The Local Sandbox

humans are wired to challenge themselves. as the Peter principle puts it, we rise to our level of incompetence.

we need people to build rocketships; we also need people to take out the trash. varied intellect, motivation, ambition, and self-belief create a [somewhat] balanced ecosystem of labor.

which means the smartest people are drawn to the toughest problems. and the world’s biggest challenges, like “feed 7 billion people” or “detect incoming missiles,” require technology.

=> the smartest people in the world work in technology.

i struggled with this notion for a few years. we’ve all met brilliant, overqualified burger flippers. sometimes they figure it out, sometimes they don’t. but the rule pays no mind to the exception. so i repeat: the smartest people work on the hardest problems.

what does this mean practically? first, that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if your startup fails. you are literally competing with the best in the world. second, it means there’s a huge opportunity — an “edge” in Wall Street jargon — with being overqualified. and you can find this edge in your local economy. here’s an example.

in the summer of 2021 i was building crypto mining rigs and thinking about how to expand the operation. a couple viability spreadsheets later, it made sense to lease a small basement office and refit it into a data center.

the buildings in our budget were old and gross and water damaged. the places that fit our needs were 2x what we could afford. but i wanted that data center.

to mitigate the extra costs we decided to dedicate half the basement for mining and turn the other half into a rental film studio. construction began.

within a month we were live. i texted all 38 people i know in Korea and we hosted an “entertainment industry” networking event. we listed the studio on a rental website and quickly booked 10 clients in the first week. we’re now 45 days into the operation and our studio is kicking ass, but it didn’t even exist 2 months ago.

this begs some reflection. am i a brilliant brick & mortar operator? do i have photography skills? do i know my way around lighting gear? no, no, and no. but i had $10k and self belief. and i know how to find a guy (see: cofounder) who knows the rest.

my studio isn’t competing with the best and brightest in the world. we’re competing with people who like to take pretty pictures. and the world needs someone to take pretty pictures, just like we need someone to take out the trash. but it makes sense that someone who can build a particle accelerator isn’t trying to steal our TikTok customers. and that’s what i mean by a [somewhat] balanced ecosystem.


here’s how we’re merging tech skills into the studio.

  • multiple Zapier automations handle scheduling and review requests
  • investing studio profits into DeFi farming pools
  • [coming soon] Naver blog SEO
  • SOPs for resetting the space, client management

it’s not much, but these tweaks save a couple hours a week and reduce customer acquisition costs. and that’s enough for me, because a studio is just a room people pay to use.

money doesn’t care how hard you worked to earn it. if your business fails, try something easier.