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Jan 9, 2014

#Techgiants Jack MA of Alibaba: building an ecosystem, not just an eCommerce company


Jack MA is the Tech Giants of China (and the world). Jack started Alibaba group in 1999 from a unique background as an English teacher, and over last 15 years, he and team created an Internet empire and an ecosystem to enable small merchants. Alibaba is the eBay and Amazon of China. 

With almost perfect English, Jack sets an example as a Chinese entrepreneur who can present in English just as well as in Chinese. Check out Jack’s inspiring talks here:

Jan 6, 2014 / 2 notes

#Techgiants Art Series - Jeff Bezos of @Amazon, building Earth’s most customer-centric company

Jeff Bezos founded online bookstore in 1994 after leaving a “good job” in a quantitative trading firm on Wall Street.10 years later, Jeff Bezos and Amazon have revolutionized the way we read, shop and compute

Bezos studied Computer Science at Princeton and worked in finance for almost a decade before “taking a risk” to start Amazon. In the spring of 1994, Bezos saw the unusually rapid growth (2300%/year) of the web usage and his conviction of how this rapid growth will be everywhere in the future. He made a list of 20 products (business plans) that can ride with this wave, and looks for the first best product to sell online- books,  millions of books (more of books than any other category), and how technology can help categorize books online. 

Full Amazon Story by Jeff Bezos can be found here:

How did Bezos decide to leave high-paying wall street job to  start his own venture ? Bezos recommends Risk Minimization Model  ”minimizing life regrets” then everything else is secondary. 

When people ask what Amazon is, Bezos responds by highlighting the mission of Amazon “Earth’s most consumer-centric company”. In Bezos’ words,” take care of customers = take care of shareholders" and that "Missionary’s make better products”.

One example Bezos gives is Sony’s founder who wanted to “make Japan known for quality, instead of making SONY known for quality”.  He chose a mission for SONY that was bigger than SONY. 

Similarly for Amazon, Bezos’ vision is to have other companies look at Amazon, see it as a standard bearer of obsessive focus on customers instead of focus on competitors ( take long term view point on things).

Step 1:  

Step 2: 

Step 3:

Step 4: 

Jan 4, 2014 / 1 note

#Techgiants @DavidSacks of @Yammer - Product Visionary Who Pioneered Enterprise Social, Turned Around Paypal & Produced Award-Winning Movie

1. Summary of my story with Yammer (detail account to follow)  
Yammer is one of my favorite apps, but also one that I have a personal life-changing story. The daily digest email from Yammer after my 2010 summer internship was the light bulb that made me realize the possibility to contribute remotely to, a sustainability non-profit whose mission is to accelerate the greening of China for a healthier world. Little did I know that this ability to work remotely for JUCCCE enabled by Yammer later made me a core member of JUCCCE (as Community Manager) and afforded me (while still in college) a life long mentor & role-modelPeggy Liu, the Chairperson of JUCCCE who brings tech startup approach to non-profit. As a result of volunteering at JUCCCE for 3.5 years, I had the privilege to figure out my life long mission to green China.  I often credit this self-realization to Yammer. 

Since 2010, I have been using Yammer’s desktop air, and later iPhone app, trained more than 30 volunteers on how to effectively use Yammer. 

Today, Yammer is the "virtual brain" of JUCCCE, which has a 24 hour team of passionate volunteers around the globe across 3 continents. I learned from Peggy to  train our volunteers to keep every meeting notes (consolidate email, Skype inputs) on Yammer with appropriate groups and hashtags, updates from our global team are transparent. Yammer addresses a pain point for the high turnover rate and knowledge loss of non-profit

2. David Sacks, a product visionary known for coming up with genius business model, both at PayPal & Yammer 

David Sacks is the architect behind Yammer, an enterprise social network  launched and won TechCrunch 50 in 2008. To  most consumers, Enterprise Social Network may not be as a familiar topic. To give you a sense, Yammer is used by over 200k companies, and 85% of Fortune 500 companies. 


What most people don’t know is that David was Paypal’s COO who figured out its business model and turned around the money-losing company during dotcom bubble into one of the most well-known acquisitions in history ($1.5 billion by eBay). David later went to on produce award-winning movie Thank You for Smoking, co-founded family tree company, whose internal communications platform turned into Yammer, which was acquired for $1.2 billion by Microsoft in 2012. Such strong track record makes it no exaggeration to say that David is a tech giant with many successes. 

David is a product visionary who pioneered in making enterprise social. When Yammer was launched, it faced doubt and disbelief from the general public (even after wining TC 50) and was in the midst of 2008 financial crisis. Not to mention a dozen competitors, including big established companies, such as Salesforce’s Chatter, trying to commoditize Yammer as a feature. David credited its team for moving fast onto Yammer 2010 when other companies copied Yammer 2008. 

At the time, most people did not believe in a “Twitter for work” and that social media is just for personal life. What David saw was how personal communications methods and habits can be  desired by employees to apply to enterprise - which makes internal communications more effective and transparent. It is worth notice that enterprises are hard to break into, but also means stable revenue streams once they use a service/product. Looking back, David commented that there was a steep learning curve to figure out Enterprise Sales. This comment made me think of Dropbox for Business - as Dropbox transitions from consumer-driven to enterprise-driven, perhaps there are much to learn from Yammer. 

David not only figured out business model at PayPal, he once again developed the Yammer Freemium Model that made its adoption viral and from within an organization.  Without going into much detail, everyone can sign up Yammer with a work email, and invite co-workers. Once a small group of passionate Yammer users form a community, the employer notices how Yammer can work within the company’s communications. That is the initial hook - then follow-up sales to close the deal. 

Looking back today, it seems so obvious that enterprise social is indeed sexy and much needed, but 5 years ago, it took a lot of conviction and vision to make Yammer what it is today, especially going through financial crisis. David mentioned in an interview that he has been baking the idea throughout 2007, and took a couple of weeks during Christmas to write down a 40 page spec document. In other words, there has been a voice in David’s head for a while before he finally put on paper. 

Below is my account of how Yammer Changed My life, published on Blog on 3/20/2013. 


How Has Yammer Changed My Life

by a 3yr user @JUCCCE 

I was first introduced to Yammer in summer 2010 when I interned for Shanghai-based non-profit that heavily utilizes technology - Joint US China Collaboration on Clean Energy (@JUCCCE). By now, I have told how-yammer-changed-my-life story enough times that I decided to document it.

As a 3-year user, I reflected on what makes Yammer user experience so engaging & seamless - for example, Yammer’s Desktop Air, mobile app, and email notifications are big anchors for user engagement. To me, Yammer is an enabler of virtual offices for people to collaborate effectively wherever they are. Because of Yammer, I have been able to volunteer for a cause & mission that I deeply believe in.

Yammer revolutionized my notion of internships - it showed me that an internship does not necessarily end at its physical last day, but can become a life-long commitment enabled by technology.

After the official end of my internship at JUCCCE, I was back at Princeton for my junior year. It didn’t take long that “Your Yammer Activity” digest email caught my eye balls and kept me reading through my colleagues’ work updates. This was my “aha” moment.


That comprehensive daily activity email made it so easy for me to catch up on what my colleagues were up to, and where various projects stood. As someone with a proactive mind and a passion for greening China, I could not resist offering my hands when I see areas that I had contacts or resources at disposal. From then on, Yammer has become my daily routine. Even when I was studying in a library or writing my senior thesis, I respond to Yammer messages to clear up the red notifications - because of Yammer, I have become more flexible and learned how to contribute on demand.

So what is the secret sauce for Yammer’s engaging experience ?

As a sauce is made up of multiple ingredients, below are the ingredients that worked magic together ( based on my own user experience, there could be more)

1. Daily Digest and Notifications in your mailbox - Besides the desktop air app and web interface, Yammer “bothers” to do the extra work and send to users a daily digest with all messages and responses so that its hard to miss what’s going on with your colleagues.

2. Reply via Email gets pushed to Yammer app - one way that Yammer reduces user friction is that it allows you to reply via email.

Daily digest email is not uncommon - but what differentiates Yammer is that people can respond to Yammer posts directly via Email responses. If one is in the habit of using email, he or she does not have to change the habit to get their messages across the team. In some way, Yammer app is not a stand-alone app - it is seamlessly integrated into our Email habits. This is a big win.

Let’s think about a scenario -

How many times have you received a digest of emails that you have knowledge to contribute to, but simply not easy to get your message shared with your colleagues in the same task force or group and have it saved at a central location for later follow-ups? Yammer solves that pain.

Besides the helpful Daily Activity digest email, Yammer also sends specific responses to relevant parties via email besides the notifications in the app.


3. Yammer Desktop Air provides engaging & easy-to-use platform compared to having to use the app only via the Web


Having a Desktop Air app was the other half of the reason that I was sold to Yammer. Just like Dropbox is fully integrated to your Finder, my Yammer Desktop Air is next to Skype, Chrome, and Microsoft Office. From early on, I treated Yammer Desktop Air as an integral part of my Macbook.

I must admit that the red notifications is addictive (as shown above). Not only will there be a pop-up window on upper right corner of computer screen with preview of comments / posts relevant to you, the red number also appears on the Desktop Air icon. It is human nature to clean up the red number before it accumulates.

Even if you are not a fan of Desktop app or have not got the habit yet. Not to worry, an email with full content is await in your mailbox. (see screenshot below with analysis)


4. Yammer Mobile App allows working on-the-go:

When I am taking a long subway ride, instead of gazing around, I am normally reading my Yammer unread messages or writing down next steps for project management. Having a mobile app provides another layer of engagement with users (as data shows that people now spend more time on mobile devices than TV or computers) I find myself waking up checking my iPhone and reading the new Yammer messages.

Below I included analysis on why Yammer app interface is so easy to use.

(1) Ability to “Like” colleagues’ comments - a senior manager can give acknowledgement to junior analysts, by “Liking” the messages

We can even give colleagues some “praise”


(2) Easy to embed PDFs, docs, pictures, which will display a Preview, so does any URL link - visual presentation is more engaging with viewers

(3) Every user has a Profile Page - with photos, descriptions, contact info etc

(4) Display of “Reply”s : Similar to Facebook “reply” display, only the latest 2 replies will be in “Preview” .


(5) In any Activity Update - Yammer allows you to post directly into a “Group“,in which the information is relevant. (i.e.: I posted in “China Dream” Group, which is shown in red box, and on the bottom right corner, there is a profile picture of the Group we post in.

(6) The Magic Tagging system people + hashtag - have you ever encountered long emails that you missed seeing your name next to an important task?

With tagging capability, when I update Yammer status, I can tag stakeholders /colleagues that I need to notify & engage.

Besides tagging colleagues, we are also able to put # (hashtag) to an update - which has profound implications.


(7) This single #(hashtag) feature makes Yammer search-friendly. When I need to follow up on a past communication from 3 months ago and I only vaguely remember the key words, I do a Search on Yammer app. At JUCCCE, we’ve been using Yammer as a data storage center to move important email content & Skype call follow-up notes over.


In a nutshell, Yammer can serve as a database - easy to search history and follow up with appropriate parties.

I sincerely apprciate how Yammer brings structure & organization through a enterprise social network - for example,  Yammer makes it so easy to track down past communications & close the loop on open projects. In some way, Yammer is helping our non-profitto stay organized because of these thoughtfully designed features that capture a user in every single possible channel ( Desktop, Mobile, Web, Email) and in every convenient way possible ( hashtag tagging, people tagging + notification, groups/categories).


Thank you Yammer - only because of your existence, I discovered and kept up with my life mission of greening China for a healthier world at a young age. I have been a firm believer of technology changing people’s lives and bringing convenience & joy, I’d say Yammer is a great great example of such app.

——Appendix: The Evolving of Yammer Daily Digest ———————

Since Yammer Daily Digest was a light switch for me to continue to volunteer for JUCCCE since 2010.  Below I included the different Daily Digest Designs updates since 2010 till date:

May 2010, my first Yammer Daily Digest - note the dark blue + lighter blue head banner. also the email sender is “Yammer”


Dec 2010 Yammer got a new look - note the dark blue is gone, and the Email Sender becomes more relevant “JUCCCE on Yammer” than just generic “Yammer”


Now, note how much Yammer Daily Digest has evolved.

Not only has the color palate lightened up over the last 3 years, the company has downplayed its own logo, but highlighted the your own network’s logo. In the screenshot below, “JUCCCE” now gets the Yammer blue in large fonts, and “Yammer” itself is now grey/ transparent color. Ultimately, it’s your company’s network, empowered by Yammer.


1 week after the Friday 11/30/12 design release, Yammer Daily Digest started to highlight the date on Friday 12/7/12. The screenshot below is from 3/5/13, but same format as 12/7/12.


Jan 4, 2014
Nov 22, 2013 / 11 notes

#Techgiants Art Project @DavidKarp of @Tumblr - enabling a community of creators

I keep 4 tumblrs (include this one) and there seems no reason to not paint Tumblr’s David Karp as it had made short-form blogging possible and social, and facilitated an amazing community of creators. coffeeloveproject @startupbug msappleorchard

Here is the time lapse progress of david portrait painting: 

Minimal Viable Painting (MVP) & Iteration: David Karp Portrait Timelapse from Chenyu on Vimeo.

As a blogger for 7 years, I still struggle between the short format tumblr posts and serious blog posts that take hours. That’s why I have a separate tumblr for different purpose - for example, my food blog  msappleorchard is more picture based, but coffeeloveproject is long blog post that takes hours to write. I must admit I have very few followers and I am not good at creating viral content (at least not yet) 
But for me, Tumblr =  an easy platform to present my blog in beautiful template and at the same time extremely social and integrates well with FB, Twitter etc. I may be a bit strange in today’s fast pace, snap-chat age, I’m still old school and care deeply about recording memory and not let precious experience fade away - that is why I write diligently after exploring food gems/ coffee spots to make sure that I can document my exploration and share with others. 
What struck me most of David is his big eyes and deep/intense gaze. It feels that his eyes can talk. 
The first time I was introduced to Tumblr and got to use it was from TigerTrek Silicon Valley Trip in 2011 initiated by Taylor Francis. During the trip, Ryan Shea & Alex Landon set up a tumblr for the group to collectively blog about our experience -
I thought “Wow this is amazing! We can even email the blog to an address and it will get posted to Tumblr!
I have always been a big fan of group collaboration & platforms that makes it as easy as possible to post content without changing people’s habit (for example, Yammer allows members to reply to the Network via an email). 
I was sold to Tumblr after the Silicon Valley trip and have been a Tumblr user ever since. I must admit that I still write long format tumblr blogs the same way I have written on other blogs. I also do not get the average of 9 re-blog. In my mind, I believe that CONTENT comes first, if I focus on creating good content, the traffic will eventually come. 












Nov 20, 2013

Guest lecture @dens of @foursquare - contagious energy & my fav local exploration app


My heart is still pounding while writing this blog post - both by the energetic talk from the founder of my fav local discovery app foursquare & the honor that Prof. Coleman kindly introduced me to Dens in front of the #DigitalMediaInnovation Class (as a self-claimed “Hashtag Project Ninja”, I love how the class itself has a hashtag)

1. foursquare - an app that empowers my truly local experience & #CoffeeLoveProject

In my previous post about foursquare, I wrote about how this app has changed my experience as a New Yorker for the last 1.5 years.

Reflecting on this year’s exploration in NYC, I wholeheartedly feel thankful for foursquare, without which, my life in NYC would have been so different. I also wouldn’t have been able to work on #coffeeloveproject and interact with my foodie friends frequently. foursquare empowered me to gradually become a “local expert”.



Dens once said “Don’t let people tell you your ideas are stupid. If you are really passionate about something, find a way to build it.In other words, he embodies “just do it, your way mantra” that High-tech entrepreneurship Prof Zschau at Princeton has passed on to me. “

Today, with Dens in class, I was able to ask him in person 2 comments in my previous analysis of foursquare.

(1). “foursquare tip” vs. “Yelp review”

I am a user of both apps, but have felt strongly that “Tip” provides users a different context and incentive than “Review”. According to Dens, people tend to leave “Tip” that are useful information and easier to write if it’s a few sentences than 6 paragraphs. There are as many 4sq tips as Yelp reviews.

As I write both 4sq Tips & Yelp Reviews, I personally really like the mobile user engagement around tips that 4sq provides. Once in a while, I get a notification saying someone “liked” or “saved” my tip. That small notification sometimes makes my day a little better ;)

(2). how to convince first time users?

I had an interesting encounter convincing a techie friend to use foursquare by finding the “hook” about how foursquare could keep memory of places for him (he will be travelling around America this year).

2. Painting from photo vs. Meeting Dennis in class:

2.1 How the meeting come together

Painting from photo and listening to interviews is always different from hearing someone talk in person, especially someone as passionate and energetic as Dennis.

Previously, I had run into Dennis on the street at SXSW and again in the same elevator at TCDisrupt NY. I received a foursquare T-shirt from SXSW - as Dennis is speaking at Prof. Coleman’s class today, I thought it would be appropriate to wear the foursquare t-shirt as a “Super User”.


I brought the painting with me to class (of course, in a green Metropolitan Museum of Art bag - a check-in special offer from 4sq) and sat at the front row. In fact, for most of my HighLine display, this Met bag has been accompanying me everywhere to hold all the paintings. Last week, I ran the idea of getting Dennis sign the painting by Prof. Coleman and he said “Yes. He will like it.”

2.2 Dens’ Startup Lifelike roller coaster inside roller coster “

So the class begins, and most of content are off-record. Below are some observations and take-away lessons that I can share.

Prof. Coleman started the class with his own special experience enabled by a foursquare check-in, which led to magic meetings in Brazil with his former student and story kept unfolding.

After listening to many interviews, I have come cross few people with as much energy as Dens & when he talks, we all can feel how much he believes in what he is building. Dens advises the class that as a founder, one needs to persevere - “if you read comment section of press, it can be full of hating, but at one point, you need to tell yourself:

"I got this idea, I feel very passionate about it, I will keep building it out until i prove to myself it is a stupid idea. Don’t let other people tell you that it will not work.”

Dens describes his startup life in one sentence “like roller coaster inside roller coster every day" - there are days that are super hard, but people from outside think super glamorous.

When Prof. Coleman asked Dens to provide tips on trial & error for students, below are a few useful quotes:

"Be so passionate about seeing this ‘one thing’ realize in the real world (can’t imagine without the world without it)"

"Be prepared for people to tell you this is the worst idea i’ve ever heard."

2.3 A few key moments

Besides advice on startups, Dens also reflected back when he first had the realization that 4sq could work - in fact, those moments come from using the app.

(1) Epiphany in East Village

Back in early days in 2009, Dens went to East Village Tavern (10th & ave C) and received a tip

If you ask the bar tender nicely, he would show you the secret place where he stores the good beer.

Wow. What if we could bring this level of local knowledge to people —> this would be huge." Dens thought.

(2) the seed of Merchant Program

How did merchant program originate? In fact, a user - owners of Marsh Cafe in SF may have inspired it. Marsh Cafe put foursquare check-in promotion, and a Flickr photo came to Dens’ way. After conversations with the owners, Dens learned this was working well. Then is the rest of the story. You can read about it here.

2.4 Company Communications - “Snippets”

When asked about examples of company communications, Dens explains “Snippets” - a Monday morning company-wide newsletter on what everyone is psyched about; stressed about; and working on.” This is one way to be as transparent as possible.

3. Prof. Coleman’s Surprise

I was excited to ask Dens questions on my mind as a super user. Little did I know that Prof. Coleman took the opportunity after my question and told the class about my painting.

"This super user also has brought something special to class. A painting of yours that she hopes you to sign." Thank you Prof. Coleman. image


4. My 4sq enabled local explorations in visual collages

As mentioned before, foursquare has enabled me to live like a local.

(1) Before going to a city, I will look through different lists that people save, places friends have gone to, so that I have a sense of places to check out in a new city - for example, on my way to New Haven, I “studied” on 4sq all the good spots to check out. Here is my blog post about Pizza Marathon in New Haven (photo below the famed Frank Pepe Pizza) image

(2) While in a new city/neighborhood, I open my 4sq app while walking on the street to see where are the “Best” nearby. In fact, in Chicago, I stumbled upon “Alliance Bakery" on my way to Caffe Streets for #CoffeeLoveProject in Wicker Park area. (Blog post of Chicago Coffee Exploration here). Without 4sq, I would have missed this local favorite.


I brought my collage boards to Dens and he liked them. Below are some boards:

Ma’velous (SF) barista Prestin, who helped open several coffee shops in NYC, looking at NYC CoffeeLoveProject Collage & says “this brings back memory”.


#CoffeeLoveCrawl in Wayside Cafe, East VIllage NYC with 3 types of pour-over demo from barista Miguel (@pourover_rios)


SF CoffeeLoveProject Collage Board: imageChicago CoffeeLoveProject Board:


At Heritage Bicycle in Chicago with manager Adam:


Chocolate Collage:


NYC Healthy Food Collage:



Nov 19, 2013 / 6 notes

Half Serendipity, Half Planning: Meeting @DrewHouston of @Dropbox at Sequoia #StartAT


1. “Like a Christmas Gift” - Debuting #Techgiants Art Project at Sequoia Start @ a Startup Conference

After working on #techgiants art project for 100 days inspired by Drew’s MIT Commencement Speech, I was excited for my own ‘product launch” – displaying 15 paintings at Sequoia Capital Start @ a Startup Conference in collaboration with Princeton University Business Today in NYC on Oct 5-6, 2013. 

Back in August, when I received the approval to display the paintings at sequoiacapital  conference’s Networking Reception taking place in Oct, it was like receiving my Christmas gift early. It provided me with the fuel to stay up many nights until 4am to meet weekly targets. At times, I wish I did not have a day job so that I could have done more painting, but an analogy came to mind is bootstrapping - when we have limited resources to work with, we  learn to be more efficient and make the most of the time we have. That also galvanized me to develop Minimal Viable Painting (MVP) agile painting method to crowd-source feedback and iterate. See blog post on MVP here and a video explanation below. 

Hacking Painting: Minimal Viable Painting (MVP) Method Explained from Chenyu on Vimeo.

This opportunity to debut Techgiants Paintings means a lot to me because Drew Houston inspired me to start this art project (“gave me enough kick” to follow my own passion in  art and startup). In addition, as a big fan of sharing economy pioneer airbnb, I was excited that Nate, CTO of Airbnb, is also speaking and I had done a painting of him as well. 

As meeting with Drew itself was part serendipity and part planning,  I thought it would be worthwhile to document. 

2. “The Bad” - Revising Painting and Missing Keynote

2.1 Painting Style Evolves = To Revise or Not?

My first #techgiants portrait on 6/30/2013 was Drew Houston. Since then, my painting style has evolved from German Expressionism style (rougher color and strokes),  to smoother-more realistic portraits that strike for a balance between likeness and liveness (see Airbnb co-founders portraits here) .


As my painting style evolved, I had struggled for a while on whether to revise Drew and Dennis Crowley of foursquare's paintings because as artworks, these two paintings belong to a different style than my later paintings. My typical paint style is to leave white canvass instead of using white color. Therefore, in earlier stage, i used the canvass white as the skin color, but I realized that skin color has more pink and yellow in it to carry out the spirit. Here I am making a bold analogy of art work & startup products -  my struggle of 2 styles of paintings may resemble different stages of startups -to make a decision between two distinct styles that both have merits.

2.2 Revise Painting

Two days before the conference, I decided to revise Drew’s painting for likeness and to weave his MIT Commencement Speech message of “tennis ball, circle of 5, and 30,000 days" into the painting.  




Below is the image I based the painting off and when painting, I use a photo and listen to the #techgiants’ interview (in this case, 2013 MIT Commencement Speech). I limit myself to 4-5 colors and use blue, red, yellow and white. Since the image has green hue, I added green. 


2.3 Working Hard to Present the Best Quality 
I stayed up till 4am to finish revising Drew’s painting and when I woke up, I was already missing his keynote. 
I thought the chance to meet Drew may have been gone, but i did not regret staying up to revise - at least, at tonight’s reception, I'm presenting the best quality of my work possible as this project aims to inspire people. It is like getting the product right before releasing to the users.

I also had a feeling that as Dropbox is a sponsor of the conference , perhaps there may be an opportunity to see him around. I remember Drew was walking around TCdisrupt SF - gathered he may have low key personality and more approachable than some other high profile entrepreneurs.

Below is a time lapse view of how the painting evolved: 

Time Lapse of Drew Houston (Dropbox) #techgiants painting from Chenyu on Vimeo.

3. “The Good” - Meeting Drew and Getting Signature

I sat at the back of Dropbox seminar run by early employee Albert Ni (whose presentation is one of the best I’ve seen because it touches upon “the good, the bad and the ugly” of start ups and give a comprehensive perspective of what working in a startup is like)

Shortly after I sat down, Drew walked in the room and sat one meter away from me. $&%*($)!*$*@%??!!!

Shocked. I couldn’t believe my eyes - perhaps those who work at Dropbox or SF would not understand this feeling. "Being able to meet my hero" in NYC after missing his keynote really means a lot. 
"Should I give the painting to him? Would that affect the seminar ?” I couldn’t decide. . 
Luckily , I asked the boy sitting next to me and he gave me the courage I needed “yes, of course”.

I gave Drew the painting gently without making any noise -  he smiled and said “thank you”. Perhaps he was as surprised as me.  Little did I know that the boy sitting next to me is a professional photographer and he captured the precious moment below. 

At first, this occurred as an absolute serendipity and I justified as being rewarded for the extra hard work I put in.
It’s like being serious about your product and when you have the good product, the rest would come. 
The more I thought about it, I realized this serendipity was not purely luck - I was prepared when such opportunity might occur. I carried the painting with me, had a sharpie ready, and went to Dropbox seminar.
My story of meeting Drew reminded me of the powerful message Jack Dorsey of squareblog gave at Startup School 2013
"Good luck is a product of good planning - it’s not so much that people are lucky; its that they are prepared to recognize fortune in situations and act on them immediately. " 

Jack Dorsey, Startup School 2013 

After the talk, I waited to say hi to Drew. Part of this project is to meet the techgiants I paint (based on photo wile listening to their interviews) - meeting them in person helps me to capture their personality to revise the painting

He said “You are good.” and i explained how his Commencement Speech and TC50 Launch of Dropbox have inspired me to work on this art project.
It is like meeting your hero and telling him/her how he/she has impacted your life. It was awesome. “Being able to meet my heroes and learn from them made a big difference” quoting Drew’s speech.
I hope you work hard and meet your heroes as well. 


Aug 19, 2013 / 2 notes

#TechGiants Art Series - Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity, Hyperlook and the Elon Musk


From PayPal to Tesla MotorsSolarCity SpaceX to the newly released Hyperloop , Elon has set the frontier and redefined different industries from payment, to space, from transportation to energy. It reminded me that we are only limited by our own imagination. 

In Fall 2011, during Princeton TigerTrek trip to Silicon Valley organized by Taylor, our group visited Tesla factory and saw the upcoming new model. 



From Dec 2011 to April 2012, I spent a few months writing a thesis on Third Party Financing based on SolarCity’s model. 

Thesis here:



Thesis Abstract below: 

Third Party Financing and Residential Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Adoption Rates in California and New Jersey

Chenyu Zheng, Princeton University, Class of 2012
Thesis Advisor: Prof. Smita Brunnermeier (Economics) 

By 2010, the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic (PV) industry had already eclipsed the $50 billion global advertising industry. In 2011, PV installations in the United States across all sectors grew 109% over 2010. The advancement of PV industry can be attributed to the ongoing price reduction of PV modules, subsidies such as tax credits and rebates, and government policies, including renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Yet, the most critical driver of solar’s success in residential sector is not subsidies, which is declining, but the emerging third party financing (TPF) model, in which third party companies own PV systems and sell the electricity output to building occupants. TPF removes the high upfront cost of PV systems, reduces technology risk and inconvenience (such as panel maintenance), and often generates utility bill savings from day one. These advantages can help solar PV penetrate the residential sector - the last frontier for solar to conquer. Through running OLS regressions controlling for demographic and solar PV characterization variables, this empirical study analyzes how TPF has affected total PV adoption rate and customer-owned PV adoption rate in residential sector in California and New Jersey between 2007 and 2011. With 99% confidence level, the results confirm that TPF model does positively expand the residential solar PV market, but moderately cannibalize customer-owned PV demand. This phenomenon could result from a combination of the aforementioned benefits of third party financing as well as the fact that some customers who would have bought PV systems on cash now prefer a prepaid third-party lease to monetize depreciation of PV systems. The policy implications include a justification for laws that remove barriers to TPF such as high permitting fees, provide support for other financing options (such as PACE programs), enable TPF awareness campaigns, and facilitate a market for securitization of solar assets. Further studies can explore other major TPF states such as Arizona and Colorado, and look into FICO score issue raised should there be data available.

Keywords: solar photovoltaic (PV), residential, third party financing (TPF), third party ownership (TPO), solar leasing, PV adoption barriers, incentives


In Summer 2012, I visited Tesla NYC show room in Chelsea @Green Drinks event. 



As I studied Environmental Studies and since 2010 have been involved with Joint US China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), a non-profit accelerating the greening of  China, solar adoption and electric cars are both areas that I and JUCCCE are passionate about. During our spring mayoral training course, we brought our class participants to Shanghai Energy Park to test drive electric cars of all sizes. 


I heard Tesla will be coming to China, I hope one day Tesla and JUCCCE have overlap. 

Below is the evolving painting during different stages. 

Step 1 - study proportions of different portraits, and outline


Step 2 First Finish - the strokes in the left face is a bit too heavy


Step 3 I posted the draft on WeChat moments and got 17 comments from friends on where I can improve. 


Jul 31, 2013 / 1 note

#TechGiants Art Series - Yahoo CEO & 1st Google Female Engineer Marissa Mayer


To me, Marissa is an important female leader in technology that can dance comfortably in both coding and fashion. I read in this CNN article that she is responsible for the clean look of This past month marked one year anniversary of Marissa becoming the CEO & President of internet giant Yahoo! 

I have not had a chance to meet Marissa although I had listened to her many interviews and we were once in the same elevator. What have left me a long lasting impression is that during Crunchies Award, Yahoo! was a major sponsor and for the whole night, Marissa was standing at the Yahoo! booth and responding to various requests from the crowd. 

I thought it was incredible! Can you imagine the CEO of a large internet company to make him/herself so available ? I think it was an important message that Marissa set forward. 


For this painting, I measured the proportions before painting. 




I later fixed the width of the neck. I like the red color in Marissa’s photo

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