A few years ago I sold all my stuff to explore the world, creating 12 startups in 12 months and building $1M+/y companies as an indie maker such as Nomad List and Remote OK. I'm also a big pusher of remote work and async and analyze the effects it has on society. Follow me on Twitter or see my list of posts. My first book MAKE is out now. Contact me
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Money, happiness and productivity as a solo founder (Indiehackers Podcast)

After 4 years I finally got back on the Indie Hackers podcast. The last time, back in in 2018, time was very different. It was 2 years before COVID started, remote work was still quite fringe (especially outside of the tech/startup scene). Nomad List made "just" $15k/mo and Remote OK $5k/mo. My idea was remote work would go mainstream in 2035. Then COVID happened and everything changed.

I talked with Courtland about all of this and more. I hope you enjoy reading it/listening to it! There's two parts:

Part 1

Courtland (00:06):
What's up everybody. This is Courtland from indiehackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast. More people than ever are building cool stuff online and making a lot of money in the process, and on this show, I sit down with these Indie Hackers to discuss the ideas, the opportunities, and the strategies they're taking advantage of so the rest of us can do the same.

Courtland (00:28):
I'm here with Pieter Levels. He's a man who needs very little introduction, but I'll do one anyway. You're the Founder of Nomad List, sort of the hub for digital nomads. You're the founder of Remote OK, the biggest remote job board in the world, and you're probably the primary inspiration for Indie Hackers itself. And I think it's been like four years now, yeah, it's been four years since you've been on the show. So this is your second time. How's it going?

Pieter (00:52):
I'm great, man. So nice to see you again. It feels like a century. It feels like we spoke last like a hundred years ago. It's great to see you, man. I heard you've been living offline life recently, so that's really nice to hear.

Courtland (01:08):
I've been super chill. I've been much less of a workaholic than I've ever been in my entire life and honestly, it's like disorienting, because I'm like, what do I do with myself? Like what do I do? And it's hard to find hobbies and stuff because they sometimes don't feel like as meaningful as doing like a crazy all in startup or being super passionate. I'm like, I guess I'm going to collect a lot of plants and water them. But I'm like, this feels pointless. So maybe I'll get back into it soon.

Pieter (01:31):
Oh so nice. Yeah. I know exactly the feeling you're talking about. Yeah. I've been trying to slow down as well, repeatedly over the last few years, but I don't know, man. It goes in cycles, right? Like you ...

Courtland (01:43):

Pieter (01:44):
You go in these work times and then you feel like burned out. You're like, oh my God, I work too much. And then you want to relax, but then you get bored because you've done real life and real life also gets boring after a while. So it's like this endless dance, right?

Courtland (01:57):
Yeah. Yeah. You just switching one to the other, although you're like, I don't view you as like a cyclic person, because it's like, what were you talking about last week? You're like, oh I've, I've realized that I've shipped for a thousand days straight on the work in progress community. So it's like literally not a single day in the last thousand days have you missed.

Pieter (02:13):

Courtland (02:14):
And that's real consistency.

Pieter (02:17):

Courtland (02:17):
I feel like I've had that for like maybe 34 years. I'd rather from probably like age eight to 34 and then just like ...

Pieter (02:26):
Wait from H eight to age 34, you've been working nonstop?

Courtland (02:29):

Pieter (02:30):

Courtland (02:30):
Age eight was like, I want to get into MIT, and then it was like work super hard, a brief stint where I was like, I want to become a professional StarCraft player, and then I realized I wasn't as good as all the Koreans and then back just working and then graduating college, startup grind, and then eventually Indie Hackers and grinding on that. And then six months ago was the first time like what if I just chilled out?

Pieter (02:51):
Yeah. I think I'm exactly the same actually. Yeah. Something like from like seven or eight. Yeah. That's already when the ambition started for us, I guess. Yeah.

Courtland (03:01):
It's kind of like, what's the meaning of all of it, right? Are you driven by some outcome that you're trying to achieve by being so ambitious? Or is this a thing that you just have to do for its own sake? Even if you weren't making any money or you weren't becoming famous, because you have so many projects that are so successful, that make millions of dollars, you have tons of fans, you're tweeting constantly. Is that the point?

Pieter (03:23):
Yeah. I think it's a really good question. And I think we're in a very similar situation where you probably don't do it as much for the money anymore, because you probably are quite financially stable and you generally want to do it because you like the process, like to do something with your day, you like to wake up for something and you like to have this daily challenge where something doesn't work or a competitor who's trying to take over who is getting better than you. You want to have a goal in each day, and that goal can spend for weeks and months, right? But you want to have something you're working towards to, and I feel like I've spoken to a lot of people that are older that are not in startups and don't have their own business and stuff, and a lot of them are really happy. Some of them tell me that they miss that thing we have, like this meaningful pursuits, that's probably unhealthy, it's not really healthy. I think it's meant to be unhealthy pursuit because a lot of people want to do it, they get into business or startups, but it's really mentally taxing I think. And you need to be a little-

Courtland (04:25):
It can be an obsession.

Pieter (04:26):
It's an obsession. If you want to win, you need to be obsessed. Like look at Elon Musk, right? He's completely obsessed. He can barely keep relationships going. So it's not that really [inaudible 00:04:37], but like it gives you some kind of meaningful thing that's different than watching Netflix, you know?

Courtland (04:45):
Yeah. I don't know. I think meaning often comes from doing things that are hard. Like if you're doing something that's entirely hedonistic and it just feels good the whole time, it's hard to ascribe it meaning, even if it's helpful, but when there's like a part of it that's a little bit self-sacrificial and you know it would be easier to do something else and you're still doing, I think it forces you to dig and try to find some deeper reason why you're doing this thing that's hard, and that's often like where you discover meaning.

Pieter (05:09):
Yeah. And the hedonistic aspects like foods or sex or whatever, they all, you adapt to them really fast. Right?

Courtland (05:18):

Pieter (05:18):
Like if you don't have them, you want them, you're hungry. If you have them, you're like, okay, this was nice. And then you open your laptop again. You're like, let's go make something, right? Or I don't know, if you're a painter, you start painting. So I think because of the frame of the problem keeps changing and is like perpetual, it never bores generally because the problem never ends, which is also the tiring part of it. You're like when is this business going to end? When do I reach the goal? Because you know musicians, they always finish an album and then they're done. They can do the tour and they're done, and it feels really nice. Like I used to do that. And with a startup, with business, you keep going. Like when does it end? When you sell, when you exit.

Courtland (06:02):
Well you've done what, I think you had another tweet where you're talking about like how many projects that you shipped and you said that-

Pieter (06:08):
Yeah, I calculated. It was like 70 or something.

Courtland (06:11):
Yeah. More than 70 projects. You said only four out of 70 plus projects that you ever did made any money and grew, which means that you have something like a 95% failure rate and a hit rate of the only like 5%.

Pieter (06:23):
That's right. Which is crazy. It's insane.

Courtland (06:27):
Like in a way, yeah, how much of your success with all the projects do you think comes from just being this relentless shipper, which almost no one is. Almost no one has like 70 projects they've really tried to ship. And how much of it comes from being like a strategic mastermind, having the right business strategy, because you have a pretty solid business background and education too.

Pieter (06:45):
Well, this is obviously biased, but I do get tired from the, it's like the current side guys in America where it's everything is luck. If you're successful, it's luck. It's completely your upbringing and your background. I do think that's a part of it is definitely some percentage is like maybe 40 or 50 or something. But what you see from this example, when you need to keep trying for loads of times, like 70 times or more, 100 times, and you might get a few successes and if you try once, it's probably not going to work because the odds are not there. And I mean, I'm not a mathematician or statistician, but I do believe that if you keep try trying something, you can somehow, you don't change the odds, but you keep playing the odds and there must be a statistical fallacy in this, but I do think your rate of maybe getting success gets higher, I think, when you keep trying.

Courtland (07:32):
Yeah. I think so too, because I mean you're building skills and stuff. It's not like you're just rolling the same set of dice. It's like you're rolling the same-

Pieter (07:38):
That's it yeah.

Courtland (07:42):
You're a little bit better, where you figure out the physics of the dice, because you failed a bunch of startups so you're like, okay, don't do that mistake again or I really don't like these types of projects.

Pieter (07:47):
That's exactly. That solves the [inaudible 00:07:49] problem I had. If you increase the skills, the odds next to them will be better, and that builds up and it adds up and also I guess, network, right? I don't have a network, you probably have more network than me, I'm just on Twitter, mostly, because I'm fully remote around the world and stuff. So you also increase the people you know, and you get more known so you can tweet about stuff and then people DM you like, oh we'd love to, as a company, we'd love to use your product or something. That also helps, right?

Courtland (08:15):
Yeah. You just keep incurring advantages. And so I guess maybe the thing to do is to try to figure out how to put yourself in a position where you can do 70 plus projects.

Pieter (08:24):

Courtland (08:25):
Because I don't think everyone can do that. Like maybe they don't have the motivation or they don't have like the financial sort of freedom and independence to do that. But if you can keep doing that, eventually you will have one or two wins.

Pieter (08:36):
Yeah. I think if you're in university, that was for me the main time where I did so many projects and that was a great time because in Holland you get like $250 a month for free from the government, back then I think, they call study financing and you don't have to pay it back and you can borrow some money from the government too for really low rates, and you're pretty much just doing lectures, you're going to university. And all the time you have, apart from that, I think it's same in American college, you can work on side projects.

Courtland (09:04):
I think I probably spent my college years partying mostly the first couple years-

Pieter (09:08):
Yeah. Me too.

Courtland (09:09):
Then it's like I'm going to do startups, and just like trying to do random startups. Because you have so much time.

Pieter (09:18):
Me too, it was a good mix. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You have so much time. That's the perfect time to start a lot of stuff.

Courtland (09:22):
You mentioned this sort of like pervasive attitude and I think maybe it's just the United States, I don't know, because I haven't traveled in years where it's kind of like everything you do is luck, and no matter what you do, you can't be proud of what you've done because it was a result of your privilege or upbringing, your parents' money or whatever. And that is kind of like a demotivating, I don't really like that perspective because even if, let's just say hypothetically speaking, it's true, what's the result of saying that, right? It doesn't necessarily motivate anyone to work any harder. It just motivates everyone to just to give up, I think. It like kind of like a-

Pieter (09:53):
Hundred percent. Yeah. It increases bitterness. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Courtland (09:56):
Yeah. It increases bitterness. Maybe it increases compassion, I think is like kind of the idea, like the good thing about it, but it decreases I think motivation because it's like, well, if you weren't born to a good circumstance, you're fucked. You might as well give up. And if you were, you have no reason to push hard and work on anything because you can't be proud of it.

Pieter (10:13):
Yeah. A hundred percent.

Courtland (10:13):
I don't know. Sometimes I feel like it's hard for people to hold two ideas in mind, and it's like the two ideas I think you want to hold in mind is like having compassion for people who came from backgrounds where it's just harder to succeed, but simultaneously having optimism that like you still can make it. That optimism is pretty important because without it, you're saying like, what is literally, why would you even try if you didn't think it was possible? Like you need some degree of optimism, and sometimes I feel like that's missing, you know?

Pieter (10:39):
Yeah. I think it's missing in a lot of parts in America. I think where you see it is in Asia, though. In Asia, where I spend a lot of my time, the ambition is insane and Asia has all of its own problems, for sure, but there's this massive ambition to get ahead, get wealthy, get successful, that you don't see in America, especially I think lesser and less or so. And we should kind of not go into politics too much, but look at all the hate Elon Musk gets. I think it's quite crazy because he wants to bring us to Mars and works his ass off to do this and yeah, he's the richest guy on earth, but he doesn't even spend his money. He doesn't spend it on a lavish life, he just sleeps in the factory and he does so much stuff obviously, does some bad things, probably, in the factory, I don't know, but this seems like a net benefit guy to society and gets a lot of slack for just getting us to Mars. So I think that's kind of another strange data point.

Courtland (11:38):
Do you feel like you get that kind of reaction from people? I mean you're way more active on Twitter than I am. Like you're tweeting about everything that you're doing. And so you've got a lot of fans, and people who follow what you're up to, you publish your revenue numbers and stuff so people know exactly how much money you make. Like it's easy to put you like in this rich guy category, do you get, obviously like on a smaller scale, but the same kind of criticisms that someone like Elon Musk gets?

Pieter (12:00):
Yeah. I think I had it a few years ago. I started aggressively muting people and I had this robot, which if I mute a person, they would also remove them as a follower. So they would be like shouting into the void and they would obviously be monitoring what I tweet because they followed me. But then they wouldn't notice that it automatically removed them as a follower. So I slowly removed hundreds of these people and I honestly, I don't really get that anymore. I hardly get, and it's really cleaned up everything. It really helped. And I don't want to block, I don't like blocking so much, obviously I've blocked in the past, but generally the replies I get are quite positive these days. So it really got a lot better. I don't know if it just got better for me or for everybody.

Courtland (12:39):
Yeah, it's funny because when you block people or you're like removing people, it's like, you're kind of creating your own echo chamber, which is-

Pieter (12:47):
A hundred percent. Yeah.

Courtland (12:47):
A quote unquote bad thing with the internet. You don't want to create an echo chamber, you want a variety of opinions, but it's like, well how big of a variety do you want? Do you want to sign on every day and see a bunch of haters? Not really.

Pieter (12:58):
If people are a hostile, it can really get to you. You know that. You always remember the hateful comments and you can have 99 good comments and you always remember the haters. So it can be psychologically taxing if you're working really hard on something and you just get all these negative comments. So I agree with this echo bubble though, but I don't mute, I try to not mute just negative replies. I try to mute like really the hater kind of comments.

Courtland (13:27):
There's another topic that I think is interesting, essentially, because you are Pieter Levels, you travel all over, you have kind of your finger on the pulse of like what's going on internationally. I have no idea how ambitious are people in Asia compared to how people are in Europe.

Pieter (13:40):

Courtland (13:41):
I have no idea. I'm just like kind of stuck in my bubble. So like you're living in what, you're in Thailand right now. What do you see in Thailand? What motivated you to move to Thailand? And you're also doing this new project Rebase that I sort of intentionally tried to learn very little about so I can learn about it from you.

Pieter (13:56):
Yeah. So I actually live in Portugal now. So during COVID happened, I mean COVID is absolutely terrible. Two years ago, I was in Asia too, and with Andre, we also had on the podcast, Mark from Bay List and stuff. And COVID started happening Asia, so I flew back to Holland, stayed with my parents for like a few, I think, five months or something. And then I started traveling again with Mark because we were not tax residents in Holland anymore. We were not residents anymore. So if we stayed over six months, we'd become a tax resident. We didn't want to do that. So we had to leave. So we went on a road trip to Europe and we ended up in Portugal and it was very, like, I'd never been in Portugal. I'd heard kind of Portugal, if you're European, you know about Spain and Italy and stuff, but you don't really hear about Portugal.

Pieter (14:44):
It's like a small country next to Spain. It was COVID so you couldn't really do a lot of stuff. So we ended up in a seaside village near Lisbon, which is the capital, and we lived there and every day we'd go for walks on the beach and we'd have some coffee and we'd just kind of work from there. And I started also meeting other like nomad people kind of from Bali, who also move to Portugal and stuff. And I started seeing, oh, this is kind of like a thing that's happened because of COVID Asia is closed now, so a lot of people are moving, would go to Bali in the winter and stuff are now going to Portugal and stuff, and Spain and Mexico, and a lot of Americans would also go to Mexico, for example.

Pieter (15:22):
So anyway, I'm in Portugal and I'm meeting all these people and they're all saying like, we're also becoming residents here. I'm like, why would you become a resident here? They're like, well, because we're nomads. So we have this problem, where do we pay tax? Because we're always moving from place to place and we're never a resident anywhere. And it's very difficult. So these people were becoming residents in Portugal, they were becoming real like Portuguese residents and setting up their base kind of, and paying tax and becoming part of Portugal culture, because there was not much you could do with COVID. Still, you cannot really travel much, especially not to Asia. Asia is still kind of closed. So I tried the same thing. I became a Portuguese resident and now I live there and I rent my own place in Lisbon. I have a lot of friends there and since I've been there, it's been exploding like crazy it's very often like number one on Nomad List. I didn't change anything. It's just what it is. A lot of people are going there.

Courtland (16:19):
So as a Portuguese resident, you don't pay any taxes to like, you're Dutch, you're not paying any taxes to the Netherlands?

Pieter (16:26):
I mean, European governments, western European comes are very strict. So if you want to leave your country, you really need to leave and stay away. America's just as strict, America's more strict even with the international tax stuff. But if you say like, okay, I'm going to nomad, your home country's always going to tax you unless you say like, okay, I don't live in my home country anymore. I'm going to live somewhere else. So yeah, Portugal's a great base for that, and a lot of nomads have been doing that. So yeah. I built a website about that, which is called a rebate.co, rebase.C-O, which is the first it's kind of inspired by Stripe Atlas, you kind of work for Stripe, so you know Atlas very well. Stripe Atlas is like a service to create a company online really easily. So they kind of make the whole process of creating company much more easy with lawyers and stuff. And I did the same thing, but for immigration. So I smoothed out the whole immigration process to move to Portugal, showing all the benefits of Portugal and that's been taken off now as well.

Courtland (17:26):
Yeah. It's interesting to me the way that you work on projects. You're talking about musicians that put out an album and it's like this very final thing, and now they're done with it and they can just sort of go on tour. And with me and Indie Hackers, for example, I've never had anything like that. I've just continued to work on Indie Hackers as this monolithic thing. But you have like all these different projects, like you have Nomad List.

Pieter (17:47):
I think it's like ADHD maybe.

Courtland (17:50):
Yeah. Yeah. Like you're like, okay done with that, on the next thing. Should you get some of that hit of like I finished maybe, but are you ever really finished? Could you work Rebase into Nomad List? They're so related. They're both about digital nomads. Why make a separate project? Why not just be like, okay, here's another branch of Nomad List.

Pieter (18:07):
Honestly, I think these separate projects they launch better, right? Because if you make a sub page on Indie Hackers or Nomad List, people are like, ah, you made a sub page, but it's not really a new business. But if you call it a new business with a new domain name and a new landing page, people are like, wow, this is like a new-

Courtland (18:22):
Look at this new thing.

Pieter (18:23):
That's also marketing, right? And you can always integrate it later. So I think it's kind of like a trick, but I think this is, it's the same with Remote OK. Remote OK started as a page on Nomad List, like Nomad Jobs, but then I realized like 90% of remote work jobs are not nomads, they're like people that just like stay at home moms or stay at home dads they're they just want to have a work from home job. So I split it off into its own website. And I think here it's the same case because this seems to be targeted at people that are kind of at the end of their nomad journey. They've been around the world for a few years and they're like, okay, this is unsustainable. Or at least this is unsustainable in a legal way, in a tax way, and I want to build up a little bit of a base so I can still travel, but I have this Portugal thing and I live here and I get healthcare, for example, from Portuguese government and I pay tax. I think that's kind of what it is.

Courtland (19:16):
Yeah. I'm reading through the list because you have a list of benefits for why people should live in Portugal. The first one is the McDonald's in Portugal has the Royal Deluxe and the Big Tasty Double.

Pieter (19:28):
I put that in as a joke, but then I accidentally deployed it to GitHub. So now it's on there.

Courtland (19:36):
0% tax on foreign income, 0% tax on crypto, 0% tax on wealth. So this is all very attractive for entrepreneurs who are like, okay, I'm trying to like make money and build something. This seems pretty like a pretty good place to go.

Pieter (19:49):
Yeah. And I think it's to Americans, the climate is very similar to California, but it's also very similar to like Miami and Austin how they're attracting people from California right now. It's very the same concept. Portugal is attracting people, also Americas, but also Dutch people, Germans, UK, Denmark, Sweden, those kind of people where it's colder temperature, and Portugal is warmer and they have these benefits and they need foreigners, they need this income.

Courtland (20:18):
Another part of your website, you talk about how Portugal is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis and experiencing a massive brain drain. And in 2021, they had the largest population decrease in the last 50 years. There's sort of been dire need of foreigners, and I've seen like the same thing in like certain cities in America. I did this road trip last year, I guess a year and a half ago where I was just driving around. And whenever I wasn't in a really big city center and I would talk to people, it was like pretty obvious like, oh, there's a lot of brain drain. The most talented, ambitious people just left, they didn't stay here. And a lot of times the places were really nice. They were beautiful. The food was good. The weather was good. But in terms of like, if you wanted to be a nomad or you wanted to be surrounded by this kind of energy of other ambitious people, that wasn't there for you so there's no reason to go. And it seems like Portugal's got the best of both. It's like beautiful, and despite the brain drain, for some reason you got all these people sort of collapsing and coalescing in this one place.

Pieter (21:15):
Yeah. But you hit the nail on the head, it's loads of places that can do this. The US is super ahead with remote work, they were before, and they're ahead with this migration also, because you see, for example, in America, in US ski resorts, snow resorts are sold out everywhere off season now, like [inaudible 00:21:35] told me this because I think his friends work at a ski resort and people are moving into ski resorts just to snowboard all day and work remotely. They work a little bit, they have breakfast, and then they go ski. It's amazing. You see people move to like, I think Tulsa, Oklahoma, they pay $10,000 now for you to move there. So cities are trying to attract people, countries are trying to attract people, remote workers, [inaudible 00:21:59] on Twitter, I don't know if you know him probably you know him, very famous on Twitter.

Courtland (22:01):

Pieter (22:01):
He talks a lot about like the network state and the nation state. He talks about it in a very rational way. I'm a big fan and I like that, I see it more in an informal way, people just want to live in cool places where they have a nice balance between work and private. Just like going outside, going for a walk in nice clean air on the beach, for example, if that's your thing, or going skiing or whatever, if that's your thing and all the places you saw on this road trip, a lot of them can do this because if they have fast internet, they're usually very affordable because there has been a brain drain. There's been an exodus of people. So yeah. All these places have opportunities to attract remote workers, I think.

Courtland (22:48):
Do you think this will be like, you're doing the same with Rebase, I guess your sort of business model is like you are charging people to basically help onboard them, to set up their residency, and to help them file their tax return. Kind of just like doing like you have no idea how to be a digital nomad, we're just going to do it for you, all the paper stuff.

Pieter (23:08):
Yeah. Yeah.

Courtland (23:08):
Do you want to like copy pace that to other places too?

Pieter (23:11):
Yeah. So I've been polling Twitter because Twitter is really good for research now, and I've been asking where do you people want to move next? What's interesting for you? And people say like Dubai or Spain, Mexico. Yeah. It's mostly Mexico, Dubai, Spain, I think. I mean Thailand, Bali, but I think the problem with the place in Asia for Europeans and America is just too far, especially for Americas. Asia is just too far to settle down for a long time. Maybe when you're retired or something, but Americans are okay with settling down somewhat in Mexico, I think, and maybe some other parts of Latin America, like Colombia, Medellin, for example. And maybe you also see a lot of Americans in Portugal. You see a lot of Europeans in Portugal and Spain and stuff. So those are kind of places that seem more realistic. And I love Thailand, I love Asia, the problem is it's still hard to kind of integrate or what do call assimilate here as a foreigner on the long term. It just, it's very difficult.

Courtland (24:10):
How's it on the ground in Portugal right now with like lots of different sort of entrepreneurs and nomads moving there, are you hanging out with them? Are you guys working in coworking spaces? Is it social?

Pieter (24:20):
Yeah. I mean, Lisbon is super social. So social that you walk on the street, you go for coffee and somebody shouts like, "Hey Pieter." And you're walking, that's how I met some people. And then at the same night we went to a house party outside on the roof, so it was COVID safe kind of.

Courtland (24:36):

Pieter (24:37):
But yeah, it's super easy to meet people. It's kind of like the people we know, kind of tech people, but also artists, you now have the crypto people moving in from web trading stuff. Like there was a big crypto conference, I think recently. So it's a really eclectic mix of like artists, entrepreneurs, crypto, tech, very interesting mix, like really kind of like 1920 Paris, I think. People sometimes compare these places to like the [inaudible 00:25:06] and the cafes where people would group of artists and stuff.

Courtland (25:09):
Right. Yeah, I'm looking at you've got this sort of moving picture Portugal too, like kind of a mini looping video in the top left of Rebase, and it's beautiful. It looks kind of like the Bay Area, almost, like this like beautiful bay and this red bridge.

Pieter (25:21):
Dude, it looks like San Francisco. It has the same bridge.

Courtland (25:23):
Right? Yeah. I'm like, is that the Golden Gate Bridge? No. It's [crosstalk 00:25:28].

Pieter (25:27):
It's the same bridge. It has the same trams. It's insane. It has the same hills. It's literally San Francisco and Europe. It's insane.

Courtland (25:36):
It's smart for you to put that image there. It reminds me of one of the reasons why Airbnb, they sort of figured out early on that the pictures are so motivating, you see this like really beautiful place, you're like, ah shit, I got to go. I'm looking at this-

Pieter (25:47):
Yeah, you want to get the vibe.

Courtland (25:49):
Yeah. Just because of this like picture. It looks gorgeous.

Pieter (25:53):
I'm adding music next to the video, so that's going to increase, actually I've date on this because I launched Rebase as a Typeform, just a test, like a year ago and I love Typeform, it's nothing against Typeform, but it was kind of like a black color Typeform with white letters like, do you want to move to Portugal or something? And then you could fill out the text and it didn't really work. There wasn't many sign ups. So I think you need this whole designing vibe. Somebody told me it's quite an intense step to move to a country, you want that to be kind of comfortable and you're not going to do it type form.

Courtland (26:28):
Yeah. It's like if you have a fancy restaurant, you got to have clean floors, a good storefront, otherwise people don't trust your kitchen. If you are doing some sort of a crypto project and it's an exclusive Discord or DOW or something. [crosstalk 00:26:43].

Pieter (26:43):
Letters with gradient. Yeah.

Courtland (26:46):
You need to be sleek and cool, maybe like a dark background, maybe a little cryptic.

Pieter (26:50):

Courtland (26:50):
You're trying to get somebody to like move somewhere or stay in a place, that needs to be bright and look really happy and clean.

Pieter (26:56):
And I'm not very good at design. So I start very functional. So it took me a while to get to this point. Yeah.

Courtland (27:06):
So you said like Rebase went viral on Twitter. Give me the sort of, I guess Indie Hacker breakdown of okay, how did you come up with the idea? How did you launch it? How did you grow it to where it is now?

Pieter (27:19):
Yeah. So I made this, I was working on this landing page and of course true fashion, it wasn't done of course, but it was already online and it already kind of worked. So I made a photo of me sitting on my bed, like just like I'm sitting here on bed with my laptop and Rebase being open, and then I wrote the tweet, like POV, building an immigration as a service startup. And then everybody started retweeting it and they asked the URL and I gave the URL and then everybody starts signing up. And then suddenly I had like thousand retweets on some other retweet and it was everywhere. And then, you know at that point you probably had the same with Indie Hackers where your friends start sending that their friends sent something that you made and then it's viral. And I had that, and the last time I had that was with Nomad List and it was eight years ago or something. So I was like, wow, it's took eight years to go viral with a startup again.

Courtland (28:16):
That's crazy. I didn't realize it was like that big. You talk about like having like these 70 plus startups that you started and like four of them have succeeded. Rebase is really like a standout among those 70. It's the biggest since Nomad List.

Pieter (28:28):
Yeah. Yeah. This is one of those four. Yeah. So it took ages to make something again, that's successful and making money. So I've been building so much stuff between that that didn't work. So it feels like, you know you want to have a you still got it, that feeling like, come on, I'm going to [inaudible 00:28:46]. Because everybody's saying, oh, you made a project once, it was successful, it's been eight years ago. Like go away. Feels nice.

Courtland (28:55):
Okay. So you tweet it just goes viral. Like that's it. You just had to tweet it and it was the right product to the right audience and ...

Pieter (29:02):
Yeah. But I tweet loads of stuff that doesn't go viral. I tweet all the time and it doesn't go viral. So I cannot predict what works and what doesn't. So again, it's the odds thing, right? It's like, I didn't know this was such a thing. It hit like a vein.

Courtland (29:16):
It's like a consistent thing you've always done. Because even when you were first starting, you did that blog post 12 startups in 12 months and your whole philosophy was like, I'm just going to do a lot of stuff, and I'm a hundred percent count on any one thing working, but if I try a lot of stuff, maybe one thing will work. And here you are 10 years later, same thing. No matter what it is, you're still on Twitter. You're promoting it to your audience. You're super hyped about it. If it fails, you just seem to not care. You just move on to the next thing.

Pieter (29:45):
I know. It sounds so weird. Yes. Pray and pray, right?

Courtland (29:48):
Like I don't see people on your Twitter, like, hey, what happened to that one thing you started? What happened to make chat [crosstalk 00:29:53]-

Pieter (29:53):
People just forget. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Courtland (29:54):
People just forget about your failures or whatever, it doesn't matter.

Pieter (29:58):
Yeah. Unless you post about it then, yeah. But I don't think it's the only, this is the problem. People start thinking what you do or what you say is the only way I don't think it's the only way, like you see so many other people do, the Slack founder, Stewart Butterfield or something?

Courtland (30:12):
Stewart Butterfield.

Pieter (30:13):
Yeah. He made Slack, and then before he made Flickr. I don't think he made that many projects, he made two games or something and both games became a startup. Like Flickr was a video game and became Flickr, and then Slack was a video game as well, became Slack. So I don't think everybody does the same thing. I think it works for me.

Courtland (30:35):
I think one of the reasons that you're so popular is because you're like crazy vulnerable and transparent, like you just share everything, but also like what you're doing right now. You're just excessively humble. You're like, oh, I'm not that great, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it's like really inspiring, you know? Like it's like when I first started reading your stuff, I'm like, okay, if Pieter can do it, like I can do it, because you're so humble about all this stuff. And I know behind the scenes, you are really thoughtful, whatever. But I think for someone who's just getting started, the approach that you've taken of try a lot of stuff, be okay with the fact that like some of it's not going to work out, a lot of it's not going to work out, but keep trying, don't let that discourage you and you don't have to be like some sort of mad scientist genius. I think that's probably the most approachable thing for most people. And I think that's why it's really inspirational.

Pieter (31:23):
I have to be like that because when I started, I was looking up to all these people and they looked like gods to me, like they knew everything and they could make these websites and these startups and these building teams and hiring people and raising money and all this stuff seemed like magic to me and I was like, I can never, ever get to that skill level ever. I barely can code. I didn't know how databases work and stuff. So I think you need to, I think the nicest thing to do is to show that I still don't really know what I'm doing because it makes it accessible, like you say, and it brings more people into it because the worst thing I see with developers and especially engineers is the gate keeping, right?

Pieter (32:06):
Where it's like, oh, you need to code things in a certain way, and you need to do this in a certain way, but there is no certain way, of course. You can just do whatever you want, as long as it's legal and you can ship a startup. The most cool thing in creativity, like new projects are built with these weird creative constraints where, because you don't know how to do things properly, you do it completely wrong, but it still kind of works and it ends up very different because the process is so different and you see it in art, you see it in music, everything, you see it in startups too, where your design might be really bad, but that might become aesthetic, like brutalist or something, right?

Courtland (32:49):
Right, right. Yeah. Like you got your own, very unique design where you're like, okay, I'm not going to do a bunch of images and stuff, but I really like emojis. And so your design will have lots of emojis in it, and it's like very distinctly Pieter Levels.

Pieter (33:00):
Yeah. But it's because I'm too lazy to figure out icon sets, how they work. So I just use emojis, you know?

Courtland (33:07):
Exactly. And now a lot of people copy you, but when I see that, I'm like, oh, they're biting off Pieter Level's style, because you're the first person I saw did this. So you have this other stat on your Rebase site, you say Rebase now helps, this is nuts, Rebase now helps 9% of all people who move to Portugal. So every year, 60,000 people-

Pieter (33:24):
Yeah, this is insane.

Courtland (33:26):
-move to Portugal, that's like the most ridiculous that I've ever seen. You're a major part of this entire country's import of new citizens or residents.

Pieter (33:34):
Yeah. This is super weird. So I didn't realize this until I was like, there must be like half a million people migrating to Portugal every year or something. I never really thought about it. And then at Googled, it was only like 50,000 or something. And then I realized, okay, if I do like something like 400 a month or 500 a month, that's almost like 6,000 a year. That's like over 10% or something. Yeah. And I was like, wow, this insane. I didn't know that. And I was like, so nobody's moving to Portugal, and now everybody's moving to Portugal because of this website, and I do it from a laptop. I don't have an office. It's just, the whole thing is weird to me too.

Courtland (34:13):
Yeah. It's like, that's nuts. I feel like the government should be like reaching out and talking to you.

Pieter (34:17):
Yeah. But governments are so hard to talk to. I mean, imagine B2B enterprise sales, but times 10, it's impossible to. I tried. I tried talking to governments. They didn't even reply. So I give up. I'll just make my websites and they can email me if they want. But yeah. I'll just use the laws that they create for my business. But yeah, there's some cool stories I heard. Somebody tweeted, or I saw it, I think there's people from Venezuela now that are trying to get out of Venezuela because Venezuela is like a disaster now and they're trying to move to Portugal and they're using Rebase for it, and there's like four Venezuelans now in the database that are using it to move to Portugal. So that's like next level cool, because you're helping people change their life to move to Europe.

Courtland (35:01):
Yeah. It's cool. How does the product actually work? So I click the start now button.

Pieter (35:06):
So you enter this form with all your legal data and stuff, income sources, I think. So essentially what it is because I'm not a legal firm, it's like legally sensitive territory, you cannot like, I'm not a lawyer, so I shouldn't do law stuff, but I can resell, I can refer legal services. So I have lawyers that I refer you to that are good and they know how to deal with the types of people that I attract, like remote workers, and they help you through the process, and I get a commission on the amount of money that you spend. But I'm not a legal firm. I just resell. And I think Stripe Atlas, I talked to the Stripe Atlas head of product, I think, and he said they do something similar because I was always saying, ah, you must hire all these lawyers and stuff, and actually I don't think they do. They do kind of similar, but I think they do it nonprofit because they're just doing it to, like Stripe wants to increase the amount of businesses on the internet, it's like the mission. But I think they operate in a similar way. You just resell to high quality lawyers that are trusted. So it's a very strange-

Courtland (36:14):
So at any point do you like collect payment? Like is there like a Stripe payment form in your website?

Pieter (36:19):
Yeah. After you fill out the form, there's a Stripe checkout and you pay and then there's a dashboard where, I've used Stripe a lot, like I use Stripe for KYC, so know your customer. So the moment you've paid, you get into the dashboard where you need to do KYC, you have Stripe identity. So Stripe identity is a service in Stripe where you can upload your passport, Stripe checks it for me, and then I don't need to see the passport, so it stays safe at Stripe, but it tells me, okay, this passport is verified. This person is real and is KYC, know your customer. And that also makes it legal for the lawyers and stuff as KYC.

Courtland (36:57):
And so then you get the money and then the people who sign up, basically, I guess you contact the lawyers on their behalf and then you pay the lawyers, but you keep your commission.

Pieter (37:05):
Yeah. So it's like, I keep the commission and the lawyers take the money that comes after. So it's quite a simple model. I can change the business model maybe later where I take more of the commission from the lawyers, but I wanted to keep you super simple and easy just to see if it would've worked, you know? And it works now. Yeah.

Courtland (37:24):
Right. Yeah. And I bet you're making like a decent amount of money from this because it's like, okay, if you're getting 500 people a month signing up, and this is not like a $5 a month to-do list app that you're selling to people. It's a giant move people are making with their life. They're used to paying a lot of money for this kind of stuff. And so it's like hundreds of dollars that you're making per person who joins.

Pieter (37:46):
I think right now it's something like 30, 40, 50K. The problem actually is that there was too many, like this lawyer was used to getting like, I don't know, like 50 customers a month. And suddenly I brought him like 400. So they were just this huge bottleneck, so I needed to email these people like, okay, it's going to take a little bit longer because it's been going viral and too many people signed up. I closed to sign up for a few times as well. And now they've been hiring more people. They've been hiring five more people. They need to train them now for the back office and stuff. So they're also growing now.

Courtland (38:18):

Pieter (38:19):
So it's kind of cool. Yeah.

Courtland (38:20):
Yeah. Also since, I guess the last time we talked, you hadn't even started Remote OK. So it's now like the biggest remote job board in the world. So not only is like Rebase taking off, but in the last four years, you have this other project that's now making, I think millions of dollars and is huge. So like you just like keep having hit after hit, and in between those hits like a bunch of failures that nobody remembers, but it doesn't matter.

Pieter (38:43):

Courtland (38:44):
Let's talk about Remote OK, because it's all in the same vein, right? Nomad List, you're digital nomads. Remote OK, get a remote job. Rebase, relocate to Portugal. You're sticking into your wheel house, but they're just different aspects of it, and they become these huge projects. So what's the story behind Remote OK?

Pieter (39:00):
Yeah. So I started it as, like I said before, like Nomad Jobs. I built Nomad List first and after a few months people were like, okay, is there remote jobs we can do as Nomads? And back then, remote jobs weren't even big yet. It wasn't like a big for thing. And there was still a lot of stigma against remote work. This was like 2014, 2015. I remember Buffer was pushing remote work really hard. A few other companies, I think Automatic from WordPress were pushing it, so they, those were the ones hiring. Zapier too, but it wasn't a big thing at all. And so I built this job board, Nomad Jobs, and then I spun it off as Remote OK, because I realized quickly, like I said before, that most remote jobs are not for nomads. Most people are not Nomads. 95% of the remote job market is not nomads, it's just normal people that want to work from home, for example.

Pieter (39:51):
So I spun it off as Remote OK, and the first year it didn't even make money, I think. I was aggregating a lot of jobs from non remote job boards, because there was not really a lot of remote job boards except mine, but there was classic job boards which had remote jobs and they would be located in Remote, Oregon. So Remote is a city in Oregon or a village, so I would just take those jobs and then put them in on my sites. That was a real big problem back then. And this kind of started growing, I started charging like $1 for a job post. So companies started directly posting on my side as well. After a few years, it made okay money. But then when COVID happened, like everything changed. It was like, if you look at the revenue charts, it's like on remoteok.com/open, it just goes up radically.

Courtland (40:41):
Basically 2020. It just took off, the trajectory changed. And then also like 2021, around March or April just took off again, like a whole different trajectory.

Pieter (40:53):
And I didn't do much stuff, that's the weird thing. So I think Sahil from Gumroad said, tweeted this once, that it's all about the market, like you think you are doing it, but the market is doing it. And as long as you're in the market, you will benefit from the market. And I think this is super true. Like suddenly remote work is mainstream now. I mean, we were pushing for it for years. We were tweeting about it relentlessly. The remote work is the future, and nobody believed us, and then suddenly just a worldwide pandemic and everything changes. It's insane. It's like, how do you predict this? You cannot predict this. And it's also grim because it's a really bad thing, a pandemic. It's like a lot of people died, millions of people died.

Courtland (41:30):

Pieter (41:31):
And it's good for your business. It's a very strange feeling.

Courtland (41:34):
Yeah. It's strange. I've seen this so much on Indie Hackers where most people I interview have tech businesses and if any category business did well during the pandemic, it was online tech businesses and it is like this weird juxtaposition between like, well, it's hard not to be happy when your business is doing well, but it's also like, damn, you're happy that essentially this like worldwide tragedy occurred.

Pieter (41:56):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Courtland (41:57):
No one would like, if we could all go back, no one would want the pandemic to happen.

Pieter (42:00):
Yeah. It's not good. Just like wars have changed society, right? Society changes, I think very slowly and then very radically, revolutions happen like spikes. It's cool that things change, but ...

Courtland (42:16):
Right. Well, it's cool that you're so consistent with your projects because when things change, there's some chance that some of your projects will be moving with the zeitgeist, and some might not, but really all you need is one or two, and Remote OK, obviously remote work is humongous now. It's like huge. I'm looking at the job board right now and like you have seemingly hundreds or thousands of posts on your job board. It's got to be, I mean, it's the number one remote job board. So you just beat out all the other remote job boards.

Pieter (42:42):
Yeah, it just became the number one remote job board this month. I mean, but again, I also don't know how I did that. It's just kind of happens.

Courtland (42:51):
[crosstalk 00:42:51] how did you do that?

Pieter (42:53):
I have no clue. I think what I did recently helped, there was this whole trend of like, I woke up, I drank coffee and I was browsing Reddit, and it was this meme that went viral about, like a South Park meme. Like if you want me to apply for this job, then tell me what salary it is or something. I forgot the joke. I'm so bad at jokes, but it was like 50,000 upvotes. People want job posts with salaries. So I was like, okay, this is obviously, again, like a society thing. Everybody thinks the same about something. So this is a cultural moment. So I started tweeting about this meme and I was like, okay, maybe I should just require companies to show salaries on the site, not just optional, because I had it on the site, it was optional.

Pieter (43:37):
So I'm like, okay, let's just go to my code editor and make this input type textbooks required, and I check it with JavaScript if it's required, if it's filled in or not. And immediately I started getting the emails from the companies being angry.

Courtland (43:50):
Of course.

Pieter (43:51):
We don't want to share our salary and blah, blah, blah. And I was like, yeah, but come on. And I was just fighting with them over email. And meanwhile, I was tweeting about it as well, that it was really hard to do this because like big companies that pay like, $20,000 for a job post bundle like 10 jobs at the same time or more, and they were trying to get out of not showing salaries. And then in, I think it was February this year, Colorado I think, the state of Colorado made it a law to require job posting to show salaries. So I was like, okay, now it's not just my thing. It's actually a law. So I can say like, okay, if you hire remotely, worldwide, Colorado is included. So you need to do this legally. And that helps a lot, like having it as a law. And then also I think in other countries and stuff, all the job seekers were more happy. And I think then also you started seeing more traffic because people want to see salaries when they apply for a job.

Courtland (44:46):
It's like in a way they like these things that the internet is like that you think would come with the internet, like transparency. Okay. You have so many people on the internet. There's so much more competition. Ultimately things should get more transparent or the distribution of people geographically, okay anybody can work from anywhere because of the internet, so you should see people spread out. And yet it's taken like 30 years to get to this point where we're starting to see some of these things happen.

Pieter (45:11):
I think the strangest part with remote work was that in, I think 2014, there was entire San Francisco tech, like VCs and startup funds were fighting against remote work, and it was weird for me because I was like, this is the center of tech. These people make the big internet companies, which is the internet, it's like a virtual concept and they cannot work remotely, they cannot accept that you can work from around the world that we have internet to just connect with each other, like we do now. And it's so weird. I was, yeah.

Courtland (45:40):
And so bizarre. It's it's weird. Like how like uneven, like the distribution of technology is too. Cause I remember like 2004 playing world of aircraft as like a 17 year old. And like we were basically living in the future. We were always on, you know, basically the discord of the time and we would be on team speak, which would be like a giant, like, you know, audio chat, like clubhouse or something. And it'd be like 40 people. And they were distributed remote all over the world and they had different little jobs as part of like our Guild and we'd be on every night like talking and that was like 2004 and yeah, like that was like a video game, you know? And that wasn't just me, that was like millings of people doing that, you know? And now it's like 15, 16 years later, people were sort of just catching onto this stuff.

Pieter (46:23):
I was in Quake II clans. We were already doing this. We were already in metaverse as well. So yeah.

Courtland (46:28):

Pieter (46:29):
It took a long, long ass time.

Courtland (46:31):
And I'm looking at your graph for Remote OK, like even Remote OK took a long time. The very beginning of your revenue graph is like 2015. And so I look looking at it today and it's like, okay, you're at like 1.4 million a year run rate. Like that's huge.

Pieter (46:46):

Courtland (46:47):
It's job boards like printing cash, but for many years your revenue run rate was like $10,000, $20,000, 30.

Pieter (46:58):
Yeah. I mean, it was good, but I was convinced it was going to kind of stay there. And for a while it stayed there, it was kind of like this. I remember feeling kind of mad about it in like 2016, 2017, because it was just, nothing was growing. It was kind like going like this and Nomad List was the same, it didn't didn't grow. And I was like, okay, this is it. I mean, just be happy, it's still a lot of money. It was like 500K a year or something. So half a million year, it was still a lot of money, but I was like, okay, maybe it's not going to grow much more. And then COVID.

Courtland (47:30):
Yeah. At the end of 2016, so I'll just read some of the numbers. At the end of 2016, Remote OK was making $30,000 a year. At the end of 2017, so this is like three years in, you're making $82,000 a year, so that was like a pretty okay salary. And then in 2018, it grew a lot, it's making like $200,000 a year. And then at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic, it's making almost $300,000 a year. So it grew to a pretty sizable amount, but compared to the last couple years, that almost looks like just like flat on the graph. Like you can't even see it.

Pieter (48:04):

Courtland (48:05):
It looks like no growth. And the first two years definitely look flat on the graph.

Pieter (48:10):
You're putting so much effort into the site and it's kind of like ...

Courtland (48:15):
Yeah. You're not seeing a lot of reaction in terms of the revenue based and the effort you're putting in. And that's when people quit, the first couple years where it's flat.

Pieter (48:21):
Yes. They always quit the first five years. And the reason I didn't quit was because I was in music before, I was in drum base, electronic music, and I quit after like five years. And then I remember the people that started at the same time as me, they continued and they went for like a whole decade, like for 10 years, and they became world famous. They became, in that scene, in the music scene, they became world famous DJs. And I gave up, so I gave up too fast. I think, with music, and I didn't want to do that again. So I'm like, I'm just going to do this for 10 years at least and see where it ends up and I think it's a 10 year rule or something, like 10,000 hour rule. Like you need to do something for a very long time to get good at it, and I think 10 years, it's a really long time, but it's a good time to see if you can get something somewhere because you've done it over and over and over and over and over. And you really understand the industry after that time, I think.

Courtland (49:20):
What do you think you understand about launching these products and building startups that you sort of accrued from probably spending at least 10,000 hours on this stuff over the past decade?

Pieter (49:30):
I think the biggest mistake that people will make is that the only focus should be your user and the customer and how you make them happy. It doesn't have to be like very special, it has to do a basic function really, really well. Like Nomad List tells you if you have specific preferences where to live, like I want to live in a warm place in January in Europe. Okay. It'll tell you that exactly. It's a very simple problem. And it solves that problem very easily, very fast. And Remote OK, you say I need a remote PHP job, okay, you can find that really easily. And this amount of salary and this company information, blah blah blah. And it's very simple, but it does everything that the user wants in what I think is the best way a user wants it. And you see all these other websites, they look too good, they have too many gradients, and they're too aesthetically pleasing, there's too much focus on all this stuff, and I think that's like a red flag for me almost. It should be function over form and like Jony Ive is a good example with Apple, right? The Apple designer, where he made these MacBooks the last five years, like 2015, I think 2017 to 2020, he made the worst MacBooks that existed because he-

Courtland (50:44):
Hate them. I hate them.

Pieter (50:46):
Yeah, he's a good guy, but he chose form over function, and now you see the new MacBooks are function of a form again. Like they have SD reader.

Courtland (50:55):
I know. They're awesome.

Pieter (51:00):
It's amazing.

Courtland (51:00):
Did you get a new one?

Pieter (51:00):
I just got it here. Yes. I just have it here.

Courtland (51:02):
Me too. It's awesome. I hate it my old MacBook.

Pieter (51:03):
Yeah, me too. And we paid so much money for this shit book, but now it's good. I think that's the point, like function over form should be the key in business. You need to solve this problem real easily, and that almost, again, makes it more accessible for more people too, because you don't need to be again a designer or a big developer, you need to solve something in a very basic way, but you need to solve it. And a lot of apps don't even solve something. They just good. And a lot of them don't even have a problem they're solving in the first place. So you know what I mean?

Courtland (51:32):
Yeah. I mean, with startups, even with like the bootsstrappers now, there's kind of a scene, on Twitter, or if you're in Silicon valley, and it's like, I think it's really easy to get caught up in a scene and you're trying to impress the gatekeepers. You trying to impress your peers instead of like talking to your customers.

Pieter (51:49):

Courtland (51:51):
All right. We've talked about Nomad List, Remote OK, and Pieter's other projects. There's still a ton that I want to talk to Peter about. And so listeners, this is a two part episode. You can find the second part of this conversation and next week's episode.

Part 2

Courtland (00:06):
What's up everybody. This is Cortland from indiehackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast. More people than ever are building cool stuff online and making a lot of money in the process. On this show, I sit down with these Indie Hackers to discuss the ideas, the opportunity and the strategies they're taking advantage of so the rest of us can do the same.

Courtland (00:29):
This is part two of my conversation with Pieter Levels. If you missed the first part, that's cool. Just go back to last week's episode where we talked about Pieter's companies, Remote OK and Rebase.

Courtland (00:45):
Let's talk about money. Tyler Tringas gets asked this. He's a good example of someone who's moved to Mexico.

Pieter (00:49):
Yeah. I know him.

Courtland (00:50):
He's in Mexico city. He's all about Mexico city. He's like, "Mexico City's pretty cool." I've been down to his conference down there, but he wanted to know how you are handling investment in money now that your projects are making 3-4 million dollars or something. I'm just curious more from a broader psychological aspect or perspective too. You ask people on Twitter, "What should we talk about?"

Courtland (01:10):
And a lot of the questions were like, "Are you happy? Does money make you happy?" Or, "What do you know about happiness now that you've had these successful projects?" I look at you and you're like okay, I'm carrying my laptop around in a grocery store bag. I don't know. What is your relationship to-

Pieter (01:24):
It's not how I imagined my life.

Courtland (01:27):
What is your relationship to money now?

Pieter (01:30):
Yes. I think it's very interesting because I remember in the student, days I was making $300-400 a month and now much more. But so we talked a little bit about this on DM too. I think almost this is also a touch topic. It's like money and capitalism and stuff, but you need a base amount of money to be comfortable. Do you know FIRE, F-I-R-E?

Courtland (01:53):
Yeah. Financially independent, retire early.

Pieter (01:55):
Yeah. So they have this concept where if you save, let's say you save $100,000, you can take out $4,000 a year. Sorry, invest this $100,000 in stock markets, like in ETFs and stuff. And then you can perpetually take out 4% per year. So $4,000 a year. So if you have a million dollars saved after 20 years, you can take out 40,000.

Pieter (02:17):
So 40,000 is about some money you can maybe live off. That means that having a million dollars can give you $40,000 the rest of your life, kind of, perpetual. So then you're kind of retired. I think that's a much more interesting way to see millions or seeing money that it's not... A million dollar doesn't mean you could spend a million dollar. A million dollar means you can spend $40,000 per year. I think money in a way is a scam because, and this is controversial, but the narrative in culture, we talk about this on DM, the narrative in culture is that especially as a guy, if you make money, you get successful, suddenly you get women, all the stuff. You get power. It's from, I think Scarface and stuff. You get the money, you get the power.

Courtland (03:04):
Scarface, rap songs.

Pieter (03:06):
Yeah. It's bullshit. It doesn't worthy that. Nobody cares about that. Really, everybody's just looking for another nice person to be a boyfriend or girlfriend with, to be a partner with. And if you meet the people that do want you for your money, you don't want them because they're gold diggers. I don't even meet those people. People don't really care. Really, people don't care about this stuff.

Pieter (03:27):
That's the biggest shock. Not that I did it for that, but it's all a scam. It's a society narrative that you need sports cars and a big house. I rented this big architect villa because I wanted to do it. So I rented it this year in Thailand and I lived there with my ex-girlfriend and it was really beautiful, Instagram amazing and it was really boring also. I was so bored and I felt lonely. It was too much space.

Pieter (03:57):
I'm not saying it in a humble brag cool away. I'm just saying that to test that, you need to test that lifestyle and really quickly realize that I'm much more happy with a grocery store bag in a hotel room than this kind of luxury life that you see in TV and movies. I don't think it's real. I think it's artificial. It's data signaling. It's signaling that you're rich to other people, but that's not an intrinsic way to get happy I think. I don't need to signal I'm happy. I'm okay. It doesn't add anything.

Courtland (04:31):
Why do you think that is? Because it seems from the outside looking in, there are a lot of rich people who really also love the trappings of being rich. They love their huge mansion, they love their designer clothes. They love their boujee ass stuff. It seems that doesn't provide any happiness to you. Are they just status signaling? Do they really not it or is it just something unique about you that makes that stuff just unnecessary?

Pieter (04:56):
It's a good question. We don't know. But I've never had much motivation or incentive to signal. My status signaling would be like, "Look, this cool thing I made. Look this cool website I made. It works now. It was really difficult and challenging and now I made it."

Pieter (05:13):
That's signaling because it's that's this creativity kind of stuff. You could argue, this is like [inaudible 00:05:18] where you could argue showing revenue it's signaling already. But I don't really do it for that. I do it more for transparency, but I do think we're a tribal people. Humans are animals and people are tribal, which means they need to signal on the tribe, their status. And maybe then my state of signaling is in a different way than the classic way of like look at all this ownership I have.

Courtland (05:44):
Right. The way you signal depends on the tribe that you're part of. If you're part of a tribe, that's like, "Okay, we're a bunch of makers and we like to build things to be financially independent." And then you signal by building cool stuff and generating revenue from your projects. If you live with a bunch of people who are in some fancy suburb of LA and the way you signals by having a really big house and a really nice car, then you don't care about building projects online. You care about that kind of stuff. I like the tribe that you're part of personally, because it's more productive.

Pieter (06:19):
Yeah. I think that hits in the nail on the head, yeah. I do think it's a trend though. I never know if someone is a trend or it's just me and our tribe kind of doing it. But I do see trend of being more about intrinsic, pure motivations and happiness and less about capital and ownership and material goods and cars, sports cars, flashy clothes and stuff. Look how we dress usually. We all wear basic T-shirts that are $10. You're probably the same. I don't know. Maybe.

Courtland (06:49):
I'm wearing my robe that I got on Amazon for 20 bucks. Super comfy. It's wearing a blanket. It's got a hood. It's nice.

Pieter (06:54):
Exactly. It's amazing. Yeah. I got the hoodie too. We dress like kids pretty much. Having a really big house also takes a lot of maintenance and management and you see these rich people that have crazy lives. It's so much fucking work and they're stressed out of their mind, they burnout from just existing. I think the real key for me, the benefit is not having to do anything like that, not having to manage a lot of people and just sit on my bed and do Indie Hacker Podcast and just chill and not after all those obligations.

Courtland (07:29):
I read a book recently. It's by Anderson Cooper. He was a journalist, also a reporter, but he also comes from this Vanderbilt family. His dad's last name is Cooper, but his mom's last name is Vanderbilt. And she was the sixth generation of the Vanderbilts. And they were at some point the richest family in America in the 1800s and the late 1800s. It got to the point, it was the third generation of kids and they just had a ton of money that they had inherited from the previous generations of people who were sort of building this empire, Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Courtland (07:57):
But the kids, at that point, what did care about? They didn't have any business savvy, they didn't have any ambition, they didn't have any acumen in that area. They just cared about being part of high society and state of signaling.

Courtland (08:08):
And so they just squandered the greatest fortune in America by doing nothing, building giant elaborate houses and throwing these crazy balls and just showing off as much as they could to try to cling onto the status they had of the richest of the rich people. It's like you said, these houses cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to maintain. By the time it was '30s or '40s, they were all broke. The kids were all broke. It all disappeared and there's nothing left of it. That's what I think of when I think of old money. And I think of new money, it's like, "Don't do that."

Pieter (08:41):
Man, there's so many lessons there. It shows again what we said in the start, you adapt to this stuff so fast, you adapt to big houses and cars and crazy rich extravagant parties and stuff. The hedonism part of it as well. You all probably adapt to this, but it takes some effort to imagine that because it seems so nice. It's like wow, these cool parties. But you probably get used to that too and then it's the same thing.

Pieter (09:10):
So I think if you take the effort to imagine that and okay, let's not do that and instead live in a more conscious, also to yourself manner of what do I want to do? My life's so simple now. All I do is I wake up, I drink coffee and I open my laptop a little bit. I talk to my friends, I code a little bit. I go for a walk. I go to the gym every two days.

Pieter (09:33):
Andre lives here also, so I see Andre a lot. There's another guy, Javi lives here and we hang out. It's a very simple life right now. Also because of COVID of course, but I don't know. I'm happy. There's this quote I read on Twitter this week, "If you can't be happy with your coffee, you cannot be happy with a billion dollars." Same thing. Be happy with simple things and my dad says the same thing. All he says is you wake up and he drinks tea and he eats a cookie and he's like, "This is life. This is the best thing."

Pieter (10:02):
Basic shit. This data on this studies that show buying a house after six months, you're at the same level of happiness. Marrying, buying a car, after two months or something. Hedonic adaptation, the hedonic treadmill is a very interesting concept.

Courtland (10:19):
It is. And it's especially relevant when you're, I think, organizing your life in a way where you're always chasing these big goals. Because if you're chasing a goal, you're essentially saying, "Okay, there's a thing I don't have right now and I would be happy if I had it." That's dangerous because the flip side of that is like, "I'm not happy right now. I'm not happy unless get this thing. I got my coffee. I'm not happy with the coffee, I need a billion dollars."

Pieter (10:40):
Yes, yes. But this is such a difficult concept to grasp. That's why people work their ass off until they're 80 or 70 or whatever, to get there. This is a really sensitive thing to say because you always have these rich people to say, "The answer's not on wealth. Blah, blah."

Pieter (10:55):
It's bullshit. Of course, it is. If you have enough money that you don't need to work, that's a great benefit. Financial independence should be... Everybody should get that. Universal basic income should be for everybody. It's so comfortable and nice to not have a boss. It's amazing. But after that, when I passed 1 million a year in revenue, that was exceptional and now it's 2 million year in revenue and it's just a number. It doesn't mean anything. You pay more tax and that's it.

Courtland (11:22):
So then how do you navigate that transition? Because before you get there, there's definitely, I think a difference between having that financial freedom and not having it. I think there is kind of a happiness change. There is kind of a burden lifted off your shoulders when you're like, "Okay. I like being independent."

Pieter (11:37):
[inaudible 00:11:37].

Courtland (11:37):
"I got that million dollars. I can live off 40K a year. Wow, that's a whole bunch of stuff I no longer have to do ever if I don't want to." How do you adjust to that? Because well now you need, ideally... Maybe you don't. Maybe new things that make you happy, like some of the old goals you had, you've sort of accomplished.

Courtland (11:55):
I think that can be pretty jarring for a lot of people. A lot of people get really rich and then they commit suicide or they become depressed because the thing they were chasing, no longer even matters and they don't feel that difference. They just hedonically adapted.

Pieter (12:12):
Dude, athletes. Athletes when they retire always, you have a lot... In Europe, footballers when they retire, they get really depressed. I think in US of NFL players as well, but I think it is jarring because society promised you that this would've solved everything. This would solve your money situation, your friend situation, your relationship situation.

Pieter (12:34):
Money solves everything they say. It's just not true. It's just simply not true. It solves some things. Then you need to, like you say, it's jarring. So you need to go back to what really makes me intrinsically happy? It was probably the thing that made you start working on stuff when you were eight years old. Like making something, like creating games or apps or whatever or paintings or drawings, that you didn't do that for a reason. You just did that because it was fun and that's how you got here.

Courtland (13:03):
Yeah. It's pretty awesome to be in a position where the thing that you did to basically earn your financial freedom is also one of the things that you like doing the most. And I think if you have that, then once you get to that point of financial freedom, you don't have to change anything. Because you're like, "What got me here, actually, I really love. I love the process itself."

Courtland (13:22):
So even if the goal is gone, the process is it's own goal. It's like if I look at my life, I love coding. I love designing. I love sitting down and making a new project and I've done it a bunch times for free with no hope of any money just because it was fun to do because I have some idea that I have in my head and I want to get out.

Courtland (13:39):
I think I've also probably much more so than you, allowed myself to be sort of co-oped into like, "Well, I'm doing this for some goal. I'm doing this because I'm trying to get to financial freedom and et cetera, et cetera." At some point, the goal can kind of co-op the process and you become more obsessed with the reason you're doing it than the fact that it's fun to do.

Courtland (13:59):
I think with me, what I've experienced has been kind of like... This was like I kind of got the goal, achieved what I wanted to achieve and now it's like, "Well, do I even doing the activity anymore?" I forgot what that was because I haven't done it just for its own sake in so many years.

Courtland (14:16):
And so it's like I have to relearn my love for that, if that makes sense. I also have to get over this weird mental state that I think Silicon valley is really toxic for depending on the tribe you're part of. It's where you're like no, no, no. It's not good enough to just do something for its own sake. You have to be going for some bigger, better goal. Why aren't you starting the next bigger company to get to the next level of wealth or fame or success.

Courtland (14:42):
If you have that in the back of your mind, it can be so hard to just appreciate doing simple, fun things because you're like, "Well, is this enough? Am I using my full potential?" You get this nagging, unnecessary feeling that I don't think needs to be there, but can take some work to kind of shrug off.

Pieter (14:58):
I think at the stage you're in now, if this is the stage you're in which you just said, I would just start a new project. That's what I would do. I would just be like, "Yeah. I don't really feel all this stuff."

Courtland (15:08):
Next thing.

Pieter (15:08):
Let the old thing run and be so automated. I'll just go work on new stuff and try new stuff and then I'll dive in something new because I'm bored with the old. First of all, I love Indie Hackers, but I almost think you have so much creative energy to create things that it'd be lovely to see that energy be funneled into a new project, something different.

Courtland (15:34):
I like the way that you've done it with Nomad List. It's so smart. Because you're doing these things that are new projects, but like you said, it's also kind of a marketing trick. Because these are so part of what Nomad List is, they could just be Nomad List/Rebase, Nomad List/Jobs.

Courtland (15:52):
With me with Indie Hackers, I don't have that separate strategy where I do these different things. And so it can kind of feel the slog where I'm working the same thing, same thing, same thing. But if I could maybe take a page out of your playbook and just do different things because most of the things I'm interested in doing are very related, but they could have a different name living in a different website and just feel fresher.

Pieter (16:12):
Yeah. You can always put them back later, right?

Courtland (16:15):
Yeah. What about the practical parts of money and investing? I know a lot of people who make more money end up switching from this mode of, "Okay, earlier I was trying to earn my freedom, but now that I'm here, I'm trying to protect what I have or I'm trying to invest it wisely."

Courtland (16:30):
That's a whole different skill set. Building a startup, it's very different than investing in crypto or the stock market or ETFs, whatever. How has that changed for you? What are you doing with your money basically?

Pieter (16:42):
Yeah. I've been tweeting a lot about ETFs. I know the thing today is to tweet about crypto, invest in crypto. Of course, but I think crypto might be the future and I invest in crypto too. But investing in the stock market is also the future still, I think. A good way to invest in the stock market and I learned this from Matt Kotz, from Google, he had a blog about how he invests his money.

Pieter (17:10):
He wrote about, he puts almost all of his money in Vanguard ETFs. ETFs are funds that you can buy. They're just stocks, but instead of a stock, one stock, you buy a Microsoft, you buy a thousand stocks at the same time through an ETF. It's a basket of stocks. And that means that if Microsoft goes up, you profit.

Pieter (17:30):
But if Microsoft goes down and Apple goes up, you still profit because they balance each other out. So you get a more balanced return.

Courtland (17:39):
Diversifying a bit.

Pieter (17:39):
Diversifying, it's just diversifying and it's very cheap. The fees are 0.01% with Vanguard or something. It took me a year to in understand stuff. Because it's kind of complicated. It's not very accessible, but I think more people should learn about it because with most brokers, you can just open an account interactive brokers or I don't know, the trade apps and you can buy an ETF. I know it makes more sense from your gambling casino hearts, as we all have. You want to gamble your money like, "I think Apple's going to go up."

Pieter (18:11):
But statistically over long term, it makes more sense to diversify your money and just put it in a basket of stocks and that's what ETFs are.

Courtland (18:20):
Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense and it's something that I hear associated with... It's like the beginning of your career. You don't have any money. You're trying to do something. You're the opposite of diversified. You're like, "I'm going all in on my startup. All my money is going to me doing this thing."

Courtland (18:35):
And then when you start to make your money, it's like, "Okay. Well, I don't want to lose this. I don't want to be a super risky..." I guess there's some people who are, "I'm putting it all on crypto," but it's probably not the wisest thing. And if you want to sort of maintain what you're doing and maintain your lifestyle and keep the freedom that you have and you're not sort of obsessed with just getting more and more and more and more, I think it's not uncommon at all to do what you're doing and sort of diversify, try to keep it stable and then focus on what you love rather than just obsessively trying to make as much money as possible.

Pieter (19:05):
100%. I think it's common with tech people that are very well-read and stuff. But I think it's very uncommon with people who aren't and they usually invest in individual stocks and that's statistically just a very bad idea. It just underperforms over the long run. I think that's a good thing to talk about, to tell people kind of avoid individual stocks. But yeah, this is not financial advice podcasts, but you asked me.

Pieter (19:31):
But I do also invest in crypto. I've been buying Bitcoin since 2013 when it was $32 Bitcoin and I used to have 162 Bitcoin. I think it would be $11 million now. I lost it though. I day traded it away. That was also a lesson. Don't day trade, just hold, huddle.

Courtland (19:55):
I've had similar things happen.

Pieter (19:57):

Courtland (19:57):
I owned really Bitcoin and Ethereum back when they were sub a couple of hundred bucks and I also spent a lot of time trading in the 2008 market, after the crash or whatever, with very little money because I was in college and I had a consulting job.

Courtland (20:09):
But in hindsight, if I had just not day traded it and I just kept the stocks that I bought and just not touched it for the last 12 years, all of that's 10Xed. It's like okay, well lesson learned.

Pieter (20:20):
Yeah. Lesson learned, but that's a lesson you need to become 30 to learn that. But if you're 20, you can skip this whole lesson. You can just buy now, buy these diversified stock forms and hold crypto. But hold it for long term.

Courtland (20:34):
Well, when you're 20, 10 years seems an eternity. If you told 20-year-old Courtland, "Just hold for 10 years," I'd be like, "I'm not going to be alive in 10 years. The world might be over in 10 years. 10 years, are you kidding me? What are you talking about?" Now at 34, I'm like, "Okay. 10 years seems reasonable. It's not that long. I'll be patient."

Pieter (20:53):
I think when I was 20, I was reading Mr. Money Mustache randomly, this blog. And he was also about the FIRE movement and about compounding interest and I learned all this concept and he, he said something, "Even if you don't make a lot of money, just start saving now. Pay off all your debt and saving every month a $100."

Pieter (21:08):
So I started logging the groceries I bought and I started buying $100 less groceries a month to save this $100. After a year, I had $1,200 saved and I was really happy. And then I put it in a, I think a CD, a deposit for five years and got nice interest. Because he was like compounding interest, when you start early it really adds up, even if you don't make a lot of money.

Pieter (21:33):
I was like, "Okay, cool." These are good lessons also what you said about people losing their money. It's really common with rich people that they lose their money, really, really common. There's this friend, Gabo, who made a ETF websites a blog explaining ETFs. He shows that if some rich people lost all their money, if they would've just put it in the ETF of the S&P500 for 20 years, this is the amount of money they would've made. And this is a lot of money, like hundreds of millions. But instead, they're bankrupt by investing in shady deals.

Courtland (22:05):
Can you imagine if you lost all the money that you made from working on your projects for the last [inaudible 00:22:11].

Pieter (22:12):
It's horrible. I cannot imagine having that kind of personality where you start investing in just random stuff and you lose everything. Elon Musk did it. Again, Elon Musk, but he invested all his funds from selling Zip2, I think or PayPal into SpaceX.

Courtland (22:31):
Just huge gamble. This might ruin me.

Pieter (22:33):
Yeah, yeah. If it would've ruined him, we wouldn't hear about him now. But I don't think you should take these outlier results as examples to do things in life. I think you should look at statistics and studies to see what you should do. To me, that sounds ETFs and Bitcoin and Ethereum, mostly ETFs. Yeah.

Courtland (22:54):
What about you were talking about your investing habits. There's people on Twitter who also wanted to know, just like your productivity habits, because you ship a crazy amount of stuff. Like we were saying earlier, you haven't missed a day in over a thousand days. I think that's not common. It's very difficult. I think for people to get onto the treadmill of working consistently at all. And then it's very easy to fall off that treadmill and have trouble getting back on. It's like what are you doing to help you sort of be so prolific and productive?

Pieter (23:24):
Yeah. I use the site called Wip. It's kind of a competitor to [inaudible 00:23:28] a little bit, wip.co, and it's kind of a tracking system for your to-dos for any makers kind of. Made by my friend, Mark. I think you should buy the websites. I think you should acquire Indie Hack, you should acquire Wip. I've always tell you, but I think they would work really well together.

Pieter (23:44):
But you can just log your to-dos on Telegram, this chat app and also on the website. It's a very easy way for me to do... I also log my life stuff, sometimes even food logs and stuff. I just do /done, fix bug, joint button. Nomad List doesn't work. #Nomadlist. And then add a screen shot, sometimes a video and that's it. And that gives me a really accountable public log of what I'm doing.

Pieter (24:12):
It's really nice. I think Jerry Seinfeld talked about this chart where, on the calendar, you do a cross and you don't want to break the chain when you want to learn something or something. I think that's the same thing. You want to do the streak, you don't want to break the chain and... But even without that, it kind of just happens where I wake up and I check the errors I receive, my robots send me errors on telegram like what happens when I sleep for example.

Pieter (24:41):
And I kind of check like okay, this is a problem we need to fix. My robots control me and manage me and give me instructions what to work on the next day. I kind of need to, because people are like... I don't have much staff. I have some contractors, but they don't really develop. So it's kind of on me to keep the customers happy and it's really fun to do that, I think.

Courtland (25:05):
Yeah. You are number two on the leaderboard. You've got a 1040 days shipped in a row. Someone named Niels is right above you. They have 1,114 days.

Pieter (25:13):
Niels is on the island next to me. It's kind of funny. Yeah. He's also in Thailand.

Courtland (25:20):
This whole product is super interesting to me because it's like... Whip's kind of social in some ways because you can see everyone else who's shipping and I guess in a way, that makes you accountable, especially if you get to really hang on the leaderboard. You know that people know that you're high on the leaderboard. You probably don't want to lose that status.

Courtland (25:35):
But then also, there's this idea of building in public and it's like there's almost no better place to do that than Twitter. Because you get the most feedback, you get... Because I post on Web2 and it's really good for me solitarily is motivation. I want to break the chain. But then if I want people to respond to me, I post it on Twitter.

Courtland (25:50):
On Indie Hackers, we've kind of tried to do this too with these product directory pages where you can sort of have a timeline of your progress, but I feel no one's really cracked the code of what's the best way to sort of help people with their goal of building in public and ideally help them build an audience as a result for that? And then simultaneously solve this problem where you're motivating them and making them accountable and helping them be productive.

Pieter (26:12):
Yeah. Yeah. I think Twitter's the easiest, because it has this whole audience already. It has millions of users, so everybody can see your tweets.

Courtland (26:20):
But you probably don't post little updates like, "Fix the color of this button," on Twitter.

Pieter (26:24):
No, it's too small. It's too basic. But you want to show a big feature or a really big problem you solved. You want to tell the story kind of, so that's more for Twitter. So this is more for small things, but the building in public thing, for a while, I thought live coding was going to be a big thing.

Pieter (26:40):
The build in public live coding, it was the 24 hour startup. I think we had with Pat Walls and Armin Made That.

Courtland (26:46):
[inaudible 00:26:46] on Twitch.

Pieter (26:46):
Yeah, exactly. It was kind of looked it was going to be a thing. I've tried. It's so stressful. I can't do it and I think that's the problem kind with it. You need to sit there for hours, people watching you and it's really fun, but it's too intense for me. So I don't know.

Courtland (27:06):
Even the gamers who do that are constantly stressed out about having to always be performing because it's not enough for them to just play the game and be good at it, they have to entertain this audience on Twitch who's going to criticize and scrutinize their every move. It's like, "Do you really want to be on camera for hours while you're working and having a bunch of like..."

Pieter (27:23):
I don't know. I kept leaking API keys. Every stream, I leaked API keys. It was insane. And then I would get stuck on a problem, which every day I get stuck on a problem where I just need to walk around and think about it or lie down, but you can't lie down because there's 90 people watching, so you're trying to fix this problem you're sweating and it's stressful. You see the viewer is dropping because it's not interesting anymore. Because they only like when you're making new stuff.

Pieter (27:51):
I respect if you can do it, but I can't do it anymore. it's just too intense.

Courtland (27:56):
I've never tried it and I never plan to. I also have like... My sort of productivity tricks are, I've kind of copied your note, you're sort of post-its.

Pieter (28:07):
Post-its. Yes, yes. Yes.

Courtland (28:08):
I love post-its. Most of my post-its have always been little reminders to myself. So if I show you my monitor, I've got these reminders and my romantic relationships, here's how I can be better, I can be more vulnerable, blah, blah, blah. Other parts of my life, like exercise... I have a post-it note where I look at it and I have to do 20 pushups.

Pieter (28:28):
Dude that's amazing.

Courtland (28:29):
I consciously avoid looking at it most of the day, but then I sometimes do and it's just like whatever. I just end up doing pushups every day because of this note. But I never thought-

Pieter (28:36):
You see, you lose, this thing.

Courtland (28:38):
Yeah. Exactly. You see it, you lose. But you do post-its, I think, for tasks and productivity, all you have to do that. I just started doing that a couple of weeks ago and I love it. It's so easy.

Pieter (28:48):
Yeah. It's so simple. I use windows for it. Not Windows, operating, I use the window of hotel rooms or apartments, whatever. I put it on the window and I make a grid of things. And then on the other side, I do the stuff that I finish. I take it, I put it on my laptop and I focus on that task in particular. And then when it's done, I take it and I put it on the finished part of the window.

Pieter (29:11):
It's kind of a combo of using post-it notes and also using the web chat. But post-it notes, it's really nice. You can really... I'll take an hour or something to figure out every thing that I need to do, every bug that's remaining and I collect everything from online and I write it down and I saw this study, I think, that said writing things down on paper, you use a different part of your brain than if you write it down digitally.

Pieter (29:39):
There's something about writing on paper that's different. I think that's true for me. The physical act of taking the post-its and like, "Okay, this is what we're going to do now. Fix the joint button on Nomad List." And I put it on my screen and I work on that, it's really nice feeling because I don't want to fix the joint button on Nomad List. I want to finish this to-do, it's like a hack. I want to take this post-it note, put it on the window and-

Courtland (30:03):
Move it.

Pieter (30:05):
Yes. That's what it's really about. It's not about the bug. I hate the bug. I don't care about the bug.

Courtland (30:10):
Do you ever almost forget to do what to do any day? Has there ever been a day where you almost lost your thousand days streak because you forgot to do something and had to do something late at night or is it just automatic and so obviously easy to you?

Pieter (30:24):
Almost. Yeah. Almost. I just do it when I wake up. I do a small thing immediately.

Courtland (30:28):
It's a habit.

Pieter (30:31):
You don't want to lose the streak.

Courtland (30:33):
Did you see that book? It's like the most popular book on Amazon in every category and every sort of vertical?

Pieter (30:39):
In human history.

Courtland (30:41):
It's like the most [inaudible 00:30:43]. I had him on this show and I had him on a different podcast I have called Brains and I talked about his book and he just tweeted, "Yeah, it's the best-selling book on Amazon period." He's crushing it.

Pieter (30:55):
Every tech guy, well, every tech bro or something or you want to call it, "Yeah man, you shouldn't make goals. You should create systems." I know which book you read, man.

Courtland (31:08):
Yep. My mom was telling me the same thing. I'm like, "Mom, people are stressed out. She's like, "Create systems instead of goals." I'm like, "Damn! This book is too popular." It's crazy.

Courtland (31:18):
I want to ask you about one more time before we get out of here. I'm curious about your thoughts on just the future. Because you're always on the web, you are tweeting about Web3 and crypto and trying live coding and stuff like that. I tend to get my head buried into work and then I come up for air every year and I'm like, "What's going on?" What do you think about these new trends? What do you think about Web3? What do you think about crypto? I've been trying to get into a little bit more and research it and I think it's quite cool. There's some upsides and downsides, but I don't know what you think. What are your thoughts on all this?

Pieter (31:48):
Yeah. Man, it's taking the world by storm. Last week, I was retweeted by Jack, from Twitter and my notifications went crazy because I repost this meme about Web3, which was just a picture I found somewhere and I posted it. I was like, "This is kind of funny." And it showed Web3, this funnel of water coming out and then going into the mouth of VCs, venture capital investors, a lot of water and then some drips were left for the retail investors.

Pieter (32:17):
The kind of sounded it's matched with what I saw on the... Because I follow a lot of Web3 projects and I follow which projects are new. There's a telegram channel, you can't follow everything. What I was observing was that almost every project I saw, there was a big, I'm not going to name, but a big VC firm in there.

Pieter (32:38):
I was like, "Interesting!" They're in every Web3 project. And then I saw Jack tweeting about this. I was like oh, this meme kind of makes sense. So I tweeted and it was insane. It went crazy. And then Jack retweeted and I got so much hate and also I think 600 retweets or something, a thousand retweets.

Pieter (32:56):
So it's a sensitive topic to talk about because they're so... I'm a crypto investor. I'm invested in it, but I also can criticize it kind of or market as a joke. Like, "Come on. Everything should be Markable, but apparently you cannot do it with Web3." And I got blocked by Mark Andreessen and Chris Dixon, but I didn't even mention them. I just posted a meme about Web3. I don't know. It's just all kind of funny.

Courtland (33:20):
They blocked you because you posted the name and Jack retweeted it and they saw it because he retweeted it probably and they're like-

Pieter (33:21):
And then they blocked Jack and they blocked me. It was just a cartoon. It's so ridiculous. Mark Andreesen followed me before that. He was a follower. Damn! Sad. But anyway, it's all kind of interesting.

Pieter (33:42):
I do think it's a future in many ways, like the smart contact stuff. It's a really slow computer that's decentralized and stuff. Everybody knows how it works by now. I think what I really don't about it is that a really big percentage of the projects are bump and dump, how they feel. They're pretty mind then giving them off to VC investors to buy into and then they end up...

Pieter (34:04):
I know people in this crypto world and they go to the big crypto exchanges, they pay money. I think it's 150K to get listed. And then this coin once it gets listed, everybody who knows it's going to get listed already bought in, which is insider trading which is legal because it's crypto.

Pieter (34:21):
And then it pumps 10Xs and if you invest a hundred million, you just made a billion dollars. This is legal, but is it... Maybe we would be doing the same thing if we had all that money. But all I'm saying is that I don't... Man, it's so difficult to criticize because I'm not very well debated with all this stuff. I don't have all the data. I think the technology is very promising. I don't like all the bumping and the, "We're all going to get rich."

Pieter (34:47):
Because I don't think... That's not possible. That's not how it works. You need to get in now, this FOMO stuff. It has all of the red flags of every internet bubble and tulip bubble and all this stuff. I don't think that's interesting stuff. I bought an NFT too. I bought the Poolsuite NFT by Poolsites, Poolsuite they're called now. It's like a members card and it went up a lot and then people are, "Look, you get it. This is how it works."

Pieter (35:14):
I'm like, "No, I don't get it. Why? What are we doing here?" There's no intrinsic... I look sides and pull. I like the concept. But a lot of the NFTs, there's no intrinsic value there or it's very... You know what I mean? My gut tells me something's really off.

Courtland (35:31):
I think there's a lot of this excitement, "Okay. This is a revolution for artists. I know a handful of artists who made a lot of money and so therefore every artist is going to be able make money." Or, "It's a revolution for music. Now, every musician's going to be able to make a lot of money."

Courtland (35:45):
What feels off to me is well, there's still going to be the power-law dynamics where the most popular people are going to get the most listens and watches and whatever. There's still going to be people who are probably pretty good who aren't that good at marketing who no one sees their stuff.

Courtland (35:58):
I don't see how crypto is really going to suddenly make everybody rich. It seems really scammy and doesn't make any sense. But it gives really smart, reputable people saying this.

Pieter (36:08):
Sorry to interrupt, but the argument for that, I think that they have is that you become owner of the project. Even if you're not the person that's successful, you're in early and your part owner. Just like a stock. I think that's actually promising because it would be interesting if I could just list Nomad List as a public company with tokens. But the SEC doesn't allow that because that is a financial security. I do think if the SEC changes their law, that I can just list or mint Nomad List and people become an owner and I can go public with a small company. That'd be great because an IPO now, you need a hundred million revenue. I don't have a hundred million revenue.

Courtland (36:46):
So that's the thing that I'm the most excited about, which is, I guess in a way, these tokens are allowing the average person to "invest" in different projects and stuff. You get a lot of bad things with that and you get a lot of good things with that. The sort of meme that you posted, that's showing the VCs are taking most of the returns for these crypto projects and the retail investors are getting drips.

Courtland (37:08):
I think that is probably true. The VC there is a16z is probably the most notable one. But also, if you look at the status quo of startups, they're isn't even a little drip for the retail investors. If you're the average Joe, there's no way for you to invest in Uber or Airbnb. Only the VCs got in.

Courtland (37:27):
It's like, is it still kind of a VC-run game? Yeah. But is it better or worse than what we had before? I think it's better. You can get into all these things as a normal person. Then often the VCs are just buying tokens that any other person could buy. Maybe they get a few advantages or something sometimes and maybe they get a tip in some insider trading, but you could buy it too. And then an average Joe can't become an angel investor in Silicon Valley unless they know the right people and have enough network to be an accredited invest.

Courtland (37:53):
It's just like you're never really successful. I kind of think it's a move in the right direction. But with that you get scams and you get pump and dump and people who are like, "There's average people investing now? I can fool them much easier than I can fool the VCs."

Pieter (38:06):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Courtland (38:09):
[inaudible 00:38:09].

Pieter (38:10):
Exactly. I went here, football golfing. There's this football golf place here. And I talked to the owner and he said he invests a lot in crypto projects and stuff. I was like that's really cool, because it's a older guy and he puts a lot of his money from his business into crypto. I'm like, "That's cool but I really hope that it works out for you because you've got to pick the right ones to... It's kind of scary and it's all positive. We're all going to go to the moon and it's all going up and stuff." But that's just not always how it goes. A lot of people can lose money and I know there's a libertarian streak in the world, especially in the US of well, it's your own responsibility.

Pieter (38:47):
And it's like yeah, but it's really sad to see people lose a lot of their money and... Maybe it's because I'm Dutch, but in Holland, we grew up where you don't want to see your neighbor go bankrupt. You want everybody to be happy and financially happy. Man, if you go look in history of the stock market in I think 1900 or 1890 or 1910, where there wasn't a lot of regulation, a lot of regulation was created to... Also to protect investors and also in a bad way, because now you need to be accredited and you need to be rich to invest in startups and stuff. So that's not good, but a lot of stuff is to protect people. This is political territory again. I don't know if you need to protect people, but I do know that a lot of people can lose their life savings. How do you... What do you do with that? Sorry, you made the wrong mistake.

Courtland (39:41):
We're all trying to figure this out. The world's changing so fast. A year or two ago, a fraction of people were talking about this stuff that we're talking about it now. No one knows where the future's going to be. But there are these ideas like you were saying, universal basic income or the broader idea that appeals to me is creating a floor below which people can't fall.

Courtland (40:00):
You don't want to see your neighbors go bankrupt. You don't want people to be struggling to eat. Ideally, it's a society we can keep raising that floor higher and higher and higher. I don't know if universal basic income will be the thing, but there are things that once we create, people don't fall... Once we invent technology, that technology exists and it spreads and we don't tend to revert.

Courtland (40:21):
New technologies make the world a better place. And so if we can create a really safe floor where it's safe for people to experiment, then I'm 100% percent cool with people placing crazy bets, trying to go as high as they can and if they lose it or whatever, at least they can't fall that far. I hope that's the direction society moving in, but we're kind of getting...

Courtland (40:39):
It's not like a perfectly straight line to get there. It's kind of jagged. We're like, "Okay, well now anyone can invest in crypto, but the floor's not quite there yet. So you might lose your shirt." Do you think you'll do any crypto stuff with Nomad List or your projects? Because if you had a token for Nomad List, a token for Remote OK, a token for Rebase, I would 100% buy some of your tokens. Partly because I just... You're not going to IPO with any of this stuff most likely.

Pieter (41:00):
Yeah. I would buy Indie Hackers too. Absolutely. Yeah. 100%.

Courtland (41:02):
Right, yeah. I've thought about it. It would be so cool to be able to buy tokens and the projects you believe in that you know aren't vaporware, bait and switch type pump and dump schemes.

Pieter (41:13):
I think the regulation has to change with the SEC allowing for tokens to have actual ownership of companies and projects, because right now they don't allow it. And the only thing you get is voting rights usually. Voting rights is not real ownership. I know they do that because otherwise, it becomes a financial security and they go to jail.

Pieter (41:29):
But the SEC needs to change that. And then following that the European Union, whatever financial authority they have, they do need to do the same thing and the same thing in Asia and whatever. Because then you can have really nice, actual ownership tokens with voting power also. I can give dividends. I'd love to give dividends as a company to the owners of the company. Why not? And that would be super cool. I think we're going to get there within five years. I think it's going to happen. That would validate the whole Web3 scene almost overnight, I think. Because it would not be bullshit. It would be real ownership and until then, if that doesn't happen, we don't know what all these tokens mean. They don't mean anything right now.

Courtland (42:10):
Not ownership, for sure.

Pieter (42:12):

Courtland (42:12):
Yeah. I've done some token investing where it's an interesting question because if I look at the things that I bought, I don't know if I cared about ownership. It would be nice to have ownership. If I bought stock, technically that gives me some rights and stuff. But a lot of the other things exist. You can give dividends to people who own your token.

Courtland (42:31):
I got an airdrop because I owned the ENS token and they paid everyone who owned any of their domain names literally $15-20,000, which is nuts. There's a lot of projects that are going to do that. You get voting rights, you can sort of delegate your voting rights to others. And so I guess my question for you is how important is the ownership? If people can essentially profit when your company increases in value, if they can sell the tokens, if they can get voting rights, if they can get distribution and dividends, why do they need the ownership rights?

Pieter (43:06):
Man, yeah. That's a good question. I was a week too late with ENS registering. I did not get the airdrop by the way, so I didn't get the token. But who cares? But the thing with... If you say you get dividends from an airdrop, I assume that means you get tokens from the same project, which people are trading on. So they have value from trading on them, which is different than giving dividends from the money I make from customers that I then give to you as a owner.

Courtland (43:35):
That's true. They could do that, but you're right. That's not what they did.

Pieter (43:39):
You want to have some kind of intrinsic value in the core where it comes down to. So you have a lot of tech companies Amazon, they don't even give dividends, I think, they don't even make profit. They just reinvest. Because there's a hope in the future they might issue dividends when they are big enough or something.

Pieter (43:55):
That's priced into the price. That's part of the deal kind of. You still own the company, but they're not... It's the same as not owning it, but having a token, but at least there's some kind of... As a stockholder, you can also vote. You can say, "Okay, we want now Amazon to start giving dividends?" How do you do that with a project that doesn't really give dividends. You can issue more tokens, but issuing tokens about what? What's the value? The only value is some kind of concept.

Courtland (44:23):
It's just trading it.

Pieter (44:23):
Right? Some kind of, "Yeah, this is going to be big." You cannot live forever on, "This is going to be big." You need to have some... You know what I mean? There needs to be-

Courtland (44:33):
True. Eventually, the growth stops and...

Pieter (44:35):
Yeah. Otherwise, if it's not, it's MLM. We know a lot of MLM schemes in America like Amway, all that stuff, allegedly, I should say legally, because I don't want to be sued, but you don't want it to be that.

Pieter (44:49):
I think it would really legitimize this whole thing if it became real ownership for me and maybe it's because I studied business also we had finance. So I know a little bit about all this options and stocks work and stuff and... There was this new law in America that let you crowd fund stocks. There was the safe [crosstalk 00:45:09] or something.

Courtland (45:09):
Yeah. They raised they raised the limit on how much you can crowdfund basically to [inaudible 00:45:14] investors. I think [inaudible 00:45:16] did it with Gumroad and got a ton of people.

Pieter (45:19):
Yeah. So it's already getting closer. I think we're almost there and it's unfair that if you don't make a hundred million a year, 50 million a year, you cannot IPO. It's like why can't I IPO? I don't want to sell my company to some person.

Pieter (45:34):
It would be much more fun to sell to the people who use it and then they can vote and they can tell me to hire people and it can be a board of directors and stuff. That would be super cool.

Courtland (45:45):
There's another thing you can do with these tokens that you can't really do with stock, which is you can use them as kind of currency. Let's say you have a Nomad coin or something, you could do job listings that people buy them with the coin. Or if you own the coin, you can get access to the community forum or something.

Courtland (46:03):
There's little sort of things you can do that give the coin intrinsic value beyond just speculating on it. It's interesting. It's a very wild west type thing. I'm not very optimistic that we're going to see the SEC. No one knows. I'm not very optimistic that it's going to be like, "Okay, you guys. Here's our official stamp of approval. Go for it." It'll legitimize things [inaudible 00:46:26]. I feel they have no idea what to do.

Pieter (46:28):
They've been pretty mild on crypto. They've been pretty embracing though, the last few years. And they're leading. If they do something, the rest of the world follows. It's the US. I think they really have the power to change things. You know this better. I'm not American, but it'd be very interesting if to do that.

Pieter (46:46):
The social tokens thing, I think it's interesting because I run a community. I run the biggest remote worker community kind of on Slack and on the internet. If the token of a membership, the price is dictated by the market, these friends with benefits, I think of FWB social token I saw. So the token becomes a $1,000. So now it's become an exclusive community which is kind of good in a way, but also kind of not my thing, because with Nomad List, it's usually 80 or 90 or a $100 lifetime fee and people...

Pieter (47:20):
It means that every month, there's 500 new Nomads that come in and they... It's kind of a nice churn vibe where it's a cafe, new people come in, there's some old people still, new people. It gives a community this fuel of refreshment and communities that don't do that, they kind of die out. I feel they get stale or they become too exclusive and I can see it. If I raise the price too high, I would get a 100 sign ups a month and the community would start dying. People would be like, "Why is the chat so empty?" Price should be dictated by the market for a community.

Courtland (47:59):
I agree. I thought about doing this for Indie Hackers. I don't think I will. Just because it's because Indie Hackers is part of Stripe, you immediately have to go to Stripe's legal team. It'll be just a whole much bigger than just me as an individual. But I was thinking about the same problem too because it's like I don't the idea of creating a really small, exclusive community that's really hard to get into and whatever.

Courtland (48:20):
So it's like okay, well if it costs a certain amount of tokens to get access to the community, you could potentially lower that over time as the token price increases. They're like okay, joining is always the same price. But if you've invested in the token earlier, you still make money.

Courtland (48:35):
That token can still appreciate, but it's valuable for other reasons rather than just access. I don't know. I think there's a lot of experimentation. I hope you do something because I want to... The thing I the most about Web3 and these tokens is I want to see all these different creators who are building their stuff. I want to be able to invest in them. And right now it's impossible for me to invest in them because they're not a $100 million companies. I hope Web3 goes in that direction.

Pieter (48:58):
Dude, I think that's the, what do you call it? Killer app, one of the killer apps. I really believe in Bitcoin. I have a lot of Bitcoin and I think it's... I think I'm starting to pay my contracts with Bitcoin soon because the trouble.

Pieter (49:15):
So I work with a contractor who does customer support and she's Filipino. When I hired her as a contractor, she was living in Vietnam and then she moved to Morocco now. And then when I tried to pay her, I was in Hollands, I think... Or no, I was in Portugal. I was a Dutch person in Portugal paying a Filipino worker in Vietnam with a Singapore company. These were five entities and I tried to do all these...

Pieter (49:45):
I tried TransferWise and Payoneer stuff and they were like... I had to talk the customer support because they're like, "Why is your house in Portugal, but you are Dutch? And your company is in Singapore and your contractor is Philippina in Vietnam. This all doesn't add up." All red reflects. And then we could do this with Bitcoin, with the Lightning Network within half a second with almost no fees now.

Pieter (50:09):
Bitcoin has become cheap and fast. This completely solves it. We need to remember, we are like Europe and America, but most of the world is not Europe and America and their finance, their money system doesn't work like ours and it's not easy at all. It's very difficult to pay people in the rest of the world. Asia, Africa, Latin America.

Pieter (50:29):
I think Bitcoin might help with that a lot.

Courtland (50:33):
For sure. Yeah. Well, listen, dude, thanks so much for coming on. Do you want to let listeners know where to go to, I guess, follow you if they don't already follow you and see what you're up to?

Pieter (50:42):
Yeah. So I'm on Twitter mostly. It's @levelsio, which is L-E-V-E-L-S-I-O. From there you can see on my websites in my bio and see my crazy stupid tweets every day where I-

Courtland (50:55):
See the progress bar of how close you are to $5 million a year.

Pieter (50:59):

Courtland (51:00):

Pieter (51:01):
Thank you, man. Thanks so much for having me.

P.S. I'm on Twitter too if you'd like to follow more of my stories. And I wrote a book called MAKE about building startups without funding. See a list of my stories or contact me. To get an alert when I write a new blog post, you can subscribe below:

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