How I Made The World A Little Bit Better In 2013

I planned on going for a more general title like “This Was My Year 2013”, but then Brennan Dunn went forward with a very audacious “How I Changed The World In 2013“.

I’m in no-way even close to what Brennan achieved with his business, so I won’t be as bold. But I feel like I made the world a little bit better in 2013 – and here’s why.

The Things That Went Well

I am still happily married

I know this doesn’t seem like a lot and it is not an achievement in the eyes of most readers. But it means the world to me.

My wife and I have been a couple for close to ten years now and have been married for over six. For me this is the single most important thing that “happened” in 2013.

I Worked For Moz

This was probably the highlight of my year. I spent five month in Seattle to work for Moz as an intern (for legal reasons).

Being able to work and life in a different culture was an eye-opening experience. The way Americans think about gender/racial equality is quite different from the way Germans see it. The way our economies work in respect to hiring/firing, paid sick leave and other social benefits is totally different.

For instance, Moz received an award for what they call “paid-paid vacation” – you get $3,000/year if you go on vacation.
It took me a while to realize, but about 46% of all employees in Germany get “Urlaubsgeld” – which is the very same thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong! Moz is – considering only pay & benefits – by far the best employer I’ve found in the US so far and they deserve getting this award. If you take into account the people and the culture at Moz they easily surpass most companies in Germany. I just want to say (again speaking only benefits) that the most generous US company is sub-par for German/European standards.

On the other hand, it seems to me that it is way harder to get hired in Germany – especially if you lack the proper diplomas. In the US (at least in tech) interviewing processes are geared towards testing how well you fit the job you’re being interviewed for – in Germany it is a lot more about having a university diploma or a “duale Ausbildung” (a typically 3-year education consisting of vocational school and training on the job).

Overall hiring seems to happen a lot faster in the US and it happens for jobs as well. Of course most people are at-will employees – a concept that completely shocked me and I still have a hard time understanding how millions of people handle the stress.

Learning those differences was worth the trip itself, but I also got to work with the amazing people at Moz. I’ve spent a good amount of time outside of work with great people from Moz and became friends with some of them. And it also taught me, that I have a lot to learn in terms of intercultural competence.

Here are some pictures I took while in the US for your entertainment

I attended MicroConf and MicroConf Europe

One of the benefits of spending five months in the US was that I was able to attend MicroConf. Spending three days around such smart and driven people was incredible and it helped me against my own procrastination.

While there I started taking notes of all the MicroConf talks on a hunch. I am still amazed by the success this was.

Success is relative here, the best I ever got was about 500 visitors on a single day. It has now settled to about 500 uniques a month. I am quite sure most of you easily have more than that.

Taking notes made me kind of instant-famous in the crowd and it increased my luck surface area substantially. Good things that happened to me, that I attribute to my taking notes:

  • a made a lot of good friends (Dave Collins, Brennan Dunn, Oliver Grahl and many others)
  • I got invited into a Mastermind group with really amazing people (including one of the speakers)
  • I joined a chat room with a lot of MicroConf and BaconBizConf attendees (all of them very smart, with a lot of great business ideas, and very inspiring)
  • I had dinner with Joanna Wiebe & Lance Jones of CopyHackers.com, Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch and a few other folks after MicroConf
  • lots of incoming links, tweets, and visitors 🙂

MicroConf Europe

Subsequently, I attended MicroConf Europe, took notes and organized an attendee dinner with about 80 attendees. Organizing the dinner was a really good idea. I had a lot of good talks during the conference, because I organized that dinner.

Take-away: Go to a conference, but don’t just sit there passively. Get active, get involved. Take notes, organize a dinner, do whatever. Just do something!

Micropreneur Meetup Munich

In late 2013 I founded a local meetup group for micropreneurs here in Munich. It’s great to have like-minded people around you to talk about stuff every once in a while. We had one initial meeting in November and the next one is scheduled for January 3rd.
If you live close by, please join us 🙂

I started making money on TerminRetter

I started working on TerminRetter back in 2012. Then I tried my hand at marketing it. I still have to figure out how to do this properly. My attempt at print magazine advertising failed utterly. As did my direct mail campaign.

I have no real idea why those campaigns didn’t work. I have some assumptions, but no clear idea. Maybe I should have kept at it for longer to learn more and make it work. Coming to think about it, I probably should have.

However, I still managed to find customers. It has been a struggle, but it feels awesome to know that you are delivering value to someone and make the world a little bit better for them.

Graduating From University

Attending University has been my day-to-day business for the last 4 years. I can happily say that this is over. I graduated with a Master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science.

Being finished with this is a big relief. I did (very) well, but at the same time I didn’t like it one bit.

It feels great being done with this. Plus I now have one of those diplomas that employers care sooo much in Germany – Yay!

The Things That Didn’t Go So Well

Not Living Healthily

This is something I am battling with all the time – and loosing most of the time. I wish it were easier for me to exercise regularly, but sadly it isn’t.

I gained about 10 kilos while I was in the USA. After my return to Germany I started exercising more regularly (boy is hard to run with all that extra weight) and lost 6 kilos so far. Slower than I hoped for, but it’s a start.

Maybe I should form a new year’s resolution around this 😉

Struggling With Marketing

Honestly, marketing is still a mystery to me. I’ve spent a lot of time in 2013 reading about marketing and I tried my luck with implementing some of that knowledge. It helped very little.

I seem to understand the concepts (customer development, copy writing, collecting & nurturing leads). The execution is the really hard part of it. There are so many details that I don’t fully understand (e.g. which questions to ask best during customer development).

For TerminRetter it seems like I picked a really tough market (i.e. Germany) – or so a lot of people who sell both international and on the domestic market tell me.

That being said, I feel like I am getting better at this with every time I try something. This may take me longer than other stuff to learn, but I’m hell-bend on mastering it.

Procrastination

I am easily distracted. I spent countless hours reading articles on the web (Hey there, Hacker News, thanks for keeping me from being productive!)

I like to play World of Tanks or watch TV series (Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, Under the Dome).

If I were a better man, I would stop doing all that and focus on moonlighting my business. Alas, I am not.

Plans for 2014

Launch LinksSpy.com

I’ve already started slow launching my new SaaS product LinksSpy.com. I shifted the focus away from TerminRetter because I feel like it is easier to sell to an international audience.

So far the results are pretty decent and I have over 250 subscribers on my email list (10x what I ever got on TerminRetter mailing list).
The beta testers I onboarded seem to be happy with the results they got out of LinksSpy so far, but they also showed me a few features that are still missing.
I’ll have to iron that out before I can launch it – and I have to put more effort into the marketing side of things.

Attend MicroConf Europe

Due to me being busy with the day-job I probably won’t make it to MicroConf in Las Vegas, but I plan on going to MicroConf Europe (if they do it again and it takes place over the weekend).
If I do, expect to see some notes on the talks somewhere on this blog 😉

On The Job Training

In 2014 I will be very busy with my day-job, because I have to undergo a lot of training courses year-round. We’ll see how that goes, but I am looking forward to all the new things I learn.

Conclusion

Last year was amazing. There were a TON of great things that happened in my life (and some not so great things). I hope that 2014 will be similar in this regard.

So long have a Happy New Year 2014!

PS: What are your plans for 2014? Let me know in the comments, maybe there’s a good plan that I can steal implement as well 🙂

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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tip to Christoph for giving me the idea for this […]

  2. […] help me think about what happened in the past year, I write year in review posts (2013, 2014). In those posts I review what worked, what didn’t, and where to go from […]

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