A true connector, Elan Miller has always had a knack for building products that bring people together. Having once created an app to ease lost & found connections in The Big Apple, this User Experience Design graduate has moved on to his biggest project yet. He recently launched, Glimpse, an app that connects people through Instagram. And you can download it today in the App Store.
What were you up to before coming to General Assembly?
Previously, I worked at Undercurrent, a digital think tank down in Soho.
I started hacking on ideas for mobile apps back in 2010. I had this crazy idea to redesign New York’s lost & found system.
My thesis: People want to return what they find, if made ridiculously easy (and rewarding).
I designed an app for iOS, Phoundit, that would connect finders with victims of lost property through location and keywords matching. Foursquare API, #ftw!
Congratulations on the launch of your app! How did you come up with the idea for Glimpse?
Not to sound like Larry David or anything, but I’ve always hated small talk. Meeting someone new can be an amazing experience, but all too often we sabotage ourselves by asking the wrong questions like, “What do you do?” That question always makes me feel so uncomfortable for some reason, even though I love what I do.
Alternatively I love meeting people in the music scene. At SXSW this year I met someone else who went to Burning Man, and we bonded over a common interest. Only later did we make the professional connection. That’s our goal with Glimpse: To get people talking around what they care about.
We believe Instagram is a great way to steer the conversation. Sure it’s a filtered perspective, but one that captures what we care about with no work at all.
Can you walk me through how it works?
Sure, it’s super easy.
1. Sign-in with Instagram: Highlight what you care about through a set of photos.
2. Meet people who see the world like you: We us the metadata behind your photos (e.g. Location, hashtags, etc.) to introduce you to people who’ve shared similar experiences.
3. Chat about a photo: When people share photos of what they’re interested in, there’s suddenly context to start a conversation worth having.
You clearly have a passion for connecting people.
Changing the way humans interact is an ambitious challenge, but one that certainly gets me out of bed every morning. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been so obsessed. To be honest, it probably stems from my own insecurities, but I think that’s why it feels so rewarding if you’re able to crack it.
As you were developing the product, were there any challenges that you didn’t expect?
Ha, where do I begin? From a product perspective, I think a major challenge has been mustering the courage to achieve our vision on our own terms. You see the successes of other products on the market and start your design process assuming a new standard has been set.
Over the course of our journey, our team started questioning those assumptions, and it’s been helpful to unlock new territory.
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t ask for permission.
I had no business starting a tech company — I’m not technical. I had no business designing our first product — I’m not a designer by trade. I had no business raising money — I’ve never taken a finance class.
Sometimes you just feel so compelled for a thing to exist in the world. For me, that thing is Glimpse. Find that thing and go, go, go.
To wrap things up, what’s your guilty pleasure?
Berlin. That city is trouble.
Learn how to build your own iOS app.
Melanie Albert is the Global Program Manager, Alumni for General Assembly.