How to beat jet lag with biohacking

I am a biohacker and I’ve been biohacking for over a decade now. 

Being a practitioner for that long means that I’ve had to chart my way through the unavoidable messiness and realities of everyday life as an entrepreneur. I travel frequently for work. I speak at conferences. I hang at after-conference parties. Rarely do the lives of entrepreneurs drown in a sea of sameness.

Last month after I shared my top tips for entrepreneurs (and others!) to biohack their way to success, I was asked repeatedly over messages, emails, calls, and IRL, what I did in each of the situations that I described above. (Thank you for these conversations. We are all learning – I definitely am.) I promised to share the biohacking techniques that work best for me. 

A few weeks ago, when I traveled to Shanghai to speak at the China Hospitality Technology Alliance (CHTA) conference, I had the opportunity to practice and finetune the practices that help me deal with jet lag. There is a 15 hour time difference between my home base, Los Angeles, and Shanghai. I spoke on stage a day after landing in Shanghai. I had important discussions lined up for the day I landed back in Los Angeles.

I didn’t fly myself to Shanghai. And no, I didn’t get jet lag from this flight. Flying isn’t always stressful! Do you recognize the port I am flying over?

Here’s my current protocol to beat jet lag and stay productive longer:

#1. Biohacking tips before the flight biohacking tips

  • I shift my sleep schedules to the new time zone a day before I fly – giving my body some time to adjust, and usually giving me some uninterrupted focus time at night to clear out any pending action items. I use jetlagrooster.com with the right settings to time things just right. 
  • I take supplements – Ashwagandha (an adaptogenic Ayurvedic herb) and magnesium – to help combat stress. 

#2. During the flight

  • My supplement regimen continues while flying:
    • I take a supplement that combines CoQ10 and PQQ to help maintain my energy levels. Both CoQ10 and PQQ improve mitochondrial function – read about the benefits here and here. I usually take these every 2-4 hours on the flight.
    • I rely on chamomile tea or tiny amounts of melatonin to help sleep deeply during transit. 0.3-0.5mg doses are recommended over the commonly available 1-5mg pills.
    • I keep 5,000 mcg Methyl B-12 (methylcobalamin) lozenges handy for a quick energy boost without needing to resort to the typically horrendous coffee served on planes.
    • I combine ear plugs with noise cancellation headphones to reduce the constant auditory stress of flying. With a few minutes of patience, you can even watch TV/movies this way.
    • I use compression socks/pants occasionally to help circulation
    • Drinks: I’d say skipping alcohol on flights is an absolute must – the impact of alcohol on our bodies when we fly is far worse than if we were on land. It leaves us dehydrated even more than usual flying (Surprisingly, KLM addresses this on their blog), interferes with the sleep that we need while traveling. Studies also show that alcohol disrupts REM sleep. I choose to drink lots and lots of water instead to stay hydrated. 
    • Food: I usually fast when I fly. It allows me to get through my hours of intermittent fasting easily and reset my sleep schedule. Dave Asprey explains the link between fasting and sleep with ease

When you eat, your brain makes a tight link between your sleep and light-dark cycles. Fasting activates a part of your brain called the dorsomedial nucleus that makes you less rigid with your sleep schedule. In a fasted state, you’re more able to reset your sleep schedule to match your environment, meaning you can adjust to time differences and jet lag with ease.

#3. After the flight

  • I expose my skin and eyes to sunlight when possible after landing, helping my body synchronize with the new day/night cycle and regulate melatonin and cortisol production.
  • I walk barefoot on grass after landing. This is a process called earthing. And before you laugh this one off, read about the benefits uncovered by researchers from US and Polish universities: Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons
  • While I’m not a 5am gym rat, I look to get plenty of activity or a work out in after all the sedentary time, especially if I land in the morning or afternoon.
  • This may go without saying, but no late afternoon or early evening naps. There be dragons!

These are my tips – they work for me. I’d love to hear more about what techniques work best for you. Did any of mine resonate with you?

How entrepreneurs can biohack their way to better results

Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof Nutrition, plans to live until at least 180 years. It isn’t a wayward claim – Asprey has been saying this for a long time and routinely asks his podcasts guests “how long do you plan to live?”

How does he plan to live that long? Is it possible to plan at all? It may be, through biohacking: the art and science of improving human performance. For decades now, biohackers around the world have been changing their environment from the inside-out to gain control over their bodies. In the world of biohacking, one size doesn’t fit all – hence the push to treat bodies as personal laboratories to find the exact “hacks” that help upgrade an individual’s performance.

Biohacking benefits for entrepreneurs

Biohacking pays

Why do I, a hotel tech and artificial intelligence entrepreneur, care about biohacking? More importantly, why should you? Let’s start with just three benefits.

Longevity

The obvious answer to why we should be according biohacking a great deal of seriousness is, of course, longevity. In the Blue Zones of the world, people live to 100 years of age and the longest recorded human lifespan is around 120. Assuming Asprey’s claim of living to 180 years is possible, we are talking about an extra 60-90 years of a healthy life! Think of all the good that can be done if the world’s wisest elders had decades more of energetic, mobile life to continue their contributions. What if Einstein was alive today at 140 years of age, furthering his research, instead of dying at 76?

Sounds unbelievable? It may not, once we dive into biohacking in greater detail.

Quality of life

If longevity doesn’t cut it, think instead of the quality of life. Improved cognitive performance, increased productivity, working on our body and mind before we get sick – are all real possibilities with biohacking. While doctors today are primarily focused on treating illnesses, with biohacking we are looking at individualized, self-directed, and preventive healthcare. This isn’t new – we have known about this for decades now through the science of epigenetics.

A WHO study that dates all the way back to the 1980s has shown that only about 10% of our health depends on genetics, while 70% depends on lifestyle choices. That means you can have control over this 70%. Essentially, biohacking is about acting before you experience problems, about tracking your health parameters, and giving your body what it needs to boost productivity.

Serge Faguet

Work smarter

This isn’t an efficiency vs productivity debate alone – though like I’ve said previously, biohacking can improve cognitive performance. Working smarter also involves reducing stress levels and hormones in our system, ensuring that we have more energy, better sleep, better focus & concentration in order to achieve improved performance at work and home.

Biohacking: I’m a believer

I can attest to the benefits that I have personally accrued over the decade that I have been involved in biohacking. Connect with me if you want to chat about these benefits directly.

Biohacking has its share of critics. Here is one self-professed “health nerd” terming it “bullshit” and “nothing new.” And another one talking about the hubris of biohacking. There are plenty of people criticizing Dave Asprey in particular, who is mentioned in the dictionary definition of biohacking. I am not diving into a full-fledged defense of biohacking here. But then, this isn’t a fad I am jumping on either.

The first biohacking workshop (this was on quantified self) that I attended was over a decade ago. And since then, I have attended several conferences including the recent Upgrade Labs’ annual biohacking conference in Beverly Hills. With each conference I attend, there is a new horizon, a new layer to uncover. This conference was no different – the cryotherapy chamber by CryoScience which had me at -157 °F for two minutes was one the most notable experiences.

Nootropics

Anyone familiar with biohacking will tell you that eating right and smart drug experimentation go hand in hand. For about a decade now, I have been experimenting with mild nootropics.

Nootropics is an umbrella term for a class of chemicals — most naturally-occurring, some man made — that give cognitive benefits to the human brain. Here is a beginner’s explanation of nootropics, and here is a more nerdy and rich source of first-hand experiences on nootropics. It is a deep rabbit hole for anyone willing to engage. There are people who attest to incredible benefits, yet others report no impact or typically mild negative effects. My personal favorites are L-Theanine, Curcumin (commonly found in turmeric), and Ashwagandha. All of these have been well-studied with almost no potential downside in reasonable doses, and very well-proven upsides.

Biohacking routines

If you’re curious and want to start on the journey, I’d recommend starting with these practices:

Cold Rinse

  • Time investment: 3 minutes a day
  • Time to feel positive effects: 30 days
  • Recommendation: Take a 2-3 minute cold rinse after your normal hot or cold shower. A cold rinse may sound terrible, but it’s super energizing once you’re over the initial few days of flailing and gasping. Start with a 10 second cold rinse and slowly build up to the maximum cold you can handle. Focus on breathing steadily right through.
  • Why this is important: This rinse helps kill off weak or dying cells in your body (Take a look at hormesis) and helps you gain control over your “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress is linked with overactivation of this fight or flight response, which may currently be over activated within you, causing all kinds of lifestyle issues.

Start A Gratitude Journal

  • Time investment: 5 minutes a day
  • Time to feel positive effects: 30 days
  • Recommendation: Write down three things that you’re grateful for first thing in the morning, and three more just before sleeping.
  • Why this is important: Negative talk in your head holding you back? Hack it with this practice. It doesn’t matter how unimportant or insignificant you think each gratitude item is – even clean water, fresh sheets, reliable electricity count. I know this sounds woo-woo (I thought the same), but the science is compelling. Our minds naturally pay more attention to negative information, which steals our limited attention away from positive information. This was really useful when we were hunting (and being hunted) in the jungle, but presents almost as a design flaw in modern humans.

Lift Heavy Occasionally, Recover Like A Beast

Sleep Right

  • Time investment: 7-8.5 hours a day (non negotiable)
  • Time to feel positive effects: 7 days
  • Recommendation: Spend at least 8 hours in bed every night and 9 hours on workout days.
  • Why is this important: You will likely sleep over 200,000 hours in your life. Have you received even 1 minute of formal instruction on how to succeed at this critical practice? Any sleep training that parents put us through doesn’t count in this instance; the goals they had in mind were different. Enter Why We Sleep, a brilliant book that fills the educational gap here. I think this should be required reading around age 12.

Supplement With Adaptogens

  • Time investment: 1 minute
  • Time to feel positive effects: 30 days
  • Recommendation: Incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your supplementation routine
  • Why are these important:  Do you know about the adaptogen class of herbs? These herbs help your body restabilize regardless of whether you are too high or too low on a specific health marker.

If your cortisol is high, adaptogens help lower it. If your cortisol is low, adaptogens help raise it. Adaptogens can also increase your resilience against aging, stress, and anxiety, and even physical injury. Some can even improve your mental performance. One study found that Rhodiola, one of the most Bulletproof adaptogens can help with problems like, “decline in work performance, sleep difficulties, poor appetite, irritability, hypertension, headaches, and fatigue… developing subsequent to intense… intellectual strain.”

Dave Asprey

They’re pure magic relative to most Western medicine, which can typically only help you either lower or raise a specific marker, often with the risk of toxicity and side effects, which do not seem to be associated with adaptogens at all. Other adaptogens worth considering include rhodiola rosea, ginseng (Asian, Siberian, American species), astragalus, licorice root, and schisandra.

Try Intermittent Fasting

In short: eat, sleep, think, and move right, and you’ll have a performance edge over a vast majority of people. Are you nailing the basics? Add a few other tricks to your bag if you’re aiming to perform among the best in your field.

Why efficiency is overrated

Efficiency, often, isn’t the right goal for me. It probably may not be the right one for you either.

When I say this, I’m clearly not talking of lap times in a car racing game, or how quickly you can stack and unstack cups. Routine tasks beg for optimization – and consequently create a critical difference between productivity and efficiency. I’m not going to dive into the differences here (that’s altogether a different post for later). For now though, I want to talk about why efficiency can’t be an unquestioned, revered goal. Before incredulity slams the window of attention shut, let’s consider this. What does efficiency mean to you?

Mantra for success

Shane Parrish in his blog, Farnam Street, addresses this head on. His provocatively titled post, Getting Ahead By Being Inefficient, is worth the 5-minute read. But if you only want a taste, here is the extract defining efficiency:

Many of us feel constant pressure to adapt perfectly to our environments, especially our workplaces. Don’t waste time, we’re told. Maximize the output of your moments. Minimize your energy expenditure. If you aren’t getting great, someone else is, so before you collapse into a heap of perceived failure, take stock and improve your efficiency. We assume this is the ticket to success—to continually strive to be the best at whatever we are doing.

Efficiency = Least amount of time + effort = Best way to complete a task = Success

If this mantra sounds familiar, it is because we’ve all heard it repeatedly. And for what it’s worth, we’ve had tips (“How to be the most efficient you”) handed out regularly too: look at this Inc article or this Trivago blog post.

Local vs Global

Within a work environment, it’s easy to understand why efficiency is considered a virtue. It is linked to dollars. We want our organizational processes, our teams to be as efficient as possible, as fast as possible. If we don’t plan to always sprint towards efficiency, we as entrepreneurs and the organizations we start/lead are destined to burn cash and ultimately fail. Right? (Spoiler alert: Wrong.)

What then is the problem with efficiency? In Parrish’s words:

Efficiency is great in an unchanging environment, but to expect an environment to remain static is unrealistic. Environments change all the time. When workplaces value efficiency in a changing environment, they become fragile.

At its core, in our preoccupation with efficiency, we aim for a local maximum, climbing the hill nearby. The true goal instead should be to find the global maximum – a mountain that is some distance off – since this pursuit better answers the needs of the market in the long run.

Applied narrowly to our hospitality industry, this local vs global maximum translates into the hotel operations team determinedly chasing efficiency targets by asking fewer staff to keep up with more guest communications through an unprecedented number of channels (in person, phone, text, email, reviews, etc.). This is what I call the “help staff help guests” mode of operations. Based on millions of guest conversations, it’s clear: guest needs have evolved far beyond the physical realm of towels and room service. Today’s most common guest requests are now bite-sized and informational, where we have to get truly productive before we turn our attention to efficiency.

And ay, there lies the rub. Yes, improving the status quo a bit (say, 2-3%) creates more efficiency. But would that be the best possible outcome?

Innovation = inefficient?

If we travel further down the path of chasing efficiency, we will tend to see innovation as inefficient and expensive. I agree completely – innovation is inefficient. After all, innovation requires experimentation, time, and resources to find a potential solution beyond the local maximum. We risk facing failures as we pursue a global maximum, a more perfect solution.

When things didn’t change as quickly as they do now, efficiency and local maximums were more important. It made sense to charge up the nearest visible hill, gather resources, and plot a course for the next mission.

With the exponential rate of change we now experience, technology is enabling entirely new ways to produce desirable outcomes in our business and personal lives. If we choose to pursue efficiency in the existing production model, we leave the door to disruption wide open for anyone else with the right risk appetite to walk in.

If you are an entrepreneur, or have an entrepreneurial mindset, say hello to inefficiency – even if it is for a while.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about why I think authenticity is overrated. Read it yet? Do you have any other concepts in mind that we need to revisit?

Why authenticity is overrated

I’m in the business of helping craft guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

Without fail, I draw hoteliers’ and hospitality leaders’ attention when I tell them what I do. Why? For years now, guest experiences have been considered central to a hotel’s success. And within the realm of guest experiences, authenticity has been the lodestar. I’d bet that if our industry leaders are asked to define what drives unforgettable guest experiences, the word “authenticity” will be in the top five.

Nothing surprising or new, really.

The buzz

Marriott CEO, Arne M. Sorenson flagged authenticity as “the biggest watchword” for the group back in 2014. Hilton launched a new Luxury Experiences platform in July last year – designed to enable guests to book “exclusive, authentic, local experiences.” I’ve cited two examples here  – but really the idea seems universal. Large chains as much as boutique, independent hotels aim to craft “authentic guest experiences.”

I want to take a closer look at authenticity and how we understand it. I find three concepts intertwined with our understanding of authenticity within the hospitality industry:

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13627120
  • In both examples above (and in general within the hospitality industry), authenticity seems to be a strategic organizational decision that hotels undertake to create or aspire to. “We want to create authentic experiences for our guests” is a mantra we have heard repeatedly.
  • Second, machines or technology can’t deliver authentic experiences because they are by definition robotic, machine like, and not human.
  • And finally, people associate authenticity with money. If they are paying more, they expect to walk away with more authentic service.

Beyond the buzz

An acquaintance recently joked that in the pursuit of authenticity, hotels are likely to start charging premium rates for “human only” interactions. I find these concepts interesting, because I disagree with them. And I think it is time we, in the hospitality industry, moved beyond authenticity.

Guests and hotels approach authenticity differently. While hotels think of crafting authentic experiences as a strategic brand/organizational strategy (Micah Solomon captures some wonderful examples here), guests more often than not look at their interactions with hotel staff while defining authentic experiences.

Seth Godin called authenticity overrated. In his words:

Seth Godin: Authenticity is overrated

Authenticity is totally overrated, totally…I don’t want an authentic surgeon who says, “I don’t really feel like doing knee surgery today.” I want a professional who shows up whatever they feel like, right? So there are days that you will see me give a talk or see me write or something where it is not my authentic monkey brain saying whatever pops into its head. This is me playing the role of Seth Godin, being the professional who does what he said he was going to do. If that bothers people that I’m not always authentic, I’m sorry. But at least I’m consistent.

Seth Godin on The Tim Ferris show

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, Godin’s entire conversation with Tim Ferris on this is well worth a listen.

“Such a doll”

I’m in the business of crafting guest experiences in the hospitality industry – through Ivy, the world’s first smartconcierge. The first line you’ll see on Go Moment’s site is currently “Guest Engagement, Automated.” And yet, guests who interact with Ivy routinely praise the prompt service, even stating things like “Ivy… was such a doll” on TripAdvisor.

Statistics show that Ivy enhances not just guest experiences, but even staff engagement at all the hotels she is in. After all, how authentic can we expect the front desk associate to be on the 45th time they answer the same question in one day?

As for people paying more for authentic experiences… personalized, fast, and luxurious experiences are neither synonymous with authenticity, nor must they be expensive. Service on the guest’s terms is today’s ultimate luxury.

Where ideas take flight and inspirations land

A week ago, I was in Austin, Texas.

Hospitality Upgrade EVS Austin, TX, 2019

Hospitality Upgrade hosted their annual Executive Vendor Summit for the 15th year in a row.  Since its inception, The Summit has been an invitation only event. This was my first time. And what an honor it was to be asked to attend; not only becauseGo Moment was invited as a hotel technology company on the rise. Friends and colleagues always talked of The Summit as an important one in the industry events calendar.

This year proved to be no different. The speakers lineup included Dave Berkus (Managing Partner, Wayfare Ventures), Michael Levie (CEO, CitizenM), Carlos Flores (CEO, Sonesta Hotels), Mike Cowles (CEO, Rainmaker) and Luis Segredo (CEO, Data Travel) – veterans of the hotel and the hotel technology industry. What’s more is that the event was organized by Hospitality Upgrade (Rich Siegel, President) and HFTP (Frank Wolfe, CEO). Consequently, the presentations, discussions and networking events were of stellar quality because of the group’s experience and expertise.

Key learnings

A week later, I find that I’m still mulling over these:

Dave Berkus at the Executive Vendor Summit, 2019
  • The insights I gained from Dave Berkus’ sharing about building businesses, valuations and exit scenarios. With 100+ investments in ~40 years, Dave’s experience is unparalleled in the hotel tech industry.
  • Michael Levie and the innovative success that is CitizenM. They’ve perfected the process of manufacturing of prefabricated rooms in Europe. Once done, they shipping them over for assembly, keeping the builds modular and the costs down. This was innovation in an unexpected area. Unsurprisingly, CitizenM has grown from a single Schiphol Airport hotel to 30 hotels with 7,000 rooms across three continents.
  • Carlos Flores’ experience as a web designer and “IT guy” resonated with my own deep experience with these elements. His logical approach to financial management has seen Sonesta growing to a reported 77 hotels in 2018 within a decade.

I know now why folks have attended the Executive Vendor Summit for 15 years in a row (I’m looking at you, Luis!).

For everyone at Hospitality Upgrade, well done and thank you.

(And if you’re wondering about the photograph of me in a helmet, Hospitality Upgrade hosted an indoor skydiving experience at The Summit.)

If you don’t give a dime out of a dollar, you won’t give…

…a million out of 10 million, said Tony Robbins once. Who can disagree with that truism?

Numbers tell a story – or at least a part of it. We produce enough food for the 7 billion people on Earth. And yet, 805 million remain undernourished on a daily basis.

At Go Moment, mostly this year, we have helped provide over 12,000 meals to hungry children. We wanted to say thanks for an amazing 2018.  We wanted to do our share to tilt the scales in favor of the 805 million undernourished.

Journeys

I moved to Los Angeles when I was almost a teenager. After a forced examination of existence itself and some creative raging against the machine, strangely enough, I remember being filled with gratitude. Things were clean and organized in LA in a way I had never before seen, outside of a handful of fancy international airports. I was thankful for the life I was living instead of grieving what I’d left behind. This thankfulness was heightened by the keen awareness that the people I was surrounded by in Los Angeles had very little idea of suffering in other parts of the world. If you didn’t know, I moved here from India where I saw abject poverty and unbelievable wealth walk hand in hand every day.

Gratitude

I express gratitude every day. Perhaps working with people in need is another form of expressing gratitude.

We first supported FeedOne back in 2017. As a non-profit, they ranked incredibly high in transparency and accountability. Personally, I also support and spend time with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Venice. I was first introduced to them by Nick Crooks – a friend whose dedication inspires me tremendously. I can only aspire to his level of service one day.

I’d like to do more. I’ve gained so much from my teachers, advisors, mentors, and elders. I’d like to carve out an opportunity to create positive impact for others.

Everytime I share a story about my personal volunteering, or when folks hear of Go Moment’s efforts, I hear other stories of people helping the underprivileged – working to alleviate hunger or improve education. Thank you for these stories and opportunities; they are hugely inspiring.

Are STOs the new IPOs?

I want to ask entrepreneurs to estimate how much time, energy, mindspace you have spent raising capital. Have you tracked your efforts? Not by how much capital you have raised, but by the number of hours spent raising capital or thinking about it. The US sees 8,000-10,000 yearly VC deals. If these are anything like the ones in my network, founders expect to spend around 200 hours in the fundraising process per successful round – that’s almost 2 million hours each year!

I don’t want to talk about determination, patience, the feelings of getting rejected, or share a list of top 5 ways to raise capital – plenty of articles exist on these topics. Let’s talk about improving your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) instead. More specifically, let’s talk about how fundraising for startups may change with STOs.

Before we start: my comments on STOs are in no way linked to my current role as CEO at Go Moment. STOs piqued my interest because of the number of times it surfaced in my conversations with other entrepreneurs. I’m also not a lawyer, doctor, or financial advisor, nor do I play one on IGTV.

STOs & IPOs

Raising capital doesn't have to lead you to Wall St.
Raising capital doesn’t have to lead you to Wall St. (Photo by Rick Tap on Unsplash)

Are Security Token Offerings (STOs) an alternative to IPOs? They might just be! I’m early my discovery process and am looking for advice/opinions. If you’re looking for a primer on STOs, I like this article by Blockgeeks.

Here is what I know.

ICO = non starter

ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) are mostly dead. The SEC stepped in at the end of 2018 with much needed regulatory clarity. SEC reframed ICOs as security offerings. They said that ICOs either needed to be registered with the SEC or fall under an exemption. In many ways, it marked the end of their run.

From the ICO launch in July 2013 (Mastercoin announced the first ICO ever in July 2013 – AFAIK) till the SEC stepped in, ICOs could be traded instantly, anonymously, without fees and across global borders. In my opinion, these were the reasons why ICOs were marked by as many scams and frauds as we saw. I read one report that said that 10% of $3.7 billion raised in ICOs in 2017 had been stolen.

And yet, for what it’s worth, if you are considering launching an ICO (and are sure it falls under the SEC exemption), here is a list of successful ICOs for inspiration.

STO: Launch and beyond

STOs are the newer avatars of ICOs or in Dean Steinbeck’s words, “an SEC compliant ICO”. To launch an STO now, it’s required to register with the SEC or otherwise show that the offering fits within a registration exemption.

Any lawyer, entrepreneur – or indeed anyone you read or speak with about this – will tell you that STO registration involves long, expensive compliance checks, due diligence audits and procedures. Unless we qualify for exemptions, there are restrictions in place on the investment size and the investors’ profiles.

To me, all of this makes launching an STO very similar to an IPO process – long, expensive, and includes compliance checks.

Here’s the twist: the compliance checks and procedures don’t stop with launching an STO. It’s a continuous process of assessing investors. But this is perhaps where STOs score advantages over IPOs. Compliance can be hardcoded to restrict investors based on stringent KYC policies.

Advantage: STO

There are other advantages to STOs (when compared to IPOs):

  • Fractional ownership is possible. In real terms, this means that you can attract investors with lower sums of money. A bigger pool of potential investors.
  • An STO is not limited to an exchange. We can potentially attract investors globally without being restricted to an exchange.
  • The downside is that, while we do away with exchanges to launch STOs, we still need a platform to issue tokens. Most people I know opt to outsource this. Developing a platform from scratch is expensive right now due to the lack of widely available expertise. There are several developers that I came across: Tokeny, TokenGet, or TokenizEU. I haven’t checked out any in great depth and don’t endorse any of these. Would love to hear recommendations.

We are still early in the STO world. 2019 is flagged as the year that STOs gain serious traction. One analyst pegged the market to hit $1 billion this year). I think though we have a long way to go before we see figures anywhere close to that.

The US apparently leads the total number of STOs that have been launched. Are you following any? What are your thoughts on STOs?

What’s happening at independent hotels

Two days ago, I spoke at the Stay Boutique Live Trifecta event at Los Angeles.

Organized by the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA), the Trifecta brings together an eclectic mix of boutique/lifestyle hotel owners, representatives, consultants and industry publications. As the CEO of Go Moment, I was honored to have been invited to lead a workshop and to be amidst the discussions. It was a fast-paced learning opportunity.

Learnings & Discoveries

Here are top learnings spotted from our team’s conversations:

Boutique hotels
  • The boutique hospitality industry is on an upswing from a growth perspective. Here’s a study that pegged the revenue for the industry at $17 billion dollars in 2018. The 7% growth rate seen in 2017, clearly continued into 2018 as well. There are more numbers at the link about the number of employees, businesses and growth rate. This makes intuitive sense as guests continue to seek more differentiated experiences that are Instagram-worthy.
  • Meeting ever-rising guest expectations is a challenge for boutique and independent hotels. They operate with smaller budgets relative to branded hotels; often working outside the infrastructure that is at the disposal of franchised branded hotels. Mobile apps, booking websites, marketing toolkits aren’t on-hand, ready to be “switched on.”
  • Perspective matters: are we dealing with challenges or opportunities. In an inspiring way, boutique hospitality leaders have leveraged the absence of out-of-the-box infrastructure as an opportunity to innovate. Unsurprisingly, they look to technology to play a significant role to meet and exceed guest expectations pre-booking and on-site.
  • Not having a brand standard to meet has oftentimes resulted in the boutique hospitality industry innovating and exceeding expectations. We are surrounded by examples – Equinox Hotels with its health focus, Public Hotel with “luxury for all” and Yotel adopting the cabin concept, offering lower ADRs in markets like NYC and SF.
  • There were several discoveries on hotel guest behaviors – I want to call out only one.  I learned that TV viewership has remained steady or grown in hotels where relevant content can easily be displayed on screen, and that Netflix is the most-watched ‘channel’ by hotel guests! Clearly, the fact that guests need to type their login and password into the TV to access Netflix is not a deterrent. Thank you, Vanessa Ogle, for this insight.  

Markers

Over half of Go Moment clients are currently independent, boutique, and casino resort clients. We’ve learned a ton from this group of enterprising hoteliers. And yet, questions at the workshop excited me – questions that included how today’s guest experience works with Ivy, how guest conversations can be completely personalized, and how the future of data security and privacy may work given the addition of IoT and smart speakers in the guest room.

Questions that pique are markers of a curious, engaged audience, in my book. And a clear indicator of the standards that the boutique hospitality industry will break in 2019.

Were you at the event? Or are you from the industry and have trends to share? I’d love to hear more.

Go Moment wins Innov8 at HEDNA 2019

Last week, Go Moment won the most innovative solution award at the Innov8 event at the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA 2019) conference in LA. We had eight minutes. And seven other contenders.

Any win energizes a team and the Go Moment team is no exception. We celebrate. Occasionally, we get on a boat, and explore new destinations together.

Three explanations

The win at HEDNA, however, was more energizing than others. Why?

  • Our first in 2019. We’re getting started!
  • The timing. We’re expanding our product offering beyond guest service and hence just being at a hotel distribution focused conference helped us immensely.
  • The all-volunteer team from companies like MGM, Wyndham, Booking.com, and other large hospitality brands was inspiring to work alongside. My special thanks to Sarah Fults (MGM), Inder Banga (Wyndham), Ian Ackland (Booking.com) – your energy to volunteer beyond your busy day-to-day schedules is inspiring!

What did we do right? How did we win this? In my opinion, we got a few things right.

Let me start with the most direct explanation. During our time on stage, we presented our read on the industry, opting for an educational, information-sharing tone instead of a direct product pitch. This resonated with the audience since they were able to map this information to their own experience. By the end of our presentation, we had several people agreeing with us on how disruptive the confluence of technologies (AI, IoT, and Voice) we discussed would be in the guest experience.

Now for the indirect, deeper explanation. We laid the groundwork for this win several months – perhaps a year even – before the conference. Having consistently worked on our network and our media coverage, we were on NBC, Inc.com, Circa, The Economist and several others. I am convinced that this web of visibility helped us secure an invitation to pitch in the first place.

Two learnings

  • Subtlety wins. Direct selling rarely does anymore.
  • Find the do-ers and align with them. Be where they are likely to see.

One observation

Finally, a trend that I see emerging.

Highly specialized solutions around payment seemed to be popular at HEDNA. I am going to bet on a blockchain-type payments infrastructure layer hitting the industry in the coming years, possibly something like Winding Tree.

If you were at HEDNA, and have a different bet, let me know! Actually, even if you weren’t at HEDNA, and have a 2019 prediction for the industry, I’d love to hear and learn.

How to develop a financial plan in 13 hours

…and impress your investors

For most startup founders, few things make eyes glaze over faster than financial modelling and business plan generation. What’s not to love about numbers and wild projections?!

If you are in startup or fundraising mode, chances are that these are high up on your list of things-that-must-be-done. Despite limited time and energy (hello, 100-hour work weeks), we prioritize these because they’re linked to funding and getting VCs attention. Of course, if you’ve started and/or scaled a SaaS company before, none of this may apply to you.

Waitbutwhy, time, free financial plan template
How much time and money are you going to spend developing a financial plan for your SaaS startup?

At Go Moment, I spent 100+ hours with my team and outside vendors working to create a bespoke financial model. It wasn’t pleasant. I still have my battle scars from these times.

What we were trying to do and why it was painful

We set out to create a model from scratch. I tried to do it myself initially, and failed. I was modeling too many things far too granularly for the model to be useful. Numeracy and fluency with Excel were not my friends in this activity.

For the next go, I roped in quantitatively gifted team members, then expanded that to outside consultants, fractional CFOs, advisors… you name it. We went through three or four iterations – and ended up with a result that was, at best, a 5/10. If you want to hear about the details of financial resources that all this took up, you will have to contact me.

I failed not because I didn’t have quantitative expertise – or people with it. It’s hard to know the dimensions to model, the metrics that matter most to the business, and more importantly, to the investors.

There is another way.

Look for the wheel

It was invented a long time ago.

Meet Christoph Janz – a partner at Point Nine Capital. He blogs at The Angel VC (incidentally the tagline for Point Nine Capital too) and is more frequently on Twitter as @chrija. Point Nine Cap, by the way, has a prolific history of backing SaaS startups like Zendesk, Typeform, Algolia (etc).

In 2016, Janz shared a financial plan template that is available for free download. And he topped that with detailed documentation, notes and comments to explain the variables and understand the model better.

It took me about 12 hours to get really comfortable with the linkages and variables, and the output is ~8.5/10. ROI-wise, that’s a 10x return! More time to build… you know, the actual business! 😉

Christoph – thank you. This is my first time writing to say what a difference you made by sharing that template so freely. Having heard you on podcasts like SaaStr, your wisdom and startup experience shine through brilliantly. I’ve shared this model with 20+ founders personally.

If you are a VC, take a look at Janz’ template. I found it later than I would have liked; but it may save you (and your many investees) valuable time, money, and agony. Let me know if it helped you. More to the point, let Janz know what a valuable contribution he has made to the startup community.



What can the Google walkout teach us?

Let’s talk about the Google walkout.

We know the details. On November 1, 2018, 20,000 workers in Google offices across 50 cities walked out. The move attracted tremendous attention – The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo called it “a watershed moment”. Kara Swisher hosted all six of the organizers, at once, on her podcast, Recode Decode.

The Google walkout

Before we go further, know this: Google has backed Go Moment (the official announcement), where I serve as CEO. Besides the investment, I’m fortunate to have a ringside view of the burgeoning voice assistant market, including Google Assistant. I’m not a Googler or a TVC (Google lingo for Temps, Vendors, Contractors) by any means, and I have no access to their messaging boards or discussion groups. I’m an interested, inspired bystander.  

I’m deeply inspired by the energy that defined the Google walkout. To me, the walkout signalled the Googlers admiration for the company they worked for and their determination to hold the company accountable.

What went right

That said, I’m curious about something: why did the walkout get all the media attention that it did?

  • Was it the number? Over 20,000 people is a significant number – considering that people have taken on companies alone.
  • Was it the number of people protesting at a tech company? Unions enable protests and there are no unions at tech companies (right?). Perhaps the collectivization was surprising.
  • Did the walkout get the timing right? A central issues of the walkout was the $90 million dollar payout to Rubin despite sexual misconduct allegations against him. In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, a walkout on the issue was bound to garner attention.
  • Or did the walkout hit headlines because it happened at Google?

Maybe all these reasons had a role to play. If you read an article that explained the contributing factors behind the popularity, link me please?

It matters

Why do I care about the attention that the walkout managed to garner?

There is a lesson to be learnt there – about attracting media attention.

Protests within the tech industry are spreading. Amazon has had a long history of workers protesting against the wages and working conditions (reports here and here. The Guardian has just announced a new column Amazon Diaries). They have happening over at Microsoft, Salesforce and elsewhere.  Even non-technology companies like Marriott recently experienced labor problems around in part due to their adoption of tech. And yet, more are likely on the way. Swisher, at the end of her podcast, calls on the walkout organizers to “get over to Facebook and help those people over there immediately”.

I agree completely with Kara – the walkout is an inspiration. Googlers are a role model for the rest of industry.

The exponential rate of change we’re all facing now necessitates some tough conversations. The response by Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) was along expected lines for the tech giant, and will no doubt serve as a precedent for other titans of industry. Empathy and great listening skills are both essential for leaders.

If we are going to see more and more protests – protests that are as inevitable as they are necessary – media attention can help underrepresented stakeholders have a voice. And that, in my book, is a very good thing.