Opinion expressed by Businessman contributors are themselves.
I have no intention of creating my own software company. I was a bit forced. You see, a few years ago, I was a full-time YouTuber. Everything was fine until my channel was demonetized. This means I earn $0 from ads placed on my videos.
There was a point where I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and I wasn’t getting a cent. As a way to bounce back from this low, I decided to put my life savings ($5,000) into starting a creator economy software startup at 19 years old. I dropped out of college to work on my SaaS startup full-time, and learned valuable lessons. Here are the five most important lessons I’ve learned so far:
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1. Done is better than perfect
I have no coding experience — let alone creating and growing a startup. Despite these challenges, I believed in my idea 100%. Backed by a proof of concept, I was willing to do everything within my limited budget to make my SaaS idea a reality.
With a well-written vision and a lot of persistence, I found a great developer overseas who not only fit my budget but believed in my vision for Trend Watchers.
We still work together today. The first versions of Trend Watchers were terrible, but over time, the UI/UX slowly improved. When I look at my journey from a software development point of view, I shouldn’t have made it this far. I went through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have left the starting line, but with a great vision and team mixed with the desire to succeed, we managed to succeed.
No matter how difficult a task is, done is always better than perfect. Often, perfection comes from the countless mistakes you make along the way.
2. The importance of data collection
One thing I implemented early on was efficient data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data collection has a bad rep, thanks to big companies and scammers who abuse it to make a quick buck. But there is a bright side to data collection. 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 number of ways, but two of the most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions during our signup sequence 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 help make the right decisions and update the software to improve the user experience.
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3. Get a proof of concept before you build
For the people behind, I’ll repeat myself: Get a proof of concept before you build. In early 2022, I thought it would be a great idea to build a marketplace within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great, and when used correctly they can be a great growth engine for startups — but no one wants them that way. They just want 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 huge failure. It also caused a lot of other issues, but I wasted a lot of time and money on something my users didn’t want at the time. Because of that experience, I always conduct surveys and get a proof of concept before I add a new feature.
4. Tell your story
Starting a software company at 19 with my own money was financially challenging enough. The next question is, how do I sell this thing with a $0 marketing budget?
Growing up, I was always an amazing storyteller. In my free time after school, I always write my own books. I would go to our home office, grab a few pieces of paper from the printer, fold them in half, staple them, and boom — I had a book.
I decided to use this skill I developed at a young age to slowly build a movement of loyal followers that would help me gain traction for Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and using the press. It was not an overnight success. It took a lot of writing, documentation and pitching to slowly start to get my brand story heard, and now it’s starting to pay off.
An interesting insight I discovered recently about my paying customers is that they tend to stick around longer because they know 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 on growing your startup, document your journey. Not only will you end up with a well-written journal in the end, but you’ll also find loyal customers along the way.
5. Take every opportunity that presents itself
Some of the best decisions I’ve made were the time-sensitive opportunities that came my way. Some of these opportunities include opportunities to purchase programs, go to different venues and disrupt my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities come out of nowhere, and every time I get one, it helps me a lot in the process of growing 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 experience. Reading books and watching YouTube videos can be very helpful and informative, but experience is truly the best teacher. The skills and lessons I gained from my experience have helped me grow tremendously, and hopefully, the five lessons above will help other entrepreneurs — young and old — grow their businesses as well.