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

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

There was a time when I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and I didn’t get paid a penny. To recover from this low, I decided to invest my life savings ($5,000) in starting a creative economy software startup at age 19. I dropped out of college to work full-time on 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. Almost is better than perfect

I had no experience coding — 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 anything within my limited budget to make my SaaS idea a reality.

With a well-written vision and a lot of persistence, I managed to find a good developer abroad 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 awful, but over time the UI/UX slowly improved. Looking back on my journey from a software development standpoint, I shouldn’t have gotten this far. I have been through so many failures and obstacles. I should have given up at the start, but thanks to a great vision and a team mixed with the desire to succeed, we managed to pull through.

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No matter how challenging the task may seem, done is always better than perfect. Perfection often comes through the countless mistakes you make along the way.

2. Importance of data collection

One thing I implemented early on was good data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data harvesting has a bad reputation thanks to big companies and scammers who abuse it to make a quick buck. But there is an upside to data collection. Data collection can be used to make better marketing decisions. It can also be used to find out what users like and don’t like.

I collect data in several ways, but the two most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions about our login flow and using session recording software that tracks how long 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 you start building

For the people at the back, I’ll repeat myself: get a proof of concept before you start building. In early 2022, I thought it would be good to build 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 that. They just wanted trends that they could use to go viral on the internet.

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Instead of listening to market feedback, I built it anyway and it was a big flop. It also caused a lot of other problems, but I wasted a lot of time and money on something 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 age 19 with your own money was already financially challenging enough. The next question was, how am I going to market this thing with a $0 marketing budget?

Growing up, I was always a great storyteller. In my free time after school, I would always write my books. I would go to our home office, grab a few sheets of paper from the printer, fold them in half, staple them together and boom – 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 attention for trend watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and leveraging press. This was not an overnight success. It took a lot of writing, documentation and presentation to get the word out about my brand, and now it’s starting to pay off.

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One interesting fact I discovered recently about my paying customers is that they tend to stay longer knowing that their money is being used. 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 do you end up with a well-written journal, but you may also find loyal customers along the way.

5. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way

Some of the best decisions I’ve made were the weather that presented itself to me. Some of these opportunities included opportunities to get involved in programs, go to different places, and break my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of those opportunities came out of nowhere, and every time I took one, 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 not easy, especially for a young adult with no prior 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 hopefully these five lessons above can help other entrepreneurs – young or old – grow their businesses as well.

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