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Ep 2 - 60 days: $400k (organic), lawsuits, expulsion, stress and euphoria
The Process Ep 2 is back again with a rollercoaster of an episode. If this isn't what startups are about I don't know what is.
It's been almost a month since my last update. Marc Andreessen has been quoted saying you only feel 2 emotions while running a startup: euphoria and despair, and I couldn't agree more.
When I was living the solo indie hacker lifestyle, I wasn't getting thousands of users on my site per second to the point where the servers would crash every couple of seconds. I was getting hit by lawsuits and I wasn't arguing with co-founders on which direction we should take the company. The horror stories I heard from other founders I looked up to started to become a reality for me. Elon’s quote about chewing glass and staring into the abyss also didn’t seem that far either…
A quick recap: I'm working on ConchAI an AI writing assistant / AI bypasser tool. Our main source of traffic and growth has been Instagram and Tik Tok shorts. We went from a red ocean to a blue ocean overnight when we became the only startup in the world that bypassed GPTZero. Students all over the world started flocking to our website overnight.
Every week growth quadrupled. The biggest catalyst was a single short-form video that had accumulated 30 million views on Tik Tok, 10 million on Instagram, and 5 million on Twitter. I can't even begin to comprehend how many people that actually looks like. Revenue obviously also sky-rocketed, with our biggest day being $33,000. Everyone in the education space had heard about us and that also included people who wanted to take us down...
I was definitely short-sighted and definitely viewed the rapid success through rose-tinted glasses. Both my co-founders are still both attending university and well I guess you could say the administration didn't look too fondly at what we were doing. They threatened both my co-founders with expulsion if we didn't shut down the company. We were in a real pickle. Each of them only had 1 semester left to graduate, was dropping out really the only solution?
For the time being, we agreed to close all further sign-ups to the app and archive all of our videos. We were getting censored. For 2 painstakingly long weeks, we were fixing bugs in the app, looking for potential investors who could acquire us, and took a much-needed work vacation to LA to help take our minds off of things. During this trip, we were hit with two different cease & desist letters which scared the fuck out of me. We were super close to getting into a legal battle but managed to escape alive with the help of a lawyer.
On the brighter side, when we came back to the east coast, we were able to reach an agreement with the school. However, a lot of damage had been done. We had crazy amounts of momentum when we were told to stop, and we weren't sure if we would be able to recreate that type of hype again. On top of this, we were facing a lot of churn due to the amount of bugs users were facing, some having to do with speed and others simply due to the fact that there were so many users. Needless to say, all of this stress caused numerous heated arguments among us which didn't really help the situation we were in.
Looking at the bigger picture, the company is still alive and that's all that really matters. We're currently not growing as fast as we used to be, but that's okay. We onboarded a couple of new developers and a growth engineer who is helping us optimize our email campaigns. I'm learning how to go from building a product to building a company and it's definitely not easy.
The name of this newsletter is called The Process, and the reason I’m writing it is an important one. We can maybe fast forward 3 years from now, and I could boast to the world I just had a multimillion-dollar exit. People would care for a second, a minute maybe even a full day. But the process is forever. If people are following your process, they follow your wins, your losses, the marketing that went viral, the marketing that didn’t, the feature launch that got you product/market fit, the features that didn’t, you’ll have people who will support you forever. That’s why I love the process and in doing so, the score will take care of itself.
🔭 Looking Ahead
We are currently developing and releasing our secret mobile app I'm super excited about. I spent the past two weeks designing it and hiring artists to bring the vision to life. We're expecting the summer to be super dry for Conch, and so we're banking a lot on this mobile app succeeding. The launch date should be one month from now, and our landing page with all the details will be launched next week which I'll announce on my Twitter.
We've also received multiple messages from investors, but are planning on continuing to bootstrap for now. The North Star of the company is to give everyone access to a personal tutor for the price of a cup of coffee every month, and to achieve something like that we no doubt will have to raise money at some point.
🏃♂️ What I'm Improving On
Right now the three pillars I'm trying to get better at on a daily basis are: visual design, behavioral science and product analytics.
I'm taking this visual design course by Fons (great so far)
I just finished reading Start at The End (Highly Recommend)
Currently reading The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (if you’re trying to get into gamification, great place for inspiration)
😤 What I'm Struggling With
Finances have been a real pain in the neck: what counts as a business expense, moving money in and out of the company, payroll, etc. It probably doesn't have to be this hard, and something I'm gonna work on improving my knowledge in, and will probably start with reading Poor Dad, Rich Dad. As my friend told me "accounting is the language of business".
In total, we're a team of about 9 people if you include all the contractors we have onboarded this past month, and ensuring everyone is working on the right thing is my responsibility. The bottleneck here is my communication and my ability to measure if shit is getting done. Is management something you learn the hard way or something I can get better at by reading books? Probably both.
👶 New Discoveries
Podcast: Acquisition, has been awesome to listen to. They do deep dives into companies like Epic Games, WhatsApp, Pinterest, etc all the way from how they were founded to current-day operations.
Fiction: I've been reading Norwegian Wood by Harukai, incredible writing and love it so far.
Non-fiction: The book Educated (top 5 non-fiction of all time for me), up there with Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins.
Bryan Johnson: the man who wants to stop aging. After watching a bunch of videos of this guy, I'm taking my sleep and what I eat way more seriously.
Idea of the week: clear writing == clear thinking, there is no difference. Crystalized thoughts are so much more productive.