Sometimes an entire year can fly by without warning and it can seem like nothing major happened even though there were many great adventures, learnings and successes. My friend @tronathan challenged me to tell the story of 2012 with the deep details and outcomes included…
The year started with writing the book It’s a Shareable Life – a book that came from being at the intersection of the new sharing economy and technology at a time when there were only inklings of what was to come next. Through my experiences with coworking, Couchsurfing, Airbnb, GetAround and many others, I could see where things were headed and my intent was to help the movement grow – faster and to areas of the U.S. an beyond that might not have direct access to the boom that is the Silicon Valley.
There were a few major things I wanted to accomplish last year – one was to put a footprint into the future of work and the other to create a build community around the concept of sharing time, space, transportation and resources. Both of these things required being on the talking to thought leaders, founders and attending leading edge conferences. And both required a great deal of communication, planning, sales and branding.
The conferences I attended/was a part of in 2012:
- World Economic Forum 2012 in Davos
- DLD 2012 in Munich and Moscow
- GigaOM Roadmap in San Francisco
- World Domination Summit in Portland
- Startup Weekend in SF, Mountain View and Copenhagen
- BIL Conference in Long Beach
- SXSW in Austin
- Reinvent Business in San Francisco
- CrowdConf in San Francisco
- Unmoney Convergence in San Francisco
- Digital Detox in Orr Springs
- Startup Abroad in Ubud
These conferences vary from small and indie with thought provoking, open dialogue to swanky affairs with top-tier speakers on perfectly lit stages. I learned a great deal about human relationships, building real connections, keeping on abreast of the latest thought currents, technologies and possibilities. Conferences are the new wave of education for entrepreneurs. If you go with a mind to participate and contribue somehow, the whole experience takes on a new meaning. Through all of these experiences of being surrounded by brilliant, thoughtful, enterprising people – I picked up on what the future was to look like through their eyes and then through my own, looking through a variety of their lenses.
My first goal was to take everything I’ve learned about coliving, coworking and being location-independent to a remote destination for entrepreneurs. Enter Startup Abroad – the brainchild of myself and @geeosh in 2011. We tried to do this in Berlin in the summer of 2011, but some things fell through and I think I was a bit too optimistic about how long it would take to put an international event together. At the very beginning of 2012 I heard about something called the Glint and decided to show up and see how I could help. I knew that the Glint was similar in sentiment and execution to the vision I had for Startup Abroad. So after DLD in Munich and the World Economic Forum in Davos, I showed up with my stuff to live in a bunk for an indeterminate period of time in Twin Peaks at the Glint. My apartment was rented on Airbnb and I was good to go… In the two months that I was actually at the Glint, I met a lot of the Theil Fellows, interacted with many international entrepreneurs who came to stay and attempted to help build the community in the house itself. Since it was just beginning and full of angst for a variety of reasons, I had my job cut out for me. I did, however, make some new friends that I hope are lifelong. After SXSW Interactive, I moved out of the Glint and back into my apartment in the city.
As soon as I got home, I hired a business coach and got on my way to execute the visions I had for 2012. He gave me a really great framework to work with and inspired me to read the Willpower Instinct, which made me understand how powerful routines are, especially for entrepreneurs. He also spoke about daily goals as promises and we worked at chunking off small stuff daily, leading to big results in the long run. I did a version of this that was similar years ago called RPM, but whatever you want to call it – it’s very mastermindish and works!
I just knew I had to pull of Startup Abroad in 2012. And trust me, I know getting a bunch of people to take a vacation to work together in a foreign country doesn’t seem like a big deal… but it is! Convincing people you don’t know or barely know to spend $2,500+ to follow you across the world because you think it’s a good idea is anything, but easy. @geeosh started working on another project and no longer wanted to be a part of the direct mission, so I was back on my own. I decided that without a shadow of a doubt, I was going to build this vision and if no one came – so be it – at least I tried. In April I booked a huge house amongst the rice fields in Ubud, Bali – one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been. Once I had team Startup Abroad secured, I wrote a post for Shareable.net outlining our plans for Destination Coworking in Bali with 10 Entrepreneurs.
In August of 2012, we had the inaugural Startup Abroad and it was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done, but only in retrospect. Until I was in new frame of mind in a different time and space, I didn’t really see what was accomplished. Now I understand that Startup Abroad is a melding of sharing, travel, work and collaboration – but it was also an opportunity to have enough distance from distractions to truly connect. Almost every participant reported to me later what a highlight Startup Abroad was in their year and how close they felt to one another, almost like family. I can’t wait until work environments meld more with the rest of our lives and include travel, child care, housing, transportation, etc. We’re truly building a new economy!
My second goal of the year was to write a book to promote sharing. I’ve never written a book before – only built and marketed websites, blogs, products and software. I now feel that building a startup is easier and in many ways more externally rewarding than writing a book.
There are so many things to figure out – especially when collaborating with two other authors, a few editors and many interviewees. Much of my days in 2012 were filled up with listening to people talk about their hopes for the future, the economic liberation they got from sharing, speaking to the founders creating a new, extensible framework for transacting with one another and of course researching and writing, writing, writing. And because so much of this was still so new, I attended any conference that seemed to have relevance or a theme that would include people who could share their topical insights.
By the end of 2012, we’d co-written a 240 page manuscript, hired an editor, erected a website and put ourselves on the map in the new sharing economy with press everywhere from the New Yorker to Time Magazine.
Though my countless meetings and attendance at sharing economy related events in San Francisco, I discovered that there was a piece missing. I really thought the people of these companies as well as the users of these peer-to-peer services should be getting together at events where they could be social and informal in their interactions. Thus, I created the Sharers of SF and held 11 meetups in 2012, including a Collaborative Happy Hour on an Icelandic Cargo ship next to AT&T stadium in San Francisco with over 150 people in attendance. There are now more than 500 members and growing, making the Sharers of SF one of the largest event series for the new sharing economy in the U.S. All of these events were put on free of charge and I was able to acquire sponsors for a handful of the get togethers, which made them more lavish and fun.
Before we built the website for It’s a Shareable Life, I felt all pent up not having a great place to store all of my thoughts about this new revolution, so I created ShareandSave.net, which included an interactive directory to help people access and understand all of the areas they could share in their lives. Today, ShareandSave.net ranks #1 for sharing economy directory and has had a number of widely shared posts (I Don’t Need a Car and Neither Do You, SideCar a Cheaper Peer-to-Peer Alternative to Uber, and Philip Rosendale of the Future of Work. I even created the potential for people to tell their “share story” by submitting a drafted blog post right on the website. I did most everything myself on this website, contracting out only small bits and pieces.
My third goal of the year was to be able to afford to do all of these creative projects without going under. Luckily, I started Free Mania in 1997, which has afforded me the potential to make thousands of dollars per month for years. I have to admit, I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to on Free Mania, but I did contract a very talented graphic designer to give the website a facelift for rebranding. I think the results were pretty decent. I also hired a new blogger who has worked out very well. The last thing I did in 2013 along with the rebranding effort was to create a new strategy whereby I created an email list for “daily freebies.” The reality is, free stuff offers usually don’t last longer than a day or two and sometimes they are done within hours – so this strategy is to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and also to get people interacting daily for higher touch marketing.
If any of my goals were slighted in 2012, it was Free Mania – which is why I’m planning on putting the website to rest for any major involvement of mine in 2013. I’d really like to hire my blogger full-time to take care of daily and weekly email marketing and updates.
The last thing I did, which was not a goal but definitely a by-product of everything else I did was to develop a social media presence online. Today, I have 2,286 followers on Twitter, over 1,000 friends and a whole lot of love in my life. The funny thing is that I cared much more in the past about being boastful about who I knew or had worked with. Now I realize that it’s not who you know, but how they know you and more importantly how they feel about you. You can “know” plenty of people, but to have true relationships takes time and experience together. Toward the end of 2012 – after Digital Detox had sunk in and I’d returned from Startup Abroad in August – I had this deep sense of meaning that can’t be created by running around San Francisco hopping from event to event, hoping to meet someone interesting.
I guess what I really learned is how to truly connect to people without technology, without having to capture every moment and share it and without feeling like I was missing out becoming obsolete if I didn’t do these things. The person in front of you should be the most important person – not whoever is behind a screen that follows you where ever you go. It’s so much more valuable to have 10 people who would do anything for you than 800 “friends” that are largely loose connections.
Recap of 2012 accomplishments:
- Startup Abroad - founded an executed first-ever Startup Abroad in August in Ubud, Indonesia with 10 participants who are now alumni that would like to run the next one
- It’s a Shareable Life – co-wrote and researched 240 page manuscript, got website up, built reputation in the community, attended 12 fascinating conferences worldwide
- Sharers of SF – founded group that had 11 events and now has 500 active members with several major sponsors
- Share and Save – ranks #1 for “sharing economy directory” and has many well shared posts, an interactive directory and the ability for anyone to submit blog posts
- Free Mania – rebranded website, developed new strategy and hired and trained new blogger