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I didn’t set out to start my own software company. I kind of had to. You see, a few years ago I was a full-time YouTuber. All was well until my feed went crazy. This means I was making $0 from the ads placed on my videos.
There was a point when I had 2-3 million views on my channel in a month and I didn’t get a penny. As a way to bounce back from this slump, I decided to use my life savings ($5,000) to start a creative economy software at the age of 19. I dropped out of college to work full-time at my SaaS startup and learned valuable lessons along the way. Here are the five most important lessons I’ve learned so far:
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1. Done is better than perfect
I had no experience in coding – let alone creating and developing a startup. Despite these challenges, I believed in my idea 100%. With a proof of concept, I was willing to do anything within my limited budget to make my SaaS idea a reality.
With a well-written vision and a lot of persistence, I was able to find a good developer overseas who not only fits my budget, but also believes 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 back on my journey from a software development perspective, I shouldn’t have gotten that far. I have overcome so many difficulties and obstacles. I had to get back on the starting line, but with a great vision and a team with a desire to succeed, we managed to pull it off.
No matter how difficult a task may seem, done is always better than perfect. Often, perfection is found through the countless mistakes you make along the way.
2. Importance of data collection
One thing I practiced early on is good data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data is collected thanks to big companies and scammers abuse it to make quick money. But there is a good side to data collection. Data collection can be used to make better marketing decisions. It can also help determine what users like and don’t like.
I collect data in a number of ways, but the two most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions about the signup sequence and having session recording software that tracks how many users are on each page and what they click on. These two data collection methods helped in making the right decisions and updating the software to improve the user experience.
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3. Get a proof of concept before building it
For the people behind, I’ll repeat myself: Get a proof of concept before you build it. In early 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to make a market within Trend Watchers. Markets are great, and when used correctly, they can be a huge engine of growth for startups – but no one wanted that. They just wanted trends that they could use to go viral online.
Instead of listening to this market feedback, I went ahead and built it anyway, and it was a huge flop. It also created a lot of other problems, but I spent a lot of time and money on something that my users didn’t want at the time. Because of this experience, I always conduct surveys and get a proof of concept before adding a new feature.
4. Tell your story
Starting a software company at the age of 19 with my own money was already difficult enough financially. The next question was, how can I market this thing with a $0 marketing budget?
Growing up, I was always an amazing storyteller. In my free time after school, I always wrote my own books. I would go into our home office, take a few sheets of paper from the printer, fold them in half, glue them together and cover them – I had a book.
I decided to use this skill I developed at a young age to slowly build a loyal following that would help me gain traction for the Trending audience. The two platforms I decided to focus on documenting my progress were Instagram and using the press. It was not an overnight success. It took tons of writing, documentation, and pitching to slowly get my brand story heard, and now it’s paying off.
An interesting insight I recently discovered about my paying customers is that they tend to know that their money is being put to good use. Many of my paying subscribers follow my story through my email list or Instagram page for my weekly updates.
If you’re working on growing your startup, document your journey. Not only will you end up with a well-written magazine, but along the way you may gain loyal customers.
5. Take advantage of 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 the ability to purchase apps, travel to different locations, and disrupt my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities came from somewhere, and every time I got one, it helped me 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 young people with no previous 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’ve learned through my experience have helped me grow exponentially, and I hope the above five lessons can help other entrepreneurs – young or old – grow their businesses as well.