To follow up on this article I contributed to that was published yesterday on CMN.com, we thought we'd share more of our stroller shopping experience for The Dragon.

In the lead up to The Dragon's birth in June our very supportive friends and family threw us a few baby showers to celebrate. Because of their generosity, Yun and I actually didn't have to buy many of The Dragon's baby essentials. Plus, my sister lives nearby and with 3 children under 4 years old, she was more than willing to let us go "shopping" at her house picking up a crib, clothes, and other goodies. In the end, the only big ticket item we really had to purchase for The Dragon was a stroller. As a result, what I originally anticipated being a very easy, straightforward decision, turned into the first BIG DECISION we would make as parents. Yikes! 

Being A-type personalities, "Decision Stroller" consumed us for the better part of 3 months (yes, months not days) before we could pull the trigger! It took us longer and required way more debate to choose this stroller than it did our last car. Seriously! It was like studying for a final exam; we watched a slew of Youtube videos (we really like Babygizmo), read product reviews online, and made a list of the attributes we really wanted The Dragon's stroller to have. By the end of it, I was ready to be a stroller salesman. 

In addition to our neurosis, what makes the process so labored is that there is a surprisingly large number of different stroller brands and models available in the market. It's as if we're in a baby boom and the best business to go into is making strollers. Anyway, variety and choice is usually a great thing, but it definitely makes some processes more complicated than one would otherwise want them to be. Ultimately, it wasn't that we worried we'd make a bad decision as much as we wanted to make the best decision. We're Asians after all. What would we be if not overachievers. The most important factors for us were: price, size, comfort of the ride, design features, and functionality in some order.

We wanted to find a stroller that could fit easily into the trunk of a sedan without much heavy lifting and since we walk a lot, we wanted a stroller that wasn't too big to push around stores and the supermarket. Another design feature that was super important was how the stroller would fold down. We wanted the closing mechanism to be elegantly designed so that it would be simple enough for our parents to use if they take The Dragon out on the town, and we wanted a stroller that would fold up all-in-one, into a single piece. Some larger strollers require you to remove the seat before the stroller will fold down, and that just seemed too cumbersome and time consuming. The luxury of having a lot of options and multiple pieces did not outweigh the impracticality involved. Not for us. 

Enjoying the southern California weather and walking on a daily basis is important, so having a comfortable ride for The Dragon was paramount. We inspected seat padding, tested shocks, and literally kicked tires. We put these baby movers to the test!  We also considered the size of the accompanying basket and how large it was for all the blankets and toys we expected to have to bring along with us. The bigger and more accessible the basket, the better. Yun is a shopper! Lastly, we needed a stroller that would be appropriate for our different heights. Not that I'm a giant at 5'8", but Yun is 5'2" and the one stroller that we most agreed on (at the 2 month mark), frustratingly, was simply too tall for her, so we decided against it. 
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We even considered some specialty strollers like a jogger, but ultimately decided that compromising The Dragon's comfort for the occasional jog wasn't a reasonable trade, so that was quickly nixed. 

All in all, we probably looked at 15 different strollers and seriously considered 3 or 4 before we made our choice. The brand name wasn't much of a factor in our decision though knowing that a company would happily replace any damaged parts was a comforting bonus.

Here are the top strollers we poked and prodded:

UPPAbaby: Vista


This was our #2 choice. It had everything we wanted, and I loved the matte black frame option, but there very limited colors that came w/ the black frame. Note to UPPAbaby: mistake! As a dad, there aren't a lot of masculine baby-related products, so you want to push around a cool looking stroller. Sadly, Yun needed to be 2" taller!

Baby Jogger: CIty Mini



If budget was our #1 priority, then we'd have chosen this one. It's very affordable, a nice ride and really easy to fold into one piece. A lot to like. Our biggest gripe was the seat felt a little cardboard-y. Okay, maybe a lot cardboard-y and we were worried The Dragon wouldn't like sitting in it. Also, the seat only faces forward meaning we can't stare at our beautiful bundle!

4moms: Origami


A very tech-y stroller for the 21st century. At the push of a button, the stroller would automatically fold up into a single piece. Talk about so cool! Unfortunately, SO HEAVY too! I think this was 30+lbs, which meant it would be pretty heavy for Yun though she's stronger than the average bear, but definitely too heavy for either grandmother. Out!

Orbitbaby: Stroller G2

A lot of thoughtful design options here. The seat swivels so you can turn the chair 360 degrees on the base. We liked the idea of the chair being able to swing from side to side without futzing with the stroller, but we ended up dinging it because it is a closed system that required you to purchase only their hardware (ie carseat & accessories) and we already had our carseat. Oh, and picking up their carseat was  like a trip to the gym.

So, here's what we chose: The Bugaboo Bee in Electric Blue (EDITOR'S NOTE: Yun wants me to point out that she was very pregnant in this photo:)
The Bee isn't perfect – it's not that masculine – but it satisfied most of the criteria we laid out: it's a smooth ride, it's not too big and has an accessible basket for Yun's shopping, it folds down into one piece and has a rather simple mechanism governing how it opens and closes, and it came in a fun blue color. Even though we didn't know her sex at the time, we didn't mind the idea of The Dragon in a blue stroller...  girls don't always need to be in pink. NOTE TO Bugaboo: Love the all matte black frame option, but we couldn't get it w/ the electric blue cover!!!

For the past four and a half months, we've taken the stroller in and out of our car, up and down the streets of Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto, and I'm happy to report that the Bugaboo Bee is the nicest, smoothest shopping cart anyone could ever own. What do I mean, you ask? After all of our research and well-intentioned testing, The Dragon doesn't much like her stroller!!! Kids, I tell you! The maximum amount of time she has ridden happily in her Bee is about 20 minutes. This is in no way a condemnation of the Bugaboo Bee, we're confident her aversion has nothing to do with the stroller itself. But, StrollerGate has become a running joke between Yun and me. Now, whenever we go out for a walk, invariably one of us will end up carrying The Dragon while the other pushes a baby-less stroller filled with all of our stuff. We're hoping she grows out of this sometime soon, before she gets too heavy to carry for long distances:)
 
Check out this great article about choosing the best strollers including a few quotes from a new dad you might know;)!
 
At the 2010 TED conference in Sydney, Rachel Botsman, the founder of Collaborative Consumption and co-author of the book What's Mine is Yours, gave a compelling presentation on the global trend towards increased peer-to-peer sharing, which she points out has been facilitated by improved technology that now allows individuals to rent, trade, and share their things (cars, beds, DVDs, etc.) more easily with their "neighbors", whether near or far. The meteoric rise of peer-to-peer online marketplaces like zipcar, airbnb, and Getaround, who all piggyback on the movement of "collaborative consumption" in which people willingly share their stuff with others if it allows them to save money (think: zipcar) or to make some extra money by renting their excess capacity (think: airbnb), has been incredible. Surely the state of the economy, in the U.S. at least, has influenced this trend, as people look for new ways to maximize the use of their assets while minimizing their non-essential daily expenses. Nowadays, technology permits us to share or trade our things with almost anyone living nearly anywhere; the expanded pool of "neighbors"  and ability to easily reach them is behind the new growth of these secondary marketplaces.

As this trend turns from passing fad into a legitimate movement, it's hard not to wonder how it will affect our various businesses going forward. The simplest application I can see is the effect on our publishing business — will schools start leveraging new technologies to trade and share their books rather than buying new copies. In the world of cash-strapped school districts, it seems reasonable to think that districts might start looking for alternatives to spending large portions of their budget on new materials when they might not have to. Almost all companies will have to consider how the collaborative consumption movement will change how they do business as I'm sure car companies are doing now. It's interesting to think about, both as a business owner and a consumer.  — K


 
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10 days and 700+ pages later, I have finished reading James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales' in-depth look at the creation and evolution of, in-my-opinion, the greatest sports company in the world — ESPN. I followed much of the buzz surrounding the book's launch, of which there was a lot (see: Vanity Fair, GQ and WSJ to name a few), and finally spent the $15 to buy ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun after listening to Jim Miller's podcast with my favorite ESPN personality, The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. I can confirm that the book is a must read for any sports fan. 

The authors, mostly successfully, use firsthand accounts from a combination of ESPN's most prominent members (past and present) and industry players (think: David Stern, Dick Ebersol, Paul Tagliabue) to detail the company's incredible rise to the top of the sports world. I enjoyed hearing the stories straight from the proverbial horse's mouth, however, I think Miller and Shales could have done a better job segueing in and out of the various topics; on several occasions there was an abrupt end or beginning to a subject, which I found more than a little bit irritating. That said, the book in general was an easy and fast read, with a good sprinkling of humorous anecdotes making the 700 pages fly by. In particular, I found the the chapter detailing ESPN's birth and initial formation as a business to be the most interesting while any parts involving a discussion of the highly-volatile Keith Olbermann to be the most compelling, especially as a dedicated fan of mid-90s SportsCenter. If 700 pages sounds like a lot to bite off in one sitting, I think the nature of the way it's authored makes the book perfect for the intermittent reader too. - K

 
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Doing the kind of "book publishing" that my craft-loving wife dreams about, Play Studios (based in Alicante, Spain) recently released the results of their 2nd Future Generations/Future Environments Workshop — a student-inspired vision of the city's future image which, of course, was exhibited in pop-up book form (why not!). The shared experience first asked primary-aged school kids to imagine and draw how they envisioned their urban city in the future, then those sketches were interpreted by university-level students and ultimately rendered into three designs, which have been animated and captured on video. It's beautifully done and worth a few minutes to check out just how creative some people can be. - K

 
I had a working man's lunch today, just a sandwich (though it was no ordinary sandwich - a "GodMother" from Bay Cities) at my desk. The upside of eating in front of the computer is that I can catch up on some of the TED Talks that I've tagged for viewing - next on the list was Conrad Wolfram. Wolfram, whose older brother Stephen founded Wolfram Research, runs the European arm of the company that developed the software - Mathematica. Wolfram's presentation last November at TED provided a compelling argument for why we should change our approach to teaching math in schools.

For those of us who have a love/hate relationship with math, especially those on the "hate" end of the spectrum (Yun!), I think you'll find Wolfram's points make good sense. At the heart of his presentation is the idea that schools should focus more teaching the applications for math (ie understanding the practical uses of math in solving real world problems) and less on the longhand mechanics behind mathematical computations. His point: use computers to do what they do best which is to efficiently calculate things while humans can apply the concepts/results in the real world. I hope that this is the direction for math in the future because I think it would make it more interesting and accessible to those who would otherwise be turned off and overwhelmed by having to grind out such things as quadratic equations... — Kevin 
 
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Yun and I are a magazine publisher's dream. We not only subscribe to 10+ different mags, but we're all too willing to reward a catchy headline by paying the full news stand price too. This morning Time Magazine got me with its cover story on its June 6th issue: The Science of Optimism. It's an interesting piece about how humans are hardwired to be optimistic, which the author contends is the underlying force that has fostered our evolution from cave dwellers to space travelers. In particular, author Tali Sharot points out, "To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities - better ones - and we need to believe we can achieve them." While the author's conclusions relate more generally to mankind's development, the connection between optimism and striving for a better future struck a chord with me in how they relate to entrepreneurship. 

 
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Sorry we've been a little slow on the posts this week. Kevin and I are moving apartments and as you know, that's never fun! You always seem to have more stuff than you ever thought you needed, and that stuff all seems to be just that much heavier than it looked before you picked it up.

I guess that's probably a lot like starting a business. You often worry so much about getting all the details right that by the time you get started you have weighed yourself down with more than you needed and all those plans and details can bog down your product/business from moving forward at a suitable pace. That isn't to say that you shouldn't plan of course, just, as my mum likes to say, everything in moderation.

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A great example of this was recently written about in the May 7, 2011 New York Times article, The Class that built Apps, and Fortunes. The article features a 2007 class from Stanford's Persausive Technology Lab whose primary objective was to build apps on the Facebook platform and disseminate their work as quickly as they could to the internet world. It makes for a fascinating lesson in scaling down and simplifying in order to achieve results quickly. As you often hear from graduates of Stanford's b-school, one of the mottos drilled into them is to fail fast, and fail cheaply. Makes a lot of sense given today's intertwined business, technology, and social media environments.

Well, I need to be moving a bit faster myself this morning so I can clear out some of that unnecessary stuff from this apartment and start afresh in our new place! Have a great weekend everyone! — Yun

 
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I already posted about Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary, Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, (and also see his TED talk) so I won't repeat myself but last night we finally had a chance to go watch the movie and all I'll say is go watch it!

It was sharp and funny, and totally made me think about Marshall McLuhan's famous quote, "The medium is the message." This film definitely represents that statement. And after watching, I  did feel the pull to travel east (we live in LA which I don't think I've mentioned before) to find a Sheetz store so I could be a proud owner of the Greatest Movie Ever Sold collectors cups. Genius!  — Yun

Watch the film trailer below:
 
And the next generation business model for publishers?

As publishers ourselves who are moving into the digital age — having just gone through the experience of building our first app, (and now learning how to sell and market that app) — we are of course closely examining all the various paths that our business can develop into, especially given that the old way of publishing and selling books is clearly in the throes of revolution. It was only a matter of time that this industry was going to experience a seismic shift in ways that the music and entertainment industries felt in the last decade or so.

This TED talk is given by former Apple software developer Mike Matas, who helped write the user interface for the iPhone and iPad. He is now working with Push Pop Press to develop a new interface for electronic books, including software that publishers could use in future to develop their own material. In this video Mike demos the full-length interactive book for the iPad -- with clever, swipeable video and graphics and some very cool data visualizations to play with. — Kevin