Interviews

Hello Lauren – our content and production manager

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We’re pleased to welcome Lauren Jewell as our new content and production manager. Melbourne-bred, Miami-based Lauren has been doing an amazing job of managing the processes and curators involved in curating The Fetch to its fine-tuned standards each week. We’re lucky to have her on the team!

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Job

Featured job: full-stack software engineer, Thread, London

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Hi! We’d like to introduce Thread – a company reinventing retail so guys can dress well without being subjected to the horrors of high street shopping, or having to trawl through millions of items online.

They do this by using a clever combination of algorithms and human stylists to give guys the perfect selection of things that will look amazing on them. Their goal is to create the new global default for how men buy clothes.

They’re live, have lots of customers who absolutely love the product, and revenues are growing very quickly. [Job application details are down below!]

Building one of the best engineering teams worldwide

One of their ancillary goals is to build one of the best engineering teams and cultures anywhere in the world. This means putting a lot of time into ensuring they only hire truly exceptional developers and creating the best working environment possible.

They’re lucky to already have a number of exceptional developers on the team which you’ll get to work alongside, learn from and no doubt teach. For example, their co-founder/CTO was formerly a lead engineer at Google, their technical architect is a core Debian developer, etc. If you want to work somewhere where you will be learning from some of the best engineers around, this role would be a good fit.

You’ll work everyday with an awesome technology stack consisting of Python, Django, Git, Debian, Redis, jQuery, Jenkins, Postgresql, Gunicorn and many other things.

They place a high value on learning and personal growth so you’ll have time to learn new technologies and attend conferences at the company’s expense. They also host a bi-monthly meetup at their offices for engineers interested in startups called Many to Many.

Beyond this, you will get the chance to demonstrate your deep technical ability by tackling some hard technical challenges including recommendation algorithms and machine learning. They release 20-30 times per week (just push to master) so your cool new features will be live on the site within moments.

Not your average software engineering role

As employee number 12 and engineer number 4, you’ll work directly with the founders and the rest of the outstanding technical, design, product and styling team in the office in Shoreditch, London to build the core features that will improve people’s wardrobes and in turn their self-confidence and happiness.

You won’t merely be handed specs: you’ll be in charge of taking ideas from the whiteboard all the way through to them being live, tracking the results, and iterating to make them better. For this reason, this role is only suitable for someone who likes being closely involved in product – what to build and how it will work as much as the technical implementation itself.

Beyond your engineering team mates, you’ll be working closely with a cross-discipline group of designers, quantitative marketers, operations and stylists. You should love the idea of the whole company working closely together to hit shared goals.

This role is especially suited to someone who wants to found their own startup one day. All our current team are future founders and they view working there as an entrepreneurial bootcamp that will give you the necessary skills and experience to launch your own company in the future.

Are you the one? You are, if you:

  • Love agile development, working independently on your own challenges, and together in a team on the bigger vision
  • Are completely fluent in at least one scripting language such as Python, Perl, PHP or Ruby and have experience with web frameworks and the MVC concept
  • Have used MySQL or PostgreSQL extensively and you know your way around Apache, nginx or other server
  • It’s a bonus if you have good JavaScript skills (we use jQuery)
  • Get excited by the idea of scaling web apps to millions of users
  • Often find yourself as the best developer in your peer group, and want to be at a place with other exceptional engineers where you can learn and grow as a person
  • Get obsessed about the problem you’re solving and don’t stop until you’ve cracked it
  • Have a thirst to learn new skills and technologies, and can pick things up easily
  • Want to have fun building lots of new features and get stuff done
  • Are full of positive energy, relish the thought of being part of a small, fast-moving team and enjoy brainstorming about new ideas

Benefits

  • Opportunity to become recognised as one of the best in your field through being a core developer for a high-profile startup
  • Relaxed, sociable work environment with lots of freedom and independence
  • Building an exciting app that millions of people will use and appreciate everyday
  • Gain first-hand experience of how to start, grow, market and raise funding for startups (perhaps useful for your own company one day)
  • Working with awesome technologies (Python/Django/jQuery/Debian/Git/Redis/Jenkins/Postgresql/Gunicorn)
  • As part of one of the top technical teams in the UK, alongside super smart people who have a lot of fun, devoid of any politics
  • With dual-widescreen monitors, a new computer of your choice and and comfy ergonomic chair
  • Free team lunches once a week (we take turns choosing), beer together as a company on Fridays, monthly company trips to fun things like comedy shows, unlimited vacation time.
  • Being part of a company where you will get to help set and shape the company culture in a big way
  • A competitive salary and a generous equity stake in the company (you’re working hard to make the company successful, so we believe you should share generously in the reward!)

A little more about Thread:

  • Backed by some of the top investors anywhere in the world, including the founders of LoveFilm, Wonga and Bebo, the former owner of Warner Music, the former head of Harrods, founding investor in Spotify, Y Combinator, and many others.
  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs who have started two successful startups which both exited.
  • They’re very deliberate and intentional about creating a high performance, warm and effective company culture. They set weekly goals together as a team, and celebrate every Friday with a fun shared treat if they all hit them. Lots of thought has gone into the working environment they’ve created – please ask them about this if you meet!
  • Lastly, they’re not just some social app hoping to go viral and make money from ads – they’re already generating real revenue which are growing very quickly.

If this sounds exciting and you’d like to have an informal chat, send an email to ben@thread.com with a few sentences about yourself, your resume and links to your Github/LinkedIn/site/etc.

Image credit: Thread.com (follow them on Twitter and Facebook)

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Guest Posts

Hooking users in three steps: an intro to habit testing

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The truly great consumer technology companies of the past 25 years have all had one thing in common: they created habits. Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit Forming Products and NirAndFar, explains.

This is what separates world-changing businesses from the rest. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are used daily by a high proportion of their users and their products are so compelling that many of us struggle to imagine life before they existed.

But creating habits is easier said than done. Though I’ve written extensively about behavior engineering and the importance of habits to the future of the web, few resources give entrepreneurs the tools they need to design and measure user habits. It’s not that these techniques don’t exist — in fact, they’re quite familiar to people in all the companies named above. However, to the new entrepreneur, they largely remain a mystery.

I’ve learned these methods from some of the best in the business and put together an amalgamation of them that I call “Habit Testing.” It can be used by consumer web companies to build products that users not only love, but are hooked to.

Habit testing

Habit Testing fits hand-in-glove with the build, measure, learn methodology espoused by the lean startup movement and offers a new way to make data actionable. Habit Testing helps clarify three things: 1) who your devotees are; 2) what part of your product is habit forming, if any; and 3) why those aspects of your product are habit forming.

A prerequisite to Habit Testing is having some kind of product up and running. Of course, before launching even a minimal viable product, it’s a good idea to take a stab at your business model hypotheses and how your product will create user desire.

Once you have a site or app live, you can begin collecting data. Habit Testing does not necessitate collecting data about everything — just the right things — so setting up the appropriate analytics is critical. In order for Habit Testing to be successful, you need to date stamp the path users take while using your site.

Step 1 – Identify

Now that you have the requisite site and stats, you need to answer the first question of Habit Testing: “Who are the habitual users?” First, define what it means to be a devoted user. Ask yourself how often a user “should” use the site. That is to say, assuming that some day all the bugs are worked out and the product is perfectly “lickable,” how often would you expect a habitual user to be on the site?

Be realistic and honest. If your company builds a mobile social networking app like Foursquare or Instagram, you’d expect habitual users to be on the app several times per day. However, if you’re building a movie recommendation site, a la Flixster, you wouldn’t expect users to be on the site more than once or twice a week. Don’t come up with an overly aggressive prediction that only accounts for uber-addicts; you’re just looking for a realistic guess to calibrate how often users will interact with your site.

A good short-cut might be to take an average of how often you and the people in your office use your own product. Of course, more is better. Twitter was born within Odeo, the company Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey originally founded, because the engineers couldn’t stop playing with it.

One thing to note: the more frequently your product is used, the more likely it is to form a user habit. That’s not to say that web products that are used rarely can’t be good business, they just aren’t habit forming and thus have different characteristics. Viable, though non-habit forming businesses tend to be more transactional and require constant outreach to customers to stay top-of-mind.

For example, think of the travel industry’s relentless war to convince us to use one site over another. Expedia, Travelocity, and the rest, are used too infrequently by their average customers to form a habit, so they constantly compete for attention. These are viable, even profitable companies, but since they are non-habit forming products they are open to greater competitive threat. Products used daily naturally create barriers to entry in their markets.

Who’s got the habit?

Now that you know how often a user “should” be using the site, it’s time to crunch through the numbers and identify how many of your users actually meet that bar. This is where hiring a stats wiz can prove exceedingly helpful. Instead of pulling your engineers away from their crucial jobs building the product or even worse, getting your business people to do it, consider hiring a grad student fluent in statistics to help you quantify how many of your users are hooked. The best practice here is to get create a cohort analysis to provide a baseline by which to measure future product iterations.

Step 2 – Codify

Hopefully, you’ll have at least a few users who interact frequently enough for you to call them devotees. But how many devotees is enough? My rule of thumb is 5%. Though your rate of active users will need to be much higher to sustain your business, 5% is a good benchmark to being Habit Testing.

However, if at least 5% of your users don’t find your product valuable enough to use as much as you predicted they should, you have a problem. It may be time to go back to the drawing board and rework your vision. But assuming you’ve exceeded that bar and you’ve identified your habitual users, the next step is to codify the steps they took using your product so you can understand what hooked them.

Each user interacts with your product in a slightly different way. Even if you have a standard user flow, how users engage with your site creates a unique data fingerprint which can be analyzed to find patterns. Sift through the data to determine if there are similar behaviors that emerge. What you’ll hopefully discover is a “Habit Path”, a series of similar behaviors shared by your most loyal users.

For example, in its early days, Twitter discovered that once new users followed enough other members, they hit a tipping point which dramatically increased the odds they would keep using the site. Every company has a different set of actions that devoted users take; the goal of finding the Habit Path is to determine which of those steps were critical for creating devoted users.

Get in their heads

Now that you know the Habit Path, the next step is to create hypotheses about what it was along that path that tipped users from passers-bye to devotees. Granted, this step can look a little like assuming causation from correlation; but in the murky fog of launching a new product, it’s often the best thing we’ve got.

This phase is also a good time to talk to users in person to learn more about why and how they use the product. Habit Testing is meant to illuminate what is unique about these “earlyvangelists” and find insights that can be generalized to the rest of your users.

Step 3 – Modify

With new hypotheses in mind, it’s time to get back inside the build, measure, learn loop and take new users down the same Habit Path the devotees took. For example, leveraging their Habit Path, Twitter’s onboarding process now guides new users to start following others immediately.

Habit Testing is a continual process companies can implement with every new feature and product iteration. Tracking users by cohort and comparing their activity to habitual users should guide how products evolve, improve, and foster habit formation.

Too often tech entrepreneurs find themselves alone with their vision because they fail to realize the importance of creating user habits. And unfortunately, when it comes to consumer web and the ever-increasing distractions we all face daily, if the product doesn’t create a habit, it may as well not exist. By using Habit Testing to determine what is most valuable and habit-forming about a product, entrepreneurs can better serve their users and increase the odds of creating world-changing companies.

About our contributor // Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit Forming Products and blogs at NirAndFar.com.

The Habit Summit brings together experts and luminaries to share their insights on habit-forming product and services. Happening in the Bay Area on March 25 2014 at Stanford, use this link for $50 off: https://habitsummit.eventbrite.com/?discount=Fetch

Image credit: AKTA

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Guest Posts

The art of choice: How to tackle the maze of decision-making

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Often, we have an objective in mind yet the path of attainment appears to be more of a maze, whilst the rationale on deciding on which is the most appropriate, just as perplexing. Rajdeep Gahir explains.

The end goal could arguably be reached by resolute focus and commitment to either path, such effort does ultimately tend to payoff. So really perhaps one should just get on and charge through with either. However it’s the notion of opportunity cost (The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action.) that really rattles with the brain. Realizing you’ve chosen second best just really doesn’t sound all that great.

Unsurprisingly, decisions like this come up all too frequently. Here are some parameters to consider to ease the pain of choice:

Time spent thinking ‘what’ vs. time spent thinking ‘how’

People often spend a lot of time talking about what they may want to do without spending that time gaining additional knowledge to make that decision more informed. Big mistake. For all the time spent thinking ‘what’, you may as well have just gotten on with one direction and figured out how. In fact, spend a weekend mapping out an effective ‘strategy plan’ for each. A visual representation of how you plan to execute, key contacts, key variables and time milestones will develop some initial clarity to the decision, cutting down time spent on aimless thought. Rather, once you have some defined parameters down, you will naturally spend your time thinking on how to execute your defined plan (even before you commit to actually going with this option), which will organically lead to you asking and answering more insightful questions.

More so, it’s wise to check out the background and path of as many people as possible who have done what you’re thinking of doing. (Linkedin stalking is great for this.) Engaging with these people can be extremely valuable and again will add far more value to the thought process than going it alone.

What’s hot vs. what you can set on fire

We often read that the route to success is to focus on your strengths, develop them, pursue them with ‘passion’ and ultimately be paid for them. Yet it seems like there’s a blue elephant in the room when an industry like technology is sky rocking, with six figure developers salaries and billion dollar IPOs in the news every other day. Surely it makes sense to just ‘ride the wave!’

It’s primary to assess your strengths, but not only in a ‘how good am I at this’ (vs. everyone else) way, but also in a ‘can I afford to take a break from this and still be able to catch up’ kind of way. If you feel you have the capability to set something on fire that is not the hottest, fastest industry right now, it may make sense to step away and try your hand at what’s hot – especially if it’s moving so fast that you’ll otherwise be in an ever tougher situation to catch up. That way you’ll kick yourself less later on by saying ‘Maybe I could have built a snapchat’ with a more definitive answer.

The reality is that super ‘success’ is being in the position to set something on fire, whilst the industry itself seems to be making a bonfire. Be rational enough to realize that.

Value in validation of an option

There can be value in trial and perusal of an option, even if you ultimately realize it’s ‘second best’ and decide not to commit to the path. Committing to peruse something over a certain time period (say giving yourself four months to try and build an app) can add a huge amount of value in terms of knowledge acquisition (say if you’re working in any industry that interacts with tech – pretty much everything right?), that may still come in handy even if you ultimately don’t make a million dollars out of it.

Setting a time limit for ‘exploration’ of one option, based on your initial parameters of how long you feel it will take to hit some sort of benchmark (be it d-day/ producing something tangible or gaining a certain level of insight) may still increase your human capital in a tangible way. Understanding to what quantifiable level this may be the case should allow you to develop a time frame for exploring an option without feeling it was ‘wasted time’ in any sense.

The economic cost of ‘enjoyment’

Can you have your cake and eat it? Yes, but most likely whilst still only being ‘mediocre’ by your own standards. This point is not about a ‘work – life’ balance. Interestingly, it seems that the human mind needs to feel like it’s been greatly challenged and made many sacrifices to feel that notion of being ‘wondersomly’ successful. So we may find ourselves seeking to challenge ourselves to something less enjoyable, just so we can feel more accomplished for it. Plodding along a straight trajectory, albeit upwards for something you know you can do well, is simply not as exhilarating as jumping onto another rolling bandwagon for a while.

This is a tough cookie. “Hard earned” success and superlative wealth are ultimately enjoyable, but so is licking cookie dough from the bowl. Choose wisely.

About our contributor // Rajdeep Gahir is a London-based product manager and innovation aficionado. She particularly digs entrepreneurial folk and start-ups with social impact. Follow her @ladygahir.

Image credit: Shop Maddie G

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Events

Your guide to finding the best unofficial SXSW 2014 events

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Going to SXSW this year? Our community peep Shannon Byrne brings you a list of places to discover unofficial events.

Of course you are. Everyone seems to be going. I feel like the second thing after “Hello” from the mouth of every tech/startup/community person I’ve run into in the past month has been: “Are you going to South By?”. Unfortunately, I am only going in spirit. Although I am envious of everyone with a pass, I am even more envious of the people who will be attending all of the “secret,” unofficial, and pop-up events. Let’s face it, these events aren’t just a pleasant surprise, they’re usually the best part about a big conference conference. And rumor has it that the same rings true for SXSW.

Usually equipped with free food, free booze, and high-quality networking (not just the people there for the free booze and food), these pop-up events and parties bring a breath of fresh air to the typical stodgy name tag cladden networking event. If you’re looking to make the most of your SXSW experience, we at The Fetch suggest checking out these resources and guides that you won’t find on the official SXSW agenda:

1) Gary’s Guide to SXSW is described as “the ultimate” SXSW party list with lots of pub crawls, food crawls, happy hours, brunches, parties, and educational talks broken out by day. Have your SX itinerary next to you while you scan the list to pencil the most appealing events in.

2) Austin 360 has a super helpful side party guide. Choose your day with the option to select free entry only, free food and drinks only, and/or staff picks to see your curated list of the best SX side parties.

3) RSVPster has a pretty extensive unofficial SXSW party calendar. Make sure to check out their Crash Course in Attending SX. It’s pretty focused on music, but there’s helpful tips for innovation too.

4) Expion is hosting some interesting pop-up panels featuring Gary Vaynerchuck of Vayner Media, Sabeen Ali of AngelHack, and more.

5) .Co is setting up an entire pop-up SxSW HQ equipped with coworking space, coffee, tacos, meetups, talks from some of tech’s greatest leaders, and more.

6) Cool Austin has a huge list of unofficial events on their Tumblr page.

7) Start following Unoffical SXSW on Twitter or Facebook for tips on some of the best (and free) parties.

8) halfpastnow.com has put together a diverse list of tech, startup, music, arts, and showcase events. This one is definitely for those interested in broadening their networks (and one of my favorites, personally).

9) There’s even a Reddit feed with a list of and discussions around all the bets parties.

Although we are envious that you get to go rub elbows with all of tech and music’s finest, I wish you safe travels and a ton of fun! Bring me back some swag, won’t you?! :)

Image credit: Austin Tech Council

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