Interview with Jeremy Maluf
We are often afraid of what we do not know or fail to understand. After all, it is human instinct to avoid most risks.
But some of this fear can be quelled given more clarity to a situation. Unconventional career paths are one of those situations where we often do not know what it is like to take a different route.
In this interview with Jeremy, we learn exactly what it’s like to leave school and start a bunch of projects — all while traveling across the world.
Introduce yourself! Tell us about where you went to school, where you have worked, and what you are up to nowadays.
Hey! My name is Jeremy Maluf and I’m a 21 y/o from Mountain View who works on side projects full time. I went to school at Cal Poly, though I only lasted a year before I went the traditional silicon valley kid route and dropped out. I currently work on about a half dozen businesses and projects while traveling the world and having fun.
You recently left school. What has been the best part about leaving? What has been the worst part? How did you come to the conclusion that school was not the best place to be for you?
The best part about dropping out is the freedom you get, however it has its downsides. Because I value education, I do my best to remedy the fact that I’m no longer in school by making myself learn stuff on the internet — whether it’s learning a new language via youtube or a new formal skill through udemy. It’s sort of a way to push myself since I no longer have school to push me.
In terms of leaving college, it was probably one of the easier decisions I’ve made. I’ve always been into building stuff and I viewed getting a degree as a way to delay doing that for 4–5 years. Even when I was in high school I knew there was a very slim chance I’d ever graduate college. That said, however, my one year of being a CS major was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.
What would you tell anybody that is thinking about dropping out of school?
I rarely recommend dropping out of school, especially if you’re not dropping out for anything specific. But really it’s just up to you and what you want — if a college degree isn’t something you need, it’s probably not wise to waste a bunch of money and a good portion of your life in a classroom
You work on a lot of projects! What was your first project you ever worked on? Tell us about it.
I built some stuff in high school, including an online community platform and an iOS game, but those would be a stretch to call projects. I started my first ‘real’ project, a blue-blocking eyewear business, during my first quarter of college, and launched it on kickstarter during my second quarter. That was my first time getting the ‘startup experience’ and it was building that business that really hooked me onto the idea of building projects full time.
How do you find people to work on things with you?
It depends on who comes up with the project idea. If it wasn’t me, then that’s already one person I can work with. If it was me, and it’s something I can’t build by myself, I’ll just text a friend who I think would be able to add value to the project. Twitter is also a solid platform to find potential co-founders.
Read our cold email guide :)
Do your projects ever fail? What do you do when that happens?
I’ve had a dozens projects die horrible, horrible deaths, but only the ones that I didn’t put much effort into
Luckily for me, I’ve never been super-invested into a project that has failed. I mean, I’ve had a dozens projects die horrible, horrible deaths, but only the ones that I didn’t put much effort into or spent less than a week working on. I wonder if that could be related…
How do you think about balancing working on many things at once? Lots of people say to go “all in on one thing…” what would you tell them?
Some ideas would fail if they weren’t the sole focus of the founder(s), but most ideas can be built and maintained as side projects. I do multiple things primarily because it’s more fun, but I also have some solid reasoning behind it: if I went all in on one thing, like with all startups there’s a ~90% chance it will fail. If I do multiple things simultaneously however, the percentage of one of them getting big increases dramatically. It also means I can cover different markets, different biz models, and split what I’m working on between moonshots and smaller projects
For people who have never started a business before, what advice do you have? Where would you recommend starting? How do you think of ideas? And how do you test them?
Really my advice just boils down to BUILD IT. If it’s a complex product, build an MVP and get some user feedback. If it’s something you can build in a day, then just do that. If it’s a product that needs be manufactured in asia, it can take as little as 5 minutes to get a quote and a product sample. Too many people think they need to raise a seed round or incorporate their LLC before they start doing anything, and that’s almost never necessary.
Build it. Build an MVP and get some user feedback.
I don’t have much advice for coming up with ideas, aside from the popular strategy of thinking about a problem and then trying to come up with a solution. My only feedback here is to vet ideas before you start building them, even if it’s just by texting it to a friend. I’ve had quite a few stupid project ideas saved from failure by a friend telling me why it wouldn’t work.
Has traveling been a barrier for you to work on projects? Any tips for finding ways to work and travel at the same time?
I’ve always been able to work from anywhere, so aside from rare occurrences where I need to get work done and I’m not near a cafe or coworking space, being remote has never really been a problem for me. It does require a lot of planning though, for instance I’ll set aside work that doesn’t require an internet connection for flights. I’d recommend anyone who’s interested in working remotely to just go for it — it’s guaranteed to be fun, and it can be done for a tiny fraction of the cost of living in silicon valley.
What have you learned during your time traveling and what travel advice do you have for people that have done little to none before?
Some tips would be to travel out of a backpack for more freedom, and to do research to find the best resources to book flights and rooms
To avoid that lame ‘traveling changed my life’ angle, I’ll just say that as a young person who loves adventure and doing new things, traveling is awesome. There’s no better way to stay motivated than to be in a new place with new people every few weeks. Some tips would be to travel out of a backpack for more freedom, and to do research to find the best resources to book flights and rooms (over the past year I’ve flown 20 flights to 17 countries for maybe ~half a month of SF rent). I’d limit this advice to young people though, since I tend to notice older people have different travel goals (i.e. I don’t mind pulling an all-nighter getting work done in an airport to grab a $10 4am flight, but I’m sure many people would).
Why startups over working at a big company?
Startups are more fun. That’s about it.
What is the worst advice someone has ever told you?
I’ve received a lot of bad advice ever since I got into startups, usually from older people (what a surprise). The most common one I hear is along the lines of “you can’t be successful if you don’t have a college degree.” Usually best to walk away from those people ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Where can people find you and what opportunities are you looking for? (Twitter, linkedin, personal site, medium, etc).
@jeremymaluf on every platform, DM me for advice on anything startup or travel-related
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