65 – There’s always a way


I always say that to myself. I know it’s a cliche but it’s one I say to myself because there always is. A way. I say it out loud, it’s probably as close to being religious as I get. Saying out loud there’s always a way. I’m fucking good at finding a way too.

Was moving a sofa into a mate’s basement the other day and it wouldn’t go. It was a nice pre-made one so it came in one piece and just wouldn’t go. PIVOT! All that shit. Mate was really stressed.

He was annoyed because I sat there, not stressed. We’d bought the thing back from London, drove it 40 miles and now couldn’t get it down the stairs.

“Why aren’t you stressed about this?”

“Because there’s always a way.” I said. If you just relax, the way always comes to you. Always. Never had the way not come to me.

So I sat, chilled out, and the way came to me. Flipped the thing over, stanley knived the hessian on its underside open, got him to pass me a spanner and found all the nuts and took the thing apart and remade it downstairs.

I mean, that’s an obvious way. Only took about ten minutes to find that one. But it was a way.

Always a way.

We could spend another 4k getting a couple more features in Story and it would take another three months. At the end of it, we still wouldn’t have any users.

That’s not a way.

That hasn’t been a way for almost a year now.

So I relaxed.

And found a new way.

64 – First, make an indie movie


So you’re a young film director with no experience and no money and you have this brilliant idea for a film. In fact, it’s gonna be a summer blockbuster.
Better get to work on it, right?

No! Of course you don’t make a summer blockbuster, you’ve got no money or experience, how can you? Instead, make an indie movie. Show off what you can do with little resources; get yourself on the map; let the little indie movie shine; attract producers who give you a budget to do something a bit more adventurous. Maybe then you make your summer blockbuster.

You don’t just try and make a summer blockbuster with no money you stupid fucking twat.


63 – In the tunnel


I open my eyes. My flat’s empty and quiet. My girlfriend has moved out and everything I own is packed up in boxes. My cat stares at me, she looks depressed. I stretch out across the bed so I can see the side of her head, to see the curl of her mouth so it looks like she’s smiling, but she still looks depressed.

I fill up a suit case with clothes. I’m staying at my parents for a while and moving the boxes into storage. The cat cries as I try and get her into her box which makes me cry.

On the Tube, I can sense a girl staring at my cat. I have my head turned in the opposite direction looking down at the floor of the carriage. I’m really making an effort to avoid all conversation. She bends over to look closer into the box. Don’t.

“Is that a cat or a rabbit?”

Fuck off.

“Cat.” I reply, still looking down and away.

“Awww, what’s it’s name?”


“Oh! Where are you taking her?”

Split up with my girlfriend didn’t I. Empty. Moving out. Heart broken. Staying with my parents. 32. Fuck off. I don’t say any of that.

“I’m going on holiday so she gets to stay at my parents.” Having the suitcase with me makes this the perfect lie.

“That’s nice. Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”


That hangs there a bit. The silence is awkward.

“It’s a road trip with a mate.” I add. Fuck off?

I picture Paul… me and Paul going on a road trip.

“Lovely! Around Europe?”

Man, she’s actually having a conversation with complete lies.

“No, just England.” I reply.

“Oh England is lovely. You don’t need to leave England to have a really great holiday.”

You do.

I used to feel like Story was this big thing I was pushing through a tunnel. Sometimes it would be uphill, I’d have to push hard. Sometimes, great things would just happen and it felt like the thing had started rolling on its own. At the end of the tunnel was the light and I felt close to it.

Now, the light is a pin prick in the distance and Story is way way behind me. I want to go back and start pushing again but I’m not. I’m just slowly walking to the pin prick which is getting further away and so is Story.

62 – Burnt out


It’s been two months since San Francisco.

The woman from the Embassy hasn’t been in touch since. Then came a spattering of investors getting back about the business plans I sent them. They all said no but they loved the video.

Jasmeet, our coder in India, is still coding. I’m struggling to reply when she has questions. I leave it a few of days. I’ve stopped reaching out to people completely, haven’t sent an email in weeks. And the money has gone. And my girlfriend’s moving out, we’re breaking up.

I’m burnt out.

Hi Simon,

I hope this email finds you well. I am delighted to let you know that your entry for the forthcoming Activate Tech talent day has been successful. Please can you prepare a pitch to present to our judging panel?


I stare at the email for a couple of minutes. Then I google the guy to see who he is and what I’d applied for. I close my emails, shut my eyes and forget about it. There’s just no way.

A few days later he sends another email. I don’t open it but I forward it to Paul.

“What’s this?” Paul replies. I explain how we’ve been narrowed down to ten start ups and we get the chance to pitch in front of five judges. If we get picked we then go on to present and pitch in front of a bunch of investors and 350 people the following day.

“Fuck. Ok. Shit. So what do we do!?” Paul replies.

“Someone who wasn’t us would book two days holiday, plan a presentation, and go and do it. I’m burnt out.” I say.

“I’ll do it.” Paul says.

For some reason I get so emotional I almost cry. Paul’s going to take care of it, that’s brilliant. I reply to Adam apologising for the delay but we’ve been out the country on business and of course we’ll do it.

I booked two days off work and go with Paul to the presentation but I stay sat in the audience. Paul wants to do a better job than the presentation I gave in San Francisco.

“That was fucking shit. Was it shit? How did I do?” He asks afterwards. He hadn’t enjoyed himself.

“Was good mate. Pretty much the same as the one I gave in San Fran.” I assure him.

“For FUCK sake.”

We don’t win. The guy that won already has funding, a team, a great product and 10,000 users. His video even has actors.

The next day I sit at home and wonder about my life. Do I want to do this? I want Story to exist so much. It will make the world a better place. But do I want to put in the work? I want to design. I’m a designer. But designing Story is only 5% of it.

The crowded mess of people struggling and begging with their stupid pitches fill me with anxiety. They don’t listen to the bullshit you’re saying, they’re just waiting to tell you their bullshit. Tech websites are full of articles written by smug founders preaching how hard it all is. How you have to give up your life. How you’ll fail three times before you figure it out.

I quieten my mind and listen to my heart. I think about being an underwater photographer. That feels like a good thing for me to be.

I book a two-day Scuba course.

61 – San Francisco: One more thing


“We’re going to need to take your phone off you I’m afraid.”


“We just put it in this locker here.”

“Oh, right. Official.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty official around here.”

I’m hungover. Had a lot to drink after the presentation last night. Got to know some people. It’s 9am. I’m flying back to London at 1pm but first I have a meeting with a woman at the British Consulate. A guy high up at Virgin, who I worked with in London, put me in touch with her.

I googled her name, read her job description on LinkedIn, but I still have no idea what she does or what I’m doing here. But wow, look at it.

A man leads me though some kind of airlock double door thing. Like, they had to shut the door behind before they could open the door in front.

Me and the guy go into a meeting room and he asks me about Story. I chat about it while we wait for the woman to arrive.

I wonder about asking the guy why I’m here, but decide to keep quiet about that.

The woman arrives and asks me the same stuff about Story as the guy did. She’s really friendly. They both are. I tell her about the app and how San Francisco is an amazing city.

I can’t tell if she’s interviewing me. Or just listening. What does she even do?

I finish talking about Story and kinda do a raised eyebrows ‘Soooo yeah, that’s Story…’thing to let her know maybe she should speak now.

I think I’ve done a great job at not showing that I have no idea what I’m doing there.

“Do you know why you’re here? What we do?” She asks smiling.


You know what? My hungover brain just can’t lie. Not right now.


It hangs there for a bit. I lean forward as if I’m about tell her a secret, “I have no idea what I’m doing here. I have no idea what you guys do. I even googled you and I still have no idea what the words meant.”

She bursts out laughing. I smile but don’t want to laugh in case she’s laughing at me.

I lean back and turn to the guy. He’s smiling.

“Pipeline development, lead generation, channel marketing, high-profile account management, client engagement from C-level to Evangelist, government relations, global competitive intelligence collection & analysis, relationship management, vendor engagement, contract negotiation, dealmaking, and customer-focused product management for global audiences.”

That’s the actual description of what she does. As if I know.

“Okay that’s fine!” She says.

She goes on to explain what she does and I still don’t understand most of it. It’s something about connecting people in the UK with people in the USA for the benefit of their business. Like a secret agent networker. Yeah, she should just change her description to that. Secret Agent Networker.

She then goes on to talk about the industry. And I have probably the most useful conversation I’ve had to date. She tells me, if we want investment, we need to be using analytics to drive our app forward.

“You think in Farmville, when they’d release some new purple fruit for sale it was just random? No. It was all decided on by using their analytics. They saw the colours people reacted to. They saw which fruit was the most popular across countries. When they’d release some new fruit thing they knew they’d make 10 million dollars that morning.”

She knows what she’s talking about.

“Who’s your tech guy?” She continues.

“Paul?” I reply.

“We’d like to get him to come out to Silicon Valley to meet some people at an event we’re doing next month.”

“Okay…” What the hell is this meeting, it’s crazy.

“You’re still very early on in your development. You’re not going to get investment yet. I’m sorry, but you’re just not. However, I’d like to put you in touch with an angel investor in London. You should have a pint with him. He’s more like a super angel investor.”

I’m stunned by the amount of information she’s throwing at me. After an hour she finally wraps the meeting up.

“You just kinda blew my mind.” I say.

“She gets that a lot.” The guy says.

60 – San Francisco: Finale

I’m standing in front of 50 entrepreneurs. I’m about to present Story for the first time. They look bored.

Most people presenting had presented really intelligent solutions to really technical problems. I didn’t really understand what most people were presenting it was that technical. And now I’m about to start talking about Story which, in contrast, is really basic. “Yeah, duhhh pictures and words…”

I’m the last guy up and the crowd is looking shifty. I need to win them back.

“Saved the best for last, huh.” I say nonchalantly as I look down at my iPhone. I’m plugging it into a cable so it can be projected onto the wall behind me. I don’t hear any laughs so look up and see no one’s looking at me.

This is my last night. I’m flying back tomorrow at 1pm and I have one last meeting with a lady from the government at 9am. Still no idea what that’s going to be about. But right now, I’m standing in front of 50 people working out how I’m gonna start my presentation.

See I wanna start with a funny story, win the crowd, then be like, ‘Why am I telling you this story? I should be showing you it in my app, Story!’ BAM. Win the crowd like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Instead I’m standing there like Eminem at the beginning of 8 Mile, choking, again, like I was at the fucking Facebook event.

I should’ve rehearsed. The others rehearsed, you could tell. When did I even last give a presentation? College? 12 years ago? Jesus.

Ah fuck it. I wade in with a story about how me and my girlfriend cycled the Golden Gate Bridge and it was nothing like the brochures made out, with happy couples smiling and looking relaxed. Then I pull the ‘Why am I telling you this story? I should be showing you it in my app, Story!’ line. No one reacts so I plough on. I launch the app and show off the story about us cycling the bridge. Then I show Paul’s Beef Wellington recipe. Then I show off a just-words story by Jamie P Barker.*

At the end there’s no applause, just a Q&A. I know there’s one investor in the audience. I keep looking at him but he doesn’t put up his hand. After the Q&A I get drunk and a bunch of people tell me it’s a brilliant idea and they really want to use it. One guy says his wife will love it.

* I actually consulted with Jamie about how to conduct my presentation. He had this to say:

“Is it on a stage? You gotta BOUNCE onto the stage. First impressions are vital. So get a Michael Jackson pneumatic lift thing and just shoot out of the floor. Then run up and down the stage fist pumping shouting “USA USA!” When the applause dies down start with a joke. “I’ve just flown in and boy are my arms tired!” Say. When they’ve stopped pissing themselves look confused and say, “oh no, I didn’t mean that!” and explain on the flight there was a massive hydraulic failure and you had to wrestle the controls with your strength. Tell them you saved 388 lives. They’re on the wrong foot now so hit them with something they understand. Talk about their famous bridge. Tell them it looks like a rubbish way for suicide then go straight into “DO YOU LIKE MONEY?” Ask them. They’ll holla back that they do. Tell them you could show them the App. You could do that but that’s too straightforward. Too easy. Tell them you only work with people with balls. Tell them you’ll accept investment for the person with the biggest balls. Turn down the first few people who shoot their hands up. Chide them for being too eager and say you’ve made a mistake. The most important thing here is to not show them the app, you want investment in you. Say to the audience they’re not as cool as you’d hoped. Pack your shit up and begin to trudge off stage. Somebody will shout at you to stop. Look at them and shake your head. Outside hang around. Talk on your mobile. Somebody will approach. Continue to pretend talking on your phone. Say on the phone you were disappointed by the lack of balls shown by Americans. Then take the first offer but don’t seem happy about it.”

59 – San Francisco: Part 3


This is fucked. Haven’t achieved anything. Haven’t met anyone. No one’s replied to my emails. I’m only in San Francisco for four more days. What can happen in four days?

I go to a FedEx store to print out 15 copies of my business plan to hand deliver to all the investors on my treasure map. The guy in the store tells me it’ll cost $279 – he also puts my bank card in a machine that starts charging me like a taxi metre counting up by the second. I dunno why he did that. I freak out and yell at him to take my card out. It had amounted 80 cents and I boil with anger.

I tell the guy to print them out and bind them and I’ll be back to pay in an hour and I head back to my hotel and never return to FedEx again.

I email the investors our business plan instead. Fucked it. Could’ve emailed from London. What am I doing here?

That night I get a facebook message from Joey Flynn the Facebook guy. I’d sent him a great message about design and also about Story. His reply was a thumbs-up emoji. No message, just a thumb-up.

I google image search ‘middle finger up’ and browse through possible replies. Then I take a photo of me sticking my middle finger up. Is that funny? Nah. Instead I reply with “I know buddy. I know. It’s going to be huge!”

He actually replies apologising and asks a question. I reply. Then he doesn’t reply.

I send some emails.

I wake up.

Three days left.

My chest hurts. I lie in the hotel bed and stare up at the ceiling breathing slowly.

I have an email. It better not be from fucking Ocado. Hang on I have three emails. None of them are Ocado.

First email is from the CEO of byliner.com. He wants to meet and chat about Story. Brilliant. I like what that guy’s doing. He’s an editor and an author who is actually doing well bridging the gap between paid-for printed publishing and free mass-consumption internet words.

Second email is from a woman based in San Francisco who someone put me on to. I don’t know who she is. I googled her name but her job description on LinkedIn is too complex for me to understand. All I get is that she works for the government and wants a meeting too.

And the third email gets my heart really thumping. It’s from a meet-up group who want me to present Story with other entrepreneurs as part of the Google I/O event.

I sit up in bed grinning like a fool. The clouds part, the sun shines and the homeless people strip off their clothes, do a dance under a rainbow and blow bubbles from their crack pipes.

58 – San Francisco: Part 2


I’m drunk. I’m at a talk by the guys who designed Facebook Home. I’d got there early and made the hostess open the first bottle of wine. Then I watched as young Californian kids entered and effortlessly began networking with each other. I watch and drink more wine.

Most of the kids are in groups but there’s a few who are alone like me. They look around the room eyeing up groups to penetrate. Whenever one catches eyes with me I neck another mouthful of wine with my eyes fixed on the bottom of the glass. Probably look cross eyed.

One girl is wearing Google Glasses on her face. Christ. She looks twenty. They all look twenty. I’m panicking and edge closer to the old guy with the beard who’s filming the event.

The talk is cool. The main guy there is called Joey Flynn. I think he’s younger than me but I like him. He says some stuff about design which I like. I like it when that happens, makes me want to be friends. They play the ad for Facebook Home which has Joey Flynn acting along side Mark Zuckerberg. I drink more wine.

When the talk finishes everyone stands up and starts networking again. I move back into my corner and work out what I’m gonna do. I wanna tell Joey Flynn I liked the thing he said about design. I figure I’d sound like a dick crowding him with everyone else.

“Excuse me, excuse me… thanks… Sorry, thanks… Hi. Hi Joey, I’m Simon, great talk.”

“Hi, thanks.”

“Loved the thing about how designing in a moving versatile environment instead of static photoshop layouts changes you fundamentally as a designer.”

“Totally man, thanks.”

“I had the same realisation when I made the moving video for our app, Story, and it led to a total redesign.”


Yeah, nah. I convince myself no good can come from that. I finish the rest of my wine and leave the building. The only person I talked to was the hostess, six times, telling her to refill my glass.

I walk through the streets. It’s late. I’m angry. That was my first chance to properly network and I choked. I choked like Eminem at the start of 8 Mile. I walk past an Irish pub. I turn back and go in. It’s showing basketball. I order a pint and stare at it.

I find Joey Flynn on Facebook. He has 8,000 fans. I send him a message saying the talk was great and that I liked the thing he said about design.

I leave half my pint and go back to my hotel. I really fucked it.

I send some emails.

57 – San Francisco: Part 1


I’m here.

The clouds part and the sun shines.

What do I do first? Hadn’t thought of that.

I get a haircut. I don’t normally get haircuts. I cut my hair myself. Last time I got a haircut the hairdresser goes “Who the hell last cut your hair?”.

I give the hairdresser my first pitch to stop him asking who last cut my hair. “Story… it’s like a mini-blogging app. It’s really simple.”

“Cool.” He goes.

“Yeah.” I say.

“I hear London has a way better party scene. Especially the warehouse parties, it’s died down around here.”

“Yeah, I think you always think the other city is better than your own.” I reply, I look at his face in the mirror and gauge his age. He’s got a boyish face with a full beard. Definitely at least my age. Definitely gay. I carry on, “I feel like there’s less parties in London these days but, you know, that’s because we’re all older, right? Probably just don’t get invited any more. I’m sure the kids are partying hard.”


He didn’t like that. He frowns and nods slowly. He hasn’t smiled once, thinking about it.

“D’you know where I can pick up a SIM card?” I ask.

“A what?”

“You know… the thing that goes in your phone? I need a US one.”

“I have no idea. You mean like a phone store?”

That’ll do.

“I haven’t owned a computer for seven years.” He adds.

Fucking Californian hippy. This isn’t going anywhere. Great first pitch. He gave me a beer though. And a good haircut.

I rent a bike and cycle from the East side across to Golden Gate park on the west. The hills nearly kill me. My iPhone works brilliantly, the maps and that, you know, because this is where they’re made.

When I get back to the hotel I read an email from Jasmeet. She’s done the final change to the little job we set her. On the flight I’d done a design for the new website, I send it to Paul. We need it live before I meet any investors.

That night I watch a load of American TV. There’s a news report about a girl who’s been missing for ten years. Turns out she was locked up in this guy’s house along with two other girls and she’s escaped. “Ten years, eh? That’s a long time.” The newsreader decides. She pauses then moves onto the next story.

The news is crazy here. It’s really opinionated and they tell you what to think. There’s a trial going on at the moment and the newsroom cut to their ‘courtroom expert’, “GUILTY AS HELL!” she screams. And she gets Donald Trump on the phone and he’s like, “Her ass is guilty!” And Donald Trump has actually been tweeting the accused. Like, the accused has a twitter.

And three out of four ads are for drugs. Telling you you’re depressed or have OCD, or ADHD or ‘just don’t feel right’ so ‘buy our drug’ and literally the list of side effects they legally have to read out is longer than the ad itself. “Yellowing of the skin and eyes. Suicidal thoughts.” was actually one.

And the homeless. In London, our guys sit in corners, don’t really do much. In San Francisco they follow you about groaning like the Walking Dead. Except this guy. (Alcatraz in the background)

I woke up that night having an anxiety attack. Where the fuck am I? How am I gonna do what I need to do? I send some emails…

56 – San Francisco: Prologue


I’m going on an adventure.

No plan. Just jumping on an aeroplane and, providing it doesn’t crash, spending two weeks showing our app about looking for investment. I’ve arranged to meet up with a bunch of people. Entrepreneur people.

I have no investor meetings planned yet. Is it too late? I don’t even know. Should be cool, I’m armed with a business plan. Nah, this’ll be great. Providing the plane doesn’t crash.

“It’s not going to fucking crash!” My girlfriend says, “I don’t remember the last time there even was a crash.” I’m staring up at the clear blue sky. I can see three planes.

“Exactly. Hasn’t been one for ages. We’re due one.” Never just one either. You hear about one crash and there’s always more crashes that week.

I concentrate and will the three planes overhead to explode so mine won’t. They don’t. They never do.

I imagine my plane crashing. Would Paul carry on making Story? He better. He better do it in my honour. Might even get us some exposure… This blog gets discovered… Ashton Kutcher sees it… Likes the sound of me… Gives Paul a call like, “I love this guy. Let’s make Story in his honour.” Changes the world.

I don’t know how this is going to go. If this was a movie, this would be the final act.

‘Guy spends the last of his money going to San Francisco to realise his dream.’

Life is never like that though. Kinda like how the plane won’t crash. Stuff just doesn’t really happen. Right?

But, hey, you know what feels magical about this? Like a movie? I have a treasure map.

I’ve marked off the top twenty investors. One of them’s gotta love Story, right?