Hamoon “Moony” Mehran, who’s finishing up his economics degree at UCSC, will never forget the first time he tried taking a computer science class.
Instead of starting small and working his way up, he began with an advanced upper-division course called “assembly language and computer architecture.” He would end up learning actual computer languages—not programming ones like Python—where everything’s written in ones and zeros. Mehran, who’s now in the process of launching a social media app, can’t really remember why such a leap seemed like a good idea, but he vividly recalls walking up to a teacher’s assistant after the first day of class to ask a simple question.
“Listen,” the TA, an Apple employee, responded. “If you ever want to be an engineer, you can’t ask me anything. You have to figure it out by yourself.”
At the time, Mehran thought the guy was just a jerk, but he has since heeded the advice of his non-mentor. “It turns out he was just trying to be an encouraging asshole,” Mehran says.
Mehran planned to call his new social media app—now in its beta stage, although customers can already download it—“Alt Cult.” But he says that a certain presidential candidate ruined the word “alt” by cozying up to the alt-right movement while his chief counselor spews about “alternative facts.”
“I don’t want to be associated with that shit,” he says.
Mehran, a self-described nerd, has renamed his project Happy Medium, and wants the app to be a space for subcultures to congregate online—and maybe intermingle a little, too. Chatting on the University Town Center’s patio overlooking downtown, Mehran wears a Star Wars shirt with a stormtrooper writing, “These are not the droids we’re looking for” over and over on a chalkboard. Mehran says he’s not partial to any particular subculture, although he thinks of himself as “very new-agey.” He likes meditation, yoga and thinking about energy fields.
Mehran pulls his phone out of his pocket and opens the app—its logo a yellow-and-orange icon with an ancient Chinese symbol. “This guy’s head is like a yin-yang symbol, just some positive energy, or something like that,” explains Mehran, who comes from a family of mechanical engineers, most of whom teasingly look down on his software hobby.
The app, he says, will be image-heavy, with lots of discussion forums, and he wants to infuse it with a “human feel” that he says is missing from similar apps. He also wants to prioritize events on Happy Medium to encourage users to be more social. “I have a final point in mind that I’m trying to get to,” he says.
But even if it takes off, he will always find tweaks to make. It’s hard for him to articulate what that final point is, and even harder to guess when he’ll reach it.
“Typically, it’s never,” he says. “There’s also always a million changes you have to do.”