London has a burgeoning tech scene. So what made Hungarian-born startup founder Peter Banik leave the city for Bali to work on his early stage live video publishing startup?
First off, what is StageCloud?
StageCloud is a live video publishing and monetization platform that allows indie performing artists to generate income. Essentially, it’s a public stage in the cloud where any artist can perform live and place a virtual hat (tip jar) next to their content. Fans have an easy way to support the artist, and hopefully in time, the artist will be able to quit their day job and focus on doing what they love.
What did you do before?
I’ve run several startup businesses before – and had both successes and failures. I’ve also worked at a number of multinational corporations. But I quit the corporate world altogether about five or six years ago in order to work as a freelance consultant and business owner. Now I occasionally I take on freelance consulting gigs for a handful of companies that I have good historical relationships with, but I don’t actively seek out that work.
Why did you decide to work on StageCloud in Bali?
I came here to get away from the distractions in London (where I lived previously). I wanted to focus more. I also wanted to tap into the growing network of similar entrepreneurs and the freelancer community in order to form new business (and personal) relationships. And of course, getting away from the harsh European winter also played a huge role in making the decision!
Were there any other factors that prompted you to leave London?
Previously, I was developing and self-funding the project in London. But I soon found out that it didn’t make sense to be in London if you’re in the seed phase and you don’t have any VC funding. So that was a big motivation for me.
There’s also the problem of finding the right people to work with. There’s great talent to choose from in EC1 (London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ area). But it costs at least £500 ($724) a day to hire a designer because they’re also facing high living costs. So you end up paying an additional premium for hiring there.
Can you get around that problem?
Yes. You can find talented people beyond the high cost city centers. You can also find good people in other parts of Asia – especially lower costs Asian cities. Talent is at a much lower density, which is a challenge, but cost is definitely a benefit.
Do you have a team with you in Bali?
I work with freelancers exclusively at this stage. Once bootstrapped, we’ll probably hire a few full time employees for the key roles, but essentially we’re planning to continue using freelancers.
I have a co-founder, who is acting as the creative director, and he’s based in San Francisco. He’s a great copywriter and he does a lot of freelance work for huge companies, as well as startups. He’s recently been talking about working for a seed phase startup, which can be hard to do in San Francisco. If you’re a freelancer there you need five big clients just to make the rent. So I’ve been encouraging him to join me out here.
Do you think more people are seeing the appeal of Bali for startups?
Obviously, there are a lot of opportunities in San Francisco you don’t get in Indonesia or Thailand. But it makes sense to move here for a while, at least. I think there is a right place for every stage of a startup. At the moment I need to expand my network, keep costs down and stay here for another month or two until the minimum viable product (MVP) is ready.
Some people still find it hard to get their head around the idea. For me it was simple, you put your stuff in storage, you buy a flight, you rent out your flat and that’s it. You can always go back home if you don’t like it.
What advantages have you found?
I’ve enjoyed being part of the sharing economy here. I consult on technical issues and other people give me creative suggestions, which is great. There is also the time difference: a lot of the engineers I work with are based in India and Pakistan, which makes it easier to manage from here, than it is from London.
What challenges have you faced building your startup in Bali?
I thought it would be easier to access more affordable talent. We need more freelancers in Bali. I don’t have anyone on payroll so I need people for UX, design and copywriting. I thought I’d easily be able to build a great team without having to pay a huge premium. I’d also hoped to find a creative director here, but they were either booked up too far in advance or they weren’t up to the task. It was the same for engineers. This might change, however, because Ubud now has 4G, which may encourage more freelancers to work here in the future.
Have living costs been in line with what you expected?
It’s a bit of a fallacy you can live on peanuts in Asia. If you have time to invest in finding great deals you can. And I’d also say that you have to stay in Ubud for a while in order to make big cost savings on accommodation. But it’s still much cheaper than it was in London: I used to pay £1200 (£1700 US) in EC1 for a tiny apartment and here I pay $500 a month. But that’s still relatively high compared to Budapest, where I’m from.
Do you think Budapest is also good for early stage startups?
Yes but a lot of Silicon Valley companies have moved their development and engineering teams to Budapest so there’s a similar talent crunch.
How would you like to see things developing in Bali?
It would be great to have more specialized communities and I’d love to see more tech hubs popping up. You can already see these changes and I’m optimistic these hubs will arise more frequently as the infrastructure improves.
When do you expect to leave?
I’ve been here for almost five months and I’m planning to stay until the summer arrives in Europe – or until it takes to get to the minimum viable product stage, and I get the core team built.
And what do you expect to do next?
I don’t have firm plans but I really want to travel a bit more in Southeast Asia first, then visit my business partner in San Francisco and head back to Europe for the summer season. But I’ll definitely be back to Bali again once the leaves begin to fall back home.