A new chapter

This year I officially started a new chapter in my work life after giving a successful conclusion to the 7-year period where I founded and ran Toky and I want this blog post to serve as a bookmark and clear separation of what was and what is to come in my entrepreneurial life. I’m intentionally being blurry here because of “reasons”, but I can assure you we are all happy with the outcome.

While running Toky, I made many right decisions but plenty of wrong ones too, and in that process, I found my true self, what I like and what I dislike, and for the foreseeable future, I intend to minimize to the most of my possibilities those things that I now know I don’t enjoy at all.

For example, I love being a builder and having control over what I work on. I love technical challenges and making products that provide value to people. I also confirmed that I prefer working with business use-cases rather than with consumers because of how unpredictable we can be as individuals.

I certainly don’t love it when the output of my work does not (up) scale proportionally with the input. I’m a naturally self-motivated person and coding, or working on a product in general, rarely feels like work to me so I tend to put many hours into what other people may qualify as work, so in exchange, I would like to receive the proceeds of that extra effort in the form of positive impact in the world.

I’m grateful for the position I am in. I’m still young and full of energy and I want to positively influence the lives of the people I get to work with by using the freedom I have today to do something useful.


It was close to 11 am on a Thursday of late June when I suddenly noticed a ringing noise in both of my ears. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it and the day went by almost normally. The night came and it was still there but I managed to fall asleep normally and the next Friday I continued my life as if almost nothing had occurred. The noise was still there and its volume didn’t interrupt me from living my life.

On Saturday, at around 4 pm I remember sitting down on the sofa to watch a TV show when I realized the ringing was significantly higher in volume than it was just a few hours before. In a matter of seconds, that awful noise was the only thing I could pay attention to, and everything else—the sound that living life makes—went to the background and became the “everything else” I have to focus on to be able to hear it.

I’m no stranger to anxiety episodes and I learned to tolerate them and live with them (or rather, in spite of them) early in my life but that Saturday afternoon, after realizing that noise was not going away, the anxiety attack that was triggered by that sudden loss of control was the worst episode I have experienced in my entire life. At least that’s what I thought at that time. Little I could imagine it was actually a mild one compared to the ones I was yet to experience a few days afterward.

Saturday night was horrible but I managed to control my mind and set myself the short goal of going through the night as best as I could. I told myself that the next day was going to be better and that if it wasn’t, I would visit the ER to get my ears examined to get it “fixed”.

Sunday came and it didn’t get better so I went to the ER and I was attended by an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor who ran some tests and quickly concluded that there was nothing wrong with my ears and that I had a case of tinnitus of unknown cause. There was no medication for it and there was no way of making it go away either. In short, she told me that there is no cure for tinnitus and my only option was to adapt to it.

In the back of my mind, I was fearing I was going to be told they didn’t know the cause and that there wasn’t a short path to recovery in consequence. As obsessive as ever, I already knew an awful lot of things there was know about this condition thanks to the prior research I made where I concluded I was going to die of it more or less. Googling symptoms is never a good idea if you can’t prevent your mind from wandering to dark places.

Sunday afternoon I started spiraling down with so many anxiety episodes I lost count of them. The constant ringing became so loud that it was getting hard to hear anything else to the point I couldn’t concentrate. I could only think of that noise and it became the unintended center of my universe.

The night came and I tried to sleep hoping for the best the next day but I must have slept 2 hours in total in the 12 hours I tried to fall asleep. It was torture.

For two weeks I went to many doctors: my main physician, one dentist, one traumatologist, one physiotherapist, three ENT doctors that contradicted themselves about their diagnoses, and two psychiatrists. I was desperate for answers trying to find again that precious silence I always took for granted.

Those weeks went by and I only have a blurry memory of them since sleep was nearly impossible. The anxiety produced panic attacks, involuntary tension on my back and neck that caused sometimes both of my arms to go completely numb, I started fearing the night and I was afraid of staying in my apartment because it was overly silent making the noise in my ears even more noticeable, and the worst of all by far, I started contemplating harming myself, to put it in nice words.

So how am I doing now you may wonder? 

It’s almost the beginning of October when I’m writing this and the noise is still there. The volume came down from a 9/10 to maybe 3 or 2 in the best days. Sometimes it can go up to that 9 and come back down to lower volumes a few seconds later. That’s in fact how I know the previous volume so objectively and I can be sure it actually got better.

My mind is also in a better place. I am learning to live with it and I sometimes let myself think it will never go away so that I can make peace with that potential reality. I am almost back to normal thanks to being able to sleep again, something I’m very grateful for.

This entire ordeal has put things into perspective for sure as it clearly showed me an alternative reality for two weeks where I lost control of my mind and things I thought to be important became insignificant really really fast.

It also made me understand how depression works and how it affects the mind. Contemplating my own death and the irrationality of that “solution” for a person that only a few days before was perfectly happy and ready to live the good life, made me see why some people opt for that option despite seeming irrational from the perspective of a healthy person.

In the most macabre way, I think this experience caused me to become a better and more empathetic person even. I saw firsthand how can one lose control of his life so fast and so unpredictably that I can no longer unsee that. It has made me contemplate mortality at the age of 34 and reevaluate my values and what I consider important in my life.

I consider myself lucky after all. It is, of course, not ideal that I had to go through all that shit to learn what I learned but it is our choice how we see the experiences we get to live and I chose to be the optimist in this case.

I don’t know if I will get my silence back. Right now, I will just focus that I’m better and be grateful for having survived one of the most dramatic experiences of my life so far.


It doesn’t have to be new

When thinking of a startup idea you don’t need to be inventing something entirely new or innovative to be successful. In fact, most of the things we use today as consumers were not invented by the companies that sell them but by someone else. Those companies succeeding with these products what they did right was to iterate on existing ideas and they ended up creating what we consider today as innovation.

Sometimes the market is big enough that there’s room for several products competing for your attention with little distinction between them. In the case of Toky, this is true as well but we did manage to find small differentiators that make us more appealing to certain people or companies than our competitors’ products.

How many CRM software can you name? Or email service providers, or blogging platforms, or calendar software? In these categories, you have clear winners like Salesforce, or GSuite, or WordPress, or Google Calendar and yet there are hundreds of competitors here having enough success to keep the lights on despite competing with the likes of Google or Salesforce.

When your intention is not to create a billion-dollar company or if you are not in a hurry to figure out how to get there, maybe you can start small, remain profitable, and keep things sustainable for as long as needed, and for that, you really don’t need to create something completely new or revolutionary. You just need time to let luck find you working.