Jan 01

This last month flew by. Here’s my monthly update video showing a bit of our living and working arrangement in Mexico City with my commentary:

Here is the month told in photographs:

And here are a few of the songs that will forever remind me of this time period:

We’re now in Bogota, Colombia. Happy New Year and thanks for following along with my travels. If you want to get periodic update emails from me that serve as a recap of the highlights, add yourself below:

Dec 05

Well we just broke the halfway mark of Remote Year having left Valencia, Spain and rounded out month six. Here’s my normal video recap that shows where we lived and worked there:

I was fortunate to get outside of Valencia too this past month and travel around Ireland and to Barcelona. Here is the month told in photos:


Salient things that stand out about this past month:

  • Spain spanish is very different from latin-american spanish. I learned my español in Ecuador so it was a bit of an adjustment to get the Valencian Spanish. They speak very fast and with the “theta” accent.
  • Ham, ham and more ham. Spain must do 5x average pig consumption per capita as we do in the States. Jamon was on every menu (we even went to a restaurant called “Jamon Jamon.”). If you get a chance to try Iberic ham, do it. It’s delicious. Paella too, but be prepared to take a nap after.
  • Valencia was a beautiful, quiet, walkable city with clean streets and nice parks. It was a great R&R stop after Rabat and before diving into the 2nd leg of our journey in Mexico and S. America.
  • Our Ireland trip was the highpoint of the month for me. The Cliffs of Moher were stunning and just driving the countryside was super relaxing. Driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right is a mental curveball but such a great experience.
  • Strong month for sales at Pagely and I’m engaged in two efforts now setting up our business intelligence and implementing a marketing automation framework for improved nurture and conversion.

Anyways, I’m headed back to Phoenix to see friends and family over the Christmas break. If you’re in Phoenix the evening after Christmas we’re doing a happy hour. Hit me up if you want to join and I’ll add you to the FB event. Here are some of the songs that will remind me of this month:

cliffs-of-moher

Nov 04

We’re winding down month five of Remote Year Darien and it’s time for my monthly video update showing friends and fam where our group has lived and worked over the past month:

Here’s a photo album that tells the month’s stories in pictures:

Gear Shoutouts

Two pieces of gear I’d like to celebrate this month:

  1. My Brookstone mini pocket projector. We’ve done movie nights on the roof of our Riad once each week since we got here and it’s really been a nice break from the grind. Spinal Tap, Swiss Army Man, The 9ines, Napoleon Dynamite and Life Aquatic have been keeping us entertained and sane. Nothing like throwing down some magic carpets and hookah on the roof to watch an American film. At night this little projector is plenty bright and projects a 12′ crystal clear HD image. It only lasts for about an hour on battery so you have to use a power converter but it’s pretty slick and small enough to fit in your cargo shorts (hat tip to Stephan b/c he loves my cargo shorts).
  2. My Aker iPhone case/battery. This thing is a gem- I don’t know what I’d do this month without it since it seems Maroc telecom for whatever reason drains my battery 2x as fast as it should. This thing provides great protection as a case, is only slightly thicker than a normal iPhone case and gives me 2 extra battery charges. I regularly 2 full charges here in Morocco so like I said, I don’t know how I’d do without this thing.

Major takeaways

  • Morocco is home to some of the warmest people I’ve met. It’s ragged and rough around the edges and precisely the type of experience that we signed up for in joining Remote Year. Anyone can go to London but I would likely never have come to this place if it weren’t for this program.
  • Between the air pollution and the mold in our place it’s definitely been a respiratory challenge. We leave in two days for Valencia and I’m ready for the change of scenery and air. There are very few grassy parks with lush foliage here and as silly as this sounds that grinds on your psyche. It makes you appreciate places like Prague that had ample greenery and parks scattered throughout the town.
  • The very first night we had dinner with the RY group that was leaving and got a chance to chat with them. I remember making a mental note that everyone just seemed… tired. I understand now. I think it’s the combination of the extra cognitive load of being on alert and maintaining more thorough situational awareness at all times + the language barrier + the scarcity of greenery that has left us all a bit drained. I don’t have a suggestion there other than to be prepared for that going into it.
  • The Sahara was amazing. Asilah beach and Hercules’ Cave were both beautiful. The medina in Fes was crazy. All these places we’ve visited here have been super interesting. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this place, for our guides in the desert, our city managers, cook and support staff at the workspace and all the Careem drivers who took us places while we were here.

Tunes this month

Some of the music that’s been in my ear buds this month:

Good bye Marroco. Inshallah we’ll meet again.

BTW, if you’re not already signed up to get my quarterly impersonal update emails, now would be a good time:

Sep 30

We’re wrapping up our time in Lisbon and are headed to Rabat, Morocco tomorrow so I took the morning to shoot some video that shows a little of the town and where we’ve lived and worked over the past month. Check it out:

A couple points of clarification to the video:

  • Lisbon, your gelato game is strong, very strong. I commend you for this. I failed to mention this in the video but it’s one of your greatest attributes.
  • Indeed my sales numbers are up 72% for Pagely since being on Remote Year. In hindsight though the calculation I used overstates the effect. I averaged my sales from the past four months vs. my 11mos at Pagely prior to RY. Some of the lift in that is attributed to other factors (for instance we raised prices back in March, we’re progressively getting larger and larger clients now so deal sizes overall are bigger than they were, I had a ramp up period when I first started, etc). I realized after shooting the video that a better computation would be to compare the past four months to the four months prior to RY. When I refactor with those numbers it’s actually only a 42% lift since being on RY… but still a 42% increase!! If you’re an employer with remote employees consider allowing them to try working abroad. Not only is it possible to match performance but as with my case employees can actually outperform their prior domestically-based selves. I have some theories as to why this is that I’ll explore in a future video.
  • This is the guy we just hired for the Growth Marketer position. So stoked to have Rod on the USS Pagely.
  • I wrote more about our Startup Weekend Lisbon experience in my last post. Worth reading if you’ve never attended one. There are some good video testimonials in that from participants.

Here’s a chronology of our time in Lisbon told in photos:

This month’s gear shout-out goes out to my REI Saturn pack. Love this thing. It fits in an overhead carry-on space on the airplane (even though I’ve been checking it since I have a laptop and guitar as carry-ons). Lots of compartments, pockets, webbing, straps, zippers and everything else you’d want in a pack. Solid gear.

Lastly, here are the tunes that were in my earbuds most of Lisbon:

Lisbon you’ve been amazing. Obrigado for everything. I will be back someday.

Sep 21

We held a mini Startup Weekend event in Lisbon this past weekend. For the uninitiated, Startup Weekend is a hackathon-type event in which strangers come together in a weekend and sprint to build and launch a product by Sunday night. It’s a global phenomenon (there were 18 different SW events running simultaneously in various cities around the world this past weekend). Ours was unique in that it was exclusive to our Remote Year group but it followed the same structure in terms of concept pitches and team formation Friday night, work all Sat/Sun and then demos of the product on Sunday night. This was my 8th SW event (you can read about some past ones I’ve been involved with here here here and here).

Here are a few interviews with participants following the conclusion of the event to give you an idea of what the experience was like in their words:

(video credit Chris Peloquin)

We had 24 participants from Remote Year who gelled into the following five teams:
Loo Review – Yelp for Restrooms
DiscoverPath – Self-guided walking tours
Carrot App – Intercept eCommerce impulse buys and encourage savings
Swipe Up – Disintermediate the airline industry
Volunteer Everywhere – eHarmony for volunteering (site not live yet)

Carrot App took first place and DiscoverPath and Volunteer Everywhere tied for 2nd. All of the teams did incredible work pulling this stuff together in a weekend. I had originally proposed doing a SW event with Remote Year folks back at our final Town Hall in Belgrade. With the help of many people working behind the scenes we pulled this together on a greatly-accelerated timeline than normal SW events.

My pitch and deck below for DiscoverPath:
(video credit Chris Peloquin)

Our team had awesome chemistry and was able to get an entire functioning MVP of the app built. This is us creating the next tech unicorn in the streets of Lisbon:
team-prosim-startupweekend

The current version of the app is a pure MVP and has 3 monuments in Lisbon tagged with audio narrations. It enables an example free-form walking tour whereby the listener gets the wikipedia description of each landmark as he/she comes within the specified geofence of each. It’s a phonegap app so cross-platform support. The backend is served on a free Heroku server utilizing Keystone (node.js-based CMS), opensource maps, Leaflet js and other free open source libraries. It’s a bit surreal to think the entire tech stack for this (including the hosting) was free (as in dollars and licensing) only the time of the developers working over the weekend to pull it all together. How far we’ve come since the days of $10k in Windows server and MSSQL stack licensing… I’m hopeful we’ll continue to hack together on it and refine the app to get it to a more useful state during the course our travels over the next eight months. This is something I want myself.

Lastly, I wanted to give quick shout-outs to the 25 Remotes who took a leap of faith on this event and gave up their weekend in Lisbon to build a product. To Wout Laban who flew all the way from Amsterdam to facilitate the event. Maria-Christina of TechStars for helping coordinate the intro to Wout and giving us approval to do this one a bit differently than the traditional SW. Aline, Jenna, Goncalo and Tomas from RY for supporting us with coordinating food, logistics, venue, etc for the weekend. To Pagely for buying us all lunch on Saturday. Thanks also to Andre Marquet, Miguel Arroja, Afonso Ramos and Toby Gutsche (local Lisbon entrepreneurs) for mobilizing on such short notice and donating time to be judges at the event. And an extra shout-out to Miguel for giving up a Saturday to help provide mentorship for the teams. Lastly, thanks to my friend Andrew Hyde for making the initial intro that set this whole thing in motion. If you’d like to get in touch with any of the teams please leave a comment here and I’ll be happy to coordinate an intro. Check StartupWeekend.org to find out when this event will be in your city next.

sw-dinner
(photo credit Chris Peloquin)

startup-weekend-lisbon-group
(photo credit Eddie Contento)

Next epic event we’re bringing to Remote Year = Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” program next month in Morocco. Stay tuned…

Sep 17

One of my best friends Benny.com happened to be in Berlin, Germany traveling on an 8wk Europe adventure and invited me to visit him for Lollapalooza. I had never been to Berlin before (nor any part of Germany for that matter) so I said yes and booked a cheap flight to meet him. Her are some quick thoughts on the city and the concert experience while they’re still fresh…

The Negatives

  • no-uberPreconceptions about cities: crazy how far off some of my preconceptions have been about the places we’ve visited (Belgrade and Germany erring in opposite directions). I had envisioned Berlin, the capital of the country which is the financial powerhouse of Europe, to be this spotless mecca of German engineering and perfection. The streets there were the dirtiest of the places I’ve been thus far out of Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Split, London and Portugal.
  • Internet performance was 3rd-world quality in terms of speed and reliability. It wasn’t just cellular data service but the Internet itself seemed to be fundamentally broken there. Benny was explaining how a monopoly on the “last mile” of cable there by Telekom.de created a dearth of competition and set the stage for this problem. Whatever the cause, it was shocking to me how poor the connectivity was. It was to the level where I believe that factor alone would have precluded our Remote Year group planting there for a month with 70 knowledge workers reliant upon sketchy connectivity.
  • Uber isn’t there yet: How is Uber not in Berlin yet??

The Positives

  • Vibrant creative feel: it has a young, vibrant aura to it. The people all look super healthy and fit and holy cow 6′ blonde German women… zastavit. Street art was abundant and there’s a skate store on every corner (which is confusing because all the streets are cobblestoned so I’m not sure where anyone skates). But mad respect for the plethora of skate shops and vinyl record stores.
  • steps-berlinYou walk everywhere. In all we did just under 68k steps and just over 17mi in 3 days. The concert venue for Lollapalooza wasn’t that big so most of that walking was wandering around the city.
  • The food was solid: all the places we ate at were great. I had probably the best burger of my time in Europe the first night and the food every meal thereafter was on point.
  • Benny and I still have game in foosball after all these years since iTOOL.

tree-lined-venueLollapalooza was a blast. Radiohead destroyed it and that was my first exposure to a Major Lazer show (which was bananas). Odesza was a cool new find- I had never heard of them before. We got there late on Sunday so just caught the tail end of Milky Chance and all the other bands we saw just blended together. It was a really cool venue for it in a big park with massive trees and concert infrastructure was fairly solid. The one thing that was a real detractor was the level of dust kicked up by the 70,000 concert goers. I don’t know how they mitigate that short of constantly spraying down the field (but then it becomes a mud pit). But all in all very well-handled event.

This photo and video album below gives a good flavor of the weekend. I’m back in Lisbon now and just kicked off Startup Weekend Lisbon earlier tonight. I pitched an idea for an app I want to build called DiscoverPath and we have a killer team to execute this weekend. More on that soon…

preload preload preload