Startups & Sunset

I’m writing this aboard my Delta flight from New York City to Mexico City where I’ll then transfer to a domestic flight to Huatulco in the southern state of Oaxaca before figuring out how to get to the small beach town Mazunte, which has approximately 700 residents.

You’re probably thinking what the hell am I doing? Right? I just launched a Kickstarter project that’s only 14% funded, and I’m off for a beach vacation in Mexico.

You’re kind of right but also totally wrong. Yes I am going on a month long beach vacation but it’s not so I can relax and do nothing, it’s quite the opposite, it’s so I can live cheaply and work without distraction with the goal to get Konichiwang funded. The business world calls this kind of strategy bootstrapping.  There’re plenty of stories about entrepreneurs bootstrapping, often it means bunkering down in the damp basement of a sublet.  Well screw that. I want to prove that the cheapest and best place to work on your startup is by the beach in a small village in Mexico.


I bet you’re still miffed at this decision so let me explain some more.

At the start of August I moved out of my apartment in Williamsburg—a bargain at $975 per month—to couchsurf with friends so I could re-direct rent money into Konichiwang. I probably should’ve held onto this place for an extra month but I made the decision to move out in June so the die was already caste.

Through August and September I housesat for a bunch of generous friends, I spent almost a week in West Village, about another week in Greenwich Village, two weeks in two different spots in Chinatown, a week in Sunnyside Queens, nearly 2 weeks in Bed-Stuy (one week actually on a sofa), and most recently I spent close to 2 weeks in Boerum Hill.  And occasionally I stayed with my girlfriend in Washington Heights, and then in Crown Heights once she moved.

Swapping beds was a great way to see parts of New York that I hadn’t spent much time in, I really enjoyed that, but the downside was while I was saving rent money I was losing time because I was moving regularly and it was hard to lockdown a work schedule. I was also spending a bit extra on food because it’s hard to figure out the bargains in a new area.

Regardless, I’m pretty sure I came out ahead financially than if I kept paying rent but this couldn’t go on, not for another two months because I was starting to push some friendships to their limit and the instability was a source of inefficiency.

So without any income and my savings heading one direction--the speed of that decline was only going to accelerate if I started paying rent again in New York I started looking for cheap places I could stay for a month so I could settle into a work routine. My other requirements were good internet access, healthy food, warm weather (in March I sent my winter clothes back to Australia because I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t spend another winter in New York], and a pleasant atmosphere that would keep me calm and wouldn’t distract me from getting work done. I quickly decided that the Pacific coast of Mexico offered numerous options that checked all of my criteria and from the recommendation of a friend I passed up Puerto Escondido—he was scared that the party life may be too tempting for me—and settled on Mazunte.

So how much is this all costing me?

I booked flights a bit late so I paid $460 return to Mexico City from JFK and $150 return Mexico City to Huatulco. Add in the $25 taxi to JFK, and the collective from Huatulco to Mazunte for about $50 each way and double that for my return plus any incidentals and I’m probably around sitting $700 for transport.

Onto accommodation. Prices start from $7 per night for a dorm bed in Mazunte and go upto to $200 per night.  That means you could be paying as little as about $200 for the month. For around $20 per night you can get your own room, this is most likely what I’ll do. 

Now I’m at $1300 total, technically New York is ahead right now but throw in a monthly metro card for $100 and 2 taxis per week for $15 each and suddenly New York is about the same, oh yeah and it’s going to be below 50F for most of the month. Suckers!

I’m not certain of the living costs in Mazunte but I imagine that it’s going to be even cheaper than Playa Del Carmen where I spent some time earlier this year so in that case I’ll be able to eat well for about $20 per day. Yes, you can survive on $20 per day in New York just be prepared to eat nothing but bagels, pizza slices, hot dogs, and dumplings. Anyone who has ever been to New York has enjoyed each of these cheap meals but imagine eating nothing but this highly processed, fatty, high carb food for an entire month! I estimate Mazunte will work out at about $600 for the month, and at $40 per day in New York it would cost about $1200 for the month. Both of these numbers sound crazy but think about your previous week in New York and tally how many meals you ate out. The average New Yorker eats out 14 times per week. Sure you can cook at home and save some money but cooking for one person often ends up being more expensive because groceries can only be purchased in large amounts. And everyone hates eating the same thing 3 times per day for an entire week.


For those keeping tally Mazunte $1900, New York $2500 and this is with me overpricing Mazunte and underpricing New York. 

The final comparison is intangible, it’s comparing lifestyle and it’s upto you to determine what value you place upon certain elements. For me the energy and constant opportunity to do “something” is why I moved to New York but that "opportunity" be it gigs, parties, galleries, people watching, dating, theatre whatever is also distraction and it's the reason it’s taken me two and a half years to finally turn out something of my own. I always say New York is a great city for inspiration but it’s a hard city to get work done to which you might respond “Just exercise some self control” well I have been that’s why I even managed to launch this Kickstarter project., and if you say “well exercise more control” then you’ve probably never been to New York City before.

There’s not much going on in Mazunte, apart from enjoying the ocean, the surrounding bushland, and the handful of restaurants so it’s the perfect location for me to get work done without distraction.  Obviously I will miss the incredible networking opportunities of New York but the networking costs money and evaporates time, two things I don't have much of.