Essays on marketing and a meaningful life

Ada Chen Rekhi

Category: Life Page 1 of 3

What’s Surprised Me About Parenthood

Two and a half years in, I wanted to reflect on some of my top surprises of parenthood. TLDR highs are higher and lows are lower than expected.

Finding Meaningful Work with “Designing Your Life”

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

With all of the talk of The Great Resignation, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many people are asking the question, what do I really want to do?

Many people follow a guiding star throughout their early career. Their career transitions are based on what their parents or peers expected, what their peers did, where there was the highest status, or even taking what they were good at to its natural extreme. Later on, what they begin to question is whether that work is meaningful or significant to them.

Uncovering the secrets of happiness

The holidays are one of my favorite times of year. As the sparkling lights and decorations go up, the holidays are a reminder and invitation to reflect, spend time with loved ones, and take stock on the learnings from the prior year. I thought this would be an ideal time to post a reflection on building and sustaining happiness in life. During my sabbatical over the last 4 months I prioritized sustainable health and happiness because it’s one of the areas that often gets shortchanged due to lack of time and too many things going on.

My new startup Connected is contact management without the work

A new project

I’ve been so heads down working at my new startup that I’ve neglected to update my blog. Sorry guys!

A few months ago, I left Mochi Media and the world of games to start a new adventure with Connected, which provides contact management without the work. It automatically pulls in contact information from across your email, calendar and social networks and gives you the tools to proactively manage your network.

Why Connected? Because relationships are important

One of the key reasons for my original decision to join Mochi Media was because I just liked the founder and team, and could really see working with them. When I first met Mochi, they had just raised their Series A. I wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to meet them without an intro from my brother Andrew. That set the stage for the past four years. Relationships are important, and they touch every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

Our networks are global, and scattered all over the place

I’m excited about the contact management space because it’s a common problem, and only growing larger. We’re getting more and more spread out, and our networks are getting even larger through Facebook and LinkedIn.

I grew up in Seattle, went to school in Philadelphia and live in San Francisco. My network is scattered all over the globe. When you travel to another country, how do you know how to get around? Even worse, sometimes we don’t even know who we know.

Here’s a quick visual of what my global network looks like thanks to Connected.

Using information from Connected, we were able to reconnect with friends last summer from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.

It’s a painful problem to solve

Connected addresses a problem that I’ve had for a long time. In college, I kept an Excel spreadsheet of important people called Seattle contacts, and used that as a reminder for who I should have coffee with each summer. In moving down to the bay area, I had another spreadsheet with a list of companies and contacts, and data for who introduced me to who.

After I made these contact lists, I never looked at them again. They’re painful to update, and how do you stay in touch for the long term? I just added them on LinkedIn or Facebook and did my best to stay in touch.

How Connected solves these problems

We’re still early with Connected, but I’m really excited about the product. We’re focused on taking all the pain out of keeping your contacts up to date by pulling information from across email, calendar, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Using Connected, I can maintain a list of important people and set custom reminders to keep in touch. It also sends me custom alerts for birthdays and job changes so I’m always up to date. For travel and recruiting, I can search across my network by geography or job function. It’s built for professionals like me who care about their relationships but don’t need / can’t manage heavy-weight CRM tools.

Try Connected

Please give Connected a whirl, and let me know your thoughts! Click here to get started.

Whirlwind year and new blog name

It’s been almost 6 months since I’ve posted an update. Yes, I fell off the blogging wagon once wedding planning kicked into high gear. It’s been a whirlwind year with first Mochi Media’s acquisition, running the second year of Flash Gaming Summit, and nearest to my heart — getting married! On April 24th, I officially tied the knot with Sachin Rekhi and I’ve updated my blog name to match.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFU16i1hhn4]

Sachin and I had the task of organizing a multi-cultural wedding which involved 5 outfits and 2 ceremonies. We had a Hindu wedding ceremony, a traditional Western wedding ceremony, and during the course of the day I changed into Indian, American and Chinese dresses. We were even featured in a local paper about the challenges of blending wedding traditions.

Getting married was like an advanced exercise in project planning and efficient use of technology. To give you an idea, during the planning process we shared 53 Google spreadsheets and documents between us! Our (fortunate or unfortunate, take your pick) wedding party was presented on the big day with a large packet of timeline, tasks and details to make sure everything ran smoothly. All that aside, we couldn’t have made it happen without the support and love of our family and friends. 🙂 Thanks everyone!

Mochi Media Acquired by Shanda Games for $80 Million

Last night my company Mochi Media announced our acquisition by Shanda Games for $80 million. I am THRILLED about the deal and am really honored to be part of this experience.

It’s been nearly 3 years since I joined Mochi Media, and it was one of the easiest decisions for me to make. I practically begged Jameson to sign me up and move out there. At the time, I was leaving Microsoft and headed to SF with my now-fiance Sachin Rekhi. Throughout my search, I ended up speaking with over 20 companies including Jameson thanks to my brother Andrew Chen. Mochi was a stand-out company even as only a handful of people on a couple of IKEA desks 🙂

As founders, Jameson and Bob are both genuine, passionate people who are truly building their business because they believe in the opportunity and love the games space. It’s rare to find people as authentic and committed as they are, and it really shows in the quality of team and company they have put together.

Congrats to the whole team and thank you to everyone who has helped us get to where we are today!

Apartment searching in SF sucks

We’ve spent the past two weeks trying to find a new home (which, by the way, will end with triumph tomorrow when drop off our signed lease) and the whole process has sucked. Apartment hunting is an antiquated process that hasn’t progressed much beyond moving classifieds online and for free.

  • Many listings don’t do a consistent job of answering common questions and providing reliable information about the property.
  • There’s nothing to guarantee the transaction against scams, and difficult to contact them in order to transact.
  • Landlords have to keep on posting in order to stay relevant, and on the top.

It would be helpful to see a listing service that could be filtered by property, and provides a form to fill out that shows information consistently. Landlords should be able to add events for their open houses, and you could browse all the available open houses on a given weekend to show up instead of painfully cobbling them together and planning an itinerary. I’d also like to see comments and content on listings, so if the landlord doesn’t put up the greatest photos, maybe other people will. I guess an ingenious mashup could solve some of these problems, like HousingMaps, but the inconsistency is frustrating. Hasn’t anyone done a good job on this before? Unfortunately, Craigslist is the only reliable source I know of for fresh postings from private landlords — which is what you almost certainly want to look for in San Francisco.

Craigslist rental scam and community policing

In largely user-generated communities, it’s always pretty impressive to see how quickly inappropriate behavior gets busted by the user community. In my latest housing search, I ran into one of those “too good to be true” sort of postings, and received the following message from the would-be scammer. Pretty neat to note that the first alert I received was from the posting being flagged for removal by the Craigslist community.

Hi ,

Just a few more info. Equal size-2 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, 1300 sq. ft., washer/dryer in unit, A/C, dishwasher, parking — 1 included in the rent, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else. It’s fully furnished, but i can rent it unfurnished too, same price if unfurnished, if you want it unfurn i will use a moving company. As i said, pets are allowed. Building has maintenance-included in the price. The length of the lease is flexible: long/short term. The thing is that i live and i am in Greece, Athens and i want to rent the apartment. I wanted to rent it 1 month ago too and came to SF to show it to someone who wanted to rent it, but when i met the guy he said that he wanted to rent the apartment for less than my asking price even if he didn’t see the apartment and i ended up returning to Greece and wasting my valuable time. I would have understood if he first seen the apartment and then to refuse it-no problem, but he asked me for much less knowing that i came all the way from Greece, but i didn’t want to rent it for less than i asked.

Anyway, at the advise of my lawyer i don’t want to use a building manager or someone like that and i don’t have anyone there, i want to do it in person, but with someone serious, so, i want to propose you something like a third party to handle this for us because i don’t want to end up in the same above situation and i’ll be SURE that you are determined and WANT to rent an apartment and you are serious and not a time waster (no offence) and you will SEE the apartment before i HAVE the funds in hands:

Let’s use www.escrow.com

In short, here is how it works:

1. You Will deposit into the www.escrow.com account account 4000USD.

2. As per escrow.com policy i would have to send you the keys and you have 5 days to decide if you like the merchandise(apartment) or not. But i will not send you the keys, i will come in person with the keys and a leasing contract So, by the time you deposit the funds to escrow i will be there in 3 days and show you the apartment, if you like it sign the lease and escrow.com will send the funds to my account

3. If you do not like the apartment, inform www.escrow.com about that and they’ll refund you in the same day.

If you agree on these terms: amount to be deposited: $4000, i pay the escrow fees: $80, please make an account with www.escrow.com , e-mail me and i will start a new transaction with them. Do not start it yourself, let me start it.

Thanks to the internet form of the ‘neighborhood crime watch’ for keeping more people away from this. Though for me it really does beg the question — why do people even bother with reporting this? Vigilante glory? This probably works the best in situations where there is collective benefit derived from making the community safer for everyone, and real harm from malicious behavior. Not really, I would argue, something that applies to a YouTube. Who else is doing a good job of doing this?

Back in Business

To follow up my earlier post about my Apple MacBook cracking, I visited the store and it took “5 to 6 business days” for them to replace the case of my MacBook. But voila, I’m back in business!

Apple’s done a fantastic job of cultivating its clean image of virus-free dependability, but I’ve definitely had my fair annoyances this month with their products. Real information is few and far in between, but some old Gartner research suggests a standard 15–20% average failure rate for laptops and this press release from SquareTrade claims they did a study with Sony/HP as the most reliable laptop brands with Gateway, Apple and Acer at the tail. I’m skeptical of unsubstantiated studies (no record can be found on their website) but the double digit failure rates suggested in both these articles make me want to buy an extra harddrive. Blech.

I’ve been in New York for the past few days — reminded again of why I don’t like it from the hot, humid weather. It was a fairly productive trip, and I was glad to get the chance to catch up with friends. I noticed two funny New York sidewalk walks. First, there’s plenty of people who passively engage in a game of chicken, where in a crowded sidewalk people charge each other and veer off at the last possible moment before collision. The second one, I call the “Blackberry strut,” where women in short and tight pencil skirts and three inch heels walk front and center in a sidewalk very v e r y s l o w l y. While obstructing traffic, and tap-tap-tapping at their Blackberries. Hah.

More updates to come later but in the meantime Jared wants me to post my results for his quiz:

I am an Engineer — Play Free Games

Kindle vs. Used Bookstores for Students

Amazon’s plan plan to tackle student textbooks has met with plenty of skepticism. Is tackling college students a successful strategy? I did some digging back in my old files to see whether or not the Kindle would have made sense when I was in college not so long ago. I kept fairly good records of how much money I spent each semester in college. Here’s what I spent in one year:

Fall Textbooks
$378.83 total spent on textbooks, $187.05 recouped (49%)
Total cost: $191.78

Spring Textbooks

$322.64 spent on textbooks, $130.68 recouped (40.5%)
Total cost: $191.96

While each semester’s textbooks typically would run $600–800 in list price, price-sensitive students buy as much as they can on the secondary market of used books. I made extensive use of the used books market, so I was usually able to obtain most of my textbooks at a substantially lower price. Afterward, I was able to recoup about half the costs by selling them back. I would have made more, but we had nasty little things called bulkpacks which had little or no resale value. They were photocopied articles prepared by the campus print shop which had royalties burned into the price. Each 5-page Harvard Business School case study would run you ~$12, and the next semester the pack would arbitrarily change and thus become unsellable. For textbooks, publishers would also would republish the same book but shuffle page numbers and chapters around in the latest edition so the numbers wouldn’t match.

Students would get around textbook prices in a variety of ways:

  • Buying used copies of the latest edition on Amazon, Half.com, school classifieds, university bookstore
  • Buying international editions on the cheap (printed on cheap paper, but usually 50% off)
  • Photocopying bulkpacks
  • Purchasing out of date versions of textbooks and matching up the page numbers of chapters
  • Sharing the same textbook with a friend

Students making negative $40k per year are extremely price sensitive and every penny counts. Small costs are typically more significant. An example of this is a book on my records that I bought for $4.95 and sold for $4.75 later on — today the effort to list, sell and ship a book for five bucks probably wouldn’t be worth it anymore. It all comes back to prices — students have virtually unlimited time, and with my eight bucks an hour work study job I would rather spend my hard-earned cash on Starbucks rather than a new textbook that I’m only using for a few months.

Even on the low end estimating books to be $600 each semester at full price, I was able to pay only 1/3rd of this by the time the semester was over and I had sold back all my books. In order for the Kindle to be create value for college students, Amazon can’t simply make DRM textbooks cheaper by 20–30% and then sit back and rest on their laurels. To really make an impact with digital distribution, it’s not merely a matter of cost but also enabling a secondary market for textbooks to be sold, shared and traded. That said, I could see some this play out poorly for students if publishers were able to create exclusive DRM distribution deals with college campuses, and make the decision moot by making the audience even more captive than it already is.

Alternatively, I’m personally most excited for a subscription service to emerge through the Kindle, enabling a Netflix for books or ways for colleges to bundle the cost of textbooks into tuition in exchange for free and open access to textbook content. We already have this model in place for accessing big databases/services like EBSco, Factiva, Forrester, etc so why not textbooks?

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