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…

Aug 30

Here’s a summary of our month in London told in photographs:


We’re now in Lisbon, Portugal and I’m thrilled for our new home this month.
BTW if you’re not yet following RemoteYearBlogs.com you’re doing it wrong. This is an aggregator site I setup that pulls in posts from all bloggers across all Remote Year cohorts in near real-time. Check it out and see where everyone is at. More soon from Lisbon…

UPDATE 9/14/16: as usual Chris Peloquin killing it with a video short he made from his time in London. This is legitimately good enough to be entered into a film contest. Solid video Chris.

Aug 24

Hard to believe we’re nearly done with London and a quarter of the way through our whole Remote Year program… In keeping with my tradition from Prague and Belgrade I’ve put together a short video to give you a flavor for our living and work situation here:

One of the better networking events we’ve had so far was the opportunity to chat with Food Busker John Quilter – what an inspiring dude. This is a guy who quit a hugely successful restaurant business because he felt unfulfilled. He sold everything he owned and did a year of cooking meals for strangers on the street and allowing them to pay whatever price they felt it was worth. He became almost like the Gary Vaynerchuck of street food and has since parlayed it into a media property and a retail product for biodegradable Nespresso pods. Super inspiring.

john-quilter-food-busker
The blonde lady sitting in front in the picture above is Heleri, our city manager here in London. In each locale we’re paired up with a local who is well-connected and knows the city. Heleri helped to organize events like the Community Connect with John but she also is there to help us with any local connections we need. I get periodic back issues when working prolonged hours hunched over my laptop and last week was just bananas. Heleri connected me with this 7′ Nordic osteopath named Dr. Marius who is like Zakk Wylde meets Mr. Miyage. He gave me a chiro adjustment, explained the root cause and then taught me a set of nine exercises I need to do to start strengthening my core. Shoutout to Heleri for hooking me up with this guy on a day’s notice when back pain was unbearable. I’ve been doing TRX weekly under Chris Peloquin‘s leadership but never realized how little emphasis I’ve devoted to strengthening core stabilizer muscles (which are so critical especially for us knowledge workers who spend long periods on a laptop). I’m now incorporating Marius’ exercises in my TRX routine and if they work for immunizing me against these recurrent back problems I’ll post a video and share how they work.

My friend Beth from Arizona arrived yesterday and is visiting for the next week. She just published this article on lessons from working remotely for Inc.com in which she interviewed me about the prep for Remote Year and how it’s been going. Thanks Beth for the opp. If you need a solid PR firm she runs Wired PR and the Success Lab podcast and clearly has pull with big publications like Inc.

So I had a crazy experience last week coming back from downtown London on the Central Line. We got to the stop just before Shepherd’s Bush and they said they needed to hold the train for a minute. I didn’t think anything of it. There has been a couple times they did this and it was just a matter of getting the schedule back in sync. This time however we proceeded to the Shepherd’s Bush station and they announced calmly that nobody would be allowed off and that we needed to take on evacuees from a fire. Holy crap. They opened the doors and a few people jumped on. Smoke was in the air and when we got up to the surface and regained cell reception I pulled up a search on Google news to see what had actually happened. We were directly under a massive structure fire and they were evacuating people down instead of up. Crazy.

london-junction-sean-tierneyAline invited me to speak to the group this past week and I gave this talk at the Junction event. I think it resonated with many people as more than a few reached out and wanted to talk about it. My whole premise is that we’re operating as a tribe on this work arrangement so how can we become a better tribe? When you look at Remote Year through this tribal lens it’s interesting to think about the importance of tribal rituals like birthdays here as a bonding thing.  On Remote Year everyone will celebrate exactly one birthday. I always try to make it to every person’s b-day festivities thus far and have missed only a few. Birthdays prior to RY didn’t carry the same weight but here they are important- like the only opportunity we have together to celebrate a tribe member. At the risk of over-emphasizing the tribe thing, it really lends a different perspective on this experience when you view RY through that lens and I believe we’d all do well to entertain (if not embrace) that perspective more.

Aside from my work for Pagely I’ve been putting in some time to organize external speakers and workshops that I think will benefit our group as a whole. I’ll talk about them once they’re real but suffice it to say I’m assembling my dream lineup of speakers and workshops for our crew. The idea is “how do we not just sight-see while working abroad for a year? How do we take it up a notch and juice the marrow out of this experience by attracting and gaining access to people who are at the top of their game who would never talk with us otherwise?”

Gear I’m liking lately

pant-shortsFashion-wise these aren’t going to win me any awards but I really dig these pants that become shorts with zippers around the knees. The weather (especially in London) is so fickle and it’s great to be somewhere and be able to have what amounts to a soft-top convertible for your legs.

Other things that I’ve found useful while on the Tubes (which mostly run underground and therefore are places with no connectivity for 20min at a time):

  • Pocket App, free. get it- useful way to clip articles in a browser and have them immediately sync’d and stored on your phone for offline reading.
  • Kindle – love the whispersync technology that sync’s all your devices. Again great for when you’re reading a book at home on your kindle but you’re stuck with nothing to do on the tube
  • Memphis chess– if you play chess at all this is a fun app and it costs a whopping $.99. Someone took the chess notation for all the grandmaster championship games ever recorded and threw them in one app so you can play the ending moves against grandmasters. It’s fascinating – more like solving a puzzle than playing chess but a fun mental exercise. The “mate in 4 moves” ones are really challenging.

I’ll do one more post before we leave with all the various photos I’ve taken around London.  My photos are 3rd-rate relative to some of the brilliant photographers we have in our group. If you want to see some truly stunning photos, follow these people on Instagram Jason, Ben, Chris, Molly, Nancy, Cara, Angela, Maggie, Nick, Chase, Nicole and of course the Remote Year account itself. Lastly…

Music I’m feeling lately:

Hat tip to Chris Peloquin on the Spotify embed widget idea. Spotify didn’t have this song so I’m posting a youtube vid for it instead:

Aug 17

“What would it take for us to become the most effective tribe on the planet?” That was the question I posed to our group at the Junction event last night for Remote Year. Below is the full 30min talk in which I propose the two most high-leverage activities I believe we can perform and the six topics I would love for our group to cover via in-person seminars during the remaining travels abroad.

And here are the slides from the talk:

Thanks Aline for the opportunity to speak and Tyler for livestreaming it on FB. Blown away that had 3000+ views in the first night.

Jul 29

We’ve been living in Belgrade, Serbia for the past month. Tomorrow we leave for London so I took the morning off and threw this video walking tour to share a look at our living and working accommodations here:

Here is the previous writing I mentioned about the concept of parallax as it relates to travel. This is the wikipedia page that has info on the bombed out Radio TV Serbia building right near where I live. Lastly, here is a map of the 96 locations that serve ice cream in the city. We walked by nine of them in this video. Solid ice cream game – well played Belgrade.

Will miss you Belgrade. It’s been a good past month and I’m sorry myself and many others pre-judged you before getting here. We couldn’t have been more wrong about you.

UPDATE 8/18/16: Eddie nails it again with an incredible vlog episode showcasing highlights of our time in Belgrade. Subscribe to Eddie’s YouTube channel here.

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