Prerna Gupta and her husband Parag Chordia own a company that makes iPhone apps. Their most famous app is Songify, which made them very rich—so rich that they faced every rich person's nightmare: they began to struggle with the meaning of possessions and money.
In an essay for Vogue, Gupta writes that she and Chordia became so swept up—and subsequently weighed down—by their newfound wealth and stuff that they decided to give it all up and become "nomads" (i.e. take an extended vacation using their savings).
We had enough savings to last several years. We had talked about writing a novel together, of learning to surf. This could be the time to pursue those ambitions. Maybe we would return to the working world and do another startup one day. Or maybe we’d simply become nomads and live off the sales from our book.
Well, the publishing industry certainly is kind and lucrative to first-time writers from the tech industry, so. Anyway, the big lessons of their year sans espresso machines began to accrue quietly:
The Internet was everywhere, even if the connection speed could be painfully slow at times. But instant connectivity was another thing we learned to live without. I started forgetting to charge my iPhone at night during those first months in Costa Rica, and it stayed tucked away in my computer bag for weeks at a time.
Beautiful. But nothing gold can stay. Trouble was on the horizon.
The only problem was the book we’d been writing, which wasn’t coming together as I’d hoped. Parag and I had produced several hundred pages, exchanging revisions, discussing plot and character. Despite our best efforts, it was proving sprawling and unmanageable. We sent some 40,000 words to friends and received friendly but firmly critical responses. In our hearts we knew we had to start over. We also knew that this was normal, that novels are written in this halting, iterative way. Then, a part of me wondered if there was room for innovation here. I began to imagine a social fiction app for a smartphone. Storytelling for the Snapchat generation.
And devilish temptations.
We decided to stop by Silicon Valley to test out the idea. For a few weeks we’d stay in Airbnbs, catch up with friends and perhaps put out feelers about funding. We wanted to be back in Costa Rica by Christmas.
Before I knew it a familiar pressure started to build. Everywhere I looked, people had new iPhones. It was chilly in San Francisco that winter, and all my female friends had great-looking boots. I found myself wanting to shop again.
Did Gupta give into the devil and buy a pair of great-looking boots? Or did she stick to her new values? At the end of her essay, she describes a meeting in San Francisco with an investor.
“So where do you live?” I could have named the under-the-radar San Francisco neighborhood Parag and I were staying in. Instead I said what felt more true. “Nowhere exactly.”
I had his attention.
“We’re homeless,” I said. “Airbnbs here and there. We’ve been traveling for a year, so we’re nomadic at the moment.”
“But you’ll be settling down somewhere when you close funding?”
“Maybe,” I said and smiled.
We successfully secured a round of funding that spring, enough to hire a small team. Then, with some hesitation, we signed a twelve-month lease on an apartment.
San Francisco's homeless population welcomes you to their 6,000-strong fold, Prerna and Parag!
h/t Kelly Stout
Photo via AP