Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vartan Enterprises LLC

As some of you know, I've done stuff in ecommerce since college. Started off selling refurbished consumer electronics on eBay, from my dorm room. Started selling a few other niche products. It's sorta just for fun, I've outsourced all the operations, support, shipping - and it doesn't require a whole lot of my time, and even though they are (very) small time, it's still interesting. Check them out:

www.BonsaiSandals.com -- sandal I designed and got manufactured starting in 2004. Sheepskin beach flipflops.

www.TheSucculentWreath.com -- beautiful succulent-plants wreath. One of a kind, and an awesome gift!

www.ThePocketTorch.com -- used to sell steel butane pocket torches in college. This one is sorta for old times sake and because I already had the domain.

www.TheHamburgerPhone.com -- bought the domain after seeing the movie Juno; 3 weeks later decided it would be easy to set up one-page storefront and import the phones from china. Sold a few thousand of them over 3 years with near-zero time commitment.

I've got one or two other mini-store ideas up my sleeve, so keep watch!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Seeking Crack Scala / Lift / Ruby craftsman or craftswoman for ex-Googler startup

Do you love Scala or Ruby, functional programming, Lift, Rails, the social web,
algorithms, machine learning, auctions, viral coefficients,
optimization, behavioral finance, or all of the above?

We are two ex-Google Product Marketers, and we're creating what we
believe is a genuinely novel, social, well-branded, useful, and highly-
monetizable app that leverages the best of Facebook's and Twitter's
social graph APIs. Unlike typical product managers, who tend to think
narrowly about the product with their left-brains — how well it's
designed, the evolution of its feature set, its market positioning
against competitors — and believe users will just come if the product
is good enough, we also engaged our right-brains and thought through
very subtle but powerful pieces of the puzzle: early-stage incentives,
network effects, brand resonance, emotional attachment, social
reinforcement, ease of customer acquisition via quantifiable channels,
and the product's intrinsic viral potential/coefficient. We also have
some killer potential names (and own the associated domain families).

Like all new tech ideas, we face a significant risk of failure. The
probability of success is admittedly low. But conditioned on that
(potentially low) chance of success, the payoff will be very high –
we're attacking a market of major size and one that has very
attractive secular long-term growth dynamics, and our idea has broad
applicability across customer demographics. We see our idea as a
'binary bet', and one that will take about 3-6 months worth of
development time to determine the outcome. It's in the nature of the
incentive structures we're building, the product's attachment and
engagement methods, and user acquisition strategy, that if it "works",
positive feedback will kick in quickly and the binary bet would pay
off — potentially significantly.

We're looking for two to four experienced Scala / Lift engineers to
work closely with us on a contract basis for 12-24 weeks to build
version 1 of the product. We haven't raised external money, and do not
intend to at this early stage (we may be able to generate meaningful
revenue even with a small number of users, as long as they are engaged
with the product on a daily basis); that being said, we can afford to
pay a high quality developer market rates (for early stage startups)
with a combination of cash and pre-Series A equity.

A bonus if you're also an ex-Googler, have done significant work in Ruby or
Scala / Lift before, can implement basic machine learning algorithms,
or have experience in one or more of the following fields: payments/
transaction processing, online advertising, contextual targeting,
auction dynamics, behavioral economics, computational game theory,
operations research/supply-chain algorithms, NLP, collaborative
filtering, graph theory, zero-knowledge proofs, or hidden Markov
models. A big bonus if you've read Shannon's "Mathematical Theory of
Communication" cover to cover! (This is not to say our product will
include features from all these fields; we just highly value engineers
with experience in any of these areas).

It's also a big bonus if you have a good head for design and user
experience. Major plus if you're a font-addict like we are :)

If this sounds at all interesting and you'd like to hear more, please
get back to me with your availability for a short chat, and forward
your resume/cv/recent projects. Also tell me about what brought you to
Scala or Ruby, how experienced you are with the language and the Lift
framework, and what fields of either theoretical computer science or
more pragmatic product development interest you the most. What does
your dream software engineering job look like? What's your preferred
engagement model (contract, hourly, project-based, part-time, full-
time, cash, equity, a mix)? A short cover letter describing your
background would help, too.

As for us: We're two ex-Google guys with significant experience in web
and non-web marketing. One of us sells his own line of furry sandals
at http://www.bonsaisandals.com. and sells Hamburger Phones (from the
movie Juno) at http://www.thehamburgerphone.com – he started his first
business from his Stanford dorm room in 2000, selling surplus consumer
electronics and computer peripherals on eBay while taking a full
engineering course load. The other one has marketing in his blood and
has been thinking about interesting marketing issues from both a
theoretical/academic perspective, and from a pragmatic, Google-
marketing foot-soldier perspective for his entire career.

Regards,
Alex

alex@bonsaisandals.com