How to Make Every Possible Mistake and Still Reach Your Goals

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How to Make Every Possible Mistake and Still Reach Your Goals

Startup life is all about mistakes

How to Make Every Possible Mistake and Still Reach Your Goals

I’ve made tons of mistakes while building our startup, but I reached my fundamental goals — financial freedom and doing what I love.

I want to share our mistakes with you.

If you have already created a startup or want to start one, welcome to the story of my crazy startup life.

I quit 2 jobs, spent $30,000, 4 years of development and reached $10,000 revenue/month with our startup. And through this experience, I can tell you what mistakes you’re likely to make if you choose a startup life.

Before we start, let me show you how the launch of our startup looked like:

  • We spent 1 year developing our app while also working a full-time job;
  • Apple rejected our app 20 times;
  • Facebook didn’t allow us to use Facebook Login;
  • Thousands of users couldn’t log into the app;
  • The launch failed with dozens of 1-star reviews on App Store.

We were shocked.

Did it feel like the whole world was against us? Perhaps. But these were typical mistakes that you might make along the way.

Let’s look at the full story to understand what you might have to go through to reach your goals in the startup world.

On a sunny summer day, I crossed a woman in real life. She was smiling at me. But, after that, I couldn’t find her.

On that day, I brainstormed, “How can I find people I crossed in real life? How can I solve that problem with technology?

I figured out that I can build an app that would help me find people I crossed in real life using geolocation, granted we all have the app.

I proposed the idea of such an app to my friend Valentyn, we could solve the problem with technology by building a startup together.

He is a super talented engineer.

He said yes.

I don’t think he knew what he signed up for, nor did I.

As we both were software engineers without founder experience, we wanted to build the product like a spaceship — with a ton of non-core features.

So we created a team.

We spent a year developing the product.

I quit my full-time job.

Certificate of incorporated, a company — “Super Smash Inc”

We incorporated a company — “Super-Smash”.

We made a ton of business cards. Don’t ask me why.

Smash’s business cards

We even made branded t-shirts with a unique hero for each team member. I had Deadpool on my t-shirt.

Then all hell broke loose.

Apple told us, “you won’t be able to pass our reviews if you don’t change the app’s name — Smash”.

Why? Because “Smash” means “hard sex” in the urban dictionary.

So in Apple’s opinion, our company’s name “Super-Smash” means “Super Hard Sex”?

I don’t think so. But what can you do with the monster who “Think Different”?

We renamed our app to “Smack” and passed the Apple review process.

After some time, we found out that “Smack” means “heroin” in the urban dictionary. Seems like Apple felt okay with that name.

Launch on Product Hunt

We launched a pre-order on App Store and got 10.000 organic pre-orders. Most of them from the US.

We were excited to launch the product and conquer the world with our brand-new startup. At least we thought so.

And we launched.

After a few minutes, we got our first purchase.

Daydreams were coming true.

But then we found tons of 1-star reviews on our App Store page.

Why? Users said they couldn’t sign up.

We figured out that we missed the support for IPv6.

When we fixed it, we were already lowered in App Store indexing to the bottom with other 1-star apps.

But the worst thing is that users didn’t want our project as we saw it.

There were a few main reasons for this:

  • we didn’t talk with users about what they wanted
  • we didn’t have a marketing strategy
  • we didn’t know who our persona

I was almost out of money.

So I found a full-time job and moved to Kyiv.

The product didn’t work, but we still had hope.

We tried adding more features, and we continued to burn money on paid acquisition to push the product from the dead stop.

In retrospect, it looks funny because we did everything wrong, but such is the life of a founder. I didn’t even know what a pivot is.

One “potential” investor proposed a new name for the product — “Bumpy”. We thought it sounded cool and decided to make a mirror product of “Smack” with the name “Bumpy”.

The strategy was mostly the same. Repeat the success with pre-orders and avoid getting 1-star reviews on App Store.

Sound hopeless? But we pressed on, and we launched the product for the second time.

We launched a pre-order in the same way we did in the first launch.

We got around 2,000 organic pre-orders.

The app had fewer pre-orders than we had before, but the product was a bit better than in the first launch.

We made a commercial. We hoped that it would help us acquire more users. But of course, it didn’t help, because we didn’t know a thing about marketing.

Still, the global picture didn’t change. The number of users was not going up.

It was the same problem — the product didn’t work as we saw it.

It was the most challenging time for the startup because it was almost dead.

Almost nobody used the app, and our team nearly dispersed.

We stopped our development progress and marketing for a few months.

I felt awful and couldn’t do anything after a full-time job. So I made a boxing timer app to train my product and marketing skills. It came out okay, but not how I expected. BTW, it’s still generating around $100/month.

One day in an office where I worked, I found a book, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. I devoured that book. It felt like I came to Disneyland for the first time. I learned what a “Pivot” is.

With the new knowledge, I went back to the startup and started thinking what we could do with it and how we could make it work.

The main thing that I found is that users paid for the product even if it doesn’t work. I asked myself. Why? And I found a user’s review that said, “Bumpy is good for meeting new people abroad”.

So it means they hacked the product and used it in their own way.

Map UI element in Bumpy

In this moment, I realised we needed to make a pivot to capitalize on this user ‘hacking.’ We changed the message from “Find people you bump into in real life” to “International Dating” and made minor changes in the product.

We made changes, and boom!

Revenue

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It had started to grow, and only with a few simple changes.

It went from $100 in February to $1820 in May.

How is that possible? Now I understand how important it is to listen to users and how important it is to make pivots.

We felt better. The team didn’t want to disperse anymore. We saw ourselves becoming the best ‘International Dating’ product in the nearest future.

But the most “interesting” things were ahead.

Champagne, strip clubs.

Everything was going well until an accident happened.

Before the pivot, and resulting growth, we changed our provider to optimize our server costs from $100 to $15 per month. But we missed a small — and very important — detail. We forgot to turn on backups for all of our data.

One day, the app stopped working. Our new server provider said, “we have had some technical issues.” In sum, they had lost all our data. They added, “We’re sorry, but you can use your backups.” At this moment, it dawned on us that we had forgot to turn them on. We had around 50,000 registered users, and we lost all of them.

We were so angry with our server provider (and ourselves), but what could we do? We did the only thing we could do — we started again from scratch, with zero users.

Go to Publisher:

Entrepreneur's Handbook – Medium


Author: Mark Prutskyi