The only way to get ahead is to find errors in conventional wisdom.

Julian Power horizontal

I put all my heart and soul into this blog. It took me hundreds of hours to write these long-form articles for you.

If you get value from my articles, consider buying me a coffee. It's highly appreciated.

The rest is up to you,
Julian Power

BMC logoBuy me a coffee

Opinion

Rob LaFond talks about his move from Los Angeles to Medellín

Rob LaFond

I interviewed entrepreneur and musician Rob LaFond for my documentary The Rise of Medellín as a Creative City, which you can watch for free on YouTube. You can also watch the interview with Rob on its own. He moved from Los Angeles to Medellín and started the clothing brand LaFond Medellín. Here is the slightly edited transcript of the interview:

Julian Power: Can you introduce yourself?

Rob LaFond: My name is Rob LaFond. I’m originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s a small city in New England in the United States. It’s a small industrial city. I grew up there and I started off as a musician playing blues music in small clubs until I got my start as an artist. Worcester, Massachusetts is kind of like the original Boston. It was an industrial city where people came in. They got work from the harbor, from the Boston harbor, and a lot of the factories were in Worcester, Massachusetts. So my grandparents and everyone like that grew up working in factories, and a lot of that stuff became abandoned. It was actually a pretty decent artist community in Worcester. There are a few famous artists and a few revolutionary political people who came from the city.

I had gone to a small private school in northern Vermont. It’s actually well known for the band Phish. It’s a psychedelic band. I went to a small private college there and then ended up dropping out of college. I opened my own business as a recording studio. I had a five-room recording studio. I worked with independent artists for a number of years, and then when I went back to college as part of my curriculum, I got an internship for the famous punk rock label Epitaph Records. So I drove my car from Boston to LA with my father and I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no plan to stay there, but I drove across for an internship to work at a punk rock label for the summer and I just never left. That was 11 years.

I fell in love with Los Angeles. It’s a very vibrant city as well and there’s a lot going on. You can go out in Los Angeles and see all kinds of stuff, the nightlife, the comedy, the entertainment scene, everything is there. I had gone there chasing dreams and to work in the music industry. Every time I looked at music, records and stuff like that the producers were always in Los Angeles. So I went to try to work with some of those people. I did over 11 years. I worked with most of the people that I had set out to work with. I loved the city and I was working for NPR. I was a senior producer for NPR. And I was doing a bunch of freelance projects, and then eventually I got kind of burnt out on the city, to be honest with you.

It’s a very big city and I think it happens to a lot of people who live in Los Angeles. They have a 10-year itch where it’s like they love the city but then after 10 years of the traffic, all the people, like I said I was working a full-time job. I was a musician. I was working as a photographer. In the end, I was working for my production company that worked for SpaceX doing production for them. And I was always working and always going to other parts of the city. And I loved the lifestyle there, but I got burnt out.

Julian Power: When did you come to Medellín?

Rob LaFond: I came to Medellin for the first time last May. I had a friend that was a yoga teacher in Santa Monica. There’s a very well known yoga studio, a power yoga studio in Santa Monica. I’m not sure if he started power yoga, but he’s one of the original people to do power yoga for over 40 years. And one of his students and teachers is from Bogota, so I came to a retreat on the north coast of Colombia for that. I was taking a break from work. And it ended up being this extended trip through South America to different parts of Colombia, eventually through Peru and I hiked Macchu Pichu with my father.

I actually was leaving. I hadn’t left myself enough time in Medellin. Everyone told me that I would love the city, but the way that I traveled I had to meet my father, so I only had four or five days here. And when I was leaving it was very early in the morning. I had a 5:00 flight. And I was running a little bit late. When I went to go get on the plane, they said: “You can’t get on the plane because you need onward travel,” or something like that. And I was like “I don’t know where I’m going.” It was 5:00 in the morning and the ticket window didn’t even open up for another 20 minutes and I was supposed to board in 30 minutes.

So I went on my phone and I looked at tickets from Lima to Los Angeles and they were too expensive. And so I was like “Well, I guess I’ll just come back to Medellin.” And I bought a ticket on my phone and I came back here after that, and I stayed for a few weeks. After that, it was decided. I went back to Los Angeles. I was working on a record there. I finished my record in Los Angeles and I had a release party and a bunch of emotional stuff I did there. And then I sold everything that I had and I came to Medellin.

Julian Power: Why did you come to Medellín?

Rob LaFond: I came here because I was a little bit disillusioned with Los Angeles and the lifestyle in America in general with the politics and a lot of other things. I’m an artist, I’ve always been an artist, and I think I was able to have that lifestyle in LA. But I was always working for someone else, and then I was doing my side projects in my extra time. And it’s hard to make a living there. When I came to Medellin, I wasn’t like: “Wow, this place is amazing” right away. But after a couple of days I was like “This is pretty chill. I could do this.” They have vegetarian food. The internet’s fast. The people are cool. But I guess overall I felt like I could have a lifestyle here that could meet the things that I wanted to do.

Right now I’ve started my company. It’s called LaFond Medellin. It’s a fashion and apparel brand that I’ve started last January. It’s become very popular. I had a couple designs, like the one you can see here with the E’s in reverse. There are a bunch of different designs that play off this basic design. It’s gotten quite popular. You can see people wearing it around the city. It’s in about eight locations right now. Getting it, it’s in one museum and we’re talking to a couple of different museums. So it’s getting out there pretty fast. And so I’m working on that. And I also work as a photographer and a musician. So I’m doing those three things.

Julian Power: Can you talk a little more about your company?

Rob LaFond: I started Lafond Medellin last January. I had some time between work and I really started with some basic ideas like just, I had done some fashion stuff and I’m a designer and a photographer. I do work with digital art. And so I had some free time. I just started playing around with it. The ideas really came out. I was at my friend’s café, Café Revolución. And I started to play around with some ideas and I started to make some different shirts and actually Café Revolución, the first one was the first café to carry my stuff. And actually the business partners there helped me get started with my business a lot. They are other business owners here. They’ve had the café for I think almost five years, the first café there, their first Café in Laureles, which is my favorite neighborhood in Medellin.

They helped me get started with the business a lot and they carried the products there. They sold immediately. And we went from there. Now I have a location inside their second café, which is a bigger location. I guess you guys will probably see that on the video. But there’s basically a tienda, a small store inside the café. And it’s a collaboration that I’ve done with these guys, with Café Revolución. It’s a mix of culture. We have the café that’s very popular. There are all kinds of people coming in. There’s a lot of Colombian people that come here. It’s a Colombian neighborhood. There are also a lot of travelers. There’s a lot of tourists. There are people from all around the world that come inside this café. There’s a big exchange of ideas.

So it worked out to have the brand inside the café. It’s been a great collaboration. We also do a lot of events together. We do trivia events. We do music events. We do all kinds of different cultural events that are inside the café that we can collaborate on.

Julian Power: Can you also talk a little more about your music?

Rob LaFond: I’m working on the demos to record my next album in Colombia. I have three albums so far. Two of them are EPs, which means a smaller album. The project that I’m working on now is a trilogy of EPs. I started it in Los Angeles. The first one got a little bit of popularity. It got played on the radio there in LA. And the second one I released before I left. But like I said it’s a three-part series. The first one is called “When We Fly.” The second one is called “High and Low.” The third one will finish that sentence.

So it’s a piece of work. I think a lot of people are making songs and you just get the songs off iTunes, but I still like to have a story, a continuation of a story through music. I think music is based on storytelling.

Julian Power: What would you say to people that are thinking about coming to Medellin but are still undecided?

I want to say something witty here. I would say get ready. I think if you’re a creative person and you feel like you have some creative ideas, I would say try it. I think this is a very vibrant city right now and it’s a changing city. A lot has happened in the last 10 years here. It’s like New York in the ’70s or the east part of LA in the ’90s or something like that, where they have these artist communities where artists can live not super expensive, so they can create art but they can also live a pretty decent lifestyle, like I was saying earlier. You can get good vegan food. There’s yoga, there are all the things that you would think of in a first world country. You have access to everything.

There’s still parts of the city that are, running a business here is still a lot different from running a business in different places I think. But I think if you have creative ideas this is a good city. There’s a lot of opportunity right now. The city is very open to new ideas at this moment. There’s a change in the people and you can try things that are new or take a spin off other ideas. I think the people here are a lot more open to it. So I think it’s a cool city to make things like that happen, cool creative projects. A lot of it has been unused. There’s so much inspiration. Me being a photographer and stuff like that, when I was in Los Angeles, it was like everything had already been shot before. From the Hollywood sign, from this thing. Everyone has already used this material. But in large part, there are so many places in Medellin that have not been used in different creative ways yet. So there’s a lot of opportunity for that as well.

Tarek Kholoussy talks about his social enterprise Nomads Giving Back!

Tarek Kholoussy headshot

I interviewed Tarek Kholoussy for my documentary The Rise of Medellín as a Creative City, which you can watch for free on YouTube. You can also watch the interview with Tarek on its own. He is the founder of the social enterprise Nomads Giving Back!, which inspires digital nomads and travelers to give back to local communities around the world. Here is the slightly edited transcript of the interview:

Julian Power: Right now I’m in the meeting room of my coworking space, La Casa Redonda, with Tarek. I interviewed Tarek one year ago for my master’s thesis in economic geography, which was about the locational choices of digital nomads. And I think you were here at that time, right?

Tarek Kholoussy: Yeah, I was here a year ago.

Julian Power: And since then you have been moving around a lot. What made you come back to Medellin?

Tarek Kholoussy: First of all, thanks for inviting me to chat with you.

Julian Power: Thanks for coming.

Tarek Kholoussy: I was really excited to finally get to meet you in person. I’m glad that you’re here. I chose Medellin for a few reasons. I just love, first and foremost, the people. The Colombians are amazing. They’re so full of life, very friendly, very smiling type of people. They really feel like they seem to enjoy life. And I feel like their energy is contagious. So I’m in a lucky situation where I can choose where I want to live. And I chose here, and I keep coming back to here because it makes me feel more alive.

Julian Power: The same for me. The love of life of Colombians is remarkable.

Tarek Kholoussy: And also if I can add to that, in addition to the people, I love the overall atmosphere. You can feel the energy of not just Medellin, the city life with all the opportunities to go to cool restaurants and cafés, but they have a really strong fitness culture as well. I love going to a big gym and going to a class that they have. There are also amazing retreats around the country. Speaking of the country, if you step outside the city, you have such diversity in opportunities to go to the farmland, the mountains, the sun bay. You can go of course to the beaches. So in a relatively small country, there’s a lot of diversity.

Julian Power: That’s true. Do you see any downsides of living here?

Tarek Kholoussy: Yeah. I think there’s probably one downside that I come into almost daily that is 100% self-imposed. I don’t speak Spanish yet, so I know that I’m limiting my potential of benefiting from being in such an amazing, dynamic place by not being able to connect at another level. And that’s why I admire that you’re learning Spanish. It’s the right way to do it. If I find myself committing to a place for long enough, I promised myself that I’m going to invest the time and energy, because I think that’s the best thing to do. That’s the downside is that I’m not taking full advantage of immersing as much as I could.

Julian Power: And you have also been living in a lot of other cities which are very popular with digital nomads, for example Chiang Mai and Ubud. What’s the main difference in living here instead of one of those two cities?

Tarek Kholoussy: It’s a great question. I do have a lot of love and respect for Ubud, Changgu, Bali and Chiang Mai. I’m in a situation where I travel around the world and I see it as a buffet. And I keep going back for seconds and thirds, but only to the places that I love. And Medellin is right up there near the top. I think one of the key differences, they’re all amazing, but one of the key differences in Medellin is that the local people are more engaged and out there, living Westernized. Not Westernized, but having fun, dancing, they’re all in that element. Of course, you have that in Bali, of course, you have that in Chiang Mai, but probably not to the same level. That sort of like energetic dancing crowd, that’s always out, looks like they’re full of life.

There are pros and cons of every choice, of every place you want to be, but I think Medellin, I think there’s a higher level of engagement between locals and foreigners. At least in the social circles I’ve been involved in than say in Thailand. And I definitely love and have met a lot of great Thai people and of course Balinese people, but it takes a little more effort I think.

Julian Power: Yeah. It seems the cultural gap is bigger from the culture between America or Europe to Asian cultures. And also the language gap is bigger.

Tarek Kholoussy: Right. I think the language gap is a huge aspect. Even though I may not speak Thai or Balinese, you can connect more with Spanish. You can’t go wrong with any of these places.

Julian Power: That’s true. What I also find interesting is that you’re turning 40 soon and you have three life goals. Can you tell more of the reasoning behind it?

Tarek Kholoussy: Sure. Where do I start? My background, I’m American. I grew up in the States, worked in the States. I did almost all my career in New York City and London. But I found myself realizing that the corporate world wasn’t for me anymore at a certain point. And I decided to go off and travel and to get into running. I also got into social impact projects like volunteering, things like that. And then about a year into this self-discovery journey, I found myself with so many options and so much flexibility. But to a point where I had option paralysis. I wasn’t sure which way to go. I know these are great problems to have, but they were still a challenge.

So I thought long and hard about what are my life goals and how do I keep myself on track? I decided to set three long-term goals. This was about two years ago. And I found that I was almost 1000 days away from turning the big 4-0. So I said “Okay, let me do mind, body and soul goals. Let me do these three goals in the next 1000 days before I turn 40.” And here I am. I find myself with about 200 and some days, 220 days left. And those three goals are for my soul I feel like I learn a lot for my soul growth with travel because I get to explore the world and in exploring the world I explore myself. So I said: “Let me try to explore 100 countries before I turn 40.”

For my body, in the last say five or six years I got into running long distance. And I love to run in marathons. I think it’s a great way to engage in the local country you’re traveling in. And also to force myself to stay healthy, because to stay in marathon shape you got to be reasonably healthy. And so I set a 25 marathon goal. And I’m pleased to share that two weeks ago exactly I ran my 25th marathon right here in Medellin.
That’s the first and only of the three I’ve hit. But I’m still optimistic.

And the final goal is for my mind. I want to apply my business skills and experience in a positive way because I would love to, I’ve done several social impact projects in the past from volunteering in places like Kenya and Zambia and China and Sri Lanka and Bali. I love to get involved in fundraisers or do volunteer work or at least raise awareness of these causes. So I think I’m ready now to focus and build my own, create a social enterprise. So I said: “Okay, before I turn 40 I will launch some sort of social enterprise.”

Julian Power: Let us talk a little more about the last point. What are you working on right now?

Tarek Kholoussy: I checked off the marathons. I have only two countries left to hit 100. So I’m pretty confident, as long as nothing surprising happens, I can do that. And so now I’m starting to turn my focus to the social enterprise, the socially conscious business. And I think where I’m at now is that I have the vision clear. I’m feeling compelled to try to find a way to inspire travelers and nomads and expats to give back more to the local communities that we’re living in, the places that we’re calling home away from home. And I feel like this is where at least in the next few years what I’m meant to do. I want to share the insights that I have learned myself and build it into this concept where I find some way of letting people know how much giving back has helped me in many ways. I feel like it’s almost a responsibility to give back to places that we are in some fashion benefiting from because otherwise, we wouldn’t choose to be in those places.

I feel like it’s a win-win thing. I’m very early on in the stage, but I’m quite excited in the next few months to get ready to launch it and meet my goal, but also really feel more committed towards longer-term progress. I’m ready for it.

Julian Power: That sounds really good. And let me know when you’ve launched. Thank you for being part of this documentary.

Tarek Kholoussy: Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. I wish you all the best. I’m excited about all the recent stuff you’re doing, the writing you’re doing. I think this and your book are going to be very valuable to a lot of people out there.

Wes Wagner describes the start-up scene in Medellín

Wes Wagner profile photo

I interviewed Wes Wagner for my documentary The Rise of Medellín as a Creative City, which you can watch for free on YouTube. You can also watch the interview with Wes on its own. He works remotely for the start-up Microverse and splits his time between Medellín and Indianapolis. Here is the slightly edited transcript of the interview:

Julian Power: Right now I’m sitting in the meeting room of La Casa Redonda with Wes, one of my co-workers. He used to work for an American software start-up and had a remote job in the marketing department. But two weeks ago you quit your job.

Wes Wagner: Today is actually my last day. It was a job I connected with and got through the university. I worked with them when I was at the university, it’s a small start-up and I was the fifth employee. Now we’re about eight. There’s some traction and it’s growing. I really want to come down to Latin America and get more involved in the tech and entrepreneurial scene down here and I realized that being with them didn’t help me in that respect, so I decided to leave and now I’m ready to join another start-up with a more global focus.

Julian Power: One thing that’s very interesting is that you went straight from university, so you graduated and you went straight to Medellin.

Wes Wagner: Yeah.

Julian Power: You didn’t try to find a job in the States as most graduates do?

Wes Wagner: A little background to that is that I traveled around Latin America for the last couple of years whenever I had a little break and I studied abroad in Buenos Aires. And I have been fascinated by Latin American tech ecosystems. And I also just love entrepreneurship and working at small startups. In the United States, compared to here there’s not a ton of opportunity to take huge risks, to really live off a minimum salary and try to do something on your own. So I saw the opportunity here in Medellin. The cost of living is very low and there’s a lot of new entrepreneurs that are flocking here. So that was a no brainer for me. This is one of the biggest tech hubs in Latin America outside of Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile, and Mexico City.
And Medellín has one of the highest quality of life and flights are really cheap to go here. Everything pointed to Medellin. It was a pretty easy decision for me actually to come down here.

Julian Power: You have lived in Buenos Aires for a couple of months. Why did you decide to come to Medellin instead of Buenos Aires? Because Buenos Aires is also popular among remote entrepreneurs.

Wes Wagner: Actually there was no study abroad program in Buenos Aires when I studied there. I lived there for five months and there was no steady program for my business school. So study abroad was an excuse. The real reason I went down there was because of the digital nomads and entrepreneurship scene. And so I really liked my experience there, but I did learn a lot about their scene and their pros and cons. While they have about a third of the unicorns in Latin America, a third of companies that are valued at more than a billion US dollars, they shrunk because their economy is constantly fluctuating. Inflation’s really high. You have to take a really long plane ride to get anywhere, so they’re kind of isolated. And the food, I love the steak, but after five months I couldn’t really handle it. I met some great entrepreneurs in the city and had a great time there, but I don’t think they’re going to be the top-ranked Latin American tech hub. So instead of going back to Buenos Aires, Medellin called me.

Julian Power: And you told me before that you came here for two and a half months to try it out and see how much you liked it. So how much do you like Medellin so far?

Wes Wagner: I’m already looking at flights back in January. So I’ve loved it so far. Everyone told me when I came down here “If you do a two month test period you’re going to stay.” “No, let’s wait and see how it goes.” I’m at the end of that test period and I can tell that I am definitely coming back because I’m just blown away at how friendly the people are, how good the food is. I love the healthy lifestyle here. I’m working out and eating healthy. We’re in the middle of these beautiful mountains. I love it here because Medellin is incredibly cheap. The people are incredibly friendly. I come from a place in the United States, the Midwest, where the people are very friendly, we get to know our neighbors, things like that. I hadn’t experienced that yet in Latin America. Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Uruguay and Argentina. I actually only lived in Argentina. The people there are incredibly friendly. So that’s one of the reasons I want to live down here, I want to stay down here.

The proximity to the US is important too. I can take half a day to get back home to the United States. The entrepreneurship scene is huge. That’s some of the reasons why I want to stay in Medellin. It’s really cheap. The entrepreneurial culture is growing. The community is growing like crazy. It’s close to the United States. There’s a variety of food and there’s a huge hub of global entrepreneurs and people that are trying to make it here because they’ve really cut their overhead expenses and take risks creatively for businesses, etc.

Julian Power: So you come from the Midwest? You told me before that you want to spend your time between Indianapolis and Medellin. What’s the reasoning behind this?

Wes Wagner: I don’t think you have to choose where you want to live, it doesn’t has to be a 12 months of the year thing because now we have remote work and flights are becoming cheaper and cheaper. People generally live in the cities. I love Indianapolis because my family and friends are there. I love the tech scene there as well. But at the same time, I want to travel and be surrounded by other cultures. So my home town isn’t really an international hub like Medellín. And so because I have that privilege that I can live 9 months in one city and 3 months in another one, there’s no reason why I’m not going to choose that option if I have two amazing communities. I’m all for it. Right now I don’t have any big commitments: I’m not married, I don’t have any houses or things like that that are tying me down. So right now I plan to indefinitely be nine months in Medellin and three months back in Indianapolis.

Julian Power: I feel the same, having two or three home bases is a very good compromise between stationary living and the digital nomad lifestyle. You write a lot, and one of your main topics is the entrepreneurial scene in Latin America. What do you think about the startup scene?

Wes Wagner: I’ve met entrepreneurs in Cuba. I’ve met entrepreneurs in Peru, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. There are so many things that you go for and look for in a growing tech ecosystem, one of the biggest things is been-there-done-that- entrepreneurs. People that have grown businesses sold them and are now helping others with advice and investing. I think that’s was Medellín is lacking, but it’s doing well in a lot of other factors. The quality of life is really important. It attracts a lot of great talent. There’s an amazing quality of software engineering talent. It’s approaching a critical mass where any software company definitely finds the developers it needs.

The community is lacking a little bit. I’ve been looking for a regular event that brings the entrepreneurial community together. A crucial part of a startup ecosystem is the community, something that brings people together to exchange ideas, find a co-founder, find digital employees. That’s something that Medellin still lacks. There’s not one central community event. There’s places like Ruta N, a government-sponsored entrepreneurial hub if you will where people can come to work on a business and hopefully stay. But it’s mostly foreign entrepreneurs. It’s not the local people. There’s not a lot of mixture of others. There’s a lot of meetups for Ruby on Rails or Java. But I just don’t think that Medellin has something that really brings entrepreneurs together. That’s really lacking.

From my understanding, Medellin is transitioning from a service sector and a service economy to a global economy, more of a tech entrepreneurial, global digital economy. I think we’re going to see that in the next five to 10 years. The number one reason I think people come to Medellin in the tech sector is because it is the land of opportunity. The cost of living is so low and the people are so nice. The level of creativity and entrepreneurship is so high that if you want to do anything, take big risks, try to start a business, I don’t think there’s a better place in the world than Medellin.

Julian Power: Thanks for being part of the documentary. Good luck with your new job.

Wes Wagner: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Interview with Juana Restrepo (La Casa Redonda, Co-Founder)

Juana Restrepo founder of La Casa Redonda

I interviewed Juana Restrepo for my documentary The Rise of Medellín as a Creative City, which you can watch for free on YouTube. You can also watch the interview with Juana on its own. She is one of the co-founders of La Casa Redonda, a popular co-working space in Laureles. Five Colombian friends founded La Casa Redonda as a collective in 2016 and the co-working space has grown organically over time. Here is the slightly edited transcript of the interview:

Juana Restrepo: Hola.

Julian Power: Juana is one of the founders of the La Casa Redonda. Right now we’re sitting in the café which is part of La Casa Redonda.

Juana Restrepo: Café Volcánico.

Julian Power: And we’re going to talk a little bit about the founding story of La Casa Redonda.

Juana Restrepo: Okay.

Julian Power: And the change in Medellín. Before I came here when I was in Germany, I read about La Casa Redonda on the internet.

Juana Restrepo: Sí.

Julian Power: And I read good stuff, so I decided to take an apartment, which is nearby La Casa Redonda.

Juana Restrepo: And you just looked for co-working spaces in Medellín and La Casa Redonda appeared?

Julian Power: Yeah, I was looking specifically for Laureles. And this one has the best community.

Juana Restrepo: And what did you know about Laureles already?

Julian Power: It’s less touristy than Poblado and that’s the main reason. And it’s cheaper as well. Those were the two main factors. So I rented an apartment nearby and now that I’ve experienced La Casa Redonda I really like the community of people here. Everyone says so, but it’s very true. It’s like a good spirit, and always when I come here, I feel good. And it’s also a good mix of internationals and Colombians. So it’s not just Colombians, not just internationals, but both. And it’s also not just software programmers. It’s like everything, artists, writers, photographers, architects.

Juana Restrepo: Even engineers.

Julian Power: For example, this Australian guy, he’s doing an interesting project. He’s working on a Spanish course.

Juana Restrepo: I had an interview with him. Shay is his name.

Julian Power: Yeah, Shay. Shout out to him.

Juana Restrepo: I really like that you recognize that about La Casa Redonda because that’s what we want to make people feel. And the people can enjoy working in this place, share it with locals and also people from all over the world. If you’re from China, from Chile, from Madrid, we have a good mix of people here.

Julian Power: Yeah, that’s very true.

Juana Restrepo: Some are younger, some are older, but all of them want to share. The main thing we all want, share and get to know each other, starting from the part of the world that you come from and after that whatever you do in your daily work.

Julian Power: Yeah, that’s true. I also think now we’re coming to the founding story, because this spirit is in part of because it’s a collective.

Juana Restrepo: Yeah. We are friends that wanted to have space together to work from. And we created La Casa Redonda to support that.

Julian Power: Yeah, I read in an article that you started in 2016?

Juana Restrepo: Yep.

Julian Power: And first you started with a trial. So you had one building which was going be demolished, but it had one remaining year so you could use it as working space.

Juana Restrepo: It was a pilot. So we went there. We filled the house and we started working independently. The house was so big that we just started adding more people. “Hey, do you wanna have a place to work? We have one. Come and share it.” And people started enjoying the community and the way we work, and we have now La Casa Redonda as an official business.

Julian Power: Yeah. So it worked really well, so you decided you’re going to put more energy into this.

Juana Restrepo: We paint. We build. We did a lot of things to have this house the way you see it.

Julian Power: Yeah, it’s really nice.

Juana Restrepo: We wanted to have a combination of art but also basic spaces. So we are not going to be just creatives. We wanted to have people from engineers, designers, psychologists. People can feel comfortable no matter what they do in the same space. That’s why you’re going to see a lot of art on our walls.

Julian Power: That’s the big main idea behind starting it as a concept.

Juana Restrepo: Because we have an architect in our group, so they wanted to do crazy ideas, and we all approved them. When we want to have a hallway mural, why not?

Julian Power: That’s a good point for my next question. I was wondering how many people are in the collective?

Juana Restrepo: We are five founders of La Casa Redonda. But now we have two working full-time for La Casa Redonda. We have at least 60 people from all parts of the world.

Julian Power: I was thinking on one side it’s a big advantage. It’s a very big project. There’s a lot of work and also financially, so you need a lot of manpower and womanpower to do this. But also it can be difficult if you have five people who have to decide. Is it a problem? Or how do you manage decision making?

Juana Restrepo: The daily decisions are in charge of Miguel and I. We don’t have to ask the five every single thing. But we do create together the business we want. So if we need to decide or we have to consider something, we ask the whole group. And we all work in here, so it’s very easy because two of the five are working here for La Casa Redonda, but the others are near working on other things. But they can help in the daily things.

Julian Power: So communication is really easy. So you never had a big conflict?

Juana Restrepo: Of course we have. It’s normal. Discussions and arguing. But I think we are very good and unique, a good group of workers. We are very good together.

Julian Power: Yeah, I think it’s a great energy. I really do like it. Let’s talk a bit about Medellín as well. In the last couple of years, Medellín became very popular with tourists and digital nomads and international people. Have you seen changes and what kind of changes have you seen?

Juana Restrepo: I think Medellín has the best weather in the world, so it is very welcoming and we want to have visitors. What I like about the people that come here are that they want to have this city as a a new city, it’s like, you are going to have an exchange. Apart from all the foreigners, who are spending one or two weeks in Poblado because it’s more touristic, and that’s it. They want to have fun and they want to know the culture, they want to know the city, but they just leave quickly. But people like you stay longer. They want to spend more than a month. So they want to be involved in the culture. They are sharing their life with us. That is changing. But it’s good to know that we are growing with tourism.

Julian Power: Yeah, I think Laureles has huge potential because you can walk everywhere. A lot of students because of the university, it’s a very young crowd. There are bars, restaurants, everything.

Juana Restrepo: And you have a lot of options here because you have bars, restaurants, markets and everything, but it’s not like you’re going to find a big nightlife. That is helpful with the bad tourism.

Julian Power: There is La Setenta, but there are no tourists, right?

Juana Restrepo: But La Setenta is separate from everything. There are hostels, bars and restaurants, but it’s not for living. So the living part is in the streets nearby, but not in La Setenta.

Julian Power: I think we have covered the main topics. Thank you for being part of this documentary.

Juana Restrepo: Of course. Thank you for having me here.

Julian Power: Yeah, you’re welcome. I really like the project, and I’m excited to see how it works out in the next couple of years.

Juana Restrepo: Me too. Nice to see you. And we are going to share it with all the people because we love Los Redondos.

WeWork Medellin Review

wework medellin coworking space view

Before I visited the WeWork Medellin, I had the perception that I can’t afford a WeWork membership, at least in the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey because WeWork is the Rolls-Royce among co-working spaces in terms of amenities and pricing. A while ago, I read an article that WeWork has a similar valuation like Airbnb, which caught my eye. WeWork is still flying under the radar given that they are the largest office tenant in New York City (sic!). At the time, I checked the prices for a hot desk in Berlin and was appalled by the high price tag. Right now, a hot desk in Berlin costs between 350€ and 380€ (plus taxes), which is more than I am willing to pay for a desk. I think this price point is only attractive for large companies who have remote employees.

I assumed that the prices were the same everywhere, but there is a considerable variation across countries, cities and locations within a city. That makes sense given the local differences in co-working offerings, real estate prices, local demand and purchasing power. For example, a hot desk in Medellin costs only around 155€ (plus taxes). Therefore, it’s worth checking out the prices in your city of interest and decide on a case by case basis.

working in coworking space La Casa Redonda

The benchmark: La Casa Redonda

I love La Casa Redonda, my current co-working space in Laureles, but when I heard that WeWork has opened up a co-working space in Poblado recently, I had to check it out. I have never been to a WeWork co-working space and I was keen to see what all the hype was about. Co-working spaces come in all forms and sizes and La Casa Redonda and WeWork are both on opposite sides of the spectrum. La Casa Redonda was started by a collective of Colombian friends and has a very artsy and personal feel to it. The crowd is a diverse mix of creatives, entrepreneurs, freelancers and startups. It has a studio which houses a painter, a paper artist, and a tattoo artist. The Redondos are one big family and two adorable dogs are part of it.

WeWork, on the other hand, is a multinational with a valuation of $20 billion and deep pockets to expand aggressively. They have 477 locations in 95 cities at the time of writing this article. They are known for their state of the art offices in prime locations, and they take pride in their global community.

In a way, it’s global capital vs. local creatives. Both co-working spaces are located in different neighborhoods, so they are not competing directly yet. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if WeWork opens more co-working spaces in Medellin soon. For me, it doesn’t make sense to commute from Laureles to Poblado and vice versa because I am a big proponent of living within walking distance of your workspace to save time and nerves.

Working for a day at the WeWork co-working space in Medellin

I booked a free tour online. I recommend using the contact form of the specific location and not the general one for a free day pass, where I booked two times without getting a response. Before the tour, I listened to an episode of How I Built This, where one of the co-founders tells the founding story of WeWork. I like the podcast How I Built This in general, but this has been my favorite episode so far.

On the day of the tour, I took a taxi to the Santa Fé Mall and walked from there to the neighboring WeWork building. I arrived at 10 AM and talked to the receptionist, who sent me to the 17th floor, where the hot seat area is located. The community manager welcomed me and showed me around the building. The kitchen and the community area were huge and impressive. Everything was bright and modern and similar to how I would imagine the offices of companies like Facebook or Google. WeWork spaces are known for perks like free craft beer on a tab and micro-roasted coffee. According to a recent WSJ article, the unlimited beer is going to be limited soon though. I was pleasantly surprised to see a sufficient number of phone booths in the hot desk area. Shockingly few co-working spaces have them, and people have to misuse the meeting room or find a quiet corner for calls. The best part was the big terrace and the view over the high-rise buildings in Poblado and the surrounding mountains. There is something magical about working on your laptop and overseeing the Andes Mountains.

The hot desk costs COL$570,000 (plus taxes), which is excellent value for money, considering the amenities and the view. By comparison, I pay COL$433,000 (plus taxes) for my monthly La Casa Redonda membership. The only catch is that the hot desks were fully booked at the time of my visit, which is remarkable given that it just opened a couple of weeks ago. The small offices (1-4 people) were also already fully booked. WeWork offers more expensive dedicated desks for COL$820.000 (plus taxes) as an alternative. With a dedicated desk, you have your own desk in a large private office. The offices are quiet and situated on a lower floor, but you can use the hot desk area as well. Naturally, the number of tenants is fluctuating and you can always check online if a spot opened up and pounce when the opportunity presents itself. The hot desk area was relatively empty even though it was fully booked at the time and I sat down at the desk with the best view over the mountains.

The majority of tenants were young Colombian professionals (≈90%) dressed in business chic. During my visit, there was a pitch event with education startups in the communal area, and in the evening there was a member networking event with free finger food and superb gin and tonic. I talked for a bit with the friendly community manager, who told me that he was the first hire in Medellin.

La Casa Redonda vs. WeWork Medellin

I left the WeWork space impressed. If I would start a company with employees, I would probably rent an office there. It’s the perfect working environment and very representative at the same time. I can also see myself working from WeWork for a couple of months for writing a book. The view is very inspiring and pushes you to creative peak performance. Based on my small sample size of one day working there I got the impression that the community is more geared towards startups and Iess towards freelancers and solopreneurs.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to miss the creative vibes of La Casa Redonda. Not to mention the dogs and the overall friendly atmosphere. You can feel the difference between a collective, which grew organically over time and a multinational, who hires a community manager for each city. The community manager was great, but you can still feel the difference between a top-down and a bottom-up community approach.

Alternative in Poblado

For the sake of completeness, I am going to mention another nice co-working space in Poblado. I have worked for two days at the Selina co-working space, which is a good alternative when you want to work within walking distance of Parque Lleras. Selina is significantly cheaper then WeWork. A monthly hotdesk membership sets you back a measly COL$225.000 (plus taxes). That’s less than half than what you pay for a WeWork membership. The co-working space is also new and stylish, but less so than WeWork. To be fair, it’s going to be hard to find a more dapper co-working space than WeWork.

Selina Cowork has one cool feature, which WeWork (to my knowledge) doesn’t have. They have a relaxation room with mattresses, where you can take a break and meditate or nap. When I worked there, I used the room for a 10 minutes power nap. I had the room for myself and afterward, I felt refreshed and ready for a second writing session. More co-working spaces should have a relaxation room, IMHO. Another key difference is the demographic of the coworkers. I saw mainly freelancers and solopreneurs and fewer startups at Selina. The Colombians to Foreigner ratio is 10/90 and therefore inverted in comparison with WeWork. The more international makeup makes sense given that the co-working space is part of the Selina Hostel. The hostel factor contributes to a fast turnover of coworkers, which can be seen as a positive or negative depending on your preferences. As a side note, the WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has invested heavily in the Selina chain.

Conclusion

Long story short, the choice of a co-working space comes down to your personal budget and preferences. To allow a better comparison, let’s assume La Casa Redonda and WeWork were located right next to each other in Poblado. WeWork has the resources to invest in state of the art amenities and design and it shows in their co-working space. Therefore it’s almost impossible to beat WeWork in this domain. A unique feature of the WeWork space in Medellin is the spectacular view over the Andes Mountains. The price of 155€ (plus taxes) for a hot desk is also great value for money. If you want to work in a sleek and modern office, there is no way around WeWork. The only downside is the shortage of hot desks, so you might have to pay for a more expensive dedicated desk.

In comparison, I also like the artsy and creative style of La Casa Redonda, but it can’t compete with a view over the Andes. The biggest strength of La Casa Redonda is its awesome community and welcoming atmosphere. The exchange with my coworkers so far has been invaluable. Right now, the community aspect is more important for me, so I am still preferring La Casa Redonda. Nonetheless, the rapid success of the WeWork co-working space in Medellin demonstrates the huge potential of the city and it’s always good to have more options. Now you know everything you need to know about WeWork in Medellin. The rest is up to you,

 

 

PS: Feel free to use my referral link when you sign up for a WeWork membership.

The 8 dimensions of work

We spend a large chunk of our lifetime on this planet working, roughly one-third of each day. Therefore, you might think that people spend a lot of thought and energy into finding the perfect line of work. That means work which matches your strengths, interests and values. Surprisingly that’s not the case at all. For proof, observe the morning commuters in any western city and you will see predominant tired faces with an expression of either stress or resignation in anticipation of the coming workday.  


There is a fundamental debate about the importance of work. The discourse is split into two main camps. One camp argues that you should follow your passion and the money will come automatically (artists, musicians, etc.). They see work as an integral part of your life and you should be passionate about it. The other camp argues that our expectations of work are too high in modern times and that your job is only a means to an end. They recommend to separate your work and free time and find fulfillment in the latter (accountants, bankers, etc.).

You can find me somewhere in the middle, but I lean towards the passion camp. You can only thrive in a field over an extended period if you are passionate about what you are doing. To quote Mark Beaumont: ”You can’t use the economy of scale for people. You need to strip it back to what we each are individually passionate about.” I am publishing this business blog because I am passionate about the craft of writing and entrepreneurship. At the same time, I try to write relevant content by serving my readers. Having said that, you also need to be realistic regarding supply and demand. Is the world really waiting for another world class bagpipe player?

Decision-making process

Why do so many people end up in the wrong job? I think the answer is twofold. The first part is the broken decision-making process of most people based on external factors. Most people read a few articles about potential jobs and in the best case do an internship in the respective field and then listen to their parents and decide on a degree program or vocational school. The simple problem is that most people don’t know their strengths, interests and values at age 18 when they finish school. You can somewhat increase your odds by doing proper research, but at the end of the day, it remains a long shot. The best thing you can do is take your time and test different fields (trial and error).

Personal values

The decision-making process is broken because the majority of people lack clarity regarding their personal values. Each job has eight dimensions and it’s our job to rank them according to our values. Our values are guiding us in the right direction. Before you accept your next job, you should think about the following dimensions:


1. Salary

This one is obvious. Most people optimize for salary. Salary is easy to quantify and compare. We like to simplify complex decisions and with salary everything comes down to one number. It’s about keeping up with the Joneses. I think salary is overrated.  


2. Working hours

Working hours are easy to quantify, but there is not much variance in the working world. Most people work around 40 hours per week. Some people choose to work less for a specific time (e.g., young parents) or longer (e.g., ambitious singles). But it’s an afterthought for most people.


3. Status

Status has a high variance, but it’s hard to quantify. It depends on your peers and changes over time. For example, the status of investment bankers has evaporated in the wake of the global financial crisis. It’s basically a vanity metric.  


4. Location

Most people limit their options to a particular area. Multinationals pay more in more expensive cities. According to this logic, remote jobs should be paid less, because you can choose to live in a cheaper location.


5. Common welfare

A minority of people value their contribution to society higher than monetary compensation. It’s easier to have a sense of purpose when you help people instead of selling them useless shit.

6. Financial security

The main advantage of a job is security. You get a monthly paycheck in exchange for giving up your dreams and aspirations. The times of lifelong employment are over if you don’t happen to live in Japan. Therefore jobs give a false sense of security. Robots and AI are coming for your white-collar job. For example, the banking industry used to be a safe bet; those days are over. I think security is overrated because I believe I can always find an adequate job in a reasonable time frame if I want to.  


7. Autonomy

You have zero autonomy in most jobs. You are told when, where and how to work. I prefer to be the king instead of the pawn, who is potential subject to reorganization. Autonomy is the reason I prefer entrepreneurship. You can work on the subject of your choice and you can choose the time and place to do so. As an entrepreneur, you trade security off for autonomy. I think autonomy is massively undervalued, but it seems that most people prefer security.


8. Learning potential

Most jobs have a high initial learning curve (if at all) and after two or three years you know everything there is to know. Learning potential is another undervalued factor. If you only look at the salary and disregard learning potential, you are hurting yourself in the long run. I am happy to work temporary for little money if I can learn a lot. It’s an investment in my career. I am less willing to work a job with good pay and little learning potential.

There are more soft factors like self-expression and fun, which are more tied to yourself (interests) than the job and therefore excluded in this list.

Path dependence

The second part of the problem is what happens after the decision making. People decide on a “career path” early on and then stick with, instead of changing their trajectory when necessary. They lie to themselves and hope that somehow magically the situation gets better in the near future. They ignore their inner voice, which tells them that something is wrong. This goes on for a couple of years until the voice gets increasingly louder with each day and the whisper eventually turns into shouting. But now it’s too late. They have settled for a cookie-cutter life in the suburbs with a wife and two kids and now they have to provide for their little family and pay of their home and student debts. They feel trapped in the rat race and think it’s too late for change. There are four explanations for following this unsatisfactory path:

  1. The Sunk-Cost-Fallacy.
  2. The need to live up to outside expectations.
  3. The fear of uncertainty. It takes time to find your passion.
  4. Plain laziness. It takes a lot of effort to find your passion (trial and error).

None of these reasons is acceptable. I speak from experience because I have been down this path. When I was 18, I decided somewhat arbitrarily that I wanted to work in the marketing department of Volkswagen, more specifically in market research. I probably chose Volkswagen because it’s located in my home state, but I am not exactly sure. I wasn’t especially interested (or talented) in statistical analyses, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my “dream”.

My “dream” crashed down in flames when I finally interned for three months in the automotive department of a big market research institute in my fifth semester. I learned three valuable lessons during the internship. First, I hate quantitative market research. It’s the most boring, tedious and meaningless work I have done in my life. Whenever I feel unmotivated, I think about my work there and use it as negative motivation. Second, I don’t like working in a big organization. You are just a small cog in a big wheel. I prefer working as a generalist in a start-up and not as a specialist, who is doing the same stuff every day. Third, I need some form of purpose in my work. I can’t work on something I consider meaningless. After my internship, I finally did some soul-searching and embraced entrepreneurship. I haven’t looked back since.

How to find fulfilling work

It’s not easy to find your calling. It’s a slow and sometimes painful process with a lot of dead ends. You need a lot of persistence and faith during your search. But when you find your line of work, the struggle was worth it. Part of finding your perfect job is accepting that each occupation has its downsides. I love having a business, but I am not passionate about the bureaucracy that comes with it. It’s part of the package.

Fortunately, you can use resources, which can guide you along the way. I have listed them already in my article the power of internships:
1. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
2. Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type
3. How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)
4. The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In
5. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
6. What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter’s Workbook

Job mismatch

Your decision will most likely result in a suboptimal job, if you don’t consider your values. This is why most people feel lukewarm about their job. They don’t love their job and they don’t hate it either. They have chosen it somewhat arbitrarily and now they stick with it. It’s the silent majority of people, who show up every day and you can spot their tired faces in the subway. They have accepted their faith as a hog in the wheel. There is a high probability that you are part of this group.

You settle for a mediocre job because that is what everyone is expecting of you. Your peers are doing the same, so you don’t feel too bad about your choice. You are not one of these naive dreamers, who tries out different things and fails from time to time. The rest is split into people, who love their job and people who hate their job. This minority groups are more vocal and therefore drown out the silent majority. The people, who hate their job are better off than the silent majority in the long run because their suffering will eventually lead to change. On the contrary, it’s easier for the silent majority to flee in a parallel world of mindless consumerism.

Entrepreneurship is an alternative to working a 9-5 job, but it’s an option most people don’t even consider, because of limiting beliefs. I don’t believe everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but the percentage should definitely be higher. You can transfer your value analyses to entrepreneurship.

Disclaimer

There is a caveat though. This argument is only applicable to developed countries. Your occupational options are nonexistent in a lot of countries because of a combination of lack of education and social security and a dysfunctional job market. In this case, I recommend moving to a location with better opportunities, but that’s easier said than done and not always possible. When you read this article, you are more likely than not from the Western World and therefore my argument is still valid. It’s a privilege to choose the occupation of your liking and you should take advantage of this opportunity.

Conclusion

I think as a young person you owe it to yourself to try out different things. It’s the best time to take a calculated risk. If you settle down for a mediocre job, you are doing yourself a disservice, because you are prolonging the problem. It’s a path, which more often than not leads to a midlife crisis. The risk is less visible, but it’s still there.
Now you know everything you need to know about finding satisfying work.
The rest is up to you,

 

Recommended books

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type
How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)
The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter’s Workbook

Are you a wantrepreneur?

annoying man taking a selfie

An entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” The total opposite of the entrepreneur is the wantrepreneur. He has a different motivation, which I am going to explain later on. Both terms are broad umbrella terms and therefore fairly meaningless without further specification.   

Wantrepreneur is a horrible word. It sounds abhorrent which makes it all the more suitable for the person it describes. I can sympathize with their struggle because I have been in the unfortunate situation to be one of them for several years.


Definition

Let’s define wantrepreneur first. You can distinguish two types of wantrepreneurs:
Type A: A wantrepreneur is a person who is interested in entrepreneurship but isn’t ready to take a leap of faith just yet. He reads TechCrunch daily, follows Gary Vee on Facebook, listens to every business podcast there is and buys every new management book. Nothing is wrong with these activities in itself, but the problem is that the wantrepreneur doesn’t translate the information into action.

The wantrepreneur is stuck in the research phase. The information/action ratio should be around 1/40. One hour of research and forty hours of work. But the wantrepreneur does it the other way around if he takes any action at all. The only “work” he is doing is conceptualizing his business ideas. The problem is that he tricks himself into thinking that he is already taking action by reading business blogs and listening to podcasts thereby preparing himself for entrepreneurship.

You can learn about business second-hand to a certain degree, but you have to get your hands dirty to gain more in-depth knowledge. As an entrepreneur, you are primarily a problem solver and you can’t anticipate most problems beforehand, which means you can’t develop your problem-solving skills without taking action. Reading about page optimization and optimizing your own homepage are two totally different beasts. You have to take into account the opportunity cost of consuming business media as well; you could have used the time to work on your business instead. 


This inaction is tragic because the wantrepreneur is one step ahead of the general population. He knows about entrepreneurship and is interested in business, but he doesn’t do anything about it. I can relate to the wantrepreneur because I have been one for several years. I attended startup events and business workshops, read business blogs and listened to every entrepreneurial podcast on the internet. I was living in a dream world, where I was thinking about different business ideas.

Type B: A wantrepreneur can also be a person who started a company, but with a different intent. He took some action to give the impression of an entrepreneur without actually working. He sees himself as the next Steve Jobs and talks about how he is going to disrupt industry x. His company is more about himself than creating something of value. He likes the lifestyle, but he is the caricature of an entrepreneur. His startup isn’t solving a problem and the lack of substance is compensated with flashy marketing.

I think the type A wantrepreneur is more interesting because his motivation is less clear and I am going to break it down later on. In contrast, the type B wantrepreneur uses entrepreneurship merely as a vehicle for his ego.

Maybe you think it’s ironic that I am advocating less consumption of business information given that this is a business blog. I believe business blogs have their time and place; otherwise, I wouldn’t put all my time and energy into this blog. But at the same time, they can be a major time sink and they should be an addition and not a replacement for actual work.

If you read this blog as a form of procrastination, you should leave right now and work on your own project. I am an optimist at heart, so I like to think of my readership as exclusively action takers, who read this blog in their leisure time.


Prevalence

The prevalence of wantrepreneurs depends on location and industry. You can find type A wantrepreneurs all over the world. They come in all shapes, size and forms. More interesting is the concentration of type B wantrepreneurs in several cities.

Berlin is an excellent example of this phenomenon. In the last couple of years, Berlin has emerged as a leading startup hub in Europe alongside London, Paris and Stockholm. The rise of Berlin as an innovation hub has attracted type B wantrepreneurs alongside serious entrepreneurs. Berlin has a rare combination of sizable venture capital funding and low cost of living, which makes monetary success less urgent than in expensive regions like Silicon Valley. The bohemian vibe and the large entrepreneurial community can suck you into an endless circle jerk of meetups and keynotes.

The concentration of wantrepreneurs also varies across industries. B2B companies are less flashy than B2C companies and therefore tend to attract fewer wantrepreneurs. Hyped industries with excessive media exposure like fitness and social network apps attract the highest number of wantrepreneurs.

Reasons

There are several reasons for the prevalence of wantrepreneurs, which are deeply rooted in human nature. While the motivation of type B wantrepreneurs can be explained with narcism, the motivation of type A wantrepreneurs is more complex:
1. Risk aversion: You always take a risk when you start a company. The outcome is uncertain and you might fail.
2. Laziness: Starting a company takes effort. You have to build something from the ground up, which is easier said than done.
3. Paralysis by analysis: You think you have to collect more information before you are capable of starting a company. Collecting information becomes the substitute for starting a company, but you can’t become a great entrepreneur by reading books (sic!). It doesn’t matter how many business books you read; you are going to make big mistakes anyway. The only thing you can do is to accept your mistakes and learn from them.

Paralysis by analysis is the most common obstacle and fortunately also the easiest to overcome. You have to realize that more information isn’t helping you and that you have to take massive action. The first step is the hardest and once you have started, it’s downhill from there.

Excuses

The above-mentioned reasons differ from the self-rationalizations of the type A wantrepreneur. He tricks himself into thinking that he has valid reasons for his inaction. When you talk to a wantrepreneur, you will encounter the same excuses time and again. Enter one of the following lame rationalizations for not starting a business:
“I don’t have time for starting  a business.” Solution: Work on the weekends or get up earlier.
“I don’t have the resources to start a business.” Solution: Save money and built an MVP.
“I don’t have a good business idea.” Solution: Generate ideas with tools like the free Adobe Kickbox and pick the most promising one.
“I have too many brilliant business ideas and I don’t know where to start.” Solution: Pick the most promising one and go from there.
“I am not qualified to start a business yet.” Solution: Start a business anyway or intern in a startup: Learning by doing.   

This tiring list goes on to infinity and I am sparing you the rest.

Strategy

If you are a type A wantrepreneur and you want to become an entrepreneur I have two recommendations for you:

  1. Stop consuming business media altogether. No blogs, books, podcasts and social media. Not even Julian Power. If this approach is too radical for you, you can also limit your daily media consumption. 30 minutes every evening is more than enough. This restriction forces you to become more selective with your media use. I recommend limiting your media consumption to one topic at a time (e.g., copywriting) instead of jumping from one topic to another. The best strategy is only to look up information when you have an immediate problem instead of anticipating problems.
  2. Start taking action. You have spent enough time on the sidelines, now it’s time for massive action and to get your hands dirty. It’s all about gaining momentum. I don’t care what you do; anything is better than doing nothing. Register a domain on Namecheap, buy hosting on Siteground, install WordPress and start grinding. It’s important to have something tangible, which you can work on because it makes the abstract concept of entrepreneurship more concrete.


Information overload

Analysis paralysis is so prevalent because you can access an unlimited amount of information any time via Google these days. Personally, I prefer to read books because of their superior depth. If you think you have to read business books then make it the following five. The truth is you don’t have to read any book before starting a business, but these books are my favorites anyway. Only two of them are business books in the traditional sense:    

  1. Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant (Mindset)
  2. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything (Business)
  3. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Productivity)
  4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change (Productivity)
  5. The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch (Business)

Conclusion

It’s your choice to be an entrepreneur or a wantrepreneur. If you are a wantrepreneur, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and let go of the bullshit.

Now you know everything you need to know about transforming from a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur.
The rest is up to you,

 

Recommended books

Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant
The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch

The power of fuck you money

Time magazine has published an interesting article about fuck you money. The article tracks down the origin of the phrase and defines it as follows: “Having f–k you money is the logical extreme of a certain conception of American freedom: complete ownership over yourself and your time…To get a ballpark estimate of the money you’d need, multiply the annual expense of maintaining your preferred lifestyle by the number of years you’re likely to live.”

The article gives the following example: “if you want to storm out of your office at 40 and plan on living another 50 years with $60,000 in annual walking-around money, simple arithmetic indicates you’ll need $3 million.” This example doesn’t account for inflation and investments, which is why the 4% rule is more useful. The definition is a good starting point, but I want to adjust it for practical purposes.

Time period

I think the assumed period of the remaining lifetime in this definition is too long for two reasons (macro and micro):
1. As an individual, you are subject to macroeconomic trends, which you can’t influence. Most notably interest rates and inflation. The former impacts your income, while the latter impacts your spending. Both factors are constantly changing and it’s impossible to predict them over a lifetime. And we are not even talking about the possibility of black swan events like the 2008 financial crisis.
2. The costs for your preferred lifestyle change over time. When you start a family, you need more money than a bachelor, who is only taking care of himself. It seems more feasible to calculate the fuck you money for a specific period of life.

The calculation of my fuck you money is limited to my time as a bachelor.

Lifestyle

The preferred lifestyle and the linked costs are highly subjective, which is illustrated by this New York Times article about millionaires who don’t feel rich. The other end of the spectrum are people like Mr. Money Mustache, who try to reduce their expenses as much as possible. His fuck you money is $625,000, which is based on the 4% rule and annual spending of $25,000.

You can find me somewhere in the middle, but I am leaning towards Mr. Money Mustache. I don’t like penny-pinching and saving money as an end in itself, but I like the idea that you can increase your personal freedom by reducing your expenses. If you look at it like this saving money becomes all of a sudden sexy. Here are popular roadmaps for money management:

1. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns
2. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
3. The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life

4. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Your expenses are highly dependent on your location (e.g., New York vs. Chiang Mai). Therefore, your location is a lifestyle choice, which has a massive impact on your fuck you money. Personally, I think there are enough great affordable cities, so I don’t have to live in cities like New York, Paris, Tokyo or Zurich. I think cities like Barcelona or Medellín offer a better value for money.

The main recurring expenses are (accommodation, transport, food, activities, insurance and healthcare). While you can determine the first four factors, your influence on insurance and healthcare costs are somewhat limited. Let’s assume you pay for basic insurance and healthcare.


Expenses

My fuck you money estimate is based on the premise that I am a bachelor and that I am living in different cities around the world for three to twelve months at a time. Let’s say that holds true for the next five year. I think it’s more practical to calculate monthly instead of annual fuck you money. My monthly fuck you money is 1500€, which is roughly $1800. It’s based on the following calculation:

Accommodation (A room in a centrally located shared flat, more or less depending on the city)$500
Food (Mainly cooking myself, occasional street food and daily coffee)$360
Transport (I prefer cities, which have a good metro system and/or bike-friendly streets. The main expenses are international flights)$300
Activities (Weekend trips, day trips and hiking)$240
Basic healthcare       $240
Other (Subscriptions, books, clothing, etc.)       $160
Total$1800

I can certainly live with less money, but this number enables me to live a very comfortable life without any trade-offs. To give some context, the minimum wage in Germany is 1500€ per month, roughly 1100€ after tax. Therefore, my fuck you money is fairly modest. The only caveat is that you remain independent and don’t give up your autonomy for the monthly target. That means your 9-5 accountant job doesn’t cut it and the most viable option for achieving this goal is entrepreneurship.

Net income

One of the central assumptions of the concept of fuck you money is that you don’t have to work for the rest of your life. I disagree with the notion that not working at all is something desirable. I think this line of thinking results from working in a soul-crushing job stuck in a cubicle. Work is something highly rewarding when you can choose your projects, working time, location and overall purpose.

I like to create shit, but maybe it’s just me and my protestant work ethic. I don’t mind working till I drop dead as an old man as long as it’s on my own terms. In my experience, chilling at the beach and slurping Mojitos gets old really fast. Therefore, my fuck you money is based on an ongoing income stream.

It’s not enough to earn $1800 net income in a good month, because that’s relatively easy to do. You have to average $1800 net income over a period of at least six months. The variance shouldn’t be too large (± $200) and the income stream should reasonably prolong in the medium term.

I haven’t reached fuck you money yet, but it’s always on my mind. It’s the first thing on my mind when I get up and the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep. The number 1500€ is burned in my mind and I pinned a sticky note above my desk, which constantly reminds me of my monthly target. I don’t care about becoming a millionaire at the current stage of my life, because mo money mo problems. 1500€ monthly net income is plenty for the time being. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Runway

The business environment is highly complex and there are many variables, which are out of your control. For example, if you have an FBA business and a new competitor with deep pockets arrives, who wants to gain market share in your segment and undercuts your prices and takes a loss, you are fucked.

Therefore you need a safety buffer, in case business goes downhill. I think accumulating savings for covering expenses for six months is a sound idea. In this six month you can move to a cheap location and reduce your expenses to a minimum while fixing your revenue stream. In this time you can hunker down and grind to the max, Julian Power style.

I think expenses of 1000€ per month is a reasonable number for this period. Based on this number, you need to save 6000€ (ca. $7100) to have a decent runway. It’s like an insurance for bad times and gives you peace of mind. In summary, if you save up $7100 and build a stable revenue stream, which churns out $1800 net income per month, you have achieved financial independence. This seems much more attainable than the $3 million mentioned in the Times article.

The important question is how you define financial independence for yourself. I haven’t achieved it yet, but it’s an essential motivational driver for me.

Conclusion

The more clear you are about your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. I have a clear vision of what I want my life to look like and the costs of this lifestyle. If you have a concrete number, you can start executing and work towards this goal. Now you know everything you need to know about financial independence.
The rest is up to you,

 

Recommended books

1. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns
2. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
3. The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life
4. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee