My very first landing page.

How to Start a Company in College and then Fail It.

Starting a company is easy. You don’t need much other than an internet connection and a crisp $200 bill. This article is about how I started my own social media food & drink deals app while in college — and everywhere I went wrong. This is being written to teach me as much as you.

When I was studying Computer Science at Florida State University, I loved coding but hated the curriculum. I joined to make cool stuff like videogames and Facebook but instead learned discrete math and operating systems (stuff that came in handy when my friends and I need a Minecraft server). I took the classes as they came, but they never itched my entrepreneurial side, so when I got a message on LinkedIn from a prospective co-founder wanting a “social media platform for creating and sharing private and local events,” I immediately said yes.

You just witnessed…

Mistake #1:

Y Combinator says to pick your cofounder as critically as you would an employee. I did not know this man, what he was like as a person. Fortunately, I got lucky and quickly found out he was a hardworking individual with big money plans. I did my minimum due diligence to find out he wasn’t a crook, but about a year into the startup, we weren’t on the same page. I also had no experience (or interest) in an event-based industry. I guess another lesson would be to work on a subject you know something about.

You’d think the mistake would be that I agreed, knowing full well I had no clue how to build a full-stack application… But I knew this would be my best chance at billionaire status, so I took the offer.

We created a Florida LLC, and I spent the next 4 months learning and building simultaneously. I ended up with a React app, equipped with a database and backend. Users could create profiles, make and share public or private events, add co-creators, scroll through local and private events feed, and follow other users. The number of bugs reminded me of an iTunes 10 years ago, except not as bad.

This was —

Mistake #2:

Way too many features. Why did we need followers? Why did I add a private and public event feed? Users could LIKE and REPOST events to share in between feeds? I was thrown into a logical abyss with GraphQL statements as long as bible scripture.

Assuming nobody will notice huge portions of the website teeming with bugs, we continue with our debut.

My cofounder throws a huge party, making the partygoers RSVP on my freshly built website. We get more than 300 new users in a single night. I feel like a god. We party as if the company depended on it… because it might have. The next day: a whopping 8 visitors to the website. 100% bounce rate at the homepage. We concluded that the party was more for ourselves than the company. This was when it hit me that our start-up wasn’t a sure thing.

After the party, I cleaned up the bugs and worked on SEO optimization. I pushed this boulder up a hill until 2 months later when the inevitable happened.

Mistake #2.5:

Global Pandemic. Yes, it was inevitable. We would have planned for it, too, but we’re not hypochondriacs nor the president. Luckily, our events platform was well suited for food & drink deals, and we saw this as a great way to help out local restaurants, so we pivoted. I quickly scrape up a React Native app (since React is very similar), and we deliver to users near us!

My cofounder begins a Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat campaign, and within 6 months, we’re at 2,000 users. At this point, he’s paying monthly for website deployment, image storage, email marketing, and ads. Money was going out much faster than it was coming in, which was none.

Mistake #3:

Have a solid business plan. We thought restaurants would pay hand over fist to be on our platform. Not only that, but we would have hundreds of thousands of users per day, bringing in truckloads of ad revenue right into our greedy little hands. Our naivety quickly showed when restaurants called our 50 daily active users cheap for deal hopping.

We never made a cent. I learned that it’s easier to charge users than to get ad revenue. My app scraped the bottom of the barrel for customers, so as soon as it shut down they all went onto the next deals app.

In Conclusion — Mistake #4:

Our company held no values. It had no greater plan or moral superiority. We’re just a website and an app. My cofounder wanted a feature, I implement, then we pat ourselves on the back. When things finally fell through, I know that the biggest mistake was that we never stood for something. I would convince myself that we worked for dying restaurants and starving customers, but the next plan would severe that tie a little more every time.

This caused my cofounder and I to disconnect and conclude that the company wasn’t going to make it. We shook hands and said goodbye. I’ve learned a lot in the last 2 years running the company, and I don’t regret starting at all. Knowing when to quit is nice, but I’m back on the grind, and I know it will never stop.

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Hello! I’m Tan, a Computer Science graduate and entrepreneur. I try to write my mind on emerging economies and the potential of globalism in every sector.

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Tan Arin

Tan Arin

Hello! I’m Tan, a Computer Science graduate and entrepreneur. I try to write my mind on emerging economies and the potential of globalism in every sector.

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