10.11.14

A few months ago, I participated in a week-long blood glucose study. We monitored blood glucose over the course of each day (especially before and after meals) with an off-the-shelf finger prick analysis device. Here are the results of 5 days superimposed by time of day:

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Day 5 was a Saturday where I evidently had later meals. On Day 3, I had a small salad for lunch, which can be seen to cause less of a blood sugar spike.

As an exercise, we consumed 100 g of sugar within 10 minutes and took readings every 10 minutes. First of all, 100 g of sugar within 10 min makes you pretty nauseous. I don’t recommend doing it for non-experimental reasons.

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I fasted after lunch and consumed the 100 g of sugar at 7pm. It took about 2.5 hours for my blood sugar levels to return to normal.

This whole experience has been interesting in many ways:

First of all, finger pricks individually don’t hurt that much, but compounded over a week, it becomes painful. I wasn’t afraid of the pricks the first day or so, but later in the week, I became more and more fearful and would tense up before each prick. I feel extremely sympathetic to diabetics who need to do this constantly. Hence, there is a huge need to develop continuous blood glucose monitors that have better user experience.

Second, I’ve known from my previous experiences that my blood sugar levels tend to run a bit high, but previously had only taken a few sporadic snapshot data points. This study has allowed me to see a lot more. I’m excited for the day we can get truly continuous information in a non-invasive way, such as with Google’s contact lens. Monitoring blood glucose and directly correlating it with food intake will be a powerful method to combat diabetes and obesity.

Lastly, I now understand a bit more about my normal blood glucose levels. I don’t believe it’s something I need to worry too much about yet, but this has motivated me to make smarter decisions around food choices, especially in decreasing carbohydrate intake. I had previously done a form a Paleo, but it was giving me other side effects (such as loss of muscle mass). Striking a balance between different nutrients to maximize energy levels throughout the day is key.

These plots were made with Plot.ly, which is pretty cool.



08.24.14

I was asked to provide some tips for crowdfunding based on my experience with Biochemies. Crowdfunding has evolved significantly since I ran mine 3 years ago, but some of the basics are the same.

1) Crowdfunding is a lot of work! Most people imagine it as a simple way to get some money for a project, but in fact, a successful campaign takes a lot of time, effort and effective communication. Plan to spend about 2-3 months working on the campaign itself (especially the video), 1-2 months of continuous emails with backers and press, and then months of actually fulfilling your project. Mine took 6 full months of evenings and weekends.

2) Marketing, marketing, marketing. Previous to my campaign, I didn’t realize the true power of marketing, and especially the lack of marketing. Just having a campaign on a popular platform does not guarantee any eyes to your page. You have to find your own visitors. Start with your own social networks and once you get some traction (about 30%) then start hitting relevant press. Don’t just aim for the big press, aim for the smaller blogs that may serve your niche better. In the end of the day, you don’t just want press, you want people contributing to your campaign.

3) If you are doing a hardware project, make sure you have a working prototype and all your manufacturing lined up before you start your campaign. There have been huge problems with hardware projects due to false advertising, inability to manufacture product, and unforeseen manufacturing difficulties. Myself and many other campaigns ran into manufacturing problems overseas with over 80% error rates. Perfect prototypes do not look the same when they hit manufacturing scale. Enforce a strict quality control process with your manufacturers (I found video tutorials to be useful). If possible, manufacture locally for the crowdfunding batch before scaling up overseas or go to your manufacturing location to directly oversee production. Get a good estimate of production costs, licensing, device testing, and overseas shipping costs.

4) Don’t underestimate fulfillment shipping because packaging a thousand shipments is no small task. Have friends help by holding a shipping party. Remember to budget for packaging materials and shipping costs in your reward levels.

5) Be extremely on top of communications with backers. You will get all kinds of messages that you should answer promptly. Negative comments should be addressed directly in a polite manner. Be genuine in your interactions.

6) Spend time crafting a great video. The bar for crowdfunding videos gets higher and higher. Be creative and different while showing your passion for your project. Many people hire professional videographers, but that could cost up to $10K.

7) Many people roll out stretch goal options. Plan out these waves and time them with waves of media.

8) Kickstarter vs Indiegogo. Different types of crowdfunding platforms have different advantages and disadvantages. In particular look into how they handle credit card transactions, what type of customer service they offer, and what restrictions they have around product or content types. Despite being similar these days, Kickstarter still has a little more name recognition and reputation than Indiegogo. That said, Kickstarter has upped their restrictions and you may be forced to use Indiegogo.

9) Crowdfunding is almost more about getting customer feedback and concept validation than the money itself. Take advantage of the opportunities.

10) While it is an incredible amount of work, remember to breathe and have fun! :)



11.29.13

After years of hearing about how awesome Minecraft is, I finally tried it for myself last month.

For those who do not know about Minecraft, it is an open-ended game where you are dropped into a world with nothing at first. However, you can break and collect any material around you, remix the materials to make new materials, and build to your heart’s desire. There are two modes: survival and creative. Survival is more of a game mode where zombies attack you during the night, so it forces you to do things like build shelter and weapons early on.

Like Civilization, Minecraft’s survival mode is an education about human history and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As you advance through different phases of the game, you go from being very concerned about safety and shelter, to caring about aesthetics of your buildings. One behavior, however, that I realized was that I did not like exploring dark caves where zombies could attack me. Instead, I tended to prefer building amenities to the house and garden.

Hence this week, I switched over the creative mode. Creative mode gives you access to all materials, the ability to fly and invisibility to zombies. When I was young, one of my favorite games was to design apartment layouts out of mah jongg tiles (using special blocks like 4 circles as a stove) and to this day, I love looking at house layout diagrams. I realized that Minecraft could allow me to revisit my love of designing buildings.

And so, I started chipping away at some ice on the side of a small mountain in a glacier biome and 4 days later, created an ice palace.

Minecraft Ice Palace

The structure was inspired by the geography and built one room at a time. This building process has also making me pay more attention to building in real life and learn about materials, colors, and shapes. My next project has already begun. :)



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