2020 Reflections

😅 🎉 😷

There’s so many cliches I could use to start this note. I won’t, don’t worry — you’ve heard them all year.

I sat down to write this article today so I could reflect on some of the things that have happened in my life, knowing many of them were foundational moments that will guide me into 2021. I wish everyone the best this new year — let optimism guide your approach as you throw away 2020. 🙂🗑

Climbing a mountain outside of San Diego

Experiences

Years are made up of experiences, so that’s where I’ll start. The most obvious happening in my life was the launch of Cabana Health — the lifestyle wellness app you’ve been looking for. 😁

Here’s a quick run-down of some big moments…

March

  • Met with Tom, talked about the app, went over design prototypes
  • Decide we like it and want to make this a thing

May

  • Flew to California, began work on First Iteration, started purposeful user chats
  • Think people want a combination of medical data with wellness data, but user chats highlight value on the wellness side

June

  • Revised approach, began Second Iteration, reoriented user chats
  • Think people want intricate data visualizations of all connected devices + a cabana arena + a health data interchange, but users are drawn to cabanas

July

  • Started work on Third Iteration — cabana centric with a simple dashboard
  • After user chats, started asking if they wanted to give our app a try (a clear majority say “yes”)

August

  • Continued work on 3rd Iteration, making adaptations as needed
  • Tried connecting with trainers to benefit from cabanas (this was a fail, still don’t know why) 🤷‍♂️

September

  • Started preparation for a soft launch, moved back to east coast
  • Our first major influencer wants to try Cabana Health

October

  • Launched our Version 1 app and hired some engineering+marketing interns (8 total, hi team! 👋)
  • Gave access to those we chatted with over summer + some college friends

November

  • It seems our app matters
  • Teammates (users) are coming back to check Insights (our mini dashboard) + there’s an effort to make and join cabanas, but the interface is too clunky

December

  • We design a new interface and introduce new functionality our Teammates want
  • We begin development on our V2 app, and set a target to launch around New Years

January

  • We launch V2 🎉

Yet, Cabana Health wasn’t the only thing that happened in my life this year. In 2019, I closed my fund, Katalpa Capital Management, to be employed at Morgan Stanley. I didn’t personally invest after that, and it was something I missed. So, in March, while the world was on fire, I started making some small and simple buys.

Being sent home from College

I decided to invest in tech companies with leaders I believed in. I knew my focus would be on the startup, so I made it as straightforward as possible.

I put $4,500 into Tesla, Google and Facebook. Later I would buy Palantir and some Bitcoin. These turned out to be smart buys.

My portfolio value is currently sitting over $23,000. 📈

I also found new interests this year. At first, I was thrown into design at Cabana Health by necessity. I was a finance kid trying to understand the importance of user experience by prototyping an app that mattered. Almost instantly, that work turned into a desire to understand people better. I wanted to build experiences that acted as an effortless medium between people and product.

Our Version 2 Home Screen

I’m still learning, and I’ve grown to understand the relationship between design, development, marketing and operations (four big, interconnected areas).

Most importantly, this is the stuff I’ve enjoyed the most at Cabana Health. Operating, connecting, designing, managing… these are things you need to experience to learn, and I know they will help me looking forward.

People

Years are also the product of the people you spend them with. I was able to meet some incredible, incredible people this year.

Tom Liu

“Finding a cofounder is like finding a life partner.” This is a message I heard just enough times to take seriously. I’m glad I did.

The infamous Potato Chip rock

Tom has been a driving force in my life since the moment we met this year. Around February, I started looking for someone I could build Cabana Health with. It was a tedious process. Living in Boston and being part of the New England academia environment, I went from school to school in search of the right fit. I was able to meet some brilliant people, and share coffee with I’m sure future millionaires, but the right fit wasn’t there. Thankfully, I looked across state lines to Brown University a short drive away and immediately found Tom.

It was a different energy from the start, and we were able to connect over the potential of what Cabana Health could be. I remember meeting at the Starbucks on Thayer St. in Providence just as the shock from COVID was taking hold on the world. Our colleges had just announced they were sending students home.

In the dark periods of realizing everything was about to change, we started building a company. A month later, we flew to California to live in Tom’s house and make that company matter.

Meeting Tom’s family, eating great Chinese food, and experiencing California were huge bonuses.

Beach ballet session with Tom, Mrs. Liu and her classmates

Will Robinson

Cabana Health was able to break into Babson’s Summer Venture/Catalyst Program, and that incubator-like program got us connected with Will Robinson.

Will is the only successful, accomplished person with a consulting background I’ve met who will routinely hop on hour-long calls with Tom and I to discuss strategy, holding nothing back, free-of-charge, simply because he believes in the direction of the company (and somehow also its founders?? 😁).

Being a first-time founder (not counting KCM or the non-profits since this is radically different), I can’t express enough how instrumental it’s been to have someone who’s done it before us to help with our approach.

Thanks Will — Tom and I appreciate everything you’ve done, and now that the stage is set with V2, we look forward to explosive growth in 2021! 🚀

David Chang

A man of the people, David is someone who’s hard to miss when you’re looking at the Boston area startup scene.

David was the advisor paired with our venture when we broke into Babson’s Summer Catalyst Program, and he’s been more than helpful in providing connections, helping set up chats, and advising Tom and I on the direction of our company. David helped us believe in ourselves in the early days, and his experience is something I know I can rely on when asking questions and mapping out priorities.

Thanks David! Tom and I are excited to build upon the foundation you helped us set. Boston is a place close to my heart, and whenever I’m in the area — and COVID permits — I’ll make sure we grab a coffee. ☕️

Bob Stringer

The coolest angel investor you’ll meet, hands down. Bob was consistently a guy I could bounce ideas off of and get real, unfiltered advice from. I think this is what everyone enjoys about him — I’m certainly no exception.

Bob cared about making time for all ventures that were part of the Summer Catalyst cohort, especially amidst an uncertain time and future. He didn’t compromise on that promise, and Tom and I were thankful for that.

Thanks Bob! Your generosity and help was something I could count on as we were building. Next time we’re in the same city, we definitely need to catch up! 🍻

Deep sea fishing in San Diego

Chris Jacobs

Chris was another great guy Tom and I could hop on a call with to get real, unfiltered advice. The best kind of advice.

I always find it humbling getting experience from Chris. He’s a guy who’s made it in a tangential field, he knows the ropes, he’s been-there-done-that, and yet he offers his time to help because he wants to.

Thanks Chris! As we launch our V2 app, Tom and I look forward to mapping out growth areas with you and finding new ways to reach and engage with our audience. 🏔

Adam Martel

I connected with Adam late this year and haven’t looked back since. The calls we’ve had are motivating, fast-paced, straightforward, and focus on the core of what Tom and I can do to optimize Cabana Health. I find the experience incredibly enjoyable.

I can’t wait for future discussions about traction, growth and discovering new ways to fine-tune our app around the needs of our audience. Tom and I appreciate the way you view our company, and we’re going to do everything we can to make it succeed.

Thanks Adam! On to a new year, a new app, and new success. 🌴

Dan Smith

P.S. — thanks David Chang for the connect. Dan is a guy Tom and I connected with late in the year who’s experienced success in the same avenue Cabana Health is building in. As far as advice goes, it doesn’t get more aligned than what Dan knows from experience, and I’m humbled knowing that.

Thanks Dan! We’re excited to run questions by you as we launch our V2 app and build around it. This is just the start. We can’t wait for what the future holds. 👨‍🚀

Places

Finally, a year is the sum of the places you’ve been.

I started in Boston ❤️, where I witnessed what it was like to be a college kid as COVID was unleashed upon the world. I said goodbye to friends I don’t know when I’ll see again, and I witnessed lives dramatically changed in an instant.

Kicking off 2020 at Bijou

It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. It was terrifying. But as humans do, I adapted and now find myself optimistically looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I briefly went to PA, where I find myself now for the holidays. This place is an in-between, a planning spot.

I then went to San Diego 🌊, where Cabana Health as we know it was born. There’s nothing more satisfying than exponentially learning in beautiful weather as I worked on a product to be used by the world.

Outside LA with friends

In San Diego I also saw myself adapt as a person, a bit of holistic self-improvement. This is something I’m also grateful for.

I then went to Silicon Valley 💻, where I marveled at working on a startup where so many greats had before me. I remember telling Tom at one point that I thought we were driving on a road where Steve Jobs got a speeding ticket. It doesn’t get better than that.

I then went back to San Diego ☀️, working to get everything in place for our V1 launch. I look forward to traveling back as soon as I can, saying hi to friendly faces, and enjoying new experiences.

I’m happy for all the new friends I’ve met this year despite the force of COVID making it difficult. I’m reminded not to take anything for granted and to live life — something I intend to guide my approach in 2021.

2020 will certainly have residual effects in the New Year, but I will make sure to do what I can to build a better future and live my life accordingly.

Looking out over Silicon Valley

Goodbye 2020.

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MacBrennan ◾️

MacBrennan ◾️

@marginfi • @mrgntrade // prev built finance & tech co’s