Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

How to avoid burning out when running your startup (and promoting it at SXSW)

burnout

This time last week I was in Austin, TX for SXSW Interactive to promote my startup, ribl. And this time last week, I was as mentally and physically drained and depressed as I have ever been in my life.

Those who know me know that I’m a pretty high-energy and positive person, and “depressed” is hardly ever in my vocabulary. But SXSW, and the startup game, took its toll on me for a little while. Here’s what I learned from the situation, how it applies to startups overall, and how you can avoid the temporary burnout that I experienced.

Multi-day conferences, and startups, are marathons, not sprints

If you read my recap of SXSW on the ribl website, you might see that I had a pretty stressful start to the conference.

The week prior to the event, I was really busy preparing for my demos and garnering press for our launch. On Friday, it took longer than we expected to publish the app on Google Play, which was really nerve-wracking. On Saturday, my demo at Austin TechBreakfast did not go well, and I spent all day and night in a frog suit doing demos and promoting ribl, which was very tiring.

mike in frog costume

This frog was not that happy at the end of SXSW.

By Sunday, on only the third of five days of SXSW, I was already feeling the effects of burnout. I was tired, hungover, and mentally fried, and didn’t attend any SXSW events during the day. I did not want to get into that frog suit again. But I did, and attended a few parties that evening.

On Monday, I took a full day off from the conference and did nothing. On Tuesday, I attended a few panels and took a couple of meetings sans frog suit. On Wednesday, I was really happy to leave Austin and head home.

The lesson here is that for these long conferences, you need to pace yourself to get the most out of them. Maybe I wouldn’t be saying this if I were 10 years younger, but who knows. I was really busy and went out really hard in the beginning and was totally worn down by day three.

The same can be said about startups and entrepreneurship overall. I think one of the reasons I was depressed was that our product wasn’t ready for prime time and while we received great feedback, we didn’t achieve the number of downloads and engagement level that we wanted to see from the event. And because of this lack of success, I felt even more guilty when I wasn’t wearing the frog suit and promoting ribl. It was a pretty vicious cycle.

But I realized that this is just the beginning. While SXSW didn’t go perfectly, we actually launched the app, which is a win in itself, and laid the foundation to grow in the future. I met a bunch of people who really loved the app and want to help promote it. And I learned that SXSW is not the be-all, end-all for tech startups; it’s only a step in the process.

I’m not usually this short-sighted, and I think the fatigue and time away from home just wore me down. The ribl team and I are in this for the long haul and SXSW is only the beginning of a long, fruitful journey. Running a startup is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t go it alone

If you’re attending a conference to promote your startup or company, do not do it alone. Don’t do it!

First of all, SXSW and many other conferences are so big that you can’t possibly get the most out of them if you’re working by yourself. You can only put up so many stickers and talk to so many people, and it won’t be enough.

Second, because promoting your company is such a grind, you’ll want to have someone to lean on and speak with when you’re tired and worn out.

Third, it sucks attending events and showing up at parties alone. It’s much better when you have that other person you know will be by your side.

This is the same for startups in general.

There’s just too much to do, and you likely don’t have all the skills you need to build a successful business on your own.

Building a startup is a grind, and you need that shoulder to lean on when times are tough.

And knowing that your co-founder(s) will be by your side will make the journey all that more enjoyable.

Businesses with multiple founders are more likely to succeed for the reasons above, so don’t try to do it alone.

Care a little less sometimes

One of the reasons why I got so down at SXSW was that I care A LOT about ribl. The development of the app wasn’t where we thought it would be and we didn’t garner as many downloads as we wanted, and the combination of this lack of success with the passion I have for the company really dampened my spirit.

I realized that sometimes you just need to disconnect and care a little less about your work. When I took time away from SXSW on Sunday and Monday, I spent time with the friends at whose home I was staying. We ate some great BBQ, hung out at Zilker Park, and just relaxed. I also went for a run to clear my mind. And even though ribl was still in the back of my mind, I was able to disconnect a little bit and enjoy Austin outside of SXSW.

The same can be applied to the everyday grind of building a startup. Running a business can be an all-encompassing endeavor and if you don’t disconnect sometimes, burnout will be inevitable. Make sure you set time aside to exercise, take a vacation, and relax. Go out to eat, have your friends over, and turn off your cell phone. Care a little less sometimes.

Conclusion

SXSW was a great event at which to promote ribl but it certainly had its side effects on me. I learned a lot about how not to burn out at multi-day conferences, and these lessons can be applied to the everyday grind of building a business. If you remind yourself that startups are marathons, having a co-founder is a great thing, and caring a little less can really help, you’ll avoid burning out.

What do you think about my experience? Do you have any stories or additional tips to avoid burnout? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Healthylifestyleart.com.

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: Facebook Messenger payments, TAG Heuer’s smartwatch plans, and more

FB payments

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Facebook Messenger payments, TAG Heuer’s smartwatch plans, and more.

This week we cover the announcement of Facebook Messenger payments, TAG Heuer’s smartwatch plans, and Tesla’s self-driving car.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: Samsung launches S6 phones, Google confirms wireless service, and more

Samsung S6

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Samsung launches S6 phones, Google confirms wireless service, and more.

This week we cover the launch of Samsung Galaxy S6 phones, Google’s plans for a wireless service, and the impending arrival of HBO Now.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: Google buys Softcard, net neutrality vote passes, and more

Softcard

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Google buys Softcard, net neutrality vote passes, and more.

This week we highlight Google’s purchase of Softcard, the passing of net neutrality, and Pebble’s new watch killing it on Kickstarter.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: FCC’s plan for net neutrality, Google’s ride-sharing service, and more

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: FCC’s plan for net neutrality, Google’s ride-sharing service, and more.”

This week we cover the FCC’s outline for net neutrality, Google and Uber potentially butting heads, and Twitter’s earnings report.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

 

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: Windows 10 debuts, Google to become a wireless carrier, and more

MS Windows 10

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Windows 10 debuts, Google to become a wireless carrier, and more.

This week we highlight the debut of Windows 10, Google becoming a wireless carrier, Box’s IPO, and Amazon’s desire to be a movie studio.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Image courtesy of Microsoft.

 

Guest Post for Thorn Tech – The Week in Tech: Samsung rumored to buy Blackberry, Facebook at Work pilot, and more

samsung-blackberry-hero

Check out my latest guest post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Samsung rumored to buy Blackberry, Facebook at Work pilot, and more.

This week we cover the rumors that Samsung offered to buy Blackberry, the pilot of Facebook At Work, Obama’s tech moves, and Amazon and Netflix scoring Golden Globe awards.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Image courtesy of Crackberry.

Guest blog post for CEA: Should Non-Technical Startup Founders Learn to Code?

Check out my latest guest post for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) titled, “Should Non-Technical Startup Founders Learn to Code?

If you’re a non-technical founder looking to start a startup, you’re at the mercy of software developers whom you need to build your product. To avoid this problem, should you learn to code?

Learning software development is a huge time and mental commitment and your decision basically comes down to one question – is this the best use of your time? Read more.

Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

What motivates you?

motivate

What motivates you? What lights a fire under your ass to get things done? Here are some of the things that get me going:

  1. Progress and momentum – just a little bit of progress each day, in any form, goes a long way.
  2. Creating change - being able to witness my impact on a project, event, or person inspires me to create more change.
  3. Collaborating with smart people – they open my eyes to new insights, approaches and techniques and help me improve.
  4. Getting stuff done with hard-working people –  people who just put their head down and crank out work are inspiring.
  5. Great ideas – many claim that ideas are worthless. While I agree that ideas without execution are worthless, great ideas are the beginning of unforgettable journeys that change the world.
  6. A cause – believing in a cause and a singular mission gives me direction in every decision I make and every thing I do.
  7. Seeing others succeed – when I see others succeed, I want to join them in their success.
  8. Taking risks – if I’m not taking risks and getting out of my comfort zone everyday, I’m not making the most of my time. I like taking risks and love seeing others do the same.
  9. Goals - setting and documenting clear, quantifiable goals (like my 2015 New Years resolutions) forces me to stay motivated to achieve them.

What motivates you to get things done?

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

The 3 Most Impressive Products I Interacted with at CES 2015

The International Consumer Electronics show is a massive, overwhelming experience. With over 3,600 exhibitors spread out across 2.2 million square feet of convention space, it’s impossible to see all the products the show has to offer.

There were a few big themes – connected cars, smart homevirtual reality – and most of the show floor was dominated by huge corporations like Mercedes-Benz, Intel, and Oculus. But being a startup guy, I focused on some of the smaller brands and products that many may not necessarily know. Here is a short list of the cool products with which I interacted.

Emotiv Insight

Emotiv is a company that builds neuroheadsets, which allow you to control things in the real world just by thinking about them. Yeah, pretty crazy. I tried on the the Insight headseat; check out this super nerdy image of me wearing it:

Mike wearing Emotiv headset

Using the headset, I was able to maneuver a car across a short racetrack just by imagining the car moving in my brain. What what whaaaaat?!?! The process worked as such. First, after putting the headset on, the Emotiv employee captured my brain activity at baseline – when I was thinking about nothing. Then he captured my brain activity when thinking about the car moving along the track.

After the setup, I was ready to roll. When the Emotiv employee said “Go!”, I concentrated on the image of the car moving, and then it moved. Mind…blown.

Headsets like these are primarily used for research purposes at the moment, but I believe there’s potential for partnerships with companies like Lumosity to better track and improve brain fitness.

HZO

HZO is a company that manufactures waterproofing solutions for consumer electronics. They’ve worked with Nike Fuelband and many other consumer electronics and wearables manufacturers to fully protect their gadgets from exposure to liquid.

HZO isn’t making waterproof cell phone cases or anything like that. They’re a nanotechnology company that is waterproofing electrical components from the inside so that gadgets can be fully immersed in liquid for an extended amount of time and still work. Check out their display on the show floor below, where a TV is completely buried in water and still works perfectly because the internal components are protected by the HZO waterproof coating:

HZO tv at CES2015- front

HZO at CES - back

The HZO technology isn’t an exciting, hands-on gadget, but it may be the most impressive thing I saw on the show floor this week.

ImmersiON VRelia

Virtual reality was a huge deal at CES and many industry analysts believe it will be the next life-altering technology. By the looks of the ridiculously long line at the Oculus booth, many attendees seem to agree.

ImmersiON VRelia at CESInstead of waiting on line to try Oculus, I visited the booth of a company called ImmersiON VRelia. While Oculus builds high-end, expensive headsets for intensive applications like gaming, ImmersiON VRelia is making VR more accessible by creating an $89 headset and mobile app ecosystem that turns a large smartphone, like the Samsung Galaxy Note or iPhone 6, into a VR experience.

Using the ImmersiON VRelia headset and app, I was able to walk through a virtual home and explore the living room, backyard, kitchen and bedrooms. The company is primarily working on educational applications but I believe that real estate and mapping are natural extensions of the technology.

Honorable mentions

Here are other products that I played with that were pretty interesting:

  1. Blast Motion – a sports video analytics platform for golf, baseball and exercise
  2. Meccanoid – build your own robot friend
  3. Wowwee – artificially intelligent robots

Conclusion

I wasn’t able to demo the majority of gadgets at CES but did get my hands on a bunch of cool products. Emotiv, HZO, and ImmersiON VRelia were the most interesting and I think these companies are on to something big and hope to hear more about them in the future.

CES is the equivalent of an amusement park for nerds just like me. I had a great time checking out the products of our future and hope to do so again next year.

What do you think of these products I mentioned? If you attended CES, what products did you think were interesting? I’d love to here from you in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.