Im familiar with reaching out to strangers and scheduling a chunk of their time. This is definitely a strength of mine.
Last week, I met with a few people through cold-emails. Through the suggestion of others, I met two people: a co-founder of a mapping based webapp and the creator of a graffiti orriented Google street-view tool. In both cases, I sent a short email introducing myself and asked to meet. I received replies and subsequently scheduled lunch meetings. In both meetings, I was introduced to processes I didn’t previously know about.
The first meeting was with Brian Foo, from the NYPL Innovation Labs. Brian made a tool to layer Google Street View images from different time periods. His program solved the problem of having images of the same ‘thing’ but from slightly different angles. Google Street View annually takes pictures of the same places, but the pictures are always slightly different Brian’s solution is an algorithmic Python script that skews the images enough to match hard edges.
The program he made was designed to be used for engaging with after school programs. The tool let people look at the gentrification of communities over time. Through looking at the changing shop fronts and graffiti quantity, the students were able to gather insight into how communities were changing.
The second meeting was with Samia from Karta. Samia is a traveler and made a tool that would help her coordinate her sporadic adventures. In the last two weeks, she was in Rome, Ithica, Vegas, California, and back in New York. She dove into the reasons why she started Karta, how the product developed, and the obstacles she encountered.
I was able to ask her about my own project and gain her insight. I wanted to know the metrics that determined success when using maps. For Karta, the number of people who used the service and the number of pins per a map reflected the user engagement.
Karta was designed to be used for people who want other peoples insight on a new place. The example Samia gave me was: you go traveling but don’t know anything about the place you are going to. Using Karta, you can ask your friends to tell you where to go or where not to go. social map makers.
Through hearing Samia’s experience, I understood the difficulty of creating an alternative to Google maps. People may have found it difficult to understand and engage with a new service. If people already have Google maps, then they don’t need anything new. While Karta provides a very specific solution to a variety of problems, the competition is already familiar.
Overall, meeting with Brian and Samia provided completely different learnings. Brian exposed me to technical solutions to problems I may encounter. He also showed me the intersection of graffiti and educational opportunities. Samia exposed me to the process of developing a tool that doesn’t hit product-market fit. As a result of her experience, I am sensitive to the development of something that doesn’t clearly have customer adoption.