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AMA: Marc Hemeon, Co-Founder North, Designer at Hodinkee

over 4 years ago from , Founder Design Inc. Former co-founder North, design at YouTube, Google and Digg. Co-founder Teefury and Designbyhumans

Tl;DR; Hi, nice to meet you. Let's get down to business. Seriously, ask me anything.

I'm a product designer, painter, surfer, co-founder, salsa maker, father, fan of sharing - I am ex-youtuber, ex-google-Xer, ex-digger. Don't be bashful, all questions are fair game and I will answer as honestly and openly as I can (unless you are asking about that one time on Meerkat or that other thing that is a secret).

In Sept 2014 I co-founded North Technologies with Kevin Rose, we built an app called Watchville (a popular app in the watch world). We recently merged North/Watchville with Hodinkee.com read more here: http://bit.ly/1I3PiLE

I'm @hemeon on twitter, Instagram and most internety things. When I create paintings I share them here: http://www.marchemeon.com/ Recently I gave a talk at Big Omaha you can watch here: https://youtu.be/-gYVjHg5_Fk

I will be answering questions starting at 9AM PST tomorrow (Tuesday June 23) Cheers!

(I couldn't help myself and answered a few now because I cant sleep)

57 comments

  • Ryan LeFevreRyan LeFevre, over 4 years ago

    Hey Marc, very important question: exactly how much water should I drink in a day?

    6 points
    • Marc HemeonMarc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hi Ryan, Excellent question, and I am glad you brought up such an important topic - Drinking Water quite literally saves lives. I firml believe most grumpy people are simply dehydrated. Who knows how many conflicts we could avoid simply by being hydrated.

      Here is a water drinkingI stick to, you can calculate the number of ounces of water you need by this simple formula: Take your age, divided by the total number of backstreet boys multiplied by the real answer to life, universe and everything and then divided by 2. Or we can represent as:

      ((A/BBB)(42))/2 = amount of water in ounces you should drink.

      6 points
      • Emanuel SerbanoiuEmanuel Serbanoiu, over 4 years ago

        I'm gonna quote you on this formula, because I was drinking my water and I spilled it thru my nose from laughing. I share something when that happens.

        0 points
  • Aaron GrandoAaron Grando, over 4 years ago

    What's on your wrist?

    5 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

      Hello Arron G! a 2012 Tudor Pelagos! I love it - only watch that hasnt been crushed by surfing and spending time in the ocean.

      3 points
  • Brendan LuuBrendan Luu, over 4 years ago

    If there was one thing you could change about YouTube's UX, what would it be?

    4 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      The entire way to make and share playlists is a complete nightmare - I should be able to make and share music on YouTube as easily as I can on Spotify - blows my mind no one has made a 3rd party app that does JUST this. Also, I wish YouTube was a place where I could post ALL my videos - like ALL of them, every silly video from my phone and family, but YouTube feels like it's grown past this - like I need to be famous like Jenna Marbles or something - a private way to post all my lame home videos to share with my entire family would also be fantastic :)

      5 points
  • Michael Rosenau, over 4 years ago

    Marc, will your character we debuting on S3 of Silicon Valley?

    4 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      OMG.There is this meme floating around:

      hahahhahaha - but I have lost weight and look nothing like him - but it's still funny.

      I would love to be on S3 of Silicon Valley - I could be Erlich Bachman 's cousin or something.

      3 points
  • Xande Macedo, over 4 years ago

    Hi Marc. Here is one you haven't heard before: can design change the world?

    4 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      HAHAHAH - Hi Xande :)

      A bit of context for everyone - Xande is referencing the AirBNB Designers Debate http://designersdebateclub.com/sf-session-one/ - I was asked to debate AGAINST the motion of "Can Design Change the World"

      Here is what I will say - for the record, and I am going to tweak the motion a bit:

      Great product and software design can save us time, bring us delight and serendipity and keep us connected to those we care about. The Uber app in many ways lacks features, I press a button and a car shows up magically and takes me where I want to go - the UI is fine, nothing crazy - but the UX of Uber is fantastic, removing the pain point of having a cabby yell at you for wanting to use a credit card to pay for your trip instead of cash - Uber's constraint on the software side, and execution on the product side (the actual cars picking you up) have fundamentally changed how I travel in major cities and has made my life better.

      5 points
  • Noam LovinskyNoam Lovinsky, over 4 years ago

    In organizations large and small, designers still don't have as much influence on company/product direction as they should. Do you agree? If so, how do you make sure that you have a seat at the table and that you're as involved in what the company should be building as you'd like to be?

    4 points
    • Marc HemeonMarc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello Noam!!! Damn. Excellent question!

      For context here folks, Noam is an incredible human, founder who exited to YouTube, where he became the Director of Product for YouTube and was responsible for many consumer facing parts of YouTube.

      As you know, I have always struggled with wanting to have more influence in a company as a designer, at YouTube I always felt the PMs had much more power than the designers and I would get frustrated more designers werent mentioned in the press when a redesign would roll out or a new feature would be talked about - I always wanted a list of designers and engineers names attached to these articles as well. For example this Wired article has a photo of you, Kurt, Nundu and AJ only :( http://www.wired.com/2012/08/500-million-youtube-channels/ When that article came out it bruised my ego a bit - I felt I had a ton of influence on the YouTube leanback experience and wanted some accolades. I realize now how immature and wrong my attitude was.

      I now have a massive appreciation for the amount of work it takes in an organization to create new products and features, especially at large companies like YouTube and Google. Heck, even at small companies like North (just 5 full time people) - we can't do anything without each other. There really is no room for entitled credit hogs who are just in it for their own ego and increase in social capital.

      Designers can earn and maintain a seat at the table a few ways: 1. Be easy to work with and listen to everyones feedback (no matter how whacky it is). Don't raise a ton of objections when you listen, take notes and truly listen.

      1. Have an opinion. Never criticize a product or UX feature without at least having an alternative to present and share. No one likes a complainer

      2. Present design ideas in the way your stakeholders need to hear them. Do you need to do a 1:1? through it in a keynote presentation? Get buy in from your UX Director first before sharing with others? Do you need to print everything out? Do you need to make a prototype? Every company culture is a bit different and all humans learn differently - I have seen a ton of good designs get looked over because they were communicated poorly. Take the time to flex your communication style in a way others can understand.

      3. Actually solve the problem - don't just make it look pretty, solve the darn UX problem! I've found everyone can get behind a smart UX solution. Designers tend to try to solve design problems with shiny UI and not UX

      4. Give others credit - No designer creates in a vacuum, they are influenced by everyone on the team - nothing worse than someone standing up saying "I solved our sharing UX with this new feature" - better to say - I've been working closely with Kevin, Caleb, Jonathan and Ryan on a better way to share articles"

      5. Always follow up and hit your deadlines - if you tell someone you are going to mock up an idea then mock it up! even forgetting to follow through one time hurts your credibility.

      6. Get behind company style guides and existing heuristics - soooo many designers, when they first get to a company want to just redesign everything - chill the F out and take it all in first and understand why things are the way they are - being careful of course not to fall for group think as expressed with the monkey and banana story (read more here: http://johnstepper.com/2013/10/26/the-five-monkeys-experiment-with-a-new-lesson/)

      7. Drink Water

      Not sure if I fully answered the question - hahahhahaha

      13 points
  • Primoz SkergetPrimoz Skerget, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    Hi Marc, what is the biggest difference between working for Google and working for North?

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello Primoz!

      I have to pay for lunch and I dont get to work out for free at lunchtime :) Google is an incredible place to work and I loved my time there. The Google work is very focused on a specific product area and you work with a specific team. With North - Kevin and I have to take care of running a company, hiring folks, raising money, choosing what we are going to work on (sidenote: Kevin has handled all the money raising business) - North is more stressful, but more rewarding ;)

      1 point
  • Jeffrey KamJeffrey Kam, over 4 years ago

    Are you moving to New York with Kevin?

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello long lost friend!

      No. No im not. We discussed this at length and in many ways I am conflicted about the decision to stay in california. My family is getting older - my oldest daughter is going to be a freshman in high school and we have laid some serious roots here. Now, if Hodinkee grows to be 200 people and we are just exploding with growth in a couple of years then I may have to reconsider. We built North all working remotely and I have really relished my time at home with my family.

      4 points
  • Sarah Newman, over 4 years ago

    Hi Marc! The North web address is kinda weird:

    www.n-o-r-t-h-t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-i-e-s.com

    How do you find explaining this one to new people? Ha ha :D

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello Sarah! Well - funny you should ask.

      We first had n-o-r-t-h.com with a nice picture of mountain that looked kinda like this:

      But then we kinda got in trouble - A design agency called North told us we looked too much like them (I think it was the mountains) and people could get confused - we let them know we had no intention of every making a product called North or even really marketing "North" as a company. So, I just drew a bunch of stuff on some paper, threw them on Kevins desk and snapped a pic with my iphone, we changed the URL to www.n-o-r-t-h-t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-i-e-s.com just to be crystal clear we were really not going to use this name or property for anything remotely useful. They stopped bothering us after that.

      2 points
  • Kevin LeeKevin Lee, over 4 years ago

    I suppose I'll start it off:

    • Would you be able to talk about how one would transition from one idea to another (i.e. Flickk > Teefury > Made by Humans > North) in what seems like a rather seem-less fashion?

    • Can you talk about the general progression of how you went about building Watchville then merging it with Hodinkee (i.e. did they reach out to you, did you propose the merger..)

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      How do I transition? I always am working at night or the weekends on something that interests me with people I love working with. Designbyhumans.com lead to teefury.com - which lead me to knowing Jeffrey Kalmikoff who brought me to Digg.com where I met Kurt Wilms, Ron Gorodetsky, Dav Zimmack where we built fflick together at night (and on our own machines, no Hooli lawsuit here!), fflick got acquired by YouTube/Google and while at Google became closer with Kevin Rose (who I also met at Digg) and we started tinkering in after hours and next thing we know we have a company!

      Regarding watchville and Hodinkee - Kevin really summed things up well here: https://medium.com/@kevinrose/hodinkee-watchville-join-forces-131f556f2d42

      For me personally, watches and the watch world has been around for HUNDREDS of years - so I am learning a tremendous amount right now about the business and just taking it all in - I already see soooo many ways technology can make the process of finding, buying and selling watches much easier and less painful.

      1 point
  • Chris LChris L, over 4 years ago

    Always wanted to ask you this... But why did you guys change Tiiny to have the videos persist?

    I liked that the videos were only there for a short time. The ephemeral nature made the app sticky (for me) because I would always want to look for funny or goofy stuff in there.

    Once the change happened, it felt like any other video service, which made me kind of sad. :(

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hi Chris - great question - Leo Laporte went on vacation, and used Tiiny the whole time, when he got back all his videos were gone and he was super bummed. We asked around and more folks were sad their videos disappeared so we decided to keep them persistent so we could see a whole thread of your life. I loved using Tiiny and I was super sad when we turned it off. I would still like to have something that captured my whole life - so when I am gone my kiddies and grandkiddies could have my life "flash before their eyes" so-to-speak.

      2 points
  • Nick Sloggett, over 4 years ago

    You've walked a lot of different paths while wearing many hats, why? What drives your ambition/creativity?

    2 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hi Nick! I got married very young and have been driven primarily by an overwhelming desire to provide for my family, i.e. make dat paper. Therefor I have been willing to try anything and everything - I happened to learn, even before college, I could get paid for my design work. I have had a few non-design jobs along the way - I took them out of necessity to take care of my family.

      My ambition and creativity are driven out of curiosity - like I get weirdly OCD about things, for example, I wanted a tan leather case for my iphone but I couldn't find one - I wasted an entire day, driving down to san diego to a large leather shop who had leather dies, purchased ever leather working tool and sheets of leather you could imagine, watched a ton of youtube and researched how to actually create a case and finally gave up and purchased a white leather case from the Apple store and just died it - but now I know a lot more about what it takes to make leather goods. I have to be careful with what peaks my interest or I just get obsessed with it.

      7 points
  • Elmo JenkinsElmo Jenkins, over 4 years ago

    Met you at BigOmaha 2015! Your talk was great..."if your passion is about raising llamas, then go raise llamas....find your jam"

    1 point
  • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    Hi Friends - I will be answering questions starting at 9AM PST tomorrow (Tuesday June 23) Cheers!

    (I couldn't help myself and answered a few now because I cant sleep)

    1 point
  • Aubrey JohnsonAubrey Johnson, over 4 years ago

    When are we getting lunch at whole foods again? I'm around on Thurs.

    1 point
    • Marc HemeonMarc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      That sounds delightful I think this sounds delicious and nutritious. BTW I think Orange County has some of the best design talent in the world.

      3 points
  • Rigel St. PierreRigel St. Pierre, over 4 years ago

    What are you listening to and how are you listening to it ?(i.e what service)

    1 point
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello kind sir, I am blasting Tool through 4 Sonos speakers in my house from my own personal music library. Normally I use Spotify through my Sonos and listen to every kind of music under the sun - follow me on Spotify and see!

      2 points
  • Michael LeeMichael Lee, over 4 years ago

    Hi Marc!

    Do you have a specific process for thinking of new ideas or do you just write down any cool ideas that you randomly think of?

    What's your favorite watch?

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hello Michael! I dig a ton of watches - here is a pinterest board of a bunch I think are cool: https://www.pinterest.com/hemeon/watches-amor/

      We use three criteria for choosing ideas: 1. Is this idea 10x better than what currently exists in the world 2. Is there a large enough market to justify building this 3. Do any of us have a passion or domain knowledge in the space

      Most ideas (at least for us) don't fit all three of these criteria.

      3 points
      • Michael LeeMichael Lee, over 4 years ago

        Awesome, just followed the board :)

        Thanks for the response, love your approach for choosing ideas. A similar process to what I incorporate with my co-founder at our company.

        0 points
  • Anthony Gibson, over 4 years ago

    Firstly, I just want to say thank you for writing that you too have a weird OCD that makes you do seemingly ludicrous things just to make the idea in your head a reality, the most re-assuring thing I've read in a long time!

    As someone who has worn a lot of hats and has had a chance to work in a lot of different scenarios, what advise do you wish you could tell your former self before you found success?

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Focus on one extra side thing at a time - I would take on like 5 ideas at once and all 5 would flounder - so I think we have bandwidth for our main job, one side thing and family and friends - not much else - so for me right now, I am painting as my side thing - and I love the simplicity of my life right now - pour my heart into North / Hodinkee, my family and painting.

      1 point
  • Adele Caschera , over 4 years ago

    How do you ensure cross-browser/device compatibility , and more specifically, what tools have you used for this?

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      If by cross browser you mean does it work in Chrome and Safari? then yes we check out our work in both of those browsers :) We don't really check in firefox or IE cause. IE.

      For watchville I coded the front end using Sublime editor (download here: http://www.sublimetext.com/) and I would test by simply loading my code in the two browsers on my machine and on my phone. I run a mini server on my machine and then type the IP into my phone to test on my phone. I wish there was a magic bullet for this - but I just manually am checking with my own devices and creating designs that I know are responsive and can flex to multiple layouts.

      One responsive framework I love is Skeleton http://getskeleton.com/ - using this will make sure you are pretty compliant with many devices and browsers.

      One last tip: I LOVE apple smart banners - they are really amazing - we use them on watchville.com - if a user doesn't have the watchville ios app installed, but hits watchville.com with their phne they will see a little toast asking them to install the ios app - check it out here: https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/AppleApplications/Reference/SafariWebContent/PromotingAppswithAppBanners/PromotingAppswithAppBanners.html

      1 point
  • Josh LeeJosh Lee, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    How do you keep engineers excited about ideas you have and making them into a reality?

    I often find they get super excited at first but then in a bout a week or two they get some sort of bored or tired or burnt out or discouraged or what not.

    Thoughts?

    0 points
  • Bruce AckermanBruce Ackerman, over 4 years ago

    Yes or no, are you guys creating the eBay for watches :)

    0 points
  • anjo van den brink, over 4 years ago

    Hey Marc, I have invented (patent pending) a new personal shipping system for eshoppers 1 click checkout+pay & 24/7 accepted delivery/return without being at home! B2B, B2C & C2C. Market research done, etc. 3D-Animation explination film available. Pitch ready. Need funding €2.4M & team mates. How to get airborn?

    I want to thank you already very mutch and greatfull for your input! anjovandenbrink@gmail.com

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hi Anjo!

      I think amazon has the patten for 1 click checkout right?

      If you want to get this built then I recommend making friends with an engineer and developing a prototype and then getting some customers to use your tech. Really hard to raise money on a pitch deck these days - investors want to see the tech in the wild being used by customers.

      2 points
      • anjo van den brink, over 4 years ago

        Hi Marc, I don't know if Amazon has the patent on one click checkout before I filed it, but in the other hand my 1 click checkout is in relation with other features, so will automaticly not infringe theirs.

        I made a 3D-Animation film to avoid costly money burning before funding and herewith prove the concept.

        Specialist on these issues confirmed to me that it is feasable and customers reseach showing they want a home solution.

        So in my case a need a friend like you Marc to help me and get introduced to the right people for funding, otherwise no chance. Do you want to do me this favor?

        Thanks. Anjo

        0 points
  • Michael Rosenau, over 4 years ago

    Marc, How do you stay consistent with your side projects, the paintings, the collaborating with friends. You seem to be in a nice happy groove. It's very enlightening.

    0 points
  • Matthew Smith, over 4 years ago

    Two questions:

    1) If you were me, what would you do next with Really Good Emails?

    2) What's one thing you regularly do that you try not to do, but keep doing anyway? Work or personal. Your choice ;)

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      1) the site seemed to have a hard loading for me :( http://cl.ly/image/1D0Q0V2Z0j45 waited about 20 seconds to see anything - I think this is a really cool idea - I would cross post to http://pttrns.com/ but watermark your posts with a small url to reallygoodemails.com - I would also consider sharing via instagram - could be kinda fun to follow - I would love to see the most popular emails vs. the most effective call to action emails - would be amazing if you could get some data around each email - def. keep it around - its a great resource!

      2) I keep eating peanut M&Ms and Carrot Cake and drinking an occasional Diet Coke even though I know both are bad for me - and I struggle with overeating - have my whole life - it's a massive battle for me actually - I finally have my weight under control and have been climbing and surfing a ton and really am enjoying fitting nicely into clothes - but I so easily give up on my health and let it go - and I think that has been one of my biggest regrets in life.

      0 points
      • Matthew Smith, over 4 years ago

        Marc, great answers. The site was having issues earlier today. Looking into it. Your link was to a watch site though :D

        I feel you on eating. Alchohol has been that for me. Learning to imbibe anything, food or alcohol, has been a mask. I think a lot of us passionate people are like that.

        Thanks for the honesty. Hope we get to surf together one day :)

        0 points
  • Mike HeitzkeMike Heitzke, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    Very interested to see where you all take the product(s). There's a lot of potential within the watch industry. I've been a constant Watchville user for a while, it's nicely done. Unfortunately for users, most of these watch blogs make a lot of their earnings from their ad placement.

    Have you guys experienced any pushback from bloggers when gutting their ads? Granted, the traffic from inclusion within Watchville probably nets them in the end, but how did you get them on board with that?

    Which watch is your favorite right now?

    0 points
    • Marc Hemeon, over 4 years ago

      Hi Mike - Great question! We give publishers the ability to append an ad to the end of their articles now - they get 100% of that revenue, we take none.

      We do send them traffic and most have found watcvhille to be another way to increase visibility to their blogs. We reached out to each blog and developed relationships with them the old fashioned way!

      I really love this Tudor Pelagos I got recently - such a great tool watch, understated, the titanium band looks great with boardshorts and dressed up - couldnt be happier with it.

      1 point
      • Mike HeitzkeMike Heitzke, over 4 years ago

        Very cool, thanks for the response. Glad to see it being a mutually beneficial relationship, especially with how much better the reading experience is within the app. Can't you guys convince Ariel to build a responsive site yet :)

        A friend and I built an app for pricing out secondhand watches - http://secondhander.com/ . We're still in beta (that's what people call rough products, right?) but thought it might be up your alley.

        Can't go wrong with a Pelagos, I love that style to dress up/down.

        0 points