1-year at Uber ATG

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Mighty Ai joining Uber ATG. Time flies. It is somewhat crazy to say that I have been, more or less, with this crew for over 5 years now. And it continues to be a fun rollercoaster of a ride personally, professionally, and emotionally. I will happily admit, more highs than lows. Though it has not been easy, I have grown a lot.

I have made a ton of friends along the way and have seen some come and go. Watched our product go from a purely iOS app crowdsourcing annotations for companies like Bing, Snapchat, and Pinterest to being laser focused on building out labeling products for the self-driving use case at Uber ATG — and everything in between. The evolution has been eye-opening and gratifying to be a part of. We have moved in and out of 4 different offices and have visited offices and customers all around the world — Boston, Pittsburgh, Boulder, Austin, San Francisco, San Jose, Stuttgart, and Bangalore. We just keep moving forward.

I always see myself coming back to the experience. There is a joy with the process of building amazing products with a group of extraordinary individuals looking to make a dent in the world, especially now in self-driving. I sometimes cannot describe the feeling, but when you have that alignment — it works, and it is such a rush. I experience that a lot here and that is why I probably have stuck around for so long.

I look forward to seeing where this rollercoaster goes, and will continue to make moves to build some amazing products along the way. Cheers! 🥃

Don’t Stop Fans From Talking About Your Product

Seattle Seahawks - Golden Tate

Yesterday was Seahawks Sunday here in Seattle, and it started as any one of these would. Woke up at 6am to get the tailgating party started. Checked the weather and checked for directions on my iPhone. Scootered over to Utah St. right behind Macrina Bakery on 1st Avenue since it wasn’t raining. My dad and I setup shop and used my iPhone to notify folks of our location and coordinated by messaging missing items. When the tailgate started, we were able to post photos onto Facebook and Twitter easily and even comment on status for folks to come on by before the game. From 6am to 1pm, using the internet was as smooth as being at home — but when you hit CenturyLink Field, you can kiss that goodbye.

It’s funny with a stadium named after “high-speed internet” company like CenturyLink, it exactly lacks what it sells. It was the same feeling when it was called Qwest Field. This isn’t anything new. As a season ticket holder for the last several years, I’ve always found myself doing the patented “lift your hand up high with your phone to get reception” move with no avail. I know it may be my AT&T coverage, but fellow season ticket holders with Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile have had the same problem. This is an issue.

CenturyLink Field hosts over 67,000+ fans each Seattle Seahawk game and even with the Seattle Sounders FC, they’re able to hold 33,000+ fans each game. That’s selling out the stadium each game, and the majority of those rabid fans use smartphones — so why are they making it hard for fans to talk about their product on the field. They’re not leveraging them to spread the word about the players, the teams, the game, and more importantly the experience. The teams are missing out on people posting their thoughts, photos, and location on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. What better idea would it be to provide the fans who are struggling to send out tweets, statuses, and photos with the ability to do so?

For this NFL season, five stadiums have already been outfitted as a pilot for in-stadium wifi: MetLife Stadium (Jets/Giants), Gillette Stadium (Patriots), Bank of America (Panthers), Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts), and the Superdome (Saints). This isn’t a new idea with teams from both the MLB and NFL exploring wifi opportunities. I’m just surprised for a tech hub like Seattle, why don’t we have wifi in CenturyLink Field? As a huge fan, the product is the experience. I’d rather share my experiences in the moment rather than waiting after the game or when I’m home to do so and I believe the majority of the 67,000+ fans feel the same way.

Grow your Startup on the Backs of Known Brands

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

When you start out as a startup, no one knows who the hell you are. You can always make your big splash on TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. — but that traffic will just come and go. Sometimes people have this mentality of, “If I build it, they will come,” and I can tell you now that isn’t the case. You’re just an upstart trying to build credibility in the industry/space you’re competing in. It’s an uphill battle you have to face in order to educate everyone who you come in contact with about what you’re looking to build, but it gets easier and easier after getting some wins in your pocket. One way to build a winning streak is to use larger known brands to help build your brand.

Make connections with recognizable brands

During the earlier days at TeachStreet, we wanted to see if larger educational companies would like to use our platform of connecting with students looking to learn to gain more leads/sales for their business. I literally did the following to put together my list of brands I’d like to work with:

  1. Identify the categories we wanted to go after. In our case, it was: test prep, tutoring, music, fitness, and business/computer training.
  2. Within the categories identified, list the desired companies in those industries.
    Measure the opportunities with each company. For us, it was city and category coverage. Which one had the most centers, teachers, etc.
  3. Check your network and see if any of your connections have any ties with the companies on the list. We used our networks heavily, which even included teachers on TeachStreet. Linkedin is also a gold mine to help find the connection you need.
  4. Prioritize with the leads through introductions from your network first then move to cold calling.

This is probably the most difficult part of the process because it’s about landing that first partner to take a chance on what you’re doing. Once you land those first few established partners, you’re off to a great start. We were lucky to have a couple of great partners initially here at TeachStreet like Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

The brands should help promote the partnership

Once you get the first few companies on board, be sure to treat them as partners and have them understand that their involvement will help this partnership succeed. One of the ways these larger companies can help you is by promoting their presence on TeachStreet through email newsletters, blog posts, Facebook posts, and Twitter. This is probably one of the most valuable things you can get from your initial partners since their network of customers are probably larger than yours and if you’re able to capture a portion of those customers to use your site — that’s a great start. Plus, more likely than not, their competitors are following what they’re doing and their announcement will allow you to have easier conversations with potential partners in the future.

Showcase the successful partners as much as possible

Use the partners who have been successful on your site and showcase them like no other. Promote them on your blog, social media outlets, and primarily on your site. It’s important to have these initial partners be successful because in the end, you’ll be using them as your case study examples to potential partners on why your product is working. At TeachStreet, we were able to eventually bring on a good amount of Premium Partners to create a showcase page, which helped us get more business.

So let’s recap:

  1. Connect with larger brands you’d like to work with and close those deals
  2. Try and have those larger brands promote their presence on your product
  3. Promote and showcase the hell out of those partners

If you do those right, all you really need to do is rinse and repeat while improving the process and product along the way.