Getting more done in 2015

After posting my 2015 goals, Miki Szikszai asked “What are you going to do less of to give you time to do more of the other stuff?”.

Great question. Miki is a smart guy and knows that if you want to add something, you need to take something away. It is often forgotten when dreaming up all the things you’ll do.

So what am I trading for my goals?

1. More focused evenings, less gaming

I used to unwind by playing computer games in the evenings. I’d bash out a couple of hours of Starcraft 2, or similar style game. I now only play for a couple of hours a week, usually in a weekend.

2. Less nights out in the weekend

Thanks to my job, I spend a lot of time at events having drinks with people. Or meeting them in the day for coffee. It means that I’m pretty much socialised out by the time the weekend rolls around these days.

3. Wake earlier to nail the fitness goals

I swear that the day gets more hours when you wake up earlier. Knocking out my fitness regime before 7am is fantastic. Nobody notices that you haven’t combed your hair when you’re running at 6am – they’re all just as asleep as you are.

4. Theme weekends

This is something I’m working on at present. In the past I’d flail around trying to do a little of every goal I had in the weekend. Now I’m trying to allocate a theme to a weekend. Last weekend, for example, was focused on learning more about general purpose GPU programming. Focus always positively impacts results.

Another positive result is that you will nearly always have the feeling of achievement. Scatter gun focus on the weekend typically leads to not making head way on anything.

5. Reducing distractions

I’ve largely ceased checking twitter & Facebook during the day. Unless directly messaged (which would trigger a push notification anyway), I won’t log in to social platforms except in the time windows that I’ve allocated to engaging on them. This is typically while having my morning coffee at about 7:30am, and again at about 9pm at night as I’m winding down for the night. There’s zero reason to use these time sucking services in the peak output periods of my day, they literally destroy productivity.

At this time, these 5 things are providing a significant boost in the number of hours available to achieve what I want.

Of course this all sounds great but let us see how the 2015 year in review turns out…


My 2015 goals

I like to publish my goals each year so that I can go back and review at the end. Without too much fanfare, here’s the 2015 set!

1. Improve my C/C++ skills

I learned to code in C when I was about 10 years old. After a year or two I picked up some higher level languages and ran with them.

I don’t do too much coding at work any more. I do want to maintain my skills in software development because I love creating things.

I’ve always been a tad frustrated that my C/C++ skills were not strong enough to pick up and run with some projects that I like (I’m looking at you OpenTTD…)

2. Maintain my weight in the late 70’s

I recently clocked my 2014 goal of being 79.9Kg. I’d like to stay in that area!

3. Around the lake cycle race

In 2014 I failed at this. After casually mentioning it to my friend Andrew, he clamped onto the idea like a rabid dog. I don’t see anyway out of it for 2015, which is great!

4. Expand Raygun in the U.S.

This is already in progress, but in 2015 we will have a team in the U.S. Go big or go home.

5. Speak at international conferences

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at numerous New Zealand events and always love the opportunity to improve my public speaking. Time to take it to the world stage.

6. See my family more

In 2014 I regretted not seeing my parents or siblings as much as I’d like. In 2015, I’m gunning to visit them once a quarter.

7. Write more

I’m a big believer in writing. The act of writing forces you to spend more time articulating your thoughts. I will try to get more posts written on here this year. I failed at this last year, I will succeed this year.

8. Read more

I’ve certainly increased my reading in 2014, but I want to make it a concrete goal in 2015. I’m not a fast reader. My goal? 24 books in 2015.

9. Build some sort of robot (Ideally that doesn’t kill all humans).

I’ve been tinkering with integrated systems and electronics in recent years. Nothing cool enough to show off — just building up my electrical engineering skills. I’d like to have something to show off by the end of 2015. I’m hoping that goal #1 could play a part here too.

What do you think dear reader?

Resolution update: weight loss

A few weeks ago I wrote about my 2014 year in review.Weight drop over time
One thing that bugged me was that I didn’t hit my weight loss goal. I hadn’t really gone up, or down, I had maintained. If anything, that made me more annoyed – if I’d just put in the effort for a little while, I would have made it and maintained it. Bummer.

I decided that I wouldn’t post my 2015 goals until I crossed that goal off of last years list.

I’m pleased to say it took 21 days of effort, and I lost 5.3Kg in that time. I don’t like to waste time on these things and I don’t think I could have lost that any faster.

This puts me bang on my 2014 target of 79.9, moving out of the 80’s.

How did I do it?

There’s a lot of truth to “put down the pie” when it comes to weight loss. I’m a geek, so I wanted to use some tools to tell me just how much pie I could eat, and what the impact was. I also wanted to maximise the automation in tracking my progress because I like that sort of thing.

1. MyFitnessPal

This app on my iPhone was awesome. I was referred it by my lawyer who was using it last year. You set your weight goal, when you want to hit it, and it tells you how much energy you can consume each day to hit that goal. It also provides full nutritional info and gives you tips as you add items.

The killer feature for me is that you can scan barcodes to pull in the nutritional information. I can scan the code from a can of peaches, and bingo, it’s on my list for the day and tells me what my remainder for the day is. There’s also a massive library of crowd sourced nutritional information.

2. FitBit step tracker

I’ve been using a FitBit for a few years after my friend Tim gave me one. I use it non-stop.

I already do some running, but I decided to up my regime to running 8km every day. I have now done that for 21 days in a row. I also did it at about 6am every morning which was just a fantastic way to start the day.

Cool thing here? MyFitnessPal syncs in my FitBit data and knows to increase my allowed energy intake for the day due to my exercise volume! Pretty cool.

3. FitBit WiFi scales

In late 2014 I purchased some FitBit WiFi scales. I called this my “first world problem purchase of 2014” for a reason: I couldn’t be bothered writing my weight into a spreadsheet every day, and for about $200 USD I could have it wireless update my weight on my FitBit profile.

What was neat about these scales was not just the time it saved me, but also that this data also synced into MyFitnessPal!

I could then track my eating, my fitness and my weight all from MyFitnessPal and see the results almost every day. The FitBit scales also attempt to do body fat % scanning, which is not all too reliable, but if you weigh yourself at the same time every day can give you a rough approximation.

4. Create a routine

I’d get up at 5:50am and weigh myself before getting ready for my run at 6am. The benefit of this timing was that I was weighing myself at a consistent time AND I was looking forward to seeing the impact of the previous day.

Some random notes

Everyone is different and loses weight in different ways. I’ve always found that, for me, I can drop weight really quickly when I suddenly kick into it. It then plateaus as my body responds to having less energy supplied. You can see it in the screenshot above – it took me almost a week to break through from 80.

Secondly, the first 7-8 days is really hard. You feel super hungry because your body has not adjusted to the reduced intake. After that time I found myself barely noticing that I was hungry. If you can stick it out for that start period, you’ll be OK.

I’m now happily in a healthy BMI range, hitting my 2014 goal. My 2015 goal will be to maintain a weight at around 79Kg. Speaking of which, I’ll publish my 2015 goals soon — now that I’ve knocked the weight goal off.


2014 Year In Review

2014 was a stellar year for me and will certainly be one I remember fondly as one of the best in my life.

First, lets review the 2014 goals that I set.

1. Get married.
Zheng and I got married in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands on October 31st. It was an absolutely flawless event surrounded by our closest friends. We both had a fantastic time and I could not be happier.

2. Twelve high quality posts here.
I failed at this, only managing 4 posts across the year.

3. Double my investment portfolio value.
This one is hard to measure as I specifically excluded my private business ownership. In April Mindscape completed a capital raise that I personally invested in since I believe so strongly in what we do. If I were to include just the sum invested in that round, I far exceeded my goal.

4. Complete the round-the-lake cycle race
I failed at this. With our wedding, a lot of travel, and a frantic pace of work at Mindscape, I wasn’t in a position to do the race this year.

5. Get my weight under 80kg
I failed at this. I did pretty well at staying healthy, running approximately 1,500km but my weight didn’t decrease by a meaningful amount (thankfully it didn’t increase!)

6. 2,500 twitter followers
I failed at this. I ended up on 1495 followers at the end of the year.

7. Two business goals
At the time of writing my 2014 goals I wasn’t prepared to announce what we were doing at Mindscape. We had concluded to raise capital, and I had strong ambitions for what we could do in 2014. I’m pleased to say that both the goals were met (the latter, exceeded), they were:

  • Complete a successful capital raise for Mindscape to accelerate the Raygun product.
  • Increase Raygun monthly revenues by of 500%

It is likely that my failures in 2014 were a result of achieving these goals. I’m OK with that.

Looking at some of the bigger themes of 2014

A year dominated by business

Committing to undertaking a capital raise is no small endeavour. Jeremy & I were both excited and a touch intimidated by the whole process and what it would mean when we completed the raise. Having a great support network around us helped a lot, Mark Clare certainly helped us a lot in managing the process. We did a lot of things our own way, and in retrospect, it was the right thing for us.

We also moved the company office to a bigger location, more than doubled the head count and got a lot more customers. It was intensely busy for the entire year. I’ve been learning a lot more about trying to cultivate a good team culture, building scalable sales & marketing teams, and rounding out the team to plug the areas that we’re weak in.

It was also awesome to win the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards category for Innovative Software for our work on Raygun.


Getting married

Getting married later in the year was a wonderful experience. I’m extremely fortunate to have found a person who so perfectly complements me. There was the added benefit of being able to escape to a tropical island with an awesome set of friends just as everyone was feeling ready for a holiday too!



I’m very fortunate that I get to travel a lot for work – I get to see some really great places. I finally visited Seattle and got to see the Microsoft headquarters (something that I’ve wanted to do since I was about 10). It’s fantastic getting to meet customers, partners – even competitors – in their home towns.

The ironic thing is, I actually really hate flying. My Stag Do involved hiring two chartered aircraft and my friends can attest that I’m a giant wuss when it comes to air travel. I do what I need to do however.


This is the one area I’m a bit disappointed in for 2014. I didn’t see my siblings or parents enough. It was great to get them to our wedding, but there was too much time between seeing them. I’ll aim to fix this in 2015.

2015, come at me bro

2014 was such an amazing year that I’m slightly daunted for how high I have to aim for 2015! That’s a high quality problem.

I’ll post my goals for 2015 shortly – certainly writing them down has kept my goals close to front of mind in 2014 so I’ll be sticking with this tradition.

Step away from the computer

16 year old me would be ashamed. Here I am writing a post advocating less time at a computer.

When I was younger I used to glorify the hacker ethic. I’d code, and code, and code. I would read and watch everything I could about software development. I’d spend as much time as I could at the computer. By 30 years of age I had more than 20 years of software development experience. I thought that was a smart way to achieve my goals.

As I’m getting older, I’m seeing the value of stepping away from the computer & just thinking.


I’m no runner, I never will be. I’m a plodder. But, a couple of years ago I started plodding around a couple of times a week. What I noticed was that when I went running, I’d have time to think. Clear thoughts too. I was away from distractions, alone to think. It was a stark contrast to almost every other hour of my day.

You’ll be amazed at the value you can get from having time to think long and clearly about things.

As an example, on one particular run a year or so back I realised I had an opportunity to make $25,000 that wouldn’t take much effort. I never would have thought of it if I was gazing at a computer screen, or being interrupted by my phone.

Not all benefits of having time to think are financial of course. Being alone with my thoughts has been a good way to rationalize them & understand my own motivations better. It helps cut through the noise and get clarity on all the things going on around me. I’m happier because I understand myself and my goals better.

The computer is a tool, not a lifestyle

Herein lies the issue – we’re all staring at our phones, our computer screens and soon, our watches. It has become a way of life when it really shouldn’t be. When you need to leverage a computer you should, but in reality it’s probably far less than you do.

Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan

Reading the biographies of the old tycoons has made me appreciate that time to think is a true strength & differentiator. The terrific wealth and power created at the time was certainly a function of a lack of laws, but also, I think from being able to spend more time thinking. There were substantially less distractions than there are today.

Plenty of time was spent alone, in an office. The most advanced tools they had was often a blackboard and a slide rule. More time was spent thinking about strategy, not checking what Twitter had to say, or getting text messages.

Some, like Rockefeller, demanded contact in writing rather than telephone to better manage distractions out of his life.

Even in modern times, folks like Bill Gates would take reading weeks, going away & off the grid to read, plan and define strategy without distraction.

What works for me

Everyone is different, but here’s what works for me.

  1. Find an hour a day that you can be alone (this can be tough at times).
  2. Experiment with music, or no sound, as a background. What works for me varies.
  3. You don’t have to run. A walk is also good – something mildly active seems to stimulate thoughts.
  4. It’s not always about great insight, sometimes it’s just to clear my head and get some exercise.

Your thinking time

When do you get time to think? Are you finding that time frequently enough?

When will you sell your business?

This is a question that almost every business owner gets asked. Especially if your business is about selling a product.

It bugs me.

I feel like the question makes the presumption that the business goal is the exit. There’s plenty of businesses out there being designed from day-1 as a “build to flip” business. That’s fine, but it’s not how I’d build a company.

What’s my goal? Build strong dependable cash flows.

It leaves all options open:

  • Trade sale.
  • IPO.
  • Keep doing what you’re doing.

I particularly like the third option, one that’s often not available to the ‘built to flip’ business because they usually don’t make enough money to sustain themselves. They usually try to build a technology, or obtain some revenue-rainbow metric like ‘users’ and find a buyer who will value that.

The third option means even if you don’t sell or IPO your business, you can cry yourself to sleep at night and wipe those tears away with the stacks of cash the company is making.

Hope is not a strategy

Strong dependable cash flows gives you the power to choose any path you want. Even if you choose to raise money you come at it from a position of strength if you’re cash flow positive. It means you have all possible cards to play at the poker table of business. That’s a Good Thing.

I’m always at a loss as to why it’s treated as a bad thing in the tech sector.

Matix virtual world

Software is eating the world

This comes as no shock to anyone – software has been replacing a lot of things over the past few decades. This post is about that, but why I think we’re still only at the beginning of it all.

Virtual Reality

Michael Abrash published a PDF about where he believes Virtual Reality will be within the next 2 years. It’s a great write up and really helps give some framing to what you can expect. Michael knows his stuff and is working on VR at Valve software. He’s also one of the pioneers in 3D graphics having worked alongside John Carmack on games like Quake.

I’m super exciting about VR. I backed the Occulus Rift on Kick Starter. I spent more than my fair share of time focusing on how to make it more immersive. I really enjoy researching it.

I’m curious about who else is seriously interested in this space, so I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts on where this technology could take us.

Integrating more of your senses

Current virtual reality work focuses on the visuals & tracking. Making things work visually is the first big step. Tracking is improving, latencies are dropping. The ability to have the world around you adjust fast enough to your head movements is important in creating full immersion.

But that’s just one of your senses being served.


The major advancement after the visuals will be touch. Tactile response will take immersion to a significantly higher level.

Obviously there’s a lot of work to make this work. I personally don’t even know where I’d start with this. Maybe some crappy gloves? The issue here would be the strength and the awareness you had to wear gloves to make it work. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

Touch will unlock the real power of software. It will make the “software is eating the world” metaphor of today look like the entrée.

All hardware becomes software

Consider a world where you have amazing VR headsets – full motion tracking, detail so high you can’t tell the difference between real life and the screen in front of your eyes.

Then consider we have nailed the tactile response problem.

Why do we need hardware? Almost anything can be software.

In your virtual world you have an iPad. You’re using it in your hands. It looks great. It’s not real. It’s just a software simulation of an iPad. But it feels real. It’s no less real to you than the hardware based version you have today. Only this one could literally weigh 0 grams if you wanted.

Existing hardware is dead

When a “new iPad” is released, it’s a software update – not something constructed in China, shipped to your door. You update it instantly over the air.

You decide your TV needs to be the size of your entire wall for a movie night? No problem, it’s just a property you set on your TV. Because the TV isn’t real, only existing in your Virtual Reality world, it can be any size you want it to be. Could this be the future of the in-app purchase? Upgrade to a 120″ TV screen – $1.99!

Need a 3rd monitor on your PC? What about a wall of monitors? What about changing all their sizes? All software.

Think about this for a moment. It starts to get insane how many things you don’t really need once it’s inside a realistic virtual space.

People could have apartments that only have their bed, kitchen, couch, dining table. Nothing else.

Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality?

Some of this doesn’t need to be in an entire Virtual Reality space. Some of it could just be Augmented Reality. The Television example, or iPad example. You may still have your actual apartment or workspace around you, but just be seeing physical objects that don’t actually exist.

The benefits of the model

Remember when computers seemed new? You wouldn’t need to buy expensive encyclopedias for your kids – you wouldn’t need to cut down half a tree just to print those books. You didn’t need a type writer. You could store your recipes on there.

Then the internet took that up a level too.

What I’m suggesting for the future makes that look like peanuts. Think about all the different things that wouldn’t actually be needed. I can see about 20 things on my desk alone that could just be virtual. Resource consumption would plummet. Shipping would be non-existent. Demand for software developers would explode.

The App Store model would replace almost everything you buy from Amazon. The only exceptions I can think of are food and furniture. I also suppose folks won’t be adopting nudism, so lets lock in clothing as still existing too 😉

If you ever wanted to disrupt Amazon, you’d do it by making the need for delivery & warehousing redundant.

How far away is this?

I think it’s still pretty far away. But still closer than many might imagine – inside my lifetime is my hope. The big challenge in my view of the future here is the tactile response hardware. There’s significant investment occurring in the visual & tracking space, but less so in the tactile response arena.

About a year ago I spent a reasonable amount of time researching what did exist in the tactile space. It didn’t fill me with confidence as the current “state of the art” wasn’t very good. Having said that, it struck me as being where Virtual Reality was about 20 years ago. Technology moves faster and faster.

Do you agree?

What do you think? Where do you see this technology going?

I think it’s an awesomely exciting time to be alive. What strikes me as crazy is that almost anyone reading this blog is likely to have the ability to be part of creating this type of future. I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in this type of space as it would be great to share some ideas.

My 2014 Goals

I don’t normally write publicly what my goals for each year are but decided it might help me hit more of them if folks knew them. I’m pretty good at hitting my annual goals (typical strike rate of about 80%) so curious to see if I can improve on that by sharing them.

In no particular order…

Get married

In 2013 I got engaged to the perfect woman for me. I’m not a huge fan of being engaged for a long time so looking at getting married this year.

12 high quality blog posts here

This isn’t one of them 🙂 I actually quite enjoy writing. When I do it consistently I get better at it too! About one solid post a month seems like an achievable goal (history would strongly disagree with me though ;)).

Double my investment portfolio value

This excludes my holdings in my companies & private company investments. I enjoy dabbling in the share market and have done so since my mid teens. I haven’t normally had a goal beyond ‘don’t lose money’, so we’ll see how it goes this year. This excludes new investment, just double the sum currently invested.

Complete the round-the-lake cycle race

My 2013 fitness goal was to do a half marathon and I did that (also doing it again this year). This year I needed a new challenge physically so a 160km cycle race seems like a goer. I used to love cycling but haven’t done any in about a decade. Time to buy a new bike and nail it. Anyone keen to join me?

Get my weight under 80kg

Does anyone ever not have a weight goal for each year? I’m only 4Kg off this but it would be a nice psychological win to get out of the 80s.

2,500 twitter followers

Currently at 1,085. If you like business, investing and technology you could help me out 🙂

Two business goals

I have two business goals that I’ll be keeping under wraps for now. I’ll report on them at the end or during the year when they’re hit.

They’re my goals for 2014. What are some of yours?

Why is not free

When we released, one of the deliberate decisions was to not provide a ‘Free’ version (beyond the free trial that is!).

Many of our competitors do have a freemium model. They trumpet how many users they have, and yet I’m doubtful that some of them actually make very much money.

Here’s how I weigh freemium for


  • You get a nice big vanity number of users.
  • Some of those users may one day start paying you, one day.
  • The user metric may assist in boosting valuation.
  • Some investors may see that number as validation of ‘traction’.
  • Some acquirers may see that as potential revenue being left on the table.


  • Paying users are subsidising free users, lowering your margin.
  • While “software developers” is not a tiny market, it’s not a massive one either. With 1% paying we couldn’t end up with 1 million paying customers.[1]
  • It consumes a lot more time & effort in supporting Free users (and those who claim you could just offer no support… yeah… right).
  • We start paying attention on a number that doesn’t matter because it makes us feel good. Even if subconsciously.

As with most business decisions, I keep evaluating the freemium concept for So far I’m still sticking with ‘no, it would not be a good idea’ for many of the reasons above.

I do suspect that having a lot of free loaders can play to your advantage in an exit negotiation. There is a revenue rainbow that can be sold: “If we just get 10% of those free loaders to pay we could make, like, a million dollars!”.[2] I often wonder if this sort of logic is why we see so many acquisitions in the tech sector and then we see that product get shut down 6-12 months later. They never do manage to catch that rainbow.[3]

Having a business focused on generating sales and supporting those paying users well is the fastest way to be a viable business. Surely if you’re wanting to depend on a service you’d want to ensure they’re going to be around for a while, being cash flow positive is one way to ensure that.

[1] This would be a different story if our products were a consumer play.
[2] Interestingly we’ve found that it’s very rare to have users say we charge too much. Users fall into one of two camps typically: complaining that our product is not free, or a paying happily. While completely unscientific I believe this is also why you’ll never convert many the free loaders to paying – if they didn’t value you to start with, why would they start now?
[3] Others are clearly just acqui-hires, where they don’t care about the product and just want the team.