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Pieter Levels is leveling up again
If you come across a time traveler on Twitter, what questions would you ask? This is how I feel about Pieter Levels aka @levelsio
Levels predicts that there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035. This prediction may sound more obvious after Covid and the rise of remote work. But the thing is, Levels made this prediction in 2015!
Pieter Levels has been a digital nomad since 2013. He runs arguably the most popular community and service for digital nomads. In 2021, he launched Rebase where already 3% of people who moved to Portugal used it.
I started Next Small Things because there’s a little ADHD in me and I love starting new projects. Still, when I describe Next Small Things to friends, I tend to exaggerate and say I try ten projects a year and maybe one or two succeed. The reality, of course, is much shabbier than that. I’ll be lucky to launch two projects in a year and most likely none succeed.
Levels leads this idealized, in-my-head-only version of Next Small Things. Since 2013, he’s launched more than 70 startups. Four have been megahits making millions and meaningfully changing the lives of thousands. And he’s not slowing down!
2014-15 was a pivotal time for Levels. He had suffered a panic attack after graduation. Happy Pills and coffee may have been the proximate reason but a deeper one could be the decision he was being forced to make:
The safe choice to be a soul-sucking investment banker
Lean into the serendipity that his early YouTube success had shown
Thank god he doubled down on the latter. He traveled to 12 different places in 12 months and launched 12 startups. A startup a month!
But perhaps even more interesting was how through this period of publicity, intense work and soul-searching, he found his voice. He started “working in public” sharing tips and experiences as they were happening in an earnest, thoughtful and helpful manner. I also loved his quirky pieces like how he backed up 4TB of data for $48 trying the 4G service in Seoul.
“An overnight success is ten years in the making.”~Tom Clancy
Pieter Levels is extremely hardworking and prolific, so it’s taken less than ten years to be pretty/wildly successful. But despite this success, the weird thing is I feel he’s just getting started! Following him on Twitter right now, I feel he’s leveling up again. It’s like witnessing Musk, Bezos or Jobs at work before they got to be super famous.
Just 2 months ago, he launched thishousedoesnotexist.org - a cute site that shows spectacular AI generated houses. Fun but really just a novelty. But he immediately followed up with interiorai.com: Take a picture of an empty room in a house and the site will populate it with many versions of interior decor! Suddenly, this has real-world uses from home renovators to realtors who want to spice up their virtual tours. Just a month after launch, Interiorai is already making >$7k/month!
But Levels did not stop there! A couple weeks ago, he launched AvatarAI.me and it is on fire!
Think of every social network or even every online tool that involves sharing – what is the one thing they have in common? Of course, it’s the profile pic or your avatar! It’s basically your online representation, so of course you care how it looks and many are already willing to fork $40 to get the coolest/wackiest/gigachad version of themselves!
I am old enough to remember the year 2006 when MySpace was the hottest social network on earth. It was easily the #1 search term of the year, but perhaps a little more surprising was that “MySpace layouts” was also a top 10 search term of the year!
What were “MySpace layouts”? They were basically the glittery backgrounds of say your favorite pop stars and the garish/blingy decorations that surrounded your MySpace profile. It was how users on MySpace showed their style and who they were.
Next Small Thing’s first multi million user site, Coolchaser, was a tool to help users create MySpace layouts. So, believe me, I understand the need for folks on social networks to express themselves! And avatar pics are the most fundamental way you can express yourself on any social network today.
That is why I have little doubt that AI-assisted Avatar creation is going to be a big hit and Pieter Levels is right at the crest riding this huge wave.
“The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed” ~William Gibson
Most folks who hear this profound quote think geography: some places seem more futuristic than others. But with the rise of digital nomadism and studying Levels specifically, I’ve come to realize that it applies to people just as much as to destinations. My Dad is all about history. With Pieter Levels, you get a glimpse of the future.
So, if you come across a time traveler, what would you ask him?