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.

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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

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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