Startup Strava Challenge: out of bike karma

by Jess on June 2, 2014


We had a great time participating in Quick Left’s Startup Strava Challenge last month. We came in fourth place out of 20 teams – congratulations to Radio 360 for their victory!

We loved having the excuse to get outside, make new friends, and get a little competitive thanks to this challenge. But you can’t have a good adventure without some misadventures to balance everything out. Here, software engineer Seth McClaine tells us about an afternoon that made him question his cycling karma:

seth-bike

Doing my typical Saturday ride with the Bicycle Village group and one of my new riding friends I met through the Quick Left Strava Challenge, I finally get my first flat ever on a ride.

Starting from the beginning, I decided to ride from my house and get the extra 5 miles in to put towards the challenge. I get to BV (Bicycle Village) and we are scheduled for a 30 mile ride. We head out, get some coffee in Erie, and start heading back. About 5 miles out from returning to BV a fellow rider blows out her rear tire. I stopped to help. After giving some assistance and leaving her with a ride ambassador, my friend and I continued riding back.

I went on to say “I always try to stop because I feel like it’s good karma. In the four years I’ve been riding I’ve never gotten a flat on a ride…”

About a mile from BV I have a massive blowout. A pop, three whizzes (rotation of the tire while you can hear the air coming out), and my tire is completely flat. So much for karma!

I’m thinking, “Ehh, about a mile out, I could just walk back to BV then drive home… Oh wait, I didn’t drive.” I replace my tire, using CO2 to fill it up, get back on and get back to BV. A couple minutes after I had set my bike in the rack we hear a pop. At first I figured someone else popped their tire throwing it on the rack, as someone was putting their bike on the rack next to mine.

Later I find out, no my tire blew up, blow out number 2! The CO2 must have warmed up and over inflated the tire. Conveniently I brought an extra tube since my friend didn’t have extras. I take my wheel into the shop and replace the tube again.

As I get close to 100PSI BANG! Nothing makes your ears ring like exploding a tube inside a building. I managed to pinch the tube with the tire since I was being hasty replacing the tube and didn’t roll the tire correctly. I was out of tubes and a little frustrated.

Fine, I take it back to the service area and let them fix it. A couple minutes later I get my tire back and start to walk toward the register. Then I notice a small bubble coming out of the side of the tire… Apparently the pinch flat I had just done caused the side of the tire to blow out. Ok, back to service. They set me up with a new tire, and I’m finally good to go after paying.

All in all, at the end of the day, I now have matching red wall tires on my bike for the first time in two years.

We had lots of fun this month, misadventures and all. Thanks to Quick Left for organizing this challenge! It was an excellent way to foster community, get people out and about, and support a wonderful cause. In honor of Radio 360′s win, we’re making a donation to their chosen organization, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

#BSW14 is almost here!

by Jess on May 8, 2014

BSW

One of our favorite weeks of the year, Boulder Startup Week, is right around the corner! It’s a great opportunity to spend time learning from our fellow startup and tech enthusiasts – and to meet some of the most amazing people the scene has to offer.

Swing by our office on Tuesday at 2 for the “I Moved to Boulder and…” event. A handful of newly-minted Boulderites (including our own Stephanie!) will share what it was like to move to Boulder, from job hunting to relocating a family and scouting out the best happy hours around town. We’ll even have some beer on hand (and we’ll be making it rain with our new stickers.)

But, enough about us – here are a few more events we’re looking forward to:

We’ll also be reppin’ at the sold-out Ignite Boulder. If you see us around, make sure to say hello! And if you’re attending Boulder Startup Week as a job seeker, we’re hiring and would love to meet you.

PerspiringApps and the #startupchallenge

by Jess on May 2, 2014

It’s hard to live in Boulder – the fittest city in the country – without finding your own niche of physical activity. We’re a pretty active bunch here at InspiringApps, with yoga, cycling, swimming, running and even dancing among our favorite pastimes. And while we spend plenty of time at the gym during the winter, our “ActiveIA” selves truly shine when the weather’s nice and we can get outdoors as a team – from participating in the IronMan triathlon relay last year to this summer’s National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.

That’s why we were stoked to learn our friends down the street, Quick Left, had planned the Startup Strava Challenge (#startupchallenge), which kicked off yesterday. It’s the perfect combination of a lot of our favorite things – apps, startups, getting active, community, and supporting great causes. All this month, we’ll be using Strava to track our miles as we compete with 20 of Boulder’s finest startups like PivotDesk and Pearl Izumi. The team with the most miles per capita will have the “pot” of entry fees donated to the organization of their choice. We’re walking, running, hiking and biking on behalf of People for Bikes, a great organization that gets people active and improves cycling conditions in cities across the US.

Follow along as we rack up the miles by checking the Strava widget below – and to see how we compare with the other teams, head on over to the Quick Left blog. We’re small but mighty, and we’re pumped to have another reason to spend some time out and about this month.

Ready, set… GO!

AlwaysInspiring: #WERUNDC

by Eric Miller on May 1, 2014

Our team members regularly inspire with the apps we make in the office – but our out-of-office projects can be pretty inspiring, too. Recently, part-time IA software engineer Eric Miller developed and helped produce interactive set pieces at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC.

expotique

Can you provide some background on you and your work?

Like a lot of people, I’ve always felt torn between technical and creative worlds, never feeling entirely at home in just one. Maybe that’s because at some level it’s all “techne“, if you will, but in our culture it seems hard to find a way to do both—particularly the purely creative side—and make a living.

Lately I’ve been drawn to what seems like an intersection of worlds and I suppose the name for it is “interactive installation”. It can incorporate so many creative, human, and basically architectural concerns by means of technology. And it’s fun: the suprise and delight factor can be really high with these things since you don’t see this stuff happening everywhere yet and the possibilities are so vast. In urban contexts I think this kind of work could really change the experience of a space, a commute, or even a city. I think we’ll be seeing more ambient computing and “activated spaces” and so on in the coming years.

So anyway, I’ve put together or helped with a handful of interactive art installations. As a part-time freelance developer and creative coder, I’d really like to do more of it. The Nike project obviously wasn’t about changing anyone’s life but it was the largest-scale project I’ve done so far.

nikesign

How about some background on the project? How did you get involved, and what you were hoping to accomplish?

The idea was to take the RFID sensors used to track a runner’s time and trigger personalized, animated messages on great big screens. There were two places this would happen: right after folks picked up their bibs in an “expotique” tent, and towards the end of the race itself, around mile 12. I was approached by a Boulder creative/ad agency called School, which had been hired to produce the experience.

Aside from delivering the app in a robust and non-crashing way, I wanted to improve my chops with a couple of “newer” technologies. That’s newer, of course, only for someone who originally learned C++ and graphics in the late 90s!

thesetup

Did you use C++? What other technologies did you use?

I built the app with Cinder, which is a lovely framework for working with OpenGL in C++. The RFID sensors output a protocol called ChronoTrack, and we had to talk to them over direct socket TCP. We were running on OSX, so I used some Obj-C networking classes for that, and for fetching the name/bib database over HTTP, which was being updated in real-time as people registered.

And did you learn any “new” tricks?

It turns out that C++ has grown a lot since the old days and I’m still trying to catch up. Ha! I feel old now. And I’ve been dying to become more facile with GLSL—the “shader” language used to program the graphics pipline on modern hardware. I managed to sneak in some nice realtime glow and motion blur effects using GLSL. It was a very basic accomplishment in terms of what’s possible, but I was happy to make it work.

Anything else to add?

I think that historically we’ve often used technology to sever our minds from our bodies, if you will. We seem to habitually seek distraction from our immediate, physical, and feeling situation and we build technology to enable it. In my opinion this is really bad news for everyone. I don’t know if interactive installation can turn this trend around and use technology to instead “re-embody” our urban and personal experiences—maybe for just a few minutes, for a few people—but I’m really interested in asking that question in particular.

Team member profile: Kim Weber, product manager

by Jess on April 16, 2014

weber family

Kim with her husband, Brad, and daughters, Marlo and Cora

Kim has been a member of the InspiringApps team since April 2010. She grew up in Littleton, Colorado, where she loved playing Cabbage Patch Dolls with her two sisters and practicing piano. After she graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Computer Science and English, Kim worked in systems consulting in Washington, D.C. and New York City. She also spent some time as a developer for the United Nations in New York. Kim loved all the unique experiences she had in one of her favorite cities: “Coming from Littleton and going to school in South Bend, I was enamored with the size of NYC, the opportunities there for fun and culture, and trying a sheep’s head as a delicacy with colleagues from the UN.”

While she was working with the UN, Kim was able to learn more about the development process as a whole: “They had us go through everything from concept to delivery, which gave me a little taste of training, since we had to show the customer how to use the product.” Even though she loved NYC, Kim wanted to move back to Colorado, where she took a job in training. “I really liked the experience of helping people learn how to use software,” she said. That passion led her to get her Master’s in Instructional Learning Technologies from the University of Colorado at Denver.

At InspiringApps, Kim primarily works with our product, ePCR for iPad. She appreciates the opportunity to provide a great experience for our customers: “Part of product management is working with our customers and helping them use our apps in the best way possible,” she said. “I also support our customers, work with them on their requests for enhancements and address their concerns.” Outside of product management, Kim recruits developers and other people to join our team. “It’s exciting to talk to talented people who want to work with us,” she said.

Being part of an excellent team is what Kim loves the most about working at InspiringApps. “I like that when you walk through the doors, you can feel the friendly atmosphere,” she said. “Our coworkers are happy to be here, respectful of each other and ready to laugh. I love that our team is always up for getting lunch, coffee, or a beer with one another. I also like that I feel like I’m working with smart people who take their job seriously and are committed to excellence in their work.”

Kim loves all that Boulder has to offer: “It seems so cliché but I really do love the outdoor opportunities and the awesome restaurants in town,” she said. (Her favorite Boulder restaurants are Carelli’s and Sushi Zanmai.) Kim also has two cousins who moved to Boulder from Chicago and NYC, which has made living and working in the area an even better experience. “Having family in Boulder makes it feel more like a hometown, even though it’s not where my family’s from,” she said. “Growing up, all of my relatives lived on the east coast, so I didn’t get to see them very often. Now that some of them – and especially the ones who are my age – live out here, it feels more like home.”

In her free time, Kim enjoys hanging out with her family. She especially likes riding bikes around Broomfield open space with 5-year-old Cora in her Trail-A-Bike and cooking, usually trying new brownie recipes with Marlo, 10.

A chat with Brent Weaver from uGurus

by Jess on April 11, 2014

A few weeks ago, Brad got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Brent Weaver from uGurus, a Denver company that uses the power of online communities to help Web professionals find success in their businesses. We’ve loved checking out other videos from this series – it’s always great learning about what other companies are up to, and it’s exciting to see our peers talk about their work. Brad and Brent discussed everything from the size of our team to company culture, and Brad shared a bit about InspiringApps’ history – as well as our future.

We’re honored to have been profiled as part of uGurus’ video series! Check out the video below:

 

InspiringPeople: applying principles to become extraordinary

by Jess on April 4, 2014

JosephLogan

Earlier this week executive coach and author Joseph Logan joined us as part of our ongoing InspiringPeople series. Joseph shared stories from his forthcoming book, Heretic: How Extraordinary Misfits Change the Rules and Change the World, and taught us how ordinary people can become extraordinary leaders through the principles of courage, insight and tenacity.

Joseph said he’s always been drawn to people who do the impossible – to people who are extraordinary. Even from a young age, he admired “people who found something in themselves and took a journey to become something more.”

Having extraordinary people in his life inspired Joseph to start helping other people find that certain something within themselves. “I believe every person has the seed of something extraordinary in them,” he said. “I also believe not everyone will nurture and grow that seed. But the people who do? They’re the ones who change the world.” For local examples, Joseph listed Ashoka U, the Unreasonable Institute, and even Avery Brewing as groups of extraordinary people who have changed the world.

During an interactive portion of the talk, Joseph had a few people share a time they did something they thought was impossible. From major lifestyle changes to overcoming huge challenges at work, the people who shared their stories revealed how ordinary people can do extraordinary things every single day. “Extraordinary can be large-scale, or it can be personal,” Joseph said. “What matters is taking the journey to change your world.” As one attendee said, an extraordinary act “changes not only your perspective but that of those around you.”

It’s no secret people in Boulder are doing extraordinary things every day. But what is it about Boulder that’s different? Is someone’s ability to be extraordinary tied to where they live?

While resources like a vibrant, helpful and powerful community certainly play a part in nurturing extraordinary people, Joseph believes the most important keys to being extraordinary are a person’s principles and how they’re applied: “Extraordinary people all follow the principles of courage, insight and tenacity,” he explained.

InspiringPeople crowd

Courage
Joseph told us the story of Ian Ayres, a law professor at Yale who had the courage to speak up. Ayres did a study on 401(k) plans and discovered many employers offer high-fee plans that would end up producing negative interest over time. He sent letters to more than six thousand employers letting them know what he found and informed them he’d soon release the results of his study.

In Joseph’s words, “all hell broke loose.” Ayres received death threats, countless people called Yale to demand his termination… people were furious. When Joseph spoke with Ayres, he said “You don’t seem like one to stir the pot… how’d you find the courage to do this?”

Ayres laughed. “I’ve always stirred the pot,” he said. “And I had no idea so many people would be this upset.” Joseph said Ayres didn’t think anyone cared about their 401(k), that he didn’t initially act out of courage. “He doubled down when he felt threatened, though,” Joseph explained. “He got energized from the fallout and had the courage to take it further.”

At its core, the principle of courage is embodied by people who say, “Why does it have to be that way?” Extraordinary people see a fundamental injustice or challenge somewhere – whether it’s in their personal lives or on a grand scale – and they have the courage to overcome it.

Insight
Once you’ve found the courage to make a change, it’s important to examine the situation to see what you can leave alone and what you need to do in order to make things different.

When gathering insight, the first step is to determine where there are implicit rules and opportunities for change. Joseph identified five areas that come into play in forming extraordinary insight:

  • Strategy – What plan is currently being followed? Why was it created?
  • Politics – What power structures currently exist? Who are the key players?
  • Affinities – What role do relationships play?
  • Culture – How do values and norms shape the situation?
  • Economics – How does money affect the situation?

Joseph ensured the areas to examine were memorable – the first letters of each area become SPACE (he knows it’s corny, but it works.)

The principle of insight is basically determining what the change you want to make is really about, and what factors are at play that will either help or challenge you as you work to accomplish it. Joseph said insight starts with the self – where are you strong, and where could you grow?

Tenacity
What would it take to get you to quit something you’re happily engaged in and passionate about?

Probably a lot, right? What if everything you’ve worked for literally burned to the ground, right at what you considered the peak of your success? Would you give up then?

Bryan Dayton, co-owner of OAK at fourteenth, refused to give up after a devastating fire at the upscale Boulder restaurant shortly after its critically acclaimed opening in 2010. Even though OAK’s investors argued it’d be better to cut their losses and accept the insurance money – or at least move to a new space – Dayton made the choice to rebuild the restaurant in its original location. OAK is now one of Boulder’s most renowned restaurants, and Dayton was featured on a cover of GQ Magazine’s 2011 “Men of the Year” issue.

Joseph explained how tenacity is essential to becoming extraordinary. Even after gathering the courage and insight necessary to make a change, challenges will still arise. Major complications and derailments will still occur, and giving up will become an increasingly appealing option.

But the extraordinary person, the one who has the tenacity to hold on a little bit longer than anyone else, is the one who can eke out a win.

The Process
So, how do we become extraordinary people? Are these principles learned, or are they limited to the lucky few who were born with them? To Joseph, becoming extraordinary is all about the process – it’s about finding that seed within us, and cultivating it so it can grow. These principles aren’t limited to bestowment upon birth; they are all things we learn. Joseph said he believes insight can be taught in a classroom, but courage and tenacity are learned through experience – good experiences and bad. “Success is a lousy teacher,” he said. “Failure is the teacher; success is the lesson.”

Joseph’s presentation was engaging and inspiring, giving us the opportunity to examine which aspects of our lives can become extraordinary. To close, he read from the final chapter of Heretic, due for release in early 2015. To learn more about Joseph, visit his website at josephlogan.com.

InspiringPeople is InspiringApps’ speaker series featuring people we think are, well… inspiring! These informal lunch gatherings allow members of the Boulder community to hear from their peers about their work, hobbies and passions. Interested in speaking or attending? Email jess@inspiringapps.com to be added to the list!

RSVP to InspiringPeople, featuring Joseph Logan

by Jess on March 24, 2014

Our InspiringPeople series continues with Joseph Logan, author of the forthcoming Heretic: How Extraordinary Misfits Change the Rules and Change the World. Logan will share his story and discuss how ordinary people can become extraordinary leaders. Join us at this brown-bag lunch to discuss transformation, innovation, leadership and more.

Learn more about this event and RSVP on its Eventbrite page. We look forward to seeing you next week!

inspiringpeople

Now available: InspiringBusiness – March 2014

by Jess on March 10, 2014

InspiringBusiness header

We recently published the latest issue of our InspiringBusiness newsletter, where we discussed how we optimized server-app data sync for the iPad, our work with the N-FORS project and introduced the education plan for ePCR for iPad, one of our products.

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive InspiringBusiness in your email.

InspiringPeople: using agile practices to found a non-tech startup

by Jess on February 28, 2014

Alicia Benjamin

Earlier this week, we welcomed Alicia Benjamin of RUNspiration and RIZE as part of our InspiringPeople series. Alicia chatted with us about her career path, fitness experiences, and how she used agile principles in the development of her newest project, rizebox. Alicia said she never intended to become a runner or start a business, but her passions have led her to a point of clarity. “I’m on a mission to inspire women and change the way we treat each other,” she said. “We focus so much on competing with each other instead of motivating and inspiring one another.”

With a background in marketing and PR, Alicia was the first non-technical hire of a startup in Boston called MeYouHealth. Immersing herself in the company’s agile practices helped her understand how agile works, and how it could be beneficial to her work as a marketer. She was able to apply what she learned from the startup to RedPint, an app she co-created that allowed people to “check in” and let people know what beers they were drinking. It was hyper-focused on Boston and came from her experiences with the Craft Beer Crew, a Meetup community of beer lovers she created and grew to hundreds of members.

As Alicia and her partner worked to improve the app, she was able to learn about the craft beer production chain – from brewers to consumers – and their pain points. She learned that brand representatives needed data about what beers users were drinking in order to compete with big names, and that RedPint could provide that data. Alicia used her Craft Beer Crew friends as a test market, demonstrating the value of the app. But with no in-house tech help, RedPint wasn’t able to iterate fast enough. They were acquired by Untappd, which has become the leading social beer app. The timing was right, though; since she was working for a health-focused company, Alicia decided to leave the beer scene and focus on her health.

Alicia later moved to Boulder, working for a tech company that ran on agile principles. She wondered what would happen if the marketing team were agile, just like the product team. After trying it out, everyone found that it helped them be more productive in the small-scale projects, making the large-scale projects easier to address. Alicia said this discovery was the highlight of her career.

 But Alicia’s self-proclaimed “accidental” foray into running led her to leave the tech company and turn her hobby into something so much more.

RUNspiration

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/RUNspiration

Back in Boston, Alicia was tired of constantly making excuses not to run: “you either get rid of your excuses, or they define you,” she said. She had seen people running and thought, “Why not try that?” Shortly after getting started, Alicia caught the “Boston running bug” and decided to sign up for a half marathon, an incredibly daunting task for her at the time.

She started RUNspiration, a blog and Facebook community, to inspire herself. Alicia found that sharing inspirational words – as well as just what she was up to – with other people deepened her motivation. By the time her half marathon came around, she had six thousand likes on Facebook, and she decided to post updates as she went along. The community has since grown to over 96,000 likes and has become a “passionate, supportive and positive community” for women who are interested in running. One of the most successful features of RUNspiration is the section where community members can share their own stories. Alicia said sharing your story can bring self-empowerment and acceptance – and when other users support and encourage each other, the inspiration increases tenfold.

As running – and RUNspiration – became a bigger part of her life, Alicia had a moment of clarity. She realized so many women make themselves sick off of all the different running-nutrition products on the market today, and she wanted to curate a healthy alternative – single purchase boxes (inspired by subscription boxes like Glossybox) made by women who run, for women who run. It was something she’d wanted to do for a long time, but after her moment of clarity she decided to actually take the plunge and start doing it – after all, she said, “ideas are meaningless without action.” She decided to call the company RIZE, and the first product, the rizebox.

Even though Alicia is a non-technical founder, her previous successes led her to decide to apply agile principles to the project. Alicia needed to validate her assumptions, measure the project’s possibilities, and evaluate the viability of continuing the project.

Alicia used the RUNspiration page as a laboratory, asking community members market research questions about things like the importance of gluten-free or organic options in their nutrition choices. Perhaps not surprisingly, she found most respondents weren’t concerned with whether something was particularly healthy: “We’ve all seen those people who finish a race and then go eat three bagels,” she said. The feedback from the RUNspiration community told Alicia that the thing runners cared about the most when it came to nutrition was energy.

Even though she’s never been a designer, Alicia has always been passionate about branding and positioning. Since her original concept of a “Boulder-style” nutrition model wasn’t playing out among the members of her existing community, she needed to reposition the brand. Taking the early steps to test the validity of her assumptions regarding the brand’s position allowed Alicia to easily pivot and adapt the brand to a new position. Rizebox became “Running essentials to keep you energized, prepared, and inspired to run.”

Rizebox Photo

Alicia also had to measure possibilities and see if she could monetize the project. Before she even had products secured from brands, Alicia created a rizebox website with a wait list sign-up. Over 300 people joined the wait list, making it clear to her there were people who would pay for the product. Then, she needed to convince brands to donate products to be included in the box. She demonstrated user interest by holding a virtual 5k and asked for donations for a charity raffle to benefit Girls on the Run. Around 100 people participated in the virtual 5k, and Alicia was able to secure product from brands to be included in raffle prizes. She also used the RUNspiration website as an advertising platform, creating sponsorship packages for brands that participated in rizebox. Alicia was able to secure partnerships with a number of brands and now includes around 10 products in every rizebox – other “box” companies usually only include four or five products.

After validating her assumptions (as well as adapting her strategy when her assumptions were wrong) and ensuring the project could make money, Alicia needed to set goals that weren’t attached to a specific outcome. She developed a minimum viable product – using an unbranded USPS flat rate box for shipping – which allowed her to be lean in the first iteration of her project.

Next week, Alicia is headed to the Natural Products Expo West conference to truly put rizebox to the test. She hopes to make new brand partners so she can offer a variety of boxes for customers to choose from. Among her ideas for themed boxes is one exclusively using products made in Colorado: “I’ve never been more invested in a state than I have been in Colorado,” she said.

Alicia has set out to make an impact in the world of women’s running. RIZE’s name is derived from what she hopes the company will bring to its customers – that they’ll be ready, inspired, energized and extraordinary. “I want to encourage women for what they can do, instead of focusing on what they aren’t able to achieve,” she said.

Alicia has already affected and inspired thousands of women through RUNspiration, and with rizebox – which officially launched today – she is poised to play an even bigger role in women’s lives. We were all truly inspired by her story, and we look forward to seeing where rizebox goes from here.

InspiringPeople is InspiringApps’ speaker series featuring people we think are, well… inspiring! These informal lunch gatherings allow members of the Boulder community to hear from their peers about their work, hobbies and passions. Interested in speaking or attending? Email jess@inspiringapps.com to be added to the list!