Polyvore Update

Wow, it’s been six months since I last updated this thing. Polyvore has been keeping me super busy! Thankfully, the startup life has turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more (I’ll write more about that in a future post).

Polyvore is now at 8 full-time employees — 5 engineers, 1 bizdev person, 1 PR/marketing/community/office manager, and 1 PM (that’s me, although I spend most of my time writing code nowadays). Here’s a picture of us crowding around Jianing’s computer, celebrating the dropping of a table that reduced our overall db size and made the site much faster.

The other big update is that after almost a year of squatting with FriendFeed (thank you guys so much!), we finally got our own office on Castro St in Mountain View. It’s a huge retail space with floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of light. It’s definitely unique and the rent’s cheap, but the downside is that it lacks a kitchen and random people keep walking in because they think it’s a store.

Here are some shots of our new office. Keep in mind that we’re not done with decorating yet, so it looks kind of empty.

Why Polyvore?

Last week I quit my job at Google to join a small startup called Polyvore. A lot of people have asked me how I discovered Polyvore and why I decided to join.

My friend Thai showed me Polyvore back in October. “Check out this site my friend Pasha is building,” he said. I instantly fell in love. It was like a combination of online Photoshop and Flickr, but for art instead of photos. I was fascinated by all the cool things people were creating using Polvore — fashion, interior design, artistic self-expression, caricatures, logos, postcards, etc. I started making my own sets and was surprised by how quickly they got comments and “Likes” from the user community. I ended up winning Polyvore’s Halloween contest.

I got so excited about Polyvore that I sent a long email full of comments, suggestions, and complaints to Pasha, even though I had never met him before. After a few email exchanges, he asked me if I wanted to join Polyvore. I’ve always wanted to work at a startup and felt like Polyvore was a good fit — great team, great product, just the right size (3 people at the time), healthy growth, etc. It also happened to fall at the intersection of many of my personal interests (tech, art, shopping, fashion, user-generated content). Although I was pretty happy working on Google Maps, I felt like I wasn’t learning as much new stuff anymore, and I knew that a startup would have a really steep learning curve.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy to leave Google, but I thought back to the advice my former boss Marissa had given me to always take the more challenging, more risky path (this was the advice that made me choose a job at Google over a job at Intuit), and decided to follow that advice once again. So I decided to take the leap.

My Last Day at Google

Yesterday was my last day at Google.

It’s hard to believe that when I graduated from Stanford 4 years ago, I had been planning to take a job as a tax software engineer. During my Google interview, Marissa convinced me that this was a bad idea and I decided to join Google’s Associate Product Manager program instead. That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life! Working at Google has been an amazing, life-changing experience. It’s an incredible company with a unique, quirky culture and tons of passionate, talented people. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with so many brilliant engineers on such fascinating products used by millions of people.

Leaving Google was a tough decision for me. I was very happy working on Google Maps and oftentimes felt like I had the best job in the world. I became the Maps PM at age 22 and was blown away by how much responsibility they were willing to give someone so young. The work was fun, challenging, and very rewarding. I wasn’t looking for a new job, but a great opportunity fell in my lap that I felt I had to take. More on that in a future post.

On my last day at Google, I decided to bake cookies for the Maps team one last time. Since it was Pi Day (3/14), I made Rolo pie cookies and passed them out at 1:59pm. Get it? 3/14 1:59 = 3.14159 = pi.

I also took some photos on my last day, but I wish I had taken more.

A lot of people have been part of my life at Google, but I’d really like to thank John Hanke, Brian McClendon, Prakash Janakiraman, Elizabeth Hamon Reid, Elizabeth Windram and Evan Parker for building and leading a kickass organization that was awesome to work in; the My Maps team for being the best project/team I ever worked on at Google; the whole Maps team for all the launches and lunches; Thai Tran, Chikai Ohazama and Bret Taylor for teaching me how to be a PM; Jonathan Goldman and Kenson Yee for the yogurt and the floaty balls; Nina Kang, Jim Muller, Dan Egnor and the folks in the geo-team chatroom for the daily snark and chitchat; Matthias Ruhl for the 4am craziness of the Movies Onebox launch; the Froogle team for toughening me up; and the APM Class of ’04.

Thanks for a great 4 years, Google!

Top 5 WonderCon moments

This weekend I geeked out at WonderCon, the comic book convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Here are my top 5 highlights.

1) Meeting Jim Lee

Jim Lee is a god in the comics world. He’s the genius artist behind Batman: Hush and Wild.C.A.T.s, and the founder of Image Comics and Wildstorm. Like a complete fangirl, I lined up to get his autograph and photo.

When my friend & fellow comic fan Dan Tran saw Jim Lee, he said “Oh my God, I want to kiss him.” Jim Lee overheard and gave him a funny look. Here’s Jim Lee pretending to ignore Dan.

2) The Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles panel

This was a really fun panel to watch. It featured Thomas Dekker (the actor who plays John Connor), Summer Glau (the Terminator who protects John), Brian Austin Green (Derek Reece, John’s uncle), writer Josh Friedman, and producer John Wirth.

– Brian Austin Green surprised me. He was very humble. Clearly he realizes that he’s best known for his role on Beverly Hills 90210, which doesn’t give him very much credibility as an actor. He was very grateful for the opportunity to play a more serious role. Wirth and Friedman both raved about how he nailed his audition for the part.

– Green trawls online forums to see what people are saying about the show. When fans first heard about him being on the show, the comments were very negative. But after a while they stopped referring to him as “Brian Austin Green” and just started calling him “Derek” (his character’s name), which made him very happy.

– When asked what he’s learned from the show, Green said “I’ve come away thinking that sci fi rules.” This earned him lots of cheers from the audience.

– Summer Glau doesn’t like reading about herself on the internet because it depresses her. But sometimes her mom sends her positive articles, which she does read.

– Glau is a trained ballerina. She’ll be doing some ballet in the next episode of Terminator and is also working on a ballet together with Joss Whedon. She said that her ballet training was helpful for doing martial arts scenes in Firefly, but as a Terminator she mostly just picks things up and throws them.

– Glau has a boyfriend. She managed to convince him to let her practice shooting a bb gun at him. Ouch.

– When asked “How does it feel to be back on the network that canceled your show [Firefly]?”, Glau responded “I pray really hard.”

– Thomas Dekker was a bit obnoxious and kept interrupting other people while they were talking. But he’s clearly passionate about the show, which was somewhat endearing. Lots of people predicted the show would suck, but Dekker really believed in the story & the characters, and felt vindicated when it got good reviews. The experience taught him not to back down.

– Dekker hopes that his character will get to punch at least one person next season.

– Dekker clearly has a crush on Summer Glau. He kept touching her and hugged her once during the panel.

– Dekker was supposed to wrap up the Zach storyline in Heroes but couldn’t do it due to scheduling issues. He played Claire’s friend Zach, the guy who helped film her miraculous healing powers.

– Josh Friedman originally wanted to bring back Kyle Reece, John Connor’s dead father. He was told “you’re gonna get fucking killed [by fans]” for the storyline discontinuity, so he decided to create the character of Kyle’s brother instead.

– Friedman thought “The ultimate nuclear family” would be a great catchphrase/slogan for the series :)

– The characters on the show do their own stunts, which Friedman really likes, because using stunt doubles is time-consuming and never looks as good.

– Friedman has the next season planned out in his head.

3) Harold & Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay panel

I came in late and caught the tail end of the Harold & Kumar preview. All I saw was a Ku Klux Klansman urinating on Harold’s head. There was also Q&A with John Cho (the actor who plays Harold) and writers/directors Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg.

– John Cho is hilarious in real life. When asked how his preacher father felt about him playing a stoner, he said “Smoking weed doesn’t make you a bad person.” Actually, he repeated this several times throughout the Q&A.

– When asked where Kal Penn (Kumar) was, Cho joked that Penn was in rehab for quaaludes. Then he admitted that Penn was “off somewhere trying to get Barack Obama elected.”

– John Cho plays Sulu in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek movie. Cho said he idolized George Takei (the original Sulu) while growing up and was proud to be filling Takei’s “giant slippers.” He refused to give away any details about Star Trek, but Hurwitz jumped in to say that Sulu has an Australian accent in the film. I’m pretty sure he was joking.

– Hurwitz & Schlossberg said that their biggest regret about the first movie was that it didn’t have enough nudity. They made sure not to make the same mistake twice. Schlossberg promised that HK2 has “more full frontal female nudity than any other widely released Hollywood film.”

– They’ve done several test screenings for HK2 so far and the audience reaction has been fantastic. The movie is premiering at South by Southwest and will also be playing at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in March.

4) The Iron-Man panel with director Jon Favreau

The panel was pretty short, but here are the highlights:

– Jon Favreau previewed a hilarious clip of Tony Stark testing out his jet boots for the first time. Stark takes off too quickly and slams facefirst into the wall. An overenthusiastic fire extinguishing robot keeps spraying him even though he’s not on fire.

– Favreau admitted he pays attention to what fans are saying online. He considers the internet to be a huge watercooler and finds it useful to monitor the feedback.

– If Ironman makes a lot of money, Favreau might get to direct an upcoming Avengers movie.

– When asked about the rumor that the characters from the Incredible Hulk movie would be appearing in Ironman, Favreau dodged the question. He said he wanted to keep up the “white noise of uncertainty” around the film and not give away too much.

5) Cosplayers

Here are the best cosplayers I saw.

Midna & Wolf Link from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Cobras from G.I. Joe

Grimmjaw from Bleach

More Bleach characters

Dumbledore from Harry Potter. He told me not to be late for school.

There were a ton of Star Wars cosplayers. That was definitely the most popular series amongst the cosplayers.

Harry Osborn in Green Goblin gear from Spiderman 3. His board was amazing — it glowed green, had spinning parts, and there’s even a tiny LCD screen embedded in it that was playing the Spiderman movie.

Sandman from Spiderman 3.

Probably the best Sailormoon I’ve seen at any convention.

Dr. Who

I couldn’t tell what this guy was supposed to be and had to ask. Turns out he’s an alien from the movie Aliens. His costume is made of black garbage bags and a black shoebox.

All my pics from Wondercon are here.

3 new drawings

We had another group drawing session this weekend. Half the group was out of town, so it was just me and Jed. I completed 3 drawings, but I only like one of them.

This is my favorite of the three. It took about 45 minutes to complete. I tried to loosen up my drawing style and make it look more sketchy using dark, soft pencils.

I dislike this one because the outlines are too crisp and her eyes don’t match.

I really dislike this one. I sort of gave up on it halfway through.

The Magibon Phenomenon

I’m baffled by the Magibon phenomenon.

If you haven’t heard of her, Magibon is one of the most popular vloggers on YouTube. She’s currently the 75th most subscribed user of all time and is dominating the People & Blogs section, with four of her videos placing in the top 15 for the past month.

Magibon doesn’t do anything in her videos. She just stares, blinks, and smiles at the camera. Occasionally she’ll say something in badly accented Japanese, like “pizza is delicious” or “I am studying Japanese.” Magibon looks 16, but claims to be 21, and is actually white, not Japanese. She’s very cute, has huge eyes, and resembles an anime character.

Despite doing nothing in her videos, Magibon has somehow amassed millions of pageviews and has spawned a huge following of fans, haters, and imitators. She’s even been invited to appear on TV in Japan.

This is Magibon’s most popular video, with over 2.4 million pageviews. It’s 30 seconds of her doing nothing.

Some of her fans have created loving tribute videos. This one is set to “Hey There Delilah” and features a Magibon montage.

The people who hate her have created parody videos. This one is by Jason Tobin, the actor who played Virgil in Better Luck Tomorrow and was also in Tokyo Drift. Make sure to fast forward to 1:00 to see Fake Magibon (Jason’s real-life girlfriend) getting beaten up by Jason.

A creepy Magibon fan site came online fairly recently at Magibon.com. It claims to have been created by an obsessive fan named Frank and features a grainy black & white video of a masked man clutching at a wall with Magibon projected on it. Some people speculated that Frank and Magibon were part of an elaborate marketing campaign for a Japanese horror movie, but it turned that Frank was just a viral hoax created by a digital media artist named Danung.

Magibon has become so popular in Japan that Gyao (a Japanese internet/TV broadcasting company) invited her to come to Tokyo to work with them. Their YouTube message says something along the lines of “We saw your comment on YouTube about wanting to visit Japan. If you are interested in appearing on Gyao, we would like to make a Magibon show. We’ll await your reply on YouTube.”

Magibon responded saying she’d love to go anytime.

It’s amazing that this girl is getting offers to fly to Japan, just for posting some videos of herself doing absolutely nothing. It’s yet another YouTube miracle, up there with Esmee Denters (the talented singer who uploaded videos of herself singing and got signed to Justin Timberlake’s record label, which she announced through a video of herself singing together with Justin Timberlake) and Tay Zonday (the guy who wrote Chocolate Rain, performed it on Jimmy Kimmel, and got tapped to star in a commercial for Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper).

The power of YouTube is truly amazing.