Into the Deep End: Notes from Julie, our HackNY intern

Giff Constable Aprizi, Guest Post


This is a guest post from Julie Dinerman, the Columbia University student interning with Aprizi as part of the HackNY program, which paired area students with startups. I think HackNY’s organizers Hilary, Chris and Evan are creating something very important to the NY startup ecosystem, and we are really pleased to be among a great list of startups to get to work with a “Fellow”. The photo above is Liz Crawford, my co-founder at Aprizi, and Julie (on the right) at a recent Geek Girl NY dinner. I asked Julie to share some of her thoughts from the internship after the first few weeks, so here is Julie in her own words:
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I feel lucky to be working at Aprizi as part of the first class of students on the HackNY program. One of my goals for the summer was to see what working outside of an academic setting would be like. Being paired up with a small startup company in New York sounded like an excellent opportunity to learn about working in business and industry.

I am discovering that startup companies have their own culture within the world of industry. My first week at Aprizi presented me with a whirlwind of new terms and concepts from business and especially the startup tech business that I was completely unfamiliar with. A taste of the ideas that came my way would include how to find ‘venture capitalists and angel investors’, what it meant to be in ‘open beta’ and that the ‘tails’ of the marketplace may be as rich in resources as its peaks. I also see that startups come with good and bad. I love the casual atmosphere in our office that is typical in the startup community. There is a lot of creative freedom that comes with spearheading a startup, but there is also a lot of pressure to make an excellent product without a lot of resources. And you can only hope for a happy ending.

On my first day at Aprizi, Giff and Liz met me for lunch and began explaining their vision for the website. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and I thought Aprizi sounded like an interesting concept. After taking a good look at the website, it was hard to believe that all of the coding and curation was done by a team of only two people. I was excited to jump in and start helping. Giff invited me to sit in on some of the meetings he and Liz had and I began to understand a little bit more about the company’s growth and development strategies for the next couple of months. They are working to build the site piece by piece. Throughout the process, they plan on making changes and additions that are guided by the feedback they get from their early users. This seems like a smart plan to me.

As Liz helped me install the necessary software and files to start working, Giff suggested that I help in the curation process as well as the coding. Being an Electrical Engineering student that doesn’t spend too much time shopping, I hesitated. Giff encouraged me by explaining that Aprizi recommendations are meant to come from lots of different styles and perspectives. I began to think of Aprizi as more than just a personal shopping website to connect users with products they already know about. Rather, Aprizi is being designed to help people discover cool things that they would love but would not have found on their own without a lot of searching. Now, when I find a cool item online, I excitedly add it to the database.

My favorite part of this internship is that I get to learn about programming in a supportive, hands-on environment. It took a little while to get my machine set up and to learn the basics of JRuby and Rails. When I was ready to begin, Liz gave me a couple of introductory tasks and I was thrilled to see my changes appear on the website. I have been working on some small improvements here and there and I am excited to get started on my bigger project which will add a search feature to Aprizi.

All in all, I am having fun learning a lot and finding cool things for the database. I hope you check back on the Aprizi website soon for the awesome new search feature!
– Julie