As soon as I announced that I have parted ways with the company, my friends and family immediately asked - "What's next?"
I responded, "I don't know, and it feels great."
I left my first startup in 2016.
At the very first startup I worked at, I only survived for nine months. I didn't even make it to my first year cliff, and I walked away without signing the severance agreement.
For years, I've devoted my energy and expertise into helping others building their dreams. I was the person who knew the right answer and where to go next. The thrill of innovation, the challenges of growth and the camaraderie of an ambitious team in a fast-paced early stage startup environment fueled my passion. I was in my own bubble pouring as much energy as possible to find the right answer. As time marched forward, I slowly began to lose touch with friends and family. My health slowly deteriorated with the free meals and unlimited PTO because I was spending more time indoors at my desk.
I was already a "remote-first solopreneur" before it was cool
After leaving that startup, I consulted other startups and started various e-commerce businesses. At the same time, I traveled around the world to surf, dive and snowboard in Bali, Thailand, France, Italy, Switzerland, Utah, Slovakia, and Australia. Eventually, I moved out of my first apartment in LA and put everything into storage to live the "digital nomad" life.
The lifestyle of a digital nomad certainly has its appeal - the freedom to work and live anywhere, immersed in new cultures and experiences. However, the peripatetic nature of this lifestyle can also take a toll on one's relationships and health.
Relationships require effort and presence to maintain. I was traveling frequently, making it challenging to nurture romantic relationships or maintain close friendships. The transient nature of always being on the move means relationships are put on hold or grow distant. Settling down in one place for the long term is antithetical to the digital nomad philosophy. This can lead to isolation and difficulty forming lasting bonds.
While I was probably in one of the best physical conditions, I underestimated the mental health toll of being a digital nomad. The blurring of work and leisure that comes with working on the road can make it hard to relax and disconnect. Always being "on" leads to fatigue. Additionally, the lack of a permanent home or address became mentally taxing. There is a sense of instability and uncertainty that comes with never having a reliable home base. I felt more anxiety and unsettled due ot the lack of emotional comforts of home. I started longing for the stability and familiarity of having a permanent place to call home.
The promise of building in web3 and crypto
In 2021, I was advising some game studios on their transition into web3 and NFTs. I noticed more gaming industry veterans transitioning into the space following other companies that have successfully made the jump. I talked to many gaming projects, and infrastructure seemed to be a common pain point.
While my e-commerce businesses were doing okay, there were a number of market forces like rising acquisition costs that made me reconsider my own future. I wanted to learn more about web3, and what better way to learn than from the perspective of a Layer 1.
Thus I began my journey with Mysten Labs and Sui in January 2022.
The reality of building in web3 and crypto
Launching a new L1 in a very competitive industry on top of an economic downturn is a tall order. There were a lot of challenges and ever-changing priorities in the fast-moving crypto space. Something always felt "off" to me, because I always knew I would go back to being an entrepreneur. Despite the difficulties, I truly believed (and still believe) that the technology solved a major pain point for builders who felt constrained and intimidated by existing blockchain technology.
The Mainnet launched in early May 2023. I knew the real work would begin right after. A few weeks after Mainnet launch, we had our first in-person offsite among the Sui Foundation leadership to align on organization's goals, present each individual function's strategy and potential areas of cooperation. Two months later, I got laid off.
I look back on the last 18 months. I made my fair share of mistakes; however, I delivered or made a significant contribution that I can be proud of.
- Recruiting and hiring key non-technical personnel
- Setting up systems for marketing, content and partnerships
- Establishing the initial brand identity and foundation for Mysten and Sui
- Developed and executed go-to-market strategy
- Grew the community from zero
- Closing initial partnerships deals in key industries
- Opening my network for Series B fundraising round
- Setting up systems (again) at Sui Foundation
- Coached and mentored junior personnel
- and many more...
With support of great team members, we took them from zero to one. I had a difference of opinion starting with one. I respect the decision and wish them the best.
Life is giving me a second chance.
So what's next?
I really don't know, and that's okay.
I will be honest. Even when I knew my chapter with Sui would eventually come to an end, it is still jarring. Positive change can still cause stress, and I have to remind myself to be especially kind and supportive during this time. I am thankful for thew new friends, industry connections and opportunities to explore new places. I am rekindling old relationships and celebrating moments of progress. Luckily, summer is one of the best times in LA.
I'm giving myself permission to pause and play.
The itch to make myself busy and productive remains strong. I have spent almost all of my life groomed and conditioned into being an overachiever, so it's really challenging to not do anything.
I'm saying "no" to new career opportunities that benefit others. I'm saying "yes" to the universe where I am happy.
I'm saying "no" to travel. I'm saying "yes" to staying and enjoying my home in LA.
I'm saying "no" to activities that bring negative thoughts and drain my energy. I'm saying "yes" to activities where I feel joy and fulfillment.
I'm saying "no" to purely professional connections. I'm saying "yes" to my partner, my family, and my friends. If an individual exists in both my personal and professional life, I will always choose friends > work.
I'm saying "no" to rules and expectations defined and pushed by others. I'm saying "yes" to setting boundaries and reflecting on what matters to my best self.
For now, I will get back to basics and focus on my physical, mental and emotional health. I am getting back into the habit of creating rather than consuming. I'm finally going to start that YouTube channel that I have talked about for the last two years. I'm writing the first draft of the sci-fi fantasy novel that has been in my head for the last five years.
I'm taking this time to play. If you want to follow along, please subscribe to my newsletter.