Patrick Riley – Founder and CEO of

[quote style=”boxed”]I believe every great design and interface has a narrative.  You should tell a story, or at least add sufficient personality that inspired people in their day.[/quote]

Patrick Riley was educated and worked in the product design field for the last ten years.  While a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information, he studied user interface design and economics.  He has worked as a product manager, designer and User Experience Director at AOL, Google, Symantec, Lithium, and others.

What are you working on right now?

We are building the next generation of, a powerful shopping social commerce network that allows you to earn 5% on everything you purchase from Amazon, LivingSocial, iTunes, and about 3,000 other stores.  It’s social commerce plus gaming mechanics times awesomeness, and I honestly feel like it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve ever designed.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up to discussions, video conferences, and emails from the remote European dev team, followed by commuting into our San Francisco office, and most likely a business lunch.  I do most of my designing after lunch, work with the local dev team, join partner calls, and conduct interviews of future Arkers in the afternoon.   It’s a 18-20 hour day, but I love every minute of it.

3 trends that excite you?

The Online to offline trend.  I love the new online solutions to providing a sense of refreshing randomness that is missing in this highly digitally connected world, where we only really correspond with those like-minded individuals in our social graph.  Startups like Grubwithus, Let’s Lunch, and many others are great responses to this increasingly segregated society.   Secondly, can’t wait to see the future trend of augmented reality.   There’s so much potential there, and we’ve only just begun.  And lastly, using social media to empower good in the world… which was why all of us founders quit our comfy jobs and started to build something game-changing.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe every great design and interface has a narrative.  You should tell a story, or at least add sufficient personality that inspired people in their day.  I like to design something that becomes a part of user’s everyday life.  Otherwise, all you’ve done is create yet another shinny thing that people will try or look at once and that’s it.

What inspires you? users inspire me.  They have so many great ideas for good, and either make smart donations or start local projects on their own.  I’ll give you an example.  We had some users who noticed an “alley cat” in their neighborhood was pregnant.  They took her in, raised their kittens, and used as an important part of fundraising for paying for the expenses.   That’s likely just the beginning, and provides the necessary funds for these good projects at no cost to these innovative users.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

A few companies offered to buy my Ph.D. project for a generous amount.  I would have loved to join those respective companies, but really wanted to do   So I rejected their offers, but I realize now how difficult it is to build a talented team from scratch instead of just joining a talented team as part of acquisition.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Augmented reality of wikipedia.  How cool would that be that I can open my mobile phone anywhere, and it tells me some history about where I am, the building surrounding me, or the historical consequences that made this place where I stand right now.  Please tell me someone is working on that.

What do you read every day, and why?

I read tech blogs, cause marketing articles, and academic articles to keep me abreast of UX, computer science, and other technical progress.  But I also read the classics in the evening (Scarlet Letter, Lolita, etc.) just to go completely offline, even if for a fraction of my day.  It keeps me grounded.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.  Erving Goffman was this famous sociologist in the 50’s who studied and wrote about how people project, consciously and subconsciously, information to others as part of their identity.  I feel that even though his work was done in the 1950s, much of his work is still very salient to this day in terms of online identity and social networks.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

My simple MP3 player.   It has one button.   I put on my earphones, hit the button, and go for a run without any distractions or interruptions.  It’s honestly my favorite time of the day.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

  • Definitely @ark for inspiration… our users and content team are amazing.
  • @michaelianblack because he’s hilarious and totally random.
  • And maybe @uxmag if you are interested in trends in UX design.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

@vp   Just so he can explain how he got that Twitter username.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

Some of the designs our visual artists did of arkguin (penguin) badges for… they are so awesome and hilarious.

What is special about what you are building now? is a social network of purpose and efficacy.  You know that lethargic feeling you get when you are on Facebook on and off for an hour? is a solution to that.  Our users are earning funds for causes they believe in at no cost to them, and participating in real change.  Honestly, if you look at past moments and changes in the world, what makes the difference is not governments or large organizations… it’s the passion of individuals to become the architects of change.  LinkedIn is your business identity, Facebook is your general social identity, Twitter is your public personality, and Ark is your philanthropic identity.  We feel there are few sites that offer this feeling of efficacy at no cost to the user.  This is why we built ark, why our users love ark, and what inspires me about the future.


I would love to meet new people from this community.   Feel free to ping me on the web by joining, or follow me and our journey at, or on Twitter @ark.   Since we just recently launched, we would be honored to have all of you as some of our early adapters.  Please feel free to contact me at my first name… we would love to hear from you.