So, January was an awesome month for mentorcruise.com. A few shifts in distribution channels as well as the January guilt of NY's resolutions brought us big traffic and with that many requests.
Result after one month: 30% growth, MRR jumps from ~$4,600 to over $6,000. Sweet!
Last year was bonkers (700% growth) and keeping the pace this year is very encouraging. I believe there are a few reasons for this.
– Getting closer to PMF. People that join MentorCruise love it. Most likely they even tell their friends or write about it. That was not the case 2 years ago.
– Network effects. Each month, we bring in over 50 new mentors. Many of them in leading positions in tech. Each of them brings in a coworker, who are leaders themselves. All of them share this news with their network, which brings in mentees and – you guessed it – other leaders in tech.
– SEO. The long and winding road of working with @jic at embarque.io on SEO is paying off. This month, one of his blog posts is bringing in 2k fresh visitors. SEO makes up for about 80% of all foot traffic.
– Userbase. There are 10,000 people on our mailing list. Whenever I send a newsletter it feels like a rush. 50+ people on the website re-discovering all mentors and reaching out. It's awesome and only keeps on compounding.
It's a bit crazy to even think about, but I ran the numbers today and had to get into some pretty old payment accounts – but looks like with this month we are hitting a quarter million dollars that we paid out to our mentors over the past ~2.5 years!
That's the result of 1,700 mentorships, 8,200 registered users and the amazing work of over 500 mentors!
If you would have told me even just a year ago that this would look like that today, I wouldn't have believed you, but things are speeding up and every month we are processing another $30,000 or so.
I guess I should also give an update on what things are going on on the business side right now:
My search for marketing channels had paid off and I am starting to find scalable channels in paid and organic marketing that work great
I've gotten help in customer support. People are happier, because issues are resolved quickly and often in their interest
After two years, I am very, very close to finally leaving PayPal behind. Fingers crossed!
We just signed with another team to provide a few months of hands-on mentorship!
Just shows the value of persistence, like I'm always preaching it! This didn't come over night, not even really over a year. So if you're a bit down or unsure about your idea, keep at it – as long as you believe in it!
This month, we are doing something really exciting!
We ran a big pricing change on MentorCruise, which also allows previously free mentors to set up a minor fee and opt-in to donate it to a good cause.
Some people have already opted in and took on their first mentees with this scheme. As a result of that, we have a small donation we can send to Girls Who Code, now that the quarter is ending.
We're pooling the money together and are donating it each quarter according to a theme. While this is just getting started, I am somewhat confident that we'll donate close to 4 figures by the end of Q4 🤯
What should our good cause be for Q4?
I've spent a good chunk of time in the past two weeks on interacting with Machine Learning experts and soaking up their knowledge. Out of that, I've built this book list: https://mentorcruise.com/books/ml/
Reddit and HackerNews really seemed to like it. I got #1 on /r/MachineLearning and as far as I could tell about #3 on the HN frontpage. At the peak, I've had over 250 people on my site at every time.
It's a vanity of course, and nothing that changes the trajectory of my business, but I got a few new customers out of it and definitely a lot of fun :)
Did the bookkeeping this morning and am super close to breaking the $2k MRR mark (the net revenue was something along of $1,945).
This is super mind-blowing to me, because my revenue was flat for the longest time, and suddenly my app grows by over 200% in two months.
I just hooks into my post from earlier this week again.... I wanted to give up six months in at somewhere around $200 MRR. I thought about it again when I had my first revenue drop exactly a year ago (back to $350 MRR). And now this!
Don't give up on your dream if you believe in it. Sounds awfully cheesy, but keep fighting through it!
Just feeling happy and blessed today.
After my last update of breaking $1k MRR, I got a lot of good feedback acknowledging that it was a hard path with a lot of failures to get there, and that people shouldn't get frustrated with taking a little bit longer to get there.
Since then, I have seen a lot more threads on IH about people giving up because they only reached $150 MRR in their first three months, or nobody signed up for their product after their big ProductHunt launch. So, let's sit down for another lesson in learning how to build businesses.
It takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience. This month, 2.5 years into building mentorcruise.com, I have achieved 50% growth for the second consecutive month. How did I do it? I don't really know why it's happening now, and not a year ago. I iterated, I experimented, I talked to a lot of people, and at some point, after 2,500 commits to the codebase, over 100 blogposts and recruiting almost 300 mentors by typing out thousands of emails, I might be a little bit closer to the mysterious Product-Market Fit than a year ago. Close enough that people post about it and tell their friends.
But honestly, MentorCruise is a product that has grown very, very slowly for a long time. It went from $200 MRR to $300 MRR, then to $250 MRR to $350 MRR, back to $200 MRR. Over the years, I learned more about my own business, what works and what doesn't and came to the point where this is actually useful to people.
I understand that it's discouraging to launch your baby on PH, get 10 upvotes, no traffic and no customers. Believe me, been there. But giving up after a few months is no attitude that leads to something. If you believe in the thing, try to nudge it into the right direction.
So, 50% growth this month. How did I do it? I don't know dude. 2.5 years of preparation, patience, disappointments and grit. I'm sure you can get there too.
Just ran the numbers, and I reached the goal that I had set for 2019 with a few months delay – I made over $1k MRR for the first time!
Now, this milestone is always a little bit tricky. For me personally, having people share this always made me a little anxious, and I'm sure there will be one or two other people who share this sentiment now, with this post. Especially when people reached this after 6 months or so, I felt like all I am doing must be wrong.
But don't forget this: It took me over 2 years to get here!
It took me so long because this is a project I started from zero. I had (almost) never made any money on the internet, and certainly didn't build anything with traction before. Plus, I was 18 or 19 when I started, was missing a TON of experience.
Overnight successes are not a thing. A project might reach this milestone in a month, or 6 months, or a year in the making, but it's rarely only that. Behind these products are also people who had dozens of failures and years of experience.
So, let's go into some of the issues that I have made over the past two years, and I hope it can help some of you not to do the same thing and hopefully reach this milestone faster:
And finally, some things that I did right, and hope you will too:
Today is the day, I reached 100 paying customers at the same time on MentorCruise. That might sound small for the common B2B SaaS, but mentorships are finite, the average duration of those is only two months right now, so having 100 people paying at the same time is quite an amazing thing for me.
Over the past two years, close to 900 people found and paid for a mentor on MentorCruise. A key thing towards increasing the revenue of MentorCruise has been to keep more people onboard for a longer period of time.
That has worked out well, with the average duration of mentorship rising from ~30 days in 2018 to close to 60 days today. A lot of different factors played into that:
Pretty happy about this milestone. I still remember reaching 10 customers at the same time with super high churn, and wondering whether it would go down to 0 again. Or the heartbreak I felt when 5 customers churned overnight, and I went from 12 to 7 paying customers.
To the next 1,000!
Sorry for the two updates, big day :)
Yesterday I was reviewing applications, when I saw a very interesting profile. Turns out, without ever having contact to me, the former CDO of Wunderlist – a very popular task management app that popularly sold to Microsoft for up to $200m – applied.
Sebastian is back at it today to build ottonova, a paperless health insurance company.
I am excited when any new mentor signs up, but when I am able to add mentors like Sebastian or Rosie last week, it just blows my mind how the platform is able to create access to folks, that would be super difficult to access otherwise.
Sorry for the two updates, big day :)
I take 'Talk to your Customers' very seriously. In fact, I have a dashboard and scripts running that identify people that I should talk to, and then I get busy emailing :)
I talked with Peyton probably first 6 months ago? He was getting mentored by a technical mentor from Apple. He had come back from Afghanistan, built a few e-Commerce businesses but was looking to get into tech, so signed up.
Now, a few months later, he is super proficient in React and JS, is slaying technical interviews, and was a huge help to what the platform is today.
After I completed my online education, I was lacking guidance and mentorship. I know that a lot of people are struggling with the same - so I built something to fight it.