I Quit My CTO Job to Work on My Own Projects

For the past five and a half years I’ve been working as CTO of a startup. We worked to digitize the personal development space, intending to improve people’s well-being. Think Tony Robbins, BJ Fogg, James Clear, meditation CDs and such, all re-packaged into apps for the modern consumer. Throughout the years our positioning changed, but what remained was the focus on goal achievement and life balance. I love the company and all the people working there. We achieved great things during our time together. But lately, I’ve had this growing itch to go do something on my own, and now it’s outgrown my reasons to stay.

Ultimate Machine Logo

I’m starting Ultimate Machine as the sole founder. It will be a company to manage a suite of software products and services. At the moment of my writing this, there’s about $350-$400 of MRR to my name, generated from past online projects. This is not enough to sustain my living expenses in Sweden. Although I’ve had the option of part-time employment, I feel that what’s left of 80%, 50% or even 25% is not enough to get into the zone needed to create useful products that people love to use. It takes a lot of focused work, free of distractions.

The timing, my confidence in my abilities and my knack for investments allow me to take big career risks. I’m committing up to three years of my professional life to become self-sustained, through creating. Either a big chunk of my savings are gone by then, or I have managed to strike gold with software.

The Growth Masterplan

Where do I go from here? I need some kind of plan. What I’m looking for is growth. The focus will not be on financial growth until much later. There’s not a single monetary goal for 2020 on my list. Freedom from outcome is my greatest advantage at the moment. The focus will instead be on perfecting and maintaining a consistent process. My confidence lies in letting money be a side effect of taking many small steps in the right direction.

Having worked as a trader for some time, I tend to think like an investor in other areas of life as well. When investing, you have a resource (e.g. money) that you allocate to one or more units (e.g. companies). You allocate more to where you predict will yield a good ROI. Usually, that entails bets with a low to medium risk and high reward. Still, some bets are preferable where there are high risk and high reward. For these bets, the allocation is smaller to control risk and cut potential losses short.

My resource is time. These are the high-level areas where time will be allocated.

  • Staying healthy — Allocating time to keep my mind and body in trim is the number one way to perform with consistency in other areas of life. This is the only no-brainer that forever will remain on this list, no matter what. It includes, but is not limited to, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising daily and avoiding toxic people. I see no risks here, only rewards.
  • Learning new things — Curiosity is a crucial part of creativity. In combination with focus and drive it becomes a valuable asset with a potential for great ROI. Without focus and drive, it becomes a black hole consuming time without giving much back but useless knowledge.
  • Building software products — This is a time-consuming endeavor that has the potential to yield soaring rewards. The risk here lies in spending time on the wrong things. To mitigate those risks, I intend to re-evaluate my choices weekly, not being afraid of killing my darlings. By solving real problems, and only doing what excites me, the experience becomes autotelic and in itself rewarding.
  • Writing — I’m picking up writing again not only to improve my communication skills but to have someone to report to and keep me responsible. Putting my thoughts online will create a healthy pressure on me to perform well and sticking to my word. There’s a risk my subconscious will change my values to please the reader. This has the potential to steal focus from what matters. Social proof and status is one hell of a drug, which I intend to stay far away from.
  • Sharing knowledge — Some of my most rewarding experiences have been sharing knowledge and helping other people. By sharing most of what I do and learn here, I expect others will learn as well. The expected ROI on this activity depends on my abilities to communicate and teach. Many like to share what they’ve learned with others, so there’s great growth potential in network effects.
  • Networking — Not my strongest side. The more reason to spend some time on it and improve! Online networking is easier and usually means greater leverage. But there’s equal value, and sometimes even more, in meeting people face to face. Loneliness will become a big part of my day unless I spend time to find people willing to meet. Meetups are a good place to start. It would be fantastic to find someone interested in joining forces. More people usually means greater growth potential and fun!
  • Marketing — Pleasure comes from getting real users for your products. There must be a focus on marketing besides building for that to happen. Writing, sharing knowledge and networking are all areas that could help with marketing. But the deliberate allocation of time for it can have great effects on its own.

These areas are not set in stone. But I plan to only shift time allocation between them before discarding them. Like all investments, patience and time must be part of the ROI equation. If I stick to these with ruthless drive, focus and track my process, I am very confident great things will come out if it. Be it friends, money or followers on Twitter is trifling at this point.

Next Steps

February is soon coming to an end. When it does we’re already over 15% through 2020. Although I’ve already started in secrecy, my quest starts for real in March. Until then, I will focus on getting this website online and taking a few days off. There’s a few days scheduled to recharge in Barcelona together with my girlfriend. We were going to attend Mobile World Congress, but the conference was unfortunately canceled due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Sad, but on the positive side, we’ve got more time for other activities. Hit me up with your best tips if you know your ways around Barcelona!

The first thing in March will be to spend some time on tayl.app. There’s some maintenance work to do. Updating EU VAT rates, fixing a few bugs and fulfilling a couple of feature requests. Once that’s done, I will start building a B2B SaaS service in the same space as TAYL. More on this in the future!

This year I’m running every day. The goal is to run 5km (3.11 miles) daily on average. It’s a great way for me to build grit and mental resilience, which will help in my other endeavors. Since January 1st, I’ve run 317 km (~6 km daily average). My shoes have traveled through 2 storms and Sweden’s rainy winter, and are already due for a change.

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