The new iPad Pro is out. It has thin bezels, no home button, Face ID and it’s more powerful than any other tablet in the market. It’s so powerful that Apple is daring to compare it with laptops in terms of performance (and sales). And yet, many tech media sites rushed to publish their favorite headline when it comes to the iPad: “it still cannot replace your laptop”. Well, I’m here to refute that idea; I replaced my laptop with an iPad Pro months ago.
First, let’s briefly talk about the laptop I replaced. I bought a Surface Book in October of 2015 and I fell in love with it immediately. One feature in specific won me over: Windows Hello. Thanks to Windows Hello I was able to unlock the device using only my face. It was fast and reliable, and it showed me what the future should look like. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use Windows Hello to log into my apps and websites, although this will hopefully change soon. On top of that, the Surface Book was too big and heavy for light traveling, so in December of 2017 I got an iPad.
Eric Migicovsky is a Partner at Y Combinator, one of the top of U.S. startup accelerators, and he was previously Founder and CEO at Pebble, the company that created the first commercially successful smartwatch. Last Friday, he was interviewed by Adora Cheung (another YC Partner) on being an entrepreneur at the intersection of hardware and software. Here you can read a summary of my five biggest takeaways.
Fast iterations can save you a lot of money
7 out of the first 10 smartwatches built and shipped at Pebble ended up exploding (as in, broke into pieces), and the company learned a ton about what caused the issue. This early finding prevented them from making hundreds of devices with the same problem.
“We screwed up everything youcould possibly screw up.”
Going from implementation to validation as fast as possible helps uncover issues that can be fatal if discovered in future iterations, when it might be impossible to recover due to lack of resources like time or money. Validating your product with real users is the ideal case, but you risk losing customers’ trust if a problem is not handled properly: if you ask your customers for their feedback, you better be ready to listen.
“The access token enables someone to use the account as if they were the account holder themselves. This does mean they could access other third-party apps using Facebook login,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of product. Imagine the following scenario then: someone shares on Facebook their favorite vacation spot from Airbnb, and the hackers use the stolen token to access his Airbnb account and get information about the rental properties that this user owns. Any site that relies on Facebook’s Single Sign-On, like Airbnb or Spotify to name a few, is affected by the data breach.
Even though it’s unclear if any of these accounts or access tokens were actually misused in any way (Facebook is still investigating), many security experts recommended affected users to reset their passwords as an added precaution measure. I was one of the affected users, and when I found myself struggling to define my new Facebook password (the 3rd one I’m forced to use in 2018), I knew it was time to stop using Facebook’s login and start using a password manager.
I sold my 1st generation Apple Watch a few weeks ago. Since it was right before Apple’s event, I thought it would be fun to revive my Pebble watch and use it with my iPhone while I waited for the Series 4. The thing is, Pebble was acquired by Fitbit in 2016 and stopped giving support to these old devices earlier this year. After a bit of research, I discovered the light at the end of the tunnel; here’s how I brought a Pebble watch back to life in 2018.
In case you are not familiar, Pebble was a smartwatch launched with the biggest Kickstarter campaign in 2012, reaching $10.3 Million in a little over a month. The watch started shipping in early 2013 with a black and white memory LCD screen, which provided about a week of battery life.
Given the head start that Pebble enjoyed, a thriving ecosystem was created around the tiny device. In the 2 years before giants like the Apple Watch or the Samsung Gear started selling, more than 1000 apps and watch faces were available on the Pebble app store.
You might think that the Pebble had an odd design, but you could forget about charging it and there were a lot of cool apps: sleep tracker, fitness tracker, even a Domino’s Pizza tracker. Regardless, when Apple released their competitor in April 2015, the Pebble ended up stored in my closet, and it stayed there all these years… until now.
The past couple of weeks have been a big roller coaster for MoviePass. I got to experience the Thursday July 26 outage when I was going to see a movie with a friend. We were upset but decided to go for happy hour instead which turned out to be great. The next day we found out it was because they had run out of money which indicated that the end was near. MoviePass was able to get their emergency loan and service was restored. On Friday my friends wanted to see Mission Impossible but the option was grayed out however, after refreshing several times, I was able to get a ticket with an outrageous $6 surcharge. This grayed option turned out to be a change in plans where new movies were not going to be offered anymore. This was a breaking moment for me. I had to make a decision to stay or not before I would be charged the next month.
The tech industry has created millions of jobs and an unprecedented level of wealth. It allows people across the whole planet to solve a wide variety of problems and improve the communities around them. Coding is one of the most valuable skills of our time and students around the world are beginning to learn it earlier in their lives than ever before.
The problem? Education affordability, social and racial disparities and gender discrimination. Many kids in low income families have never touched a computer, never given the opportunity to learn computer science, or what’s worse, they don’t believe they can ever become software engineers, thinking of the job as something reserved for privileged people.
The good news is that there are a bunch of amazing engineers out there focused on mitigating these problems, and today I’m interviewing Fernando Sanchez, Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft and Co-Founder of ‘Geeking Out Kids of Color‘ (GOKiC), a nonprofit focused on empowering kids of color with education in computer science so they can use technology to help make a positive impact in their communities. His story is not only inspiring, but also one that I hope reaches any kid out there thinking that they are not allowed to be part of the tech industry.
How did you get started in tech and how did you prepare yourself to land a job at Microsoft?
I joined Microsoft right after college, and during these 9 years I’ve learnt a great deal about technology, the tech industry and about myself. I worked on several iterations of Windows and Bing, using a myriad of frameworks and languages. Nonetheless, the people who I worked with are the highlight of this almost-a-decade, and today I want to share the biggest takeaways I got from them.
Don’t be scared of the Kool-Aid
At Microsoft, the mission of empowering everyone on the planet to achieve more is a powerful motivator; at Google, saying someone is ‘googley’ is the equivalent of measuring them against a high bar; at Amazon, their leadership principles are frequently used as jargon in meetings or documents. You might be tempted to mock or dismiss these culture bits as stupid or superficial, but in reality, a strong culture can help propel the company forward, in a single direction.
Every company has a source of Kool-Aid, and “drinking” from it consciously can help you become a more engaged employee. Analyze the culture objectively, extract its benefits and internalize them. It will motivate you and your team.
How many times have you heard that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is humanity’s biggest threat? Some people think that Google brought us a step closer to a dark future when Duplex was announced last month, a new capability of Google’s digital Assistant that enables it to make phone calls on your behalf to book appointments with small businesses. You can see it in action here:
No joke. Google Assistant will start making phone calls to small businesses to make appointments on you behalf. It's called Google Duplex. The AI caller even adds uhmms and hmms #io18pic.twitter.com/r5Ie33YFEc
The root of the controversy lied on the fact that the Assistant successfully pretended to be a real human, never disclosing its true identity to the other side of the call. Many tech experts wondered if this is an ethical practice or if it’s necessary to hide the digital nature of the voice.
Last April I decided to take a big jump from building enterprise software to building consumer products. I am very grateful to have found a place that would allow me to learn the ropes of the consumer business without sacrificing any of the internal goals. This past year has been a great learning experience with big learnings and here are my key takeaways.
Enterprise vs Consumer? What’s the big deal?
Building enterprise software is a different beast than building it for consumers. They share several core components such as requiring a secure, reliable infrastructure and following best software practices including sprint models. However, I see three key differences.
Difference 1: Knowing what your customers want
In the enterprise world you go out and talk to your customers and it’s fairly clear what they need. Even building roadmaps is fairly easy. In the consumer world it’s not as easy. Because you are building software for millions of customers you can’t talk to all of them, so you have to find proxies to it. Unfortunately, many times these proxies are not perfect hence you require to test a lot (and I do mean a lot). On the good side, because consumer software is used right away you get instant feedback and know if you have a success or a fail.
Facebook has been receiving criticism once again for how they handled users’ personal data. Here is a quick summary: in 2013, a 3rd party developer acquired large amounts of data from about 50 million users through an old platform capability (which was removed by Facebook itself one year later to prevent abuse); this data was then used to target US voters during the 2016 Presidential Election. The issue is complex in depth and it highlights a bigger underlying problem: users’ privacy expectations are not aligned with the commitment from most tech companies.
Zuckerberg said in a recent interview with Wired, “early on […] we had this very idealistic vision around how data portability would allow all these different new experiences, and I think the feedback that we’ve gotten from our community and from the world is that privacy and having the data locked down is more important to people.”
I can nonetheless relate to that idealistic vision between privacy and technology. The more information the Google Assistant knows about the music I like, the better it can personalize my listening experience. Richer actions become available too, like allowing me to control the Nest thermostat or the lights by voice. At the end of the day, I’m trusting Google with my music taste and the devices installed in my house, and I get the benefit of convenience in return.