New Adventures

Oct 15 was my last day as Head of Engineering at Patio. Fun ride but time for something new. Because I'd like some self-accountability and for the sake of "building in public", I'm going to publish my goals here on this Substack.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm traveling through the coastal landscapes of Cinque Terre, the island of Sardinia, and the cities of Milan and Barcelona. I'll have some time (but not too much) so here are the goals to be accomplished by Nov 4th:

  1. Buy a micro-business*

  2. Release v1 of "Everyday Habit Streaks" app to the App Store

  3. Write for 30 mins every day, primarily about my last year at a fast-growing startup as an engineering leader

*unless there's nothing of value worth purchasing. I know that makes it easy to meet this goal but really no point buying something that's not worth buying.

In terms of buying a business, the value of paying for even a really small business is clear: in general, going from 0 to 10 customers is a lot harder than 10 to 100 customers. After a couple of days of scouring, one mistake in my evaluation criteria around micro-businesses is already apparent: I often fail to factor in future growth potential. An app that helps users make GIFs was interesting to me: fun, mobile app with a clear, simple use case and some paying customers. But unfortunately, it has limited growth potential by virtue of being in a crowded market with no product differentiation. I could have bought it for $3000 (currently making $600 ARR) but where's the ceiling on this business? 10x = $6000 ARR? But it would take quite a bit of time to even get there.

I'm often attracted to "consumer utilities" but consumers are tough customers (not willing to pay) and utilities are simple and tend to be saturated with competition. To fix the evaluation criteria here, a rigorous rubric is needed that factors in not only (a) current # of customers and (b) how much I'd enjoy working on the project and (c) how familiar I am with the market but also (d) the future growth potential.

On the other hand, goal numero dos is the polar opposite of goal number one. It is explicitly a consumer utility but one that I really care about. Atomic Habits has been life changing for me. I started off with an “exercise everyday” goal a few years ago. I just had to do something every day: some days, it would just be a 30 second plank. But building in an everyday habit has had compounding effects. Now, I typically lift with a coach and per a program 3 days a week and run 3 days a week (ran my first 5k this year and looking forward to running a half marathon next year!). The key insight of the book really is that habits trump goals.

Anyway, back to the "Everyday Habit Streaks" app. It helps to be a little explicit about the purpose of working on something like this: it's not something I've validated a consumer need for (just my personal need) and it's not something I expect to bring in big $$$. I could build it much more quickly using React Native but I'd like to build it using Swift. I want to make it not just functional but also beautiful. I'd like to spend time in Figma and improve my skills there. So, it's really a passion project with some learning opportunities.

Here’s a picture from Cinque Terre above. See you in two weeks.