Changing gears: a 20startups update

A reflection on progress, and setting a new direction for the future.

Changing gears: a 20startups update

The aim from the start has always been to find some interesting ideas and to pursue them beyond the experiment... And I have found two that I want to pursue right now:

1: Project:Work (2nd iteration)

What and why?

Entrepreneur/solo worker loneliness and mental health are important but underserved, and the world is trending towards greater separation and gig economy work – so this problem is only going to get worse. People are spending more time alone at home, without engaged people to discuss their work/project with, or working in coffee shops without a more permanent layer of community.

I’m building a workspace community/network that provides a number of ways to bring mutually useful people together to connect, team-up and support each other. I’m attempting to rethink professional connection and interaction from first principles, as LinkedIn doesn’t deliver.

I'm drawing inspiration from the way that physical coworking functions: taking the aspects of community, social discovery and structured interaction, and making them digital and globally accessible.

I've been testing pieces of this platform as individual experiments (Skillmap, Project:Work V1 and Readyset), and will continue to develop and merge them into something that is better able to solve this problem.

The name Project:Work refers to the nature of the project... it's a work in progress, an ongoing project to find a new, sustainable future of work.

2: Zeropercent

What and why?

A community home for the growing trend of low/no drinking.

I have about 1200 people daily active on this chatbot and website, and I think this is just beginning to tap a huge wellness trend towards non-alcoholic lifestyle and socialising. Even within the alcohol industry, the fastest growing segment is the non-alcohol beers and spirits.

My aim will be to continue to develop ZeroPercent so it becomes the online home for that community.

But let's have a reflection on 20startups so far:

"What gets measured gets managed"

As the time remaining with my original 20startups challenge crossed a certain threshold, I was finding myself rushing a product or racing to move on before something has hit its stride. The timeframe incentivises fast building, but dis-incentivises producing content around the project, spending time growing the channels and communicating with the market niche, and reflecting on the outcome.

Was it a ridiculous premise?

Yes. But intentionally. Attempting to build 20 things in a year, when I had never hand-built an app of any sort was an outrageous challenge... but still one that lit a fire under me and challenged me to learn so I could rise to the challenge. It also kept me on my toes... the pressure was very real.

The 'one year' vehicle has been a useful tool – I've learnt how to code market-ready web apps in Python and Django and I've done it by building more than 10 apps in 10 months, shipping to a user-base that has grown to more than 2K combined daily users.

Since I started the challenge, I have become my own technical co-founder.

It's hard to overstate how empowering and freeing this is. Before, it felt more like I would need to hunt around and find a technical cofounder to team up with, or I would have to hack something together with 'no-code' tools (but constraining the idea along the way). Now, I can build a creative, testable MVP within a few weeks, letting me evaluate an idea much faster and with more creative freedom.

So what's happening with 20startups?

In short: I'm going to keep it running in parallel.

And I'm dropping the time dimension for now. I'm already moving fast, but there's a risk that I focus on building less interesting, quirky or ambitious things for the sake of quantity. I don't want to fall into the trope of building job boards or aggregator sites.

However, the 20 target is still compelling to me: planning experiments to evaluate a creative idea, building a vehicle with which to test it and measuring the response is still a great exercise in exploration. By sticking to 20, I continue training my product-building muscle, and playing with some fun concepts I have in my head.

But I want to tackle them in a richer way from now on: producing video of the milestones and progress, sharing live-stream work sessions. By having more room to breathe, I'll have more space to share the process and open it up to more discussion.

Look forward to sharing the journey with you!


I still have about 8% of the original timeline left, so I'll be interested to see where I get to, and will do a proper recap of the first 12 months then.

The ride is just beginning ✌️💥