Leo Trieu


2016 in Review - From Coder To Entrepreneur and the $300K/annual milestone


5 min read

I haven’t blogged for quite a while since my last post 9 months ago (such a long time). 2016 seems to be one of the biggest years of change I’ve ever had (business & personal side) so I just wanted to reflect key milestones of my journey over last year.

Look, I’m just a guy, a husband & a father like most of you guys out there. No big deal.

My motivation is to share my journey in order to help “someone” learn from my experience and build better businesses or startups or at least something meaningful and valuable.

Bottom line, the more you share, the more you will receive. That’s dead simple.

From Coder To Entrepreneur

2016 – the year I transformed my role. A completely new version of ME.

There are a lot of things that you simply never learned how to do before starting a company. Sure, eventually you may grow your team and bring great talent onboard to help, but for a while you’ll riding solo.

Before, all I knew was just about programming, building websites, creating mobile apps, algorithm, tech stuffs and blab blab.

But now things changed.

My day-to-day work involved working on not only programing but also creating courses, recording videos, growth, marketing, sales, “customer” support, and just about everything else.

And I did all myself.

Alone.

I cannot count how many hats I’ve been wearing under the sun.

So how would you fill that knowledge gap if you just started up like me? The best way to do that is follow successful entrepreneurs who are the top of their games. Find the ones who are most relevant to your situation and learn from them.

In my case, I’ve been learning a lot from those who started their businesses from zero and bootstrapped them to multi-million dollars companies (I don’t give a shit to those multi-billion dollar ones. Oops, out of my reach). It’s quite interesting that most of them started their journey after quitting their jobs or being laid off. Well, I can relate myself to their stories at some level.

Top founders that I follow & top books I read

Here are my top 5 that I admire and follow:

  • [Startup] - Laura Roeder (MeetEdgar)
  • [Startup] - Nathan Barry (ConvertKit)
  • [Startup] - Pat Flynn (SmartPassiveIncome)
  • [Marketing & Sales] - Neil Patel (KissMetrics & Crazy Egg)
  • [Marketing & Sales] - Ryan Deiss (Digital Marketing)

(I will share more details of how I applied what I learned from above founders to my business at Code4Startup in another blog post).

And... my top 3 books (among those I read in 2016):
  • [Product Launch] -“Launch” by Jeff Walker: I can’t recommend enough for what Jeff delivered in his book. If you’re about launching a product or a crowd funding campaign (Kickstarter or Indiegogo) then look no further. I ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign last July with over $62,000 funded ($81,754 AUD).

  • [Productivity] - “The One Thing” by Gary Keller: Sometimes, wearing so many hats made me lose my focus on important thing that matters. I’m busy but not productive. This book solved my problem. Read it, feel it and take actions.

  • [Pricing] - “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely: For strategies of psychological pricing, this is a must-read. Ex: the art of FREE, the beauty of scarcity strategies. They’re all here.

I’ve been learning so much from them with valuable lessons. To be honest, I’ve never wanted to be a marketer or sales man in my whole life. But now it’s part of the game and I think I’m quite good at marketing and sales. Hey, don’t forget that I can code as well: marketer + coder = ? ;)

Hiring

Starting C4S as a solo founder probably was the most isolating experience of my life. I felt like I was carrying a weight of the world on my shoulders that I couldn’t share with anyone.

It’s time to learn how to delegate.

I hired 2 Ninjas to support me in releasing more content and awesome courses (being faster and more consistent). So now I can focus on marketing and growth of the business. It’s a much more efficient use of my time.

In short, guys, we’re getting more dangerous and it will be a lot of fun in 2017. Stay tuned!

Revenue

We first hit our record of $20K MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) by February but it lasted for only 2 months and then dropped gradually to around $15K by end of the year (Ouch). There were reasons behind this:

  • #1: I didn’t release any new courses after March till October when I published the UberEats – a monster that we’ve ever created.

  • #2: I started preparing my Kickstarter campaign around middle of April and launched it by end of July. Followed by the post-launch campaign till October. So my time and my focus was 100% for this along with creating the UberEats course.

  • #3: Okay, so #1 + #2 resulted in very high churn rate (15%, OMG). If you don’t have more content then obviously there is nothing to keep your students on board.

But overall, our 2016 revenue passed the $300K/annual milestone ($303,761 to be exact – Yayyy!).
  • Monthly + Yearly subscription: $206K
  • Black Friday + Christmas sales (Premium course): $26K
  • Kickstarter: $62K
  • Post launch of Kickstarter: $9K

We didn’t reach our goal of having $20K MRR by end of 2016 but thanks to our Kickstarter campaign + our new monster course (the UberEats), we crossed the $300K/annual mark. So it’s not bad.

Customer Acquisition

Our customer acquisition mainly based on natural growth with organic search and word of mouth. So far I haven’t spent a dime on any paid marketing channels.

To improve our customer acquisition, there are couples of things we need to do:

  • Reduce the churn rate by releasing more quality courses and make it consistently.
  • Adding new pricing tier for $29/mo to access our Ninja tutorials (along with the existing plans of $39 & $79).
  • Investing in Facebook Ads to promote our Kickass premium courses: UberEats and AirBnb 2. The AirBnb is our #1 course of all time so we will be creating the version 2 with a lot of advance features.

Business Partners

  • Affiliate marketing: I worked with 2 bloggers and 1 youtubers as experiment regarding to this channel but this is something I will do seriously in 2017.

  • I partnered with AppSumo to promote the Fiverr course for free (for a limited time) but I ended up of making $9K in a week by selling the UberEats course to their subscribers.
    (*) How could I give away free course and make $9K in sales within 1 week? Will show you the exact strategies and funnels that I used in a blog post.

  • Bluehost reached out and I responded. We quickly ended up with a partnership and that means you guys will expect a FREE course or series of WordPress coming soon.

=> Building (right) partnership is a quick way to grow and spread out the word. It’s a win-win game.

Goals for 2017

  • Grow email list from 42,000 to 75,000
  • New pricing plan of $29/mo (we won’t low our price, just another tier)
  • Cross $500K in annual revenue.
  • Investing in Facebook Ads.
  • AirBnb 2 will be our Kickass project in 2017
  • Launch an amazing (secret) project.

Sure, it’s exciting, very challenging and definitely stressful. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m doing and I still make dumb mistakes. But when I looked back all the way long from the very beginning, I’m so grateful of where I’m standing now, what I’ve been through and how I got here… and then I smiled :)

Now I’m on the way to take us to the next level!


I'm sharing everything on my journey

from a solo coder to a $1M entrepreneur.

Author

Leo Trieu, Founder of Code4Startup

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