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 earned $0 from ads placed on my videos.

There was a point where I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and I wasn’t paid a dime. As a way to bounce back from that low, I decided to put my life savings ($5,000) into launching a creative software startup at the age of 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. Done is better than perfect

I had no coding experience – let alone building and growing a startup. Despite these challenges, I believed in my idea 100%. Backed by a proof of concept, I was willing to do everything 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 believed 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. Looking back on my journey from a software development perspective, I shouldn’t have made it this far. I have gone through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have finished at the starting line, but thanks to a great vision and a team mixed with a desire to succeed, we did it.

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No matter how difficult a 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 is good data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data collection has a bad reputation thanks to big companies and scammers who exploit it for a quick profit. But there is a good side 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 dislike.

I collect data in several ways, but two of the most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions about our sign-up sequence and using session logging software that tracks how long users are on each page and what they click on. These two data collection methods helped make the right decisions and update the software to improve the user experience.

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3. Get a proof of concept before you start building

For the folks at the back, I’ll repeat myself: Get a proof of concept before you start building. In early 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to build a marketplace within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great, and when used correctly, can be a great growth engine for startups – but no one wanted that. They just wanted trends that they can use to go viral online.

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Instead of listening to this feedback from the market, I went ahead and 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 do research 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 already quite financially demanding. The next question was how can I sell this thing with a $0 marketing budget?

Growing up, I was always a great storyteller. I always wrote my own books in my free time after school. I went to our home office, took 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 picked up at a young age to slowly build a movement of loyal followers that would help me gain traction for Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and press leverage. It was not an overnight success. It took a lot of writing, documentation and presentations for my brand story to slowly start to be heard, and now it’s starting to pay off.

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One interesting insight I’ve recently discovered about my paying customers is that they tend to stay longer knowing 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 to grow your startup, document your journey. Not only will 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 ever made were time-sensitive opportunities that presented themselves. Some of these opportunities included opportunities to buy programs, go to different places, and break my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities came out of nowhere, and every time I took one, it helped me tremendously 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 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 experiences have helped me grow exponentially, and hopefully these five lessons above can help other entrepreneurs – young or old – grow their businesses.

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