independent developer to make iPhone apps. I love working on small projects that I can finish in 1-2 weeks. I have a low attention span and the App Store provides the perfect place for me to work on fun little projects and make a living out of it. The iPhone has been a huge success story for Apple, and is not going away anytime soon.

Can you talk about some of your iPhone applications and what we can expect from you in the future?
I currently have two applications in the App Store. Places uses the iPhone’s location capabilities to find nearby restaurants, coffee shops, nightlife, and shops. It is the only application in the store right now that lets you pick a cuisine and get reviews and ratings for nearby restaurants. There are a few similar apps, such as Yelp, Where To?, and Vicinity. Unfortunately many people are unable to distinguish the feature set between these apps. I made Places free for a limited time so people can try it and see how it is different from the other location-based apps.

Drum Kit has had much more success than Places. It has been one of the Top 25 paid applications for almost a month now. At one point it was #12 in the U.S Store, and in the Top 10 in some other countries. It is basically just a toy drum set on your phone. You can tap the heads to make sounds and it provides visual feedback. Ars Technica wrote a great review of Drum Kit: http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2008/08/07/review-drumkit-for-iphone-a-toy-with-potential. Now that it has reached such a level of success, I have big plans on improving it. However it is tough to add features while keeping it super simple. I’m a stickler for simplicity so I have to go about it very carefully.


A screenshot of Shane’s best selling iPhone App: Drum Kit

I have a few more applications in the pipeline. On of them will be called Anthem Music Videos. It’s kind of like Pandora but for videos. You pick an artist, and it finds videos for that artist and similar artists. It launches the YouTube application where you can view the videos. I also want to make a game at some point.

My applications are at: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewArtist?id=284976112 (iTunes link)

And finally, What advice would you give entrepreneurs going into business for themselves and/or looking to create software applications for the current web.
First and foremost, you must love what you are doing. You have to be the type of person who will build what you are building if it provided no monetary reward. I understand this may be to difficult if you have a family to support and other obligations, but it has been done. You have to be excited about your idea. You have to wake up super anxious to work your product, and want to see it come to fruition. If you are only focused on making money, you have already failed before you’ve begun.

You also need to be willing to take risks. I know countless people who have great ideas but are hesistant to leave their day jobs. You can still keep your day job and build a startup, if you put the time and effort into it. However, if you really believe in your product, quit your day job and do it full-time. Sometimes going into debt and being constrained financially will force you to get the product out there quickly. I quit doing client work for five months to learn the iPhone SDK, and it has paid off nicely so far..

Another piece of general advice is to not get caught in the planning phase forever. Just start building it. No elaborate design diagrams or documents are necessary. Forget the waterfall method, even forget the Agile development process. Process is for rank-n-file engineers, not passionate entrepreneurs/developers. Throw away the project management tools, story cards, the bug trackers. You don’t need that fluff for small projects. Process just bogs you down hampers creativity. I just have a simple todo list for each project. You really don’t need anything else besides a sketch pad and a todo list for a 1 – 3 person project.

Also, ideas don’t really have much value anymore. It’s all about the implementation and execution. Don’t worry about protecting your idea, screw NDAs. Just be open about it, find the right people, and build it. If you’re a developer and can code with relative ease, you don’t really need much in terms of resources. The barrier to entry is super low for both web application development, and even iPhone development. Furthermore, surround yourself with people who have a history of creating, and actually have something to produce, like open source projects. Then you’ll have a source of inspiration, and a pool of talent to tap into if you need additional help.

Your approach, however, should really depend on what kind of application you are building. Building consumer applications and business applications require very different models. A consumer “social” application generally has to be free, because people are used to social sites being free. To be able to afford hosting and development costs, you may need to seek Angel or VC funding. Business applications or consumer applications that you charge for don’t always need VC money to start out with. If your application is a success, you can use the revenue from version 1.0 to fund the rest of the development and hosting. Try as hard as possible to not get funding so you don’t have to answer to anyone, and can follow through with your vision. If you really need to, get funding from family/friends first.

For a consumer app, don’t simply think ad revenue is going to save you. Ads work on Google because of the search aspect. People are actively looking for something, and therefore are more likely to click on a targeted ad. If your application doesn’t have a search component, you need to build a substantial user-base to make any money off of ads. Building a huge user-base is hard work.

Finally, don’t discount the value of entertainment apps. People spend an ungodly amount of time watching TV and will gladly spend money and time on an application that provides entertainment value. The biggest apps on Facebook are entertainment oriented apps, and the most successful apps on the iPhone are games.

I hope that gets you readers pumped about about starting your own stuff. I know I am. For more Shane Vitarana, you can follow is tweets: http://twitter.com/shanev or subscribe to his blog http://shanesbrain.net/

Popularity: 6% [?]

Personal MBA Challenge

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I’ve recently come across this wonderful gem of a website called Personal MBA – Do It Yourself Business Education: Mastering Business Without B-School. The theory of this website is that you don’t need a B-School ejamacation to learn the lessons and principles of strategery and leadershippery. The site is dedicated to teaching you the invaluable lessons of B-School. One of the major cornerstones of the website is the Recommended Reading List – a list of 77 books that are meant to teach you what they teach you in B-School. As you know, I’m Asian (read cheap) so the idea of spending my hard earned money on B-School rubs me the wrong way in so many ways – one of which is that it takes time away from my personal endeavors. Perhaps I’m wrong on this – I don’t doubt it since I’m not the one commanding a high 6 figure salary. Short of selling my kidney and taking out another mortgage though, I just don’t see how I would do MBA school, so this website appeals to me a lot.

So what’s covered in the reading list? Topics range from Productivity, Psychology, Communication, Production, Marketing, Sales & Negotiation, Management & Leadership, Strategy & Innovation, Finance & Analysis, and more. So my personal challenge is to try to read all of these books save the supplemental. The cool thing is I’ve kind of gotten a head start already. I’ve already read:

  • Made To Stick – by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  • Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
  • Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell & Jackie Huba

I have no real deadline as I want to read other books as well as I hear about them, but I’ll definitely be interspersing some of these in between.

Popularity: 1% [?]

7/12/2008 Weekly Favorite Links

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I’m a little behind on my blogging. I was wrapping up my old job and started a new job this week. This week’s favorite links features sites that I found useful to me and therefore hopefully to my readers as well:

Popularity: 1% [?]

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