Monday, August 10, 2020

During the 2020 Pandemic: starting a new product from Laos

I have been traveling all across SE Asia since November 2019. This was part of my long term digital nomad lifestyle which would have otherwise taken me to live for about 6 months each in Japan, Canada, Denmark (or another Scandinavian nation) and New Zealand. That, mixed with bakpacking through South America, Africa and Eastern Europe was my dream for the next 3-5 years.


Then 2020 happened. By mid-March it was clear to me that things are going to get difficult, travel wise. I was in Luang Prabang, Laos at that moment and wanted to take a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. I booked the ticket and showed up at the airport only to be prohibited entry because Thailand had changed their Visa on Arrival policy the week before. I had a little bit of a panic and took a bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The next morning I tried the Friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand but was given the same reason for not allowing entry to Thailand.

I think it was March 18, 2020 and it hit me that I will be stuck in Vientiane with a group of stranded travelers. Some of them were waiting for a flight out, while others were just waiting out the situation. I felt that not having my usual travel mode might negatively affect my mental state of being. I was honestly super happy and high up to that point. So I decided to get back to the founder communities online, the ones which have always given me a sense of belonging and purpose.

After lurking around a week or so, I decided to start a new product journey. My plan from 2019 was to continue working on my previous Travel startup, but I paused that due to the uncertainty hovering the pandemic. I worked on an initial, quite broken, prototype and started talking to potential customers. With about 3 months of effort, still staying at the same place in Vientiane, I had a really clear picture of the MVP.

As an engineer with lots of founder connections across the world, I am blessed with the skills, peer-support and finances to create a new product journey. I understand deeply how important and fundamental these are to the quality of life that I do. I am not a money-driven person, rather very mission driven. Being able to focus on a problem and start solving it is an immense luxury. I know this since I did not have it in my growing up years.

Now, in the month of August 2020, I am happy for where I am with my product. I have been some great connections with interested early adopters, mainly from the US. I will double down on my efforts to connect with European founders since I want to go back and live there for some months post-pandemic. Meanwhile I will focus on launching the MVP and marketing it.

It has been about 5 months since the first lock-down (Laos and India had it almost at the same time) and so many people are negatively affected. Small and Medium businesses are at the edge of a steep fall across the world. Our lives and economies have been affected in incomprehensible ways. Understanding that I have the luxury to hole up in a random place on the planet and work, I surely intend to use this time for the purpose of fueling other entrepreneurs' goals and accelerating our global comeback. More power to people.

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