We just sent out to our printer an order for over a hundred of albums of letters - our biggest to date! Each book is unique, and is comprised of thank you and adoration letters to teachers in Philadelphia written (and drawn!) by their students and students’ parents. We will have these books delivered to the recipients just on time for the Teacher Appreciation Day at the end of May!
An amazing effort applied by our computer scientist exraordinaire Agustin Schapira to automate production of beautifully designed PDFs from all letters posted on-line. (I hear applause! ;-)
From now on we will be using this amazing system to produce printed books for all our customers who wish to make physical copies of their albums of letters!
We are so excited to offer this service to all our current and future users! Ask us about this option when you come to our website, FromABirdie.com, as we are working on creating an interface on our pages that will make all the tools available to you directly on-line.
Thank you to all of you who have come to and used FAB!, and have asked us to make books of your albums of letters!
…A Big Day!!! ;-)
Sometimes a passionate and heartfelt letter can go a long way in mapping feelings of an entire generation. Sometimes it can have a profound effect on the life of its author and her family.
About a month ago, on the day of deadly shootings at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Phoebe Lisle, the 13-year old nice of our friends Ivon and Randy, wrote a deeply felt letter to President Obama. By openly and courageously sharing her concerns and emotions, she earned her family front-row seats at the January 16th press conference on gun control, held at the White House, and also attended by President Obama and the Vice President Joe Biden.
We have never met Phoebe, but we applaud her passion and her desire to make this world a better place, and for taking the time to write down her thoughts in her letter to the President. Ivon and Randy tell us that she is an amazing kid who enjoys babysitting autistic children in her free time, and already knows she wants to be a learning disabilities teacher. We know she will make a difference in the world — she is already doing it at 13.
We are feeling quite humble in our beginning. Thanks to Alex Maccaw for writing this fabulous blog post.
It’s easy to forget the humble beginnings that great companies start from, and it’s tempting to gloss over the fact that companies, now on the global stage, were once small projects with ugly designs and hacky implementations.
Rarely do people set out with grand visions to create a massively successful company, but rather their ideas evolve gradually. Twitter started out as a podcasting site, Flickr a multiplayer game, Youtube a dating website, Yelp a email recommendations service and PayPal was hell bent on transferring IOUs between Palm Pilots.
Not only did these companies pivot, they also renamed, rebranded and launched with terrible designs.
Take, for example, Twitter. Here’s a screenshot of one of their earliest designs before they could afford vowels:
How about Facebook? Well, they were originally called thefacebook.com (which still resolves), with a simple and ugly design that reminds me of most online forums. They’ve kept that recognizable blue, but my favorite part is the Mark Zuckerburg production tag line.
Again, the ugly trend continues, and what at first glance looks like it could be the Youtube we know, reveals upon further inspection search fields to help you find not videos, but people. Specifically, people to date.
It’s interesting to see that their logo survived the pivot, but I guess it’s a fairly generic design and message.
While we are by no means comparable to the aforementioned companies, I thought it would be fun to include a look at Stripe’s earlier days.
We first launched as /dev/payments, before re-branding to Stripe. Our first design was equally humble, the management interface was fairly janky, and it took about 45 days to receive your money.
All of these successful tech companies were simple, humble and ugly when they first launched, but the one thing they all had in common is that they did something simple, and they did it well.
Simple in terms of product mind you, not necessarily technically. Video converting and streaming, for instance, are far from simple technologies, and let’s not even get into the complexities of the payments industry. Technical difficulties though, were in service of product simplicity.
The key is to find a market with a small and easily definable problem to solve, but also a market large enough to accomodate further growth and disruption. Solving a specific problem will get your foot in the door, giving you leverage to throw it right open later down the line.
Being flexible is much more important than knowing the end game. Just come in, build something small, and grow it one step at a time. Everything starts from humble beginnings.
Thanks to Daniel Zarick for the inspiration behind this article.
FromABirdie.com is run by Anita Licis-Ribak and Agustin Schapira. Anita is an architect, photographer, musician, and all-around artist, and Agustin a computer scientist. They live in Amherst, Massachusetts, with their two kids, Martins and Teo.
It all started in March of 2009, when Anita was reaching an, ehem, rather respectable age. Because she has lived in several cities, countries, and continents, Anita has friends and loved ones scattered all over the globe. “Wouldn’t it be nice”, Agustin thought, “to find a way to get in touch with all those people and invite them to prepare a collective surprise for her on the day of the birthday?”.
That’s how the first version of FromABirdie was born: Agustin created a website with a single page and invited Anita’s friends to visit it and write a letter for her. He also asked friends to pass the invitation along, hoping that it would reach friends of friends of friends whom he didn’t even know about. And he was right: by the time Anita’s birthday arrived, the website had 85 letters for her, from 35 different cities and 10 different countries. Letters from friends she hadn’t seen in decades. Messages from people she had lost touch with and with whom she could re-connect. Imagine her surprise, and her joy. It was, she said, the best birthday present ever.
So, why not offer the same service to the general public? Wouldn’t there be lots of people out there who would treasure letters from friends? FromABirdie.com was built on the belief that, in this age of quick, short, and careless digital communication, there are many who still prefer to sit down and write a detailed and thoughtful letter. We are here to help them write, store, deliver, preserve, and print those precious words.
I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart! Are you angry? Do I see you looking sad? Are you worried?… My soul aches with sorrow, and there can be no rest for you lover; but is there still more in store for me when, yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire? Ah! it was last night that I fully realized how false an image of you your portrait gives!
You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours.
Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.