I dashed off a post yesterday entitled Disregard ideas, acquire assets which seems to have gotten an unexpected amount of positive reaction so I figure I would use this opportunity to formally talk about the new startup I'm working on.

In early January, I left my previous job to work on an idea that's been a burning passion of mine for quite sometime. The premise behind it is pretty simple:

  1. Our social relationships are some of the most important assets that we own
  2. We are horrendously inefficient at leveraging those assets

To point number 1, in the past week, I've helped someone navigate which neighbourhoods in Seattle to rent a house, helped a friend spec out a new machine for work, offered to introduce a bright young kid to a potential mentor, referred 3 separate marketing/PR to a promising startup, cooked brunch with 4 close friends, offered to cook dinner for a friend in town from the East Coast and spent 2 hours talking over the social experience design problems with the lead designer of one of the top 10 websites in the world. In return, this week has been of commensurate value with all of the offers of help that have been extended to me by my friends. My friends are like a secret superpower, they make me 10X more awesome.

To point number 2, while these points of contacts were enormously valuable, they were also largely arbitrary. They only really occurred during the points in time when two of us were physically co-located and were able to have genuine, productive conversation. What about the friends who, by whatever circumstance, I only get to see once every 3 months or less? When we do get together, our conversations are so valuable and productive I wish I could continue them once we part ways but it's always so frustratingly difficult to do so that those conversations eventually whimper and die. The web has the potential to turn our 10X superpower into a 100X superpower but the tool to do so is not there yet.This is not a new or original idea. I first had it almost two years ago when I found myself spending close to $3000 to travel to a conference just to be able to have those genuine, productive conversations. But it was only until recently that I finally had the assets to truly feel confident executing on this vision.

  • Asset #1: I've been thinking about the field of Social Experience Design for close to five years now. I'm pretty confident in saying there are, at most, a dozen people who have the depth of thinking at this point in being able to marry all the diverse disciplines of knowledge required to think through this issue (Social Interaction Design: Where are the most interesting uncharted waters in social software design? is a reasonably comprehensive list of everything I've been thinking about)
  • Asset #2: My go-to-market strategy is, I think, incredibly strong and relies on deploying assets I've carefully been cultivating for a while, chief among them is Product Design Guild. There aren't many companies who are able to meet with their customers for 6 solid hours once every two weeks like clockwork and I'm enormously excited about this as a potential asset.
  • Asset #3: The Product Design Guild has been an amazing testbed for many of my hypotheses and large parts of the product have been dramatically warped due to my experiences there. This is the ultimate lean startup, we built a following before we built a product.
  • Asset #4: I spent the formative years thinking about this in Seattle, outside of the Silicon Valley bubble and I think my unconventional thinking on this issue gives this a secret edge. While other people were going gaga over photo sharing and coupons, I was hanging out with academics and salesmen, watching how they navigate their social relationships.
  • Asset #5: My extraordinarily amazing CS educators who gave me an abiding love and appreciation of technology. I asked my friend Sutha Kamal to give me his notoriously tough engineering pre-screen test for Massive Health which rejects 20 candidates for every one it admits and I was, rather depressingly, able to pass it without too much undue effort. My first programming language was Haskell, I've built computer vision systems before, I can still rattle off the performance characteristics of close to two dozen algorithms and yell at you if you aren't using tries when you need to do fast string retrieval. I don't have the operational experience to be and engineer anymore but one thing that's clear is that, while this will be first and foremost a product company, deep in it's bones, it will also always be a technology company.

Which brings me to the one asset I don't have right now, an amazing technical co-founder. Let me be clear, this is not just a big vision, it's an enormous one. While the people I've been meeting in the past few weeks have been great, it's not yet been love at first sight because my standards for this are ridiculously high.

The person I am looking for is:

  • Obsessed over product. If you can't name me four products that frustrated you with their inadequate design that day, then you're not the right person, even if we're meeting at 9AM.
  • Passionate about doing something meaningful. If the choice is between working on this or being the CTO of Zynga and this is a hard choice, you're not the right person.
  • Excited by grand visions. We might try and fail and only achieve something great instead of something world changing but at least we fucking tried.
  • Gets shit DONE. nuff said.
  • Has the operational experience to solve the hard technical problems necessary to achieve truly great product vision. There are some startups that can be made purely with pluggable, off-the-shelf components. This is not one of them. While the MVP is currently deceptively simple, there's some deep technological challenges that need to be solved that are fundamental to this space.

If this sounds like you, email me at [email protected] and tell me a little bit about yourself. If this doesn't sound like you but it sounds like someone you know, introduce me and I'm willing to offer 2% equity as a referral bonus if that person becomes my co-founder. Human assets are important and they deserve to be rewarded as such.

edit: If you're neither of these people but you're intrigued and would like to know more, you can add in your email here: https://spreadsheets.google.com/…

Let's fucking do this thing!

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  • Dominic

    awesome, Hang!! 加油!

  • Morgan M.

    Congrats on embarking on something new! Can’t wait to hear more, probably at the Summit…

    - Morgan

  • Ben

    heard you might be looking for a technical cofounder. check out http://www.techcofounder.com. useful resource

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