I’m going to Kickstarter!

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve recently accepted a position with Kickstarter. I am unbelievably excited. They are hands-down one of my favorite companies ever. If you are as excited as I am, check out the other open jobs.This is a big change, but it all started with just one email to jobs@kickstarter.com. In the next month or so, I want to share what I learned going through this process. But for now, here is the first email: Hey there Kickstarter! I’m so excited about the job you just posted for a Product Manager. I was going to wait and do work to send to you with the email, but I realized by the time I finished, you’d have found someone. Then, while I was contemplating what to do, a friend IM’d me to say “you’re a Kickstartin’ fool!” because he saw me fund another project, and I knew I had to just go for it! What I love most about Kickstarter is that it’s technology to encourage real life action. Action for the people who execute on their projects, action for the people who later use them- whether it lets them read a book, watch a movie, use a new and great product, and also the nearly invisible action of everyone who thinks “oh… I could do a project too!” after using Kickstarter to help someone else. Kickstarter is an inspiration to do more. I’m applying to the Product Manager job because I want to add to that experience. To share a few of my (initial) thoughts for areas to work on:

  • Discovery: Kickstarter has huge amounts of data here to leverage. Right now, recommended projects tend to be very similar to what I just backed (which makes sense). However, it would be incredibly cool to analyze similarities between what projects people back, and do more advanced predicting. For instance- we could use clustering analysis to predict what people might like based on other similar individuals. It’d be really neat if I’d backed totally unrelated projects and Kickstarter introduced me to something new, that I happened to love. A simpler step might be inferring that because I like cocktails, feminism, and technology, I’d probably like a movie about women in technology, even if I haven’t backed a movie before.
  • Initial stickiness: Many people I know have only backed one Kickstarter project- one by a friend. I’d love to look more in depth at the transition from being a just-for-my-friends Kickstarter user to a Kickstarter user who visits weekly (or daily!)
  • Broader audience: I think Kickstarter has some of the same appeal of Pinterest- it’s not for any one type of person. How do we get the word out there further and make the product feel welcoming to people who might not feel as comfortable with technology? As an example, I casually told my mom about Kickstarter while I was home for vacation. She was very against using it until I walked her through it once. Since then, she’s funded a few projects (maybe more than me!) none of which I could have predicted, and none of them are by people she knows. I’d love to see that happen organically, without a specific tutorial.
  • Identity: One of my favorite things about Kickstarter is that it reveals what people care about. I think my Kickstarter funding history will eventually show far more about my personality and development than my Twitter or Facebook do. It’s like being a mini-VC, and shows what projects I care enough about to publicly support. I’d love to redesign the profile page to let me add more details about why I backed things, or highlight and feature the projects most important to me. Everyone should be broad to show off their Kickstarter profile!
  • Mobile: I love mobile. I work in mobile now, and I’m always surprised that Kickstarter doesn’t have mobile products yet. Focus is key, and the time for Mobile might not be right yet. But- I also think that a way to quickly browse and fund projects when I have time to kill would be great. And there might be things we could figure out for mobile that are totally different from the website. A long shot, but we’ll see! And of course, browsing Kickstarter would be way more fun than reading email :) It would even more dangerous to my budget than the Amazon mobile one-click-buy!
  • Details: I love thinking about design and details too. I think the color wheel in the profile indicating which types of projects you’ve backed is awesome. I wish the color scheme transferred over to the rest of the site too – like the highlight color for which category you’ve selected (currently always green) or the progress bar for the campaign. I think a great product manager should be able to look at bigger initiatives, but also at amazing details that really help a product stand out.

So hopefully by now you’re still reading, and if so you’re probably wondering “who is Ellen, anyway?” Here are some things you might want to talk to me about:

  • Right now, I’m a PM for Office Mobile Shared Services (at Microsoft), which is a long way of saying “I design Office for phones.” It’s really cool, and I love it. I just think this opportunity is too exciting to pass up.
  • I recently was invited to join the Global Shapers (part of the World Economic Forum), a group dedicated to being awesome and changing the world. It really got me thinking about how I want to change the world through my career, and I think Kickstarter is the way to do it.
  • I’m also part of the Awesome Foundation in Seattle.
  • Related to that, in December, I wrote 14 essays. My favorite is the one on the Awesome Foundation.
  • To create more spontaneity and real world interaction (which is something I like from Kickstarter!) I’m working on carpe list.
  • This Winter, I decided I wanted I wanted to learn more about visual design. I took an information design class and made this poster. I’m still working on making things prettier, but I learned a lot about using Illustrator and grids. I want to use those skills to make a poster inspired by this one, but about Barcelona Chairs (which I now own two of!)
  • A bit longer ago, I went to school at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. I was in the fifth graduating class, which means I helped to design the curriculum. Being part of a brand new engineering school taught me that nothing is impossible, and to be fearless. I graduated with a degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering, but got way more experience doing user centered design and leading projects than I did making circuits.
  • While at Olin, I took a year off to have a start-up (Alight Learning). It didn’t succeed, but I learned a lot. I love talking about it.
  • Oh, and of course, my resume.

I’d love to hear from you- and love even more to work with you! Feel free to email or call anytime. I’m hoping to hear from you soon! Ellen Chisa @ellenchisa <phone number> PS- I’m sure you could find it, but my Kickstarter page is here.