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How To Build A Startup From A Beach (simplehoney.com)
173 points by joyce 1782 days ago | hide | past | web | 77 comments | favorite

I spent a lot of time this winter up in Tahoe. My days consisted of hitting the mountain for first lift, snowboarding for a few hours, back at the condo by noon and spend the rest of the day working. My productivity during these days was absolutely insane. Not being able to meet anyone for drinks, dinner, etc. just means you end up with an awesome 8-12 hour block of completely uninterrupted time to just crank through shit.

Sounds like an absolute dream. Last time I went skiing I was wondering if something like this might work, glad to hear that it did for you --- I'd love to try it in the future!

Didn't you find that socially isolating although?

I was expecting some fluff piece about how to make a passive income on SEO while living a jetset life style. This was not it. The article makes surprisingly much sense actually.

My thoughts exactly. I think they're actually getting a lot of stuff right.

I was expecting to be told how I too could live this lifestyle, if only I bought her awesome Article Spinner for <strike>99.99</strike> $9.99

All of this advice is great except "Hawaii" which is merely good advice.

There are much cheaper beach towns with unbelievable weather that aren't so isolated. Hawaii is particularly nice for US residents without a Passport, but you should get a passport!

I recently did something very similar, though I was at several beaches and in a couple mountain ranges. There is a sort of inverse relationship between adventure and monetary cost with regard to what your options are and you have a lot of choices.

Hawaii is relatively low on the adventure and high on the cost; while something like Nosara, Costa Rica is a bit more of an adventure, and a bit cheaper while things like the language barrier still won't be distracting from getting work done.

On the flip side, Hawaii is basically wired for fiber and is the connection point for a large number of transpacific fiber runs.

That said, I've lived in Hawaii. Island time is real. When surrounded by a bunch of people who all stop working at 3 pm and constantly have parties, you stop getting stuff done.

Also, I missed people to talk to about books, politics or even culture.

Do Americans really have such a strong aversion to getting a passport? Why is "you don't need a passport to get to X" even in the list of reasons why you should go to X? A passport is just another piece of ID. Yeah, it's a bit too bulky to carry around in your wallet, but most of the time you don't even need to carry your passport around. Is it really so difficult for Americans to get passports?

Or is passport-talk just an oblique way of saying "you don't need to worry about visas"?

It's not visas, Americans only need those for a handful of countries and an American passport is #5 for visa-free entries worldwide, ahead of even Switzerland and Canada. [1]

The problem is that getting the visa is 1) expensive ($137 when I got mine five years ago) and 2) time-consuming. Standing in the post office for hours sucks and even finding out which post office will accept your application is difficult. I had to drive to three different post offices because I got bad information over the phone. The whole process took me about two weeks. Getting my French visa, which was the purpose of my passport, took less time.

So for your average family of four, [4x$137 + time] isn't worth it just for a more interesting beach than Waikiki or Miami. Not saying I agree with that logic but I think that's how a lot of Americans view it. There's enough to see domestically that it's not worth the added expense for a lot of people.

I'm not one of them—I only started travelling internationally two years ago and I've filled five pages of my passport and will have another seven stamps and a long-stay visa in there by August. That, however, is not a normal travel pattern for most Americans.

[1] https://www.henleyglobal.com/citizenship/visa-restrictions/

(Whether or not Americans know how few countries require visas is another issue)

As a YC founder of a venture backed company that lives in Hawaii now... Like everything in life, it's all a balance. My quality of life in Hawaii is hard to beat. My tech scene is hard to find. Which is why I come back to SF & NYC almost monthly. The travel is a bit of a pain, but I feel like I'm living a close to perfect balance.

It helps that I'm from Hawaii, so I'm not in "vacation" mode... I'm in "home" mode. Where I feel relaxed, comfortable, inspired & supported. From that place is where I run the chaos of a startup.

You in Honolulu? If so, in the local tech scene? I'm a tech exec of a mid-sized company in Honolulu- always like to meet other local like minded folks

A great place to meet other developers in the local Hawaii tech scene is as Wetware Wedesdays. There's free appetizers and usually beer available.


Also you should definitely check out HI Capacity (http://hicapacity.org) a local makerspace/hackerspace. There is an interesting talk on Haskell coming up on May 24th: http://www.meetup.com/dynamic/events/63061002/

Back when I was living in Hawaii, we had a "Castaway Hackaday". We got some waterproof pelican cases, loaded up our laptops and a few solar panels, then headed out to the mokes (http://www.flickr.com/photos/46801360@N07/4368503769/) - two tiny islands off the eastern coast of Oahu. We set up a cantenna from one of the houses on shore and connected some wifi out there. It was fantastic - completely free of distractions, great weather, and it kept everyone on the team pretty happy.

Wow that sounds pretty awesome. Did you kayak out to there? I guess I should make friends with someone that lives on Lanikai and try it out.

I can understand the upside of this, with the better routine, health, everyone living in the same house etc.

However, I think the isolation is VERY dangerous. Yes, silicon valley is a bit of an echo chamber, but at the same time, you are around some of the smartest minds in the world. Our first few VC meetings resulted in a "pivot" of sorts. Still same end goal, but different way of going about it. Being around everyone in the travel tech industry, and being able to set up meetings with them, has changed our go-to-market strategy and our priorities.

These smart people have a way of poking holes in your strategy. There is something to be said for talking to "normal" people, but I can say we have talked to hundreds of normal people, and the most valuable advice we got was from those VCs and angels, or travel tech people.

We possibly would have wasted months if we didn't seek out these experts and learn from their success and failure.

By moving to Hawaii you risk losing that.

The Adioso guys kind of mentioned this, that living in Melbourne they weren't around the same type of environment and PG brought them back to earth when they got back here. The ruthlessness of silicon valley has it's upside.

I did this once. Instead of Hawaii though we did Palm Cove in tropical Australia. We did get away from a lot of distractions but you manage to find others. Also the work environment wasn't super comfortable being that we worked at a kitchen table in the apartment we rented and the internet was on a very low cap and frequently unavailable.

I think if you're going to do this then have a plan in advance of exactly what you want to accomplish and go there to build it. We went with a general idea and a few more and ended up trying to many things in the month we had for it to really pay off.

Joyce, Eric, Wynwyn and Caleb were great to work and eat with! Loved the beach. Working in Hawaii now a days is great because of all the coworking spots like The Box Jelly and The Greenhouse. Hawaii is really taking off and will soon be the tech hub of the Pacific.

Side note about working with the SimpleHoney team - One time in the Ko 'Olina house I killed a cockaroach (follow him here - https://twitter.com/#!/householdroach) in the bathroom but was too scared to pick it up. Joyce "The Terminator" Kim went in there and picked it up for me LIKE A BOSS!!!! True Story!

I am born and raised in a sunny southern city and always admired nordics (from canada, north europe, moscow till japan) to excel at technology. Now in nordic town of 9 months of cold, I always witnessed due to snow, cold climate, and restriction to be at home most of the time, people focus more on brain work, and in south more on outside activities(cafes, dance) etc. That said, california is against my argument, but I find it really curious to understand which climate is the best one for programming; though I bet more on stockholm than hawaii.

Only a rather small part of Japan is cold (North of Tokyo basically, in terms of population the cold part of Japan would make around 15-20%). Most of Japan is between warm and subtropical. Okinawa is tropical.

Taiwan, quite similar to Japan in many respects, is tropical (same weather as Okinawa basically, it's quite close). I've been there recently for a few weeks and temps were in the 25C-32C range most of the time. Boiling hot. Yet this is one of the places of the world where more shit gets done and invented per capita. I was in a technology park, spending a lot of time in cafes, and it felt just like Palo Alto (but more on the EE side rather than on the CS side).

Now, these people have great beaches and a weather that'd allow you to spent most of the year if not all year in the beach, but they find a balance and are every bit as industrious as any cold Nordic country if not more. Same can be said for a good part of Southern China and South Korea.

It's a matter of culture, not weather. Responsibility and hard work need to be nurtured.

Absolutely great story and shows off the lifestyle you can achieve outside the city.

However some drawbacks (to compliment the positives of the article):

+ Short Term: While a retreat allows your team to focus and integrate, like all holidays - they end.

+ Talent: You currently recruit in a tech hub city, however eventually your talent leaves and you need to find replacements in the local village. You cannot find anyone as good or as friendly (as they joined the team/party late).

+ Too friendly: You are all new to the place, so you are a little eco system hanging out all the time. The fun will eventually wear off as internal relationships grow/breakdown.

+ Networking: The valley offers fantastic opportunities to meet other like minded people. Opportunities are much higher to meet that next co-founder, angel or VC. What are the chances of this on an island?

So, it can work but not forever and offers startups a constructive way of building strong team dynamics and creating tight focus on building their alpha/beta product.

Jameson and I spent Mochi's first summer (2005) on Maui, where we built the majority of MochiBot and MochiKit. Worked great for us, although we didn't keep California time or do any planking.

I've known a number of musicians and writers who have gone on escape retreats to isolated areas in order to finish a book or an album, typically with a lot of success. Many of the most productive remote engineers I've worked with live in sparse areas where there is very little to do thats more fun than programming.

There's some merit to removing distractions when knocking out a marathon product build, but that said a good office environment can also serve the same purpose...

This reminds of Kanye West-- when he recorded his last solo album ('My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy', which was unequivocally a critical and market smashing success), he rented a house in Hawaii with a studio in it, flew out all the producers/artists he needed to collaborate with, and maintained an demanding, consistent work schedule (napping in 90 minute intervals and working through the night) until he perfected the album. It's probably not sustainable, but works really well for a concerted push.


Please don't sell that startup from a beach dream on exoticism.

I would like to cast a diverging opinion from my personal experience. For various work-related reasons I left Europe in early 2008 to live in Martinique, in the French West Indies.

It is very close to what the article describes - tropical weather (you will never get cold - 25 C/ 77 F is what we call cold and take a jacket for - home weather station on http://guylhem.org - only the webcam is down ATM), great food (french creole! do I need to say more?), beautiful wildlife (It's 9:20pm I'm listening to the various frogs and birds and stuff), healthy lifestyle (can't be helped ! even if you have bad habits it is like something from the environment you are surrounded with contaminates you and make you follow an healthy lifestyle). Same currency (euro). No need for a passport.

Also you can swim every day of the year in the caribbean. Sounds like your dream ? I went swimming on new years eve like 2 years ago. Got sunburned.

That's the honeymoon, the first few weeks/month/years. Little by little I went to the beach less and less. At the moment maybe one every couple of month, to go with the gf.

Along the way I realized something : what was initially the selling points, as good as they may sound, place you at risk of isolation. And this may not always be good, especially for a techy - there seem to be more introverts among us. I would have called myself an introvert.

You know these things you call "distraction" and the people you do not call normal? That's what I dig now, whenever I go somewhere. I'd love to have a beer and talk about technical stuff with people who will understand me (running my website on my mips dsl modem, packaging a distro). Hitting the same 3 guys you know on the island who do free software quickly loses its novelty.

So for my last few vacations, I went to Florida, Montreal twice and Paris. Basically to a conference, a LUG meeting + visiting some friends, and a technical conference. While in Florida I was a bit bored (like home, only chilly, but with techies it was fun) so I also went to see an old friend in San Diego. Since there was a HN meeting we attended. It was like being alive again, being surrounded with people who share the same interests and the same cultural references. I was quite bored for weeks when I went back to my tropical paradise - because the grass is always greener on the other side, but I don't think I had realized that yet.

I had one of my most productive week last year when driving between Montreal and New-Bruswick - at the end of the autumn. The cold was so exotic! I loved every single minute of my vacation. I could only have loved it more if it had been snowing, but I know I'm partial with snow, so I wanted to test myself and see if even without snow I'd enjoy my vacations in the very same place, to remove a bit of exoticism. And yes I did.

Do you see how it relates to the experience mentionned in the article ? There will always be something that's attractive because it is different. Then the new become usual, and we get bored. And we leave and try something different, again and again. I think it's just human nature.

We want difference and exoticism, we want to be surrounded with people we can relate with but not too much, all these are incompatible needs. The problem is not in your work environment but in yourself. When no longer needs the exoticism to be happy, that's when the fun begins.

If you know what makes you tick, inspiration comes not only from an exotic place - like a cafe in New Brunswick can be to me - but also at the place you call home, wherever it might be.

Then it comes down to personal preferences about what weather you are more comfortable with, what kind of people you prefer having around, and your own philosophy. But not exoticism. It's a trap, a burden that can becomes non necessary. It happened just like that, someday I just started feeling that way.

At the moment, I'd say I only regret that my work will have little impact, but I've settled with the rest. 2 tech conference a year and I get the minimal contact with other techies I need to survive :-) And while some exoticism is good (I say I enjoyed my vacation) it is no longer a need.

That's fine and good, but writing from Berlin as it comes into springtime, I for one would much rather have my boring, isolated, day-to-day grind come without metric assloads of snow and ice on everything and relative inability to do anything outdoors for half the year.

I expect no sympathy from Californians, but for those in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, etc - upvotes to the left. :P

I've lived in Minneapolis (most extreme), Santa Fe (most sunny), Mountain View (most pleasant), Brasilia (most normal), and London (most cloudy).

I actually prefer having cold snowy winters and hot sweaty summers as it alleviates the monotony quite well. But Berlin-level snow is not enough. What's the average annual snowfall there? In Santa Fe in Christmas of 2006 we got four feet (120cm) in town in one 4-day storm, now that's an assload and a half.

If your daily life is boring, you are doing something wrong.

Your post really hit home with me (plus, I'm French too). I can relate to what you're saying because I spent most of last year in Southeast Asia developing websites/web apps an I found it to be quite isolating at times. Not having people around who know what the heck you're talking about is tough.

Since then I came back to Europe and after a while not really knowing where to go, I started from fresh in Paris (never lived here before), still working on my own projects but trying a bit harder to go to meetups, meet other entrepreneurs, developers etc. Still isolation is a danger when you're working all day on your own stuff.

I was really seduced by the 4 hour workweek ideas at the time and I'm still trying to find a way to make it sustainable and satisfying. Having a home base + having the freedom to go for semi-extended travel at times is very appealing to lots of us I know :-)

I've lived in Waikiki for the past 2 years. I'm a 15 minute walk away from the beach. Do you know how often I visit? Once a week.

Moving here will not magically make you more outgoing or productive. While I love it here, I lived in Austin and miss the tech culture from the area.

Granted I probably should network more but it's mostly IT, real estate, and tourism industry. There is no comparison to SF / Austin for startup culture.

If you're browsing HN and in Honolulu, let's grab a beer.

> If you're browsing HN and in Honolulu, let's grab a beer.

Hey that's me. I'd love to grab a beer sometime. I can probably get a few other techie friends to come out as well. Hit me up via my email (in my profile) or message me through Google Plus:


Maybe we could meetup next weekend?

And of course to your point many of us have spent a week or two on vacation in a nice place and decided it was enough and wanted to get home.

And if you've ever had a vacation home or boat they are good to escape to (but from my experience only if you have other stress in your life) but not something you would want to do every day. In fact a boat is a good example of that. I can play with the computer every day and never get bored. A boat, something I have no desire to do every day (even when I owned one which was for many years). And if you've been a boater and have seen the amount of boats tied up that never go out you are aware of this phenomena for the non-outliers.

Honolulu is a big city which has a constant flow of Silicon Valley folks so not as isolating as where you were.

I couldn't agree more. I thought this was going to be a post on how to remotely handle a team that isn't connected to the world but it was a fluff piece about having fun at the beach and living with friends in Hawaii while building a product.

I was going to post something similar to this but you basically said the things I wanted to. I live in the Virgin Islands. Hawaii is definitely different than many, if not most, tropical places in the world. I've been to Hawaii and it's absolutely nothing like the third world country this place is.

While I live in paradise, I suffer through frequent power outages, shoddy Internet and a thorough and complete lack of decent techies to relate to or interact with. I pay 5x... yes, 5 times what most pay for electricity. Customer service is completely non-existent anywhere on the island. You can never find what you want at the store. Trying to find computer parts or anything technological is nearly impossible. Shipping is slow and unreliable. Even if you happen to get something, the absolutely terrible electric company (which has a stranglehold on everything here) ensures your tech stuff will be fried sooner or later with or without a surge protector. The racism is absolutely rampant here; the crime and violence is staggering.

Sure, the beaches are fun and the weather is nice, but the isolation can be extremely disheartening and it is not an easy place for a techie (or anyone else) to be. I work for a company in a room with 9 other programmers. I can't remember the last time any of them even mentioned a new web framework or a new programming language or anything of the sort.

I yearn for more and am planning on leaving to go where I can be more successful and happy being the developer that I am.

This blog post would have been much better titled: "How to Move to Hawaii with Some Friends and Build a Startup."

I'm from New Brunswick, currently living in Moncton, and I'm really surprised you mentioned New Brunswick, and then called it exotic! But it is indeed all relative.

> I'm from New Brunswick

New Brunswick, NJ?

Moncton is a city in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

I can really see that. My current plan is to work on something where I move back and forth between Germany and some other tropical place (maybe even Andalusia they also have nice beaches), so that when place A starts to become normal, I get to switch again.

TL;DR Happiness is differential.

I have a similar experience. I actually traveled the world for 7 months last year working on my startup. It was exciting at first, but then the excitement became routine and I longed to get back to my SF home office.

Hmm, how long did you stay in one place? Personally if I ever did this, I think I would want to go places where I could stay several months at a time.

As much as I love this idea, I'm skeptical it would work for everyone. Personally, I'd feel pretty antsy knowing that outside my door is a tropical paradise. It would give me too much 'perspective', and inevitably force me to close my laptop and carpe diem.

As I resident of O'ahu, I'm psyched to see this. We don't have enough startup activity here.

Within the last year the tech community on Oahu has really been picking up. There's lots of awesome things going on such as the HI Capacity makerspace (http://hicapacity.org/) and Henk Rogers just announced a new incubator for local startups!

we should do an exchange program, so HI startups get a taste of ground zero in Bay Area.

I bet you can get a cheaper ticket to Puerto Rico and take advantage of all the tax exceptions for startups. No passport needed if you are a US citizen.

I was living in Hawaii when I finished my time as a navy officer. I realized that I would never get a post-Navy career going because every day, and I mean every day, you look out the window and think, "wow, it is much to pretty a day to be inside".

But if aren't susceptible to "Polynesian Paralysis", sure, no place better than Hawaii. I couldn't and, much to my regret, moved back to the mainland to get things moving.

Your site has been hacked and is only showing the hacked pages when the request looks like its from google.

If you wget on of your blog articles you can see an example. (Registering your site with webmaster tools google would of notified you if it sees suspicious activity like this)

There will most likely be a base a base 64 encoded string at the top of your index.php file than when you decode will contain the exploit.

Keep wordpress up to date.

An interesting thing about working in Hawaii is the timezone. If you have an international angle to your business, this is a great place to be. And you can surf before work. You can still get sh*t done!

Mornings: 9am HI time 12pm SF time 3pm NY time

Afternoons: 3pm HI time 10am Tokyo (tomorrow) 9am China (tomorrow)

This is exactly what I've been wanting to do. Well done simplehoney; sounds like a great time.

I wonder if we could form a company of people who think this is a good idea without getting a bunch of freeloaders who want a nice vacation.

I'd definitely be into working from the beach for a month or two.

It's a good idea and I'm sure there would be a few candidates :-) Also, not exactly the same, but the folks at www.tropicalmba.com hire interns to work with/for them in Bali: http://www.tropicalmba.com/paid-internships/

This made me think. I wonder if there is potential for a startup that rents office space to startup teams in a tropical area near the beach or with a really nice view. Judging from this thread (which is a small sample but still something), there is a lot of demand.

I would definitely be into that too

Less time at beach, more time focusing on uptime.

Am I the only one who gets a wrong spamlike summary when trying to share this link?

Have a look https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/og/object?q=http...

og:title is Doxycycline mail order og:description Buy online generic no prescription Doxycycline. Get cheap low price Doxycycline without prescription. 100% Secure. Fast Delivery

But I wasn`t able to find this in the html sourcecode of the page ?

It serves spam when I request the page with curl, and goes away if I put a user agent header in there with "Firefox/12.0". Odd.

Oh thanks for the hint! I was able to reproduce it. Weird. Nice idea to hide the spam.

These guys are very smart... their hack doesn't even leave a presence in the source or cache. It's happening via JS I believe.

Looks like someone snuck a hack. Thanks for finding this folks... I am pulling out my hair aka working on this now!

It`s working now. So have you been able to fix this ? Is it Wordpress? Or Apache? Thank you.

Our startup <a href='http://www.gethopscotch.com>Hopscotch</a>; is in the midst of something similar. We came from NY and have managed to do it very much on the cheap by staying with friends and using miles to get here. I could definitely see a tech scene blossoming here, it's a great environment for coders.

This was my favorite quote, "Being in paradise lets everyone open up and share their own dreams and ideals." I've never been to paradise, but the promise of that is worth a try on my next startup.

Hey - if anyone is starting a startup and wants to go to hawaii for an early code phase AND I can get a solid 1 hr surf session morning and evening in around coding....sign me up.

My loose plan along these lines is to temporarily relocate my (three person) office to Kerala in India for a few weeks. Offshore development, but not as you know it.

I am thinking of ways to convince my boss to do this. It might work better if I attempt to convince him in the middle of a cold Midwestern winter.

The next step is to have a reality show about this. A few weeks into it they're gonna start fighting over who took who's toothbrush.....lol

Well, it worked for Megadodo Publications.

They don't seem to be productive there in Hawaii:


"502 Bad Gateway"

Less blogging about beaches, more finishing what looks like it will be an excellent service :D

Nothing like a SUP session in the early AM to get the creative juices flowing.

I was an intern in a startup that tried exactly this. It was a lot of fun. We got a ton of VC cash to burn and so why not do it in a nice environment? In the end, the company failed. We all got too much into a "holiday" mood. The webdesigner won a surf contest. The CEO started an affair with not one, but two of the female employes. We all got fat from eating delicious food from the 5-Star hotel and high class Restaurants near by.

Moral of the story? Stay frugal even when you dont have to. It might be better for the company.

We didn't and still don't have "tons of VC cash" to burn - only our own savings accounts at that time, so no 5-star hotels or high class restaurants for us.

Also, I would not say we had a holiday mood at all during our time there. We started working the same day we arrived, but being in Hawaii had so many unexpected positive effects on productivity and product vision, we really wanted to share.

And, I could never win a surf contest.

As a travel booking startup I think Hawaii is a really clever move, you're surrounded entirely with your target customers. Very smart

I'm guessing you're with Simplehoney, by that post -- can you confirm that the site is supposed to be up?

I'm eager to sign up, but it's not responding at all to me.

Sorry but to me the moral of the story was not stay frugal, but to stay focused on the product or company vision.

I think the moral of that story is to take VC money and move to Hawaii. Sure beats working alone from my apartment, and I bet everyone was on salary too.

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