Sean M Everett

Humanizing Technology | Table of Contents

Piksel Faith Launched

If you believe in God and you want to live stream it, boy have we got something for you:

Piksel Faith

It’s our Piksel Video Platform, my product that I get to work on with some pretty incredible people. We hope you like it.

- Sean

Is It A Burden Or An Opport…

I’m forced to get up at 4am every Monday and travel every week, plus I don’t get to sleep in my own bed.


Every week I get to watch the sun come up over Manhattan from 30,000 feet and marvel at all of the planet’s wonders.

The way that you describe the things in your life has a direct correlation to how stressed out or happy you are, how others perceive your personality to be, and whether anyone even wants to be around you, frankly.

Most people’s default mode is “burden”, but I like choosing a different alternative:  opportunity.

I get the opportunity to travel the world, meet interesting people, work on my fascination every day, and be challenged more than any video game ever could.

There’s a feature on the iPhone alarm clock where you can enter a label to identify what the alarm is for. I don’t use it for that. For the last few years I’ve used it to remind myself of the incredible opportunity I’ve worked so hard for throughout my entire life:  to work on my dream.

As you can see from the image below, this isn’t just some random advice. It’s the way I live my life. Give it a try for a few days and see how much better you feel. See if people start treating you different when you look at tough situations as opportunities to solve a difficult challenge, almost like your life is, in fact, a game.

- Sean

This Instagram Hyperlapse App

So yesterday Instagram (read:  Facebook) launched a completely new app outside of Instagram to the iPhone app store. It’s called Hyperlapse and it’s a quick and easy way to create non-shaky timelapse videos.

Incidentally, when I heard about it yesterday I remember watching a Microsoft research video on the technology. But Instagram (read:  Facebook) acquired a company who had already been working on the technology. Instagram just productized it for the consumer market and used their massive size and audience to get all sorts of downloads.

But here’s the thing. This guy is a Product Manager for a large video app. My last startup was a consumer photo-to-video app. So what is the probability that I would download and use an app like this? Pretty high, right? I would agree. Logically.

And yet, here I sit, 24 hours later, having read about it and scrolled past probably 50 separate posts in my Reeder app without having downloaded it.


Well, mostly because it doesn’t solve a problem in my everyday life. I have never once turned to my friend and said, “Hey buddy, you know what would go great with this beer and football game (guy stuff, ladies)? A time lapse video.”

Nope. Has never been a problem in my everyday life.

And so it wasn’t a big deal to download it. I wanted to download it to check it out for research purposes (and because I can’t get enough of this stuff). Heck, I even sent a tweet out about it. And I never tweet articles out.

So what gives, Everett?

Again, I lead a busy life and “I just don’t care”.

Now, if a guy who’s fascinated by, in love with, and has worked in startups and technology for years “just doesn’t care” about an app released by one of the best consumer tech companies ever, then what does that mean about this app idea you have (when you’ve never built an app before)?

My point is that building a consumer app startup is hard. Really hard. Nobody wants to hear about it, download it, and definitely not pay for it.

Trust me. I’ve been there. Multiple times.

If you’re going to spend your life savings, quit your job, quit business school, and go full force into a consumer app startup, make sure you’re solving a problem so painful that people are already hacking together an inelegant solution, spending countless hours and hundreds of dollars trying to solve it for themselves (or hiring someone to do it for them manually).

Without that, I’m likely to never hear about it. And if I do, not download it.

And if I don’t download it, or use it, then you don’t stand a chance. Because I’m knee deep in the industry and care more about novel UX innovations than what your app can do for me.

The only apps I use on a daily basis (outside of the standard Apple fare) are:

  1. Reeder (to stay fresh on the state of the tech industry, read about innovative ideas, and look at the latest design trends)
  2. Instagram (to forget about work for 2 minutes at a time)
  3. Uber (once a week to call a cab at 4am Monday mornings)
  4. 2048 (while the plane is taxiing and taking off)
  5. Delta (to check into my weekly flights)
  6. Twitter & Linkedin (to post to my daily blog and share whatever wacky wisdom I’ve managed to pick up)

So if your app doesn’t solve one of those problems for me, then I “just don’t care”.

Don’t fall into the same trap as millions of other builders. Choose your project wisely. And build something that people “really care” about. Not a paper cut. But a broken arm. Something so painful that people speed to the hospital and spend tens of thousands of dollars to “make the pain go away”.

Do that, and you will be successful.

- Sean

Amazon’s Twich Acquisition …

Live streaming video has been around for years. In fact, the product I’m managing with a group of fine folks Piksel is about 75% live streaming. We’ve been doing it for years, run about 40,000 live events annually and serve about 4 million live video minutes to the internet monthly.

In our product team, we all know about Twitch. Heck, even the developers have it up on their 4th monitor (yes, they compete in a daily how-many-screens-can-I-have-going-at-one-time game) while they work.

Twitch was so successful that the founders shut down, it’s precursor that’s been around for years, in order to focus on the cash cow.

Twitch, for the uninformed is very simple. It’s ESPN for video games. Want to see highlights of that crazy move in League of Legends so you can learn the moves of the masters? Twitch. Want to get an audience to watch you play video games? Twitch. Want to chat with other gamers during a live gaming event? Twitch.

It’s a very simple product to understand from the outside:  live stream yourself playing video games, other people follow you, watch, chat, and then Twitch lets you do it for free if you allow ads (or pay $8.99 to “Go Turbo”. I love that :). You get an audience. Twitch makes money. A match made in heaven.

But behind the scenes, complexity reigns supreme. Doing live video is hard. Real hard. A lot harder than serving up pre-recorded, on demand videos. You have hardware encoders, multiple bit rates and HD streaming, video players that need to play out on all devices, a CDN that has global reach to deliver the video reliably, zero tolerance for downtime.

But here’s the rub. Twitch doesn’t help its users with hardware. It’s left up to the geeks to buy and configure the live encoding hardware on their own. That’s insane. It’d be like telling all users of Facebook to go buy a rack-mounted server in order to post pictures to the service. And yet, it works for Twitch because it solved such a huge problem of backed up demand.

It’s said that when Google was courting, and almost finalized, the deal with Twitch, that they had 44 million users. About a month later when the Amazon deal closed they had grown by +25% to 55 million users. That’s what’s called a Hockey Stick, kids.

Live streaming has been the future since the early 2000s when people set up cameras in their apartments and let the world watch them brush their teeth or do boring things. Imagine your Go Pro live streaming as you’re surf boarding down a mountain top. You get the gist.

Want to broadcast anything, anytime, anywhere? And then put that something up online for all to see?

Well then, you have a few options:  piksel, livestream or ustream. At least for the moment… :)

- Sean

Startups With Your Squad

Ever since I began in the entrepreneurship game I’ve been trying to start businesses with my friends. It wasn’t just because they were my friends but because they are incredibly good at what they do.

When you’re young, your parents are worried about who you hang out with, as if your friends affect your outcome in life. In fact, they were right. I’ve read studies showing that more than anything else (environment, nurture, education, etc), it’s your peer group that is most highly correlated with your future success or the probability that you go to jail.

I grew up in Iowa. There wasn’t much to do there, even in a city of about 80,000 people and four 4A high schools. I didn’t know about hedge funds, management consulting, software design and development, heck even Actuarial Science. Possibilities never even crossed my mind. Neither did Chicago, Dallas or New York City. All I knew was that I was good with numbers, wanted to work with computers and travel through airports wearing a tie and doing “business”, whatever the heck that meant.

But what I did have in spades was an incredibly supportive and loving family, and friends that I continue to see or talk to weekly that have lasted decades.

It’s likely the rarest thing in the universe. In Iowa, we raise corn, cattle, and friendships that last lifetimes.

So now that we’re spread out all over the world, I’m in awe of what’s become of my friends, whether newer or some older.

They’re operating at the absolute highest levels. One in the business of sports. Another, a toy maker. Another, in hedge funds trading M&A arbitrage. Yet another who makes feature length movies. Another in finance in the hardest ROE environments:  airlines. Still another with an EQ off the charts and an expertise in the crossover of technology and real estate. Still another in the entertainment arena.

Now, I don’t know how I’ll bring all these people together but I know that I won’t stop trying. Some day, maybe two decades in the future, we’ll all take a break from life for awhile, hop a flight to some remote location, with nothing but our futuristic phones, and plot against the world like Pinky & The Brain. Only what we we build will be something that could have never been built before because it required the knowledge and network from disparate disciplines, and a friendship that spans a lifetime.

Have a look around the people you hang out with. Who are they? What do they believe in? What is their trajectory in life? Are they good people? Hard working and loyal to a fault? Do they very simply “give a shit”?

Or is it the opposite of that?

We all struggle, in life, in love, in our careers. But it’s your friends and your peer group that determine where you will end up more than anything else.

Today, it’s easier than ever to find a new peer group. A simple search on Google, Twitter, or Instagram will show you how many people there are in the world who believe what you do, are fascinated in the same things, and want to build a better future. Reach out. Be complimentary of the work they’ve already done and hold no ulterior motives other than your shared curiosity. Y’all will get along famously.

Who is your squad, and where are the taking you?

- Sean

Opportunity Versus Hard Work

Thomas Edison famously said, “most people miss opportunity because it’s dressed up like hard work.”

If your vision goes out farther than you can reach, then the only way to cross that chasm is hard work. Plain and simple. And yes, even on Sundays.

So I ask, what have you done today?

- Sean

New Theory of Scale

I can’t get enough of this blog.

Every time I get here I feel like I’m reading the smartest stuff on the internet. In the latest installment of Quanta’s digital magazine, we get to dive into the wide world of the multiverse:

At Multiverse Impasse, a New Theory of Scale

Questions we still have like, “How do things get mass in the first place”, or “why is gravity so weak yet so prevalent”, or even “why is there something and not nothing” leak from the physical to the philosophical.

A theory called “agravity” (for “adimensional gravity”) developed by Salvio and Strumia may be the most concrete realization of the scale symmetry idea thus far. Agravity weaves the laws of physics at all scales into a single, cohesive picture in which the Higgs mass and the Planck mass both arise through separate dynamical effects. As detailed in June in the Journal of High-Energy Physics, agravity also offers an explanation for why the universe inflated into existence in the first place. According to the theory, scale-symmetry breaking would have caused an exponential expansion in the size of space-time during the Big Bang.

Could this be the unifying theory? Or yet another dead alley? We can only wait until they iterate on improvements to the LHC to find out. Until then, enjoy your Saturday fun-day.

- Sean

Smashing 2 Things Together …

It’s the oldest product trick in the book (or maybe that’s just me). Combine Instagram’s filters with Snapchat’s disappearing photo. Or Uber’s “call me a car” with Baskin Robbins 31 flavors.

Ok, maybe not that last one. Or maybe so. Call it Uber Ice Cream. I think they already do something like that for growth hacking purposes.

What crazy stuff can you come up with? There are a thousand ways to combine 2 old things into 1 new thing, but the issue isn’t coming up with the ideas. The issue is making sure you choose the one that’s right for your customers or users. It also isn’t so much about combining 2 things, but rather a way to get you thinking differently about things.

It’s a way to open your mind to possibilities and get you walking down the path of minute iterations. Nothing is right the first time you do it. The first time you tried to shoot hoops, it’s highly likely you bricked so badly you threw the ball over the back of the fence, into the street, a car ran it over, the guy go out, started yelling at you, and then your mom grounded you from outdoor play until winter came.

Well, something like that anyways.

I wouldn’t suggest burglarizing other people’s products, but I would say use it as the jumping off point. Just start sketching UIs. Do it over and over and over, show it to other people and walk them through it, then make changes. Add in another feature from another product. Then completely blow the entire thing up because it’s different than the problem you’re trying to solve for your users.

What’s the most elegant way you can get from Point A (problem) to Point B (solution) that nobody has ever seen or thought of before? Question everything? Why do we still force people to log in? Why not just give everyone the features and the moment they want to share what they’ve done, that’s when you force them to sign up. How crazy is that?

Super crazy. Totes craze.

But guess what, it let’s people try before they buy. If more products did that, more products would have more people using them. Funny thing, eh? Letting the product sell itself instead of worrying about a massive website trying to explain it.

Maybe I’m just talking crazy from lack of sleep and too much caffeine. Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed. Sketch the ideas out, don’t use words. Software doesn’t use words. Words are cheating. Build the UI with pictures. Lead users with hints of what they might expect by scrolling. Cut off pictures and UIs to show something’s there but making them forced to scroll.

Drops pencil like it’s a mic.

It’s Friday, kids.

- Sean

The Best Thought Experiment…

If you left your current job, who would you take with you?

Of course, everyone believes he/she is an A player so how do you figure out if you’re actually and A or more like a C?

Ooh boy, that’s a tough one because it requires some critical self-reflection. And until you do that, the hardest work of all, you’ll never find your own areas of weakness, the things you need to learn in order to improve, and where to focus your personal development efforts.

I used to work next to some incredible performance management and organizational design folks for many years. It’s a well-known fact that no performance management and career development framework works without the person being transparent with themselves, and also driving their own career development forward.

But if you already believe you’re a A player, then you’re unlikely to believe you have anything left to learn. What I’ve actually found, however, is that the real A folks don’t even worry about being As. Because they’re too focused on continually improving every aspect of their work with complete disregard for themselves.

So maybe you can spot an A by wanting to work with them in your next job and that they want to keep learning.

Or maybe they’re just wicked smaaaht.

How ‘bout them Apples?

- Sean

Making Products That Are “Fun”

One of my good friends has made some of your favorite animated films. He’s an incredible storyteller. He draws hundreds of storyboards that are so good you become emotionally invested in characters that you actually believe exist when they’re just lines on a page.

Since I’ve known him he has lived by the ethos of creating “fun”. He uses that to describes projects or things he likes. He says, “Oh, that’s fun.” Then does his little man-giggle, which is absolutely hilar (it’s all about the abbrevs, brah).

And I finally realized how powerful that mechanic is recently. I mean on a deep level, not just the surface level “yah duh, of course fun IS fun.”

Imagine yet another email app comes on the market. At it’s core, it’s doing the exact same thing every other email program does. It’s let’s you write, reply, or forward email. The most revolutionary product let you snooze it (something I developed years prior to Mailbox, so even that wasn’t that revolutionary).

But what if you decided, instead of being more revolutionary than the next guy, to be fun than the next guy? So you built something simple and silly that made people giggle hilarious man-giggles.

What if everytime you pushed the send button, there was a huge Michael Bay style explosion on your screen and Teddy Ruxpin walked across the bottom of your screen, giving you a digital high five?

Now, that provides absolutely no utility to receiving and replying to email. Except maybe making it more fun.

What if you could unlock hidden levels by chaining together certain actions? Like a streak of replying to all emails received within 5 mins for an hour straight?

Would it make it more fun? Would it make you now engaged than just something you HAVE to do?

Maybe those are silly examples or maybe 1 million people would download the Michael Bay Email app and watch their email Transform.

Fun is a powerful concept for one simple reason. As the old cartoon’s song goes, there’s “more than meets the eye”.

Maybe adding a bit more whimsy or fun is the answer to all your problems? If not, at least trying it gives you a laugh and relieves a bit of stress.

Toodle loo.

- Sean