Interview- Pooja Sankar - Building Piazza

دوره: Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) / فصل: Chapter Two- Variables and Expressions / درس 5

Interview- Pooja Sankar - Building Piazza

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And when I went to Stanford Business School for my MBA, I realized today with technology, actually laptops and high-speed Internet, everywhere, many students end up sitting by themselves in their dorm rooms. I knew how to use GDB, and so I picked up a book on Rails, and learnt it all and built a site in ten days, and launched it to one class that fall of 2009. I truly believe in creating value first, not getting caught up in numbers, In fact, February of 2010 it turned out that the founder of TechCrunch was seated next to me on a plane, and when he did ask me, you know, I'd love to write an article about you, my first kind of knee-jerk reaction was no, because I knew that would bring lots of people to want to use Piazza.

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Piazza’s an online question-and-answer platform that I built out of my own inspiration, based on my experiences from my undergrad. So, I did my undergrad when a very few women in computer science in India. Top engineering school, IIT. And I had actually studied in an all-girls high school till college, did not know how to speak to boys, was told, never allowed to speak to boys. So when I went to college, I didn’t know how to speak to boys, and all my classmates were boys. Studied by myself, felt very isolated. And really felt a frustration at doing assignments by myself and trying to study for exams by myself. And I came to America to do my masters in computer science at Maryland College Park. Came out to Bay Area, California, worked as a software engineer at Oracle, at Facebook, at Cosmix. And when I went to Stanford Business School for my MBA, I realized today with technology, actually laptops and high-speed Internet, everywhere, many students end up sitting by themselves in their dorm rooms. And that feeling of isolation is actually pretty common among many young students today. So really, Piazza’s meant to simulate the sort of real face-to-face discussion that I witnessed in my undergrad, but could not partake in, because too shy. Did you start working on it when you were working on your master’s degree? My MBA, yes. I you know, it, midway through my first year, I took an entrepreneurship class at Stanford. And the one thing that entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley that who came to speak in our class, the one thing they said is think about an idea you’re passionate about. And for me that idea was how can I help students, particularly women studying kind of science and engineering subjects, feel less isolated. So that summer between first and second year of business school I moved in with my brother and his family, worked out of their garage, built the first prototype of Piazza. I had not done any web development until then. So I picked up a book on Ruby on Rails. Had never written a line of HTML or CSS, because all I knew was kind of serve, server technology, C, C++. I knew how to use GDB, and so I picked up a book on Rails, and learnt it all and built a site in ten days, and launched it to one class that fall of 2009. That grew to three classes in January of 2010, and about ten classes at Stanford in 2010 Fall. That suddenly grew to 65 classes in Spring of 2011, and many of the professors, I did not even know. So that was indicating to me that, you know, something was working. And students were liking it, and professors were liking it. So suddenly I contacted professors at Berkeley, and MIT, and Princeton, and Harvard, and within a month, we had over 20,000 students at these five schools using Piazza. And were you still sort of doing this with you as the main developer, with 20,000 accounts and you as the main developer? And like were you using a credit card to paying for a server or two? It’s just, it’s barely maybe $50 to $100 a month to host or not even so I did find one developer who had a daytime job. to pay his bills and, you know, his family’s bills, and he had some server space, so we just hosted on whatever server space he had. And it was at this point that we went ahead and raised a seed round of, you know, a little over a million dollars with Sequoia Capitol. Do you kind of have any philosophy of the right way to approach being an entrepreneur, and what sort of what, what’s your sort of Yeah, I definitely lean towards the slow. I truly believe in creating value first, not getting caught up in numbers, In fact, February of 2010 it turned out that the founder of TechCrunch was seated next to me on a plane, and when he did ask me, you know, I’d love to write an article about you, my first kind of knee-jerk reaction was no, because I knew that would bring lots of people to want to use Piazza. Piazza was very, very in its nascent stages of product development, you know. And it was a good call, I think, because that whole year of 2010 I didn’t care about numbers, I didn’t care about how many students or how many professors. All I cared about was I had a hand full of professors and students that I could sit with and learn and watch and observe. Today I believe that I have very deep empathy. And, you know I think it’s really important to build a product that adds value, that comes from often just staying very small, because you can isolate the types of users you want whose use cases matches the sort of use cases you built a product for. You became a mom in the middle of that whole story. Mmm hmm Talk a little bit about about how that all works Sure And came together. Yeah, so about five months ago I had a baby son, Arjun, and I’m very fortunate that I live with my husband’s parents, we all live together and they, you know his parents understand that they really, I need their support to be able to run a company while being a mother. And both are very important, I want to be a mother, I want to raise children and bring them, you know, just want to raise them. At the same time. I really believe in the company that I’ve built and the impact it’s making on students and teachers and continue to, continue to do what I have been doing. So with their support, I would say it’s been actually pretty easy. One thing I really like to do is actually be in another place, by myself, so whether that’s working out, or whether that’s going on a long walk, that allows me to pull myself away from the weeds either for Piazza or for my son. There’s a dish that’s the Stanford dish, right behind Stanford. I hear, I hear Steve Jobs used to go there and a couple other great people who I derive a lot of inspiration from, that they go there a lot. So I like to walk there a few times a week. I found that that very first summer in 2009 when I had to build a prototype and find the first few professors to use Piazza. I remember I used to walk the dish five times a week, and I would only work four to six hours, or maybe eight hours, but it was never, and I had a successful product by the end of the summer. And I had a class using Piazza and I know the dish, walking the dish, brought me focus and that allowed to be very productive with my time

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