Finance

I discovered my passion for UX and UI design when…

Growing up, I never would have thought that I would be working in a technology related field. As an undergrad, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was a history major with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe. I always thought that I would one day go on to working in international law. My freshman year, however, I happened to come across my roommate, who was a computer science major, using Photoshop and also building her own website. This was the first time that I realized that technology could be creative.

My whole childhood I always skewed to the more creative side of things (manual photography, writing, etc), but previously I had no idea that the computer could be used to “create.” Once I witnessed the creative side, I taught myself HTML (using the book HTML By Example), Photoshop, and other programs. I also took a summer school course in web design. I was hooked!

I wanted to practice as much as I could, so I started to make websites for people for free. Later people started to pay me to make sites for them, and I also got a job making professional websites for the University of Illinois Extension my last year on campus. Then I took a leap and moved out to California to try to see if I could get an internship or job in tech to learn more. After being there for a while, I got a job interning at Keynote Systems. I learned a lot more than I already knew on the job and worked there for two years while I attended graduate school in Instructional Multimedia Design/Technologies.

The top 3 things I learned as a founding team member at YouTube…

It’s about who you work with!
Early YouTube was very much a family in the sense that everyone really knew and cared about each other. Going to work with the people you enjoy being with and care about is really a big motivator.

Set shared goals
In the early days of YouTube, we had a shared goal for the number of views on the site that we were always aiming to hit. There was transparency, and everyone who worked at the company always knew where we currently were in relation to that goal. This helped to frame how each individual’s work contributed to reaching that goal.

Respect for all roles
It was great to have, Chad, one of the three founders (Chad, Steve, and Jawed) be a designer himself. Early on the expectation was set from the top that design was an integral part of building a company and product. There was really respect for all roles early on.

What entrepreneurs can learn from YouTube’s approach to design…

One of the things I really liked about early YouTube’s approach to design was its strong focus on functional design. What I mean by this is that we were focused on strategic solutions to “make things work” as the first priority over everything else. Design was included from the earliest stages of any new feature, to ensure that the end user always got what they wanted as quickly as possible. For example, maybe our video quality was not the prettiest, but you always got your video. In the early days of Internet video, this speed made a big difference.

My favorite aspect of angel investing…

Outside of helping entrepreneurs, in some small way, to achieve their dream or make their vision come true…I really enjoy sitting down with the designers (or with the people doing design) at the various companies and providing design and product feedback. It’s the part I love the most!

The number one thing I look for in the companies I invest in…

Founders who don’t just think in terms of black and white, but instead see the world in shades of gray. In other words, I look for people who are not fearful of going against conventions and traditions.

Advice for entrepreneurs evaluating the right type of funding for their business…

Personally, I’m a big fan of being able to bootstrap a business for as long as you can — or for forever! That being said, I think the best time to raise money is for growth. By this point, you already know that the basics are working. The money you raise will then be used to accelerate, grow, and enhance something that already has a good foundation. You won’t be using it to just spin in circles.

The most effective ways to make connections with angel investors…

Make genuine friendships with other people in your industry. This builds trust, and trust is the most valuable currency. I have found that the most effective ways for entrepreneurs to get in touch with me has been through either an introduction from a founder I have previously invested in or through a former co-worker.

The key elements of a great elevator pitch…

It includes the potential market size, the problem, and the solution all in one easily digestible sentence. For example “Our company is going after the X dollar market by solving the problem of Y by doing Z.”

Our goal at Rivet Ventures is…

To invest in companies in women-led markets where female usage, decision-making, and purchasing are crucial to company growth. We back both male and female founders.

How my experience as an entrepreneur and designer impacts my perspective as an investor…

I think having been an entrepreneur myself, I can empathize with the sometimes isolating, stressful, and difficult job it is to found and run a company.

My biggest lesson learned in our first year of launching Theicebreak…

Know what’s out there competition-wise, but don’t get caught up worrying about your competition. Worrying will only paralyze you.

Christina BrodbeckThe biggest misconceptions about women and technology…

Thinking, talking about, and focusing on the work-life balance debate mainly in relation to women is something I would like to see change. Very rarely do you see male speakers, CEOs, or founders asked about work-life balance…but this is often a topic that is brought up with women. Work-life balance is an issue for both genders. I personally feel that it is impossible for anyone, male or female, to “have it all” — all at the same time. I think it is possible to “have it all” at various stages, just not all at the exact moment. I don’t think it’s possible to be giving 100% in everything all of the time. In tech, we are always told to focus on one thing and do that one thing well. However, many times, we do not look at our lives as a whole in the same manner.

This needs to become a dialogue where we include both genders. The more we open up that dialogue, and the more we have the work-life balance conversation with both genders, the more both genders will be able to discuss how to reach their shared goals through compromise and working together as a team. The more the conversation happens for both genders, not just women, the more we will realize that certain responsibilities shouldn’t just automatically fall upon the women.

The biggest UX and UI mistakes that I see companies make…

There are two big ones. First, thinking of design as only a secondary “nice-to-have” or contract role versus a full-time role that is just as important as engineering, business development and so on. You can really tell if a company doesn’t “get” design-thinking or value the design process if they say things like “we are working with a designer we found to take what we’ve built and pretty it up.” From the beginning, companies should be looking to integrate design into the earliest stages of product or idea development. And secondly, not giving the designer the power to make important decisions.

My best advice for keeping users engaged and returning back to your website or app…

I don’t think there is one thing for keeping users engaged that works for all situations, but something I have found that works for a lot of situations is… always make sure that the user has something to do next. What I mean by this is that wherever you lead a user, you want to make sure they don’t end up in a situation where it’s just a totally open space and they have no idea what to do or what action to take. Always give them something to consume or something to do after they get there or have finished the previous task. At YouTube, related videos (or the videos to the right side of the main video) is a great example of this.

The top online resources for entrepreneurs learning UX…

I personally like:

UXPin Books free informational ebooks, written by UXPin (a design tool) writers, on a large variety of topics.

Designers GuildLed by Marissa Louie, Designers Guild is a great community of thousands of designers sharing information, thoughts, opinions, reviews, events, and resources.

Smashing Magazinea popular UX blog.

My daily must-read websites…

Reddit, The Daily Beast, Lenny Letter

My top 3 most used apps…

About a year and a half ago I deleted email, Facebook, and Twitter from my mobile phone. I initially did this in an attempt to be more present, to avoid becoming one of those people who are always on their phone, and to de-stress. Removing email seemed really strange and honestly a bit scary at first. Over time, however, it has helped me to break the modern-day habit of thinking that everything needs an immediate reaction or response. It’s really been one of the best decisions I have ever made! In some ways, it has also (hopefully) helped me to become a bit more productive with my email. For instance, I now try to schedule a dedicated period of time during the day where it is just for email on my computer, versus before where I found myself responding to various emails continuously throughout the day.

As a result of these changes, my phone has become much more utilitarian than it was in the past. Currently my top 3 most used apps are:

Goal Streaks an app to track whatever goals you want to input. The interface is super simple, and it gets the job done.

Fitbit used to track movement, sleep, and heart rate. I actually recently dropped it in a lake when I fell out of a canoe, and felt really naked without it (luckily it came back to life a few days later after putting it in a bag of arborio).

Dote Shop from almost any store all in one app. I probably spend at least 30 minutes a day browsing — no joke. If I get a free moment of downtime on my phone, or if I’m waiting around somewhere (i.e. doctor’s office, etc.)…I find myself using this app a ton.

An entrepreneur I would want to have dinner with and why…

I don’t know any of them personally, but maybe one of the founders of Boom (working on creating supersonic passenger flight). I feel like passenger flight innovation has been pretty stagnant for a long time, and I’m excited for companies to innovate in this space.