"One Month is the first-ever online learning platform for entrepreneurs. We provide on-demand content and tools to help entrepreneurs build world-class companies."
Hi Mattan and welcome to our inspiring startup talks with entrepreneurs! Firstly, can you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up becoming an entrepreneur?
My cofounder and I met while teaching at General Assembly in New York City. He had developed a course called Programming for Non-Programmers, and I had a class called How to Teach Yourself to code. We liked to meet up and share tips about how to teach.
Can you tell us about your startup? I understand that you had an idea for a startup, but you were not quite sure of how to build it as you did not have adequate knowledge about coding. So, tell us how you got an idea for a startup which was beyond your level of expertise.
I think everyone get ideas for startups that are beyond their level of expertise. You get an idea for an app. Now the question is, how do you build that app? Most people don't know how to code in ‘Swift’which is the language you need to make iPhone apps. It's easy to be inspired because we see products around us every day, so we start to think, "This should exist." And then it's up to us to figure out how to make it happen.
In some of your interviews you have mentioned that you were waiting for an expert to build your idea, since you weren’t able to find the right person, you had to learn coding by yourself in order to develop your idea. Can you talk us through the various stages you had to go through while in the process of building your startup?
It's hard to clearly define stages of a startup because you could come up with so many different kinds of answers depending on what you're looking at. You could talk about rounds of funding, in which case we've gone from bootstrapped, to getting investment from Y Combinator, to getting a round of seed funding, to getting a second round of seed funding.Or number of employees. We started with just me and my co-founder. Then we doubled to around 5 people. Then we doubled again to 11. My favorite way of thinking about stages of a startup is Self-reflective what stages have I gone through as an individual throughout the process of building my startup? I went from doing everything myself – being the coder and marketer – to learning about hiring. Then I had to learn about business development and sales. Then I had to learn how to manage people and create buy-in. I'm constantly learning new skills and figuring out how to apply them to help One Month succeed.
What were the hardships that you faced in the early stages and how did you overcome it?
Hardships included not knowing if we would get into Y Combinator, raise money coming out of Y Combinator, become profitable, hire our first fulltime developer, survive the move back to New York City, find an office, successfully create a second course, scale out our course production, survive a price increase, survive a switch in business model to subscriptions, and so many other things.We survive by doing what we always do: working hard and figuring it out. Maybe one day we won't figure it out, but so far we've been fine.
It is believed that one can thoroughly learn anything only when they invest more time in it. So, how did you think it is possible to make your users learn coding and drive them from the ‘no-knowledge’ stage to the stage where they can launch their own mobile or web applications by themselves in just one month? How would you differentiate your method of teaching from the rest?
How much time do you need to invest in something before you can start using the skill? The answer is not much. Josh Kaufman, author of the Personal MBA, makes the point in his book "The First 20 Hours" that you can learn to do just about anything in 20 hours. Now that's not necessarily mastering the thing, that takes much longer, but in 20 hours you can get decently good at something. I think the same is true for coding. I know it's true because I did it. The biggest thing holding us back is ourselves and the thought that we can't do it. If we let that go, we'll realize we can do amazing things, including learning how to code and taking an idea to reality in less than one month.
You also offer courses about ‘Growth Hacking’, so can you tell us about how One Month went about acquiring and activating its users and how successful were you with that?
Most of our audience in the early days came from word of mouth and the fact that we had already built successful classes at General Assembly and on platforms like Skillshare and Udemy. Students who took our courses just told their friends about it. These days the biggest driver of growth for us is SEO. We're releasing new educational content on our free learning library (learn.onemonth.com) constantly.
How important do you think is growth hacking? Would you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Growth hacking is a fine thing to do. It's just about creativity and finding creative solutions to making your company successful. In that sense, I think it's crucial. It's so hard building a company that you really need to have every advantage and you need to find ways to set yourself apart and grow. If you're waiting for a playbook that will tell you what to do and how to be successful, you'll never find it. People hear startup stories about things like Airbnb selling cereal so that they could get by in their early days and then when their startup isn't going well they throw their hands up and give up. You have to stick with it and you have to constantly be trying new things in order to find something that works.
Which growth hacking resources/websites would you recommend for young start-ups? Which resource did you (One Month) find the most effective?
Two good growth hacking resources include the Growth Hacking board on Quora and GrowthHackers.com.
Having studied Philosophy and Finance, you had a different idea for a startup and you have been successful in making your idea come to life. What would your tips be for those entrepreneurs who have ideas but do not know how or where to start from?
Just start. There's no formula to building a startup, you just have to figure it out as you go. You learn most of the skills while doing it anyway. Some good rules are, build something tangible as quickly as possible. Get a landing page up through Squarespace or Unbounce, post it somewhere, and get peoples' feedback.
What are the lessons that you have learnt through your entrepreneurial journey? Would you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
We have learnt so many lessons:
Just get started building something. Focus on growth. Talk to users. Don't do anything else besides those two things. Figure out how to creatively solve or get around the problems that you will inevitably run into. It's tough, so find a support network and learn to manage your own levels of stress and happiness. Don't worry about all the mistakes. Just do enough good stuff to make up for them. And don't try to minimize mistakes, because you'll also be minimizing your opportunities for success. Every mistake is also an opportunity for success.
What is the next for One Month?
We're hiring a lot – Producers, Developers, Marketers, Sales, Full-time and part-time Teachers – so what's next is growth. I'm excited to grow as an individual as well.
Our upcoming curriculum includes courses designed to help people be more successful with their products and ideas – Product Management, Design Thinking, Habits, and other really interesting topics.
Before we let you go, where can we find you online?
Check me out at mattangriffel.com, or follow me on Twitter at @mattangriffel.
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What drives you as an entrepreneur?
What is the best advice you received as an entrepreneur?
Sindhu Chandrasekaran is a very confident and enthusiastic journalist who loves to take up responsibilities and challenges. My quest for learning and keeping myself abreast of any developments in the field have been a drive to experiment new things. Both, the interest that I have in meeting new people, make connections and flare for writing that I am blessed with has moulded me into what I am today. You can follow Sindhu on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.