What I learned while building Scoutlage MVP
All my life I have always known I wanted to build a startup. My life filled empty without building one yet. I remember late last year I was chatting with a friend of mine and he told me nothing is stopping me from building a startup except myself and that I have the necessary skill set to build one. Then he told me a story of a startup that just joined Y Combinator (YC). I told myself if this startup could make it to YC then I could come up with something too. Then I told my friend that if I don’t launch a startup this year Ogun should kill me (Ogun is a deity to the Yoruba tribe).
Then I started thinking about what to build. I was planning on learning blockchain and build something fintech related. But I started learning a lot about startups and I heard some advice that you should build something in a domain in which you have some experience or expertise. That was when I realized I needed to build something educational-related.
After a while, an idea clung to me. A review system where students can write a review about the courses they have taken in their school. This is all I know, I started thinking about the best way to go about this. After a while, I decided I was going to go for this idea, and immediately I called a friend of mine who is a designer to help me come up with some cool designs. She told me it was going to take two months, and right away I paid her half the price she demanded.
But after a while, the idea kept making more sense to me and I started thinking of a better way. After a month the designer I hired came up with a design that she said she won’t send me until I send her the full payment. I was surprised by this, this person is a friend of mine. But immediately I sent the money. When I saw the design I wasn’t really excited. I told her my concerns but I realized that she wasn’t really interested in the project or improving the initial design she did. I told myself I wasn’t going to go with that and I decided to count that as a loss.
I was already having a good grasp of my initial simple idea, I realized I will need an admin panel where we manage all schools and data that will be posted by users; verifications, reports, requests, etc… I decided I was going to build this first. I am not really good when it comes to coming up with a design prototype even though I am a full-stack developer. I decided to go with some online templates but I wasn’t really excited about the designs I was coming up with. After two weeks of struggling, I decided to call another friend of mine, who is also a designer. I explained my well-refined idea to him and that I needed a design prototype. After a few weeks, he came up with a design I was excited about. After a few weeks, I was done writing the code for our admin panel. And now up to the main website, that our users are going to interact with.
I decided to discuss this with this later friend of mine and we talked about the project, how much he was going to charge, and everything. Then we started building. I was reading the book, The Lean Startup, and in this book, Eric talked about how important it is to build your MVP as fast as possible in other to get feedback from your users. After reading this, I decided to make some haste on this project, even though I was a student, with classes and a forthcoming exam, I was thinking about this idea every day and the best way to go about it. The designer we had had some other jobs, and I couldn’t go at the pace I wanted, we decided to hire another designer, this was my first major mistake, I didn’t take the interview too seriously. Also, I wanted to be fast on the programming aspect, I thought If I hire a frontend engineer while I focus mainly on our server things will go very fast. Also, I didn’t really take the hiring interview seriously; another major mistake.
Despite all these we were still not making any major progress, anytime I have a test or exam in school the project becomes stalls. We hired one more designer and we were now five on the team. I don’t know anything about managing people, and I even hate it, I just hope these people will do their tasks and submit at the appropriate time.
After a while I got tired of the second designer we hired, his designs were not good enough for our brand. Also, I realized that our frontend developer wasn’t really making any progress, he is copying a lot of templates and embedding them into the codebase; which is something I wasn’t pleased with. After some time I realized that if we continue like this Scoutlage will never get into our prospective users' hands.
Then I decided to speak with my mom, then she told me something; you tell me about these people all the time, if they are not giving you what you want why don’t you work on your project all by yourself? Her words stuck with me, then I decided I was going to this all alone. I was already mentally consumed; then I decided to take a day off and have a good time with a friend.
I told all the people working with me that I don’t need them for now, then I set a launch date that I was going to release our MVP in the next twenty-two days, I did this because the next twenty-two days happened to be my birthday. I was using faith, there was still a lot left to be done, but I decided that will be the birthday gift I was going to gift myself. In twenty-two days, Scoutlage was live, we launched on product hunt.
My initial idea of just getting reviews about courses from students now became just a feature on the app and we are now on a mission of decentralizing the university ranking system through reviews. This is my mission with Scoutlage.
I realized that the University ranking system has some kind of flaw and we needed one which is all based on students’ outputs. Scoutlage provides a hands-on solution to students’ cardinal plights, enabling them to surf diverse opinions of others as touching their institutions, courses taken, and the approaches used to facilitate learning. The selection of a good institution, that is best for individuals’ careers is largely hinged on these three criteria, and these are all made available to access at Scoutlage without having to embark on tiresome research. Scoutlage will be useful to any indecisive student or confused parent, as it answers all the prominent and underlying questions that anyone would love to enquire into about a certain university. We are on a mission of directing the confused, and establishing the enlightened!
So what did I learn while coming up with this product?
I think we all need to learn how to work around people. And if things are not working the way we initially planned, we should not be too scared to make a change.
Working around people doesn’t mean we should ignore them or dismiss them. But moving without them because they simply aren’t available to move with you. This helps you, and it’s a favor to them too.
In startups, I think dependency is always the wrong mode. If you can’t build your startup yourself or have a cofounder that is almost as passionate as you about building together, I think you should take the time to acquire the required skills you need before you start embarking on this journey.
Now I am learning how to create designs mock-up with Sketch and at the same time improving our current features.
Maybe I have wasted resources, maybe I have wasted time. But here is my number one rule in life: There are no failures, only validated learnings.
Now our product is live, you can visit our website on scoutlage.com . This is all that matters, we have a product. What I have learned while building Scoutlage, will be valuable to me going forward in my engineering and entrepreneurial journey.