We visited 94 startup communities across the US and Canada over the past few years. Ninety four.
It all started with an email that I fired off to this list in 2015 without much thought. I hadn’t even bought the Airstream yet.
And, before I knew it, we spent the next two years driving over 100,000 miles and meeting over 50,000 people at our events across the country. People even started making short videos of our visits.
The whole thing was surreal… but fun. And interesting. And exciting. And amazing. And that’s why we’re doing it again in 2018.
The ask is pretty simple: fill out this form and let’s hop on a call to brainstorm our visit. We’ll bring a couple of other investors and entrepreneurs to your tech community. And we’ll create 3-4 days of office hours, workshops and keynotes too. And, in the process, we’ll all have fun while we work towards helping your entrepreneurial community get to the next level.
Driving 26,141 miles in less than nine months didn’t make sense.
Moving into an Airstream and living in 42 cities for a week at a time didn’t make sense.
Shaking hands with over 20,000 entrepreneurs didn’t make sense.
Sitting down for 1:1 office hours with over 1,200 startups didn’t make sense.
The tech tour didn’t make sense on paper but it was the right thing to do. And that’s why we’re doing it again in 2017.
Here’s the initial list of stops (fill this form out if you’d like us to stop in your city this year):
Lubbock, TX (Jan 29- Feb 3, 2017)
Myrtle Beach, SC (Feb 21-23, 2017)
Phoenix, AZ (Mar 21-23, 2017)
Sioux Falls, SD (Apr 23-28, 2017)
Des Moines, IA (May 5-8, 2017)
Lincoln, NE (June 21st, 2017)
Missoula, MT (June 26-29th, 2017)
Ann Arbor (August 8-10th, 2017)
Winston-Salem (Aug 15th-17th)
St. Louis (Aug 22nd-24th)
Knoxville, TN (Sept 20-22nd, 2017)
Lafayette, IN (Sept 26-28, 2017)
Connecticut (October 16th-20th)
Rochester, NY (Nov 6-8th, 2017)
Fresno, CA (Nov 13th-15th)
We learned a lot through the 2016 tour so we’re doing a couple things differently in 2017:
We’re going to make the events at each stop much more accessible and useful for all kinds of entrepreneurs. Not everyone wants to raise money. Not everyone wants to build a billion dollar company. And that’s ok — the more people we can get to attend one or more of the tour-related events, the more people that know about entrepreneurship locally and regionally.
We’re bringing more people with us to join office hours, do more workshops and add more content to our keynotes. The goal is to create even more collisions and give the local community more perspectives than just my own. We’re going to bring more investors, more entrepreneurs and other community builders from around the country.
We’re bringing a 2-3 person video crew with us to all 2017 stops. The goal is to capture content constantly. We’ll turn that into daily vlogs while we’re on the ground, roll that up into a longer weekly summary video and create 30-60 second snippets that we’ll drip out to our audience for weeks after we leave town. We want to tell the story of entrepreneurship across the continent — think more Anthony Bourdain and less Gary Vaynerchuk. 🙂
If you’re interested in helping us help more entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders, here’s what you can do:
It’s comforting to be back in DC this holiday season — close to my daughter, our friends, our local bar, in our home and back to all the other things we know.
It’s hard, after spending most of 2016 wandering around the US and Canada, not to want to get back on the road again. Back to the long roads, weird rest stops, new people and adventures — both mundane and unbelievable — that I’ve experienced this year.
So I’m going to do it again in 2017. But first, I want to tell you the truth.
Divorce has a way of making you untouchable. The people you knew in your previous life — including your family — aren’t sure what to say or do. The people that you learn to know in your new life aren’t interested in the baggage. You’re stuck somewhere in the middle.
That’s how I started 2016: somewhere in the middle but mostly broken — personally and professionally.
You may have heard stories — especially from me — about the tech tour but here’s the truth:
At the beginning of 2016, Dana and I weren’t ready to move in together and I couldn’t move back in with my parents. I didn’t know where else to go, so I moved into an Airstream travel trailer. Full time.
I wasn’t sure what to say to my friends and family in the DC area, so I started thinking of ways to get away. That was the beginning of the tech tour: a plan to get away from the things I knew.
It was cheaper to keep the Airstream moving than it was to keep it parked in one campground, especially in the DC area, so what started out as a six city tour became a 42 city tour that would take me across North America and back three times over the course of 9 months.
Along the way, I shook hands with over 20,000 people. I ran out of gas twice. I saw things — the most beautiful things — that few people ever see. And I learned about myself.
These are a few of those things:
Take your family with you. For the first half of the year, Dana was only able to join me on the road sporadically. For the second half of the year, she joined me full-time and I’d like to think that the quality of both of our lives improved dramatically. You don’t need to be together 24/7 — there’s value in alone time — but there’s something incredible in traveling with your significant other. There’s something amazing about going places together, experiencing new things together and growing together.
Everyone’s pretending. I grew up in a culture that prefers to keep everything hidden. Most of us work in a professional culture of keeping everything hidden. You don’t need to broadcast your issues to the world, just find your tribe and keep them close. At the very least, make sure you never pretend around your significant other.
Everyone is (mostly) good. When I moved into the Airstream full-time, I worried about my safety. A year later, I’ve learned that full-timers watch out for each other. More importantly, I’ve learned that the vast majority of people are good. They just want to help and they hope you will do the same.
Reduce friction in your daily life. When I first moved into the Airstream, I quickly learned that trailers have more water than most people want and less electrical storage than most people need. I invested in a huge power upgrade (600A of lithiums, 900W of solar panels, a hybrid inverter and a 3000W generator) and my quality of life became nearly indistinguishable from apartment living. If you use something every day, invest in it.
Always top off the tank. Every time I’ve made a mistake — personally and professionally — it’s because I didn’t take care of myself first. It’s not selfish, it’s a fact: you can’t take care of others, make good decisions or do anything else important if you’re not in a good place mentally and physically. If you can get an extra hour of sleep, do it. If you see a gas station, top off the tank — even if you still have half a tank (unless you want to run out of gas 50 miles from the next station, like me).
You’re capable of much more than you — or anyone around you — thinks. I would have never thought I could spend a night on BLM land miles from the nearest human being or spend a night in a Walmart parking lot. The truth is that you’re capable of so much more, especially when you’re back is against the wall. Get a first-aid kit and a small toolbox, then learn how to use everything in it. Watch your self-confidence skyrocket.
Never stop learning something new. Some people learn how to code, other people learn how to knit but I decided to learn how to long board — so I got a Boosted Board. I’ve taken more than a few nasty spills but there’s no faster way to put an ear-to-ear smile on your face than cruising on one.
Be intentional. Be methodical. Every time I’ve rushed to do anything with the Airstream, something goes wrong. (Remind me to tell you about that one time I almost rolled the Airstream off a cliff in Whistler, BC… with Dana inside. She wasn’t happy.) The world wants you to rush everything, don’t fall for it. Some people like checklists, other people like processes — find your system and stick to it. Some people grow up when they’re 18 years old. I grew up at 35.
Laugh more. Smile more. At the risk of this sounding like a self help thing, just trust me on this. I love that Dana and I laugh all the time. I love that I really smile in photos now. I love that I feel happier than I’ve ever felt. I don’t know how to measure it but I know that smiling and laughing has helped me be a better person this year.
If I can leave you with one thought as we enter the new year, it’s this: Change makes you better. Traveling makes you better. Do both, if you can.
I’ll write a full recap of the 2016 tour but, since it’s my first week back in DC after spending the last few months almost entirely in transit, I’m trying to keep my head down as I dig out of the backlog of emails, deals and naps.
Instead, I want to share the time we spent on the ground in Wichita, KS last week. It was our 41st stop of the year and, as we’ve seen everywhere else, there’s a thriving entrepreneurial community present and a number of smart hustlers leading the charge.
Add that to the list of challenges for Midwestern startups: they’re all doing great things locally but the only way to find out about it is to go there.
We’re going to experiment with video quite a bit more through 2017 and I hope you’ll join me on the ground in at least a few of the cities.
When you’re living in an RV full-time, you’re constantly making choices about the things you bring into the limited space you have. It goes a little something like this:
“Is this essential?”
“How can we nest this with something else?”
“Paul, do you really need another gadget? (Answer: NO.)
So, if you’re thinking about biting the bullet and moving into a tiny home, or if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the RV’er in your life, here is a list of our hottest holiday gifts ideas for 2016.
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
As most of you can tell, I’ve spent a lot of time documenting our travels over the past year and the one regret I have is that we didn’t invest in a drone. iPhone photos are great. DSLR photos are great. But the perspective that you can get from a drone is rare and handheld cameras barely capture the big picture.
Hey Mom, if you’re reading this, we want a drone for Christmas. *cough*
Honestly, when Paul brought our Echo home I thought this would just be another gadget that would eventually retire to my parents house, but I’ve quickly become obsessed with having her around. Partially because she’s made me way more efficient and partially because we no longer take our phones into the bedroom at night.
Need to order paper-towels? Just ask Alexa to send some to the house. Want the latest news updates? She’s got you covered. Need to shuffle your Spotify playlist but your hands are full? Not a problem, she’s got it. She’s basically like an electronic assistant that’s always happy to help.
YOU GUYS. WINE GLASSES. THAT FOLD UP. OMG. #brunchallday
Ever had the opportunity to ride in an RV while in transit? (Hint: not a good idea for your body or anything else breakable.) It’s like riding a horse and I have no idea how any of our stuff stays in one piece while we circle the globe. Anything that’s practically indestructible will be a huge hit for RV’ers.
Bonus: Apparently you can fold these into your back pocket for a quick wine roadie after a long hike 🙂 #TeamPana
There is a fine line between being ultra-practical and then feeling like we’re living like college students.
One of the huge benefits of traveling with our home is that we never really feel like we’re not at home. For me, having all of the tools to make a homemade dinner high priority to make sure we don’t get homesick, and having all of these nest into one makes this a win-win.
Ever wonder how we’ve managed to snag a ton of amazing photos this year? It’s because we hang our $5k camera (or iPhone) from anything we can wrap this tripod around. Plus, it folds up perfectly to fit right on the side of our backpacks.
Everyone needs a soundtrack to their adventure and Paul & I *love* our Bose system. We don’t own this exact model, but the addition of the waterproof case would have made us feel a lot better about taking this wherever we we’re exploring this year, rain or shine.
Plus, Paul loves anything that’s red.
For our fellow RV’ers out there, what are we missing?
I picked up an Amazon Echo earlier this month. If you haven’t heard of it, think of it as a badass bluetooth speaker that happens to be smart enough to listen for your voice. It can do everything from play music, read you the news, take down your grocery list, order things for you and it connects to a bunch of external services (think: Uber, weather and anything else you currently use on the web).
If I’m being completely honest, I like it but I don’t think I’m using enough of it to love it.
These days, I mostly use it to listen to the morning news (“Alexa, tell me what’s new”) and music (“Alexa, play something good from Spotify”). Again, I know there’s a ton of stuff it can do but I just haven’t gotten around to setting it all up.
All that being said, I definitely recommend it. Even if you don’t use all the voice assistant features, you’re getting a pretty solid bluetooth speaker for the price.
While we’re talking about the voice assistant, it’s important to understand that the Echo is always listening for “Alexa.” The catch is that it was designed, I think, for use in a home or some other place with solid walls that reflect voices.
Inside your RV, you’ll find that you need to place the Echo at least 6″ (or more) away from any wall if you want it to hear your voice a bit better. Especially if your HVAC is running.
Just get an Echo. You can always return it if you don’t like it. 🙂
P.S. I assume I don’t need to tell you that some sort of wifi in your RV is required.
In the ideal world, you’d get into your RV and entirely ignore the outside world as you wander around for the weekend (or the whole year). In the real world, however, you’re going to need the Internet for something.
Let me just give it to you straight: any sort of mobile data usage is bound to be expensive — especially if you’re going to want reliable connectivity for work or a fast connection for Netflix.
Dana and I chose the Karma Go as our primary connection (while relying on our respective AT&T and Verizon cell phones as backup hotspots).
LTE / 4G radio so the speeds aren’t half bad.
Super small in case you need to take it with you elsewhere.
Battery powered so you’re not always pulling from the RV’s electrical system.
Pay-as-you-go option, in case you don’t need to use it often.
It doesn’t quite work everywhere, especially if you’re boondocking. (That’s where your personal cell phone hotspots are going to come in handy.)
Once the battery dies, you’re going to have to turn the inverter on to recharge.
You can only have ~5 devices connected simultaneously so it may not be a good option for someone with a large family.
Overall, it’s not a bad choice and I’ve been happy with it. Get a Karma Go for yourself and give it a shot.
PRO TIP: if you’ve got an AT&T phone, choose the Rollover Data option and select a plan that has slightly more data than you use on a regular basis. Over time, you’ll have a bunch of “excess” data available for use and you’ll thank yourself for thinking ahead when you decide to binge watch Stranger Things on Netflix while boondocking out in the woods one night.
Dana and I moved into our Airstream a few days ago and it’s already obvious that we bought a few things that we’re never going to use. That’s normal, right?
Here’s the rub: RV’s are small and there’s no room for useless things. When in doubt, throw it away (or donate it). If you’re reading this post, I’m hopeful that I’ll save you at least $200 when I tell you what we didn’t actually need.
OK, so first, here’s the entire order I put in just before our Airstream arrived:
Bed sheets. Whether you’re buying new or used, these sheets are way better than what you’ve already got.
Magnets. You’re going to hand something on the fridge, right?
Multi-purpose tarp. You’ll want to lay this down outside your front door, especially if the ground is wet.
For Dana and I, the entire coffee setup was overkill. Don’t get me wrong: we love coffee. The real issue is that fresh water in a RV is always at a premium. When you’re using a Chemex (and all the stuff necessary with it), you end up with a mess that requires a bit of water to clean up.
Save yourself some money (and some fresh water). Enjoy the rest.
If you don’t read anything else below, here’s the most important tip when picking up your RV: plan on spending your first night in the seller’s parking lot.
We bought our Airstream from Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ after hearing so many positive reviews from other RV’rs for months. (To be honest, we had visited a few other Airstream dealers leading up to the purchase and everyone else either seemed pushy about the sale or uninterested in helping us find the perfect setup for our drive-around-the-country-and-park-at-random-coworking-spaces plan.)
In our case, we purchased the unit in late November 2015 and asked our sales rep to give us a few weeks to sort out our own parking setup back in DC. About a month later (two days before Christmas, of course), we went back to New Jersey to pick up our brand new 2016 Airstream Classic.
We hopped into the Airstream as soon as we arrived at the dealership and, before we did anything else, we threw Christmas Vacation into the DVD player. Because unpacking (and drinking) to any National Lampoon movie around the holidays is the best.
Back to the point: the best thing we did when we picked up the Airstream was stay in the dealer’s parking lot for the night. The views weren’t great but it gave us time to “kick the tires” on all of the trailer’s internal systems before the dealership staff returned the following morning. Inevitably, we found some issues (read: a leak and a few other minor things).
We walked over to the service team with our list in the morning, they had a technician knock everything out within the next hour and we were on our way back to DC that afternoon.
Whether you’re buying new or used, don’t leave the seller’s lot until you’ve had a night to test everything out. And don’t leave until it’s fixed.