Scrubbing Toilets in Malaga

Scrubbing Toilets in Malaga Live Work Anywhere

I once said I would do whatever it took to go overseas and earn income, even if I had to scrub toilets with a toothbrush in Malaga, Spain.

Thankfully for the Internet, I can go to Malaga to brush my teeth and not the toilet. It’s not that easy to uproot, to find a job, to pay for travel expenses, home expenses and loans, to learn a new language, adjust to cultural differences, or to scrub toilets. But it is doable.

I used to spend hours (at work, sorry Inger Reilly! And it was “hours” because the Internet was dial-up!) researching ways to live and work abroad. I read about getting visas, personal stories, and dozens of tips and how-to’s.  Not much existed when the Internet first started. Today, so much has changed and transformed. The Internet and technology evolve rapidly but humans are much slower to make shifts.

After getting a first taste of life in Spain, I was hooked and needed to find a way to get back to exploring new cultures, languages, and places. But after finding a serious boyfriend, moving to Seattle, and getting a job at Adobe, “Life” eventually hit me. I got caught in the rat race and started caring about what was around me, not within me.

There are a few ways to travel as a professional, and by that I don’t mean busking on the street and eating out of trash cans (though I’ve seen former corporate slaves do this).  You can be a writer or journalist, or even a photographer. You can become a roadie with a band, be sent overseas by your job, or work for a while as acontractor.  For me, I tried many of these things (except for the roadie bit).  My options now are contract work, self employment, and earning revenues either residually from business or from the sales of my company.

I’ve tried, or am trying, everything I’ve heard abour.  I have taught English in Spain, sold artisan crafts with gypsies on dirt streets, built websites in Hungary and Nicaragua, helped translate and sell tours in Oaxaca, sold tickets for a disco in Costa Rica, helped a musician friend panhandle in Argentina, and even once sold an octopus to a restaurant in Mexico. But for the record, I ‘m still willing to scrub the toilet.  I have some great stories, and thankfully there are better ways to earn a living. But it’s all about keeping that willingness!

What job would you be willing to take to live the lifestyle you want?

Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

Working remotely means remote communications: trainings, conversations, interviews, sales meetings, presentations, tech support, and so on. I was using webex at $49/month until freeconferencing came out with their webinar software.

Benefits of freeconferencing:

  • It’s FREE (and so is the conference call line you use to dial in! I’ve been using this for a couple years and it works great)
  • Simple setup
  • Browser based
  • Recording, screensharing, chat
  • Connecting to Skype is easy. For an international traveler who is conscious of international roaming, this is a big one!

I’ve been testing it side by side with webex and there’s no downside. Even for a newly released product it’s been great. If anyone has had any other experiences, please let me know. Otherwise, highly recommended not just for cost savings on the software, but also on phone call costs for the world traveler.

Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

Women 2.0 Startup Lessons Learned: Beer2Buds

“If only I could drink that!”

Beer2Buds was born after my friend from Sweden sent a virtual beer in an email on a long Friday afternoon while stuck at the office. Not only was the idea of the beer great, but also we were able to rediscover great memories we had made years before, while studying abroad together.

Most ideas start with a problem that you personally wish to have solved, and you realize there does not exist a good way of solving it now. In this case, I wanted to solve the problem of buying a friend a beer from 4,000 miles away. The second part is determining how many people have that problem (ie. what is your addressable market). If it’s not enough, though you may love your idea, it’s reality-check time—what is the amount of energy you intend to spend and for what result? Make sure there is a market.

Sure, there are a lot of beer drinkers, but how many actually:

  • Have email/Facebook/iPhone?
  • Will send a friend a beer?
  • Can we reach?
  • And how often will they do it?

Next, how much are they willing to pay for it?

Nobody likes to hear this but your first idea won’t likely be the one that sticks. You will be forced to make iterations until you find a product/market fit in a market large enough to make sense. Getting to the product/market fit as quickly as possible is the goal.

To quote Steve Blank’s “No Plan Survives First Contact with Customers”, there is no replacement for real market validation. Want to know if your product will work? Get real users to test it, as they won’t lie. The true test: will they pay for your product? The next test: will they keep coming back?

Before spending too much time in development or iterations, you absolutely have to scale down to a MVP (minimum viable product). That is, what does it take to get from A to B. No bells and whistles in V.1 or you’ll end up playing pin the tail on the donkey wondering where to focus.

Testing and Traction

Measure and test assumptions! I hate to say “throw it to the wall and see what sticks”, but throw it to the wall and measure the results to see what customers really want. Take an educated guess after you narrow down your target market and try a variety of marketing ideas, generally one at a time, and compare results. We have tried many different tactics and none resulted in what we originally expected. For example, we found that an urban professional is more likely to send a beer to congratulate a friend on a job promotion than a beer aficionado would send his beer-drinking buddy a random beer to say cheers (an incorrect assumption based on the original motivation for creating Beer2Buds).

Pivot to a New Product

After making several product iterations, measuring results, and scaling our team up/down, we realized that Beer2Buds was going to need mass volume and cash to reach desired revenues, and we wouldn’t have enough resources to fully support that in the short term. We decided a pivot was needed.

With limited resources and now a team of two, Tessa and I sat together and asked ourselves what was next. Generally speaking, I am the business side and Tessa is the technical side. Running out of time and money, we analyzed 4 different business models that could work, how long they’d take to implement, and which had the highest income potential, was the most scalable, and would produce the quickest return.

We chose “Promotr” which became PromoBomb a few weeks later. PromoBomb exists as a B2B2C product where we leverage the customer base of our network to help them grow their own customer base and increase our visibility and revenues. Shifting the business model and creating a new product while running on low fuel was scary, but it turned out to be the right decision. The product was created from a large amount of feedback and to address a larger market, but also from instinct. At a certain point, you have to trust your gut.

I created the first wireframes and specs, and graphics, and Tessa took on all of the development and future product mocks and specs. I sought advice from our bar/restaurant network and trusted unofficial advisors in the restaurant and tech industries. We went to the drawing board several times and asked “What is A to B” so that we only created an MVP and not unnecessary features.

With paying clients, we have found a repeatable, scalable, sales model and are planning to methodically build out our product and team. Real customer validation helps us keep a pulse on what’s working and what isn’t.

Lessons learned so far (with many more to come)

A startup feels like you are Harry Houdini and you’re underwater, trying to break free (figure out product/market fit) and make it to the surface (grow revenues) one lock (one challenge) at a time before you run out of air (cash).

  • Tenacity and perseverance are key. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day.
  • Don’t scale too quickly.
  • It’s ok to say “no” to a customer. General rule of thumb: wait until 10 customers.
  • request the same thing before it goes from ‘noise’ to ‘noteworthy’.
  • Be bold but take calculated risks.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket –- you need 20 leads to close 1 sale.
  • Trust your gut and learn from experience.
  • Focus on your core value proposition. Be specific. Don’t be all things to all people.
  • Stay the course; persevere. An idea is only worth the amount of effort you put
    behind it.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure means you’re one step closer to winning.

F ail fast.
A ct.
I terate.
L earn.

Be ready to overcome challenges – daily. Just don’t give up.

About the guest blogger: Libby Tucker is Founder and CEO of Beer2Buds. Prior to Beer2Buds, she was the COO of Seattle startup (acquired by TalentTech) and a former Adobe employee. Libby blogs at AnywhereProfessional, focused on traveling whilst pursuing her vocation. Libby speaks fluent Spanish and conversational German. When she’s not creating web products, you’ll find her kayaking, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, playing beach volleyball, or discovering new lands. Follow her on Twitter at @libtuck and her startup at @beer2buds.

Google Apps and Why They Rock

Because everything I do has completely morphed to online.  I haven’t lost a file, thanks to Dropbox, and with Google Apps have been able to:

  • Create and Share Company Documents
  • Maintain and Share Spreadsheets
  • Create a mini-CRM system
  • Connect a Domain Name from GoDaddy and create company email account
  • Use Google Sites to create company wiki pages to manage daily operations manuals, sales sheets and employees, human resource and legal documents, and the list goes on and on

Google Apps makes it possible for you to truly run your business from anywhere.  I use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to create documents sometimes, but as often as I can and especially for collaboration, I’ll use Google Apps.  I post my MS docs, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoints into my Google Site wikis.

When traveling, from any computer, you can be instantly working and collaborating online.  I’ve tested this in Argentina, Hungary, Costa Rica, and all over the US.  By slowly switching everything over to Google Apps and Dropbox, your files will be completely mobile!

What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”

Ideas occur every second. Innovation only happens when an Entrepreneur does something about the idea.
Entrepreneurs are thought leaders, doers, thinkers. People who take risks. One of my favorite concepts is by Paul Graham, where he likens Entrepreneurs to a lion in the wild – you never know each day if you’re gonna eat, but you’re gonna fight. We were meant to be free.
“Vocation is where the world’s deep hunger and your deep passion meet”
Being happy is about being free, being your own boss, taking risks, creating, and carving out your own unique path. Being an Entrepreneur to me means to wake up every day and know that I have a fight in front of me, that there are a lot of fears and unknowns, but just like the lion, that’s my destiny and not my choice.
There are a lot of ups and downs as an Entrepreneur. One day everything is going great and you’re on the way to realizing your vision; the next day – that partnership falls through, a new competitor launches and is featured on TechCrunch, the industry prices go up, your sales guys quits, and on and on. That’s just part of the deal. Someone once compared obstacles to bugs on your windshield – the faster you go, the more bugs you get. Just having a tough windshield, tough skin, and the faster you can resolve and move forward, the better you can control your car, your business.
Entrepreneurs aren’t always the top in their class.  But what they possess is an undying will and relentless optimism that drives them forward.  There a lot of people who say ‘that’s a good idea’ or ‘that would be cool but’ or ‘that could never be done’ – but you can be sure there’s an Entrepreneur who woke up and saw the idea and say ‘hey, I can do that’. Then, they strap on a seatbelt and hold on for the ride – it’s a bumpy but rewarding one.
“Imagination is the Preview of Life’s Coming Attractions”
– Einstein
If we can dream it, we can make it happen.  Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your vision come to reality.  Getting there means facing daily challenges and overcoming them with perseverance.

Lion in the Wild: Why Entrepreneurship is a Natural Choice

One of my favorite articles is by Paul Graham, entrepreneur, investor, founder of Y Combinator. I quote it often and I wanted to give it a shout out. It’s called You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss.
Paul likens an entrepreneur to a lion in the wild. He says:

“I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I’d only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive.

They’re like different animals. I suspect that working for oneself feels better to humans in much the same way that living in the wild must feel better to a wide-ranging predator like a lion. Life in a zoo is easier, but it isn’t the life they were designed for.”

Here’s my interpretation of what he’s saying: It’s much tougher to be out in the world of the unknown, whether in work or in life. It’s wild. It’s scary. And on any given day it can eat you alive. That’s the daily existence for people who work as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is like walking into a jungle and trust that you packed the right stuff beforehand.

But… the process engrosses you. Your mistakes are your own, and you can do whatever you want. You love it, because you are free. Or as Paul Graham says “Ten times more alive”!

Humans weren’t designed to be corporate machines, slaving away (voluntarily!) to build someone else’s dreams. To feed someone else’s family. Entrepreneurship means that you may not know if you’re going to eat the next day or not. But it’s your choice whether or not that happens, not someone else’s. You don’t live off someone else’s rationing.

Being wild, free, undaunted and passionate amidst daily challenges are characteristics of both the lion and the entrepreneur. No one would ever argue that entrepreneurship is easy.

But human beings were meant to experience life by being alive. Ten times more alive than they are when captive. We’ve been taught that we’re supposed to take charge of our own destinies. How are we supposed to do that if we can’t even control the amount of dollars in our wallets?

Kudos to the entrepreneurs among us! And lets hope the numbers continue to grow. It’s way more fun to run together.

If you’re an entrepreneur, do you feel more free because of it? If you’re not an entrepreneur, do you think becoming one would make you feel more free?

Self Slavery: How the Corporate World Was Never Meant for You

I often refer to the Corporate World as intentional self slavery.

We are taught to go to school and to get a “good job”.  Little boxes on the hillside full of ticky tacky.  What does that mean?  We shrug our shoulders and don’t think of the next step.  Unless someone tells us to do something, we sit still.  One of my favorite movies is Idiocracy.  On the surface, it’s an absurd comedy.  Looking deeper shows a devolved society. The further we ‘advance’ the less we think for ourselves.  Consider the smartphone, which many affectionately call the dumbphone.  When is the last time you asked for directions? How many times have you asked Siri where a dead body is hidden?

Do you wait to cross the street until the little guy turns from red to white, and even animates walking, until you step your foot off the curb?

Never dumb down your dreams, question everything that is around you and why it exists.

One day, one of my last days before freeing myself from the office (to pursue Beer2Buds), I saw a girl’s cubicle.  She had some plants, some decorations, and a huge lamp.  I said “wow, that’s a lot of stuff” to which she replied “yeah, isn’t it great, I got the lamp from my living room.  I figured since I spend so much time here, I might as well make it comfortable.”   Decorated office cubicle - say no to corporate slavery - Anywhere Entrepreneur

No, it’s not great.  It’s sad.  It’s one thing if you were there because you wanted to be there.  But, unbeknownst to you, you’ve become a victim of willed corporate slavery.  Do you ever get tired of rush hour?  Do you ever ponder why you are intentionally part of the flock of sheep that jams up the freeway or subway at 8 am and 6 pm?

And if you have all of this time to decorate your office, why in the world are  you not creating a LIFE for yourself.  Don’t settle for what is in front of you!  A pet rock is still a rock.  You can decorate a jungle gym and pretend it’s a castle but at the end of the day it’s still a cage.  I’m not saying don’t make the best with what you have.  I’m saying don’t limit yourself because someone else defined you.  YOU define you.  You have the ability to create your life, why choose to decorate your cubicle?  There are pictures of your kids on your cubicle walls because you can’t spend enough time with your family.  You have plants and a giant lamp because you want to feel like you’re in your living room.  We even have casual Fridays so that you can wear jeans.  Feel like you’re at home yet?  It’s a trick!  Humans were not meant to be in cages.  We are free insomuch as we give up all of our freedoms.  Our freedom is an illusion.

We are given the carrot or the stick from which to choose.  It used to be that, as free human beings, we were ruled by the stick.  We were forced into slavery, to serve others, by violent means.  Now, all someone has to do is say – Hey, I’ll give you some money, we’ll give you a health plan for all your stress, we’ll even offer daycare, give you a ping pong table and free soft drinks.  Voila!  That’s not such a bad deal to trade for your daily sacrifice from 8-6, including your long commute, to be away from family, friends, your creativity, your routine – all to fill someone else’s pockets and to help them buy time.  Do you take candy from strangers?  NO.  Slap your hand.

Beehive of cubicals
Don’t let this be you

These things are put in place not so that you have a work-life balance but so that you can stay longer at work.  You can even have a sleeping pod and take a nap.  I hear many people say things like “well, we’re meat eaters, that’s just the way we evolved, so we eat meat” in a Brawndo-style voice “it’s got electrolytes” (Idiocracy reference).  Applying that to freedom – we once used to be free to roam the earth, to find and make our own food, to create businesses, to play when we decided we needed a break.  Have we evolved into cubicleville?

There’s never been a better time to reach deep inside and pull out your creativity.  Look past the cubed wall, question what exists around you, don’t listen to others who are trying to pull you into their world because it’s safe and comfortable, and reach into your knowing soul.  Free yourself from the corporate grind.  What does that mean?  What will you do now?   You were taught to fear so you wouldn’t think for yourself; so that you’d stay.  It will all work out so long as you choose to break out of slavery.  Life is too short to spend in a corporate jail cell.

Origin of Sending a Beer

The origin of Beer2Buds was in 2001 while sitting at my desk in Milwaukee. A friend from Sweden sent me a virtual beer in an email and I thought if I could only redeem that locally what a great idea that would be.

What a great way to stay in touch with friends and reconnect over the feeling you had and the memories you created when you were together.  After spending time learning web and product development, payment systems, incorporating, choosing right – and wrong – business partners, was launched in February 2009.

If you can’t convince people it is a good idea it’s for one of 2 reasons – 1) it’s a bad idea 2) it’s too early.

Now sending people drinks are popping up all over the country and the world – sounds like a good idea – just a little early. But with advances in smartphones, web apps, and independent businesses adapting to needs of customers and coupons, sending a beer will start becoming even easier.