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

 

Learning about Product Marketing from the Google Ventures Library

                   

Stumbled upon a great video on the topic of startup marketing that was posted in the Google Ventures library – delivered by Adam Gross who is Co-Founder and CEO at cloudconnect.com, and has been involved throughout his career at personify, salesforce.com, and Dropbox.

This is timely information for Zejoop, at this critical point in its tech startup evolution.

(Google Ventures is a seed round, or early investor for new startups – looks like a great program, with quite a few free resources – definitely worth looking into. However their  model seems to be “don’t call us, we’ll call you”, as in, you don’t apply, but you somehow otherwise “get yourself noticed.” That seems a little mysterious, and somewhat “fraught” (with peril?) but it is also interesting, and adds to the allure!)

screenshot from the presentation given by Adam Gross

Good information on Marketing – food for thought regarding the positioning of Zejoop

All of this is of critical importance to Zejoop as it tries to find its way though and past its development and beta test phases.

The entire video will be worth revisiting again later, but a few points stood out for immediate application.

The first of which were his comments on product positioning on the x-y axes of “strategic” (increasing horizontally from left to right) and “emotive” (increases vertically from bottom to top). Clearly a company like Apple is high on both scales but the the question has to be addressed early, even for a startup like Zejoop; how does it get from wherever it starts – “low” on both counts – to “high” on both? Unless the importance of this trajectory is comprehended, and that it demands a plan which is well formulated and then followed, what is the likelihood of success? Without a goal, how will you ever know you’ve arrived?

Another key idea was that of creating a industry transitional narrative – where is Zejoop going and how will it make a difference in the landscape?

The third idea which made an impression was how he described “differentiation.” To me that means asking and answering “what makes Zejoop different?” Of course this is pretty basic, but the way he articulated the point was very helpful. He told an anecdote of a friend who was at TiVo and he asked, regarding the product itself, why is it that the “pause” button is the biggest of all the buttons? – answer “that is what makes TiVo different than just TV” – the ability to pause and resume playback off a live stream. Timely story to hear as this is just the type of thing I need to tackle for Zejoop. After all there are any number of options for people to do their casual event planning. What makes Zejoop different and how can I emphasize that within the product? The good news is that a couple of good ideas have occurred to me as I’ve thought this over – but that my friends, will be a separate post!

Finally the video highlighted the importance of thinking about strategic partnerships. Clearly there are big players who have already fielded many aspects of event planning. Rather that thinking about how to take them on, head-on, why not discover the minimum viable enhancement that Zejoop can provide rather than duplicate an entire infrastructure that already exists? Oh, and by the way, an entire infrastructure developed by an army of highly skilled develops employed by big-tech? Sounds like folly, right? Better late than never, and this part of the presentation gave me a few good ideas to do just that.

That’s all for now, but I wanted to capture these thoughts while they were fresh in mind, at the risk of losing them by not doing so immediately. More to follow as I turn ideas into actions.

Zejoop is Going to Grand Prix Sacramento!

                   

What is that, you ask, quizzically – “Grand Prix Sacramento?”

Well it is tournament for the collectible card game, Magic: the Gathering, which is property of Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary. The date is approaching fast, January 17th through 19th, in Sacramento, California, of course.

Maybe you didn’t see this coming but, I happen to be an enthusiast of the game – I am also the best Magic player on the planet – just ask my Magic friends!

As it turns out the Zejoop mission, and mantra, “casual event planning,” and “fun with friends” are highly applicable to the coordination of casual Magic gaming among friends! Go figure; what a coincidence – right?

So, I am going there, and I will be promoting Zejoop for Magic, in addition to participating in the tournament itself!

Check out Zejoop for all your casual event planning needs!



I’m practically overwhelmed, immersed in preparations for the event – little things like testing the application myself, coordinating BETA test among the small cadre of tester/friends I’ve been lucky to engage in the project (thanks guys – Glenn Cuevas and Dave Gerhardt!), and finally – wait for it – I am making customs tokens to distribute at the tournament.

The topic of tokens would be hard to explain to those not familiar with the game, but think of it like this – “promotional business cards, that are useful in the game experience.” Wait, I guess that wasn’t as hard as I thought. Well, now you know.

Here is a teaser of the the printer’s proof – an excerpt; always leave them wanting more, I am told.

looking good, eh?

Just an excerpt – more to come – stand by for followup!

I have several friends to thank/acknowledge, but I will do a right and proper job with that very soon, when I get a chance. For now, however, I do want to call your attention to the blue “Elemental” in the bottom center – that is the beautiful work of my friend, and fine artist, Steve Nakamura – gorgeous work on short notice, with an impossible deadline, all to get it prepped and to the printer in time – but more on that later.

Part of the sexiness you don’t see on this proof is that design on the card-back (lower left corner) includes a QR code. So at the Grand Prix, players can scan, and be directed right to Zejoop where there is a special landing page just for this event! Like I said – sexy – that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

OK, back to work…

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.

 

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?

Zejoop Dives in! – Parties at Be Great Fest 2013!

I heard about Be Great Partners and their Fall 2013 Be Great Fest from a friend, and I made a last minute decision to join the party last Tuesday night, September 17th, 2013. Boy, am I glad I did – it was great! They chose a world-class venue in the Pacific Design Center. Throw in an open bar (countered with a $20 Uber, ride home safe credit – good move!), great DJ, and Wolfgang Puck catering and what’s not to like? To commemorate Zejoop’s attendance I took an artsy selfie in the lobby (nice turn of the phrase, eh?)

Zejoop has fun at Be Great Fest!

Zejoop.com and the Be Great Fest – an artsy selfie in the lobby!

The party also showcased many of the startups already in the Be Great Partners family – from “real convenience, true comfort” underwear (meundies.com) to aerial drones (skycatch.com) – there was a lot of fantastic energy, talent and accomplishment on display!

Last but not least, I’ll have to say the hosts themselves were great. I introduced myself to Lin Miao, Managing Partner, and we had a great five minute talk – not bad for a crowded, energy-filled room – conversation competing with the DJ. That got me an introduction to Startup Ambassador Emily Alfstad with whom I also had a great conversation.

With the great impressions and take-away I got from the event I’m wondering if Be Great Partners and Zejoop might be a good match. With Zejoop just entering BETA test, the time is right – gotta start thinkin’ bout these things!

First Full Round Trip!

Last Monday represented an exciting milestone for Zejoop; the first full round trip of a meeting that was planned and held using Zejoop while in Beta test. Here is the celebratory snapshot, taken with me (big-head) and Erick Arndt (big-smile and sunglasses) of SCV Startup fame:

Great things are happening in the Santa Clarita Valley startup scene. With the growth of our startup community and culture it is not a matter of if, but when, one of our budding startups hits it big! I’m putting my money on it being Zejoop, but, isn’t that, after all, the very definition of “bootstrapping?”