Thursday, February 28, 2013

FastFig Goes Live!

Fig Buddies, as of yesterday we are out of beta and live to the world!

Press release is pasted below.



FastFig’s New Math Software Promises
To Change STEM Student Experience

New cloud-based software solves math as students type,
allows easy online collaboration

AUSTIN, TX, February 27, 2013– Math just got better.

After 18 months in development, the new math software FastFig went out of beta and live to the world last night. The cloud-based platform plans to change the way students do math.

By combining a powerful math computation engine with an easy-to-use notepad that solves as users type, FastFig instantly delivers the easiest and most painless experience for students in math courses and professionals working with math every day.
“FastFig is the only math software for real people. It’s a tool we actually developed with today’s students in mind.”
– Brian Peacock, FastFig Founder and CTO
FastFig can be accessed from any computer and is completely cloud-based, unlike cumbersome, locally installed competitors like those licensed by Universities. It is also easy to use, providing a painless experience and seamless access to a powerful math engine for even math software beginners.

The proprietary FigPad interface intelligently discerns whether the user is typing math or text, and then formats and solves the notes automatically. FastFig’s collaborative tools allow users to save and share their FigPads with other users anywhere in the world.

The story of FastFig began two years ago, when FastFig Founder and CTO Brian Peacock was an engineering student with insufficient tools. All of the software his school purchased was difficult to use and required that he be at one computer – not using multiple devices the way he and his classmates all did regularly. Finding himself constantly working with pen, paper and calculator, he decided there had to be a better way, and began teaching himself to code so he could create FastFig.

According to the Department of Education, The United States graduates less than 6% of its students with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees, compared with 47% in China and 38% in Korea. The decline of STEM students has been particularly acute among minority and female students. By making math more accessible and providing a convenient tool for students in early college STEM classes, FastFig aims to disrupt the academic landscape.

“We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.”
– President Barack Obama, 2013 State of the Union

#             #             #
FastFig takes a powerful math engine and pairs it with a proprietary, patent-pending UI that intelligently determines if a user is typing math or text and formats it accordingly. Collaborative tools allow users to save their notes on any device, share them with others around the world, and print or export easily. FastFig is the lead consumer product of Fig Labs, Inc., and was funded by the prestigious DreamIt Ventures as part of their inaugural Austin program in 2013. We’ve been featured in stories by places like Business Insider and Technically Philly. Our official first public demo day will be during SXSW in Austin, on March 9, 2013.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

New FastFig Design Released!

Greetings Figgers!

Lots happening at Fig Manor as we try to save the world from lousy math software.

Development Update

As you may have noticed, we launched our new calculator design last week. The functions are separated by area of math, so that it's easier to locate and use the functions you want at any given time. From a back-end standpoint, this will also allow teachers to throttle the math engine so that their students can see only the functions relevant to their class.

Getting Ready for SXSWedu

We're also in the home stretch, gearing up for SXSW, including the SXSWedu conference in two weeks, where many FastFig friends will be presenting and talking (we'll be listening and taking notes). Prediction: Our favorite panel will be the one that calls edtech entrepreneurs "superheroes," and features our friends from Hoot.me, KinderTown, LearnBop and Notehall (now Chegg), but there are also great panels on STEM education and speakers from Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) to David Robinson (yes, that David Robinson).

Insider Baseball

For those interested in the startup game, our AngelList profile is live. Follow us there and keep up with the company's progress. For those who don't know what I'm talking about... Angel.co is a social network for startups, entrepreneurs and investors.

Monday, February 4, 2013

How to Outfit Your Lean Startup Home: Tables You Can Write On

So, I may have mentioned we like whiteboard. We have lots of it on our walls. But when four men try to save STEM students from an unfurnished apartment in Texas, some other amenities needed. And how, one might ask, does one affordably create surfaces on which one can put computers and mac and cheese?

First, let's tackle the coffee/living room table. It's a small table that you want to put lots of stuff on, but it's low near couches.

One thing to remember is that furniture for accelerator tenants must be short-term; getting rid of a table is sometimes more annoying than getting it. So we added the constraint that it must be almost totally disposable.

For strength in compression, one really cannot beat carboard boxes. Corrugated carboard is absolutely wonderful for holding stuff up. Also, it's cheap as can be. So we took a couple boxes as our base, which are light and sturdy. The actual surface we felt like making reasonably usable, so we took a sheet of plywood and an equal-sized sheet of faux blackboard, then glued them together and sanded the edges. You'll probably need to weight the top part down while the glue dries if there's any warp at all.

Cheap blackboard table
Perfect size for playing Settlers of Catan.
Protip: One could use chalk on this table and draw things. We don't, because it also makes a mess. But one could. If one were so inclined.

But making notes on table is really useful. It's what glass tables are perfect when you have an idea. And, running a lean startup, we have lots of ideas and random code things of which we'd like to keep track.

Also, we needed a dining room table. Back to the local Home Despot.
Panelboard on a shelf at Home Depot
Thrifty indeed.
An unfinished hollow door will run you about $25. With a few 2x4s cut to the right lengths and a couple braces, you can make sawhorses to the right height (or you can buy the sawhorses for a little more). 

Take the door and an equal-sized sheet of panelboard. Score both surfaces aggressively (carve little nicks into each... you can do this with the coffee table above, too). Then use a lot of glue and put them together. You will almost definitely need to weigh the top part down with every heavy item in your startup home to prevent warping. 

Protip: Gallons of juice and 2-liters of soda are good for this.

Once the surfaces take, you can sand the edges down. Also, thanks to the opposing tensions created by the warping, your table is now almost totally indestructible.

Lean startup whiteboard table
Clementines containers are also valuable structural aides.
You can also write on it.

Fastfig's awesome whiteboard table
We really cleaned the table for this photo.
Now you have a solid, stable surface for anything from dinner to house parties hors d'oeuvres for guests, and you can write on it! Thanks to the panel board, it's very easy to clean, as well (a little Windex and it's amazing how new it will look). One of the best uses is that a team can gather around the table and everyone can see and contribute to things like wireframing. Since we've made the table, we have not stopped using it, and the whole thing cost under $50.

Friday, February 1, 2013

FastFig Development Update

Hey Fig Buddies,

Just wanted to take a quick minute to update you on some of the things that we've done this week.

  • You can now print your FigPads to pdf. This is pretty important for those using FastFig for math homework.
  • We fleshed out the "tour" tutorial that walks you through the FigPad. We got some feedback that it was a little sparse.
  • We reorganized Fig School and introduced Dr. Fig, to whom figgers can ask questions and report issues.
  • One of our biggest pieces of feedback from new users was on syntax rules. We're pleased to unveil a new syntax library.
  • And, best of all, we've added sharing. Now you can send your FigPads to other users, and you and your Fig Buddies (yes, we never get tired of that pun) can collaborate on the documents together. 
We're very excited about these developments, and we'll be continuing to roll out new features in the coming weeks. If there's something you want to see, or a bug you'd like to report, feel free to do it here or via info@fastfig.com.

Some other news and notes: 
  • We're ranked on the second page of Google for "payment terms."
  • Thanks to everyone who responded to the last couple posts. The discussion was extremely helpful. 
  • For our friends back east, it's currently sunny and 72 degrees in Austin, Texas.