2012-2014: Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer, Designer, Engineer
A smart messaging startup I co-founded in 2012. Funded by Kleiner Perkins, Triplepoint, DFJ, and Menlo Ventures. Acquired by Google in 2014.
Emu provided texting with a built-in contextual assistant for location-sharing, scheduling, movie showtimes, and restaurant reservations. We wanted it to help solve everyday problems in an efficient, delightful manner. We turned to messaging because people are social animals: we coordinate through conversation.
My role: Chief Product Officer & co-founder. That included product management, strategy, recruiting, HR, user research, data collection and analysis, front-end engineering, and all design work. Also I made the coffee sometimes.
Sketches & Wireframes
I'm a fan of low-fidelity design: It can save time, and helps focus the conversation on the right stage of the process. (I did no standalone digital prototyping because I was familiar enough with the codebase to do it there.)
I was designing Emu just as the industry was moving into flat design. As a result, it looks a little dated now. We also launched on Android first; our iOS app was an adaptation of that design rather than a ground-up redesign. That was the right decision, but did result in a less platform-native result.
As we learned from our v1 product, we explored various evolutions that focused more explicitly on the coordination aspect of the product.
Research & Analytics
We employed a variety of techniques for learning: analytics via Mixpanel, cafe studies, customer support via Zendesk, remote usability testing, and A/B tests. Since an early-stage startup doesn't have a plethora of data we had to get creative—for instance, tracing the trajectory of a single active user over the course of a few weeks.
We also relied heavily on dogfooding, which, while imperfect, was extremely useful in understanding whether particular experiences felt right, and whether functionality seemed promising.