East Village Experiment

Posted on November 22, 2010. Filed under: startups | Tags: , , |

Note: This isn’t really a blogpost, but I couldn’t fit this in a status update or 140 characters and needed the real estate on my blog to explain why I am attempting to extract a local segmentation from my social/professional graph.

I want to make a list of all the people I know who live in the East Village.  I want to be able to push to this list whenever I find myself doing something local that I’d prefer to do with company than alone.  I want this list to know that they are all welcome to join me when I am grabbing dinner at 10PM on a Tuesday, or when I’m working at a café on Sunday at 5PM, or even when I’m sitting in my apartment thinking to myself “I’m bored, I wish someone would come by and entertain me.”  I also want this list to know that I don’t expect replies.  Not interested/can’t make it? No problem, I wasn’t expecting you to be available, that’s why I’m pushing the same invite to 25 other people.  Really I want to fill my unplanned flex time with people who will enhance my experience.  I want this list to be my, “are you around, I’m doing this in 10 minutes if you want to join” list, which I believe is only relevant to people who live in my neighborhood and can act immediately because of our physical proximity.  I think they are the only ones who would view these “immediate invites” as truly actionable and relevant a high enough % of the time that they would not mind the interruption via SMS/Push Notification.

I tried to build this list with a Groupme, and then realized that Groupme is not the right application for this need because everyone on my list knows me, but not each other.  This list doesn’t want to communicate as a group.  I guess I want to push immediate invitations to a “local subset of my social and professional graphs”  Is there a product out there that I can use to help manage this?

Also, if you are my friend/colleague/or just someone interesting who lives in the East Village and you want to be on my “immediate invitations in the East Village” list, send me a note, drop a comment here, or whatever and I’ll add you.

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Physical vs. Social Proximity at a Cafe

Posted on October 2, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , |

I’m sitting at a café on 10th street and 1st Avenue, sipping a tea and snacking on an amazing breseola and parmesan Panini.   Until one minute ago, I was 3 sentences into a blog post about The Social Network and the concept of isolation in entrepreneurship (which I will write after this).  As I gazed over the building line to a light blue sky, searching for the words that could best describe entrepreneurial isolation, something happened.  Out of nowhere, a flock of let’s say 50 white birds, that I can only assume are doves, appeared in the margin between the buildings that line the north and south sides of 10th st.  They began to circle inside the frame created by the tops of the brownstones and as they did, they waned in and out of visibility depending on weather they were facing a direction that allowed their white bodies to properly reflect the lowering sun behind me.  The image of the white flock against the blue back drop was striking, bit it was really the prolonged movement in circles and repeated flashes of white disappearing and reappearing, coupled with the contrast between the silence and grace of their movement and the ambient conversation and city sounds of 1st avenue, that made this occurrence noteworthy.  They circled for more than a minute, and as I watched their dance my immediate instinct was to Share.

I believe that instinct to share is not new, and if I were with someone at this table, I almost certainly would have pointed them to the scene and helped them to enjoy this beautiful sliver of life, but in the absence of a friend, I immediately reached for my mobile device.  Between my iPhone’s camera, my Twitter Application, and my Facebook Application, I am so used to pushing out what I experience in life, that it was second nature to want to capture this moment and publish it. As I cycled through my sharing options, I realized that a photo wouldn’t really do this experience justice, “ok, how about video?  But they are so far away, and the microphone on this thing isn’t going to work, and I have 270 degrees of perspective that it’s not going to capture, and the video can’t feel this breeze on my legs, this is not an experience that’s shareable.”

I put down my phone, and continued to watch the birds circle, thinking to myself, that “it’s okay just to have an unshared, personal moment of enjoyment.”  In fact, I don’t have enough of these moments thanks to the share instinct that Twitter and Facebook have undoubtedly amplified in my mind.  Just as I resolved to that point, I snapped out of my own head, looked around the café a bit, and saw a young woman who was methodically waiting tables, moving sugars from one table top to the next, picking up menus, washing down surfaces, and as she whisked by me, continuing in her routine, I grabbed her and said “Hey, look at that.  And I pointed her to the birds, and directed her to watch as they changed direction and caught the sun in a way that would light up the blue backdrop white.  She felt the breeze I felt, and experienced the contrast of their silent dance with the sounds of the city, and for 20 seconds, one other human being was able to experience 100% of what it was that I wanted to Share.

We watched for a bit longer, the birds fell below the building line, and then we returned to our respective lives.  As I sit here now, I realize that as far as we have come in recreating offline human experiences through online products that harness the power of visual capture (photo and video), audio capture (microphone), textual description (text/blog/microblog), etc., everything that is shared and pushed through the social graph, and consumed or experienced by those with whom we share is some fraction of reality.  If our goal is to truly Share ourselves, and more broadly the human experience as we live it, I find physical proximity to be a requisite, and almost urge the Sharing of experience with the strangers that surround you as a viable alternative to the sharing of diluted experience with those socially but not physically proximate.  I am obsessed with improving how we interact with our local graph.  It must happen.

P.S. (The birds came back, did my best to take the above photo)

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How Many People Are You Consuming in a Day?

Posted on August 25, 2010. Filed under: JumpPost, startups, venture capital | Tags: , , , |

When thinking about product, I often find myself going down the path of trying to replicate/enhance offline behavior through software.  Lately, I have been absolutely obsessed with the concept of productizing or at least enhancing offline, non-verbal communication.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what people consume on a local level.  It’s a question that is very important to our future at Jumppost and a question that is becoming increasingly interesting to investors and entrepreneurs as location based technologies change our capacity to segment users and build user experience by specific geographic parameters.

It is not surprising to me that much of the innovation we’ve seen in the last 12-24 months in the local space has been focused around the interaction between consumers and local merchants (restaurants, dry cleaners, etc.).  If we map local consumption patterns, I would say that local goods and services are the second most frequent object of consumption in a consumer’s local experience.  What I buy when I walk out my door definitely defines my local experience, and the things I consume in the largest volume have a great impact on my perception of my neighborhood, and as an extension, my perception of myself as a member of the community in which I live.

The only object(s) I see myself consuming that has a greater influence on my local experience, and as a derivative, my local identity, is the population that surrounds me.  Although a very lightweight form of consumption, I have been trying to quantify the volume of people that I consume in a given day.  I will call consumption any visual intake, and then value the volume of consumption by my level of engagement or interaction with each person I consume.  I’ve been asking folks lately how many people they think they pass by or see in a given day in New York, and the answers are all over the place.  Some people say 50, or 100, some say 500, and I personally would posit that the number is closer to 10,000.  Of those 10,000, I think I probably consciously register 1000-2000, maybe I make eye contact with 500, and have some richer form of communication whether verbal or non-verbal (i.e. hold a door, smile, etc.) with 100-200.

What would a product look like that attempted to replicate or enhance the experience of human consumption at the 10,000 person level?  I see elements of the answer in concepts like Chatroulette and Hot or Not, which take seemingly random consumption of other human beings, and then in both cases, push that lightweight (10,000 person) consumption down the funnel toward more active communication.  But then I wonder if the product that will capture/reflect/enhance my consumption of local inhabitants needs to push our extremely lightweight relationship down the funnel into some more meaningful communication, or perhaps it is enough to simply overlay that consumption with some richer dataset.  What if every person you consumed at the local level had a sign on their chest with a nametag?  What would change?  Would people say hi and push themselves down the communication funnel?  Not sure.  Maybe it’s not a nametag that people want.  Maybe I’d prefer to see an image of everyone’s spouse/partner on their shirt?  Or a floating sign with their occupation above their head?  Would that enrich my local experience and consumption of the people that surround me in a way that would improve the quality of my local experience?  Probably.  I don’t have a ton of answers here yet, but super interested in wrapping with anyone who wants to think about this with me.

P.S. If you have a second to drop your estimate of the number of people you think you 1) consume, 2) communicate with, and 3) make eye contact with in a given day, please drop your answers and the name of your city in the comments.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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