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Sam Pierce Lolla's Shuffleboard Hacks Product Development Collaboration From Ann Arbor To Silicon Valley

Laura Cowan

By Laura Cowan

Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.

Sam Lolla, Directed Works, Made in A2, Ann Arbor tech, Ann Arbor business news

Sam Lolla is one of the creators of MadeinA2.com and the founder and director of Directed Works, a company focused on product development and user experience design for startups. Lolla taught product design at the University of Michigan, and these days works independently with clients from Ann Arbor to the San Francisco Bay area to create products using a new app he put together to make collaborative design more efficient, called Shuffleboard. Recently, Lolla put together a video series on his journey designing and building a startup and documenting every step on Youtube.

"I'm looking to interview local companies who feel buried by sticky notes and are curious about running better real-time collaborative meetings," he says of the service he's building for startups.

Curious about the process he documented in his videos, we asked Lolla to tell us more about what he's doing.

"My normal work is as an independent product and UX designer working with startups in Michigan and the San Francisco Bay," Lolla says. "I found that doing live design demonstrations really made potential clients want to work with me, so I made a video called 'building a product in 15 minutes' and put it on my website, which got me more clients and made me wonder if a longer-form video demo would be helpful."


Lolla says he has watched the way companies are built change from traditional funding to new routes over recent years. "I have a talk I've been meaning to give called 'Startup lesson learned the hard way: build a business before you build a company,'" he says. "I think this is way more in line with things like the Lean Startup and advice from some accelerators. Interesting examples: Basecamp including ReworkIndie HackersIndie VC and Earnest Capital."

Lolla says he also thinks that if a remote working revolution takes off, "people will be looking for affordable urban areas to live with decent tech scene and co-working, where they can raise a family. Ann Arbor is a great fit," he says. This not only suits his lifestyle working remotely, but is why he developed a new app for helping remote teams collaborate.

Shuffleboard For Meetings

samlolla kelsey

"So there's a format in design meetings that I've used a million times," Lolla tells us. "Basically someone gives a prompt, people write ideas silently on sticky notes, everyone talks about the notes, and people vote on their favorite notes with stickers. The format is designed to soak up good ideas, give everyone a voice, make room for debate, and end up with a rough group consensus. The problem is it's a pain to run and share the results of these meetings (a blizzard of sticky notes, bad pictures of whiteboards, etc.) and they're impossible for remote teams.

"So Shuffleboard is an easier digital version of the same format. It's a web app that collects everyone's feedback in meetings and fosters collaborative, real-time discussions. Everyone can contribute ideas and vote on ideas right from their phone, and the results are displayed on a screen for everyone to see. I’m still testing a private beta version of the product and making changes based on feedback, but anyone can sign up for early access at getshuffleboard.com."

Shuffleboard is a web app that collects everyone's feedback in meetings and fosters collaborative, real-time discussions.

farmlogs collab samlolla

A collaboration between Sam Pierce Lolla and Farmlogs in Ann Arbor. Lolla is originally from Philadelphia but now lives near Ann Arbor.

We ask Lolla what inspired him to create Shuffleboard, beyond the obvious need for a more efficient process for collaborative idea generation.

"I was also inspired by people like Pieter Levels live-coding a product or the open startup trend," Lolla says, "but realized I hadn't seen anyone build an entire company live on video before."

The video series was born, which we thought would be a good way for people to dig in to the building process of... the building process.

I was inspired by people like Pieter Levels live-coding a product or the open startup trend but realized I hadn't seen anyone build an entire company live on video before.

Lolla says that was his intention. "My goal is to go through literally the entire process of building and launching a startup on video, whether it succeeds or fails. I’m about 70 hours in so far, and I've already done user research, design, and coded a fully-functioning private beta version."

Where is this going from here? "At this point I see this project more like a weird art project and fun personal goal than a series for clients," Lolla says. "The videos also keep me motivated to work on Shuffleboard, and I've heard really nice things from friends and strangers who seem to enjoy following along.

Lolla's blog recommends other resources as well, including books for designers. Lolla also has made some of the curriculum available from his work at the University of Michigan.

ann arbor news, ann arbor tech, best practices in tech, directed works, made in a2, product development, sam lolla, user experience design

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