Lists, circles, clouds, clubs, party boats–there are many ways to organize your contacts across social networks and to choose who gets to share what. Hmmm is a mobile app that lets you create your own avatar for each of your different personalities. Their concept is that you get to represent yourself online much like you do in real life – stable and reliable to your co-workers, warm to your family, wild and hilarious to your friends (as just one example of a potential personality split).
Avatars reflect the real life roles we each play, and allow users to share selected information through different profiles. A built in inference engine automatically groups relevant updates together. Updates in five categories: activities, emotions, location, music, and photos intend to bypass other social networking clutter and share only the most meaningful news. A default public Avatar connects to Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare accounts.
Hmmm aims to let the digital you be you. Here, co-founder and CEO Archana Patchirajan shares more about her entrepreneurial path and her joyful outlook with KillerStartups. (Warning: her work space will make all your avatars feel jealous).
How were you first drawn to the Internet?
It’s been since my school days, where we created a website for our friends’ group just for fun. We then started a small campaign to create personal websites for people. I am a passionate web developer, and I started a small website called ajaxrain.com where I curated code snippets for fellow developers. It soon became one of the most popular ajax resource sites. I then tried my hands at creating a bug tracking tool, a CRM, etc., and found it difficult to launch.
How did you become a web entrepreneur?
In 2009, I heard about the NYC Big Apps competition. It was pretty late in the game with only 40 days left, but my friends and I pulled through – working almost 20 hours a day. It all became worth it when we created the first version of NYC Way (an app that gives you everything you want to know about NYC, from traffic cameras to restaurant inspection results, to emergency response time, restrooms, etc.) and it won 3 awards at the inaugural NYC Big Apps competition.
It was then that we quit our Wall Street jobs to build an exciting travel startup known as MyCityWay, a real-time app designed to transform your handheld device into a mega-utility tool for navigating the urban scene. By combining urban reference apps and app platforms with vital urban information, MyCityWay helps you pilot and explore the world’s cities like never before. It is also the official mobility service provider for BMWi.
I have been experiencing difficulties in using social networks today, and found them too complex for selective sharing. I’ve known my fellow Hmmm co-founder Kushal Choksifor 5 years now. He had been pondering about what we get back as users who share stuff on social networks today. So, we began talking to each other about these issues and soon found a common solution to address our concerns. And that is how Hmmm was born!
What time do you usually start work each day?
It depends on when the previous day ends. We sometimes wrap up anywhere from 2 to 4 a.m., so I usually take a four hour break to sleep every day.
Where do you work?
We have a physical office at WeWork Soho in NYC. As entrepreneurs we are constantly working wherever we are. We also have a home office at my apartment.
What do you do with your free time (if you have any)?
I listen to music, hang out with friends, and catch up on the other things in life.
When do your best ideas come to you?
Best ideas do not come to me just like that. I have a series of thoughts that keeps happening inside of me. When I think of something, I keep thinking about it subtly even though I am doing other stuff. Suddenly, I experience a magical moment when I can clearly see it unfold inside my head—that is when I know it is the best idea.
We want to know about where you spend your day! Tell me exactly what you see when you look to your left.
Our office is located at WeWork, a co-working space with nearly 100 other companies. So, when I look left, I see a glass door that gives me a sneak peek at my neighbor’s office and their crazy discussions. The scene is always electrifying.
What’s your office environment like?
We work in a co-working office space with a dozen other startups. The environment is quite electric. You get to meet new people also working on great ideas all the time. An added bonus is the free beer in the cafeteria, foosball tournaments, and hipster music that keeps rolling from some room or the other. It’s a great place to work!
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
The warmth and the overwhelming response we got from the users of NYC Way’s initial offering gave me confidence and humbled me… there is this joy when reading positive reviews and emails – with people explaining how the app helped them and how it was something they were looking for… That is the spark! It gave me the confidence to chase my dream and even give up my Wall Street job. When you realize that your idea helped people, it is a special feeling that is worth putting everything else in life on hold.
What advice do you have for other struggling entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up and don’t do it for yourself. Dedicate it for someone, so you are given the strength you need to get there. When things don’t go right, keep dreaming. Dream. Dream of how it will be when things are perfect, and that joy will remind you of all the things to come. You will move on with a smile.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
The people who I build stuff with and the people who I build stuff for. Steve Jobs, Sachin Tendulkar, and AR Rahman are my biggest sources of inspiration.
When things don’t go as I expect, my mind sometimes tends to mess with me for a moment. And then I pick myself up and realize that I’m doing what I want and following my passion. So, no big regrets!
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
The vision is to be in the forefront of positive reinforcements through proper communication/expression/sharing habits. I hope to be a technology company that is human – the one that will go on to prove that technology does indeed bring us closer and shapes our lives in a positive way.
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog
They can tweet to me at @apatchirajan and read my blog http://archana.co. And the best way to get to know me is to add me as friend on Hmmm!