The Nomadic Startup Experiment
The alarm went off at 6 am, as usual, I was fighting my inner demons to get out of bed, something I have been doing every day. I finally got myself to jump out of my bed, rushed to the subway, took the 6 line to work, stopped by Ground Central to get my latte and contemplated getting the bagel but resisted. As I was walking to work, it dawned on me that this has been my typical day in New York City for the last 8 years, a place I called home for most of my 20s. I love everything about this city, its magic, its eclectic diverse crowd and how it makes you feel full of energy. However this was no regular day, it was my 29th birthday. As with everyone who goes through some sort of existential crisis before they turn 30, I did too.
I drifted into the world of introspection and I started asking myself what was my purpose? What makes me who I am? Is it the apartment I live in? Is it the furniture or the things I bought? Or is the city that defines me? I questioned why I had set my roots in this one city or that one neighborhood? None of it made any sense to me. We really do live in a world where we don’t need to own a car (thanks to uber, lyft, juno, via, gett and billion others apps if you are in NYC), we don’t need to work from a single location, we have access to everything anywhere in the world, but was that enough? I found it really absurd that I had to spend 3000 dollars for my apartment and stay put in one place. I would rather spend my time and money on experiences that I found inspiring.
I had recently read ‘The World is Flat’ by Thomas Friedman and remembered the quote, “It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.”. This resonated with me and I knew I had to change something.
I started to challenge myself to think about how it would be to live without excess of worldly possessions, can I stretch to not renting an apartment and be even tied to a lease. By now, I had reached work and was staring at my screen. Suddenly it was crystal clear to me what I needed to do to feel alive and experience adventure. I decided to experiment living one year as an “urban tech nomad”.
Got rid of everything I owned and packed everything I need in literally a single suitcase. When I had first set about to do this, I thought this was not possible, trust me it is, you don’t need/use most things you own! All I needed was my dear laptop, my backpack and tech essentials. Rest of the things, you can buy/rent/use-throw/recycle. Coffeeshops, coworking spaces and restaurants were my primary daytime homes (there are 20k+ in NYC you need more than a lifetime to visit them all!). I’m also grateful to my work that has offices almost everywhere in the world and is quite flexible.
Lived off last minute airbnbs/criagslist deals. Lived in more than 10 apartments experiencing different neighborhoods of Manhattan. From walk-ups to fancy AF condos to even an apartment that was sloped (rolling suitcase and sliding furniture are no fun!). Bartender-hipster-snooty finance nerds to supermodel roommates have lived with them all. Did immersive unique theaters, unheard of non-mainstream NYC things. Flew over Manhattan in helicopter. Ate at finest most expensive restaurants to cheap but ridiculous delicious streetfood. Experienced things I would have never thought possible.
This new found baggage-free life also opened up the world for me. I traveled a whole lot of Europe. Walked the narrow streets of Venice. Spent hours in gelaterias of Milan. Saw sheep grazing meadows lazily in Switzerland. Spent Christmas in Vienna. Took last minute train to Prague. Stayed in a strangely designed apartment in Berlin. Welcomed New Year in Amsterdam, which was a bit of a blur! Biked around in Copenhagen. Moved to Singapore for 6 months. It was a breath of fresh air, my first time working in Asia and which also happens to be a tropic travel wonderland. Got all spa and yoga-ed out in Bali. Was awestruck at ancient temples in Cambodia. Went a bit crazy in Tokyo. Rushed into a bullet train to Kyoto, to discover complete zen and inner peace on whole new level. That was about 15 countries in one year.
The itch to create something
Through this journey, I realized one fundamental truth about human beings, the world and life itself, as said by Steve Jobs himself. If you just take a moment and observe everything around you, you will realize that this thing we call life is made up of things created by people just like you and me. We are often told that life has to be a certain way, that we have to have a family life, have fun, not bend the laws too often etc. But the truth is that life can be much broader, much more exciting and way more fulfilling. We can influence and change everything around us and we have unique opportunity to build and create new things to make people’s lives better. Once you realize this, there is no going back.
I got this insatiable itch to create something which would be an interplay of my tech background and passion for video making/storytelling to capture unique moments around us. A friend and I had always been bouncing ideas around this for years and finally decided to go after an idea we both felt passionate about. Since we both loved eating out (I never had/used a kitchen in NYC!) and exploring different cuisines, we created a platform called “Fo” which allowed users can create, share and discover bite-sized restaurant food videos. Which we then pivoted to a domain of our expertise to share similar short format videos on latest in tech and startups called “The Gaze”. This organically grew to 18K users and 200K views in a very short span of time. However, we realized content creation especially videos on a consistent basis is hard and unsustainable.
We were still passionate about our storytelling platform idea but felt that there has to be a new and a better format for visual storytelling for users of this snapchat generation. This led to the creation of Kable, a platform for visually stunning stories in the tap-swipe format. Kable got accepted into YCombinator’s Founder Track of Startup School giving us a great set of mentors. We are excited to launch in beta soon and what the rest of the year holds for Kable.
This one year of nomadic startup experiment has now stretched to become my way of life, as I now embark on a new journey with the same suitcase to Sydney soon!
If there was one video that I now try to live by, it would be my hero Casey Neistat’s, “Do what you can’t”!
Until next time, cheers to being a #GlobalCitizen #Nomad
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