Amikoo Social Networking Startup

May 23, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Amikoo.com was a Web 2.0 social networking startup for high school and college students in Mexico, we were the first truly local social network in the country.

amikoo-reforma-newspaper-business

Newspaper clipping about Amikoo in the business section of the Reforma national newspaper

From idea to launch, I was the driver and oversaw all decisions behind Amikoo. I acted as founding partner, project manager, application designer, web designer, as well as brand, marketing and PR manager.

The project started in 2006 with meticulous research into all aspects of the emerging field of social networking, followed by the first drafts of the site which drew inspiration from similar examples present around the world. After some difficulty in finding the right people to work on the project and securing the right funding, we moved on to the development stage in the first quarter of 2007.

The development stage was strenuous; marked by over 6 months of complicated interactions between the feature requirements and designs put forward by me and the programming challenges faced by the 2 expert programmers hired to build the application. At the time, “all-purpose” web development frameworks were nascent, so the application was developed from scratch in PHP and hosted on our own servers (there was no cloud available at the time). The design and features were considerably influenced by fellow Social Networks Bebo and the original Xuqa. Our use of the recently popularized Asynchronous Javascript or Ajax made the design fast and cutting edge.

Amikoo user profile

Amikoo user profile

After many setbacks and missed deadlines the social network was launched in July 2007. Afterwards, the team focused on making improvements by listening to user feedback. I concentrated my efforts in executing a web marketing and PR strategy aimed at getting Mexican students to sign up and share the site, our biggest competitor was Hi5. Nurturing word of mouth was the most effective tactic for getting new users but we also used email marketing, SEO, an in-house blog and offline press.

 

Amikoo suspended operations in the first quarter of 2008 owing to considerably slowing user registrations which we believe were caused by:

a. Facebook booming and leaving everyone behind thanks to three key strategic moves: Opening up to people other than their original student target (while securely owning that base), translating the site into many more languages (including Spanish as one of the first), and the launch of their “game changing” f8 application platform.

b. A very crowded and quickly consolidating Social Networking market.

Newspaper clipping  about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section  of Reforma.

Newspaper clipping about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section of Reforma.

c. Barrier to new registrations caused by the “all my friends are already on another site” syndrome – making it hard for people to switch from a site they had already invested considerable time in.

d. Investor support was withdrawn after registered and active user targets among other milestones were not met on agreed time.

e. General timing. When it comes to Internet startups, a few months sooner to market can make all the difference.

 

Despite Amikoo not gaining serious traction as a social networking platform, it was a successful proof of concept that generated a small fan base and enough buzz to be noticed at a national level in Mexico.

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

A few highlights:

Gift shop with virtual currency called “koo”. The idea was to develop the shop into a mobile micropayment platform similar to those prevalent in Asian social networks such as CyWorld.

User uploaded and maintained public media gallery for enhancing profiles (A content app store for profiles, if you will). Each item in the gallery was a widget or other embeddable content and users could rate and comment on these “Kubos”.

Amikoo introduction and tutorial video titled “Amikoo te va a Encantar” (You’re going to Love Amikoo). Written and directed by my good friend Yahayra Juárez.

Secret admirer/crush feature. You could try to “fish” for someone you fancied, then if the other person “fished” you back, a private “connection” would be made between the two.

Public pages for schools and cities to discuss topics, publicize events, vote on polls, share media and carry out other “socializing” activities.

 

Amikoo te va a encantar
Amikoo introduction and tutorial video

 

Amikoo "Kubos" public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo “Kubos” public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo home page

Amikoo home page

 

The Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

May 22, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Google Books – The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations
by Marcus Aurelius, translated by David and Scot Hicks

The stoic emperor-philosopher recorded his personal thoughts and musings to improve himself. History has been kind to our civilization for preserving his inner mind for anyone to explore. Here is a book full of timeless wisdom, especially in the field of leadership and personal growth. His calling is one of raising ourselves to express our full and best potential as human beings through universal virtues and values that ennoble our thoughts and actions.

“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.”

“A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man desires.”

Google Books - The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations

Solutions KB: Self-Owned IT Consulting SMB

May 15, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Back in 2008 after closing my startup (Amikoo) I went back to university to finish my degree but worked part time in IT related consulting projects. I started a small digital agency called Solutions KB in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Having full responsibility for sales and project development was a very enjoyable experience because I was able to oversee and tweak any important variable to make sure my clients were always happy.

Thanks to all the contacts I made when I worked on Amikoo I was often asked to help with projects by either sharing advice or being outright hired for their development. More often than not a conversation with friends and clients ended with the proposal of a bigger solution than what they originally had in mind. The focus was never about what products could do but instead about what problem they needed solved and what the best technology to do that could be.

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Solutions KB home page 2008-2012

The company had a very lean structure; a team would come together for a project and disband once it was delivered. Save for a few core engineers we practically had a new mix of talent for each project. The types of clients we focused on were small and medium businesses in Latin America.

Over the course of 4 years our client base eventually spanned Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. (Miami) and after graduation in 2011 I focused all my energy on growing our portfolio until I joined Google in 2012.

Among the range of products and services that we sold were:

  • Website design, development and maintenance.
  • Adwords campaigns.
  • Social Media assets and community management guidelines.
  • Google Apps deployments.
  • Point of Sale hardware and training.
  • Brand identity, especially logo design.
  • Wholesale and retail sales of computer hardware and network equipment.
  • Office and home network deployment and configuration.
  • IT education and training.
  • General tech support and troubleshooting.

‘Dulce et Decorum est’ WWI poem by Wilfred Owen

November 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM

‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is a striking and evocative poem written in 1917 about trench warfare in WWI. It is a poem which I consider among the most important ever written along with Apologia Pro Poemate Meo. The shockingly visceral images in it express the true nature of war and cast hopeless doubt on the “old lie” or false promises about war’s supposed glories.

From his own experience Owen clearly and truthfully lays bare the plain fact that despite what cultures across the ages have told their young men, the ultimate end of war and a soldier’s life is horrible suffering and death.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

British trench WWI

British trench WWI