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  • September 16, 2015

    Founder Edgar Blazona writes about his LAUNCH experience today on Medium

    Today on Medium, Miniplayer founder Edgar Blazona published a piece on "how it all began."

    Here's an excerpt:

    Jason Calacanis likes to say that he met me in a San Francisco restaurant when someone meeting him for lunch came up to my table and mistook me for him. When the guy asked me if I was Jason, I immediately put two and two together. Funny thing was, I certainly knew the Jason he was referring to and he happened to be sitting at a table not too far away.

    What Jason doesn’t know (but he will now) is that I had been studying him for several months, trying to learn everything I could about the startup world. You see, I come from the furniture industry where the word “startup” is not the hot topic of conversation. I have been in this industry for 25 years, running and building my furniture brand for the past 7, having never raised any money, and frankly building a reasonable business the old fashioned way. But in the Bay Area, the startup culture is infectious, the technology being created is inspiring, and the startup world intrigued me, given the fact that I was working on an entirely new way to manufacture and sell sofas. I knew that I needed to learn more; I needed a crash course, so to speak. Although I am not sure where or how I stumbled upon Jason’s array of media, I can tell you that I studied it to no end. I poured through the archives of “” podcasts, listening to each episode and taking notes along the way. There are certainly others out there offering startup advice, but what I liked about Jason’s style was his no-BS way of laying it out. He was essentially making a step-by-step road map for me and all I had to do was take all of the information and link it together in chronological order to get my startup off and running.

    Read the on Medium.

  • August 18, 2015

    What It Means To Make The Top 10 On ProductHunt

    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.38.11 PMWe're new to this whole thing. If you're not familiar with it, it's a website founded by , now backed by Y Combinator, where people can share and discover new technology-based products. We knew that PH was *the* resource for emerging startups, but we had no idea just how much exposure, web traffic, enthusiasm, and validation we would receive after our feature.

    One of our investors, Jason Calacanis, on a Thursday morning. The upvotes (PH's system of "likes" or "favorites") immediately started coming in. And not just from friends and colleagues we'd notified, but from genuinely interested and excited ProductHunt users, VCs, founders, entrepreneurs, and peers. One of the cool things about ProductHunt is that in most cases you have access to the products' maker(s). Becoming a user, and participating in PH, requires a Twitter , and it's best when you're signed on as an individual, not a business or brand. Signed in as myself, Edgar Blazona, I submitted myself as an official "Maker" of Miniplayer.

    I introduced myself on our feature page, described in more detail what we're doing at BenchMade, and even offered a 30% off discount to PH users. People were excited about the 24-hour manufacturing time and the tracking system. One particular user mentioned that we should reach out to ProductHunt to see about adding a discount star to the listing. Hmmm, what's a discount star? After looking it up, we realized that ProductHunt will post a feature on your behalf with an added exclusive gold star that highlights that fact that you're offering a unique sneak peek or substantial discount just for PH users. Also required is that your company's landing page on your own site promote the PH feature and discount as well. Damn it, we'd missed that opportunity. While we did offer a 30% discount to PH users in the comments section of our PH feature, it was too late. We would have had to set up the post prior to posting it with the PH team.

    The remarks from other entrepreneurs and VCs were all really positive: "looks amazing", "pretty darn impressive", "I was 'wowed'", "so impressed." It felt really good to see all that enthusiasm; and beyond the increased web traffic, Twitter users, and incoming inquiries (more on that below), what PH did for us was to validate that what we are trying to do here -- launch a furniture company in a tech-focused world, add in some user-friendly technology, and make it work -- is cool, and not just to us because we're in it every day. It validated to us that we are creating a product and a service that people need and are excited about. We reached 300 votes in a couple of hours, and at our highest, we ranked #6 on the home page.

    The PH feature was huge for us in terms of increased web traffic, social media followers, and incoming inquiries. The day before the PH feature, we had 30 visitors to our site. The day Jason posted to PH, we increased to 2,284 visitors. Then 2,031 the following day. More web traffic than our site had ever seen.

    We gained new Twitter and Instagram followers, and received phone calls and email inquiries from people, all who referenced the PH feature. We also received fabric swatch requests from several people that day — from people who saw the post on Product Hunt.

    Being featured on ProductHunt absolutely put us on the map. Instead of knocking on investors' doors, they were emailing us, wanting to learn more. That day made months of hard work and long days feel so worth it. It was a huge step for us in terms of awareness and online presence. Several weeks later, we're still receiving inquiries from potential customers, investors, and media.

  • June 25, 2015

    Friends of Jason's are friends of ours

    If a little birdie sent you our way (thanks, Jason), here's the deal:

    The first 25 people to place an order will receive 40% off their purchase. Use code JCAL40% at checkout. 7 day manufacturing + curbside delivery is always free. If you need your sofa in a hurry, choose the 24 hour manufacturing option, pay a little extra, and we'll get your sofa out the factory door in 24 hours.

    Once you receive your new custom-made sofa, tweet out a photo of it in its new home, and we'll select one person to get their sofa for free! Easy peasy.

    If you're unsure of the size or color, we'll send you a full size printout of your sofa and color swatches so you can lay them out in your desired space to make sure it's the perfect fit and color.

    Ready? Go!

  • June 18, 2015

    Inspiring design is as close as the straw in your drink

    It's kind of weird, I know, but people get excited about using a bendy straw, like it's a treat or something.

    It makes that cool noise when you pull it out. Everything from Sofia Coppola's cans of mini sparkling wine to drive-in milkshakes use the bendy straw. Kids especially like the bendy straw and have been known to play it like a mini accordion at the table.

    The bendy straw (aka the 'flexible straw' or the 'bendable straw') was invented in San Francisco in the 1930s by Joseph B. Friedman. Friedman had been tinkering with inventions since he was a teenager and came up with the idea for a lightened pencil (the 'pencilite') and a version of the fountain pen. All in all, he earned nine U.S. patents.

    The flexible drinking straw was his most famous invention, and also his simplest. One day he was at his brother's soda fountain, the Varsity Sweet Shop, and noticed his young daughter, Judith, struggling to drink a milkshake with a long, rigid paper straw. What he did next exemplifies the beauty of simple design: He went to his workshop, inserted a screw into a straight paper straw, and wrapped dental floss around the outside, imprinting the grooves in the straw.

    Friedman received a patent in 1937 for his then-called Drinking Tube and two years later founded the Flex-Straw Corporation in California. Today, its descendent is the Sweetheart Cup Company.

    It's designs like these, the simple ones, that keep me inspired. There is such a fine line with modernism — how to add just the right amount of design-umph yet still create a beautifully simple design.

    Friedman could have made the entire straw bendy. He didn't. He created just the right amount of bend to get the job done. It's inventions like this that get you thinking about other simple, ubiquitous features of modern life such as the zipper, the paper clip or even the screw Friedman used to make his flexible straw.

    Nowadays, some say plastic straws aren't good for the environment, and reusable bendy straws are out there, but a quick search of plastic straw art projects brings up numerous ideas, like . That way, you can enjoy a drink with your bendy straw and recycle it into a cool, modern-looking accessory.

    As an invention, the Bendy Straw may not have changed the world overnight like the plow or the light bulb, but it did change the way people enjoy sodas and milkshakes every day. It's also a valuable tool in health care settings for people who have trouble sitting up to drink. It's these kind of inspiring moments in time that keep me trying new things. So the next time you drink a beverage with a bendy straw, pause to appreciate it. Just don't spill anything on the furniture :)

  • June 16, 2015

    Modernism is everywhere

    In today’s world, modernism is everywhere. Television commercials are often set in modern homes; magazines, typically read by readers who live in more traditionally decorated homes, are now staging photo shoots in modern living rooms. Modernism has become more “normal.” But it hasn’t always been this way. When I was a kid in the 80s, there was this obscure hard cover book called High-Tech: The Industrial Style & Source Book for the Home. It was all about industrial and minimalist design. I spent hours looking through this book. It was not a well known concept and modernism in architecture was harder to find.Now, there are bookstores dedicated entirely to building and design (one of my favorites in San Francisco, William Stout Architectural Books) with books on modern design lining every bookshelf. Dwell magazine actually has some competition with publications like Gray and Modern. There are countless blogs dedicated to modern design and lifestyle.

    More retail stores have not only opened that sell modern goods, but familiar brands are also changing the look of their stores. Have you seen the new McDonald’s locations?! They have clean lines and sleeker interiors. Office buildings are outfitting their lobbies with modern sofas and furniture. In the past, Design Within Reach ruled the modern marketplace, but now there are brick-and-mortar shops across the country selling only modernism. Plus tons of other great online retailers.

    Modern houses in residential neighborhoods used to stick out like sore, rigid thumbs, but now you see one on almost every street. Airports are returning to the Eames-era seating of the 1960s. Those “airport chairs” were iconic to the Herman Miller brand. The actual buildings themselves feature modern architecture.

    I’ve been a modernist for as long as I can remember. It really is in my blood and it’s what I’ve pursued in my career my entire life. It’s hip and cool now to want to live in a concrete and glass box. People used to look at us modernists like we were crazy. They would ask, “Where’s all the warmth and coziness you want in a home?” People are trading in their overstuffed Pottery Barn sofas for sleeker, cleaner lines. Ahh, the day has finally come. I’ll always be a modernist at heart, no matter what the trends. But it sure is nice to be surrounded by modern design today. You people are finally starting to see things my way :)

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