NY Startup Interview: Kuan Huang, Co-Founder of Feelytics

Feelytics is a social and analytical tool that helps you track and share feelings. Currently, it’s only available on the Apple app store.  The following is an interview with Kuan Huang, Co-Founder of Feelytics.

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What were you doing before?

We all have our day jobs and Feelytics is our side project at this moment. Chunxi works for Betaworks and previously she was working on the mobile team at New York Times. Guy Lee is a senior designer at MTV and has been the art director behind numerous MTV digital products. Nikko currently lives in Shanghai and he co-founded Neocha, a leading social network for creative youth. I am the tech lead at Hatch Labs, a mobile-focus startup incubator owned by IAC.

Tell me how it all started, where did your vision/inspiration come from? (story of founder background, origin of the idea, etc):

We were inspired by the art project “We Feel Fine” which was done by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. The two artists/engineers wrote a software that is data-mining texts from weblogs and extracts sentiments from those texts. As a result, they build a database of several million human feelings, increasing 15k-20k new feelings per day. We were immediately impressed by the amount emotion data that’s hidden on the internet.

So we asked ourselves: What if we could correlate the emotion data with time, location, your social circle, music, news, weather… and build a real time emotion database that improves people’s self awareness and help people discover something new based on emotion data? How cool would that be?! So we decided to build Feelytics.

The team went to graduate school (NYU ITP) together. And most of us are working for startup companies now in New York. We have one team member currently lives in Shanghai and works with us remotely.

Why does the world need your product? Why now? 

We look around the internet and mobile space today: People check in where they are on Foursquare; check in what they see on Instagram; check in what’s on their mind on twitter. But there is really no place to check in how they feel. People talk about how they feel all the time. What if there is a little tool which you can log all these tiny moments. And later on it remembers when you feel productive, where you feel frustrated, who among your friends makes you happy all the time, which neighborhood excites you most, which bar is the happiest one on the block and… this list can go on forever but you get the point. Imagine a year from now on, there are millions of people using Feelytics to check in how they feel. With this amazing data set, we can turn Feelytics into a recommendation engine based on your and other people’s history of emotions. For example, if you want to look for the most inspiring places to visit in Brooklyn, avoid working for the most boring companies, watch the scariest movie or listen to the most peaceful music, Feelytics will be able to give you recommendations based on other people’s emotions around these things. We are really excited about the future of Feelytics.

The timing can’t be better. First of all, there is no question that mobile device users will continue to grow in a faster pace in the next couple years. Secondly, the trend of Quantified Self is gaining momentum every day. We are hoping Feelytics can take the advantages of the two trends and bring a new movement to the world.

What keeps you motivated?

We are building something that didn’t exist before. It has both risks and opportunities. I think that’s the biggest motivation at this moment.

What keeps you up at night?

I often write lots of simple sql queries to understand our data at night. I am excited by some interesting data correlation that I have discovered. For example, when do most people feel hungry? when do people feel sleepy (unfortunately all the time)?what are the top emotions among our female or male users, what is the most inspiring place this week? What’s the average mood during the week of Hurricane Sandy?

What has been the most challenging aspect about building your startup so far? What has been the most rewarding?

The most interesting challenge of the product right now is how to motivate people to start logging their feelings. Especially for people just started using the app and has no friend, no previous emotion data, how can we engage them? That’s been a question that we ask ourselves everyday. We call this “single player mode”. Companies like Foursquare has done a very good job in their early days. We are working on this and hopefully will add this improvement into our following releases.

The most rewarding aspect of the product is that people who are already logging their feelings actually see the benefit of doing it. They will be like “Wow, I have been chillaxin a lot this week”;
“The cloister museum has been the most inspiring museum this month” and etc. We get really excited when hearing feedback like this.

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