Ellen Chisa is the CEO and Cofounder of Dark, a startup aims to democratize coding by making it an order of magnitude easier for engineers to build backend web services. Chisa cofounded this startup after a career in startups and software at Lola, Kickstarter, and Microsoft. Chisa invests in other startups via parcelb.vc and is an advisor at Flybridge Capital. She has taught Human Factors in Interface Design and a seminar on Product Management for engineers at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and published a book of essays on Product Management in the summer of 2017. Chisa is a graduate of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering with a B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and is currently on sabbatical from Harvard Business School, after completing her first year. Chisa currently works and resides in San Francisco, CA. You can learn more at www.ellenchisa.com.
Ellen, tell us about your favorite product and the problem it solves.
My favorite product is the Kindle Paperwhite E-reader by Amazon. The problem it solves for me is a big one; I don’t have to lug around physical copies of books. I’ve loved reading since I was young. More recently, I went on a trip to Hong Kong with a friend and brought with me seventeen books for the trip. They basically filled up a suitcase. Now I can bring as many books as I want – I can often into my pocket.
What delights you about the E-reader? What does it do well?
The best thing is providing an illuminated e-ink display that has strong battery life. As a kid, I would stay up late and read a book under a blanket in my room, using a flashlight to see. Eventually, the flashlight’s battery would run out and that would be the end of it.
Now, with the E-reader, I have a reliable way of consuming books for longer periods of time. Plus, in terms of screen resolution, it’s identical to reading from a physical book. There’s no way I’d use an iPad the same way.
No product is perfect and product managers love feedback. What feedback would you give to the product team at Amazon?
That’s a good question. The team decided to split price on wifi vs. 3G models. I went for wifi because I’m on wifi MOST of the time. That said, sometimes I’m away from wi-fi and discover books worth reading but can’t purchase the way I’d like to, which is through the E-reader directly. If the device had 3G, then I would purchase more books and enjoy the product more. What’s interesting is that this feature wouldn’t only benefit me. It would of course benefit Amazon too as they’d sell more books. I’m not sure why it isn’t the default model. Besides that, having a more robust screen would also be helpful. I’ve dinged mine a few times and it leaves blurry light spots on the screen which take some time to adjust to. I’d probably pay up for a more dependable screen.
What elements of the Kindle E-reader have you incorporated into your work?
I think the biggest one is that it changed how I think about the future. I would have said I wanted a “glow in the dark infinite book” but never would have come up with the kindle as the kid. Now, I want to make Dark the same sort of product but for software development.
On top of that, I would want customers to have the same attachment to our product as I do with the Kindle. I’ve begun even calling the device my “book” proving that it’s replaced the more traditional reading format and become a big part of my daily life.