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INTRO 19 y/o student, programmer and entrepreneur

Discussion in 'Forum Introductions (Who are you!?)' started by TimTheCoder, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. TimTheCoder
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    TimTheCoder New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Hey everyone!
    This might be a long post and I apologise. My name's Tim, I'm a programming nerd, and I just finished my first year of university (studying computer science). I have recently finished reading TMF and Unscripted which have really opened my eyes to what's possible in life. I'm super grateful for finding these books at an early age. Thank you MJ for writing such fantastic books!
    As for university, in hindsight it doesn't seem like the debt (yes I got student loans :clench:) and time is worth it, but I already have signed a housing contract for next year so guess I'll just have to grind through it. I'm a self-taught programmer so I didn't actually learn a whole lot this year either.

    Sorry if I'm rambling.

    Anyway, so in sixth form (which is before university, I live in the UK) I created some software (educational technology- abbreviated as EdTech) for my physics teacher. It was actually a coursework project but in the end my teacher loved it and so I decided to try and spread the word a bit on social media. This worked quite successfully (relative to my expectations) and the site now has over 2000 users. I realise this isn't a lot but I naively thought it was so I decided to make a premium version of the software. So far I have had about 8 sign ups on that and made about £60 (lol). However despite it being not a lot of money, it feels amazing when people pay for something you made!

    Now it's the summer holidays and I have a lot of free time until I start uni again (yay!). However I don't want to waste it. I can see 4 possible options for things to do this summer:
    • Rewrite my software (fully commit)- the problem with my site is that the code has got very messy and I can't see it scaling well. Therefore I am thinking about rewriting it (using better technologies and practices) and putting it on AWS. This will be pricey, in both time and money (AWS can get expensive) so I'm not sure whether it's a good idea.
    • Improve my software (partial commit)- I'd still have to use the same technology unfortunately (PHP isn't the best choice for my purposes) but just try and clean it up a bit and add new features as well as try and reach a bigger audience.
    • Pursue a different venture (abandonment) - don't have any ideas yet
    • Get a damn job (ugh)
    Sorry for the long post, I wasn't sure if I should put the summer stuff in a separate post or not. That's my story and I just wanted to ask what peoples opinions are on what I should do. Obviously I know it's ultimately up to me but are there any helpful ways to figure out if something is still worth pursuing? The problem with EdTech is that most services are free and also have a paid option so most users just go with the free version, which ultimately means not many value-vouchers for your hard work.
     
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  2. flyingdev
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    Hi Tim, nice to meet fellow UK based fastliner. For me, you already living the dream ;), this is why:
    * 19 yo with proper mindset (read FM) and still lot opportunity to make mistakes ;)
    * you have website with 2k users, which is a lot, since its niche and I think your users are committed
    * you already earned some money, so there is proof that your business has potential to grow through marketing etc.
    * you are on ed market which is worth a lot and people like to pay for value. People would pay for good value.
    * you can code your own stuff


    I believe your business can make good amount of money in few years that will let you never have a job :) Regarding rewriting, I am sure there is some room for improvement and focusing on selling instead. Is your code that complicated, really?

    Could you share link to your site? Here or PM.
    And first think I would do is to interview your most committed users what they like, where they see value and what changes they like - I bet you would get lot of responses. And your another strength is not being 'well funded London based startup', but being hard working 19yo which I think will give you more trust if you would decide to make your sales strategy more aggressive.

    Cheers
     
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  3. TimTheCoder
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    TimTheCoder New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Hey, thanks for the reply! My site is called Quiznetic. I think it's a great idea to interview users, maybe I should send out an email for feedback to a survey or something? Another reason I'd like to rewrite it (as well as the messy code) is I've been learning a bunch of new technologies which would suit my application really well and should take strain of the server (if there is any- I'm not sure, but it would probably become an issue with growth).
     
  4. flyingdev
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    Well, I have to say it looks really good! And idea is also innovative, I think it could be very good fun for students and teachers to do quick 10-15 minutes quiz at the end of lengthy lesson in order to see what pupils remembered. So I think your idea is brilliant.

    Regarding marketing and sales:
    I think 20 GBP per PRO version is a joke ;) Your clients are schools and even though everyone are saying that schools are struggling with founding, they are fine. Besides, UK favourite sport is charity, so what I would do:
    Create 2 easily distinguishable plans: free and paid. Paid would be like 100-200 GBP per year or so, per 5 users. In general, its quite hard to estimate how much to charge, but I think your 20 GBP is not enough.
    Free would have limited features. Here is how I see free:
    * you can't share your games (or its limited)
    * you can't use game shared by someone else
    * you have limited seats per game (10?)
    * you have some other limits
    The point is, that teachers should be able to use your tool for free, but with limited capacity. Then they will asks schools to buy it. And school will buy it, or - will ask parents to crowd fund it. Simply build crowdfunding pages for schools (you have all school listed in Ofsted), and I can am pretty sure soon every school in UK will have Quiznetic (name is very good, BTW).

    Surveys - simply email everyone individually asking them for phone number, and when you can call or Skype. As how they learned about it, what they like, how they use it, and thank for their time.
    Btw, marketing is very easy for you - school emails are public and I think it would not be considered as a spam (but I would do it still personally, few schools a day).

    Also, remember to be very pragmatic when comes to features. Don't over do them. Especially people - they will ask for lot of them, but I think its wise to keep your app simple. Please read 'Rework' - book from creators of Basecamp. I bet you will finish it in few hours.

    Regarding tech:
    I skimmed through your blog and few quick advises:
    * use heroku for hosting, you can autoscale with it with no issue. AWS is more complicated (I would say much more).
    * storing json in files is smart, but not lean. Use jsonb columns in Postgres DB.
    * don't worry about scalability at this point, really. Focus on improving what you have and curating features you have, and interviews - you have few months to prepare for new school year.
    * don't build too much features. For example, you don't need complicated payment system build by yourself. Either complicated user management system (just be compliant with GDPR). You can do lot of things like this via email at this stage

    It is possible that you will have some founding offered at some point, but I would be careful with this - it will change a lot, investors will demand things you might not like or that will make your app less attractive. I believe you have a great chance to create product, not a startup. And you will be self founded, what I wish you.

    PS. Take my advices with the pinch of salt. They are based on my observations, I worked as developer in many startups and big companies and I had seen a lot. But its your story, so its unique - you create your own rules, and remembers what worked or didn't work for others may or may not work for you!
     
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  5. TimTheCoder
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    Wow, thank you so much for the the advice! You've given me a lot of motivation for this, I wasn't sure if it had potential. Btw I have to admit, when I saw you said 100-200 GBP per 5 users I thought that was crazy! The most expensive edtech I've found is Socrative which charges $60 / year (alongside a free version), but tbh I'm not sure how I should price mine. I think if I were to charge schools rather than individuals then yeah I could probably do it higher. This sounds like a good idea. I'll also have to look into crowdfunding as I have no knowledge about how this works.

    Regarding features, I've been working on teleport spaces which are completely my own idea but were gonna be added to the paid version. I thought they'd spice up the game a bit, but is this a mistake going off your own thoughts? Maybe I am adding too much, I'll check out that book.

    I haven't heard of a Postgres database, I'm currently using MySQL. Should I switch?

    My plan was to rewrite it using Node JS and websockets (for scalability), make a nicer UI (with React hopefully), new pricing system and introduce it as Quiznetic 2.0 as a marketing thing lol should I abandon this idea and just focus on marketing the current one?

    Also, you say "every school in the UK", should I target specifically UK? Prices in pounds instead of dollars? (they're currently in dollars as most my users are in the US).
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
  6. ProblemOd
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    i know the feeling of sitting in a computer science class and already knowing everything since you taught yourself. I left 3 weeks before the semester ended lol. Not telling you to do that btw.

    I'd put effort into learning how to reach your target audience in the tech space. If there is 2000 users maybe there is 10,000 more that just don't know about your site. This skill will be one of your biggest assests. Once you have another 2,000 users you might get more feedback on what they want and you'll make a better version of it OR even do a 180 and launch a completely new app to solve a new problem you learned from your users.
     
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  7. TimTheCoder
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    Yep, I'm definitely convinced I need to market it more. Just worried that it will crash and burn as it can't handle scaling :wideyed:
     
  8. c4n
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    Get the customers first, then worry about scaling.

    You can always get better hardware, implement caching etc... to get you through until you really need to start scaling horizontally.
     
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  9. TimTheCoder
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    Alright guys, fine. I'll put aside my biases ;)
    I'll try interviewing to see what users think. Since its the summer holidays now its probably not be the best time to try and get more users so I'll just focus on improvements.
     
  10. c4n
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    Well, that lasted long:

    :smile:

    I know what you are going through. I had (still have) the same biases and excuses, being my worst enemy, sabotaging my own growth, even fearing of growing too much too quick. Heck, I even sent my largest customers away telling them I may not be a good fit and they should find a "real" company.

    £60 may not be much, but it shows you provided value. It is indeed a great feeling to get paid for something you've created. Focus on improving your product (@flyingdev gave some good pointers), money follows value.

    And remember, your users don't care how well organized the code is, what language it's written in and if you adhere to the "best practices". They just want to know what's in it for them and if the price < value proposition, you can get paid for it.

    Good luck!
     
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  11. TimTheCoder
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    TimTheCoder New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    lol it appears I didn't realise what I was saying there haha
    My reasoning was most schools are finishing now so I wouldn't think they'd be interested in edtech until term starts again.. But I guess there is no harm in trying anyway.
     
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  12. flyingdev
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    It has. However it may be very hard for you to deal with it. I am working around my ideas for 10 years, and have lot of work experience and its still hard to put my little side project together. You have lot of advantage from your enthusiasm and young age, but you need to know that you may encounter lot of hard time. Its not an easy task to find true stories about struggles that business owners has (were some in FM though). But if you will think about it as your side project and don't think about it too serious, it will be find :) Or you can cope with pressure, I don't know ;)

    I should be more precise here. I mean 100-200 GBP/USD for 5 teacher licences. So licences where teachers can organise quizzes where lot of people can join. So pupils would still use it free and could use free versions to explore. Take a look into sites like Best way for artists and creators to get sustainable income and connect with fans | Patreon or Kickstarter or GoFundMe: No.1 Free Fundraising Platform to learn about crowdfunding.

    Yes, 'Rework' is definitely classic regarding building small but scalable businesses.

    Not necessary, however it is more developer friendly then MySQL (lot of nice features saving lot of time). Although I still think you should use heroku to avoid burden with managing your servers in case you would like to focus on commercial side of your project.

    Well, there is no answer to this question, really. Take a look into socket.io or pusher as nicer dev API for web sockets. But if you want to learn, its absolutely fine :)

    Oh, I thought you are focusing on UK schools. But well, schools are all over the world ;)

    Thing about statistics I found helpful for me: for single person, its hard to realise potential grow since human being is extremely biased, so let me give you an example. In UK you have around 500 000 teachers (https://www.gov.uk/government/publi...r-of-schools-teachers-and-students-in-england). Let say that only 1% of teachers are really committed to their jobs. So it give you 5000 teachers who really love their job. Which mean that you have to meet 100 teachers to meet one! You probably haven't meet this one hypothetical teacher, since you probably meet around 70 of them in your life. So you can say: I haven't meet teacher who loves teaching, however you have still 5000 of them in UK. Hopefully you seem my point :)
    The thing is, even if you don't know someone like this, there is still 5000 of them in UK and even if 1000 would manage to get 100 GBP licence for your software its 100 000 GBP per year in UK.
    But you have other countries as well + marketing and followers. If great teachers will buy it, good and weak will follow.

    Please read another classic: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11468377-thinking-fast-and-slow
    It explains mistakes people do everyday when they think.

    Ok, hope this will help, I will go back to my code now and will try to add more thoughts soon!
     
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  13. TimTheCoder
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    Alright, thank you very much for your help :)
    I think I've got some work to do now then. Socket.io was actually exactly the thing I was gonna use :D
    I'd really like to try and move it to Node JS and then host it on Heroku so I think I'm gonna do that, for the learning experience as I'd like to do more real-time stuff in the future. And I like your point about how many teachers there are, that's a lot of opportunity!
    Also thanks for the book recommendations! I'll have a read.

    Thank you and good luck with your own projects!
     
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    Hi @TimTheCoder, do you have some updates on your project?
     
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    Awesome site! I am currently learning the full stack for Django myself. I visited your site - it's quite fast and the UI looks great. You having a physics background, I'm guessing you're partial to the java stack?
     
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  16. TimTheCoder
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    Hey! Yeah I've been working on the new version, 2.0, which is a complete rewrite using the MERN stack. I'm very happy with the progress so far, the site looks a lot better and the user experience feels a lot better as well! I'm working very hard to ensure the UX is top-notch haha. Also the codebase is so much cleaner now, as I'm using React so it forces me to split things up. There's still a lot of work to do, but I've been enjoying it very much and I feel more confident in this version than the current version! In the current version I don't have any automated testing either, but this one I have started writing tests to ensure the software is robust and error-free. I've actually been documenting my progress on Instagram, username is tim.codes if you want to check it out so far :)
     
  17. TimTheCoder
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    Thanks! I think the homepage loads at a decent speed, but there are parts of the site when you're logged in that are quite slow :(

    I do know Java, but I don't use it for web development, I'm using the MERN stack right now for the new version, although the current version is written in the LAMP stack.
     
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    Nice, I mean switch to MEAN or MERN once I get the basics down. Keep doing what you're doing, you're well ahead of the game.
     
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