At the moment you are helping out at Trends VC. How’s that going?
Fantastic. I get to meet interesting people doing crazy, interesting things in building the future. I always have someone interesting to talk to.
I was reading your bio earlier. It has to be one of the best bios I read in a long time! It says that you’re learning React, and before this you completed Google’s Data Analytics Certificate course and Harvard’s CS50. Before the lockdown, you would frequent the city’s open mics and perform standup comedy. You’re also a bathroom pianist and singer.
Don’t ask me how I got the piano in the bathroom!
You’ve got a few side projects going on at the moment. This one caught my eye: This Store Loves You. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Sure. This Store Loves You initially started off while I was listening to one of Seth Godins talks about the placebo effect. It’s a very, very powerful phenomenon - if you believe in something hard enough and you’re putting it into your body, it is going to have that effect on you.
So if you think that’s how sugar pills work, that’s very, very powerful. Seth Godin was of the opinion that this could be used as a powerful force for good.
And I agreed. What I decided to do was to create a bunch of things - mugs, posters your basic print-on-demand goods and try to create those in a way where they would have a positive impact on people who would need it the most.
These are people who are suffering, who are struggling with terrible injuries or diseases.
I think one of the most heartwarming comments that I have found is people who have been suffering through this finding strength and hope and enjoying the products that they have bought or been gifted - so that was gratification for me as a creator.
It’s something that I wish to scale and expand however it’s challenging because it’s a lot of emotional work. You’re dealing constantly with heart disease and cancer and difficult to deal with emotions. You need to be very sensitive when creating those products. So it’s difficult to work on that side of the project.
But whenever I do and whenever someone buys it - and hopefully they love it - it’s quite gratifying at the same time.
You also have a project called Robo Written which utilises Open AI. Can you tell us about that one?
Yes, I would love to. I believe we are at the initial stages of several big innovations - just like how the internet changed everything in the 90s. There is going to probably be the blockchain technology revolution and the AI technology revolution and lots more in fact.
The biggest revolution is probably going to be all of these technologies becoming mainstream together, so at the intersection of all of this is going to be the nominal growth in human productivity and creation.
One of these is AI which I love to explore. Elon Musk and Sam Altman from Y combinator have created Open AI Foundation which does phenomenal research on pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence. Last year they stated they had released a form of AI or technology, really, an API, where you could use it to create predictive text.
That was the best use case of a thousand, most powerful use case of it. Natural language processing - NLP. So I use it to create that. I had a lot of fun with it.
By the way, funny story how I got access to it. I was one of the first people to get access to it when it was in closed beta because back then I was working on a robotics project and I submitted the link. They loved it and I had my own use case for it.
When I actually started to play with it, I completely pivoted. It is fairly easy to use. It’s essentially a playground. So just like you type words into a chat box. It’s that easy. You type in your initial seed word and AI guesses what words should come next.
The light bulb moment happened when I realized, hey, Google uses Bots, and all these other search engines use Bots to discover content. Why not just close the loop and have this create the content? That was really the genesis of the idea.
What’s your parting advice for anyone who wants to start a side project?
It’s all about leverage and figuring out what your leverage is in your current life situation. Some people optimized for time, some people optimize for cash value. Some people optimized for their networks.
Figure out what you have a lot of and how you can leverage it and what you want from that. That would make it so that this whole journey of building micro empires is a lot more fun and a lot more consistent.
It’s going to be a roller coaster anyway, but it might as well be easier on you if you optimize for the right metrics.