Month 6: Leaving the US and building

I'm now a resident in Thailand, here's how it went

Hey 👋

Hey there, I’m Ben, and I build things in public. With that, I hope you enjoy this post about month 6 of building startups until something takes off!

“And Now For Something Different”

This month’s post is a bit different and a bit late as it covers my international move, but I managed to sneak in a product launch around my move — for next month, I’ll be talking about a new product I’m working on which will be my first iOS app in over 10 years. It’ll be cool to see how the ecosystem changed since I built VABC as a college student after dropping out of my iOS Development class.

Funnily enough, the reason I dropped out of the iOS class was because the professor told me that I couldn’t build an alcohol comparison app as my final project because:

a) it “wasn’t appropriate” (alright fair, maybe a booze comparison app wasn’t appropriate for an educational setting — but it was university after all, it’s not too surprising that I was thinking about alcohol at the time)

b) it “would fail and never make any money”

When he told me that I would fail, I thought to myself “I’m taking the iOS developer license I already expensed for this class, dropping the class, and building it on my own. No chance he’s telling me what to do.”

I did end up dropping the class a few days later for that reason and because I realized I didn’t need the credits to graduate anyway.

Then, I built and launched the first version of the idea in about 2 weeks. All of the marketing was done on Reddit in various university related subreddits i.e. /r/VirginiaTech, /r/UVA, etc — at the time, Reddit mods were a lot nicer and would leave your post up if you posted about something useful that you built.

And lo-and-behold, that app got press coverage in major news publications like The Washington Post when a reporter found my reddit posts and it paid my electric bill for the remainder of the year, so it definitely did make money. I remember thinking making $50/mo was a huge deal at the time, and I even got recognized at some house parties as “that guy who made the liquor app.”

I had an idea to expand the app to offer liquor delivery, and that would have been way ahead of its time if I had actually built that — but ideas are cheap, execution is what matters, and it’s probably better I didn’t build that after all given all of the legal issues involved with delivering alcohol that I wasn’t thinking about.

More importantly, VABC was the project that got me interested in indie hacking in the first place, and I learned a few things from that experience:

  1. Ignore people who want to see you fail, even if they’re a professor or someone you might look up to. It’s always better to surround yourself with reasonable people. Truly, if someone gives you negative feedback that isn’t constructive in any way or has nothing behind it, don’t listen to them and just keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. I can think of an idea, build it, and make some money appear out of nowhere if the market likes my idea. That is an awesome feeling. I didn’t realize it at the time, but being a Computer Scientist (what my degree is intended for) isn’t my calling at all - building creative products is. Software and understanding Computer Science fundamentals is just one mechanism to get those products to market.

Leaving the US

Now, as I said I would, I left the US for Thailand in January 2024. Ended up finding a great deal on Qatar Airways points for 50% off, so I scored a business class ticket for around $2,000 and off I went.

Once I landed, I spent a few days in a hotel and then switched to an Airbnb for the rest of the month while I searched for an apartment.

I was tempted to sign a lease within the first week and move fast as I tend to do with many decisions, but this time I forced myself to take my time exploring all of the neighborhoods and I’m glad I did.

Why? Well, there were quite a few YouTube videos recommending certain neighborhoods that were supposedly ideal for expats. If I hadn’t visited all of those neighborhoods myself, I wouldn’t have realized that those recommendations were mostly wrong — that is, it would have been a bad decision to blindly follow that advice and end up in some soulless neighborhood with no local culture and overpriced Japanese food everywhere.

Sometimes the “expat recommended” neighborhoods are just carbon copies of neighborhoods you’d be able to find in a western country - and when moving to the east, you might as well get some real, local culture as well as creature comforts from home. I decided it would be better to pick a neighborhood with a balance of everything and ignored all of those recommendations.

In the end, I visited almost every single BTS stop (there are a lot of them) to be able to make my own decision and after about a month, found a nice, centrally located condo on a quiet street within a 5 min walk of the gym, authentic street food, a park, some of the best malls in Bangkok, and multiple public transport options.

My condo is smaller than the one I had in New York City, but I feel it’s so much better designed, it’s brand new (I am the first tenant), and it’s fully furnished - because the space is utilized so well with tons of storage compartments everywhere and had been looked over by a designer and the ceiling is so tall, it feels much bigger than it is.

It’s also ~3.3x cheaper than my NYC rent and I’ve gained a rooftop infinity pool and an in-building coworking space + gym included in the cost of my rent, so that helps a lot.

At the moment, I don’t need more space anyway - my entire list of possessions is 1 suitcase, clothes, 1 backpack, and a laptop and I’ve always enjoyed living like a minimalist.

On the other hand, my NYC apartment was awkwardly designed and much of the space was wasted by a long hallway which of course added to the square footage on paper but might as well have not even been there.

Conclusion and

Fourth of July

Would you like to learn more about how to make an international move like I’ve done?

There’s quite a lot to think about from health insurance, to visas, to hunting for and negotiating condo rentals, to adjusting to an unfamiliar climate and so on: so I’ve written the guide that I wish I had before I made the move myself. makes it easy for you. Check it out and let me know what you think.

See you next month for another launch!


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