The Time Has Come to Give Up Coding

    I had a tectonic realization this week. The time has come for me to transition from executing to enabling, from creating to cultivating and from coding to managing (*yuk did I say that last part?).

    AirPair is now a cash spinning 18 month-old, because the founding team were good at executing. We took AirPair through 8 months of 40% month on month revenue growth without funding and picked up that growth rate again with seed funding, but I’ve been experiencing why my time as an executioner has come to an end. This week on my Keynote Panel at AirConf, Deep Nishar’s words (16:15 in) struck me like a hot knife through butter. “At some point you stop getting leverage from yourself”.

    The realization that I’m ready to reinvent my role feels as stark as one day not wanting kids, and all of a sudden feeling … ready.

    It feels good. I can envision how it will positively impact coming to work at AirPair. Until now, the main value proposition of working with us, would have been to observe a fast paced demanding entrepreneurial environment where things happen out of the will of dedicated entrepreneurs. But now I see, the benefit of coming to work at AirPair will be *learning* and practicing how to make shit happen, so one day you can leave us, and build your own company.

    As CEO, my full-time job has morphed from executing, to helping everyone else ideate, create and see through successful initiatives in the same way we did when we started something out of nothing and got things off the ground. 

    Perhaps this is an obvious evolution for some. I’ve heard other CEOs say it time and time again. I even fought the change internally for a long time. Executing is fun, and I had wondered if I could run a company where I was an executing quarterback… But that’s one of the best parts about taking the entrepreneur’s journey. Every so often you have a moment, and all of a sudden you understand the words you heard from others… Something makes sense, on an emotional level as opposed to just knowing about it.

    If you want to work in a a nine to five environment that’s already figured out and won’t stretch you much, we’re probably not going to push the right buttons. But if you want to be in over your head and learn from a company that knows how to make a lot of smart moves (and is also still figuring some out), hit me up. 

    Photo: 06 Aug 2014

    The US does have some good coffee :) – View on Path.

    The US does have some good coffee :) – View on Path.

    Photo: 28 Jul 2014

    Humbled to have so many brilliant people sitting around me right now. – View on Path.

    Humbled to have so many brilliant people sitting around me right now. – View on Path.

    Photo: 22 May 2014

    Team shot to make some of our investors happy. – View on Path.

    Team shot to make some of our investors happy. – View on Path.

    Photo: 21 May 2014

    First time in 3 years I’m on treasure Island ;) – View on Path.

    First time in 3 years I’m on treasure Island ;) – View on Path.

    3 Characteristics of a Worthy Idea

    AirPair is the 3rd idea that’s caused me an entrepreneurial seizure and ended up taking over years of my life.

    After spending most of a decade not getting what I wanted, many of the weak points in my previous attempts that weren’t as visible when I was emotionally invested became clear.

    Before starting AirPair, I came up with 3 characteristics that my next thing (and I think everyone’s) should have.

    1) Intrinsically You

    2) An Everyday Transaction

    3) A Greater Purpose

    Let me explain each in more depth.

    Intrinsically You - Brewed From Your Experiences & Passions

    If you aren’t building something for yourself that you’ve felt needed from deep experience, (1) you won’t know how to do a great job, (2) when it’s not working and pampering your ego, you’ll stop caring, (3) you won’t have a competitive advantage.

    My first startup - Preparty - was an online event planner (pre facebook events). I’d never thrown a professional event… but there I was attending events conferences, learning about venues and catering.

    Sure I was passionate about getting people together and having fun, but I was slow to market because I was learning an industry I had no experience in. My product sucked as it was not optimized from experience or insight. But the WORST thing, after crashing and loosing, I realized I wasn’t even passionate about event organizing and wondering why I’d spent 3 years caring.

    With AirPair, I know from years of making things, my favorite thing to do is connect people and empower them with relationships and knowledge. I’ve been a developer since 19 - I know how to speak to our audience and what motivates them. I’ve also had experience building global two-sided communities, so I knew I could do it and there were few people in the world capable of doing it better.

    I care about the problem, and that makes me fearless because I won’t give up.

    An Everyday Transaction - That People Value Enough to Pay For

    If you aren’t making cash, you are running on steams of passion. Very few people will work with you powered by such steam. Most people need to pay their rent and feel financial security. Money is the life blood of business and if people aren’t paying for what you make, you’re holding your breath until success. Good luck with that! My breath went for 3 years… most people’s don’t last that long and when that breath runs out, you have nothing left to give.

    Without a cash making transaction, I couldn’t do any interesting marketing with… I couldn’t setup an ad campaign knowing that if i tweaked it’s performance there would be a positive ROI.

    With AirPair there is :). A simple solid everyday thing that bring all parties value and makes us money. So if we can scale that, we have a profitable business.

    The best part about a money making transaction is that the focus of the business switches from validating itself to executing on growth. Every single time the cash bell rings, you have positive reinforcement. Lot’s of small wins builds momentum.

    A Greater Purpose - Attainable When Small Transactions Stack in Magnitude

    My favorite example of an un-sexy transaction that stacks up to the most sexy purpose is In isolation, all they do is help you save your code in a team environment. Source control has been around for decades before github appeared. But they have re-imagined and done it so well, and by removing so much friction got basically all coders to use their platform. At scale they’ve pioneered the next wave of collaboration for the human species. People are now able to work together and create things without even having met each other!

    AirPair has this quality too. In isolation, one AirPair helps unblock a customer and an expert to make money sharing what they’re passionate about and in the process become a better teacher. Stacked in magnitude, AirPair is a knowledge market encouraging the human race to interact in tiny 1 hour increments remotely and disperse expert level knowledge that will never make it into formal courses, blogs and tutorials.

    When AirPair scales, it will be the next generation of hive mind thinking and knowledge sharing mentality.

    — P.S. Want to come work for AirPair? Shoot me an email :)


    Customers ARE Your Product


    This is what we aim for at AirPair. “Making things easy for our customers by putting in manual effort”. We strive to remember their context, give them the same account manager when they come back and bend the system to work best for their needs. We don’t always get it right as we cope with a lot of work. But even after mistakes we always try to make it right.

    On the corollary because we work so hard for customers, we don’t like customers who make our lives difficult by being demanding, flakey or disrespectful of our time and ESPECIALLY our expert’s time.

    Because our product is social our customer’s (and our expert’s) experiences ARE our product. Thus we take a strong stance not to work with potential customers that will degrade the level of the experience. For example, making experts read your problems twice and being polite enough to respond and we won’t service that customer again.

    If “Customers ARE Your Product” then you need to choose them like you do features or what you make won’t be focused enough to really speak to those you want to make feel special.

    I’ll say it now, and you can hold me to it. AirPair is not for everyone. If you don’t like interacting with people you’re better off with one of our more automated competitors. It’s synonymous to the difference between taking a taxi and sitting in the back vs hailing a ride share and sitting in the front (and talking to the driver). There is no wrong or right, just options and preference.

    These ideas are also important if considering working with us. EVERYBODY says they like talking to customers… but really only some people do. To work at AirPair you basically need to be ok with always context switching away from what your main role is to prioritize your customers first. This means you might not get a solid 4 hour block of no-distraction time to work on code, or marketing or whatever is your primary role. That’s fine if that’s not how you like to work. Just like our customers there are other awesome places to work.

    On the positive side, we like how we are (a lot). It takes some getting used to, but our memories have expanded since working on AirPair. We are the smartest we’ve ever been and getting smarter the more customers we keep dealing with.

    20 Nuggets of AirPair Wisdom

    Over the last 18 months we’ve collected some sayings. Many from my dad, some learned along the way. There’s deep meaning behind each that you would learn working with us. They indicate a lot about our culture and values.

    1. "Happiness is a positive cash flow"
    2. "Nobody makes anything until someone sells something"
    3. Don’t be a robot
    4. Just fix (do) it
    5. "Prove, don’t argue"
    6. "Always go up in life"
    7. "Ask questions always"
    8. "Scale on high density"
    9. "Everyone’s a sales guy"
    10. "Less is more"
    11. "Manual first"
    12. "Pain teaches you"
    13. Customers ARE your product
    14. "Wax on was off"
    15. "Be a rooster"
    16. "Pay peanuts get monkeys"
    17. "Take responsibility, even if it wasn’t you"