Top Three Techweek 2015 Takeaways

by Mona Patel, Founder & CEO

I spent the week at Techweek absorbing knowledge from leaders in the New York City tech, design, and startup communities. Notebook in hand, I came prepared with a lengthy list of questions I hoped to have answered. Though I’m still curious about the trend in dog-centered design, here are answers to my top 3 questions from Techweek:


Recently, Refinery29 was added as one of the 15 publications featured in “Snapchat Discover” segment of the app. Executive VP of Content Strategy & Marketing, Patrick Yee, was excited for three specific reasons:

  1. It’s All About PR: With the addition of two more publishers to Discover, Snapchat got rid of two. The space is highly sought after and it’s a huge win to be able to play in it.
  2. Audience Diversification: half of it’s audience is under the age of 24. These are people who aren’t using Facebook. With this, R29 is able to reach an additional 3 million users.
  3. Programming: R29 has hired ten people who are solely dedicated to producing the Snapchat discovery content every day. Though this is a huge investment, with the release of just two “discovery stories” there have been over 6 million views.

Moderator and Senior News Editor at Hearst Digital Michael Sebastian, (formerly with Comso), also had high praise for the app. He says it took the magazine 50 years in print, 10 years online, and only 6 months on Snapchat to reach 3 million viewers. It’s reach and power is wildly impressive.


Design and tech veterans Mona Patel, Christina White, Vasco Pedro, and Sandy Selinger came together to talk about solving problems. Each of the individuals on the panel has built and managed teams while working intimately with clients to help solve their problems. Together, their experience blurs lines of design, development, and user experience. When asked what KPI they use to measure this success, the answers were suprising:

“I have a weird one”, said Patel, “the number of times a client says ‘I can’t’” was her metric. It usually indicates how hard it’s going to be to get new ideas across. The more we [Motivate Design] hear it, the more we think ‘this is going to be a steep, uphill battle.”

However, Head of NY Office for Wix Sandy Selinger had a much different answer. Instead of narrowing in on one metric, his team does the opposite. His responded, “we don’t have a certain KPI, but we do track everything… so the measurement of ‘everything;”.

The idea isn’t to redefine KPIs, but to redefine what matters for your business’s succes; to address the problems worth solving.


In 2012 Dennis Mortensen had 1,019 meetings. This struck Mortensen, the alarmingly high number of meetings didn’t correlate with the very un-alarming understanding of ‘meetings’. He decided to solve this problem himself. Mortensen founded an AI powered personal assistant used to schedule meetings named Amy.

“Our system is fully exposed,” says Mortensen, “We’re not trying to hide the technology, we want to make the experience of using that technology so good that people won’t care.” In an effort to keep this technology just technology, gratitude and emotion detection was not programmed into the system. Saying “thank you” to a machine would seem silly knowing there is no person on the other end. (or so he thought).

After doing research, found that although people are fully aware that Amy is not an actual person, one out of every eleven people respond with a thank you. “People know they’re talking to a machine, and they still take the time to write her a love letter.” So, to meet user needs, gratitude is being programmed into the system. However, Mortensen fears of the future of this feature; if Amy can predict gratitude she can predict other emotions but for what purpose? “I’m scared of having Amy becoming Her; I don’t want to create relationships with machines.” Although she may not sound like Scarlett Johansson (yet), Amy is an incredible technology and effective tool.

Overall, the week provided great value and I left with questions answered. Huge thanks to Techweek NYC and their speakers on sharing their experiences with those with a desire to learn.

You can also follow Motivate Design on Twitter here and say “Hello!” on Facebook.

Originally published at