On hardware

It's been a few months since I've last checked in on this blog. Much of this transition has come from going deep into a new project and new venture involving building hardware alongside of software. Its been a huge learning curve but a blast as well, going from bits on the computer screen to atoms on the custom breadboard on your desk.

There is something immensely satisfying and yet deeply complex about designing software that has to interact with the internet and physical devices distributed around the world. I'm beginning to truly understand the meaning of full-full stack all the way down to the electrical layer.

I am going to keep this post short as we're in the midst of doing a ton of prototyping and development, but I'm excited to share some of the learnings and progress as we get to a more testable phase.

Looking forward to this new chapter!


On starting over

Living in a startup world every year feels and stretched out to be multiple years of learnings, struggles, challenges, and successes.

I recently left @Localize after a year of heads down working and am proud of what we achieved from being in Techstars NYC to raising a $1.2 million seed round scaling from 2 engineers to 4 engineers and going from no revenue to tens of thousands of dollars a month. It's pretty amazing how much a small team can achieve by putting their heads down and working at tackling large problems day by day. None of it ever came easy yet the growth quickly outpaced our expectations. 

@Localize is doing great this year having added on 3 more incredible engineers and building up the infrastructure for a great Enterprise Sales and Account Management team. Really looking forward to watching the growth and product changes that occur this year as they ramp up for their Series A. 

Now back to the topic of this blog post which is on starting over. Having spent the last 2.5 years working for other peoples startups learning a ton and realizing the hard work that it takes to take an idea and bring it to fruition I've decided to take the plunge and start anew. 

What my cofounders and I are working on is still under wraps but we're excited to bring some of our vision to life, to bring a product into the real world, and hopefully create joy on our customers faces.

So hears to another year (and hopefully many more) of grinding and building out product day by day. 


On Freelancing

In today's market as an engineer should one go full time at a growing startup? Should one run their own company? Should one freelance and add value to multiple products?

What is the tradeoff between full time employment and freelancing for many companies? This is a question I've had on and off for the last few years working. In the past I've done full time employment at a growing startup with the odd side gig that would be a few weeks of part time work on an application or prototype. 

The work has always been liberating; allowing for deep dives in new technologies, building products in diverse verticals, and having the pleasure to work with different product managers and technical coworkers. 

The one downside to going full time as a freelancer is not only being an engineer but a full time business owner. There are times when you need to make sure there are projects coming through the pipeline, contacts completed have been paid, taxes owed are kept up to. In a sense going full time freelance is like running a business of one with all things included.

In the past freelancing has been very attractive and liberating but the barriers of single handedly finding work and ensuring all aspects of the contract go well is almost a full time gig in of itself.

That is where Toptal comes into the picture, providing a marketplace for employers and freelancers to matchmake and make the best choices for their individual needs. Toptal to me becomes an advocate for both freelancer and company in the entire process. They provide a place for the Web Development Community to go to, to thrive, and to build great products.

Who wouldn't want a full time advocate in their corner to ensure success of projects and a steady of supply of projects to work on.

To me Toptal is a no brainer.

On Market Bubbles

In the news recently tech bubble talk has been on the rise with increasing urgency, luckily it seems the current investing environment mood has been depressed or less excitable due to these fears. It feels like institutional investors and anyone that remembers the dot com 2000s eras are still scarred by that experience and are hyper-aware of the fact. 

On the other hand the "bubble" i'm increasingly more worried about surrounds Chinas struggle to transition from a economic power house growing at 10%+ year over year to a "middling" 5-8% growth economy. Government spending has switched from infrastructure and industries and has begun to turn towards consumer purchasing power and such.

Some numbers scare me a lot about the situations. Such as $1.2 Trillion dollars in over leveraged debt due to easy lending. Rising real estate costs. The foreign flight of money to the US and abroad to "save" that money for the future.

Furthermore China's population growth has dropped effectively with the one child policy, leading to a huge imbalance of the working class becoming a smaller proportion of their economy. 

China's slowdown has come as expected, the big question and worry is if the Chinese government and Federal regulators can help reduce the pain of the transition without a large scale market panic.

Luckily China's national government still exerts considerable control over monetary policy within china and on its currency and trading, so things may be smoothed out with the backing of the economic might of China's government.

On Giving

Giving back seems to be the secrete sauce of happiness to a lot of happy people out there. When you think about the smiling happiest people you've met they're usually "volunteers" doing something for the community. This could be volunteering for the annual Thanksgiving day turkey meal for impoverished families and individuals. This could be hosting a fundraiser for a great cause to fight cancer to provide food, water and aid to impoverished regions.

Regardless of what an individual is giving back to, the net effects of giving seems to be very net positive in terms of life outlook, immediate gratification, and overall well being. 

A good example of this has been over the past few years, I've run two Charity:Water (http://www.charitywater.org/) campaigns during my birthday to provide clean and free access to drinking water in underdeveloped regions of the world. Over the two campaigns we've raised over $2500 that has gone to two  individual sites providing clean drinking water for an entire village. Imagine that what you spend on monthly rent in NYC, SF, and SEA could do for an entire village for years to come. 

Now I'm not saying we should all give all of our money away all the time. Instead when you are feeling a bit low, need a pick me up, or feel like you haven't done too much recently to positively impact the world around you, try some giving back. It'll do you a whole lot of mental well being and probably you will impact someone else's life in a big big way.

Here are some links to research on the positive effects of giving:





*Please note all essays are usually written as is, as a work in progress, based on thoughts I have. Opinions, ideas, and statements are mine and do not represent fact and should be filtered based on your own judgement.

On Rereading Books

I've spent the last year working up to reading 1-2 books a week. In doing so the volume of books and content and ideas I've been exposed to has doubled or tripled in some cases. This has been great an all but I've gotten the sense that reading a book once, especially a good one requires multiple readings to truly understand some of the deeper meanings of a story, or more importantly the details and wrinkles beyond a specific way of thinking or theory. 

So in light of needing to better understand and learn from what I've read in the past, I'm focusing probably about 20% of my reading time moving forward to re-reading some books, re-reading passages, and looking for deeper insight and new thoughts that come from a second pass on a book.

I've read before that to truly understand a book one must reread it multiple times to truly understand the nature of what a book is about. I am becoming more and more convinced of this potential truth.

Enjoy reading, and reread a book if you enjoyed it that much!

*Please note all essays are works in progress that may or may not have been edited or read-over. Thoughts and opinions are of mine only and are subject to my personal opinions, biases, and filters. 

On Resolutions

Been recently thinking a lot about how often new years resolutions are set up to fail and what not. Let's spend the year getting fit, I want to make more money this year. All these types of resolutions are vague without any actionable items or completable goals. Goals need to be actionable, specific, and have some sort of clear time table.

Leo Baubata from Zen Habits has a great post about this  that you can read here  http://zenhabits.net/awesome-2016/.

He touches on the idea of breaking your yearly goal into manageable monthly and even weekly thematic chunks. The goal is to start small and have a positive tight feedback loop to improve upon. He also mentions getting accountability partners that include both positive and negative outcomes depending on if you achieve your goals.

One of my favorite ways to start actionable habits and goals is to use BJ Fogg's tiny habits system that focuses on the smallest irreducible part of a habit to get started with. For example if you want to start flossing everyday, he suggests that you start with flossing one tooth the moment you wake up in the morning.  You can read more about his process here http://http//tinyhabits.com/.

Overall, throughout the years of habit building I've found a collection of these bullet points really help make habits stick.

1) Do ONE habit at a time, give it a month!

2) Make sure it can be done DAILY (eg. flossing teeth, making your bed, meditating, running, etc. )

3) Set yourself up to WIN ( make it easy for yourself, instead of running 30 miles a week, try putting on your running shoes everyday first)

4) Have REWARDS and CONSEQUENCES (put money on the table for if you succeed or not, make it large enough you would hate to lost $1000 dollars by not waking up @ 7 am everyday)

Some good readings and tools out there for your viewing pleasure:

https://open.buffer.com/build-strong-habits-apps-tools/  - Nice overview of helpful apps for habits

http://pavlok.com/  - Cool negative reinforcement tool for habit breaking (smoking, etc)

http://zenhabits.net/  - One of the best and oldest blogs out there on this topic

http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/  - A great book behind the psychology of habits

On Relationships w/ Money

I would like to say I never really grew up understanding the value or fleetingness of money growing up. My viewpoint of money was you would get some for birthdays and holidays and spend that on stuff you wanted. My whole view was that it is a finite limited resource that should be attained to acquire new things. Totally rationale when you're not making money.

Unfortunately, this seems totally irrational when you are making money and having to pay for rent food etc. All of a sudden the reality of not having a job and having to cover expenses is right in your face. Some things early on I made mistakes in was getting a credit card too early, not truly understanding the impact that debt had on your psychology and happiness.

Without good money habits things can spiral out of control pretty quickly. 

My steps (heavily borrowed from great people) to money healthiness.

1) Pay off all debts (debt is #1 drag on someones freedom)

2) Save in tiny bits ( I like using digit.co to get started), $1 per day would be huge.

3) Start using cash/debit card more often, its a closer 1:1 link to the value of money

4) Hide that credit card for a rainy day (freeze it in ice if need be)

5) Get your emergency/Thailand trip money saved up $10,000 (should keep you afloat for 2-12 months depending on your burn)

6) Save to a 401k or Roth IRA, I like using (Wealthfront and Betterment)

7) Whatever is left over spend or save! You've made it.

On saving

I've spent the last few years combating my inability to easily save through "good choices" and being "frugal". One of my favorite blogs of all time by Ramit Sethi preaches creating automated savings and earning more money. 

In the spirit of doing so I'm using these services and approaches to take the "choice" out of saving and saving a ton more in retrospect.

1) Automatic Investment deposits to Betterment and Wealthfront on a monthly basis

2) Using Digit for automated savings from my checking a

3) Leveraging Chase and Bank of America's minimum deposit amounts in their checking accounts

4) Put money under the mattress

On Writing

It feels like the more I read about writers, the key indicator of quality prolific writing involves the focused and daily practice of writing. Sitting your butt down on a chair (or standing) and writing for a few solid hours. This practice involves strength of patience, focus, and the ability to write and sit for long periods.

Beyond this it seems like concerted focus on rewriting, editing, and improving what you write is the tail indicator for success. Someone that can sit down, put words down on paper, and fairly critique what they write and improve on it tend to be the best writers.

Fitzgerald was known for spending unheard amounts of time perfecting specific sentences, paragraphs, and short novels beyond any other writer. Some of the best movie editors will spend months if not years perfecting a cut of shots for a scene so the pacing is just right.

From what I can gather, the best way to improve your writing is to let yourself write daily, to let it flow freely and then refine that before publishing it to others.