Every December, I write what I did this year. Nearly every part of my life changed in 2023. I moved to San Francisco in January on a week’s notice. A project I had a hand in turned into more than a project. It was my first year of true “adulting.”
This year also marked the first since I was a toddler that I didn’t do any school. But I think it’s fair to say that I learned more this year than any other. My eyes were opened to how much the world has to offer, and the true extent of my agency. While I got answers, I have even more questions! And that’s a good thing, because I need something to do in 2024.
Spent New Year’s with my family in Lisbon. Our first family vacation since 2020.
Then flew back to my dorm room in Midtown Manhattan.
I had January off from college before my last semester, and even then I only had 2 classes left to graduate. So I had decided to start full-time as a frontend engineer at a startup I enjoyed interning at last summer. So it should have been a quiet month.
Instead, it was just non-stop. My good friend, Mehran, tweeted a demo of a GPT-3 Google Sheets plugin he made. It went viral and he suddenly had a waitlist of thousands of people. I went straight to his apartment from work every night to help create a product that people could start using.
It was exciting! There was real urgency to make something great. Mehran and I worked until 1 or 2 every night, with conversations about product design, our goals, and AI predictions, along with the inevitable overblown debates about SQL naming conventions and what shade of green is correct.
After a few weeks of working well together, we became co-founders and got into HF0, a 3-month accelerator in San Francisco, led by the incredible Dave, Emily and Evan. On a week’s notice, I decided to quit school and my job, pack up my dorm room, and fly to SF on January 31.
HF0 was incredible. We stayed inside of a very large house (might as well be called a building, or a compound, or a military fortress) near Alamo Square, along with the other 18 founders in the program. There were broad ranges of ages, skill sets, beliefs, passions, and personalities, but ambition was a constant.
Many times we would need advice about X. Either they’d literally be inside of the house already, or Dave would say “Oh, you should talk to [person very well versed in X],” and we were talking to them within a few hours. After a certain point, you realize that these incredibly helpful conversations are not flukes and are by design. During HF0 and the start of Numerous, I grew so much as a person. It was the first time in my life where I had only one thing to work on. I’ve always had work, school, side projects, sports. It was such a productive environment that just puts you above everything else.
In March, we spent the day at the OpenAI office. As we’re getting ready to leave, several people from HF0 start debating whether or not a Bonsai tree in the lobby is real. “These leaves are obviously fake.” “But I feel the soil and it’s moist!” This went on for several minutes. I point out how ironic it is that no one can tell whether a plant is real, all in the lobby of the most important AI company in the world.
In May, HF0 ended. Numerous was in a great place. Mehran and I moved out and stayed in SF for the rest of the year, this time living between Twin Peaks and the Castro.
That initial feeling of living in a new city is incredible. When your body hasn’t adjusted to the climate like you’re on vacation. When you don’t know the names of any restaurants, streets, or neighborhoods. When you don’t know anyone quite well enough, but friendships are brewing. And when it wanes after a few months, you finally feel at home, but not much in your environment is new. I’ve already burned through that feeling in New York and now San Francisco, arguably the most relevant cities to me in my lifetime.
I was against it at first, but went to therapy for a few months after talking with Aadil. So much happier in so many ways once I accepted parts of myself.
Ligma Street: installed a fake street sign in front of Twitter’s headquarters.
BratGPT: made a rude parody of ChatGPT. After it got shared around, I sold it for a few hundred bucks to offset API costs.
Mehran’s Steak House: turned a fake Google Maps listing into a real Manhattan restaurant for one night. 120 diners were under the assumption they were dining at a legitimate 5-star steakhouse.
Somehow it came together and worked. So grateful for the 75+ people that helped Mehran, Danielle, and I pull this off. I love my friends. To see them show up (and in most cases, fly out) to help us with a prank… it was just surreal! Everyone stepped up and had fun while doing it. I will truly be smiling about this on my deathbed.
The event culminated several months of incredibly fun and chaotic planning. A small sample of what we did: coordinated a complicated rental of a truckload of equipment over the longest email thread you’ve ever seen; fended off a blogger who attempted to ruin the event by running a hit piece days before it happened; went to a wholesale restaurant supply warehouse in Queens to buy $2,000 of food, and got yelled at multiple times for being in the way of feverish employees barreling forklifts down the aisles; worrying the temporary wine permit I applied for wouldn’t be granted (it did a mere 2 days before); found our steak supplier on Reddit and placed an order days before the event (without even tasting the meat because it was too last minute!); buying $10k+ of supplies on our credit cards assuming we’d make all of the money back. We decided last minute to laser etch the menu onto large, circular pieces of wood. Danielle rapidly designed a menu in the most painful Figma document I’ve ever seen. After many hours of failed print jobs, we finally got it looking good. It took 30 minutes for the laser printer to etch each menu, so that meant Mehran stayed overnight inside of a West Village workshop, sleeping in half-hour increments. His alarm kept waking him up to swap out the wood. All of these things tested our friendship. Luckily the three of us made it through without visiting The Vessel.
And we loved every single second of it. Who gets to work on projects like this, with other people that care so much? A quote from a diner happened to also encapsulate how I felt: “It’s bullshit. I’m having a great time.”
Ex X Chairs: Mehran and I were the winning bidders of some 68 chairs and 68 monitors from a Twitter liquidation auction (why couldn't they have thrown in one more?). We had intended to save money and go to Market Street with friends to move everything out ourselves. But when we called the auction house to coordinate pickup, they bluntly told us we needed to instead hire one of their seemingly expensive moving partners. We thought we were screwed, but after rereading the auction contract, and several unspoken hints of a lawsuit later, we were able to pick things up ourselves.
I drove the largest truck U-Haul offers across SF, to the Twitter office, and back to our apartment, packed with furniture. (And if this story couldn’t get any more haywire, thank you to the FedEx driver who let me off the hook when I stupidly collided with his truck!) We stored everything in our tiny living room, and sold everything within a few days through word-of-mouth. By the grace of God, we more than made up for what we lost on the steakhouse.
Ord Phone: For fun one Saturday, I designed mockups of a minimalist black-and-white phone. I thought they looked good, so I wanted to see if there was a market for it. I made a landing page, with a fake checkout to record if anyone tried to actually buy it with their credit card. It didn’t save any actual payment information, though. Several people tried buying it, but the stone cold people of Hacker News doxxed me before it could really gain any traction :(
You can buy a can of beans on Amazon Prime for about a dollar, which includes shipping. For kicks, I quietly sent many cans to different family members, which in turn sparked many of them to also send cheap, absurd items to each other (culminating with a pregnancy test being sent to my grandmother).
Wanted to sneak into APEC in SF and managed to pull it off by pretending to be a journalist.
Idling videos: I made a very good amount of money through the NYC government’s clean air bounty program. Last fall, I submitted over 500 videos of trucks illegally idling and finally started receiving checks this summer. Reach out if you live in NY and want to try this. I’m happy to point you in the right direction!
During the latter half of the year, Mehran and I shifted to doubling down on growth and putting Numerous into “maintenance mode” in order to spend time in other areas. While Numerous is a profitable and low-overhead business, and there’s a lot of potential in AI, we don’t find that specific idea as interesting anymore. A few things we explored: unclaimed property, a better map with AI, a conversational AI for kids.
Visited LA, my grandma in Portland, Josh in Seattle, and went on a road trip. My first time visiting Grand Canyon, Death Valley and a few other national parks. Ran 10 progressively tiring miles in Mammoth Lakes at ~9,000 feet of elevation, which was really nice.
As for right now, I’m exploring ideas around local property taxes. Weirdly, it’s very interesting to me, and there are some promising angles. On the fun side, some friends and I are planning an epic scavenger hunt around San Francisco. More to come in the spring :)
Visiting Montreal as the year ends with my amazing family. Grateful and excited!
Will be in NYC the first week of 2024. Reach out and let’s meet up, old and new friends!