Ji Lee’s background at Google Labs was very impressive from a design and programming perspective. There’s no doubt that he had the chops to be there. But the crux of Ji’s talk was not about his work at google at all. It was about realizing the power of your passions and personal projects. Its through investing time in these projects whenever you can, that some of your best ideas will be born. And these ideas can turn into something much bigger than you could have imagined. As Gary V. says ‘ You can do a lot of damage between 7pm and 2am”.
Ji’s personal project that probably received the most amount of notoriety was not an online project at all. It was The Bubble Project. You may have seen this covered on the news (particularly if you live in NYC).
Here’s the gig. Ji printed up several hundred stickers of speech bubbles in various sizes and snuck around NYC in disguise at night attaching them to existing advertisements. The catch was that there was nothing written in the speech bubbles. Rather it was an experiment to see what people would do with them. And in most cases, the art which resulted was much more interesting than the ads themselves, and subsequently more interesting than anything Ji could have pulled off on his own.
Soon, the project was being covered by national news and started a huge buzz on the internet. He also allowed anyone to download bubble templates so that people could affix bubbles themselves to places, decentralizing the project (and culpability).
The takeaways? First, don’t be afraid to enable your customers or people in general. When you enable them to participate and have input into a project it can grow well beyond your original expectations.
Platforms are where its at. They allow for instant scaling and reach. Because platforms distribute ownership. It gives users a stake in your idea. Its by building a platform that ideas can take root, morph, and expand exponentially larger and faster than a controlled growth plan.
Finally, money is NOT everything. The reason people engage in personal projects is that they have an innate passion for whatever it is they’re doing. First find what you’re passionate about, execute, and opportunities for business applications will present themselves.
Ji is also working on a video spinoff of the Bubble project encouraging people to make their own forms of guerrilla video art. Its the Abstractor Project. Check it out here.