The founder of JotForm Aytekin Tank debunking startup myths and talks about his experience building a business on his own and without pressure from others.
Follow your dreams and money will follow you
Wake up and work
Sleep is for wimps
Success requires stress
Stick until the haters ask if you have any vacancies
Motivational startup quotes are everywhere. They shout at us from the Instagram feed, from circles and from statuses on social networks. Maybe you even have a quote on the sticker. If so, no offense.
These are important topics. Everyone wants to be happy for what he does and creates. We know that hard work can bring results. And firing from work in pursuit of a startup dream is a tempting idea.
Media also supports the story that if you work 80 hours a week, follow your dreams and work hard, then you will create the next Facebook or Amazon. It can happen. But these stories often lead founders to sink into the business before they become ready for it. They also create unhealthy pressures that harm smart and ambitious people.
I want to offer an alternative way to any entrepreneur who sleeps three hours a day and turns gray ahead of time. This path led me to create JotForm in one of the most competitive industries - online forms, one of the main competitors of which is Google.
But for 12 years we have been holding on. We are still one of the leading companies with 3.2 million users, and we have achieved this without external funding.
This is not a story of instant success or the pursuit of dreams that took me straight to the top TechCrunch. I created this business slowly, preserving my freedom and personal life. I believe this is a great approach for entrepreneurs, and I want to share what I learned.
Your main job should not be a burden
I created my first program in 1999 while I was in college. It was a free open source program for a student site. As its popularity grew, people began to pay me for customization. I remember my excitement when I received my first check for $ 150. It seemed a huge success. Soon, I created a paid version, which they started downloading after being mentioned on the SitePoint newsletter.
After college, I concentrated only on my product, but I was not ready. I did not have enough confidence. I am not at all risk averse. I do not think that every entrepreneur should be a desperate dreamer who will not think about the consequences.
Therefore, I worked as a programmer at a media company in New York, but that did not stop me from improving my product. I woke up at 6 in the morning, answered questions from users and went to work.
Only five years later I quit my job and founded my company, although I already had a successful product.
Working for another organization taught me important lessons about business, communication, and teams. I was paid for immersing myself in new technologies and improving in programming. Your regular job can help your business. You will not only learn important skills, but also get the opportunity to doubt your big idea, which happened to me.
Look for problems, not passion
When I worked at a media company, our editors always needed custom web forms for surveys and contests. This boring task was part of my job. I started thinking - how can I automate the process? I introduced a simple drag-and-drop tool that made it easy to create forms without any knowledge of HTML. After leaving work, I worked on this idea for six months and released the first version of JotForm in February 2006.
This leads me to a myth that we must destroy. Many entrepreneurs think that there is a linear path to success, consisting of three steps:
- ignore the haters
- take courage to quit
- work 80 hours a week to follow your dream
Dismissal from work until the final solution to the problem will only add pressure when you start running out of money.
If you start a business with something people need, you will get a starting point. You have a viable solution. You have solved your problem. For example, JotForm solves a problem that I encountered for five years at my work. I knew that people would want such a product.
Paul Graham has been writing about problem solving for a long time. He says the best startup ideas have three things in common:
- This is what the creators themselves want (I wanted to automate the creation of forms)
- Founders can create such a product (I had experience and skills)
- Few understand that this is worth doing (right after the release, I had two competitors, but the market was undeveloped)
It is not easy to find something that meets all conditions, but you should always wait for something worthwhile.
In 2005, I realized that my business brings me as much money as the main job. It is time to take a break. I quit and looked at my product. The subscription fee allowed me to stay afloat with minimal effort. I had the opportunity to work on something new. Therefore, I continued to stick to my usual routine. I talked with users early in the morning and late at night, and during the day I created JotForm.
Avoid hyper growth pressure
Organic growth is greatly underestimated. If you are starting a business following your passion, you need to begin to scale before your savings or capital from investors run out.
If you start a third-party project that is gradually starting to support you financially, no one will breathe in your back and demand a sharp increase. Creating a business with real customers takes time and effort. But it is less risky.
Customers vote for you with real money, but the money does not lie. Getting started is easier when people already want to use your product or service.
In JotForm, I decided to grow organically. I talked about the company in blogs and forums. I did not spend money and did not push too hard, I thought that people would just be interested in a new way to create forms. By the end of the first year, about 15 thousand people registered to use the product.
Never watch a man! Take care of yourself - and then the man will follow you!
Strive to do good, and you will understand that happiness will run after you.
It's never too late to leave the crowd. Follow your dream, move towards your goal.
Never take offense at life, because no one promised that it would be different.
Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow his talent into the unknown into which he leads.
Following your own path - do not grab anyone by the hands, trying to pull along with you, but also do not push away those who are with you along the way.
It’s easy to follow the crowd, it’s much harder to remain yourself.
Love, it’s like a runny nose - it comes unexpectedly. It can not be bought for lilies, not found on the Internet. She will come, she will certainly come and will be with us.
Dreams are a reminder of the heart of what is really worth chasing. Always follow your heart and know that your dream has a good start.
I try to live in such a way that I have no regrets, I always choose the path that my desire pushes me to. And so you cannot blame me for going wrong. I follow my dream, and this is the only true way.
12. Refuse swearing and obscene words.
Remember: the word itself has tremendous power. And cursing, you destroy your energy. Moreover, words, like thoughts, are material. The universe hears you.
Even if you started to implement only two or three of the above points, you should know: you may already have begun to follow the dream. The main thing is to take the first step, and good changes will not take long.
Share the post with your friends!
The curse of a great idea
Imagine that you have returned to the past 20 years and are ready to create Google, Facebook or Vkontakte when no one thought about them yet. You have 3 ideas in your head that can bring billions, and you know that. But if you chase after all three, you will not achieve anything.
When you want everything.
That is why many of us never reach our dreams. After all, moving in 3 directions, you will go much less than moving in one of them.
How do people achieve the impossible
Imagine an absolutely incredible goal. For example, write a book about your life or go to Mars. If you want to do this to impossibility, if your life revolves only around this, what will you do? You will lose interest in everything else. You will turn into a big bee that pushes the ball in the right direction. Only forward, to Mars, without turning.
You are on the way to the goal.
A manic desire to achieve a goal is the key to success. This pattern can be traced in all geniuses, starting with Einstein and ending with the Mask. The ability to focus on one goal is what determines ultimate success.
Formula for success.
Many people fail, not because of a lack of capacity, but because of the number of different paths they spend their time and energy on.
How to tame a swarm of bees
You is always You will want more than you have. But realizing that moving in one direction is the key to success, you can do something to change:
- Set big goals. Moving toward a large goal is easier than moving towards a small one, however paradoxical it may sound. Since, moving towards a big goal, you ignore everything else.
- Divide life into three parts. For example, work, home and weekends. Each piece should have one big goal. Not more.
- Set aside the unnecessary.Zuckerberg was smart enough to first create Facebook, and only then learn Chinese.
- Watch out for desires. As I said, you will always want more and more. Control yourself. Each new goal will increase the time to achieve the main.
- Control your bees. Perhaps you will not make the new Google, do not land on Mars, or become a world-class rock star. But you can become, for example, a healthy and athletic director of the company. Success and sports are complementary goals. A healthy and athletic person is the best leader. Imagine two bees pushing a ball in one direction. It is a success and a sport.
People who have achieved the goal of their life did this because they were not distracted by everything else. Do not be afraid that life will become less interesting.
If you find your favorite business, then the time devoted to it will be your most desired and spent in pleasure. Set serious goals, control your bees and say no to all other goals. This is not easy, but now you at least know the value of your dream.
Focus on one important metric
Entrepreneurs should have one goal - to make their company work. What does it mean? You need to earn more than you spend. Media is often praised by companies that attract millions of dollars or have high rates such as user retention. But you need to think about profitability right away.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeyer Hansson explain this perfectly in their book Rework. The founders of Basecamp talk about the world of startups in general, but I think that personally created startups are an exception to the fairy-tale world where "the laws of business do not apply."
Of course, there are exceptions. Creating an online store or opening a restaurant will require investment. Business is never subject to general laws.
My advice? Ignore unicorns and startup tales and act in your own way. Make sure that from the very beginning the company makes you a profit, even if it is modest. Do not worry about “following your dreams” until you have a solid foundation.
In order to maintain profit, in the first year of the company I made two important decisions:
- I returned to Turkey. I knew that I wanted to develop the company and look for employees, but in the USA it was too expensive to live.
- I hired the first employee. This was a huge step, but I had enough money to pay a full-time salary for a year. I knew that the time had come, especially because I wanted to create a premium version of the product.
We released the paid version of JotForm in April 2007. For the first day, we had only three premium downloads, but it was awesome anyway. By the end of 2007, we already had 50 thousand users and 500 premium subscribers.
If I were tracking vanity metrics, I would not be happy with what we have achieved. But I focused on profit.
I knew we had a long way to go. We needed more premium users, and over the past 10 years we have developed a subscriber base.
You do not need to give up a large part of the company
Investors are looking for companies with co-founders with different skills. One person can be a marketing genius, and the other can have great technical experience. Therefore, many business consultants recommend teaming up to get an investment.
Co-founders may be a great choice, but many entrepreneurs are wasting time to please investors. This approach can lead to unsuccessful partnerships and lost profits instead of creating good products.
I almost found a co-founder for JotForm. My friend and I seriously talked about this, but our union did not work. This is normal. We had no grudges, and I was glad to create a company on my own.
Earning more than we spend, I can hire talented people to help, without giving up half of the business. This is a great way to work.
Do-it-yourself startup minimizes distractions
I think about JotForm constantly. I love this product and business. I focus on the product, not on making presentations for the next board meeting. We respond to the needs of users, and not to the requirements of investors or shareholders.
People also rarely discuss that investors want to support founders with excellent resumes. I did not finish Harvard or MIT. I did not sell my products to Google or other companies. Even if I wanted to get an investment, I don’t think it would happen. My idea did not look impressive enough on paper, and I did not know how to get capital.
I could spend half a year learning how to look for investors. But I used this time to work on the product and talk about it.
Follow your dream as soon as the company becomes profitable
Starting a business is not so easy. You are always waiting for complexity and making difficult decisions. But do not kill yourself in the name of a dream. Slow organic growth can prevent both small problems and a complete collapse.
By working for yourself, you are freed from the expectations of other people. Therefore, motivational quotes act on us like that.
Why tie yourself to people who only want to see a profit? Why take the risk before you are ready? Protect your freedom, continue to improve, because on your own you can achieve more than you can imagine.