As a small startup, we’re especially aware that people are our most valuable asset. So to make sure we bring on the right people, we try to simulate working with potential hires by doing a mini hackathon.
Here’s the story of how, in one interview, the sudden appearance of an unexpected constraint ended up being a blessing in disguise and led to us creating a cool product that our friends love. (Want a sneak peek? You can check out the product here: Get Remember When)
Our typical interview process goes like this:
We were introduced to this designer from Stanford through a friend. He had come by our office to hang out and we liked him, we invited him to come in a few days later, on Tuesday, to do a mini hackathon with us.
Walking in, he told us he only had an hour and a half before needing to head back to his dorm for dinner. Since usually we like to build for 3-4 hours, we were caught by surprise and not sure what to do.
We decided to roll with it and do a super small, simple project so we could still get the important pieces of the hackathon in: brainstorming, building, and completing a project collaboratively.
We decided to do a quick 10 minute brainstorm session (which ended up being more like 20 minutes) using a “yes and” process. Basically, it works like this: someone throws out an idea and we write it out on the board regardless of how good it sounded.
While ideas were initially kind of silly and slow to come, we came up with around 20 ideas pretty quickly and were actually excited about several of the later ones. We found that many of the later ideas built off of and refined the earlier ideas, even when the earlier idea seemed silly. Finally, we used a two stage voting system in which we used 5 votes per person to collectively pick the top 5 ideas and then 3 votes to pick our favorite.
In the end, we arrived at an idea we were very excited about. We realized we all had amazing memories with friends who we didn’t see as much as we wanted to, and we wanted to bring them back into our lives. Thus Remember When was born: show you your old Facebook photos and let you text them to friends.
Lesson: Building off mediocre ideas with a “yes and” mindset often results in really good ideas.
I had built a bunch of iOS stuff before and Joe had done some a while ago, so we figured it would be pretty fast to build the app.
We were both right and wrong. We quickly had a prototype working and most of the functionality was straightforward to build. However, there were 3 things that took much longer than we anticipated:
Lesson: Typically you can expect some unexpected delays, however sometimes the majority of your time will be spent in the unexpected.
As we got the prototype working, I started realizing that this could actually be really fun to use. The blasting Flo Rida music was punctuated with me commenting to everyone, “Hey guys, you know, I think this could actually be really cool!”
Our aha moment happened when I loaded my own photos into the app. Even though the product was super janky and the user interface looked like a toddler had tried to use Xcode storyboards (see: using giant brightly colored rectangles for user interface placeholders), it was super addicting to see photos of myself and my friends from the past.
That evening, I went home, sat on the toilet, and just kept going through my own photos in the app on repeat.
At this time, Facebook had a bug in their API which only allowed for about 200-300 photos to be shown and the app naively showed them all in the same order every single time the app was opened, so I had already seen each of my photos 3-5 times already. And yet, I still couldn’t stop looking through all of them.
I alternated texting my teammates “OMG this is super fun!!!” and sending them random pictures through the app.
That night, I ended up staying up super late just tapping through all of my old pictures from college and even high school in Remember When.
The next day I ran around the office showing everyone the app we built for an interview. The day after that, Thursday, we finished up the product. As we were building and testing it, I constantly got distracted by looking at my old photos. In a couple hours, I binge texted 42 photos of epic memories to my friends, sparking awesome conversations with close friends I hadn’t talked to in a long time.
There were two “wow” moments for our test users in the evolution of the prototype:
Having a real-ish looking user interface helped people focus on the content rather than asking me what the giant bright green rectangle (the next button) did. It’s one thing to understand how a product works, but playing with it yourself with highly personal, emotional content is a whole other experience.
Ironically, the first four friends we asked to try it out had some not so great experiences.
Two of them didn’t want to use it while we were standing there; when I asked them why, they said they were embarrassed to go through their pictures while I was there. Two others immediately saw pictures of their exes, which was a total fail (hiding ex’s is actually a common request and we have a good solution coming).
Undeterred, we kept on showing it to people and getting them to install it on their phones. We were happy to find that the responses from literally everyone else sounded more like “OH MY GOD, this is awesome!” and “What is this… oh. [looks at photo] hahahah that was such a good memory! I love this!”
We were blown away when we saw that after people opened the app, they often immediately looked at several hundred of their photos nonstop (analytics effort paying off here)!
Ultimately, we had a fantastic time building and showing our friends Remember When. By rolling with an unexpected constraint of having much less time to build a product than we expected, building a super simple product that turned out to be incredibly powerful because it was so simple.
We are super excited to let you play with Remember When, and hope it lets you relive great memories and bond with your friends in the same way it did for us.
You can play with the product here: Download Remember When
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any comments, questions, or feedback! We love to hear from you!