Oh The Places You’ll Go! (Tropical MBA News)

Over the last fiscal quarter, I haven’t posted much on the blog. In October, after a nearly 2-month hiatus, I started to get some emails from worried readers. What’s up Dan? You okay?

One community member said to me, “no offense, but more interesting stuff happens in the community in one week than has ever happened on your blogs.” No offense taken. How can you compete with 450+ fascinating people doing amazing stuff with their lives?

When I started this blog I wasn’t sure where it would go. It seems that, without much deliberate planning on our part, our community has become the best place on the webs to meet up with other legit, bootstrapping, traveling, internet entrepreneurs. People who are actually living the location independent lifestyle.

These entrepreneurs are incredibly earnest, positive, and helpful people. There isn’t a ton of room for sarcasm and cynicism when you are in a position to articulate things you love, and then make them happen in the world.

Over the past 5 months, this blog has been like an iceberg– all of the action is under the surface.

Some of the highlights for me:

  • Hosting over 40 entrepreneurs on a remote island in the Philippines to work together and to have some crazy adventures.
  • Meeting 100’s of blog readers in places like: Bali, Manila, Davao, Singapore, New York City, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Saigon, and many more.
  • Hosting our first “serious” event, where over 120 people showed up for an opening party in the hip Aloft hotel in Bangkok. An unforgettable weekend of entreprenurial learning was made even cooler by appearances from Derek Sivers, Simon Black, Joe and Justin, Chris Ducker, Brendan Tully, Ian Borders, Travis Jamison, and many more amazing people. This was easily one of the best weekends of my entire life.
  • Going on an entrepreneurial pilgrimage to Chiang Mai with a huge number of DCers and other internet entrepreneurs.
  • Adding some inspired new full-time team members and seeing our business click over to a multi-million dollar run rate.

For today’s post, I wanted to take you through some of the photos I’ve taken since June and show some of the behind the scenes stuff. If you aren’t interested in TMBA news, check in Friday afternoon for another episode of Tropical Talk Radio.

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June – our first in-person Tropical MBA class.

One weekend, sitting around in our house in Bali, the idea came up (and I can’t remember who first had it)– wouldn’t it be cool if we invited entrepreneurs to the Philippines and worked directly with them for a few weeks in-person? This blogging stuff doesn’t work nearly as well as sitting down with somebody 1 on 1! 

The next day, Ian and I got on the horn to record this episode of the Lifestyle Business Podcast, where we basically fleshed out the product concept during the show. This particular show also includes one of my favorite LBP moments of all time. I asked Ian how much we should charge and he said “two to three thousand bucks.” That was way less than I thought he would say, and I thought 2K was reasonable. We made sure the price would work from a cost perspective and had the sales page up within a week. When we turned the sales page live and the end of the week, we ended up selling out two full sessions before the weekend was through.

At the time, all we had was a concept and a buy-now button. We were then faced with the challenge of pulling together the product. There were a million open questions. Who was going to show up? What on earth were they going to think of the Philippines? Could we help them in a meaningful way with their ventures?

After packing up my stuff in Bali, and leaving our beloved villa with a few months to spare on our lease, I headed off to the Philippines to get down to business.

Wow! What a classy crowd. That’s Dan Norris from Inform.ly, and Tim Conley from the Foolish Adventure Show at our first Tropical MBA event.

Here’s a pic from one of our first sessions. It looks like Ian is up at the front of the room, so he’s probably talking about money or manufacturing.

We learned so much during this first TMBA session. We saw a lot of amazing businesses get off the ground (and some even make sales!). We cut our teeth on public speaking while developing two weeks of content on the fly. Our goal was to try translate some of the most important lessons we’ve learned in the last 5 years of business to our attendees.

As was the case with all of our TMBA events, so many of the students had incredibly unique skill-sets and experiences, so just being in the same room with each other was incredibly valuable.

I feel close to many of the attendees of these events just because of all the time we spent together and experiences we shared. Not only did we work very long days, but we risked our lives together on crazy boats, motorcycles, and all the rest! For a long time I’ll be nostalgic for the good times had at these events.

It was near the end of the event that Ian and I decided two things regarding our own business: 1) we needed to get to Hong Kong in order to do some banking / business related stuff and 2) we needed to nix the Cambodia motorcycle trip we had been planning to fly to Thailand to finalize arrangements for a kick ass event for our Dynamite Circle members (in retrospect, a pretty good idea). That takes us to…

July – Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Me and the boss love Hong Kong! $3 noodles in the shadows of huge skyscrapers. Ian had our HK trip well planned out– we spent two full days pounding the pavement, meeting with a variety of financial consultants, accountants, and bankers. Not exactly my idea of fun, but we got to stop for plenty of noodles and managed to do some people watching at Hong Kong’s wonderful bars in the evenings. While we were doing all this, we were waiting for our China visas to be finalized. We were over-due for a few factory visits.


Ugh, gotta say I’m not the biggest fan of going to China anymore. The trip was 100% worth it, but only to hang out with Matt and Jamon from HighCappin’ who were super generous and showed us a fantastic time (Matt and Jamon also came to our next TMBA event to present on manufacturing, and also were attendees at our DCBKK event. Thanks guys!)

As I was touring China, I decided that I’m pretty much ready to emotionally move on from our product business and focus full-time on our work with entrepreneurs. To that end, I wrote an article that served as my swan song to China factory visits (and hot-ass green tea).


After we squared away stuff in China, we hit the escape hatch for Vietnam– one of our favorite places to travel. There we saw many beautiful things…

But the most beautiful things in Vietnam aren’t the mountains, beaches, or people. It’s the food! :)

After touring Vietnam for a while, we put our working hats on. We had to get to Bangkok to finalize our arrangement with the Aloft for #DCBKK. That part of the trip is a little boring… so after all that, we had to get back to the Fils!

August – Return to the Philippines!

It’s amazing how different all of the TMBA groups were. Our second group was probably the most diverse, with many successful entrepreneurs mixed in with people just starting out. I could write 10’s of thousands of words about all the things I learned by working directly with so many talented and passionate people, and in one way or another I probably will. My aim is to take many of the lessons I learned, processes we developed, and content we pulled together to create an online university that takes all the best parts of our in-person events and delivers them to students virtually.

Joe Bauer is a freakin’ beast!

As much as I would have liked to stay in the Philippines and travel around with many of the attendees (many of them are still in Asia or came to the #DCBKK event!), I wanted to get back home to visit my family and some of my best friends.

September – New York, Long Island, Pennsylvania to visit family and friends.

Since I knew I would be in New York City, I decided to post an event in our forum. Anyone want to meet up? Turns out that 15 DCers came out to hang on a rooftop and talk biznass. Big ups to DCer Hunter Hewitt for supplying such a great meeting spot for the group. Many of us ended up hitting the town afterwards as well!

I spent a few weeks in Brooklyn visiting my best friends. They know how much I like hipster stuff, so as a bonus to hanging in Brooklyn, they planned a trip out to Montauk. We rode bikes around, stayed at one of those dirty-dancing type hotels, ate lobster rolls, and generally had a blast.

After a few weeks state-side, it was time for me to rock the long-haul back to Manila. I watch the clock when I’m in the states in order to qualify for the FEIE.

October – Back again for our final Tropical MBA class of 2012.

This photo was taken on White Beach in Mindoro Philippines during a pizza run with the Tropical MBA crew. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s a bit poetic since the sun was setting on these special events. I feel now, after having worked with 40+ entrepreneurs for weeks at a time, I can successfully pull out the processes that work and scale them effectively. It’s possible we’ll do alumni events or something, but I doubt we’ll keep the format we worked with this summer.

Here’s a comment I saw on Facebook about our event…

The October group of cats was unique from the others in that almost everybody was just at the beginning of their entrepreneurial careers. That helped Ian, Elisa, and myself to focus in a little bit more on the issues that folks making the entrepreneurial transition were having. Being on our third event, we had a lot more content as well (over 30 presentations!).

I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a freakin’ super blast at all of these events, and many of these jumpers pictured above I have continued to see after the event, both in #DCBKK and in Chiang Mai. The Tropical MBA was just the beginning of our entrepreneurial journey together.

Riding on the top of the jeepney was our preferred way of transport.

After our October event, it was time to get to Bangkok and organize our first ever “grown-up” event!

Mid-October – Our event in Thailand (#DCBKK). 

Here’s the boss working on his speech. For both Ian and myself, this was the first time we ever addressed a large group of people. Ian’s speech turned out to be one of my favorites at the event.

Meeting with old friends before the event– Elisa Doucette, Joe Magnotti, Travis Jamison, and the boss.

One of the best parts of #DCBKK was our expert panel (it turned out that the whole room was full of experts!). During this portion of the event, we had people give super-fast presentations on their business challenges, and then we publicly tore apart their approach. Good times!

Strategy sessions at the Aloft with our paid traffic consultant Dave Huss.

Huge relief at the after-party with Jamon and Joe.

Ian and I took the speakers out for a nice dinner on the town to say thanks for all the time they put into their presentations. Here’s Brendan Tully and Travis Jamison.

Bangkok is a pretty amazing place.

That’s Derek Sivers. For many #DCBKK attendees, Derek’s Q&A session was one of the most memorable moments of the year. Derek’s honesty and transparency was so appreciated by a packed room of fellow entrepreneurs.

We had regular coffee and snack breaks between sessions, it was tough to get these guys to stop talking shop! So many cool people in the room. Here’s Rob Hanly, Chris Ducker, and Taylor Pearson.

Great food, great company.

One of the most helpful and knowledgeable DCers, Brendan Tully, pictured here dropping knowledge bombs. Brendan has been such a huge part of the DC, that it would have been weird if we wouldn’t have been able to present. His talk was great.

Something interesting must be happening…

Getting set up…

An amazing group…

Chris Ducker kicked us off with the fascinating story of his career as an entrepreneur. (0 to 300+ employees in 5 years, WOW).

What a great group… and, while I’ve been away from the blog I’ve continued to see posts this one roll in….

After decompressing for a few days with the boss (and talking some strategy), I knew I needed to see what all the fuss was about in Chiang Mai. Look what one little post in the DC can create. I often say that DCers are like a school of fish– hyper mobile and prefer to travel in packs– if you give them a good reason to go somewhere, or to meet up with you, there’s a good chance they will!

Chiang Mai

This post inspired probably 25 to 30 of the BKK attendees to crash the already vibrant internet entrepreneur scene in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is one of the best places in the world to lay low, save money, and get some work done.

Speaking of laying low and getting work done, look what I saw in the forum this morning posted by Jon Myers (who is a boss, btw)… “the Hoch” [HOTE-CH] is Ho Chi Minh City, and that’s a call for DCers to show up there and help each other reduce “lifestyle overhead” by identifying great places to stay, work, and play. It doesn’t hurt to have a whole handful of super-smart entrepreneurs around to help you when you need some advice or inspiration.

You can count on me being there… wouldn’t want to miss out. You know what they say when you can’t find a cool party… throw your own.

 November… home.

After a short few days in Chiang Mai, there was only one thing on my mind. “Going home” and focusing on my work. There was only one place I wanted to go.

I had proven that I don’t need solitude, but I’m a true introvert and longed for a routine of reading, writing, and walking around (that’s how I roll!). So I booked a ticket…

And took a walk.

And got a place.

And after 5 months, made it back home.

What’s next?

That red bracelet is something we gave out to attendees of #DCBKK so we could identify each other out on the town. I’m still wearing mine– partly because it’s not a bad status symbol! :) — but also to remind me of all that I learned at #DCBKK, and how much I want to up our game to try and help fellow entrepreneurs more.

It’s been about 8 years in the trenches for me, both in jobs and working my own companies. During that time I’ve helped grow a small business from 2 to 6 million, and grown my own company from 0 to 2 million in annualized run rate in just under 5 years.  I’ve got my 10,000 hours in, and now I feel committed to transitioning full-time to help other entrepreneurs along on their journey.

Specifically, that’ll mean finishing a book, working to create a better DC (and DC2013!), and an online Tropical MBA starting this January.

If you would have told me 5 years ago that I could have written a blog post like this, I’m not sure what I would have thought. Maybe an incredible sense of relief. It really is possible….

This shit takes a long time. That’s why I’m glad we are all coming together and helping each other out.

If I met you over the last few months, or you attended one of the events, or we exchanged emails or tweets, thank you for being a part of all this.

I’ve never been more excited about business, and it’s potential to transform our lives for the better.



PS, behind the scenes happens on my mailing list. Here it is: