Exhausted

The previous post mentioned another submission to Y Combinator; this time for Winter session 2016.

Even though I started early enough that Tuesday should have been a breeze – only should require enough effort to apply finishing touches – it turned out to be anything but. All of Monday was consumed making a Zejoop demo video, required because there’s been none previously and that probably reduced chances of success. Then Tuesday morning in its entirety was creation of the founder intro video. Both required many takes, but all told, they turned out great!

Then at maybe 2 PM Tuesday afternoon, a mere 6 hours before the deadline, I attempted to open my draft application on the YC ‘apply’ site. But then, BAM, it was empty – I had to redo all the previously invested work. Frustrating.

Anyway – finished it – was happy with the result. This feels like my strongest attempt so far. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come – Zejoop presents well, and I’m happy about that. The YC outcome is out of my hands now. May the hard work pay its reward.

Zejoop Casual Event Planning is for You!

cropped-cropped-2014-11-17-zejoop-logo-on-hoodie.jpg

Just when you thought there was no answer to your frustrations planning casual events with your friends, along comes Zejoop!

You already know it – planning by email or text alone doesn’t work! Use Zejoop, and start having fun with your friends. Avoid the mis-communication and headaches using built-in features that track event status and automatically confirm or cancel your meeting! It’s easy, and for most users, it’s FREE! Check it out!

Visit Zejoop Now, and Start Planning!

(please share on social media using the buttons below, thanks!)

Zejoop Rocked Grand Prix San Jose – a WHOLE trip RECAP!

Visit Zejoop Now, and Start Planning!

Zejoop traveled, first to Grand Prix San Jose, and then to Las Vegas, and what a trip it was! It’s taken a while to post this recap, because that’s how fun and productive it was, and also an indicator of how busy I’ve been, both during, and since.

The trip itself was broken into three legs:

  1. the Grand Prix itself, from Friday to late Sunday (for the purpose of market research, promoting Zejoop, and meeting/interacting with Magic players insofar as they are a potential target audience for the Zejoop service)

    Talkin' about solving problems related to organizing gaming sessions for Magic players!

    Zejoop had lots of opportunity to meet with Magic players, and make new friends!

  2. …a stay with a longtime friend, Tom, at his house in San Jose proper (a chance to visit with a friend and his family, and to possibly network in the Silicon Valley tech startup community, because, after all, that’s what Zejoop is, a tech startup! Yay!)
  3.  …and finally a side-trip to Las Vegas, primarily to see Jack White live at the Brooklyn Bowl
this image courtesy of his website, and I'm using it here because they made it available, having discouraged from using phones and/or cameras to "as filters to interfere with our enjoyment of the live music" - that's what they said!

Zejoop.com had a blast at Jack White, LIVE at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas!

As for a post-game analysis of the trip, here are some COMMENTS and TAKEAWAYS, broken down by ‘leg’ as described above:

  • …regarding the event itself, I will call it a rousing success! My thanks to Channel Fireball and Cascade Games LLC for being outstanding hosts to me. All my objectives, and more, were met. I got to talk to a lot of players and hear them describe the problems they have, if any, in organizing gaming sessions among their friends. I made meaningful contact with many people who shared their thoughts and impressions. Was able to give out a lot of business cards to enable future conversation if that’s in the cards (ha ha – do you see what I did there?). Most importantly I met a number of people who gave directly relevant feedback as to their potential use of Zejoop, and offered their email addresses for future contact along those lines. Throughout the two days, I got a number of great suggestions for additional features; some of these were really great – almost good enough, to justify the expense of the trip on the merit of these ideas. PS… that’s what trips like this are for; to glean just such type of feedback! SUCCESS! Finally, among the many people I met, a small subset were actually fully engaged participants in the startup scene in Silicon Valley who were willing to stay in touch. Their sentiment in seems was in the form of a like-mindedness, able to relate to what Zejoop was up to. Making contacts like this, again, was almost worth the price of admission alone. The life of a startup entrepreneur, and certainly as a single-founder entity, can be solitary at times and anything that can serve to expand the network, especially with coverage into Silicon Valley can be particularly valuable.
  • My visit with Tom, what can I saw. Being true and current friends with someone you met in the third is a precious life gift, and we had a great time. Got to watch the second half of the Super Bowl with him. I will say he has a odd way with the DVR, and the prevailing concept that “for this show alone, that the commercials are intended to be PART and PARCEL of the show” seemed moot to him – we FF’d through them, but that is OK. Also as a consequence. at some point we heard in the neighborhood, the inevitable sounds of a victory celebration on front porches. The outcome was already known to most, yet somehow, our revelation as to the winner was to be probably at least 20 minutes in the future. I had another objective before leaving town – I wanted to find one or more meetups to go to in or around Silicon Valley. I will give myself a score of ‘D minus’ on that one; even though I did find one great happy-hour/mixer to attend, I misread the invitation, and I got there a full 24 hours early. Too bad – that was my one shot, and I was to leave Tuesday afternoon – the hobnobbing would have to be postponed until my next trip northwards. Oh well; my bad.
  • …FINALLY – Jack White in Las Vegas! Wow! What a show – he is quite a musician, and an outstanding showman to boot. The Brooklyn Bowl was a great venue, and I got a great meal there beforehand – blackened catfish, mashed potatoes and and a vegetable plate. Below the food, is a selfie of me with some nice people I met, who were cool and shared their table with me.IMG_20150204_203616_880IMG_20150204_203659_349

 

Well, there you have it; a slightly long-winded summary of a very eventful trip. A trip that included business, old friends, new friends, great food, and great music – thanks for the great music Jack!

Much work lies ahead for Zejoop; there are no guarantees – the business of staring a startup is rarely better than a long-shot at best – but, at the heart of the matter, it sure beats moving data around in an Excel Spreadsheet, or copy-pasting within Word as a thin excuse for what passes as “work” in modern defense contracting. There’s never been a better time for me to be at the helm of my own ship – a ship I’ve built, and one I’m ready to sail as far as she’ll take me!

Because I appreciate your time as an audience, reading this, I will end with a paraphrase of Jack White’s own show-ending salutation (inserting my own name, as you’ll see, where appropriate):

“…thank you, you’ve been incredible, and I’ve been Michael LaRue”

New to Zejoop, in December?

                   

Welcome one, and welcome all, especially if you are new to Zejoop. Zejoop is a tech startup currently under development, self-funded and bootstrapped by the undersigned, the self-appointed chief cook, bottle-wash, and oh, also founder, systems engineer and software developer.

Here the Zejoop logo on a hoodie! Cool, huh?

This is what the Zejoop logo looks like on a hoodie – fancy stuff, right?

If this is your first visit, perhaps you’ve met me and I’ve given you my Zejoop business card, a little explanation is in order.

Due to influences beyond my control, December has been a month of transition.

First, the Zejoop domain, and its corresponding blog lost their server space where they had been hosted by a friend (much appreciated Joshua, thanks!). The growth of his business required him to change his security approach and hence, a blog such as Zejoop’s, maintained by me, an independent agent, external to his business, was no longer acceptable. As of today though, the domain has been transferred and the blog has been successfully re-instantiated on BlueHost.com, an excellent provider, and also current host to my personal blog, www.whitewingcrow.com.

Second, and again, due a shift in the business model for Zejoop’s current PaaS provider, Cloudbees.com, I’ve had to find a new home for the application itself. Oh joy. Quite frankly I’ve had my hands full coming up to speed just executing the nominal software development and impromptu immersion into the admin/IT/infrastructure aspect of building a startup was not in the original plan. So, anyway, that happened and here I am. Current status is that I have ported a version of Zejoop, the application to new home of Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk. Amazon is an excelent provider, but for an IT/admin newbie like myself it IaaS paradigm requires more touch labor than my former PaaS provider.  Bonus points for Amazon though, because under my circumstances I qualify for one year of “free tier” service…. got that? Free! That’s rare, but I’ll take it! Yay Amazon! Celebration notwithstanding, if you’d like to visit the current Zejoop implementation, please visit http://project724.mjlarue720.cloudbees.net/

There is a little work to go before I can claim that the new Zejoop is fully up and running after this transition, but the goal is to be able to make that claim before year’s end. That way Zejoop can leap into its exciting future starting fresh on January 1st, 2015! I’ll keep you posted. Note that, until then, the functional Zejoop will be offline until further notice.

In the mean time, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! If you have comments or questions, or if you just want offer encouragement and your own good wishes, please contact me at –> michael at zejoop dot com

Be well, and prepare to watch Zejoop have an exciting year of growth and opportunities starting in January!

Michael Jay LaRue

 

Zejoop – Bravely Building Brand?

In several ways this Zejoop blog is a journal – not just a place to broadcast key events and milestones in the birthing and nutruring of a fledgling startup – it is also a place to capture what is going on day-to-day, and to focus on what areas need attention or work in Zejoop’s so-called “life.”

Zejoop is Becoming a Brand

Zejoop is on its way to “Becoming a Brand!”

I’ll spare you the details of its conception, but Zejoop clearly was born the day the winner of the Santa Clarita Valley Startup Weekend was announced. As a capable aerospace engineer, but novice software developer, I’d liken the development process, since the win to a “potty training” phase. All the while though, I have been aware, and now so more than ever, that Zejoop needs develop an identify in terms of its brand.

So, developing that brand is high of the list of priorities – it is fortunate then that I found a good introductory article to help guide me on that quest. Shawn Parr has written this excellent post – 5 Smart Steps to Building your Brand the Right Way.

His lead-off challenge is this: “WOULD YOU BE PROUD TO WEAR YOUR COMPANY’S IDENTITY ON A T-SHIRT?” Clearly that is an important question. While I won’t recount the entire post (he lays out 5 key steps) here are several of the most relevant to Zejoop and where it stands as a brand today:

“clearly define what business you are in, build a rock-solid platform, (and), tell a compelling story”

As for Zejoop, the business broadly stated is “casual event planning – fun with friends.” This I think is a good start in terms of a mantra/tagline, but I think, ultimately Zejoop is up to something bigger, and I have to clarify and capture that thought rather quickly in the near-term.

Zejoop BETA is a good starting point, but it needs more trial-by-fire and refinement. As a novice developer I know that there are substantial inefficiencies in many of the implementation choices I have made. The good news is that I have learned along the way, and I already know several ways right off, to improve the platform on the next re-factor.

The last is so important – “tell a compelling story.” I have always been sensitive to this and I take it seriously, if for no other reason than that I am already an artist and a musician, and I write and have some exposure to animation craft and storyboarding. The artist/writer in me is raring to go on this part – I think this will be a fun and rewarding exercise, and will help to put a forward looking face on the brand that will become Zejoop.

As I make progress on these various fronts expect update posts –  the path I’m on is journey, and this blog is its journal.

 

Zejoop delivers Value!

The founder of both Blogger and Twitter, Ev Williams has some great insights to share about providing value on the internet, as captured in Ryan Tates’ blog post at Wired.com.

In a culture of startup enterprise where all too often ideas seem to be generated by “pick a word randomly from list A, and then list B, put them together and that’s your company,” seemingly clever (by chance) or even (silly, by design) concepts can sounds better than the more practical or even mundane sounding ventures. But does that proposal have a real value proposition – does it serve a real need, however mundane? Many times, not.

The essay I’ve referenced offers a more fundamental view; one that gives hope for the prospects for startups that target more every-days needs. The article is short a one, and I encourage you to read it for its merit, but I wanted to call attention to it for its relevance to the formulation of Zejoop as a value delivering brand. (Zejoop Wins SCV Startup Weekend!)

The most important quote is this:  “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.” In my thinking this relates to Zejoop because, as a casual event planner, it does not scream “drop-dead-sexy” on casual observation. It does however address a human desire – to have fun with friends – and uses technology to fulfill its purpose. Although it seems mundane, it is useful and will provide value. Several distinguishing features will increase the likelihood that users will in fact be able to have fun with friends more easily and with fewer frustrations.

Zejoop solves real problems – problems that people encounter when they try to plan their activities using email. Real-time status, and auto-cancel if desired conditions are not met, are both features that deliver value.

Sounds good? Why not try it? Visit Zejoop and start planning now!

Zejoop solves real problems.

Use sunscreen and sunglasses to have fun in the Sun – use Zejoop.com to have fun with your friends!

A 4 year degree; are you sure?

Everyone has to choose for themselves, but it it not a decision that falls in the casual category in terms of importance or of likely outcomes. Should your life planning include a 4 year degree or not? For me the choice was easy – a college degree, in a substantial, challenging discipline was the way to go – a life event and accomplishment I wanted and needed, not only for who I saw myself as, but what I saw and wanted for my future. I have never regretted my choice to pursue, and to persevere, to earn a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland.

Big things come in small pacakages, especially when it comes to SW Dev workstations

Many hours of learning and coding – building a future – happened here.

However, for the modern person, facing this juncture today there are options for education, and let’s face, for “life preparation” that are viable. Today any person, can learn any thing in this vastly interconnected world. No information is more than a Google search away. Furthermore availability and affordability of, MOOC, for Massive Open Online Courses, means a person can get access to world class curriculum from institutions like MIT and Stanford , just to name a few. Read the article, http://www.fastcompany.com/3015303/the-10000-technology-degree, for just one approach on how it can be done.

Why, you ask, is this relevant to Zejoop? Well because I personally have benefited from MOOC, specifically Udacity, in my quest for learning software development – skills that I have needed, to supplement my engineering capabilities, in order to build Zejoop. I have taken Python and Functional Programming using Python from Udacity, I have benefited immensely.

Next thing I might do, regarding online learning, is maybe I will learn to dance, just like this girl did. It’s all there, online – no kidding I think that video is great – what an inspiration.

Now, back to Zejoop software development – hey, wait – where’s my coffee?

Are Webhooks right for Zejoop?

As it stands, Zejoop notifies people by email for invitations and event updates. Of course, an important growth path is for notification by SMS text messaging. Ultimately though, “push notification” is the goal. Email is implemented, SMS text is within reach, but push notification is a bit of a mystery to me. I think that it can be done if Zejoop is packaged as a native app for Android or iOs. Right now, there are no plans to build Zejoop as a native app. How then to get this feature?

zejoop-dot-com makes me read techie books

Developing Zejoop has made me a consumer of techie books… hoo boy!

Turns out though I found this interesting post on the subject of “webhooks are magic!” I found this at www.iron.io, a company whose tagline is “IronMQ is the Message Queue for the Cloud” I have to check this out. Sounds promising; I’ll let you know what I find out.