What I learned about startups
My first startup failed incredibly but I learned a ton at YC Startup School 2020 and the Austrian “Founders Lab” and met incredible people like the CTOs and CEOs of billion and hundred-million dollar valued companies.
Building startups with exponential growth is really hard. I’ll apply all the things I’ve learned from previous failures and build 12 products in 12 months and see if one of them has the potential of a real startup. I’ll also blog about it along the way and exactly break down all of the steps I take. Think about it as “steps to reproduce” to build a startup. This blog is going the be the documentation for startup beginners I wish I had when I started building. Every product I write about will have the following structure:
- The problem I believe people have
- Proposed solution for this problem
- How big of an idea this seems
- Hypothesis to check
- The MVP I’ve built / will build
- Metrics to track (e.g sign ups, growth)
The reason why I do this is because you always hear about incredibly successful startups with a billion dollar valuation but never the stories of how they got started.
I’ve always been very excited about the idea of building my own business. My parents have been self-employed for as long as I can remember and I always knew that this was what I wanted to do as well.
When I was 16 years old I saw my father’s business decline and also found out why. Our site sonnenschirme.at was developed by an external web dev a long time ago and lived on the internet for nearly a decade. Naturally, when you don’t put up any new content and don’t update your site, Google will rank it lower after several years. Surprise. But this wasn’t a huge issue because at the time I attended vocational school where we learned all about programming, networking, the web etc. So I decided to build a new web page from scratch (with WordPress, don’t judge me).
I found out that when you update content regularly, make sure the website loads fast and improve several other metrics, you’ll get more views. A ton more. And that in turn means more revenue - what a revelation for a 16 year old. After a year, I almost single-handedly increased revenue by 50%.
This was really something, I learned that if you put really hard and smart work in, you will eventually see success. Now I’m 21, got a BSc in Computing (which is literally worthless, but that’s another story), started my first startup menuver.com which failed incredibly, and most importantly, learned invaluable things and met several really cool ambitious people like the CTO of a billion dollar company or the CEO of a 200M dollar company amongst others.
Build -> Measure -> Learn
What these people always tell me is really simple: If you work hard enough and find out what users really need, you can build an incredibly successful company. Finding out what people need is really hard though but the longer you try deeply understanding their needs and wants (by building things) the easier it gets. One of the most important “secrets” I’ve learned during the past year is that understanding people and their needs is the single most important thing to building a startup. That’s also exactly why so many people and founders especially on Twitter tell you to build as many products as possible, because the more you build, the more people you will interact with and the better you will understand their problems. It’s all about building, measuring and learning.
Also, your ideas automatically become better as you build because you understand your customers better. You’d be surprised how ideas and how you think about them change over time. By building 12 startups in 12 months I try to keep the momentum going and learn as much as possible about what people need and want. In that sense, my second and third product already got hundreds of times more users than the first, just because I learned a thing or two from prior one.
A startup is only a real startup if it can achieve exponential growth though (as explained here) and I’m quite sure I can’t build 12 real startups in 12 months but the point is to build 12 products and see if one of them has the potential to become a startup.
With that out of the way here’s what I’ve built already:
- menuver.com - a digital restaurant menu (5 views per day, lol)
- cuddy.app - do online courses together (20 active users per day)
- shareit.video - record screen recordings in your browser and share them instantly with a unique link (200-700 users per day)
The 2nd and 3rd product also got featured on ProductHunt which is actually a quite good quota (2 of 3).