“I have done away with offices, fax machines, even business cards…”
It’s the holy grail for geek entrepreneurs: laptop in one hand, cocktail in the other, doing a little light work on the beach.
So I thought it’d be interesting to interview someone who lives that life.
Unfortunately, I don’t know any. Instead, I spoke to Sumo Lounge‘s Andrew Milligan, who leads a similarly charmed lifestyle of international travel. But, damn it, Buenos Aires has no beaches…
Sumo Lounge – who sell giant bean bags – is a quintessentially 21st century company. Owner Andrew runs it on the road, with no staff, no offices, low overheads and every business service contracted out.
He is also well-known for using on blog reviews to build his brand (some examples: Crenk.com, SomethingAwful.com, BlogStorm, here.org.uk). Blog reviews of Sumo products have gone on to generate press coverage in the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Playboy.
In keeping with Jason Calacanis’ recent advice on startup PR, he also does it ‘hands on’ himself.
I caught up with Andrew to talk bloggers, buzz and Buenos Aires.
QN: Andrew, what made you start approaching bloggers to review Sumo Lounge products? If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of a success rate do you have?
Sumo: When I started the business, I had no money to advertise and it was cheaper to get reviews. Since then it has snow balled – I lose count of how many reviews we have (I think over 500 now). Some people I still contact, but now lots of people know the business and approach us.
QN: Your company is based in LA, you manufacture in China and you’re living in Buenos Aires. What prompted you to work on the road?
Sumo: The company is not really based in LA, the address there is simply to collect mail. There is an international structure which spans about six countries (Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, UK & USA) on a daily basis.
I am a big fan of “big is the new small”: I have done away with offices, fax machines, flyers, banners, and even business cards over 2 years ago. They all cost (waste) money and what the hell is the point for an internet business?
There are even no staff, if you can imagine. Absolutely everyone we work with is contracted to make things very efficient and smooth.
Everyone is reliable. Most of the factories are ISO certified, and the call centres who handle customer service are very good.
With low overheads, we can lower our prices and in the end we sell more products and have lots more happy customers.
QN: Do you have any staff back in LA? How do you find managing people remotely?
Sumo: I have no staff at all. I make the rounds and try to visit all of the suppliers at least 2 or 3 times a year, but all together everyone knows their job, is very reliable and a pleasure to work with.
QN: What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I wish I knew how to make money when I started out! I made a lot of mistakes and for over two years the business was insolvent and lost money.
QN: What’s your take on Tim Ferris’ book, The Four hour Work Week?
Sumo: I think the book is terrible. There may be some good points in the book about outsourcing, but it seems the guy has a big ego.
Yeah, right you can run a business and only work four hours a week! I know lots of successful people and the one thing they have in common is that they are all workaholics.
Obviously the guy is smart for the marketing he did for his book.
Everyone wants to make money and retire young. If he is able to do it from his book, I’ll give him kudos for that and would be happy to buy him a beer the next time he is in Argentina.
QN: I know how much you love Buenos Aires, where you now live. Where’s next?
Sumo: I am happy in Buenos Aires, for now. One place I am starting to like is Australia, in particular Melbourne. Nice people there and if I am lucky enough to find a nice Aussie girl I would be happy to stay there for a while!