Matt Gornick

Finally getting Charles Schwab and Mint to work

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on November 8, 2010

After months of trying to get my Charles Schwab Investor Checking and Mint.com to work, I've finally been able to get my data imported.  As an extra layer of security, I use the Schwab Token (available here) which generates a unique 6 digit code that you use each time to login.  This makes it impossible for Mint.com to continuously update your account which is aggravating, but a small price to pay for the sense of security.  At the same time, it would be nice to still have the data available in Mint.com if you use Schwab's Bill Pay and want to keep track of your finances.  Here are the steps to get it working (finally):

1. Login to Mint.com
2. Add a new Account – Search then add "Charles Schwab – Banking"
3. Type in your Username
4. Type in your password, press the button on your secure token to get the 6-digit code (e.g. 123456), then type in that 6-digit code immediately after your password.  Example: your password field would have "secret123456"
5. Hit Save and wait for Mint.com to pull in the data.

For your safety the tokens from Schwab expire pretty quick (maybe ~1 minutes).  If you wait too long during step 4 or between step 4 and 5 then your token will expire and Mint.com won't be able to login, so you have to be fast.

Simple ideas can be profitable

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
I love receiving (and giving) feedback on startup ideas, pitches, and product demos.  It allows people to look for ways to improve their product as well as see their startup from objective eyes.  I think the biggest deterrent to creative feedback comes from people that discount ideas simply because … they appear to be simple.

I love this quote from Paul Graham's Essay "How to Start a Startup" (http://paulgraham.com/start.html):
"In particular, you don't need a brilliant idea to start a startup around. The way a startup makes money is to offer people better technology than they have now. But what people have now is often so bad that it doesn't take brilliance to do better."

In my experience, some people like to think that all the easy problems have already been solved and thus you should only look at solving the huge and complex problems.  Unbeknown to most, there are tons of horrible (any annoying) solutions for rather simple problems.  Additionally, these companies might have completely solved the problem wrong to begin with and it is just up to you to create a simple and elegant solution.

Here are some great examples:
  • Groupon (http://www.groupon.com/) – People have been able to get coupons before, but never before has a website made it so easy and enjoyable to look at deals and new venues in your city.  The solution is amazingly simple so much so that thousands of Groupon clones are starting to take over internet.  Great idea, simple solution, $1+ billion company.
  • 37signals (http://37signals.com/) – For those using MS Project, you know the pain and angst that is involved with doing the most simple task.  37signals didn't set out to destroy MS Project, but rather just focus on the customers that just wanted to manage a small team or project.  The overhead and headaches of MS Project allowed 37signals to solve the problem the correct way.  
  • Inventables (http://www.inventables.com/) – For years, people scoured big material books, bids, and online to find things like 'squishy magnets' or 'water proof coatings' when building new products such as cars, running shoes, airplanes, etc.  Inventables is changing the way people find these unique materials buy offering a digital marketplace for buyers and sellers to interact and discover new materials.  Buying materials isn't anything new, but enabling people to easily find and buy them is.
  • Snuggie (www.getsnuggie.com/) – As most people on this earth already know, the Snuggie is amazingly well-known and is an incredibly simple idea (essentially a backwards robe or a blanket with sleeves).  Not only was this idea easy to create, manufacture, steal, and reproduce (if someone was so inclined), but it was a wild success and has generated millions of sales.
In a quote from Twitter user heathwblack, "Sometimes the best inventions don't reinvent the wheel, they just make it roll better."

Tips for Traveling Overseas

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
There was a blog post recently on How To Travel more Intelligently (http://stu.mp/2010/10/howto-travel-more-intelligently.html), so it inspired me to jot down some of the tricks I employed on my travels.  I recently traveled to Italy and spent an amazing 10 days sight seeing, soaking up culture and history, and meeting some of my relatives who lived in Asiago, Italy.  

I put together some quick tips I used to save myself some headaches in overseas travel.

1. US Dollar -> Euro:  While in the US it is easy to rack up fees at your local bank to get US Dollars converted into the currency of your traveling country.  To give yourself a break, Charles Schwab has an Investor Checking Account with all of the ATM fees waved.  A small tip that I found out was that they also don't charge currency conversion so you can go to an ATM in Italy and get out Euros at the US/Euro exchange rate without any fees.  

2. Money Belt – Everyone I talked to mentioned the pickpockets in Rome and around Termini Station.  To mitigate the risk getting items stolen, I picked up a money belt on Amazon.  This one worked really well for my trip, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00007FCI1/ref=oss_product.

3. Small Combination Locks – I locked my backpack while I was walking around the cities to once again mitigate the risk of someone digging through my backpack and stealing my stuff.

4. Rick Steve's Podcasts + Tips – http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlight.htm  I downloaded all of the podcasts for the cities we were staying in so I had some background into the history, culture, and sightseeing locations.  It was amazing to walk into the Uffizi Gallery and have some background knowledge of all of the works of art.

5. Tim Ferris Tips: My sister and I made it through 10 days on only 1 piece of carry on luggage that we shared.  Try to pack as light as physically possible and only bring the absolute essentials.  You'd be surprised how little you can survive on while traveling.  Also every city has a Walgreens-like location, so you can buy anything that you forget or is above 3oz.  Check out Tim Ferris's blog for packing light.  http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/07/11/how-to-travel-the-world-with-10-pounds-or-less-plus-how-to-negotiate-convertibles-and-luxury-treehouses/

5. Skype – International calling is quite expensive.  I believe Italy to the US was somewhere around $1.50 per minute for my iPhone on AT&T.  To save money and still stay in touch with my family and friends back home, I have the Skype Unlimited plan which I paid around $30/year to call any US number without any extra charges.  I connected my iPhone to a hotel available wi-fi network and was able to call the US without any additional charges.  One phone call makes up the cost of the Skype Unlimited plan.

6. Travel Agent – Some people like to be more spontaneous and travel without any sort of plans in mind.  Because we wanted to visit 4 cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan) in 10 days as well as visit our relatives, we had to plan more diligently.  A travel agent was a massive help and allowed us the luxury of having train tickets organized and purchased in advance as well as detailed notes about all the locations.  Our travel agent, Nancy, also organized the hotels we were staying at so that they were centrally located to all the sites that we wanted to see.

Good luck on your future travels.

The love or the money: Measuring Job Happiness

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
I watched a really good TED talk on the "Happy Planet Index" (posted by my friend Sam Johnson http://asamjohnson.posterous.com/are-we-happy) and it got me thinking about how we as a society rate ourselves.  Especially right out of college, most people care about 1 number and that is their yearly salary.  It might be time to rethink that notion and think about what we actually love to do.  There is a great list of successful people that do their job because they love it rather than love the money (e.g. Steve Jobs and his $1/year salary).  It seems that while living in one of the richest and most privileged nations in the world with the infrastructure to reasonably employ any skilled worker, we should be able to enjoy our work.

Are you working at your job because of the love or the money? 

Using PDFKit on Heroku

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on August 15, 2010
Recently, I've been working on a small project that crawls the web to gather information about trademarks (e.g. number of Google results, placement of sponsored links, etc.).  In the requirements, we needed to have PDF versions of the webpages that were crawled, so I found this to be a great opportunity to try PDFKit and try hosting the project on Heroku.  Initially I got everything working locally, but once I tried running the app on Heroku it didn't have access to the wkhtmltopdf library.  I've outlined my steps to get the PDFKit gem working on Heroku.

1. Setup PDFKit to work locally (gem install pdfkit, added the config.gem lines to your environment.rb)
2. Download the wkhtmltopdf-0.9.9 Linux Static Binary (amd64) executable (via http://code.google.com/p/wkhtmltopdf/downloads/list) and place it inside your vendor folder of your Rails project.
3. Create an initializer, so in production Heroku will use this to generate the PDF's.  I put this inside of config/initializers/pdfkit.rb

</div><div><div># config/initializers/pdfkit.rb</div> <div>PDFKit.configure do |config|</div><div>  config.wkhtmltopdf = Rails.root.join('vendor', 'wkhtmltopdf-amd64').to_s if RAILS_ENV == 'production'</div><div>end</div></div><div>

4. (In-progress) We are using the functionality of PDFKit to generate a PDF of an external webpage (e.g. a PDF of www.google.com) and not a view that resides in our Rails app.  This is pretty easy to do with PDFKit via PDFKit.new("www.google.com").  The problem is that we want the user to be able to download this file and have it generated at that time.  Currently, our code is just exporting the PDF to file and storing it to the /tmp directory on Heroku.  Then we use send_file to pass the PDF back to the user.  There must be an easier way to do this.  Anyone have any ideas?

If you'd like to fork this project, check it out at http://github.com/mgornick/Trademark-Search.  We're using Capybara, Culerity, Nokogiri, and PDFKit.

Going to Italy for a week this summer. Anyone have any tips?

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on May 10, 2010
I'm planning on going to Italy this summer (sometime after June 6 and before Aug. 1).  I want to go for about 7-10 nights and of course see as much as I can in that time.  I want to set a tentative budget for $1500 (is this realistic?).

Does anyone have any tips/websites on:
1. Cheap airfare or cheap dates to travel
2. Top things to see.  I'm trying to go to Rome, Florence, Venice, and maybe Milan.
3. Recommend staying in Rome for all 7 nights or switch between hotels and stay in a few different cities for the 7 nights

Posted via email from The Blog of Matt Gornick

Dispelling the Myth of the All Nighter

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on May 6, 2010

It is that time again!  The time when college students all over sacrifice sleep for studying.  The most likely offender is the 'all nighter' where students stay up for 24-48 hours prior to a final exam, research paper, or final project to squeeze in any last bit of information.  

"[Researchers] found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent" (via CNN.com – Sleep deprivation as bad as alcohol impairment, study suggests).  DHH at 37signals wrote in "Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor" to "… get more sleep. Stop bragging about how little you got. Make your peak mental capacity accessible."

Personally, lack of sleep causes me to perform at subpar, lack creativity, and create mediocre work.  Most of the time, the all nighter is just a seemingly okay solution to a much bigger problem of time management.  I've found that simply organizing my 168 hours in a week better, you can mitigate the risks of having to pull an all nighter.

If you're working on a startup, studying for school, or working a 9-to-5 please take some time to get some sleep.  Everyone benefits from you putting out the best work that you can.

Posted via email from The Blog of Matt Gornick

Two types of meetings

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on April 28, 2010
There are two types of meeting.  Those that move your product, idea, or mission forward and those that are a waste of time.  

Luckily, I was in the former today.

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Great talk today from Kevin Wolz on ‘Saving the World’

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on April 22, 2010

This afternoon Kevin Wolz of iFoundry gave a great talk on 'Saving the World: My Philosophy, My Story, and My Summer.'  Kevin did a great job of bridging the gap between engineering and nature and how he is trying to unite his two passions.

His presentation was a real eye opener with 'the average food travels 1500 miles to get to your plate!' as well as the small food garden he built in his dorm room to grow food for the summer.  Definitely impressive stuff.

Learn more about his quest for a better and more sustainable food ecosystem at his blog: http://kwolz.wordpress.com/

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Interesting: ranking tech companies by revenue per employee

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on April 21, 2010

http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2283-ranking-tech-companies-by-revenue-per-employee

I would be interested in seeing the profit/employee.  This is still an interesting look at revenue and business models.  Your startup or business might not be as popular as Twitter, but you can reasonably generate more profit per employee than a lot of companies out there.

Posted via email from The Blog of Matt Gornick