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How founders can self insure

The life of a founder & entrepreneur has its ups and downs. Its times of surplus and as a friend said being skint. It just comes with the job.

Ideally you have more of the former than the latter! But the longer you’re in the game, the more likely you’ll have time periods of both.

The good (or bad news) is that after good times, comes bad times. And after bad times comes good times. The challenge is you don’t know how long either will last!

And life happens, just because you are a founder, it doesn’t mean you’re immune from the regular swings and roundabouts of life ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s some thoughts on how you can self insure as you go. You can build things to insulate yourself from these shocks, a few I’ve found:

  • When times are good, save & save & save as much as you can. Have at times saved as much as 80% of income.
  • At all times, keep your living costs in line. Keep fixed costs low. Keep a focus on value, am I getting a good deal from this.
  • Get smart & savvy at investing. Not the kind of investing you do at work, but the safe, patient kind. Remember this is to counter balance. This is a common mistake, to take the same risk profile as you do at work. Know where you earn the money, and where you invest it. Intelligent Investor, Bogle. Become an index fund maven.
  • Do all the tax deductions you can, be smart with retirement accounts, health savings accounts, college funds. The more boring the better.
  • Get life insurance, or other insurances to look after you and your loved ones.
  • Take cash off the table at regular events or as opportunities arise. Taking some cash to give future you a buffer is a good thing.
  • Get better at talking with friends (founders and non-founders alike) at how they’re investing, what they’re investing in, be a sponge to learn.

The more resiliency you have built up, the more enduring and durable you can be as a founder.

Which is a great super power to add. And the lessons/muscle memory & habits learnt from building up your insurance, you can apply to continuing to build your company.

Best case you don’t ever need to tap into your self insurance. In which case you can always donate it down the track!

February 27th, 2024

The perfect year

After my wife and I got married, we did an exercise that had been suggested to me. And that was to sit and writing down, your perfectly average day, week, month and year.

You get your spouse to do it too, then you compare notes. And this helps uncover what’s the same, what’s different but it also gives you a language. This is what we’re working towards as a couple (amongst other things) and when things get hard, or when you achieve that, it brings you together.

And of course, what you do on a day, is what your life is. So it’s also a fantastic way to define how you want to live or aspire to live like.

BUT only recently have I clicked, that doing the same exercise professionally is probably a good idea. We all set new year goals, have KPIs or OKRs or objectives we are trying to achieve. But spending the time to jot down what the perfect year looks like.

  • What happens and when?
  • How would you balance work and play? Friends and family?
  • Learning? New connections?
  • Conferences? Events?

For me, more conferences or getting better at repeating the same events each year, to build up that rhythm through the year and habit.

February 21st, 2024

Using AI as a writing coach

I’ve been using AI as a writing coach.

For example, I would describe a style of writing (or what I want the reader to feel) and ask for tactics on how to do that.

Then I can edit my post, or write it, and compare. Then revise.

I guess you could also drop your piece in and ask, how could I adjust this to do recreate that. But the former way teaches me, versus just modifies the writing.

Other methods I’ve been using are, check this piece for me, does this make sense? If you were this audience, what would you think of this piece.

Around this topic I really enjoyed this chat from Derek Thompson on how ChatGPT can change the future of jobs, including your own. In it, they talk about how the tools can take say a B player to an A player. I’m hoping it can help me do the with writing!

But I like that lens, doing it for you is great, but teaching and improving is better.

February 21st, 2024

West Village

Or another title for this post, can you live in the city and have a good lifestyle with a family?

Being from New Zealand, this is almost incomprehensible. Typically when kids come along, you go back to NZ. Because it’s so good!

And like any parents, as kids come along and grow you, you feel those pressures to the suburbs. For more of the outdoors. More space for less money. I wanted to share, what I share with friends, about living in the West Village or in the city with a family, in New York. I really love it. I love the feel, and the energy about it.

The first couple of things, schools are very close, sub 4 minutes if I speed walk. Within 10 minutes, there are at least 8 different playgrounds. And – so is the social group for their friends, you don’t need to organise get togethers with friends, because you’re going to bump into them. You still do but the bumping into friends factor is high.

And then there’s lots of events through the year:

  • The school organizes a Halloween Monster Mash. Bleecker Park (yay!) hosts a Halloween event, an Easter event and others through the year. With activities, magician, horse carriage rides (?!). And an organized trick or treat route.
  • Halloween itself is a buzz of activity, with a warmth and generosity around the neighborhood. Something foreign, compared to the idea or image of Halloween.
  • At Christmas there are tree lighting ceremonies, multiple. There are ice rinks, Chelsea Piers, Brookfield and last hear The Standard had one at the base.
  • Apple picking upstate! Or stomping the grapes. Skiing in winter (we don’t do enough of!)

New York (and the US) has a massive summer break, spanning 10 or so weeks. Which gives fantastic opportunity for travel, or these days, travel + remote work. To see friends & family.

Socially, I can catch up with friends all times/places.

  • Jump up early and we go for a run together, with a coffee afterwards. Go do a gym session.
  • Or even go out after the kids are asleep for a couple of drinks. Go to an event late, for work. And within 5 minutes you can be catching up with a friend, you might even only go out for an hour. It’s the ease of doing it, which means you end up doing it more.

That’s quite different to New Zealand where social events have to be more organized and any get together is a big one! In New York it’s more frequent smaller catch ups.

Food wise

  • There are lots of restaurants & bars nearby. All highly rated. And you easily find the ones you enjoy. Friends who have left said it’s the diversity of food that they miss.
  • But then, there is also a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target at USQ. In summer, the USQ food markets are on (but can be pricey). So you can shop high end organic, value and fresh from the farm.
  • There is a great local butcher, Pinos Prime Meats (cash only), Raffettos for fresh pasta, Puerto Rico Coffee company for wonderful coffee. Each a joy to stock up on. And that’s without even considering the coffee/cafes, Buvette, Elk, Merriweather (and almost anywhere else).
  • Joes Pizza for a slice, or pop into Murrays Cheese for a charcuterie top up. Recently I discovered Di’Paolos in Little Italy, for meats & cheeses. Also a delight.
  • The local wine shop, Seagrape, remember your name & make recommendations for whatever the occasion.
  • If you’re tired, or had a long day, or no sleep, food delivery is available. As well as groceries. This is a big level up, especially when the kids are younger.

The walking distance availability of food, at a mixture of prices/quality, so you can pick to suit is so good. You don’t feel stuck with just one place.

The geography also contributes to the energy, you are 2-4 blocks from the westside park i.e. the waterfront. Which only gets better year in year out. Last summer we even got our own beach?! But summer before was Little Island. And Pier 57. It’s a playground down on the water. Lovely for an evening (or morning) run with the sun. The Westside Hudson Park really is a gem.

On top of the low rise buildings, the streets where the trees overhang. Pre-covid riding down 7th, turning off onto 11th, you feel like the world has just got a bit slower, easing into the weekend.

Physically the houses & apartments are smaller in size and footprint, you will get more square footage elsewhere. But you will find it hard to get the same amenities just around the corner. At least I’ve struggled to beat it! I guess it has that European feeling but with access to New York (and US) benefits. Which is pretty hard to bottle or replicate elsewhere.

Mobility, most of my movements these days are jumping on a Citibike, to get around the city. Since I’ve been here, I’ve cycled over 6,000km! You can fallback to train, which is reliable (but admittedly not as good as pre covid). Commuting is fast for work, 15 minutes to the office, or 20 minutes to most meetings. Can’t complain there.

Car ownership wise, the cost to park (and insurance) does make owning a car a bit cost prohibitive. Or put another way I don’t really want to pay that premium, for the convenience. SilverCar used to be good but scaled back in New York, so do use Turo when need to. Owning a car would be a level up though.

Then airports, it’s not long to Newark, JFK and Laguardia are a bit further, but you do have three options.

And then of course, you have the playground that is New York! If anything interesting is happening anywhere, chances are it will come through New York. Music, arts, business, sports. You name it. When there’s a big trend happening, or field opening up, like AI is right now. You can be in the room and be part of the change. Which is wonderful.

That is all to say, living in the city ain’t bad, yep it’s not the same. But it is pretty good if you ask me.

February 8th, 2024

Experiments with Helium, the P2P cell network

I’ve had on my todo list for a while, to try using a second sim on my phone for data. Most modern phones let you have two sims, to either swap between. Or you can use one for calls and the other for data.

But first let me rewind, I use Google Fi, Google’s cell network. Service wise its fantastic. Google hasn’t built their own physical cell network, it sits on cell phone networks called a MVNO. But unlike cheaper providers they usually have negotiated top priority on the other networks, so your connectivity is fast.

Then when you travel, it seamlessly swaps to the local networks, and your cost stays the same. This was the main drawcard, as when traveling before on TMobile, you were on a slow network or they didn’t have a local partner.

Compounding this, with Google Fi, you have the extra security layer protecting your account, your Google account. This helps diminish the risk of someone stealing your sim or accessing your account.

BUT, the data is expensive, $10/gig. They do have an unlimited plan, which is more reasonable but I’ve kept hearing that this isn’t so good whilst abroad, often being cut off.

So I wanted to explore, why not add a cheaper sim, and set that one to ‘data only’ for domestic use, then Google Fi data when abroad.

In effect:

  • Keep Google Fi as primary phone number, and data whilst abroad.
  • Use a secondary provider, for data.

And it is a low risk thing to try, because if it doesn’t work, just turn off the other sim. And resume your current plan.

Enter Helium, I happened to see the launch early December, $20/month for unlimited calls/text/data, and 5gb tethered.

It has a history, of wanting to make a peer to peer network, where instead of a centralized network, it’s a network of individual participants powering the network. You yourself can get a hotspot and contribute network coverage. Pretty neat. Subscribers can also earn tokens for helping map the network and indicate where data is most needed. This is called Mapping Rewards.

Whilst they continue to build out the network, to stop gap coverage, they have T Mobile as a back haul provider. This provides continuous service where their participants don’t yet have coverage (which to be fair looks fairly nascent).

So I got set up early December and thought would share how the experiment is going. So how is it going? Nearly two months in:

  • I have found I haven’t had to pay yet, as the mobile mapping rewards cover the account fee. Which is a bonus I didn’t expect.
  • The data seems fast, not as fast as Google Fi in the same spot but still it is 5G.
  • I haven’t had any major connectivity issues, a couple of minor ones except ones indoors and then when I popped to NJ, there were a couple whilst it reconnected.

I haven’t tried calling on it, so can’t comment on that.

So far so good, I have reduced my overall mobile bill to circa $18/month (Google FI) plus taxes/international calls. Which is impressive.

A notable downside of Helium, if you enable mapping (which is optional) it does impact your battery. But so you can decide if the trade offs are worth it. I could turn it off and lift my bill to $38/month and it is still pretty reasonable for the set up.

I imagine some of that battery drain is the fact that the phone is running two sims. If you didn’t want to do Google Fi, you could use Helium & Airalo, to grab data when aboard. As Helium is domestic only, at least today.

If you want to join Helium, do use my code, I think we both get $5 off. Same with Google Fi. And/or Airalo.

In signing up to Helium you are by virtue supporting innovation in the mobile space. Forward looking, there’s a view where our cell service might be provided by lower satellites, from Starlink (or others). And a token based network might play a role in that future, to provide global connectivity.

February 4th, 2024

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