I Teach English Abroad… & Why I Moved On From My Startup PeoplePledge

When I started PeoplePledge with my wife (when she was only my girlfriend back then!), I never knew how much impact it would make.

So far, we’ve fundraised over $1,000,000 to help families struggling with their medical bills across Australia, USA and South America. We took our platform international, and spread the word about our crowdfunding platform overseas. We were nominated and won the Pride of Australia Medal. We were also nominated for the Young Australian Achievers Award. We were recognized as one of the Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs in Australia for 3 years in a row. PeoplePledge also viewed as one of the Top 100 Smart Innovations, and also won a Startup Salud Award (Startup Health Award), and gained funding from Startup Chile, UDD Ventures and the Australian Government.

PeoplePledge has been with me since I proposed to my wife, got married and had my first child. It has not only been an integral part of helping other families, but it has also been an important part of my own life. In fact, the whole inspiration of PeoplePledge stemmed from my own family’s challenge with paying for the medical bills of my late grandfather. There is so much to love and admire about PeoplePledge, and together, our team and I poured our hearts and souls into creating it, growing it and sharing it with the world.

I learned what it took to create something you truly love, something amazing and inspiring, and to work on it with an unshakeable passion.

We’ve been running PeoplePledge since 2013, so for about 4 years now.

When we first started it, I had visions of it potentially being the one main thing that I would work on for my entire life, in order to help others and also using it as a vehicle to make a positive contribution in the world… but as of right now, things have changed.

What has changed for me?

A number of life events and business-related events have come across my way. Here are the top ones that have influenced my decision to move on from PeoplePledge:

a) Prioritizing my own family and health

PeoplePledge was all about helping other families and helping them with critical health issues that they were facing. The values of family and health were major themes of the business. Yet, when I began reflecting on my own life, I realized I began sacrificing my own family and health which I never wanted to do or intended.

During the PeoplePledge journey, I got married and then had my first child. Now, I realize that I have to take full responsibility of my own family, and that is paramount in my life, especially when I consider the time and focus I need to spend quality time with both my wife and child. I was finding that running a startup, especially a investor-funded one, has been very high stress and all-consuming, which is counterproductive to raising a young family with whom you want to spend time and for whom you want to be there.

Not only that, I slowly began to notice that I could no longer fit into any of my clothes. I had to buy larger clothes and many of my clothes began ripping because I was literally busting at the seams!!! I had become obese, and I was neglecting my own health. Looking back on it now, I turned to food as a comfort for when I felt stressed in my business and with the pressures of a new family. Also, I didn’t have enough time to prepare quality meals for myself so I ate junk food, and I also didn’t have time for myself to exercise. This also was a major contradiction to the value of health which we wanted to stand for with PeoplePledge, and it felt so weird for me to be dedicating all my time and energy to helping others’ health, when I couldn’t even take care of my own health properly.

b) Challenges with the crowdfunding market

Another problem we began to face was the the crowdfunding market itself. We were the first to bring the innovation of medical crowdfunding to Australia and to Chile, however, there was already very strong, highly funded competitive forces in the USA. We found that the largest and best market for our platform actually was the United States, where there was a big need for it, however we would need millions of dollars of more funding to compete there.

c) Sticking to our values

However, I would say the biggest problem that we faced was a major conflict of direction and values with our investors. When we took investor money, we had hoped that their goals and values aligned with our own, and we presumed they would give us advice while we would consider it, and generally leave us alone to let us do what we did best. Our primary focus was to help families with their medical bills, and we wanted to do it in a lean, cost-effective way, and we wanted to have the biggest say in the direction of PeoplePledge.

We had thought that the investors would respect our vision, expertise and methods, but once they wrote us the checks, they tried to take over the company, telling us what to do, and demanding that we focus on selling and making money, and they were very nonchalant about wasting money, or to put it bluntly “flushing money down the toilet”. What’s worse is that they had some of their staff giving us advice about marketing and entrepreneurship when some of their staff members had no experience in marketing or being an entrepreneur themselves.

I don’t mind getting advice from others who have experience. I do mind being told what to do by others who don’t know what they’re talking about, and just pretend to. I put more weight on advice given by people who have had success in the area in which they are giving advice. What irked me most was that some investors and their staff members demanded certain things that were against PeoplePledge’s core values, and yet they were not the major shareholders of the company, so they didn’t have the right to do so.

Brutal lesson learned: Taking investor money is not always a good thing. Sometimes it’s actually better not to take investor money. If you do take investor funding, you need to know, like and trust your investors, and they need to respect you and how you do things, and it’s best that they have had success and expertise in key areas that will help your business.

What will happen to PeoplePledge?

We sold off our business and medical crowdfunding tech in Latin America, and we parted ways with our investors with whom we were having conflicts. We closed down the PeoplePledge office in Chile, and we are no longer going to offer medical crowdfunding services in the USA.

Doing this was not an easy decision, and it has taken about a year or so to do all of this, during which I had a lot of time to reflect on PeoplePledge, my family and myself.

But…

Don’t worry? —? PeoplePledge Australia isn’t going anywhere. PeoplePledge Australia is our baby, and that’s where it all started, and I still see the need for it in Oz. Therefore, we are still continuing medical crowdfunding for struggling Australian families.

We designed it to be easy to maintain so there’s absolutely no reason to shut it down. I’ll fix serious bugs, ensure smooth running of the service, and may think about ways to reinvest some of the revenue to improve it. But I’m not good at focusing on many things at once, so for my own sanity I’m considering it feature complete while I focus on my family and also get started at my new job as Teacher in a school in Asia.

This wasn’t an easy decision since it cuts short PeoplePledge’s potential. But actually it’s already met the modest goals I set out to achieve 4 years ago. Despite PeoplePledge having struggled as a startup and the pains and hardships we had to go through, I consider it a success.

If anyone decides to use PeoplePledge Australia from now on, please get in touch if you have any major problems, but please keep in mind that most of the service will be automated and that we’ve scaled down our team, and we will only be working on it part-time from now on.

What exciting projects am I working on right now?

Immediately after moving on from PeoplePledge in Latin America and the USA, I had several months of soul searching. I felt lost and confused. I didn’t do much in terms of work and I intentionally did not keep myself busy, so that I could have plenty of time to spend with my new family, and figure out what I want to do next.

As for the future, I’m excited to teach English abroad in a Private English School in Asia. This sounds a little random and left-field, but it’s actually not.

During the time I was in Latin America to grow PeoplePledge, I taught myself Spanish since I needed it for business and for my everyday living. As I developed my Spanish language skills, I realized that I loved the language learning process. Not only that, there were actually times when cash flow with PeoplePledge was tight, so I would teach English part-time to Chilean business people, high school students as well Spanish diplomats and lawyers. I discovered that I actually had a knack for teaching languages too, and for sharing my knowledge on how to learn languages efficiently, using research-based methods and the latest technology.

I decided to teach English in Asia, since I can still teach English as a Foreign Language to students, but I also have the ambitious goal to teach myself Chinese (which I have been trying to do for a long time now, but have consistently failed in the past). Plus, living in Asia means I’m closer to my extended family in Australia (which is important for my child).

I’m teaching English part-time for only a few hours a day, which gives me more hours in the day to exercise, spend time with my wife and child, and even time to work on passion projects related to language learning and tech.

In future, I envisage myself perhaps building technology related to language learning, education and literacy. Right now, I’m really interested in the fields of applied linguistics and computer-assisted language learning.

I’ve already built myself some apps that I’ve hacked together for myself, which I may release to the public. But for now, I’m working on them in private, and simply for myself. I just want to focus on understanding the language learning and education fields, and focus on actually helping my students in my classes succeed and reach their goals.

I’m also getting interested in projects related to affordable homes, as I’m finding that I seem to have an interest in real estate and housing, but this project is still in the idea-stage.

Overall, I want to simplify my life and focus on my family and health. Of course I still want to help and inspire people, as I see that as my life’s mission, but for now I teach English abroad… which certainly is still very important.

3 Reasons Why David Heinemeier Hansson is Correct: You Don’t Need Investors to Start a Business

DHH during Dave Thomas' TalkPersonally, I think David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) is correct when he says that the VC, angel investment is a gamble, and that entrepreneurs should be very careful when taking money from investors. DHH is the founder of Ruby on Rails and Partner at 37Signals. I recently listend to an interview with DHH on a podcast, and I’ve been listening to DHH’s thoughts and philosophies ever since I started on my own entrepreneurial journey.

Bootstrapped Business VS Angel/VC-Funded Startup

Spils giving some coding tips to DHHWhen I was just starting out as an entrepreneur, I would listen to DHH’s point of view of the long-term, sustainable, profitable and bootstrapped business, and I would compare it with the view of actual angel investors, venture capitals and the general startup media’s portrayal of the hero entrepreneur who gets millions of dolars of investment.

My first ventures would all be bootstrapped. But as my startups gained traction, I did try out the angel, VC-route.

My most recent startup originally gained traction on a very smal team withe bootstrapped funds and a few grants. Nevertheless, when I joined an incubator, the pressures of getting an angel or VC investment started to influence me, and i thought: “Why not take the money?” And I did pitches in front of investors, met up with investors for coffee at their offices for “chats”, and eventually we did take money from an investment firm.

1) We were distracted with chasing money, rather than focusing on building value

While the experience was very useful to understand how to pitch, raise money and woo investors, I think we did waste alot of time trying to get money instead of actually building the business and providing more value to customers. DHH is right in that you lose focus and raising money ends up being like a “drug”, and you always are trying to get a bigger and bigger hit (infusion of cash from investors).

2) Investor has different values & agenda to us

What really bothered me in the end thought was not so much the waste of time, but what irked me was that the investor we ended up going with actually had different values to us. Not only that, they tried to heavily steer the direction of the company even though their number of shares was minimal and I felt they actually had no personal experience in certain matters that they were so adamant about. It felt as if they thought they knew the business better than we did, even though they had no entrepreneurial experience nor no experience in the field of the business. The investors really pushed us to make short-term profits and hitting those targets instead of considering about building long-term value for customers. They also forced us to make certain hires that was in their interest, but not in the interest of the business.

3) Investor did NOT help us when we needed it, even though it would have been so simple for them to do so

Furthermore, whenever we asked them for help, they never gave it. For example, we knew they had some contacts with certain clients and I asked them for an introduction and they said they would arrange it, but never did. That annoyed me. More and more we questioned their value to us. They couldn’t even do basic tasks such as following up something they said they would do to help us, and yet they would totally flip if we had different opinions to them and wanted to do other things our way. The attitude seemed to be that the investor just wanted to give us money, then dictate for us what to do, and then not even genuinely help us wout when we needed it. I now see the value of smart money, and if I were to do it all over again, I would not take their money. I would rather take investment from someone who truly would help us (at the very least, if it was simple for them to do), and to give us advice because they actually had first-hand experience as an entrepreneur in the same field as my business.

Can You Build a Profitable, Fun, Bootstrapped Business that Lasts 10+ Years?

Having sold that business, and having a few months break of reflecting on it all, I’m ready to move on and try another venture. This time around, though, I will take on DHH’s advice to go at it alone, bootstrap, and focus on a business that I am personally passionate about, without having to chase money and investors and getting tripped up by the whole vicious circle and reliance on funding. I’ve started businesses in a bootstrapped fashion, but never grew and sustained them over 10+ years, which DHH has done. I wonder if I can do it, and that’s what I’m aiming to do now as I move forward.

3 Ways to Come Up With Ideas For Your Next Business

ThoughtAre you stuck trying to figure out how to come up with a business idea for your next startup? This post will help you, based on my current experiences tryin to figure out a new business that I will launch.

Take Time to Think Through Your Business Ideas

In my post yesterday, I talked about how I recently sold my previous startup business, and I am now in the process of transitioning to move on to another idea. So this post is just as relevant for me right now as it is for you.

I’ve been reflecting on what sort of things I want in my next venture. What sort of factors should I consider for it? What makes it a good business idea versus one that will suck and won’t work?

3 Factors For Your Next Business Ideas

Here are 3 things to think about to help you brainstorm some business ideas for your next startup:

1) What are Your Passions & How Could You Turn That Into a Business?

Think about what you are passionate about. What gets you excited? What turns you on? Do you have a hobby that fixates your mind and attention? And what if you somehow turned that passion into an actual business?

It’s certainly not impossible. That’s something that I am personally trying to do right now. I love languages!!!!! So for my next venture, I am certainly thinking of ways to get into the language learning industry because I feel that I naturally am inclined in this area, and I would do well in it compared to others who aren’t passionate about it.

2) What are Your Skills & Connections & How Could You Use Them For Your Startup?

Consider your skills and connections. Even though you may be passionate about something, you may actually suck at it in terms of your skills. So another area to be brutally honest with yourself is in regard to your skillset, and your connections.

I’ve actually been learning languages for 10 years, and am very familiar with all the different ways to learn foreign languages. Not only that, I recently began teaching English in foreign countries to high school students, businesspeople, diplomats and lawyers. Therefore, I have skills in learning and teaching languages and I also have a number of networks and connections in the field.

3) What are Markets or Industries That Fascinate You & What’s Their Market Size

You MUST think about the market you’re going to get into and its market size. This is very important. It’s crucial in fact. Don’t just be selfish and consider your personal passions and skills. Also, take into account the market that you will help with your passion and skills. The market must be big enough.

If you don’t know how big your market is, you can check out this 5 minute sniff test to quickly sniff out whether your proposed market is big enough and has profit potential.

Don’t Waste Your Time on Startup Ideas That Will SUCK

Overall, there’s a bit of an art and a science to coming up with business ideas. Just consider these factors to get you started and to screen your ideas so that you don’t get too overwhelmed. Screening your ideas in this fashion can also help you to save time and money!!

5 Ways to Know You Should Quit Your Startup & Move On

Red Fail
Should you quit your startup or keep going? This is one of the saddest posts that I’m writing, as it signals defeat of my startup and also personal failure. But this is an informed-kind of defeat, and it is an important decision to make, because you don’t want to waste your time and your life on a startup that is essentially dead or part of the “walking dead”.

It Feels Hard to Quit A Startup You Built from Nothing

Amelia's Sad Face

Recently, I’ve sold my startup business operations in Latin America. I’ve had to let it go. I’ve also chosen to wind down to a slower pace the operations in Australia. This is so hard to write about, and my heart and soul feels so burdened just by writing about it.

Why?

Because I spent the past 3 years or so building the startup with my all: My blood, sweat and tears. And now I have chosen to let it go. If you’re a startup founder or social entrepreneur who has built something from scratch and later have let it go, you can empathise with me.

5 Reasons Why You May Want to Quit Your Startup Now

If you’re pondering about potentially letting go of your startup too, either to sell it, stop it and move on to something else, then here are 5 reasons why you may choose to quit. I’m writing this because, like me, you may be so internally torn about whether or not to do it. Hopefully this helps you

1) Too much stress/unhappiness

Entrepreneurs and founders are often portrayed as heroic, unbeatable figures. But we’re human too, with flaws and feelings.

If you feel that your startup is bringing more negative stress that makes you feel depressed and screws up your body and mind (not in a positive way that challenges you to be better), then it may be time to let it go.

Stressed

This was how I was feeling with my startup operations in Latin America. Investors were taking our startup on a different direction to what I wanted, and I felt so conflicted and unhappy.

We felt it was better to start fresh and cut ties with that investor than to keep going – in order to stay true to ourselves.

2) Not profitable

If your startup has been operating for a number of years, and you STILL have not figured out how to make it profitable or sustainable to keep it going and growing at a scalable pace, then it may be time to let it go.

As much as my startup helped thousands of people, and helped raise more than half a million dollars in fundraising to help families with their medical bills, it never reached a level of profitability and scale that could take it to the next level globally.

3) Too much competition

As you’ve been working on your startup, you may also find brutal competition. You would be fighting an uphill battle against the competition, and that’s what we found in the overly crowded crowdfunding space.

4) Better idea

Your current startup may also be involved in a relatively small market or a market that has several disadvantages. As you work on it, you may actually discover other markets that are much larger and easier to penetrate.

5) No passion

Finally, another strong mark of whether you should quit is if you have lost your passion for the business. Are you dragging yourself to work?
Bored
I loved the work of our startup because we impacted so many lives. I just didn’t like the fact that our investors in Latin America were forcing us into the wrong direction for it, and were focused too much on the short term profits rather than the long term value that the service could provide. It made me feel so depressed, and I began to slowly lose my drive and passion for it.

Is Selling a Startup Success?

Some would say that selling a startup would be a success, but for me, the startup was such a personal expression of myself that I wanted to grow it and help much more people than I did.

So, while it was great to sell it, I felt there was still so much more that we could have done with it, and so much more people I wanted to impact and help. In that manner, I feel it didn’t reach its full potential – or perhaps, I feel that I myself didn’t reach my full potential yet with it.

Difference between Vision, Mission, Goals & Values for Your Startup or Non-Profit

Hi everyone its Matt from MatthewAlberto.com. Where I’m passionate about tech and social entrepreneurship. I’m here today to help you figure out the difference between your vision, your mission, your goals, and your values.

Founder Asks for Help Establishing Her Organization

So apart from leading, and founding and running my own enterprises, that try and change the world through technology, and social entrepreneurship. I also from time to time, consult and help non-profits, and also social enterprises, to get their own visions laid out. And to get their projects up and running.
telescope-122959_640
So recently I had a lady from the US, who’s originally from Africa, but now is in the US. She’s actually trying to set up a non-profit base in the US, but need linkages to Africa and other developing countries. And I was looking around with setting up her missions, her goals, and her values. One of the challenges that she was having was being able to communicate all of those things, in a clear concise way.

When she came to me, she actually showed me what she had thought was her vision, her mission, her goals, and values. And I found that even in all of them, she had actually been reiterating the exact same thing. And so my purpose for this post today, is to help you figure out for yourself.

Are they the same or different? Vision, Mission, Goals & Values

What is the difference between your vision, your mission, your goals, and your values? And if you’re trying to set up your own tech startup. Or you’re trying to change the world, through a social enterprise. How can you lay out the foundation, for your budding organization? And you need to know these things, so that you can communicate to your stakeholders, from your employees, to your partners. The other co-founders and even investors. You want to communicate to them about where you stand, and what you believe in, and what your organization is all about.

And that’s what those 4 things really try to encapsulate, but they are different. And I want to point that out first and foremost, that the vision, mission, goals and values are different things. They’re related, don’t get me wrong. But when you’re setting them out in your business plans, on your website, or through communicating to others. You should distinguish between them. So I want to just take a few minutes to help you write it out, and to get to know in my perspective is the difference.

1) What is Your Vision?

So first vision. In my view, your vision is what you see in your ideal world. So that could also mean, what in your world do you envision want to see.

What can you describe your ideal world to look like?

And when you’re describing it, try not to have any negative words in it, such as “it’s a world that doesn’t have” something. Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution. Try to make it a more positive vision, using positive words. Essentially it’s what you see in your perfect world.

2) What is Your Mission?

The next aspect of the basis of your organization is your mission. For me your mission is, just a short statement that tells people what you do, and it should be quite short. It shouldn’t be pages and pages, about what you do. And it should be specifically about what you do, but more on a general level.

And in terms of your mission, you can talk about, what is the problem that you’re trying to solve. And you can also talk about the solution in general terms that you’re trying to put forward. So in the case of the consulting I’m doing, with the lady from the United States. She’s trying to set up a girl’s education non-profit. And so for her mission, we talked about the problem of gender inequalities, and the education gap. And her mission would be to empower, and encourage girl’s education worldwide. So we talked about something like that.

space-shuttle-endeavor-launch-604179_640

3) What are Your Goals?

The third area is your goals. So in my view, goals are essentially just dreams, but with a deadline. And goals should be a lot more specific, than your mission. And the goal should really focus on the solutions, and the specific actions that you, and your organization is going to take.

You can also talk about the result or outcomes that you want to achieve as a result of your actions. So that’s goals. It’s more specific, it’s got a deadline, and it’s more action oriented.

4) What are Your Values?

And finally there’s your values. And in my view, values when you’re writing them out are different from the others. Because they talk more about your beliefs, and ideals. So they need to talk about what you believe in, as an organization.

And if you’re the founder, then often your organization will reflect your own beliefs and ideals. And you should try and find beliefs and ideals, and values that are related, and represent your organization. So for example, if your organization whether it’s a tech company or it’s a social enterprise. If it deals with the law, and somehow providing legal services. Then one of your values in terms of your beliefs and ideals could be the value of justice. You can talk about how this belief in justice, has empowered your organization. And you’ve found it to work on a start-up or organizations, that trust, promote this value.

Or another example of a value for a non-profit that deals with education is value in education for all. So in that statement, that’s the value education for all. And it’s the belief or ideal that, you believe that educational opportunities should be available for all people, regardless of your gender or your race.

A Wrap Up of Missions, Visions, Goals & Values

So in a nutshell, those are the differences between, a vision, mission, goals, and values. And in summary.

  • So a vision is what you see in your ideal world.
  • A mission is a short statement that tells people what you do.
  • Goals are your dreams, with a deadline talking about specific actions, or results.
  • And your values are your beliefs and ideals.

So I hope that helps you figure out, the difference between them. And to communicate what your start up, or organization is about.