5 Lessons I Learned From Starting a Company at 19 Years Old

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I had no intention of starting my own software company. I was kind of forced. You see, a few years ago I was a full-time YouTuber. Everything was fine until my channel was demonetized. This means I earned $0 from the ads placed on my videos.

There was a time when I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and didn’t get paid a dime. To recover from that low, I decided to invest my life savings ($5,000) to start a creator economy software business at the age of 19. I dropped out of college to work on a SaaS startup full-time, 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 building 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 turn my SaaS idea into reality.

With a well-written vision and a lot of persistence, I was able to find a good developer overseas who not only fit my budget, but also believed in my vision for Trend Watchers.

We still work together to this day. The first versions of Trend Watchers were terrible, but the UI/UX slowly improved over time. When I look back on my journey from a software development perspective, I shouldn’t have gotten this far. I went through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have retired at the start line, but with a great vision and a team mixed with a desire to succeed, we were able to pull through.

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No matter how difficult a task seems, done is always better than perfect. Often, perfection comes through 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 data collection has its upside. Data collection can be used to make better marketing decisions. It can also be used to discover what users like and dislike.

I collect data in a number of ways, but two of the most useful data collection tactics I use are asking good questions about our check-in sequence and session recording software that tracks how long users stay on each page and what they click on. These two methods of data collection have helped us 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

To the people on the back end, I’ll repeat myself: get a proof of concept before you build. In early 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to create a market within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great, and when used correctly, they can be a great growth engine for startups, but no one wanted them to. They just wanted trends that they could use to spread online.

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Instead of listening to that market feedback, I went ahead and built it anyway, and it was a big flop. It also created 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 this experience, I always do 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 your own money was challenging enough financially. The next question was how do I market this thing with a $0 marketing budget?

Growing up, I’ve always been an amazing storyteller. I always wrote my books in my free time after school. I walked into 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 use this skill I learned at a young age to slowly build a loyal following that would help me attract Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and engagement press. It was not an overnight success. It took a lot of writing, documentation and pitching to slowly start hearing my brand story, and now it’s starting to pay off.

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One interesting thing I discovered recently about my paying customers is that they tend to stay longer knowing that their money is being put to good use. Many of my paying customers follow my story through my email list or Instagram page for weekly updates.

If you’re working on scaling your startup, document your journey. In the end, not only do you get a well-written magazine, but you can also find loyal customers.

5. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way

Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made were time-sensitive opportunities that came my way. Some of these options included being able to participate in programs, travel to different locations, and interrupting your schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities came out of nowhere, and every time I used it, it helped me significantly in the process of growing my business.

Related: 6 Tips for Building a Successful, Scalable Software Company

As most people know, starting and growing a business is no easy task, especially for young adults with no prior experience. Reading books and watching YouTube videos can be very helpful and informative, but experience really is the best teacher. The skills and lessons learned from the experience have helped me grow exponentially, and hopefully the five lessons above can help other entrepreneurs, both young and old, grow their businesses.

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