adViz, Part 1: Building My First MVP

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I’ve built an a MVP as part of a startup I’m working on that has expanded out of a course project, and it has been quite the ride. In these posts, I’ll write about the ideas, the tech, the journey - and more.

If you asked 10 people what the word “startup” means, you’d probably get just as many different definitions. To many college students, it could mean “an extensive tech project that I’ve spent very significant time on and can see being something more”. And isn’t that really the same thing as a pre-funding startup?

So when people ask me what I’ve been up to, instead of responding with a confusing mouthful about a class project idea that evolved, I just reply with “working on my startup”. I guess I’m a cool kid now!

Meet adViz!

These last few months, I’ve spent a significant amount of time working on a side project called adViz. The core idea is simple: adViz seeks to add an intelligent security layer to your daily life.

This idea stemmed out of a course I took last semester: IEOR185, Building Smart Cities Leveraging Open Innovation. As part of the course, I developed a technical solution (adViz) with a feasible business model. This solution centered around making Visakhapatnam (one of the three smart cities under development by joint India-US teams) smart.

Safety and security in your daily life is mostly influenced by things going on behind the scenes, with solutions that don’t function effectively and impactfully. In India, the situation is even worse; our solution targets Visakhapatnam, a growing port city in Southeast India.

From safe navigation to modern crime alerts to an improved relationship with police departments, adViz seeks to harness the power of data to make an impact.

The Painpoints

Currently, apps such as Google Maps or Waze can direct us the fastest route or shortest route, but not the safest route. Recently, a woman in Brazil using Waze was actually directed to the wrong address and killed.

Civilian Communication

Police departments around the world are slow to adapt to fast-paced technological innovation. Current succesful solutions (such as Amber Alert) can be made even better by applying best practices and technical features from Silicon Valley.


India has had unfortunate records with rampant corruption. Any solution that addresses safety should seek to rebuild trust between citizens and the police establishment.

It’s been a crazy but rewarding journey that’s taken me through countless pivots and pitches, all the way from Berkeley, CA to Visakhapatnam, India. In the next few blog entries, I’ll write about some fun experiences and takeaways I’ve learned on this journey.

The Solution

AdViz is an end-to-end solution that makes users safer 24/7. After countless pivots and iterations, adViz boiled down to:

  • Safe Navigation: Incorporating historic, crowdsourced, and police data
  • Crime Reporting: Transparent, logged crime reports (many paper crime reports are ignored)
  • Multi-platform: Crime alerts for the 21st century, not just SMS
  • Data Dashboard: Allowing civilians to visualize and understand their environment
  • Augment Existing Solutions: Work with the technology currently in place. This means complementing pieces with a holistic solution.

My Role

As this was my first interdisciplinary project-based class, I wasn’t sure how our team structure would fall into place.

Over the course of a few weeks, I gradually grew into the role of a Product Manager / Lead Engineer, and was able to leverage many of my previous experience in consulting and software development. From early on, it was clear that our team was composed of a many different experience levels, interests, and motivation; this has definitely been a huge challenge, but I believe I’ve grown all the more for it. It’s been a very enlightening experience being in a position of leadership while having no direct authority. By writing a majority of the codebase, directing strategic direction, and executing the pitches, I’ve definitely learned a lot.

What I’ll Write About

So much stuff has happened on this hectic journey that it’s hard for me to cram all of it into a single post. I’m going to split up my reflections into four parts:

  • Part 1: Overview [This Entry]
  • Part 2: adViz, The Tech
  • Part 3: adViz, The Pitches

See you next installment!

I’m currently in Hyderabad, India, waiting for my flight to Hong Kong, where I’ll be spending 3 days. Look for an upcoming reflection on Hong Kong, which I’m confident will be as different from India as India was from California. Until next time!

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Published on April 11, 2016