The following is a guest post by Jon Pellington, creator of TextDater. You can find the app and more about the company at TextDater.mobi.
Your heart has to be in it
Of course you wouldn’t be starting if your heart was elsewhere, but that passion (or fire under your ass) isn’t always there. Some days it is and stronger than ever, and other days you just want to give up. Hey, I’m just being honest. I have not hit the big time yet, and who knows, I may not. However, it’s the truth. At some point you’re going to think “is it all worth it?”
I have a company called TextDater, the main focus is a dating app. Now this is a very active market, and some people think it maybe saturated. These were my concerns when I started. But I was SURE (and this is before market research) there was a place for what I was doing. It was fueled by personal circumstances, and genuinely wanting to solve a problem.
I ultimately want to share my story so far. Not because I’ve “made it” (I haven’t), but actually to give a balanced view of what to expect when you take up this journey being an entrepreneur.
The early days
This was when the idea was really taking shape and things were new and super exciting (things are still exciting btw), feedback from friends and family was good and everything seemed positive. Help was at hand for business plans, financials, marketing and even some funding. Things weren’t by any means easy, but everything seemed achievable, and momentum was good. Here in the UK as in the US, the startup culture is thriving. Talented, creative and smart people are everywhere. This is truly a golden age for kicking things off on a shoestring budget. Everything seemed possible, and with a friendly face in most cases just across the coffee table, who is eager to bounce ideas around with you and offer off-the-cuff advice, it was reassuring to say the least.
Was there room for me?
I was sure of my idea, but being sure means little if at least someone else doesn’t agree with you. I was dreading market research a little. What if it showed my idea wasn’t that great, or worse someone was doing it already and better? Luckily I hit a home run. There was indeed a gap in the market for my idea and the human-to-human market research was the most reassuring. I’d hit the jackpot I thought, everyone will love it and come running when I promote the app. Er,no! The dating market is indeed active, and competition is fierce. Here I found that you not only had to be smart about marketing, but money really did matter. The stories of just being super smart and efficient to me seemed to be just that, stories. The budgets of the big players, just for marketing were astronomical. Interestingly, alongside the doubt came a surge of excitement. This app was a very good idea, there IS a way to do this.
Ok, so the app is out
The app was eventually finished. But cash was low and like I mentioned, promotion, as much as it relied on you being smart and having good people to help, needed cash! This was one of the biggest rock and hard place issues. I needed cash to promote and advertise the app, I needed cash to hire/utilize smart marketers, I needed cash!
I had taken time off work (normal 9-5) to fully focus on this; sadly, I had to go back. But it was technically an investment as it provided me some funds for “round 2.” After some months, I indeed came back full time on the business for round 2. I got some marketing done and things started moving again. Downloads increased, and things started looking up.
What’s happening now
The roller coaster continues. Marketing is always a major priority, and offering value is of course key. The app is ultimately just an app, and it takes some creativity and being humble enough to ask for help to really get the word out there. I found, at least for this business, offering more than just an ad for a download was essential. The people I spoke to regularly on social media and face to face often had so much good info (on business, startups, dating, etc.), it became apparent it was a shame more people didn’t hear what they had to say. So I decided to help share their stories, opinions and business as a way to cross promote, but to also have a stronger message. This has worked for me, and given me and the app much further reaching exposure. I hope it has also given people some encouragement and shone a realistic light on what it takes to start up.
To sum up
Without a doubt, I’d encourage people to go for it if you have enough passion and you are genuinely solving or addressing a problem. Help and support has never been more readily available for the little guy, and if you can make the right connections, who knows you really could be the next big thing. I went through VirginStartUp here in the UK as the main support for my business, and some of the success stories there will inspire you, considering most people get started with under £5k ($3.5k).
I’d like to say I went into this at 110% with no get out of jail card. I’ll succeed or die trying… No, nothing that dramatic. I do have a career to fall back on. In one sense it’s a bad thing, I have a way out and if things get too tough you can always retreat. In another way, it’s a nice insurance policy, that gives you the confidence, no matter what that everything will be ok, and from time to time it can be a silent investor.
I hope this has been somewhat helpful, and please hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your story, connect on social, and share what you have to say.