Help Me Not

Pic By vtdainfo flickr user


Some furious people got in touch with me to let me know how much they disagreed with my post. After conversing with some of them, it turns out they actually agree with the points I make, but were thrown off by my *cocky* tone. So here are the points in a more humble version:

1. I am suggesting that sometimes there might be a reason why someone might have a problem, and this reason is lack of flexibility in the approach to solving it.
2. I am noting to myself: I should probably stop helping people that have not asked me explicitly for help, since I might be doing the opposite of helping.
3. I am noting to myself: I should probably think about problems in which I am on the side of the inflexible thinker.

I also learned something very important from one of the comments – The fact that someone shares their problem with you DOES NOT necessarily mean they want help. They might be just venting out, or they might just not be ready to tackle it.

I have this incredibly strong urge to help people. Occasionally I see a friend who has serious troubles. And I am not talking about a temporary problem, but a generally flawed area in their life such as, “I never have any money” or “I don’t have any friends really” or “I have always wanted to do X but I don’t know how…”

Sometimes, when I feel I am doing much better in an area they are complaining about, I try to explain what I have done to get where I am. I give tips, I even sometimes go as far as trying to draw a step-by-step plan for them. Usually those are simple things, but need time and consistency. Sometimes they just need to be reminded of a fact or be turned in the right direction so they can get the “aha!” moment.

I have noticed though there is a certain type of character that is impervious to such help. Sometimes they argue and fight back, defending their vision. Other times they say, “Yes, totally, of course!” and then go on doing the same old thing. Helping both of those types is like pouring water into a leaky bucket. You pour all your heart in them, and give them all the possible help, and you just see how it goes wasted. Naturally, you then try to fix the bucket before you continue, but that itself turns out to be another endeavor of pouring water in a leaky bucket.

3 different friends have been really bothering me, because I just can’t seem to find a way to penetrate the shield that keeps them from improving. And the most important thing I realize is that it is no random occurrence that they have this major long term issue. It is just the outcome that has been fed through the years exactly by this inflexibility to listen to others, to take new points of view, to give up on their wrong beliefs, and to change strategies in life, when it hasn’t work out till the moment.

And so:
1) I give up trying to help those people for the sake of my peace and theirs. At least until they start their own process of taking down the shield.
2) It’s now time that I myself think of things in my life that have been going wrong, and think of what I have been told over time again and again…

Good *luck* to all of us.

Reflections: Leap of Faith

Recently I stumbled again on this moving story of a snail:

snail faith

The Leap of Faith has this curious characteristic of being unknown, unsure, obscure – this is way it’s called so – you are based on FAITH and nothing more. So far – Duh.

Comes the day you want have to make a choice – you gonna do this startup or not? The only way to determine the success is to list the risk factors that can bring it down, and to list the good things that can make it live. I want to turn your attention to one fact – the risks are clearly visible, but the steps to success are not. Consequently your natural instinct is NOT to start a venture, because you see so many risks. This is the moment where you have to close your eyes and Leap. Example:

The first thing I started was a web development company. Client sites for cash. Here is how it looked to me at the decision moment:

  • I didn’t have any support, which I only realized lately.
  • I had no knowledge on how to spread the word about the new player on market for websites -> I couldn’t see how to get clients
  • I had no money -> I couldn’t hire anyone
  • I didn’t have money for real office or extra equipment -> couldn’t look professional in the eyes of clients
  • I didn’t know how to make sites fast and professional -> didn’t have the right self esteem

These are all very specific problems that I can name, explain in details how they relate to my future failure. However none of the good stuff could be well defined to draw the steps to success. I did pay all taxes for a company, did form it, and did open my living room as an office. Here is what happened:

  • It turned out I had huge support from friends, family, relatives. All of them helped me in any way they could. Found friendly lawyers, accountants to do work almost or for free, found clients. Could I have listed those specific situations in calculating the success? No.
  • I know that even without professional full blown ads, I get constantly new clients from friends of friends. I could have included some of those specific clients forwarded by friends in my initial calculations? No.
  • So it turned out I did have some clients, and I did have money I couldn’t have predicted => I did have a programmer I couldn’t have predicted.
  • It turned out I did not need an office and extra equipment. Still operating from my apartment.
  • I stumbled upon a few people that really opened my eyes on how to improve on the process – make it fast and efficient. Could I have predicted this stumbling? No.

In the end, mgPePe LLC is growing, getting clients, making cash – what it was born to do. But slowly I am realizing that the people I have attracted around it now give me the possibility to develop all kinds of inhouse projects that most probably will turn into beautiful startups that will one day change the world.

Did I predict the difficulties that would be associated with my business? Yes. Could I have seen all the things that helped me get through? No.

Take the Leap of Faith. You will find that Faith is not the only support you will find along the way.

Year ‘09

In 2007 I wrote a review of what I have completed and failed during the summer vacation. I meant to do it yearly, but I missed 2008.  I am not a student so here is the 2009 1-year summary:

thefeelgood logo thebetastartup
Aaaaah. The Feel Good has been a great project.  We have users that come to listen and upload songs every day.  The moment the site is down, they call us and scream that they haven’t gotten their daily ration yet.  I learned a lot from it, but I think I am losing it.  Little by little I have been learning about the industry and how things work. It looks like this project will not get much further development, or if it does, it will be mostly for the current user base, without further expansion. We just don’t have the time resources. We’re also paying decent hosting fees (my partner pays them EVERY time) and that’s another limitations. We need to recognize when to drop something. So I guess we flopped on this one. TODO 2010: keep it alive, fix it to be really nice for current user base. logo2neshta.comI
wrote earlier that we did  launch with Irena a classifieds site. It’s been very slowly growing. I worked to make a marketing campaign, which didn’t work out for few reasons. I learned. Next one will be much better. Spent some cash too. I am going to keep pushing. We have still great ideas for marketing. I just need a bit of time and money. Achievement for launching, flop for the marketing campaign. TODO in 2010: Make 3 good marketing campaigns.

mgpepe logo
So in the winter of 08/09 I formed my first legal entity. I needed to generate some cash by making sites for clients. Have done a few that kept me going. Though constantly struggling for money, I have been generally independent. I had a part-time employee, and I just hired a very decent programmer. I am barely writing code. I think that being able to cross the boundary between making a site yourself and hiring permanently an employee is HUGE. Now we execute times and times faster. I am also learning lot’s of new things so I think…great achievement. TODO 2010: hire an in house designer. Stabilize/expand cashflow/clients, begin working on 1 or 2 of the many startup ideas from our database.

planner logo
This one is big. Ilian and Svilen partnered with me and we formed Planner Media LLC. Basically what it does is print colorful student planners for high school kids, fill them with ads and give them away for free. Somewhat promising startup. It’s been evolving quite a lot lately in my head though, and I expect it to be successful. I award myself achievement on this one for starting it and keeping it move at a good pace. TODO 2010: i will skip this for reason, i will myself forget when i reread it.

question marktheProject
I always keep a pot of random business ideas. Some evaporate the moment they are in, some burn out after lot’s of cooking, some linger for quite a long time. There is one idea though that stays forever in there and though quite challenging from money perspective, it’s doable. And even more so, now that I have real things moving on. I am pretty sure I have partner on it too. Flop for having so many ideas, that probably distract me, achievement for keeping my fire for theproject live. TODO 2010 (that would be very ambitious): Launch by the end of 2010.

butchers bar thebetastartupButcher’s Bar
Yes. I did get a job. It wasn’t for the money, it wasn’t for the fame. I just always wanted to be a barman and I did do it. Had some fun time, figured out I didn’t actually want to be a barman and I was out. Nice experience, made some friends, made some connections… all good.  Counts as achievement.

food thebetastartupFood
Last but not least, I did do quite a lot better on food. Been eating significantly more healthy. Been learning about what to buy and what not to. I have the habit now of checking the nutrition labels to see what’s in and what’s not. Those are all great improvements towards my diet. I have also been very strict on not missing breakfast or any other meal for that matter. Stomach still hurts sometimes, but generally I am well. Today I ran in the park too. Taking long baths for meditation. Just taking care of health. Great achievementTODO 2010: learn significantly more about food, what substances are in, and what those substances costs to us. Maybe start a movement that will teach people to look for and value quality food.

Things are being done, and future seems quite busy. SO excited! It’s kurrrraaaaazy!

Lesson from Prince of Persia 1

So I got my hands on Prince of Persia 1 (DOS version) and I started playing it. Unconvetionally, this game does not limit you in lives you can lose, but in time to beat the game – 1h. Part of the game is maneuvrability, part of the game is mazes you have to roam, and part of it are puzzles you have to solve. Every time you play for an hour and don’t complete the game, you have to start from the beginning. And there is no SAVE, just PAUSE.

So I did make a few tries to beat the game, each much better than the previous. But then I got pissed and decided to read about it in the net. First thing I found is that there is save. You just don’t have a menu and it’s a weird shortcut – CTRL+G. Well that changes a whole lot the concept, because if I waste a lot of time, I can loose the current play and keep playing from the good save (there’s only one save, no slots). Second thing I found is a walkthrough. What I found in the walkthrough was a few solutions to things god-knows-how-long-it-will-have-taken-me-to-solve. The guy that wrote the walkthrough actually said it took him and his dad 2 years to figure this one thing, and another 3 to figure out what to do next. So I did save countless hours of wandering and dying. The third thing i found was a speed run, in which I saw a few good shortcuts and tricks. So I beat the game and had sex with the princess…

Prince of Persia thebetastartup

But the point is – how long would I have kept playing if I didn’t do my research on the web, and didn’t find the walkthrough/speed run? I can’t imagine. And honestly it would have been a shame wasting so much time of my life. Which makes me wonder, why the hell are we so resistant to finding walkthroughs for anything else we do in life? If a 5 minute walkthrough saves us 1/2h every day, it’s tremendous advantage. If a 5 minute walkthrough saves us 1/2h once, but you do it all the time, it’s also a tremendous advantage.

The problem is that walkthroughs for life are not named ‘walkthroughs’, and we rarely make the right association to recognize the situations that can be much improved by a short googling of the problem. Have you ever googled folding a T-shirt? You fold at least 1 T-shirt a day average. How about keyboard shortcuts in Gmail? Or how about marketing your startup?

Like anything else is that you have to intentionally start forcing yourself to think about it, and try to recognize more often those situations. You have to actively pursue it and put effort in it. But boy, how do we do that…

2things logo

It’s really only one but it’s called 2things. We just launched a new beta –

It’s a wonderful site for classifieds for Bulgaria. Sgot some bugs more to cleanup, but generally it’s pretty stable and well done [excl ie6 of course, which will be fixed later].

The story goes like that – there are 30+ sites that do the same thing and all do it really badly. So there is no mentality for posting ads, nor a good platform that makes posting easy. So there’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg question – is there no mentality because there is not decent platform, or is there no decent platform because there is no mentality and market for it? We will finally be able to tell that – there is a not only decent but great platform for classifieds – free, easy, fast, well designed, ad-free, registration free. What more can you ask?

So let’s cross fingers and start working out the steps from the guerrilla marketing.

Facebook Page

Experience: The Down Moments Of Entrepreneurship

When I started this blog I set off to create a full story of my entrepreneurial struggle. I have been working on it mostly implicitly by writing out my thoughts and keeping up book reviews with what I read. I feel though that an explicit update is needed every now and then, so here is one that explains my current whereabouts.

After having been through a billion ideas and finished none, I decided to jump into ONE thing ONLY and pull it off till the end. My choice was, the language learning site since I trust my guts and feel like my theory of how a mind is able to suck new information will be right. In addition, the market is growing like crazy. Livemocha (got 2mln funding I believe) and SpanishPod both made the Times the other day, and I think neither is really good or with much innovation in methodoly of learning. They just are there and in such market whoever is there makes it (apparently really well too).

But I mentioned how I have been struggling between looking for funding and making it myself. We finally settled for funding, and no surprise – it feels like we chose wrong. On the other side, I am pretty sure it would have felt the same way if we went with building it. So funding is planned through winning the the Merrill Lynch competition and if we don’t win it (which I feel we have decent chances) I will be totally lost. If I then decide to build it, I would have gone BOTH paths to reach the target. Why didn’t I just tried making it off the beginning? My guilty consciousness will chase me for a long time. Though if we do win the 60,000 from Zicklin, then…..then there’s going to be more posts.But for now, got no product – just a business plan ‘in construction’.

So far so OK. I feel like I am on the right track and I push. Before I know it though, I am filling a new YC application – this time it was supposed to be just a joke. As a project, we decided to use our first launch (for five years!) – a blog. A blog we launched for all this time! It was a music blog and it felt good to put some of our favorite music online and listen to it and share with friends. Turns out Alek was serious about the YC app, which he filled quite diligently, and that he has serious plans about it. I realize now our music blog was the beginning of a new startup, which we will be launching in … 2 weeks?!@# How da hell did I get involved in another startup again?! Our blog, you can find at It has got some good music today, and stay tuned for the startup launch.

Meanwhile more ideas keep coming to me (yes, they will all end up here). One of them seems to be stuck with me for some time. I haven’t shared it online because I believe I may decide to do in the near future when I have resources.

Actually resources is what I really wanted to talk about. I have no job. Ever since I decided to work on ONE thing I have been trying not do anything but work on the startup, which meant absolutely no wasting time on crappy external jobs. Now though I am running out of money and this drives me nuts. My budget has thinned out to mere $100/mo that I can live on besides my fixed costs of another $200 (subway, cell, credit card). I am basically surviving on $400/mo in New York and this is crazy. What is crazier is that soon the last few hundred bucks that I have will run out. I have to take a job but what I can do is apply at my school for a job under $10/h which is just a waste of life, or I can work some side projects as a freelancer. I used to make Flash sites like this one, but now I think that connection soured up. It’s nuts to think how people that work the crappiest jobs have more money than me. It’s a psychological breakdown. I may have to crack open and take a job or I will starve. ‘Die’ is probably the right word here, since I am already starving.

I already talked about the Up’s and Down’s of the roller coaster and here is another wonderful example of a down. It is quite a down this time – deeeeep and loooong. I am miserable and I am barely surviving. And it seems like it will keep going worse. If it wasn’t for the possible upsides that I see in a few months from now, I would have given up. But that insane feeling that “I am almost done” with something and soon “it will pay off” is just not going away, and drags me down, and down, and down.

Let me mention some more just for a little color. My wisdom tooth is growing – as to be taken out some time soon and yes, you guessed it – I can’t pay for it. My stomach pains me. Hmm..yes, I should be eating better food. But what better food when I am eating anything I can find? I just cut my hair on my own, since I have to otherwise pay 15 bucks, with which I can eat at least 3 times. I have never had such attitude towards money saving but times change and when you don’t have money, elasticity can get practically to zero;

Damn that UP should be right around the corner because I am in B I G trouble…

Lessons From Valve’s Portal

I have always wanted to draw a parallel between a computer game and life/entrepreneurship. Here comes it:


I have been playing the awesomest game – Portal (trailer here) for some time – it’s a mind-bending first-person action-puzzle game. The challenge levels require some serious thought and flawless execution. The game kept reminding me of two very important things:

I. PUSHING LIMITS – as you complete any benchmark the bar is raised usually twice as high. This forces the following pattern of thinking:
(1) “This is impossible!” – after you just did your best to barely finish the level within 40 steps, you are now required to do same in 20! Hell it’s impossible!
(2) “This game has been tested this must be possible…”
(3) “What can be done?” – now starts the real thinking! Can you skip some parts of he whole puzzle? If not, can you execute them in a more efficient way? etc..
Every time you think you have reached the top this game reminds you, “No way buddy, not even half way!” stThen you keep climbing until you solve it. We don’t do this in real life. Most of the times we don’t push at all…

II. GIVING UP — in portal it is considerably easy to complete a challenge for one particular reason: every time you get to (1) , you immediately realize that (2) therefore you really don’t have problem (1). However in real life, when get stuck somewhere no one comes to tell you that what you think is actually impossible. It’s actually very unfortunate because as soon as people come against a problem that looks like impossible, they give up. It seems to me that the solution is to ask yourself, “Is there a chance that anyone can ever solve this problem in any way?” If the answer to this is NO then move on quickly to the next thing, but if the answer is yes, then you might want to consider if it’s worth trying to find the solution…

Dimmers And Light Bulbs

It seems that every time you build a product that has some level of innovation or daring vision, you get to discover things you never could imagine.

While I still haven’t tested this with web products, I made myself a gorgeous 5 bulb lamp that is sliding on strings stretched across the length of my room. It’s got a dimmer and a remote control for it. Here is how it looks.

Sliding Dimmer Lamp

It’s awesome, and it completely satisfies my light desires during day and night. But I want to share one observation that popped up – this lamp is now 16 months old and I haven’t had to change 1 bulb ever since it was made.

Have you ever sat in a room and suddenly a bulb goes…BANG! Nope. Bulbs just don’t like that. They emits light by running electricity through its thin filaments. Those filaments wear away after a while, and one day, when you switch the light with a click, the bulb explodes. This is because of the sharp influx of electricity that floods it when you switch the light. My lamp has a dimmer instead of an ON/OFF switch and this dimmer doesn’t have the option of switching ON instantaneously. That keeps the bulbs away.

Another reason, as stated on wikipedia is that 5% reduction in voltage more than doubles the life of a bulb.

Whatever the reason my bulbs are alive, there is no reason why people should be using regular switches instead of dimmers that will make their lives more comfortable, spare bulbs, and save electricity.


Summer 2007

It’s the end of August and I am back to college. This marks the official end of summer of 2007. Here’s what I managed to do and not do:

Summer ’07 achievements:
– I am finally on the track to doing what I like. I started coding on my startup. I made decent progress for 3 weeks, considering how many things I had to learn. It is also the first idea that I have actually started building, so that has its significance too.
– I made some Flash sites and accordingly some money that I can use for school.
– I took the CLEP marketing test from CollegeBoard. I saved $1200 and 1 semester time for not taking the class at college.
– Took a summer class in Econometrics. Got A. It was important to pass, since it is a prerequisite to any other class that I have left on my senior schedule.
– I got in the habit of reading books. I read a bunch of decent ones. Reviews of some can be found on this blog.
Not bad for summer. I also had some fun:
– I did manage to go home for 10 days. Haven’t been in Bulgaria summertime for 3, maybe 4 years, so this was great. I saw most of my important friends. Quality experience. I had a good amount of family time too.
– I did go to a wonderfully relaxing 1 week vacation to Costa Rica with my American family. Big nice house, amazing weather, lots of sleep, decent amount of reading, soccer with locals, delicious food served 3 times a day in the house, warm ocean (warm ocean, hear that!) swimming/surfing.

Summer ’07 flops:
– I thought I might be able to finish my prototype for the startup. It is number one priority and is coming soon I promise.
– I didn’t manage to convince Baruch College that I don’t need Tier III for my degree, and I would rather take CIS minor than one that satisfies this Tier III. Baruch didn’t think so. I have to be like everybody else. 7 different offices were quite united around this issue. Was angry but after all, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig” by Robert Heinlein. Taking psychology with some cool brain/thinking classes. It’s also somewhat connected to my startup so it’s acceptable.
– I didn’t make really a lot of friends. Maybe because I am too busy and introverted currently. Maybe because people are in general very in a hurry in NYC. I dunno. Want to be my friend? Now accepting…