Leo Trieu

[AMA] 2016 and I looked back my way in 2015

5 min read

January 2016 – I felt like my game was truly started since this moment.


Code4Startup (or C4S like we called it) was just a side project that I worked on while I was working full-time as a software engineer. I quit my job around September 2015 so it wasn’t long ago.

And now I’m 100% full-time on it with all of my heart and soul. As of the first month of 2016, I looked back last year and reflected all the way long since C4S was first launched to public 10 months ago.

So many goals achieved. A lot of lessons learned. But after all, 10 months in 2015 was amazing milestone in a long journey.

It really was!

Let me be open and break the milestone down to timeline:

I got an idea of C4S and created a simple landing page with a textbox collecting emails. Then I posted it on betalist.com.

09/2014 – 01/2015:
Practicing and improving English pronunciation. Then trying to record video lessons. Long sleepless nights started.

C4S first launched to public. Lately that month, C4S was hunted on PH and I got huge traffic and tractions from ProductHunt.Check Here

I started charging and got the first 100 paid customers. Also, I got the first paid team @UITStartup. Back then, I charged per project/course.

My KickStarter campaign was successfully funded with A$25,228. Also in this month, I quit my full-time job to focus on developing courses and marketing for C4S.

C4S switched to the subscription model and it wasn’t hard to get first paid subscribers because I already had thousands of registered users (around 14K+).

Below are what I achieved. I was trying to break the $10,000 MRR but could not make it.

  • Free courses: 3
  • Pro (Paid) courses: 3
  • Registered subscribers: 20,178
  • Paid subscribers: 243
  • Revenue: $9,179 MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue).
  • Costs: ($178/mo)

  • => $0/mo (Wistia – I got a deal with them)
    => $10/mo (DigitalOcean)
    => $10/mo (Google Apps)
    => $150/mo (MailChimp – I’m about moving to other option)
    => $99/ye (GoDaddy)


Stay lean & Move fast

I built the basic version of C4S in only 3 days and then published the platform on the internet straightaway. I used free tools (because they are free and allow me to get things lived quickly)

  • MailChimp: Marketing email (Free for 2000 subscribers)
  • Mandrill: Transactional email (Free for 12,000 emails)
  • Wistia: Free tier
  • SumoMe: Sharing and user-behaviour analytics tools
  • Disqus: Discussion module
  • Zopim: Chat and support module

You don’t need to have a big budget to get off the ground. All my costs were only:

  • $30/3 years: Domain
  • $10/mo: Hosting

That’s it!

Execution is more important than Perfection

My first version of C4S was very simple but functional (Very simple back-end. Landing page, Project page, Task page, Register/Login page, User Dashboard page).

You don’t have to wait until you got a perfect product to put it into the market. Launch something, figure out what doesn’t work, bring it back in, change. And keep doing this rapidly. This process is called iteration. If your idea fail, it need to fail fast and fail cheap.

I was inspired by Lean Startup (Eric Ries) and Getting Real (37signals)

Charge as soon as possible

Ha, it sounds like I’m a bloody money lover (lol). But hear me out.

Quite often, I hear things like “I want to build my startup and make it as free service to attract thousands users like Facebook or Instagram. And once I got thousands of them registered to use my free services, I believe money will naturally come along later”. Well, there is nothing wrong with this. BUT, to me, to create a sustainable business, 20,000 registered users is not validation. 10,000 users using free services is not validation. The psychology of “FREE” is so different and only MONEY is validation.

As an early stage startup, you need to validate your idea as quick and cheap as possible. And that means you might want to ask your users for money as soon as possible.

I validated the idea of a course cloning C4S by making $4,563 (within 3 weeks) selling a course I didn’t have.

Question: How come could this happen?
Answer: Trust & Value

Build Trust & Bring Value

In April 2015, 1.5 months after introducing 2 Free courses (Zero and Ninja) I got an idea of creating a Ruby on Rails course teaching people how to build an education platform like C4S. So I just made a simple landing page and mentioned key features that students will be learning. Also, to gave them incentive, I clearly said: “It would be priced at $99 when I complete this course but if you buy it right now, it would be only $39”.

I got my first 117 paid customers within just 3 weeks and that brought me $4,563 sale (117 x $39 = $4,563). While the incentive of pricing was so obvious, it wouldn’t be that easy to make this happened. By that time, they didn’t buy the course. They actually bought trust and value.

TRUST: I’ve been supporting and communicating to students since day one. Understanding their problem, their bugs and helping them out, giving them advices. A lot of them now become my friends. We respect each other and we support each other.

VALUE: All of my courses at some points are really helpful because they are so practical and real. Students found great value out of that (of course, not 100%) because they can build real app (or even real business) from what they learned.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you will find something helpful and valuable from my journey.

I will be sharing the strategies that I used to run successful ProductHunt campaign in the next blog post. Have something you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments below or [Tweet me]

I'm sharing everything on my journey

from a solo coder to a $1M entrepreneur.


Leo Trieu, Founder of Code4Startup

Leo is also a Full Stack developer and instructor in Code4Startup who is passionate about EdTech.