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This Guy Is Launching 12 Startups in 12 Months | Business | WIRED

This Guy Is Launching 12 Startups in 12 Months | Business | WIRED | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Can’t get enough of that animated GIF where Oprah unleashes a swarm of bees on her studio audience? Or the one where some guy gets hit in the face by a trashcan? You’re in luck. Soon, a new startup called Gifbook will sell you some flip books that recreate your favorite animated GIFs, so that you can enjoy them even when away from your computer. Three books will set you back just $25.

That may sound like a gag from Silicon Valley, the spot-on TV parody of the tech world, but Gifbook is a honest-to-goodness internet service. It was founded by Pieter Levels—a 28-year-old Dutch programmer, designer, and entrepreneur—and it’s just one of several unexpected online services Levels has unleashed on the world.

Levels is on a quest to launch 12 “startups” in just 12 months, and he’s a third of the way home now. One, called Play My Inbox, gathers all the music it finds in your e-mail inbox into a single playlist. Another, called Go Fucking Do It, gives you a new way to set personal goals. Basically, if you don’t reach your goal, you have to cough up some cash to Levels. Gifbook, due to launch by the end of the month, is his fifth creation.

Levels represents everything that’s right about the state of the technology industry—or everything that’s wrong.

Launching one product a month would be a major endeavor for anyone, but Levels has ramped up the degree of difficulty. For one, he’s building all this stuff while traveling the world. He has no fixed address. Instead, he lives out of a single backpack and works from coffee shops and co-working spaces. And two, each of these “startups” is a one-man operation. “I do everything,” he tells WIRED from his current home, The Philippines. “I’m sort of a control freak.”

Depending on who you ask, Levels represents either everything that’s right about the state of the technology industry or everything that’s wrong. He’s self-motivated, ambitious, and resourceful, building each of these projects without any outside investment. But on the flip side, he’s yet another young white male making products that solve what many people see as trivial problems for an already privileged subset of the population, while ignoring larger issues like global warming and wealth disparity.

Worse, as a “digital nomad” who has left to West to create new tech gizmos in places like Thailand and Indonesia, some argue that he’s exploiting wealth disparity to his own benefit. But Levels no fool. He’s deeply aware of the contradictions in his work, and he’s trying hard to sort through them. He may or may not succeed.

Levels launched his first business entirely by accident. Five years ago, while studying at Rotterdam School of Management, he started uploading his own electronic music mixes to YouTube. His channel—called Panda Mix Show—did surprisingly well, and soon, other DJs were asking to upload their mixes too.

By the time he graduated in 2012, he was earning enough money from YouTube advertising to support himself. But he didn’t like being tied to some other company’s service—Google’s YouTube machine—and he wanted to build something more ambitious. And he was tired of his home town. So, when a friend pointed out that he could work from anywhere, he left.

In April 2013, Levels sold most of his possessions—everything that couldn’t fit into a single carry-on—and booked a flight to Thailand. It took him awhile to get any real work done. Several ideas fell by the wayside. “I’d work on them for a long time, trying to get them perfect, then I’d move on to the next thing,” he says. “I was always scared to launch.” He settled on the 12 Startups in 12 Days gimmick so that he would actually see his ideas through. This past March, he launched his first service, Play My Inbox.

Levels is a bona fide “digital nomad,” part of a growing community of professionals who travel from country to country, staying for about a month in each—depending on how long their visas last—while working for U.S. companies or running their own online businesses.

This movement was largely inspired by self-help author Tim Ferris and his book The Four Hour Work Week. Ferris encouraged Westerners to quit their day jobs and start online businesses while living in foreign countries where their dollars or euros would stretch further, and many followed his advice.

According to an Associated Press analysis of government data, 53 percent of recent college graduates in the U.S. were either unemployed or working jobs that didn’t require a degree. The situation in most European countries is at least as bad, and even as all these young people struggle to find a footing in the West, the cost of living in major cities is skyrocketing. It’s little wonder that some are seeking cheaper rents in foreign cities, where they can stretch their earnings from the gig economy further.

But some question whether this is a good thing. Though blogger Duff McDuffee, a frequent critic of Ferris and the “personal development” movement as a whole, says there’s nothing inherently wrong with travel, or trying to live cheaply, he argues that nomads like Levels should consider the bigger picture. “There’s sort of a colonial aspect to taking advantage of cheap labor and currency discrepancies,” he says.

Levels has friends who call him “neocolonialist.” And he sees their point. He worries that even though he spends money locally, he’s taking advantage of local infrastructure and government services—such as the protection of local police—without giving much back in the way of taxes.

The Good With the Scammy

Amarit Charoenphan, the founder of the Bangkok co-working space HUBBA, where about half the occupants are digital nomads, says these traveling entrepreneurs are pretty good for the local economy. And more importantly, he believes, they’re helping Bangkok grow its own tech startup community.

“They have the skills and the fortitude and the assets necessary to become a good startup founder or co-founder,” he explains. “They know what they’re doing. They can make money.”

He acknowledges, however, that some digital nomads, particularly those influenced by Ferris, aren’t running legitimate tech businesses. Instead, he says, they’re promoting scammy multi-level marketing schemes and e-books on how to make money online by, of course, selling e-books on how to make money online.

Levels says he has met many nomads that are part of this racket, but he says things are getting better. Many serious startups, such as live translation service Babelverse and link sharing service Buffer were founded by nomads, he points out, and many other travelers work as freelance designers or programmers and have skills they can share.

Minimum Viable Products

How much value are his “startups” are creating? That’s another open question. After all, Levels isn’t really creating 12 different companies. He’s building what people in tech land call “minimum viable products”—simple prototypes that can be used to gauge the level of interest in your idea.

The problem is that these rapid prototypes created by 20-something year old software developers tend to only address the needs of a small group of people—namely other 20-something year-old software developers with money to burn. What we end up with is an endless procession of apps and services with pitches like “Uber for laundry.”

Levels ideas tend to fit this mold. One of his startups is called NomadList, a leaderboard of the cheapest cities to work from for one month. In other words, it’s a site for people just like him. It’s hard to imagine the next General Electric emerging from this bootstrapped approach to building companies—let alone something that solves global issues like hunger or poverty.

But for Levels, this is about learning and experimentation. And it’s working out—at least for him. Just Fucking Do It has attracted acquisition offers and inquiries from investors. NomadList, his most successful product to date, was profitable on the first day, even though he didn’t even know what the business model would be until after launched it. As turns out, people wanted to advertise jobs on the service.

He hopes that, eventually, he can do something that would have a far bigger impact, and perhaps his travels will help him figure out what. “You have to start somewhere,” he says. “I’d love to create more meaningful products that have a significant impact on the world, but how can I if I can’t afford to pay my own rent first?”

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great story of a digital nomad who is teaching people around him how to get profitable very quickly and pay for his expenses while seeing the world. At the same time he learns about business and finding products that are worth being marketed.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Entrepreneurs

How Startups Can Make a Social Change

How Startups Can Make a Social Change | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
What can be done starts with the digital communities building the future. Startups can, and should be, a force for change.

In the Amazonian forests, wildlife presenter Charlie Hamilton Jones was looking to make a statement. He went and bought a patch of Amazonian wildlife, looking to protect it for generations.

Instead, he wound up buying a cocaine plantation. The most dangerous one in the area, owned by the “most dangerous family.”

When he went to confront the drug dealers, he was in for a surprise. Far from being gun-toting murderers, they were desperately powerless. Charlie had always demonized those who had spoiled his precious forests: now he saw that they were merely doing what they had to do to survive.

They implored him to “pay them so they wouldn’t do it.”

Digital startups that strive to control all facets of the value chain achieve material success. They are at the forefront of changing the way humans interact with one another, and changing the world around them.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

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Via Thomas Faltin, ventureLAB
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Excellent article. Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a choice.

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9 Ways Virtual Reality Will Affect the Startup Scene

9 Ways Virtual Reality Will Affect the Startup Scene | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

t sounds like science fiction, but virtual reality technology is taking off. Not even the sky’s the limit for imagining what could be done with this technology. Just ask Google I/O 2014 attendees and their cardboard VR systems.With applications ranging across the board, the potential for startups to capitalize is huge. With this in mind, I asked 12 entrepreneurs from YEC the following question:Facebook recently acquired Oculus VR. Practically speaking, how do you think that virtual reality technology will affect the startup space in the next five years?Here are the responses:

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.ly/1aKy7km

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Sci-fi is becoming reality quickly. More and more amazing new stuff is being developed.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Entrepreneurship, Innovation

Anyone Anywhere Can Build The Next Google -- There Are No Barriers

Anyone Anywhere Can Build The Next Google -- There Are No Barriers | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
A common excuse that entrepreneurs make for not being able to innovate is the lack of venture capital in their region.

A common excuse that entrepreneurs make for not being able to innovate is the lack of venture capital in their region. They argue that because investors are not ready to take a risk, they can’t succeed. Policy makers all over the world make the same excuse. Access to venture capital may have been a problem as recently as a decade ago, but is no longer an inhibitor. The cost of developing world-changing startups has dropped dramatically. With the exponential advances in technologies such as computing, storage, and sensors, entrepreneurs can do what only governments and big research labs could do before: solve big problems.

To read the full article, click on the title.

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Via Marylene Delbourg-Delphis
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Wow! Great article, must-read for startups and entrepreneurs. There is no more excuse for waiting to get the big funding check. Just do it!

Guillaume Decugis's curator insight, November 22, 2013 8:48 PM

Several good examples that show how dramatically the cost of creating breakthrough innovations has decreased.

Alba Redin's curator insight, December 1, 2013 7:07 AM

Successful entrepreneurship, who succeed? THose companies who are different, Game changers (they aim to compete on different terms), market entry and tey are in essense guerillas.

Ranjit Kovilinkal's curator insight, December 2, 2013 11:08 PM

The culture of big risk taking has to fall in place in India for something really big to emerge! Any comments?