I am pleased to announce that ConnecPath is now available at AppStore!
In the last blog post, I shared a story about how the app was born. From today, I would like to focus on the people who significantly contributed to the development of this app.
The person that I’d like to introduce is Akaash Tumuluri, an 18-year-old former lead design intern at ConnecPath.
It was a weird encounter when I first met Akaash. Back in July when I first landed at SF Bay Area I started seeking a tech co-founder, and tried every single possible way to advertise the opportunity.
One day, I posted an entry to BrightCrowd
that I am recruiting a co-founder. I checked my message box at the website every day and night, until one day, I got an interesting message. The message went as follows:
"Hi Leo, I am a college student and have some internship experience as a UX Designer at a tech company. These days, UX design is becoming really powerful, and it can dramatically change the flow of usage at mobile apps to gain thousands and even millions of users. I can't become your co-founder, but I can surely help you in that context. Do you want me? FYI, this is my portfolio."
I was sold. To start with, his approach was bold and smart. I was impressed by his portfolio while he is just a sophomore undergrad student. I immediately set up an online meeting.
It was a perfect match. What Akaash and I wanted respectively, matched as if we brought together pieces of jigsaw puzzle. Surprisingly, a week later we enjoyed dinner at a small Thai restaurant in Sunnyvale.
Akaash is enrolled in a dual degree program at the University Of Michigan School Of Information (computer science) and of Art and Design. He wants to work in that a fuzzy area between logic and creativity, which led to his double major which focuses on UX design. He is young and visionary. I still remember the excitement we had that evening while eating a hot Pad Thai. He said the most of the so-called 'spicy foods' are not spicy to him because he grew up eating spicy Indian curry that his parents cooked. I sweat quite a lot that evening, but he ate his meal while still maintaining a cool, innocent air about him.
Since that dinner, Akaash and I spent two intensive weeks at StartupHouse. We shared everything. Vision, planned user experience, persona, font size, Akaash's college application experience, and even parties as well as family matters.
"Communication is the most important facet of a product development project and allows you to produce something awesome, as a team."
I told him about my philosophy, and he neatly adopted my working style. Before we met, I already completed wireframes as follows:
Since his age is much closer to my target users’ age group (he only recently left high school), I asked him to think and act freely, believing in his creativity. I precisely shared the goal and meaning of each screen.
He soon proactively suggested that I concrete design assets that evolved from my original idea. They were all great. Whenever I didn’t align with his design and asked him to re-think, he quickly re-worked to accommodate my points. We argued sometimes. But he articulated the meaning of each design and we discussed constructively to reach a common consensus. It was like a duel of two minds.
While we worked at StartupHouse, we participated in the StartupHouse Foundry Program, , an 8-week pre-accelerator programed that’s designed to push very early stage companies to the next level. Luckily, when Akaash stayed with me, we had mentoring sessions with serial entrepreneur Elias Bizannes and UX designer Silvio Sangineto. Akaash and I met with these mentors together and Akaash’s presentation of our app to them was just superb, and based on their feedback, Akaash worked really hard to perfect our designs.
On the final day of the internship, he completed all the design assets on the mobile app.
At the end of the day, we went to a Mexican restaurant. As the frugal entrepreneur I am, the only incentive I could provide for him was a feast of juicy pork spareribs with hot BBQ sauce. As usual, he handled his portion of this extremely spicy fare with the coolest demeanor.
Before Akaash packed his stuff to return back to the Mid-West, we took a photo using an iPhone 7 and I promised Akaash I’d make this image legendary one day. Not only was Akaash an outstanding UX designer, but he was always an excellent communicator.
Now, I can touch the screen, type messages, and chatbot responses to my questions under the stylish and clean UI that Akaash created. It's just amazing.
I am so proud of him and would like to see him become an inspiring role model to high school students. I’ll definitely tell my users that this cool UX was designed by a college student who’s almost the same age as the app’s end user.
Someone told me once: "Develop a product with users."
Through experience, I’ve found this to be true. But this time I added, "Let the end-user develop a product."
That worked really well for me because I always want to be with users. I believe the world will not be changed by providers. The world should be changed by the users themselves.
So thank you Akaash! I hope you’ll come back to ConnecPath one day! Go Blue!