Rype Journal: Lessons Learned in June 2015

rype journal

What's Rype Journal

Rype Journal was created for you.Rype Journal is an inclusive space where we pull back the curtains every month to give you an inside look at the backstages of Rype by sharing our updates, learnings, and resources used for the month stated.Each month, you'll find in our published journal: what's new for the month, what we've learned, and what's coming up in the future for Rype.

Why We Share a Monthly Journal

As we've shared in our Manifesto, education and learning is at the core of our mission at Rype.Our goal with Rype Journal is to spread the knowledge, lessons, and resources we have learned to our supporters (whom we refer to as "Rypers"), so you can learn from our lessons, and increase your chances of success.We're doing this because we know how difficult it can be to start something new, and we believe in the power of passing along the knowledge we have gained along the way through teaching.After all, teaching is the most important foundation of Rype.The journal is not just for entrepreneurs or businessowners building their own businesses, but it's for creatives, language learners, and anyone who has the curiousity to learn about the backgrounds of a startup company from the groundup, resources you can adopt to improve the quality of your life, and lessons in business & life that are rarely talked about in the media.Ready... Steady... Rype!

Why Rype had to Start

After a spontaneous trip down to South America, I spent several months living in Buenos Aires, Argentina to discover the latin culture, meet new people, and learn a new language.Although nowhere near fluent, I was able to establish a basic foundation that allowed me to converse with native speakers. But when the trip ended, so did my language learning experience.Upon returning home, there was no one I could practice with, no latin culture I could embrace, and my skills began to detiorate one day after another.I called up my tutor and good friend in Argentina, and convinced her to practice with me in Spanish.We talked about what's happening in Argentina, laughed about old memories we shared together, but most importantly, the memories of Spanish that were once sunk deep in my brain immediately began to activate. It was a fun and powerful way to connect with a friend from another side of the world, while being able to improve my Spanish skills, at the comfort of my own home!Then the light bulb came...How many other language learners around the world are facing the same problem?I reached out to my friends from Buenos Aires, who returned home to the US, and Europe. It turned out that they stopped practicing as well, and were aching to find a solution to improve their skills.Check.Then I reached out to my friends who were looking to learn a language. They've tried apps like Duolingo, private tutoring, and even online courses. Their biggest issue with these solutions?There was no way of interacting with real native speakers. After doing further research, almost 90% of individuals learn a new language with the aim to converse with native speakers.Whether it was to have a conversation with a friend who speaks another language, have a deeper connection with a family member, or for business and travel purposes!Language is the gateway that opens ourselves up to humans we would have never gotten an opportunity to communicate and connect with before. It's the primary reason to learn a new language.Yet hardly any solution in the market faciliated the connection of native speakers and language learners from around the world.Check. Check.At this point, it wasn't clear whether there was something here or not. As an entrepreneur, ideas are constantly coming into our minds, and I've personally had many 4AM sparks of concepts that led nowhere. But this was different. It was a problem that I needed to solve for myself and my friends, and rather quick because the countless time and effort we spent learning Spanish was fading away.Then the missing puzzle I was seeking finally came together.A friend of mine in Toronto, who recently started taking in-person, private tutoring began complaining about his experience.After finding his tutor on Craigslist, he was spending $25/hour to meet with his tutor at Starbucks.But here was the problem...The lessons were dull, he rarely got to practice his speaking skills, and when he did, they had nothing in common to talk about. There was no connection, and he felt he wasted $50 (+$4 for a Starbucks latte) of his hard-earned money every week.Many of you reading this have probably faced this problem already.The connection and relationship you have with your teacher is everything when it comes to learning a language, or any skill. It's the difference between whether or not you'll have an amazing experience learning the language, or whether you'll despise it. It's the difference between reaching fluency, and knowing a few ways to greet someone in the stret.But the biggest problem with 99% of solutions out there was that there's no way of knowing whether there's a connection with your randomly selected teacher.Since my friend loved traveling, and I got him excited about my experiences in Argentina, I connected him with my friend in Argentina, and the rest is history.This is when the light bulb hit.There needs to be a fun, easy, and effective way that personally matchmakes language learners and native speaking teachers online for a fullly immersive language experience.Most importantly, rather than making students pick a random card out of the deck, hoping for a King of Spades, there needs to a careful process of personally connecting the student with the right professional teacher for their personal interests and needs.Check. Check. Check.

How Rype was Started for $100 in 15 days

After the light bulb hit, I began to roll up my sleeve to get the website running.I already knew I had customers who were looking to pay for this new solution, which was a great motivator. But I had no idea what it would look like, what I should initially build, nor how I can even build it without any tech skills.Fortunately, I knew there was a big problem that needed to be solved. It was a matter of building the right solution.The one mistake I learned from my previous business was: when building a marketplace, validate the demand side of the business before the supply side.I referred back to my conversation with Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, and decided that I wanted to spend as little time and money to validate my solution.To do this, I used 3 tools to get me started:1. Wordpress.org2. Optimize Press3. Calendly

Stage 1 (Day 1-4)

I was already a frequent blogger at The Growth List, and I knew my way around Wordpress and Optimize Press.*To sum up, Wordpress is a platform that allows you to create your own website or blog without needing to know how to code. All you need is a host, such as Bluehost or HostGator, and voila!*Optimize Press is a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) tool, that allows you to build powerful, customized pages using drag-and-drop functionalities. This was exactly what I needed as someone who does not know how to code.

optimize press

The first thing I designed was a splash page, with the goal to collect emails and reach out personally for a Skype or phone call.Because my initial goal was to validate the solution, not revenue, I promoted a trial Spanish lesson users can receive by signing up.

Spanish Lessons

Stage 2 (Day 5-9)

Now that I had a splash page, I need targeted traffic.I remembered searching on Quora to find ways to learn a language, and realized that there must be thousands of people who are looking for the same thing.I began to answer dozens of questions that Quora users asked regarding learning a language, and wrote a quick sentence at the end mentioning Rype and offering a free lesson.

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In 24 hours, there was over 50+ people sign up for the free lesson in Spanish!Now I wanted to see if people would schedule a lesson by themselves, which would further show their interest level.For this, I used Calendly. It was a simple, easy-to-use scheduling app that I was already using for my personal scheduling.

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Essentially, after users entered their emails on the landing page, they were taken to a scheduling page, where they could schedule their lesson.This time, I used facebook ads to target a specific audience that I thought would be interested.p.s - paid ads is something I recommend if you have a paid product or service or if you're simply looking to validate demand by spending a few dollars. There needs to be a clear ROI in order for paid channels to be worth your while (ex. spent $50 on FB ads, and have 5 people pay $150 for your product; this will give you a 3:1 ROI)

Stage 3 (Day 10-15)

In a few days, I had over 200+ people that signed up, and over 55+ people that scheduled a lesson.This was a great and troubling experience, because things were picking up momentum, but I still had no teacher that was going to be able to teach any of these lessons!

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Thankfully, after reaching out to my friend in Argentina (who already knew that I was working on Rype), she offered to help and even recruited some of her friends who were also teachers.In the end, after 10 days of grinding and having over 55+ people schedule a lesson: 30+ of them showed up and 8 of them signed up for a plan! (25% close rate). Upwards and onwards!


But don't get me wrong... boy did I make a ton of mistakes.Here's some mistakes that you can avoid from my experience.

Mistakes Made

Truthfully speaking, there was many more small mistakes that I've made throughout this crazy experiment, but I want to summarize the key mistakes that will bring value for you in your journey.This goes not just in entrepreneurship or business, but in career and life.1. Talking about the solution, not the problemThis is absolutely crucial when you're starting out.The best businesses were created because of problems in the market. And especially when you're first starting out, you're not actually sure what the full solution is yet.When I first had the idea of Rype, I approached many different people presenting the solution for the idea. Some were fond of the idea, some wasn't sure how it was different than going through a private tutor.But when I altered my approach and asked them about the problems they have with learning a language, the list was endless. Lack of motivation, bad tutor experiences, dull, high costs, etc.It was only after they shared their problems, that I presented the solution I had in mind, which addressed each of their current problems.In other words, they saw me as a solution to their problems, not someone who's trying to pitch another product.2. Trying to scalePaul Graham wrote a great essay on this, I recommend you check it out here. His main point was that you should be recruiting users manually when you're first starting. This allows us to receive individual, qualitative feedback, and hustle our way to growth.A mistake that I made early on is: trying to create an automated, scalable solution. This includes setting up automated email follow-ups, creating calendar integrations that would accommodate 1000+ teachers, and even trying to target too diverse of a customer segment.Ultimately, I've realized that I didn't have nearly as many users as I thought, which means it didn't require that much work to personalize each email. In fact, by personalizing each email to users, it impressed and incentivized them to connect further.More importantly, it's crucial that you operate manually in almost every aspect of your business when you're starting out, because this is how you'll know which processes to automate, and who you'll need to hire in the future (including how you'll train them). It allows you to know your business inside and out.As Guy Kawasaki often points out:"I've never seen a company fail because they couldn't scale fast enough."3. Aiming for perfectionI know... this is the classic interview answer we all love to give, when asked "what's your biggest weakness?"In this case, it truly is. Reid Hoffman advocates that if you're not ashamed of the first version of your product, then you're not releasing fast enough. Maybe ashamed is taking a bit far, but trying to perfect the design of your logo, the copy of your page, the small bug in your code -- non of that matters in the end.Whne you're starting out, you want to know one thing: is my product/service solving a problem for my customers, and in the end: will they pay for it?

Lessons Learned

1. Assume things will go wrongShit will always hit the fan when you're starting. Obstacles that you didn't even know existed will come your way, your partner will have doubts, people will say your idea sucks. The list goes on...But if you have take on the mentality that bad events are inevitable, and it's how you respond to the event that matters, you'll develop a level of resiliency you didn't know you had.A book we recommend to develop this type of mentality is to read: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It talks about Stoic Philosophy (don't worry it's not the type of philosophy you were taught in college), and how the greatest minds and successful individuals adopted this philosophy to their lifestyle.2. It will always take longer than you expectFor the optimists reading this, you can probably relate. How many times have you given a timeline for a goal or task, and it took twice the amount of time you allocated?Being optimistic is a strength, but we should also set an expectation in our minds that the best things take time. Chances are, the bigger the goal or dream you have, the longer it will take.And that's great, because the foundation you've set for yourself will be stronger than if you achieved your goal in less time.3. Use creativity and everything at your disposal to get your first 10-100 customersThis goes back to the point that Paul Graham makes about doing things that don't scale, especially users.I used everything from Quora, language forums, facebook groups, guest blogging, and even attended local events to acquire customers. Non of these things are scalable, but that doesn't matter when you're starting out.Do everything you can to get your initial base of customers, ideally using as little money as possible.Time is your friend in the beginning.4. Treat your customers like familyIn a noisy world of competition, and "good" not great companies, customer experience is becoming increasingly more important to differentiate your company.It's what the billion dollar empire Zappos was entirely built on.If we look at any successful, high-end restaurant, they each have exceptional customer service.In fact, it's so common that we often expect it.For new customers that joined Rype, I've sent personal welcome videos to each member to show our excitement for joining our community, and sharing the next steps of their journey with us.

Rype Service

Now I'm not saying you have to take it this far, but the point is: customer experience matters a lot, especially if you're running an online business, where the back button is a click away.5. You need less than you think to startWhether it's money, time, coding skills, or anything that's preventing you from getting started now, I'm telling you, you need less than you think to get started.As you've just read, within 2 weeks, $100, and 0 coding knowledge, someone with a 4-year old Macbook and a vision can get their idea off the ground and turn it into reality.If you're working a 9 to 5, embrace the 5 to 9 (this works for: 5am-9am or 5pm-9pm, depending on your sleeping schedule), and make your dream a reality. There's always time, you don't need any specialized knowledge or experience, nor do you need a lot of money with today's technology tools.You just have to start.

Phew! Thanks for making it until the end.

Let us know below what you enjoyed or learned from this month's Journal entry, we'll be running a monthly edition to openly share our stories, mistakes, and learnings.

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