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Month 4: Launching RMFlags.com While Prepping for an International Move

Feature flags and moving across the world

Before you start reading this post: Check out RM Flags, my most recent startup, if you’d like your code references to already-rolled-out feature flags to be cleaned up for you automatically.

Hey 👋

Hey there, I’m Ben, and I build things in public. With that, I hope you enjoy this post about month 4 of building startups until something takes off!

Building RM Flags While Getting Ready to Move

Build air

What it feels like to build software sometimes.

Launching a startup per month is challenging, but on a month when you’re getting ready to move countries? Almost impossible. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it definitely was a struggle to get the product ready for customers while also trying to figure out flights, hotels, health insurance, cell phone plan, internet, apartment, and selling 99% of my possessions.

Admittedly, it’s also the reason this blog entry is a bit late: sometimes major life changes need to come before blog posts.

I did it though. And I even managed to book a demo meeting with a potential enterprise customer to show them the product. RM Flags is live, at least in MVP, and it’s solving a real problem I encountered at a past day job. What problem is that? Well, it’s code that looks like the below spaghetti:

if (feature1.isEnabled()) { doSomething() } else if (feature2.isEnabled()) { explode() } else { doSomethingElse() }

Is this code really needed if feature 1 is already rolled out? Of course not. The code would always short circuit immediately and execute doSomething(), so the code could just be simplified to:

doSomething()


Now, if your team has solid engineering rigor, you’ll already have time allocated to cleaning up all of these old references and you’ll have no real need for RM Flags.

But show me a perfect engineering team that never screws up or takes shortcuts and I’ll show you a liar. If it’s a busy time of the year and people need to move onto the next project, the code often quickly becomes littered with these sorts of references which become increasingly annoying to clean up.

Ironically, feature flags are introduced to prevent bugs from reaching real users, but I’ve seen bugs introduced and new features delayed (because a feature flag was enabled, the code short circuited before reaching the code the developer wanted to run) when developers didn’t understand which feature flags were enabled.

How could this happen? Well, imagine the above code block multiplied by 10 - inevitably, someone’s eyes will glaze over when reading through all of the branches and forget that one of them will short circuit the if block in an unexpected way, which then leads to bugs. Even if there isn’t a bug introduced, developers will need to waste extra brain cycles trying to figure out what the code is doing, causing more hours billed which is an even bigger concern for contracted labor.

RM Flags solves this problem automatically by sending the team a PR with all of the old feature flag references removed at the end of the month. It uses an AI model to understand the code and propose changes, and all developers have to do is review the changes and click “approve.” Not painless, but definitely a greatly improved process!

International Move Struggles

Moving Day

It’s me, getting ready to move out of NYC.

At the same time I was building RM Flags, I also spent (and I’m still spending) a significant amount of mental energy figuring out logistics for an overseas move I’ve been planning for a while. I love New York City and plan on coming back some day, but as an indie maker the cost of living is excessive which caused me to consider and then decide on moving overseas to save money. After all, the goal is to never work a job in Corporate America (or any other country) again and continue indie hacking until I’m too old to give a shit anymore.

However, it’s impossible to just move overseas with no planning and continue on as normal. There’s a lot that needs to happen beforehand:

Note: I’m not a tax advisor and this is not tax advice, definitely consult one if you’re thinking about this kind of move.

  1. For tax reasons, it often makes sense to get residency in a low/no tax state before leaving. After all, why would you want to pay your current state taxes when you’re not even in the country? You might think that by leaving you’ll be excluded, but it’s not that simple. Some states are more strict than others, but particularly if you have a business in the state and you live in one of those “sticky” states that wants your tax money, they might ask you to file an income tax return even if you don’t live in the state let alone the country if they think you have enough physical presence in the state (a business might count against you here, or real estate, or an apartment). My tax advisor let me know that it was a good idea to move my business and residency elsewhere, so that’s what I’m doing right now. Your mileage may vary.

  2. Your US medical, dental, vision insurance will no longer work overseas for the most part. I say “for the most part” because US plans will typically pay for a small amount of emergency expenses overseas, but generally they will not cover you in whatever random country you end up in. The solution is to either: get a health insurance plan in the country you plan to spend the most time living in and buy travel insurance when you temporarily go elsewhere, or to buy a global health insurance plan that will cover you anywhere, or to use public healthcare, or pray you won’t have any serious concerns and pay in cash. The latter is actually somewhat doable if you’re planning on being an expat because most countries except the US have sane healthcare systems that don’t charge a whole lot for basic services, but it’s still a good idea to have insurance for more serious concerns. There are some options that will cover you globally, but some of them have restrictions on preexisting conditions, may not cover mental health services, and so on. The ones that don’t? Well, they can be prohibitively expensive.

  3. You’ll need to set up a bank account in the new country to be able to pay rent. If you as a US Citizen need to send a bunch of money to an overseas bank account, the IRS will take issue with that and require you to fill out extra paperwork in the form of a FBAR report. It’s not fun, and you can avoid it by not maintaining an overseas bank account (but then you can’t pay rent in a lot of cases) or maintaining a low balance so as to not hit the FBAR threshold (what I plan on doing, I don’t trust a lot of foreign currency anyway).

  4. How are you going to receive snail mail while in a different country? You won’t have a US address anymore, and banks and other institutions need somewhere to send your mail. I did find a solution for this, and it’s to use a virtual mailbox service that offers mail forwarding. I’ll share the specific company I used once I have time to test them out for a month or so.

  5. Obviously, you’ll also need to talk to your family and friends and let them know about your decision. Certain people will not take this news well and you’ll need to do some convincing.

Recommendations?

Brindar siempre lo mejor de ti.

Nope. But you can have this flower as a consolation prize. You’re welcome.

I wish I had great recommendations to provide to overcome all of these problems, but given that I’m still going through the process I don’t have anything concrete to share yet - or at least anything I’m comfortable recommending at this stage. I’ll report back next month with which companies/solutions I ended up choosing to help me with all of these problems!

Until then, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and see you next month.

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