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|The Truth Behind Whole Grains
Entry on Sep 22 2011 19:46
|Calorie Count Contest: $500 Whole Foods Gift Card!
Entry on Jan 03 2011 10:00
Hi fellow dieters -- Erik and I are the co-founders of Calorie Count, and we are still running the day-to-day operations of this site. Below you will find a few lines about some of the moments from my life that I either found very important, or that just happened to cross my mind when I was desperately looking for something to write about. Enjoy!
UPDATE (Jul 27, 2012, by Igor Lebovic): Just released the nav redesign and it feels so good to get a collective thumbs up from our community! It's rare to get so much support when people have to relearn how to navigate the site. We haven't always been this lucky... I've mentioned some of our missteps in an earlier update, where I also outlined some of the lessons we learned along the way. I'd like to add one additional lesson now: hire people smarter than you.
Starting about a year ago we let some people go and replaced them with a brand new team - only two members of the old guard stayed the same (unrelated to all this, Erik left on his own because he was ready for something new - I definitely count him among the "smarter than myself" crowd). I can't even start to elaborate on how different this new team is. Every single one of my new colleagues is smarter and harder working than I am. No matter how hard I try, every single day I come home and tell my wife how someone just blew me away at work today, and how much I still have left to learn. While my contributions to Calorie Count were more consumer facing in the early days, I consider them today to consist mostly of putting this team together and just letting them do their work.
I've never been more confident that the best days of Calorie Count are still ahead of us, and I just can't wait to show you some of the new projects that Rachel and the guys are working on. So remember, it's ok if your best contribution comes down to hiring people smarter than you - I am not ashamed to admit that.
UPDATE (Aug 19, 2011, by Igor Lebovic): Calorie Count was featured on Techcrunch this week and you can read the article here. Ever since being acquired by About.com, it's been our mission to keep Calorie Count lean and mean, and to continue to set the pace in our industry. Our strategy includes weekly hackathons every Wednesday, during which our team goes to an off-site location and works all day on whatever we believe will be the next most disruptive product and driver of our growth. The Voice Logger covered by Techcrunch is only one of the products that came out of this experiment... We see it as a validation of our strategy, and we'll definitely continue working on crazy things on our Wednesdays.
UPDATE (Mar 09, 2010, by Igor Lebovic): I just realized that it's been almost a year since my last update! Time flies... I wouldn't normally choose to harass random readers with the glory details of my day-to-day job, but today we just launched our revamped analysis, and as the entire team is currently basking in the glow of positive reviews, I feel inspired to pen down a sure-fire guide to designing great products. If you didn't catch a hint of sarcasm between the lines here, you should know that Calorie Count has seen some great products, and some... interesting ones to say at least (anyone remember our vitamins and supplements store?). So needless to say, we're all still learning and take this advice only for what it's worth.
The first rule of the Erik/Igor/Dr. Fujiwoka (fictional character to make us sound smarter) Theorem: Leverage your users. Regardless if you have 200 or 2 million members, know who the most active ones are and get in touch with them. Talk to them via email, phone or meet them in person. The truth is - they use your service more than you do, they need your service more than you do, there is more of them than you can put on a payroll, and they don't want your money - they just want you to build the best service you can. Sounds like a win-win? So get on that phone!
The second rule of the Erik/Igor/Dr. Fujiwoka Theorem: Don't be everything to everyone. Every mature company has a sweet spot - an aspect of its service that is really good and enabled it to become a serious business. In the case of Facebook it could be the Newsfeed; for YouTube it could be the embedding on 3rd party websites; for Twitter it could be the mobile clients from 3rd party developers. The moment you find yourself in that rare position that you're doing something better than anyone else out there - make sure it stays that way. Your secret sauce is a moving target, and just as it enabled you to grow from a startup to a mature company, losing it can make you degenerate from a mature company back into the startup stage. So don't be greedy and try to grow quicker by being everything to everyone. Know what's working well, and make it better.
The third rule of the Erik/Igor/Dr. Fujiwoka Theorem: What you can measure, you can manage. While we primarily apply this phrase to our approach to weight loss, it can be also used for building products. In my previous life I've seen many product decisions being made during lunch breaks, while commuting to work, or late at night after a couple of drinks. While this "stroke of genius" approach might have produced some great companies, the truth is that most good products are a result of tireless research of market data. This doesn't mean that your sketch on the paper napkin could not turn out to be a mind-blowing paradigm-shifting idea; it just means that most things can be quantified, and there's no excuse not to spend X number of days on evaluating a concept before committing to spending 10 times that amount of time building it. Measure five times, cut once!
UPDATE (Apr 13, 2009, by Igor Lebovic): I entered my fourth decade a week ago, and... nothing changed. I am still the same as I was at age 10 or 20 - always interested in too many things and with never enough time to pursue them all - or any one of them to the fullest extent... Looking back, I realize I spent the majority of my 20s trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, which made me a Jack of all trades, but master of none. I started out as an aerospace engineer which I didn't enjoy, so I diverted to flight test engineering, also worked as a flight test pilot, and finally turned to web entrepreneurship.
Lessons learned? It's never too late to change your career and pursue the job of your dreams. When Erik and I met in college, we both quickly realized that we didn't want to be aerospace engineers and were frustrated about our initial career choice. So the first web-company we started was aimed to inform high school students about what to expect from their major while in college and after graduation. The project eventually tanked, but it gave both of us the courage to never stop looking for the perfect career.
Spending the majority of my 20s jumping from one career to another might seem like a long time to spend soul-searching, but it was worth it, and I can only encourage everyone else reading this to never stop dreaming.
UPDATE (Jun 26, 2008, by Igor Lebovic): The wedding was amazing...
(click on the pic to see a larger version)
UPDATE (Feb 11, 2008, by Igor Lebovic): Betsie and I got engaged on Oct 9th 2007 and will be getting married on May 25th of this year. People keep noticing that I am currently zipping through life and not thinking twice about anything - not bad for someone who prior to this used to date the same girl for 8 years and never got around to propose... Lesson learned: it's not too late to change the core fundamentals of who you are and how people perceive you; this applies to character traits as well as to body weight and almost any other aspect of our lives.
UPDATE (Aug 29, 2007, by Igor Lebovic): Having arrived in NY at the end of the last year, I remember how I often wondered what 2007 would bring. Having just recently broken up a long-term relationship, the last thing I expected was to fall in love soon again. But only 4 weeks after meeting Betsie I asked her to move in with me - a move that made all of my friends scream and yell at me, trying to convince me that I should live it up here a little bit first. Well, she said no, so it didn't really matter. But then, two weeks later, I tried again - and she at first said no - but then changed her mind a couple of days later, which this time caused her lots of trouble with all of her friends. Despite all the bad karma from our surroundings, we made the move and never looked back.
UPDATE (Aug 07, 2007, by Igor Lebovic): We are moments away from launching Calorie Count Plus, and the intense feeling of anticipation is strangely familiar - I can still remember Feb 01, 2005 when we added user accounts and other essential community functionality to Calorie Count Classic. I thought back then I will never forget that day, and now I KNOW I never will this one either.
UPDATE (Feb 15, 2007, by Igor Lebovic): Currrently living in New York and loving it. I have been here for a couple months but am not sure if I have met anyone who has lived here for more than a couple years. It is like one giant train station - everyone is new here with bags full of dreams and just enough money for a return ticket -- or for rent until the next audition. And they all opt for the latter...
UPDATE (Nov 01, 2006, by Igor Lebovic): 2006 has been a crazy year. I started it with an ear infection, which stayed with me for almost 6 months. Just as I was ready to rip my ear off, it went away and hasn't come back... At about the same time I went through a major career switch, which also necessitated a change of air. After being told this news, my better half decided I was nuts and fulfilled her promise to throw all my stuff out of the window. Most of it ended up on Ebay the next day, and I reduced my belongings to two bags and a laptop. Life has been great ever since :
|Interests||18: airplanes, coding, eating, flying, gliders, healthy dieting, internet, jogging, nutrition, reading, sleeping, startups, swimming, traveling, wikipedia, working out, writing, youtube|