Is That a Lifestyle Business You Have There?

2012-12-16-08.52.26Why yes, it is. But it’s the kind that scales. Or, the kind that enables high growth scaling if that turns out to be the best tool for the job.

We (my wife and I) started Playpen Labs with the stated goal of figuring out which company we want to build. We knew a few of the parameters as we got started. First of all, we knew we wanted to start our own company as a place to allow us to work on things that interest us. And our interests tend to change, so not having to explain that to anyone else when we want to take a new direction, at least for a while, was a prime driver.

The other was the question of when and where to work. I’m from Denmark and my entire family lives in Denmark, while my wife is from Philadelphia, where most of her family lives. With us living in San Francisco, the 3 or 4 weeks of annual vacation we’d have and the way that vacation would need to be planned when working for someone else just wouldn’t give us the flexibility we want. But despite the fact that we did buy an old RV to have the option to go work on the road, we were not looking for the complete digital nomad package. Having a base is perfect, as long as the work can be taken on the road or put on hold when needed. Also, our goal is to build businesses that we think are cool to work on, and that may very well be businesses that have to scale and require a larger team to be successful. So full-time living out of a backpack with a laptop was not an end-goal.

Our approach so far is finding niches to build business tools for. At the moment we are combining client work, mostly in areas related to the tools we are building, with user research/customer development, general research, and building and testing MVPs and prototypes. It’s a blast, even though the reality of bootstrapping moves in real close once in a while as income and savings fluctuate to say the least. But so far we mostly keep it cool, or maybe we’ve just developed a dangerous level of risk tolerance.

So are we looking for investment? Not right now. Invested capital is a tool, the means to an end, and not the tool we need most at the stage we are at right now. Of course Investment is about more than just capital. It’s also about partnering with the right people who can help accelerate a company and move at the speed that’s needed to play the high growth game. Managing high growth is not our main challenge at the moment…

So while it is very possible that investment will be a useful tool if any of our projects take off, at this point we are focused on finding the area we want to start a business in that we will work on for 5 to 10 years. And as importantly, on finding the right form for that business so that we can combine the type of business we want to build, with the kind of life we want to lead. So yes, I guess that makes it a lifestyle business.

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