Paras Chopra, founder of Wingify, which includes, in its products, the excellent Visual Website Optimiser, asks the question whether the best way to use your 20s and 30s is to spend hundreds of hours a week working on a startup, or take up an itinerant lifestyle, living and working from the beaches of Thailand or other places.
Startup requires a lot of sacrifices from you. You have to work extremely hard (think 100+ hours per week) for several years. All this hard work is justified in hope of an eventual big pay-off which may happen in a year, five years or may not happen ever. That big-payoff has potential to make you financially independent and then you can go travel the world (or explore other exotic interests such as taking a stab at string theory). But the big question is what if that eventual pay-off never happens?
The response on Hacker News is of interest, with many pointing out that you could do both at the same time, since living on a beach in Thailand is extremely cheap.
However, it really depends on what kind of company you're looking to build. If you're in it to build yourself a lifestyle, then a web product and/or freelancing will enable you to do so easily. There are a number of blogs about the topic, try this or this. It can definitely be done, and you don't need to build the next Google to do it. And this is the crux of it. Not only you don't need to build the next Google, but you almost certainly won't.
Building some muses to sustain a travelling lifestyle is an altogether different endeavour from building a startup that will change the world. Building a startup requires building connections to the right people, making deals, developing your business in a direct, hands-on way, hiring talented employees, and so on. This is still something that can largely be done only "in person, on site". It's not just about the product.
With every year, it becomes easier to build a completely distributed business (from a beach or from the middle of London), but we are not quite there yet.
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