A Billionaire’s Advice

I and Saad met a young CEO in his 30s who is a billionaire. The meeting happened in New York City in October of 2013. He encouraged us to move to US and pursue a career there. He said if he hadn’t moved to US, which he had done only a few years before that, he would have been a teller at a bank in his home country.

I obviously didn’t take that advice as I have continued to live in Pakistan for over 7 years since that meeting. For a brief period, I had thought about taking his advice but I was only slightly motivated. And after I was turned down by an accelerator in US, I also lost the little motivation that I had.

As some of you may know, I’m a proponent of digital nomadism. There’s a freedom associated with the ability to be location independent. Moreover, $100K in US last a really short time compared to $100K in a developing country. As for the quality of life, sure quality of life is not great in Pakistan, but in theory you could have great quality of life at a small cost in many countries if you wanted.

Digital nomadism also instilled remote work habits in me. While many of my friends are going bananas now that they have to work from home, it has come naturally to me. In fact, every effort that I’ve made previously to move to an office has failed so far.

In summary, digital nomadism is great but it’s a freedom movement. It’s a hack to live well, spend less, be free and happy. However, in no way it’s the right strategy to be really wealthy. The right strategy to be really wealthy is the one outlined by the CEO we met; relocating to the land of opportunity.

I want to continue to believe that remote work is the future of work. Unfortunately the keyword here is “future”. The present of work is still in the bay area. People like Paul Graham believe US needs to have better immigration policies as 95% of the best programmers live outside of US.

But he doesn’t see hiring the same workforce remotely as a viable solution.

The world has made a lot of progress to equalize the opportunities at a global scale but we’re just getting started and there’s a long way to go. Until then, bay area is your best bet.

Should You Always Have a Co-Founder?

If you’ve read a few posts on this blog before, you’ve probably already heard of my co-founder multiple times. I have worked with him for about a decade now and while sometimes it has been a challenging and bumpy ride, it has been rewarding in the end.

I’ve mentioned him quite a few times here because my stories would be incomplete without mentioning him. Because he had a role to play in every one of those stories and in building each one of those businesses with me.

Startups are hard and exhausting. Sometimes you’re gonna hate yourself for even wanting to try to run one and you’re always going to need someone who can take control while you’re going through the burn-out phase.

Each individual founder also brings unique skills and vision to the company which can be great.

YC funds less than 10% companies with solo-founders. They encourage you to have co-founders and even often offer matchmaking. I believe in the power of co-founders.

That said, there are many successful companies built by solo founders. One of the largest companies in the world, Amazon, was founded by solo founder Jeff Bezos. It’s also how he became the richest man in the world by having higher equity in the business. So going solo can make you really wealthy if you’re smart like Jeff.

But to be Jeff, or any other solo founder like him, you need to have super powers, which if you believe you don’t have, I encourage you to find a co-founder.

Just make sure your co-founder has these three attributes

Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.

Warren Buffett

What I Learnt From Accelerator’s Rejection

In 2013, I and Saad were invited to the bay area by a large seed accelerator. The business was doing great. We were posting not only insane revenues, but equally great profits. We were also posting decent growth month over month. In a way, we didn’t need the seed funding. But we did need the acceleration. And our goal was to get the right mentorship to grow our business beyond what we were doing already.

But we were rejected. They said no and we didn’t understand why. This is the email they sent us

I’m sorry to say we decided not to fund you guys. We were very impressed by your numbers so far. But what deterred us was that this is basically an arbitrage business. You don’t have users in the sense that e.g. Dropbox has, and thus no lock-in with them. Which means you make money for a while, perhaps a lot of money for a long while, but then conditions change and your revenues dry up.

Over the next few years, it started to make more sense to me. As the business did go down, the revenues actually did dry up, and I tried to see the things that they had said.

They were right and I was wrong and unless I acknowledge that, I can not be right in the future. I learnt a great deal from this experience. I understood the importance of having a lock-in with users as opposed to simply having users. With this knowledge, I can finally build businesses that will last longer.