It’s not uncommon for cities or regions to publicly profess their plans for building the next Silicon Valley in their backyard. We’re heavily investing in “startup ecosystems” around the world but rarely do we stop to ponder the hidden assumptions of Valley-style startups. Are these high risk, winner takes all ventures a feasible model and — perhaps more importantly — something to aspire to in different cultural contexts?

Based on my experience with trying the Valley-style startup model in a small European country, I argue that it’s time to question the prevailing startup narrative and explore alternatives that will draw…


As a startup founder, you know you should be talking to your customers more. Every startup book you’ve read is full of examples of how customer feedback has helped shape the products you now love using every day. You understand this on an intellectual level yet when it comes to actually getting out of the building, there are plenty of excuses you have for staying inside your comfy startup bubble. I get it, I have been there and still have to be extra vigilant in recognizing this bad habit we all have!

Illustration courtesy of unDraw

Here’s what you can try if you catch…


# of TV interviews I gave in the last week about Pokémon GO: 3

# of TV interviews I gave in the last 3 years about Europe Code Week, a grassroots initiative I founded to promote thousands of coding events: 1

# of TV interviews I gave in the last 4 years about Rails Girls/Django Girls free programming workshops for women that I co-organized and have reached 2.000+ women in a country with a population of 2 million: 0

In some ways, I’m happy to see such a feel good topic as a cute-filled game making the news and getting…


Pokémon GO probably needs little introduction. It’s a location-based AR game that is spreading around the world like wildfire. In less than a week, it managed to attract more active users than Tinder and is even surpassing Twitter in the US. The time spent in the app is off the charts, and it’s not even officially available around the world yet.

For most of the world, there are extra hoops you have to jump through to get the app. Despite this, I haven’t yet seen a single unclaimed gym in my officially unsupported country (and I’ve been playing since the…


This is a questions I often hear when people find out that I wear a small army of personal trackers 24/7. And what’s the point of being a self-appointed guinea pig if you can’t do fun little experiments on your own quantified self, right?

Let’s see what I found out when I compared the step count from 5 different personal trackers from a pretty active week. Each day I wore and tracked my steps with:


There is no escaping sensors that monitor your activity. They’re already in your smartphone and slowly taking over our buildings, cars and more. And there are countless apps that can help you monitor everything that isn’t already automatically tracked by your smartphone.

It’s never been easier to quantify your life. Unfortunately, as already hinted at in the overview of the quantified self movement in Part 1 and my own personal experience in Part 2, the benefits of self-tracking are still less clear other than the general “know how many steps you take”.

Even I haven’t yet been able to get…


I know exactly how many steps I’ve taken in the past 938 days. And how many hours I’ve slept on each of those nights. If fact, I can compare measurements from multiple sources for a lot of these days, as I‘m currently wearing at least 3 personal trackers at all times (not counting my smartphone here). The list of tools I use was actuallys so long that I’ve decided to turn it into a separate post.

My quantified self tools

What is the goal of all this self-tracking? And what have I learned by counting my steps, monitoring my sleep and more?

These are…


As part of my quantified self series, I also wanted to share a list of tools that I’ve used for an extended period of time in the past couple of years to track my activity, sleep and more. I often get asked about differences among trackers and for buying recommendations, so I’ve also included a short review of each.

Note: The ones in bold are still in daily use at the time of writing.

Personal activity and sleep trackers

  • Fitbit One: You never forget the first one, eh? Fitbit One has been my loyal companion for over 3 years now. Fitbit has great customer support…


Over the past two years I went from not wearing a watch to always wearing at least 3 (often more) personal trackers that monitor every step I take and every minute of my sleep. And that’s without counting all the apps on my phone.

Why is that? What am I hoping to find in the data? What have I actually learned about myself through self-tracking? Has it improved my life? Is this something you should be doing too?

I’ll try to answer these questions in 3 parts:

  • Part 1: What is the quantified self? (you’re reading this)
  • Part 2: What…

Alja Isakovic

Taking a step back from building software to explore the bugs and features of its critical component: humans.

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