So, I’ve just spent three weeks on two different tropical islands as one of the two Greatest Startup Marketing Interns Ever. Jon Yongfook, digital nomad and founder of social marketing tool Beatrix, launched a campaign for an all expense paid internship to bootstrap a brand new startup. At a beach. It sounded so awesome that I had to apply.
Having left my 9-5 job to travel and work on my own startup, this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. The stars must have aligned or something, because out of over 80 video applications, I got chosen as one of the two. Wow.
So off we went, first to Koh Samui, and then to Phuket. After three weeks of four-hour work days and a glorious tan, here are the top 6 things I learnt about bootstrapping a startup on the beach.
1. There is absolute freedom
Running a startup from a beach is almost impossible if the business is funded by investors. Even though operational costs might be lower than that of a city, the idea of being so disconnected from tech/business hubs can be uncomfortable for investors.
By not depending on funding, you get complete control over how the business should be run. So whether you want to run it from the beach or your garage, you get to decide how and what works best.
When the weather got demoralising at Koh Samui, we simply packed our bags and headed to sunny Phuket. When a hotel wasn’t up to standard, we moved to another one down the road.
2. Change is the only constant
We started out as interns for a new startup called Inflowio, but returned as interns of Beatrix 2.0. In Jon’s words, “Inflowio by itself was weak — but integrated into Beatrix, it strengthens the whole product. Perhaps it was the calming sounds of the waves that brought clarity.
The thing about bootstrapping is that you can make major changes. Even changes like killing your new startup before launching it. Imagine having to tell your investors, “Hey, we’re just going to close down the new startup and work on the existing one instead.” The realisation here is that if something isn’t working, changes need to be made.
3. The focus should be on revenue
Without external funding, profitability becomes the most important factor for survival. Instead of focusing on areas that will not lead to paying customer acquisitions, the focus is on those that will bring in money directly.
You are also forced to stay lean and reduce burn rate. Every cent counts, and you’ll want to stretch your dollar for as long as possible till the business becomes profitable. After all, you don’t want to run out of money while stuck on a beach in a foreign country.
We lived in nice but reasonably priced hotels/resorts and ate local whenever possible, splurging only occasionally.
4. Balance is key
When you run a startup, it’s easy to get burnt out from working tirelessly. There are endless things to do, and always something to improve upon. Working on a beach though, forces you to take breaks and lead a more balanced lifestyle. I mean, you’re at the beach — you’ll definitely want to head out to enjoy the sun and the sea.
For us, our days were very balanced: a typical day started with a hearty hotel breakfast, followed by four hours of focused work. We were then free to spend the rest of the day however we wished. Getting a tan, snorkelling, or simply chilling with a book and a nice cold cocktail.
To be more productive, sometimes all you need is to rest and strike a right balance.
5. It’s not as glamorous as it seems
Working on the beach is pretty awesome. In fact, it’s almost as good as it gets, with a nice mix of work and play. But like any startup, there are tons of things that go on behind the scenes that aren’t glamorous. There will be days where work isn’t up to standard and we lose focus. Even days where the weather is bad and the food makes your stomach uncomfortable.
6. Being in a new environment broadens perspectives
The biggest lesson though, is on learning. There’s something about being in an unfamiliar place that makes you more attuned and open minded.
This was my first time working at the beach, and I found myself noticing things that I usually don’t. Things like the different sales techniques street vendors used to attract us. Even tell-tale signs to which restaurant or massage places were legit.
Perhaps it’s because back home, we are so distracted by our own lives that we fail to be more observant. There is a lot to learn from the people around us, and I sure have benefitted from this change in environment.
Will I do this again? Hell yes, and probably for my own startup in the future.
This article is contributed by Hendric Tay.