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I had no intention of starting my own software company. I was kind of forced into it. You see, a few years ago I was a full-time YouTuber. Everything was going well until my channel was demonetized. This means I made $0 from the ads placed with my videos.
There was a time when I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and not getting a cent. As a way to bounce back from this low, I decided to spend my savings ($5,000) starting a creative economics software launcher at age 19. I dropped out of college to work full-time on my SaaS startup, and I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way. Here are five of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:
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1. Ready is better than perfect
I had no experience in coding – let alone creating and growing a startup. Despite these challenges, I believed 100% in my idea. Backed by a proof of concept, I was willing to do anything within my limited budget to realize my SaaS idea.
With a well-written vision and a lot of perseverance, I was able to find a good developer abroad who not only fit my budget, but also believed in my vision for Trend Watchers.
To this day we still work together. The first versions of Trend Watchers were horrible, but over time the UI/UX slowly improved. Looking back on my journey from a software development point of view, I shouldn’t have made it this far. I have been through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have stopped at the start, but by having a great vision and team, mixed with the desire to succeed, we were able to get through.
No matter how challenging a task may seem, done is always better than perfect. Often, perfection comes from the countless mistakes you make along the way.
2. Importance of data collection
One thing I implemented early on is good data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data collection has a bad reputation, thanks to big companies and scammers who abuse it to make a quick buck. But there is a good side to collecting data. Data collection can be used to make better marketing decisions. It can also be used to discover what users like and don’t like.
I collect data in a few ways, but two of the most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions about our login order and having session recording software that tracks how long users spend on each page and what they click on. These two methods of data collection have helped to make the right decisions and make software updates to improve the user experience.
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3. Get a proof of concept before building
For the people in the back, I repeat myself: provide a proof of concept before you start building. In early 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to build a marketplace within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great, and when used properly, they can be a great growth engine for startups, but nobody wanted that. They just wanted trends that they can use to go viral online.
Instead of listening to this market feedback, I went ahead and built it anyway, and it was a big flop. It also caused a lot of other problems, but I wasted a lot of time and money on something that my users didn’t want at the time. Because of that experience, I always conduct surveys and get a proof of concept before adding a new feature.
4. Tell your story
Starting a software company with my own money at the age of 19 was financially challenging enough. The next question was, how am I going to market this thing with a $0 marketing budget?
Growing up, I’ve always been a great storyteller. In my spare time after school I always wrote my own books. I went to our home office, grabbed a few sheets of paper from the printer, folded them in half, stapled them together, and boom – I had a book.
I decided to take advantage of this skill I developed at a young age to slowly build a movement of loyal followers that would help me get a better handle on Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and using press. This was not an overnight success. It took a lot of writing, documentation and pitching to slowly get my brand’s story heard, and now it’s starting to pay off.
An interesting insight I’ve recently discovered about my paying customers is that they tend to stay longer, knowing their money is being put to work. Many of my paying customers follow my story through my email list or Instagram page for weekly updates.
If you’re working to grow your startup, document your journey. Not only will you end up with a well-written journal, but you can also find loyal customers along the way.
5. Grab every opportunity that presents itself
Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made were time-sensitive opportunities that came my way. Some of these opportunities include opportunities to buy programs, go to different places, and break my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities came out of nowhere, and every time I took one it helped me significantly in the growth process of my business.
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As most people know, starting and growing a business is not easy, especially for a young adult with no previous experience. Reading books and watching YouTube videos can be very helpful and informative, but experience really is the best teacher. The skills and lessons I’ve learned through my experience have helped me grow exponentially, and hopefully these five lessons above can help other entrepreneurs – young or old – grow their businesses too.