Last year, at about this same time, I discovered The Foundation podcast. I was vacationing in Mexico and stumbled on it via Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income—a hyper-popular online infopreneur. I downloaded and listened to many similar podcasts on online business, but The Foundation surprised me in the magnitude of its guests’ success stories. These weren’t the product of a few niche blogs, life coaching and ebooks, but six figures per month (and up) marketing and SaaS companies.
In the modern society, it’s not enough anymore just to graduate from a four-year college, and hope the skills and education acquired there will get you through the next 30–40 years of professional life. This is very prominent in software and technology fields, but applicable to many other industries as well.
In the age of the information workers, just to stay competitive on the market place, we constantly need to re-invent or jobs and ourselves. However, not everybody is happy about it. I often find people who don’t read professional books, magazines, blogs, and don’t learn outside of the job duties. Wake up people!
It’s so easy. MOOCs and online courses like Udemy and CreativeLive provide affordable interactive education. Free online ebooks are everywhere. Pick up a new language like Node.js or build something cool with React.
It’s no surprise that tomorrow, these people might be the first to be left on the outskirts of professional world . And when this happens, whom they’ll blame?
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For almost a year I’ve been helping social media curation tool Storify as a software engineer with their Node.js apps, Backbone.js front-end development as well as supporting Storify API, implementing Twitter API v1.1 intergration, writing blog posts and answering Storify API questions. We had some great moments and a few weeks ago I summed them up in a post.
Over the past eight months, I’ve been juggling extremely demanding startup work at Storify, exceptionally fulfilling teaching assignments at Hack Reactor, General Assembly and Marakana, and writing my books and webapplog posts. By applying Yerkes–Dodson law, stress helped me to boost my productivity and I was happier than ever. However, in the last few weeks I slightly overestimated my capacity to endure the fast-paced startup life. Happily, I was able to take two weeks off and to spend them in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico.
A passive quiet leisure time seemed like a great way to reflect, and to fill up my mental tanks for the future. I opted for Los Cabos due to its proximity to the Bay Area, convenience and friendliness of the local people. Indeed, there are plenty of English-speaking staff and my favorite chain stores, like Starbucks, Ruth’s Steakhouse, OXXO, Mega, Walmart and of course (not so favorite but still familiar) McDonald’s, and Burger King.
By the end of the vacation, I’d read a few good books and stumbled upon some amazingly fantastic podcasts about entrepreneurship:
- Civilization: The West and the Rest
- Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup
- The Money Pillow Podcast
- Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast
At the end of the break, I learned an important lesson that we need to be more realistic about our present (but unrealistic about our future), and step aside for a bit to take a look at a bigger picture. In addition, I pledged to myself to prioritize my life and the side-projects I undertake.
Time goes fast! It’s been six months since I’ve joined Storify in December 2012. Many cool things have happened, including a bunch of new releases, a company retreat and a hackweek.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and our purpose on planet Earth. Just kidding! I was thinking why so many programmers are unhappy. Programming is fun and creative after all. The main reason for the unhappiness is that such engineers don’t believe in the software product they’re building. They don’t see how it can benefit end-users. Maybe they don’t even know who their end-users are.
On the sixth day six after departing from San Francisco, buspreneurs gathered to socialize and to let steam off at a happy hour organized by Twillio. GhostPost brought a projector to the bar to show their anonymous live chat. The funny story is that the projector was sold to them by of a fellow busmate (from the Grassroots.io team) whose Austin-based friend the Grassroots guy to handle the Craigslist projector ad. :-) Apparently the GhostPost team weren’t happy with their defeat (and who would be?) and hustled their way through the competition to become an All-Star wildcard — and by the evening they were indeed selected as a wildcard!
Rackspace bought out the Champions sports bar in downtown Austin. GhostPost and other teams pitched during the evening to Dave McCure, Robert Scobler, and other important startup personas. The sound quality wasn’t very good. Every now and then somebody would shush the drunk, happy and tired crowd, but that didn’t help much. Despite it being very entertaining to watch Dave McClure rip apart startups and Robert (because he saw the evolution during the span of 3 days) explain and sometime defend them — in the end the decision was the same. They announced that the winner was CareerMob, and the runner up was NextChaptr.
Summary of StartupBus 2013
Overall StartupBus is a great experience but I can’t say that it has changed my life. :-) There are similarities to a real startup life:
- Scarcity of resources, balance of risks and trade-offs, ample creativity to solve problems
- Building, motivating and selling the concept to your team while pitching your idea to judges
- Human drama: communication issues, interactions among team members in close quarters, under stress, without enough sleep, etc.
- Startup lifestyle: exhaustion, abundance of stress
But some things are far from the reality. Mainly, in an actual startup:
- Founders can focus not only on consumer segment, but also on small business and/or enterprise customers. Obviously, due to the lack of time and resource constraints buspreneurs targeted consumer audience.
- Team needs to be serious and to pick not just fun and sexy ideas to get the most buzz. Solid business models usually come from ugly and boring, though concrete and painful problems.
- These days, anyone who wants to start up a business has full-time reliable and even speedy Internet access without having to get stranded in the middle of a desert or having your mobile hot-spot picking up Mexican cell phone carriers. :-)
My conclusion is that a StartupBus trip was a good experience, but it’s not exactly the same as building a real startup.