8 min read

Few weeks ago I took a break from the project that I’ve been working on for the past few months. Something was feeling wrong. I felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing. But I wasn’t sure why.

I decided to take some time to stop and reflect.

My year so far 🤯

Thinking back, my 2023 has been insane. In January I moved to Lisbon to join TalentLayer team and take part in the Kleros Incubator and Outlier Ventures Accelerator. After three months, I decided to start KnowledgeLayer and went full-time on it.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been going to plenty of web3 hackathons around the world to meet people, build stuff and find inspiration (and make some $$ hehe, since that’s currently my only income).

Since April, I’ve officially became nomadic, and travelled to 9 different countries and 16 cities, moving every almost every week on average ✈️.


Celebration post TalentLayer mainnet launch at “The Block”, Lisbon | ETHPorto, 3am, hacking, pizza and shenanigans

These past few months have been incredible and so many cool things have happened. But when things move fast and a lot of stuff is going on, it’s easy to forget that sometimes we just need to stop and think.

Few days ago I got to Barcelona, where I’m gonna stay for all August. Finally some stability 😅! I thought that this was the perfect moment to reflect and figure out why I was feeling weird about what I was building.

Yesterday morning I came across MAKE, a book by Peter Levels, one of my favourite entrepreneurs. In the book, he shares everything he learned in years building startups.

I decided to give it a shot and read the first chapter, which is about ideas.

And guess what. I had some huge realizations.

Realizations 😮

In the chapter he shares different principles on how to get and evaluate startup ideas. But one in particular opened my eyes:

To get big, you have to start small”

I realized that, in the past few months of building, I was trying to start big. I was picking ideas based on the impact that they could make. I wanted to do something big, that could affect many people and change the world. I was discarding ideas that didn’t seem “impactful enough” to me.

Totally wrong.

Most big companies started very small. Facebook started as an app to choose whether girls were hot or not. It doesn’t sound very impactful. But somehow it got to revolutionize the way humans connect. AirBnb started with two friends renting out air mattresses in their apartment. Uber started as an app to call a taxi from your phone.

When building startups, we really don’t know what we’re going to end up with. Ideas are just starting points. We then need constant feedback from users and the market to understand what to build. That’s why we can’t start thinking big. Our first idea doesn’t have to sound revolutionary.

And you know what’s the craziest thing?

I already knew all of this, since way before reading this book. I’ve watched tons of YC videos about these topics and took part in 3 seasons of Nights & Weekends, which is all about these principles. And I have been doing things in this way in the past.

However, it’s easier than it seems to get off track and forget about these principles. But it’s important to notice it, understand why it happened and take action.

What happened 🤔

So why did I get to think in this way? I think it’s because of the environment and people I’ve been surrounding myself with.

Since a year and a half ago, I’ve been working full-time in web3. I got interested into this world for the technology and innovation that it was creating, and then fell in love with the core values of openness and decentralization.

I love the space and my time has been incredible since I joined it. However, I recently started to realize that many things in web3 are wrong.

The sad truth is that in web3 everyone has big visions but very few are actually making them come to life. Everyone is building the coolest thing ever, but very few are solving real problems for people. It’s a space that leads you to think big. To start big. To think about impact.

But what actually is impact when it comes to startups? What does it even mean?

I realized that to me, making impact means solving problems. No matter how small or big they are.

A todo app that helped 100 people to be more productive, is more impactful to me than a company that raised 10M around the vision of onboarding the next trillion humans to financial freedom, but hasn’t delivered anything in years.

What matters is to solve problems. The rest is mostly bullshit.

And here we come to another principle that Peter Levels highlights in his book:

The problem should always be first, not the technology, not the solution.”

I realized that I’ve been “forcing” myself to build in web3 just because I love the space and the technology. But I should rather be focusing more on solving problems.

I need to stop thinking “I want to build stuff in web3”, “I want to build stuff in AI”. What I want is to solve real-world problems that real people have. If it makes sense to use web3 to solve a problem, I will use web3. If it makes sense to use AI, I will use AI. If it makes sense to use PHP, I will use PHP (maybe this one not 🤪).

And to make things clear, I still love web3. I love its values and the people in this space. I do believe that there are some exceptions to what I said, projects that are actually making a change and solving real issues. However, they are probably the minority. But hopefully there will be more and more.

And regardless of this, I’m not leaving. I’ll keep being interested and active in the space. I’ll keep going to web3 hackathons because they are awesome and I tons of fun there. I just don’t want to force myself to build in web3 only because is cool and there is a ton of money being given away to random projects.

I want to use web3 if and for what it makes sense. It’s just a tool, like any other technology. I want to pick the right tools based on what I want to solve. Not try to figure out what I can solve with the tools that seem cool.

So, what’s next? 😄

Good question.

I want to build something new. And after these realizations, I now have much more clarity on how I want to build. But I don’t know what I want to build.

It’s okay. I won’t sit down and think about startup ideas to build. That’s how you come up with bad ones. Good ideas come over time.

I’ll let my mind flow. I’ll let external stimulus hit it. I’ll be paying attention to what my daily challenges are, to what problems I have, to what’s missing. I’ll start to question things more.

I’ll just live.

And what a better time for having these realizations. Nights & Weekends S4 is about to start! And it’s the perfect opportunity to begin something new.

And even though I don’t know what I’ll be building yet, I do know that I just want to do something that’s interesting to me. Something fun to build. It doesn’t have to be a “startup idea”, or a business, or a company.

I just wanna take some time to experiment, learn new things that have been on my infinite “to learn” list for months 🤦‍♂️, and have fun.

Good ideas won’t immediately seem obvious. Sometimes they’ll just seem something that would be interesting to build.

That’s why the real recipe, as Paul Graham said, is:

Live in the future and build what seems interesting.”

That’s what I’m gonna do.

Sharing my journey 🎉

And btw, I want to start to share more about my journey. That’s why you’re reading this, which is my first newsletter piece ever.

I’ll keep writing a post like this one once a week, sharing about what I build and learn, where I am in my nomadic tour around the world, and what realizations and thoughts that I have.

I finished writing this post few minutes ago. I re-read it couple times and only fixed few words and added some emojis. That’s it. This is just me spitting out what’s in my mind right now. No ChatGPT. It couldn’t be more real.

So I hope you enjoyed it and please show some love if that’s the case!


- Mattia