Montreal

I wrote my last post six weeks after our team started JFDI – a 100 days accelerator program in Singapore. At that point, we’d had the initial concept we came in with – a peer to peer delivery service – thoroughly challenged by investors. Although we’d learned tremendously by pursuing that idea over the past months, there were obvious flaws in our model and it didn’t seem as though it’d be possible to build a company on such shaky foundations.

For a single transaction to work out, we had to find a requester someone who was not only heading their way, but who was also willing to purchase the item, pack it in their bags and meet with a total stranger for the delivery. And all of this had to happen before the requester found another way to get a hold of their item.

Many stars had to allign for things to work, and once they did, problems around the frequency of usage, average transaction amount and legislations made scaling such a service extremly complicated. And even if we overcame such a challenge, some investors worried that as shipping got better in Southeast Asia, our business would cease to be relevant, that it was destined to extinction.

One investor bluntly described our model as “rotten to the core”.

At that point, our choices were either to keep on pushing in what was seemingly a dead end, or rethink everything about our service. We chose the latter.

We’d started Envoyrs with the goal of helping people who live abroad get things they can’t find where they are. Since our users were mainly travelers and expats, we rapidly had a userbase that was scatered around the globe. This made it even harder for us to “get all the stars to align”.

One solution, we figured, would be to focus on a single geography. If our goal was to get our users their things, we could at least accomplish that in a single geography. And in order to make the service more reliable, we could act as a concierge instead of a marketplace. Our users would then be communicating with us, not amongst themselves. This way, we could exercise a better control on the quality of the service.

All of this happened around the time Magic was making waves in the press for offering an SMS concierge service that would basically do anything for you. We decided to use their low-UI approach a build a simple chat app where people in Singapore could request items in real time.

We built a prototype over the weekend and demoed it within the JFDI community. Things went well: in one week, we did more deliveries than we had with Envoyrs in three months!

Our first delivery: roses and chocolate for Mother's day!

Our first delivery: roses and chocolate for Mother’s day!

We then polished the prototype, hired some interns and got ready to launch GetAnything.asia to the world. The next Tuesday, we launched it and began working on the incomming requests.

But instead of receiving requests from overworked professionals willing to pay a premium to simply get things done, like Magic, our requests grew more and more diverse. Most users were in fact very price sensitive, and, due to the somewhat anonymous feel of the website, troll requests began pouring in. And it didn’t help that Singapore’s national sport is basically shopping. With malls on every street corner, consumers are already aware of where to get the best deals.

After a few days, we realized we’d need to find a way to ensure some baseline of quality for incoming requests. Our biggest problems had been that people either were too price sensitive or asked for complicated things, but did not follow through once we’d done the grunt work of finding either the perfect hotel, gift or air-conditionner for their homes.

The obvious way to solve this would be to set a monthly fee for the service. Or, in some other way, have users pay some fee upfront to both detract trolls and have actual users commited to using the service already.

And that got us thinking.

Here we were, now 9 or so weeks in to the program, changing gears again. The prospect of building a concierge service for wealthy expats in Singapore didn’t excite us as much as our initial, albeit naive, vision of “changing delivery” and “getting the things you need, no matter where you are”.

And the process felt unnatural. It didn’t feel as though we were iterating in order to reach a final destination as much as looking for the nearest low-hanging fruit we could harvest.

Clearly, we needed to take an even bigger step back.

After spending a full week stressing out about not being sure what we wanted to do, whether we should keep our interns (or let them go less than two weeks in), what we would present at demo day (which was only a few weeks away), we asked Meng, JFDI’s cofounder, for a chat.

We did most of the talking and he patiently listened. JFDI’s accelerated over 60 startups now, so we weren’t his first meltdown (they actually used to have a full time counsellor as part of the staff). After a while, he suggested we take some time away, go to the beach and read a few books.

We did just that.

My birthday was coming up, Monday was a national holiday, and we needed a break. Minutes after Meng left, we booked tickets to Bali for the next morning.

Off to Bali... again!

Off to Bali… again!

Catherine and I decided we would use Bali as a real step back, and not try and solve all of our problems there, but enjoy the time off, take the time to go through the books and – most importantly – take a step back from everything in order to have the psychological space to think clearly.

And, for the most part, it worked. We didn’t manage to completely shake off the “what the fuck is happening” feeling, but still, we enjoyed the beach, the food and the drinks Bali had to offer.

Going back to where we’d started this crazy adventure also made us realize how far we’d came in only a few months. How, even if Envoyrs didn’t turn out to be a billion dollar idea, it had given us the opportunity to meet some of the smartest people we knew and had been a hands-on crash course in startups for sure.

But soon, the weekend was over and we were boarding a plane back to Singapore. Somewhat rested, but still without a plan.

Bali stress relief kit pt. I

Bali stress relief kit pt. I

Bali stress relief kit pt. II

Bali stress relief kit pt. II

Demo Day was still only a few weeks away and we still didn’t have a business.
I still had this knot in my stomach, feeling stuck in a corner with the two options being either complete failure or building something only for the sake of presenting at demo day.

The next morning, a founder from another startup in our batch asked us how Bali had gone, and what our plan was. I can’t recall how the conversation went, but when he left, I went to see Catherine with an idea: what if we deffered our pitch until the next batch, in December?

That would give us six months (instead of six weeks) to think about what we wanted to do, build something and get some initial traction.

As obvious as it sounds in retrospect, that idea had not crossed our minds until then. And just thinking about it felt like 1000 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders.

Clearly, we weren’t ready to pitch investors, and we doubted that spending our days listening to mentor talks on fundraising or practicing delivering our pitch for a business that didn’t exist would help.

We needed to take some time to think things through, and this was not the context to do so. But on the other hand, we had all of JFDI’s infrastructure in place to help us grow whatever we wanted to do.

“Dropping out” of the accelerator felt like both the most scarilegeous and natural thing to do at the same time.

We asked Meng and others at JFDI if such a thing would be possible, if we could leave and then possibly come back and pitch at the next demo day and he told us we could. Not everyone agreed this was the right thing to do, but then again, no one had a picture of our situation as complete as we did. In the end, it felt like the right thing to do.

The process so far had felt as though we were trying to hold on to anything simply for the sake of “having a startup”. And that wasn’t our goal anymore. We needed more than a weekend off to clear our heads and set the foundations to build something significant, sustainable and aligned with our long term vision.

So, less than one week after returning from Bali, Catherine and I both had, once again, a one way ticket to the other side of the world. But this time, in the other direction: To Montreal.

Hello Canada!

Hello Canada!

Goodbye Singapore

Goodbye Singapore

PS: We took a one second video (almost!) everyday from Thailand, to Singapore, Bali, Borneo and all the way back home.

Here it is, enjoy!

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Home | Away | JFDI

I never finished my second post about going back to Montreal, but so much has happened since that it feels weird to spend more time on it.

Long story short, I flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Singapore to Tokyo to Detroit to Montreal to be home for my mom’s 50th birthday.

The biggest takeaway from the trip was how, the same way you can buy a plane ticket and a day or two later be at the other end of the world, you can do the same thing to go back home.

For some reason, after spending a few months abroad, “home” felt as unrealistic of a destination as “Asia” would be to someone who’s never been abroad. But, about 48 hours and 5 flights later (yes, that was the cheapest ticket), I was back.

Then, four days later, after briefly seeing my friends and family, and an stuffing myself with home cooked meals (!!), I was gone again. To Detroit, Tokyo, and finally Singapore. 28 hours later, I was back at the other end of the world.

I got to go snowboarding (and see snow!) for the first time in about two years.

I got to go snowboarding (and see snow!) for the first time in about two years.

And the first week in Singapore was shit.

We stayed in a hostel and were behind on work but couldn’t get anything significant done during the day since we barely slept at night (oh yeah, dorms!). And since we were booking on a night-by-night basis, we kept having to change rooms. Catherine ended up having all of her belongings set up in the hostel’s storage room, to minimize the amount of things she’d need to drag around.

I started looking for apartments so we could get out of there ASAP. Luckily, after only a few days, I managed to book 5 or 6 visits.

Most of them were in crowded high rise buildings. They were pretty bad. But I found one that was different from the rest. It was an old Chinese Mansion that had been split up into flats and was being rented “by the unit” on Airbnb.

The agent, Joyce, was friendly and willing to accommodate our needs regarding the duration of the stay (which was largely undefined), as well as make some upgrades here and there (such as removing all the mold in one of the bathrooms). They’d need some time to do it, but a week later, we’d be moving in.

So there was another week of crowded dorms, shitty sleep, and coffee shop hunting to work, but eventually, we moved in.

And one week after that, JFDI would be starting.

The Chinese Mansion

The Chinese Mansion

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Working out of JFDI

On the first day of JFDI we met the other teams in our batch. The breadth of both ideas and nationalities was impressive: there was a Thai team doing a startup recruitment mobile app, an Indian team offering online test-drives and car sales, an American/Vietnamese team that delivers diapers in Vietnam so mothers don’t have to carry them on their motorbike and a team lead by a white Canadian guy that aims to be the #1 Muslim fashion ecommerce destination, just to name a few.

On the second day, most teams having barely unpacked their luggage, we had to pitch some of the investors who will be attending demo day at the end of the program. When we were done with our pitch, we were gifted one of JFDI’s signature Smoochies – a stuffed plush frog that’s become their mascot.

Afterwards, we got to talk with the investors and get their feedback on our idea. The insights they had about our ideas and markets were much deeper than what most other people we’d met so far.

It was a great trial by fire to have the flaws in our idea exposed by experienced investors on day 1 of the program – we now had 99 days left to build on their feedback!

Smoochy cheering for us!

Smoochy cheering for us!

And so it started. For the first two weeks, we worked on our idea and the upcoming launch of the platform, while having lectures nearly everyday on various aspects of startups.

Sometimes, founders came and talked to us about their experience building their product, their team or fundraising. Other times, Meng (JFDI’s cofounder) talked us through the theory behind technological innovation, growth, user acquisition, scalability and so on.

Then, we get a week “off” to digest this information and put it to work in our startups.

Along with that, we get help from Peter, our pitch coach, who listens to us try and articulate our idea in a 3-6 minute pitch every week.

At this point, our Chinese Mansion had been adopted as the unofficial “Startup House” by our batch’s companies. We went from 2 startups living there, to about 8.

The Chinese Mansion is getting more and more crowded.

The Chinese Mansion is getting more and more crowded.

And here we are now: week six is beginning today. We’ve changed our idea, our team, never released the Envoyrs platform and are launching a new product this week.

I used to think of the term “accelerator” as an environment where you would execute things faster. You need to reach XX 000$ in sales? Get there in three months, not twelve.

But for us, the main challenge so far was whether our original idea was scalable and sustainable or not (it wasn’t). So it wasn’t the execution as much as the strategic planning that got accelerated, which doesn’t happen exactly the same way.

If you accelerate execution, you basically do more tasks, and improve efficiency. The results from this are easy to imagine: you work long hours, get more traction, figure out what you need to improve and begin the cycle again.

Accelerating the strategic part of it means you spend a lot of time pushing your idea’s limits in your head, so you can be aware of all the assumptions you’re making when thinking about your idea. Then, you need to test these assumptions out, and validate them. But the process is not as much about execution then about being honest with yourself about what won’t work.

And that’s surprisingly hard. Especially since early stage companies are by nature risky, it’s easy to tell yourself you’ll ‘de-risk’ some part of your business plan later on, and focus on something else for now. That’s okay sometimes (you can’t de-risk it all at once), but it’s easy to look away from the elephant in the room.

In short, it’s interesting that so far, the process has been more about intellectual honesty than speed of execution. Of course, once you get your bases right, the goal is to build on top of them as efficiently as possible and get moving.

And that’ll probably be the subject of my next post, once we’ve actually gone out there and done it.

For now, I’m happy I took the time to write about our experience so far.

Cheers,

Tim

Montreal Represent!

Montreal Represent!

37 036

I travelled 37 036 KMs last month. I figured that was worth a blog post (actually, more like two!).

One month ago, in Singapore, Catherine and I got the news that we were accepted into JFDI with whom we’d been talking for months. Along with that announcement came one that the program would begin one month later than originally planned. At first, knowing we’d have to go another month before being set somewhere felt like a setback, but then again, we had plenty of work to do. With no one to actually build our platform, a name we knew would get us sued and only a handful of actual transactions, we definitely could use another month of prep.

We got started and met with one of our engineering prospects. It went horribly. The personal and cultural barriers were so strong we could barely exchange a sentence. Not a great start for choosing someone with whom we’d spend 90% of our waking life with for the next months.

Singapore

Singapore

A few days later, we met with another prospect, Francis, who was more like us. Roughly the same age, he was from New York and had been freelancing while traveling. We’d begun talking with him about two month before. Even though he now had two other offers on the table, he agreed to fly over to Singapore and meet with us.

We took our time to tell him everything about Bringers. Why we were doing it, why we thought it could work, and what risks there were on the way there.

Singapore was getting expensive, so Catherine and I had booked tickets to Thailand and were flying out the day after. After debating whether we should head to Bali or Bangkok, we both agreed to go to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. Not only is it the ‘world capital of Digital Nomads’, which are our target users, but we’d both spent some time there last year and it had been really good. So 48 hours after meeting with Francis, I was off for my first 2,010 KMs of flying that month.

———

When Catherine and I left for Bali, we had no clue how long we’d be leaving for. We had about 4-5 month’s worth of money when we left, so a realistic assumption was that we’d be gone until we ran out. It gets much harder to travel with no funds, and virtually impossible to do so and be productive, too. But things changed.

When we got funded it became clear that we would be in Asia for longer than the 4-5 months we’d planned. Along with the excitement and relief we felt from knowing that we’d be able to pursue Bringers full time came the homesickness of not knowing when we’d be back to see our families.

I spent the past two Christmases abroad and have been absent for nearly all family gatherings of the past few years due to work or being away. My mom was (is) probably the most affected by that. She’s extremely supportive of everything I do, but I know she wishes I’d do these things a bit closer to home.

She was turning 50 in a few weeks and I now had some time before JFDI. I looked online and found a cheap ticket to Montreal. I’d be back for only a weekend, but would be there for her 50th.

Flight 1/9 of the month

Flight 1/9 of the month – Photo by Catherine Legros

I’d be flying 35,026 KM. From Singapore to Montreal. And back. For the weekend.

I’d land on Thursday night, spend four days in Montreal. Tuesday 10AM, I’d leave again.

My mom had no idea.

———

With the ticket booked, we now had a little less than a month in Thailand to make our startup “ready for acceleration”.

I have fond memories of Chiang Mai — it’s where Catherine and I had made most of our friends traveling together last year, where we’d said goodbye when she went back to Montreal, where I’d spent 10 days meditating and two weeks volunteering on a farm, where I’d met great people to celebrate the new year, and where you can find sushi for 15 cent a piece. It’s a good place to be.

However much we liked the city, we had trouble finding somewhere to stay. We were there for an awkward duration (25 nights) and everything we visited felt a bit off. Dorms in sketchy hostels, expensive rooms in mediocre guesthouses or even apartments in a resort outside the city that looked (and felt) like they were built for retirees.

But after two days of going around the city looking for a place (and from the pressure of having nowhere to sleep that night), we found a sort of hostel over a restaurant. It had 2 person dorms, which were great for us, was clean, and located less than 1KM from the co-working space we’d booked, Punspace.

Once we found our accommodation, things quickly fell into place.

Punspace exceeded our expectations. Not only was there a cool fingerprint scanner at the entrance for after-hours working, but inside it was spacious, beautifully decorated, had comfortable chairs and a free-flow of coffee and candy available to its members.

Punspace

Punspace

We spent nearly each day there from morning to night. The first week, it was only Catherine and I. One week later, Francis joined us. Spending three hours passionately going over every detail with him in Singapore until my voice almost ran out had been worth it!

Adding Francis to the team went by smoothly. It felt natural having him there working with us, and we managed to get a lot done. In under two weeks, we built a new branding, a good chunk of our application, continued coordinating deliveries, established a more organised workflow among us and officially relaunched under the name Envoyrs.

Our schedule became routine and it was a good one. Catherine and I would wake up, grab some oatmeal at the bakery beside our hostel, head to Punspace and get to work. At around 11 or 12, Francis would show up. We usually had lunch in a small kitchen next door that was run by a man (which we affectionately referred

to as “Grandpa”) and his wife. For 1-2$, we could have the closest thing to a home cooked meal we’d eaten in months. With a Thai twist, of course.

Lunch by "Grandpa" at his restaurant

Lunch by “Grandpa” at his restaurant – Photo by Catherine Legros

We spent our afternoons back at Punspace, fuelled by coffee, cookies and candy. Around 5, Francis would leave to get some rest before clocking some nightly hours. Catherine would usually stay until about 8.

And that was it, every day. The routine felt good, and we had just enough activities to break it when needed: hiking up to a temple, grabbing a beer at a rooftop bar, or “rock” climbing at an indoor center nearby. My childhood friend, Simon, even came to visit us one weekend.

These weeks went by quickly. Honestly, aside from the constant smog and poor air quality (which we’ll now consider when choosing where to go!), Chiang Mai was our best month since we left Montreal. It was extremely productive, but also incredibly fun.

And now, I was headed back home, to Montreal. I’d be flying around the world (literally) to be there for a weekend.

On Wednesday March 18th, at 12PM I took my last tuktuk to go to the airport.

I was going back home, to Montreal, after months abroad and not having experienced winter for the past two years!

Last tuktuk ride in Thailand

Last tuktuk ride in Thailand

I was about to fly over 18 000kms, only to surprise my Mom for her 50th birthday.

I had 44 hours of transit ahead of me, and she had no idea I was coming.

[to be continued]

2015A

A lot has happened since the new year. Let me resume where I left off.

After a quick holiday break in Lombok, Catherine and I came back to Bali in quite a state of panic. The place we were staying at had been rented out, we were unsure about what to do with Bringers and had both signed up for online bootcamps that had cost a few thousand dollars without being convinced that they would actually help us or that we’d have the time to work on them.

This was our view on Christmas Morning

This was our view on Christmas Morning (Photo by Catherine Legros)

We’d applied to one of the best startup accelerators in Asia, JFDI, and after they agreed to give us an interview, we spent half our time telling them about a plan B idea we had had only a few days before.

Needless to say things weren’t too great the first week or so.

Slowly, we got settled again into a new place. We met with Benoit who boosted our morale, got back in shape and received some milestones JFDI said we should reach. Somehow, after a few weeks of cluelessness, things were getting back on track.

Everyday, 7AM, we woke up, checked how many new users had signed up overnight, headed to a cafe to work on our bootcamps until noon, and then began hustling some more with Bringers. After crossfit, we’d come back and skype with potential CTOs or investors, sometimes bringing a chair into our bathroom and skyping from there since it was the only place with some light past 8PM.

We had two weeks of simply going full-steam and getting shit done.

Then, for some reason, we hit a wall. Sign ups were getting harder to get, we were running out of money without much news from investors and wifi started dropping almost daily at every cafe we worked from (at that point, one had nearly kicked us out from us spending our days there and would purposely shut down the wifi if we didn’t buy enough stuff).

It felt like an uphill battle everyday, against the odds, yes, but also against that little voice inside of you that asks whether any of this is worth it? Why wouldn’t we just quit? Go back home, see our families, not worry about rent for a while, not have to find a goddamn cafe where we could work out of for more than 2 hours before having to move somewhere else.

Needless to say things weren’t too great the third week or so either.

But somehow, the fact that we simply did not do anything except work (and watch a bunch of 1$ pirated DVDs they sell out of stores here) yielded results.Step by step, facebook post in an expat group by facebook post, the sign ups added up. We got into a pace where we’d keep going, and things would start to go with us – not without a fight though.

The last weeks in Bali felt like the island was literally pushing us out: wifi wasn’t working anywhere, my favorite fried chicken restaurant shut down, and our rent was over again.

Last sunset in Bali

Last sunset in Bali

We got the message, it was time to move on.

At this point, we knew there was something big we could do with Bringers. We’d gone from less than 100 sign ups to over 1000 in a matter of weeks. More than the numbers, the biggest source of motivation (and confirmation) were the comments people would leave. Having our inboxes filled with people saying this was a great idea, something they’d been waiting for to exist gave us a sense that what we were doing was not a complete waste of time, but actually something could possibly work out and have a huge impact.

So we came up with a plan.  And a plan B… and C. D too, but it was really bad so we dropped it.

Plan A would be to go to Singapore and simply wait for JFDI’s answer (and possibly refute that answer if it turned out to be a “no”).

In their essence, all plans were the same though: “Just Don’t Die.”
Don’t let yourself fail, simple as that. Don’t die.

Deus Ex Machina, Canggu (Photo by Catherine Legros)

So, again, we packed everything up (crazy how you accumulate things in only a few months!) and headed off into the unknown again.Before we left, we spent a few days in Canggu, where our trip had first started. We enjoyed the seaside sunsets, Deus Ex Machina’s skate ramp & hot sauce and a bowl of Bakso one last time. We said goodbye to friends and left behind somewhere we know we’ll always call home.

After one of the most comfortable short flights I’d ever been on (KLM), we got to Singapore late at night, and settled into our 16-bed dorm… quite a change from the Villas.

Needless to say we didn’t sleep too well that night.

9AM the next morning we were up and trying as best as possible to get back into our routine. And that’s when we got the email.

Sitting in beanbags on the rooftop terrace of our hostel, we got an update on our application for JFDI.

JFDI with whom we’d been talking since December about getting in their next batch, nearly two months and a half ago. More than the money, what we wanted out of the program was the mentorship to channel our efforts to grow bringers efficiently.

It’s not that we wouldn’t do it otherwise, but it just felt as though we’d hit twice as many dead ends and make twice as many mistakes. And with Catherine and I having no prior startup experience, having some validation from people who could mentor us would help us (and our parents!) realise we weren’t completely crazy for attempting this.

Back in Singapore (photo by Catherine Legros)

Back in Singapore

Needless to say we were quite anxious about receiving that response.

And, after 12 hours in Singapore, 5 weeks since our interview, 2.5 months since pitching them Bringers for the first time, over 4 months in Asia,

we were in.

——————————————————————————

It’s only been slightly over a week since we got the response, but it’s unbelievable how much of an impact having some exterior validation on our work has had. Knowing we’ll be able to learn tremendously from these people who are investing their time (and money!) into what we’re doing has been the biggest payoff so far. But in the end, the deepest motivation comes from the fact that possibly this could work.

It feels like we’ve made one more step towards building something that could have an impact on the world.

Like it wasn’t such a long-shot afterall, and that no matter the short term outcome, I’m building a life that’s completely beyond anything I would have imagined a year ago.

And it’s exhilarating that less than six months ago, we set out to the other end of the world with nothing but the desire to do something great and that now, it’s beginning to shape up. To know we’ve worked out of and made friends in Bali, Singapore and Thailand. To have met entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, marketers from around the world who, like us, are trying to not only build a life around their passions, but embrace change and uncertainty and will take a small chance of making a big impact over comfort and security any day of the week.

Needless to say, I’m truly grateful for all of this.

Cheers,

Tim

Chinese New Year in Singapore

Chinese New Year in Singapore

2014

The past twelve months have been the most intense of my life. 2014 began on a rooftop in Chiang Mai, drunkenly lighting Chinese lanterns with friends I’d met that very evening. People who, even if I’d only known them for a few hours, already inspired me. They still do, now a year later.

That evening is a surprisingly accurate metaphor for what my year has been like. I’ve spent half of 2014 in Southeast Asia. The first time over, to experience things completely foreign to me. I lived on farms, spent ten days in silence, taught English in Laos and whatever I knew about entrepreneurship in Vietnam. I learned to ride a motorcycle and drove it down the country, worked on an island with fluorescent plankton in Cambodia, witnessed Songkran in Bangkok and flew back through New York to meet my family (and discover I’d gotten bedbugs in the only expensive hotel I’d booked in six months).

First day of driving down Vietnam.

First day of driving down Vietnam.

Doi Suthep on Buddha Day, or our night out during the meditation retreat.

Doi Suthep on Buddha Day, or our night out during the meditation retreat.

I then spent six months back in Montreal. No more than two weeks after arriving, I was back to working 60+ hour weeks. I got my first apartment there, turned twenty as a squirrel was living in our house, ate tofu sautes nearly every night, went to my cottage whenever I got a chance, all while managing a team of ~15 people, wondering what I’d gotten myself in.

Squirrel and I on the night of my birthday.

Squirrel and I on the night of my birthday.

I signed up for business school, and canceled a few weeks before the start to switch to an online computer science program (which I’d also cancel, a few weeks after getting to Indonesia). I switched apartments, found some bridge under which I could park my car and not get towed, Catherine and I decided we’d leave again to “start a startup”.

Move to Indonesia where many people ran their business remotely. Stop by in New York before to understand startups a bit better, then leave.

A month or two later, we were leaving Montreal. Early in the morning, we caught a train and that was it. We were gone.

Those six months I spent in Montreal feel like they went by in a blink. Some days felt excruciatingly long and at times I wondered if this summer would ever come to an end. Yet somehow, in retrospect it all seems to have lasted no more than a couple weeks.

We spent ten days in New York visiting startups. Seeing these companies from the inside, meeting the people who created and ran them helped us understand the effort and passion necessary to build something great from the ground up.

Kickstarter has a movie room and it's huge.

Kickstarter has a movie room and it’s huge.

It also made us question every decision we’d taken so “far”.

After cancelling our tickets to Indonesia and rebooking the exact same flight about 18 hours later, we were off. Back to Asia.

It’s a bit harder to analyse what’s happened in Indonesia since we’re still in the middle of it.

From figuring out where we’d stay, doing it again (and again, and again), getting serious about learning to code, starting off with Bringers, meeting people who’ve raised our standard of what we should be up to dramatically and realizing that we’re either going to be here for longer than we thought, or back home broke sooner than expected … it’s been intense.

When I stop to think about it, the amount of things we’ve learned since leaving Montreal three months ago blows my mind. But I’m equally impressed by the challenges ahead.

Working from Indonesia has it's perks !

Working from Indonesia has it’s perks !

The small victories do add up, though. We’re starting to see the incremental progress over that leap we’ve taken, and that’s good.

Looking back, 2014 was a year of discovery, non-linear learning and scattered challenges. I tried to push forward in whatever direction I could and widened my understanding of the world as a result.

I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in 2014 and how they’ve shaped me as a person. My goal for 2015 is to make all of these learnings converge into something larger than myself. To put all of these seemingly random things together into a project that impacts people’s lives.

My motto for 2014 was “learn a little about a lot”, this year, I’m changing it to “make it happen”.

Cheers,

Tim

Last hike of 2014 : Mt Rinjani on Christmas Morning

Last hike of 2014 : Mt Rinjani on Christmas Morning

UBUD | The good, the weird & the unexpected (pt. II)

Friday, only a few hours before the begining of Startup Weekend, Catherine and I are having lunch. At our
table is also sitting Shambala, who was at our presentation.

She asks us if we’re pitching the idea, and we tell her we think so.
We ask her if she’s pitching and she says she’s not sure.
She has an idea but does notknow wether she wants to pitch it or not.
We ask her what it is.
She explains : a service where if you’re living abroad, you can get someone who’se flying in to where you are to deliver you something.

Catherine and I are thrilled by the idea.

We start discussing it, how it actually could work and is fairly simple to implement (compared to ours) and
that we’d love to work on it with her over the weekend if she wanted us on board.

She did.

54 hectic hours go by, where our team, now composed of five people, work tirelessly on the idea. Many
disagreements arise, many opinions clash but, compromises are made and we actually pull it together and win third place
with what is now called BRINGERS.co. Victory!

And now, Catherine and I have made it our full time job.

It’s a fascinating idea :it’s doable, it’s scalable but most importantly,
it truly has the potential to revolutionize some tiny aspect of people’s lives.

Not only do you get people that one thing that was previously impossible to obtain, but you also create a unique experience for them.
A more personal and exciting experience.

At the very least, better than spending hours on the phone because your package has been seized in Jakarta.

The last 10 days have been intense.

From fully conceptualizing the idea, to figuring out who would
keep on working on it, and most importantly, how we can make it happen, it’s been a ride.

Catherine and I have been working pretty much all day everyday since Startup Weekend, sometimes discussing what we think we can build out of
of BRINGERS.co until 2AM.

The endeavour is challenging, but not impossible.

Right on that line where you know it’s possible to make it happen, but you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got.
And this is what’s driving me right now.

It’s tremendously exciting to have such a project to work on, users telling us they’re eager to sign up
and people helping us along the way (Shout out to all the Hubud and SUW people! Thanks guys!).

It’s not about what to do anymore, but how to do it. How to do it well enough so it’s a
great product, quick enough so we can start to gain some market share and economically enough so we don’t
go broke in the process.

Did I mention it was exciting ?


It’s a strange thing, the way opportunities always seem to arise when you reach your furthest “what the hell
am I doing?” moments.

How the moment you’re about not to give your presentation but for some reason decide to go for it, the outcome
surpasses any expectation you had. How you go from spending hours coding away in front of your computer
to put up some Twitter-like app no one will use, to thinking about how you’ll build something according
to the feedback your users are giving you. How you go from thinking about giving up and being home in time
for Christmas, to having a project for which you’d be willing to relocate anywhere in the world for a few years.

It’s hard to describe what this is. Luck? Coincidence? Good Karma? But it feels as if, so far, it’s half about
trusting the process (Catherine’s expression) and half about putting yourself in a position to be engaged
in that process.

To stay comfortable in the uncomfortable long enough that something interesting happens.

Cheers,

Tim

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Ubud | The good, the weird & the unexpected (pt. I)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a draft for a blog post in less than an hour.

I wasn’t quite happy with it so I figured I’d take some time to make it better and never got around to finishing
it.

It was about our time in Ubud so far and how I felt about it. Tonight is our last night here so it’s pretty
much a “now or never” moment to capture my impressions of the past month.

We came to Ubud because of a coworking space, Hubud, we had learned about online. It looked awesome: digital
nomads working away, plenty of meetups and talks, all in a building 90% made out of bamboo.
What better place to launch a startup?

We found a villa, I joined Hubud and we begun working away. Not really sure towards what.

Catherine and I both knew we needed to learn practical skills, that being the biggest takeaway from our time in NY and our failed
applications to startup accelerators. So I began online Ruby on Rails tutorials, Catherine started looking for
ways to learn how to design.

The thing with Ubud though is that once it’s 5 o’clock, there really isn’t much to do, except going out
for supper. Past 9, you’re pretty much walking down empty roads. So we fell into this somewhat weird routine
where we’d work, go out and eat, come back to the villa, sometimes watch a movie (thanks to the
1400+ movies available to download at Hubud!) and go to sleep.
Really, these weren’t the most exciting times. But, we did manage to get things done and, in about two or
three weeks, I launched a web app and (almost) set up a full website for my Dad’s company.

All along though, there was this sense of “what exactly are we doing all this for?”. Maybe we could do as much
from home. Why was it necessary to be here to learn all of this ? And again, doubt creeps in.

Do we really want to stay in Indonesia ?

Is this really going somewhere ?

Maybe we should go home for Christmas, how expensive would that be ?

And then, the unexpected happened.


We had this idea on which we wanted to get feedback. An app that would organize all of your information
across your devices by topics. No more going through you screenshots, twitter favs, gmail folders, etc.

All your stuff, nicely organized in one place.

We set up a presentation at Hubud to get people’s feedback on the idea. But, ten minutes before we were
supposed to start, the room is was still empty.

Vitto, the event manager at Hubud, went out to tell everyone at Hubud that day about it.
Five minutes before the start, he’d managed to convince 6 or 7 people to come and listen to our presentation.

To be honest, I almost told everyone not to bother and that we could simply cancel.
For some reason, I didn’t and we went on anyways.

To our surprise, people responded enthusiastically. They told us they’d love to use an app like this and gave us great input on how they’d like it to work.
It was amazing.

Startup Weekend was only a few days away and we went from unsure whether to work on this idea to being confident
it was pitch-worthy and that we would find others to help work on it.


It’s a strange thing, the way opportunities always seem to arise when you reach your furthest “what the hell
am I doing?” moments. Possibly because that’s when you are most attentive to them, but for some reason, I feel
most turns in my life have come right after a slightly longer than expected down-time. Almost as if it’s
life testing you, unsure of whether you’ll go that extra mile or not.

[to be continued]

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