The end of the year is often a time for introspection and establishing goals for the new year. In terms of goals, I don’t have any broad resolutions for the coming year, its’ not something I find useful (though Julia Rothman’s More Less list might serve as a good reminder), but since we just crossed the 6 month mark in our move “back” to PEI, sharing the highlights of what we have accomplished might keep me honest.
So in the spirit of the weekly/monthly reports I hated writing in the past, the following is a 6 month report*:
- The kids, especially Catriona, enjoy school far more than in recent memory. This can be partly attributed to having little to no homework, few tests, and a whopping 12+ days off due to teacher PD days, holidays and storm days. Their days are much shorter too. Credit should be given to the teachers who have created a far more relaxed and open environment for learning than what you will find in the Taiwan school system.
- Catriona has completed 3 months of CrossFit training and Camren has received his first bar in Gracie JuJitsu.
- Camren has competed in 3 separate swim meets with the Bluefins, winning some, and placing in others. Catriona’s participation with the Harmonia Choir culminated in a series of wonderful concerts. Looking forward to hearing more from them this year.
- Despite living here for 6 months, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still suffer from culture shock on a daily basis. All of us do to some extent. I expect this will diminish overtime, but I imagine I will always retain much of what I was affected by in Taiwan.
- We were accepted as a resident company in the Start Up Zone in mid to late September, the benefits of which weren’t immediately discernible. Unfortunately, working out of the fishbowl, as I call the place, hasn’t really worked out. Open offices are nice if you like interruptions and noise, but not so great if you need quiet and space to focus. Also, I can’t really seem to align my schedule with the limited availability of buses in Stratford, making trips to the downtown (via car) expensive.
- We started our company Minzoo in October, but the roots have been in place since July of 2017. The products we have in our pipeline are the easiest I’ve ever worked on, and yet it’s the most difficult and slowest to launch.
- The past 6 months has brought about a sea change in terms of the amount of networking, workshops, meet-ups, coffee chats, and meet & greets I’ve attended. I’ve had far more opportunity to attend events such as these in the past 6 months, than the past 6 years in Taiwan and China. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I moved here. All in all I have been averaging 3–4 events a week, making this one of my primary activities.
- From all these workshops and get togethers, and the reading done, I’ve received the equivalent of the Coles Notes version of an entrepreneurial MBA. Or so if feels, but I still know nothing about finance and marketing.
- The longest event I participated in was StartUp Weekend. There was a lot to unpack from that weekend long event, not the least of which was that an army marches on it’s stomach – great food helps make any event a success. This was the first time I took non-design savvy folks through a customer journey map and got buy in for the importance of experience design. It went well.
- We launched a podcast called Sleep Tight Stories, the quality of which is improving over time. It’s not wildly popular as of yet but its audience continues to grow.
- I’ve largely dropped out of social media but still enjoy looking at puppy pictures on Instagram. It helps me end the day on a positive note. I still have the @hsinchunews twitter account, but I expect I my interest in following what is happening in Taiwan and the Hsinchu Science Park will diminish over time.
- I’ve written 175 diary entries and 101 blog posts.
- We launched 3 new or refreshed websites, 1 I contracted out to a young designer. Playing the role of client, gave me some new insight to the client and contractor relationship.
- We carried out 4 different users tests since October, the results of which, like most user research, was enlightening and interesting. Individuals are always interesting and have stories to tell, performing user research is as good an excuse as any to hear them.
- Apple doesn’t offer commutative data but app downloads are, but for one exception, all up – some over 1000%. The most popular efforts are stickers I created with my son – I’m not sure what that means. A respectable number of downloads does not equal revenue unfortunately, and I don’t see us breaking even anytime soon.
- Our business is at risk of being a cliché. Most businesses fail and our venture is struggling. As such, I’ve started looking for job opportunities. It’s early days and I have no idea what form employment might take; remote, freelance, consultant, or something I’ve never considered before. I have no answers as of yet as to how I could do the work I have been doing these past few years while living in Charlottetown.
- This year is a bit of an experiment. Could we have a similar lifestyle in Charlottetown to what we had in Hsinchu. I’ve been keeping fairly accurate data, not complete enough to publish, and thus far it has proven to be very difficult. We’ve never been able to stay within budget, part of this is start-up costs, but the rest is simply due to a higher cost of living. The greatest dollar increases are found in kids activities, which can cost 2x what we might pay in Taiwan. As an example, the price I pay for my son to be a part of Bluefins is the same price we payed for both kids in Taiwan, except in Taiwan they had almost double the amount of time in the pool and it included dry land training. But in terms of a percentage increase, nothing beats the cost of connectivity on PEI. The kids mobile plan costs increased 1433%, mine has increased 184% – with a drastic reduction in service, and our home internet has increased 225%. Food costs have increased, with boneless chicken, a key ingredient to my kids comfort food curry chicken, twice as expensive as what we paid before.
- I ran my 2nd marathon this year in October and despite some problems during the race I am happy with the results. To prepare I was running an average of 75km a week. Unfortunately I have been rather inactive since which is being reflected by my ever growing waistline – when you are training you get used to eating a lot of food. A fun habit which is hard to break.
- I’ve put 6000kms on our car. I’ve no idea if this is a modest amount of milage. Driving my kids to various activities is where my late afternoons and evenings are spent. I do realize that a car is a burden I wish I didn’t need to bear, but public transit in Charlottetown is only effective along certain corridors and not really useful for our needs. I’ll wait until Uber arrives before I rely upon the overpriced taxi companies here.
- We launched Sleep Tight Relax. It’s loaded with bugs, some of which are an easy fix, but a weird Xcode bug has delayed any update.
- I’ve made some progress these past 6 months in being able to survive the inevitable “introduce yourself” section of any get together. I still have some work to do with removing jargon and speaking like a normal person.
- Somewhat related to self-introductions, was the need to refine our business pitch. I took three separate workshops on how to pitch effectively and managed a polished 1 minute delivery, only to later realize how fake it all sounds. The people who like these pitches seem to prefer the fake.
- We travel far less than in the past. We’ve managed a couple trips to Summerside, 2 trips to Truro, 2 to Moncton (Costco), 1 to Halifax and 1 to Sackville for coffee. We explored a bit of the Island in the summer but seem to be at a loss for winter activities – I guess we could try snow shoeing, but other activities like skiing are out due to their high cost.
- We invested in too much tech gear, including TV, game console, sound bar, smart speakers, laptop, keyboards, headphones and sound recording equipment. With the exception of a new iPhone, none of these products came from Apple, because either Apple doesn’t produce them or they are too expensive if they do. In some cases Apple’s product is actually inferior. If this was a trend, it may help explain their drop in profits.
- One disappointment was my inability to find time to volunteer or socialize. Outside of working with stray dogs, I didn’t have much opportunity to contribute in a more direct way to our community in Taiwan (volunteering is actually illegal for foreigners), so I was hoping to be able to find opportunities to contribute here. I’m going to make volunteering one of my priorities for this year.
It’s been an extremely busy 6 months. There are some key upcoming events which just come in outside the 6 month mark, including: the kids write their first exams, and I have some important work related deadlines to hit. I’m looking forward to what the next 6 months might bring.
*I’d love to incorporate more data, with presentations akin to Nicholas Felton, but one of my many weaknesses has been good record keeping and I time box all my blogposts (which means I don’t give myself the time required to create something similar).