I’m traveling 30 African countries in 1 year while launching 12 startups

Africa is unknown land to me. Media publications scare me when they cover Africa. Yet another story of people fleeing from their African home country with high uncertainty whether they’ll make it to Libya and through the Mediterranean Sea, children starving to death, tourists getting attacked / robbed / maltreated by locals, unhealthy water, deadly illnesses like HIV, civil war and riots. When it goes after Western media, Africa means trouble. That’s how my current image of Africa is like and I dislike every aspect of it. For the same reason why I spent around 1 month in Cuba with only 150 dollars last year, I want to see what Africa is really like in 2018, and I’m giving myself one year to do so.

The project

I’m traveling along the African coastline (all around the continent) for 12 months to learn about the people and land while working on startups that die after 28 days. Thanks to the cycle of 28 days I want to a) practice my „killing your darlings“ muscle and b) ship products that people pay for but were built in a short amount of time. This also includes „picking an idea, developing it and launching it to press“ (inspired by Pieter Levels).

The route

I’ll start in Morocco and finish in Algeria. I’ll pass by 30 countries, so I have ~1,73 weeks (~12,2 days) for each country. That’s quite a run.

How I can afford to travel that long?

While working on those projects and traveling around I’ll be doing client work on a daily basis so I can cover my travel expenses. I’ll be working 1–3 hours (Mon-Sun) at my remote „day job“. That gives me around 1,500 € per month to buy food, have a place to work, to sleep and move around (in total 1,000 €). With the rest of my income (500 €) I’ll cover fix costs like social insurance, travel insurance and recurring monthly costs of important web services I subscribed to. Generally, I’ll travel low-cost with no luxury, also as locally as possible.

For transparency I want to mention that in January I made around 10,000 € of revenue for work I did in December 2017 and January 2018 plus a generous bonus I received from a client.

Personal motivation

I’m bored by the Western world’s superficial problems and comfort. I wanna go out into the world and see what’s really out there, what problems exist, what stories exist, how I can give a hand and maybe do something that helps someone there - besides my 12 products (or should I say startups?).

Also, I don’t see Africa being particularly popular among traveling (remote) workers. So, maybe I can inspire others to have an adventurous time on the continent!! :)

Why not just work on those startups at home?

Because booooring.

The survival instinct of traveling wildly (into the unknown) should help me get those startups done and ideally make profit. Moreover, traveling through this continent, almost unknown to me, will hopefully inspire me to think of products I haven’t thought of - even things that could directly help the local people I’ll meet. We will see. I can’t predict anything but it could make interesting story to tell after.

The tech side of the journey

I’ll use the first month of the journey (September) to be offline and get inspiration for new startup ideas. In the following 11 months (beginning in October) I’ll work and travel. I’ll have 28 days to build and ship a product trying to validate that there’s a market. Then, I take a few days off to review my failures and small wins. (After each startup’s death I’ll show some remorse and grief for sure but anyway.) When done, I’ll start building the next product, again within up to 28 days.

The startups with my progress report

I’ll be updating my progress here with links to posts about each month’s startup.

I have a buch of ideas that I want to turn into a validated and profitable business. Just to be clear: With startup I mean the quest of looking for market validation. Nothing more.

1) Voice over’s dream

A full-screen demo-reel player for voice artists’ websites because I find most of the existing demo reel presentations ugly and boring as hell.

2) Stryver

A dynamic editorial calendar for bloggers to have content pre-produced for months. Thanks to such a calendar you write pieces for your blog that consistently serve your overall marketing strategy. Also, you’ll have them written weeks before due date.

3) Weekday Kickoff

It’s obvious to build up body muscles. But what about mental muscles? How do you become a stronger character so you’re not thrown out of your rails when something hits you unexpectedly? Weekday Kickoff serves as the protein for your head through a daily mental pill in the form of a wise paragraph of Stoic wisdom.

4) Ape Speed / „Affenzahn“ (German)

Finding the best time for an appointment when many people are invited. Suitable for sports team, clubs, or big groups. You avoid the usual back and forth, and everyone knows when and where to meet - and you’ll know why somebody can’t come.

5) Word Count Many Files (of any filetype)

It’s not uncommon that voice artists are paid by the amount of words that they voiced over. The scripts can be spread over many files and it’s somewhat tiresome to go through all of them to count the amount of words. With „Word Count Many Files“ you drag and drop all files into the browser and the website shows you the total amount of words. Lifesaver, I think ;)

P.S. There is a Windows app doing that already but who wants to download an app and who actually uses Windows? :P

6) Mindset Diff Checker

Inspired by Diff Checker, I want you to keep track of how you’ve been thinking in particular phases of your life and how your thinking has changed. This way you can track your progress and see your growth in actual statements you made some time ago while being able to compare your mindset version from let’s say 6 months ago to today. Wouldn’t that be cool?

That’s only 6. What about the other half?

Correct. I’ll use the September to recognize more ideas „when they show up“, as Steven King says („On Writing“, p. 37). Related to story ideas, but you can apply that to any creative field where ideas play a major role, he continues: „There’s no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.“

I’m following this advice and will see what ideas I’ll recognize in Morocco and Western Sahara, the first two stations of my adventure.

The social side of it

I want to talk to locals and see the true Africa. No tourist things. Just as I did in Cuba last September.

What will you be doing until September?

At the moment (end of January 2018) I’m saving money in case I won’t be able to do client work as much as planned - due to lack of internet, electricity or other challenges. Plus, I don’t know how expensive traveling in Africa and staying in hostels or cheap hotels there is. So, I have 7 months to save around 12,000 € (to have 1,000 € per month). I’m not including the flight to and from Africa.

Also, In order to warm up my tech muscles for the ride, I’m currently building Recording Studio List through which traveling voice artists can find the best recording studios in the city to record high quality performances with an affordable price tag. This way you don’t need to travel around with your gear. The only thing you need is your healthy voice :) There is, however, a hook to building the studio list (see below).

Further challenges

Under one condition!

Ok. This is all fine and fancy. But there’s an important business condition that makes the project start or not start at all!!!

But before, my money situation in 2018

The aforementioned freelance „day job“ I’m having allows me to work flexible hours (minimum 10h/month). Due to my business year design I’m planning to make 25,000 € before taxes only with my „day job“ - I made 10k € in January and will make 15k from February to December (whereas in September I won’t make any money because I’ll be offline).

One third of my income (through the „day job“ only) is to cover my monthly fix costs of around 700 € (including rent and food which I pay 400 euros for). So that makes 25,000 minus 8,400 equals 16,600 €. That leaves me with ~1,383 € a month on average after fix costs. Since I stopped going out and spending money on drinks and such - after I had finished my studies (in Summer 2013) - I normally use that saved money to reinvest it into my business, my education (usually books, courses or online communities) or my well-being (like music, sports equipment or my 4-week research trips that I started doing in September 2017 when I was in Cuba). That’s it.

Yes, it can happen that I pay for things out of pure pleasure or because I want to invite someone (things like these) but in general I try to purchase with purpose as much as possible so that I avoid the loop of aggregating stuff of which I have too much anyway and am in the process of getting rid off.

5,000 euros revenue until 31 August 2017

It’s 5,000 € because of bureaucratic reasons. In Germany you’re not allowed to gain more than 5/6 of your total revenue from only one client. So if only made those 25K through my „day job“ I’d be in trouble in case the officials checked and my client would have to pay pension and health insurance because of „pseudo-self-employment“ (meaning: the state thinks I’m working as an employee but I’m officially a self-employed.

The more interesting question is: How much do I really want to make this trip to Africa? I want to earn it, and this makes the equation very easy. If I earn to travel Africa I’ll make it. If not, I don’t deserve it. Easy peasy.

So, it’s 5,000 € I’ll make until the end of August 2017. If I don’t, no Africa for me this year. I’ll document the progress here.

The price I’m paying now already by taking this challenge is that I’ll have drastically less time to work on #studiolist and write #soycubano, which is painful :( but it’s necessary :).

That’s the project: #africahowareyou. I’ll write you when the adventure starts in case I make it:

Further updates on Twitter, Mastodon and naii.io.

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