Where Candid came from and LAUNCH 2014

The idea for Candid was really hatched out over a series of “beer meetings” with the newly unemployed Mavizon team in September of 2012.  At that time, none of us were ready emotionally or financially to start another startup – so we all took real jobs and set the plans on the shelf. I decided to build Candid after my move to the San Francisco Bay Area.

On stage.
On stage.

We had originally called the product “StaffSpoke” and it was to be a simple tool for current employees to give clear and concise feedback to employers, and have that feedback viewable to everyone.  We felt this needed to happen as Quora and HackerNews posts about company culture just weren’t very useful due to the sour grapes, and non-employee comments.

I took a little bit of cash (like a really, really, really tiny amount of cash) and engaged Jet A Studio who had helped us out at Mavizon.  From Sept 13 – January 14 we worked together (me wireframing, writing copy and requirements) and hacked together the very simple company scoring site.  We also landed on the name “Candid” as opposed to the not-so-romantic “StaffSpoke.”

I decided to treat the entire project like a massive experiment.  Not just in bootstrapping, but also in product design.  I used survey monkey to do a little discovery, I used HackerNews and Quora threads to do market validation, and I repeatedly sent out the janky, half working version of the web app to friends and family for testing.

Then I jumped off the cliff:  I applied to LAUNCH Festival 2014.   As these stories often go, I was floored when we got an interview and were ultimately accepted to launch Candid on one of the biggest startup stages.

To be honest, I had no idea what I had signed up for.  I knew LAUNCH had unbelievable alumni like DropBox, mint.com, and Yammer.  But I didn’t realize i’d have an audience of nearly 9,000 people over the course of 3 days, or that I would be rigorously coached on the presentation of Candid.

This was all free training for me, and I loved almost every minute of it.

I was first coached on how to make a 5 minute presentation really memorable by telling a story. Next, I had a four hour rehearsal at Sequioa Capital’s office in front of investors, and other presenting companies.  Then came dress rehearsal, and finally my big presentation:

I lucked out with my judging group on the day of.  They included Don Dodge (Google), Joyce Kim (Freestyle Capital), Jay Levy (Zelkova Ventures), Adeo Ressi (The Founders Institute) and Vivek Wadhwa (Singularity).  The judges had some critical feedback, but seeing as Candid is one massive experiement, it was definitely welcomed and appreciated.

Most importantly, I got a small boost in traffic to the site for launch day, and had a few angels show some real interest in the product – Now the real work begins!

Becoming a Lyft Driver and Unboxing

Although my day job in San Francisco consists of many meetings, trips, and other expenditures of time we’ve dubbed ‘work’, I found myself wanting to learn more during my time in the Bay Area.  I thought it would be great to dive in head first and use some of the technologies and organizations available to those who live in the bay area that are not yet available elsewhere.  

My specific interest to Lyft stems from the idea covered at Singularity University that before artificial intelligence in robots is advanced enough to perform everyday tasks, “the crowd” will take the place.  Essentially ‘The Crowd’ so often mentioned in terms of Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunded, etc, is the surrogate for AI.  No other place is this so prominent than in last mile transportation.  Lyft essentially uses everyday people who own four door cars as drivers and equipment to run a pseudo- taxi company.  Lyft is an iPhone app that connects people who need rides with people willing to give them.  Its not hard to see that when self-driving cars come online in 2016-2020, the human driver will no longer be required in such a business model.

I applied to become a Lyft driver with the notion that while my wife is on call for the next four months at the General Hospital, I would have the occasional evening and weekend where I could take on a second ‘job.’  The purpose is not to make money (although it is a perk) but more to research such a fascinating startup.

After applying (via a few clicks from Facebook), I was quickly contacted by a Lyft employee who gave me pseudo-phone interview.  That must have gone well, because I was immedietly invited to open up the app on my phone an finish the application process.   This consisted of snapping a photo of my ID, my car, and my insurance card, and I was done.  I waited a few days to pass the background check and the 3 year driving history check.  Once this was completed, I was emailed videos to watch, and once complete was invited to take a test drive with my “Lyft Mentor.”  After a 20 minute in person, in-car interview and driving ‘exam’ I was checked off on and received a phone call the next day to welcome me as a driver and get my mailing address for my welcome package.

I was already floored at the service level and speed to on-ramp a new driver.  Like clockwork, I was followed up with, reminded (by text and email) where I was in the process and how to get to the next step.  It was borderline creepy how ‘easy’ it felt to become a driver, but this is the real beauty in the sophistication of the app.

Not to disappoint, I received my welcome package only one day later direct to my house.  I’ll continue on below with specifics and photos, but I can’t over-embellish how incredible the unboxing experience was for me.  Having been through Alpha and Beta programming with Mavizon – I felt I had a decent taste for what good and bad unboxing looks like.  Apple is the king of unboxing in consumer electronics of course, but new technologies require a little extra “umph” for people to get it.  Lyft’s case is even more important as the unboxing is really for people who have not spent a dime with Lyft, but instead will be offering their services to the company at a 80/20 rev share.  Its really important for drivers to get the culture from day one.

Here’s the unboxing:

This is the box as it arrived at my door.
Open Box
Open the box up, excitement ensues. The wrapper on the pink mustache reads something to the affect “attach the stash and you’re ready to go!”


The ‘stache in all its glory. Such an iconic thing for Lyft….


Amazing paperwork – friendly but informative. Printed on some hella-nice paper too.
The text read with just the right amount of whimsy and information.


Lyft outfits all drivers with a iphone dock and multiple chargers and auxiliary cords. The chargers aren’t just for drivers – passenger are encourage to play DJ and charge their phones….




Now to the streets!