YCombinator at Penn: Do things that make you uncomfortable

Last Tuesday, October 7, 2014, YCombinator partners Dalton Caldwell, Qasar Younis and Kat Manalac and YC Alumni Reham Fagiri visited Penn today to talk to students about their startup experiences and answer questions in the fire-side chat.

YC Partners with Nilesh during the fire-side chat

YC Partners with Nilesh during the fire-side chat

YC Alumni Reham Fagiri kicked things off by talking about her experience building her startup AptDeco, and what her stint at YC taught her. The inspiration for AptDeco came from her own experience of having a hard time selling her furniture after she graduated from college. She then did some market research and talked to different people. Before she knew it, she had developed a prototype and beta-tested it. After the private and public beta, the idea of applying for YC came about.

It was through YC that they realized how important there customers truly are. Fagiri candidly admitted, “We thought just because we ran an online marketplace, we didn’t need to be where our market was. We were completely wrong.” Having said that, Fagiri and her team needed to fly back and forth from NYC to San Francisco during the duration of YC. Continue reading


Erik Kimel at Penn: Preparing you for what’s next

The Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM) recently invited Erik Kimel, the Director of Brand Activation for Harry’s, to the University of Pennsylvania to talk about his experiences starting his own social enterprise in high school Peer2Peer, his current role in Harry’s and their up and coming initiative, “H’University”.

Members of PennSEM listening to Erik Kimel

Members of PennSEM listening to Erik Kimel

The Peer2Peer Days

With a desire to find a way to connect students with each other, and at the same time create value for both himself and his consumers, Kimel just one day decided to post a $50 ad on a newspaper to see if anyone needed a tutor. After spending time and really working with his first tutee, word spread around, and the Peer2Peer tutoring service was born during the start of Kimel’s senior year in high school. Continue reading

Did 3 Penn freshmen build the future of vision at PennApps X?

This article was taken from my column at Technical.ly Philly: https://technical.ly/philly/2014/10/02/3-penn-freshmen-build-future-vision-pennapps-x/

“What if a piece of software could tell you what exactly was in front of you with one simple command?” was the pitch that won ThirdEye a spot in the top 10 at last month’s PennApps X.

ThirdEye is an image recognition system for the visually impaired that takes a picture using Google Glass, recognizes what it is and tells you about it through an earpiece or speaker.

The hackers behind the innovative Google Glass app were first-time hackathon participants: Ben Sandler, Joe Cappadona and Rajat Bhageria. They were also the only all-freshmen team to make it to the top 10.

With Cappadona programming since 8th grade, Sandler having interned at a couple of tech startups and Bhageria having build his own media startup, CaféMocha, which he describes as the SoundCloud for creative writers, these three computer science majors were all excitedly anticipating their first hackathon.

Forming the ThirdEye Team

Bhageria, Cappadona and Sandler weren’t initially part of the same team. However, a few hours before the competition started, Bhageria and Cappadona’s team members backed out, so they were looking for more team members. This led to them wandering around and running into Sandler who wanted to work on a hack for the Google Glass.

Remembering the struggles that his grandfather faced as a blind man, Cappadona was hit with an app idea they could work on — an app that would allow Google Glass to recognize whatever was in front of it.

“Blind people want to be independent. They don’t want others to think that they are physically inept because they lost their sight,” Cappadona said. “They’re still fully capable of most things. This really inspired our project.”

The team now had an idea, the only problem: they barely had experience building an Android app, let alone integrating it with Google Glass.

This is where the hackathon fun came in.

The ThirdEye team pitching during the finals. (Photo courtesy of Major League Hacking)

Read more here: https://technical.ly/philly/2014/10/02/3-penn-freshmen-build-future-vision-pennapps-x/

Paul Graham’s Best Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs: JUST LEARN! (Notes from CS183B: How to Start a Startup Lecture 3)

Paul Graham was the guest speaker for this week's lecture

Paul Graham was the guest speaker for this week’s lecture

Not as many people showed up for this week’s viewing lecture for “CS183B: How to Start a Startup” but nonetheless, the discussion group proved to be really interesting and insightful as we not only discussed key points in the lecture but we also talked about problems we faced and how we could solve them. It was really interesting how we ended up talking about very diverse fields from machine learning to education to media and journalism to weather, wearables and smart fabric to networking and starting a startup in college. (You can jump straight to our discussion group’s points by scrolling down to the last part).

You can view resources for the class here: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/

My overall takeaway from today though was that there’s no set-way or formula to starting a startup. There are certain things that worked for some entrepreneurs that didn’t work for other entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, starting a startup is really just about having an idea, getting cofounders, building a product users love, getting feedback from users, committing your time to your startup then just LEARNING every step of the way.

Continue reading

Notes, Insights and Takeaways of an aspiring college entrepreneur from CS 183: How to start a Startup by Sam Altman

Everything that you’ll be reading in this document are notes taken down from CS183 which is a Stanford course being taught by the President of YCombinator Sam Altman. Moreover, I will be injecting a few of my own insights and insights of other people from my discussion group.

The first UPenn class session was held at the First Round Capital

The first UPenn class session was held at the First Round Capital

As an aspiring entrepreneur and avid journalist, I’ve decided to take notes, write about the experience and the different discussions points from this class and publish it to the public. I hope that people can find these notes and insights as a way to either learn more about the class and entrepreneurship (some people might not have enough time to watch the lecture) or as a way to start discussions about this growing startup culture.

I will be starting out all my posts with 4-6 key takeaways, the overall experience and then the full notes along with discussion points raised in my group.

The lectures for this course are being recorded and are posted on Youtube. You can find the lectures here: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxIJaCMEptJjxmmQgGFsnCg

You can read more about the reason behind the class here: http://www.newsweek.com/y-combinator-teach-stanford-class-available-online-271275

Interestingly, a lot of Universities from all over the world (even all the way back in the Philippines! Shout-out to Jaime Young who is leading the ASES Philippines discussion group for this class!) have decided to start discussion groups and turn it into an actual class where students discuss the content of what is taught afterwards. The University of Pennsylvania recently had its first class lecture video showing on September 25, 2014.

6 Key takeaways:

  1. “You should never start a startup for the sake of doing so.”
  2. “The best companies are always mission oriented.”
  3. “Build something that a few users really really love.”
  4. “Recruit your first set of users by hand/manually and ask for feedback.”
  5. “The life of an entrepreneur isn’t as easy and glamorous as what media portrays it to be.”
  6. “The best reason to start a startup is because YOU CAN’T NOT DO IT.

The Overall Experience

More than the lecture, which I could’ve just watched online in my dorm room, what I really enjoyed from the first session was the community participating in this class. Everyone was just so passionate about startups and entrepreneurship and was eager to learn more. Everyone was really looking deep into the ideas discussed and questioning whether one practice is better than the other. It was honestly really refreshing being in this environment, bouncing off ideas and opinions with one another and simply meeting new people with similar interests and new insights. Definitely can’t wait for the next session! Continue reading

Hello World

Hello World

Entering college, I had not realized that I would be saying “Hello” to a whole new world. But yes, “Hello World” is a phrase that represents a lot of new things for me. More than just all the new experiences of adjusting to college life and to a whole new culture, college for me has been about learning new things, stepping out of my comfort zone and answering my curiosities.

My first program :) "Hello World" Pikachu edition

My first program 🙂 “Hello World” Pikachu edition

Having said this, I’ve always wanted to learn how to code. Running my own blog, media startup and starting a couple of other few projects, I’ve seen how powerful knowing how to navigate the web and create products using the web can be.

Yes, I’ve tried learning before. In fact, I even dabbled trying to figure things out through tutorials in Udacity and Codecademy but with the lack of time and patience, I ended up with just sticking to my basic working knowledge of HTML and WordPress from my blogging experience.

Then I got to Penn. And I quickly realized that I should just “Do it Choco” and try learning to code one more time. I was skeptical before. I mean, how could people spend hours and hours typing down lines of code?

Enter me taking CIS 110 (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming) and attending the codeweekend hosted by the Dining Philosophers (Penn’s Computer Science club) and PennApps. Before I knew it, I saw firsthand the magic in those colorful lines of code. Although it takes time, and effort, it can be extremely rewarding. You get to see your code come alive with your very two eyes.

These colorful lines of code can actually be so powerful :)

These colorful lines of code can actually be so powerful 🙂

Seeing my first few lines of code come alive into “Hello World” and then later on a Pikachu drawing was just so fulfilling and exhilarating for me. I was actually creating cool things (well, at least cool from my perspective) that I never would’ve imagined; simply put, I was hooked.

The next few days and even up to now, I’ve been going on Codecademy.com pouring over tutorial after tutorial and trying to learn as much as I can. There’s honestly just so much to learn, but I guess I have to start somewhere, sometime, and I think NOW is the perfect time.

After codeweekend and a few codecademy tutorials, I've learned how to create landing pages and simple websites :D

After codeweekend and a few codecademy tutorials, I’ve learned how to create landing pages and simple websites 😀

The Beauty in Programming

I guess the fulfillment of seeing lines of code actually turn into something is what continues to motivate me to learn more about programming and computer science. It’s just this amazing feeling of being able to create something out of nothing that has really piqued my interest. I’m really looking forward to creating more sophisticated stuff through programming, and hopefully, in the long run, create products and services that people all around the world can use.

The greatest entrepreneurs and programmers started as beginners so here I am starting my coding journey as well, all I can say to the CS community is “Hello World.” 🙂