This post was written by Mauricio Prinzlau. Mauricio is the CEO of Cloudwards.net, a data and user feedback driven comparison engine for cloud apps and services. He enjoys writing and producing educational videos around the cloud to help people find the best cloud service for their needs.
From an early part of my life, I always had an entrepreneurial drive and was focused on starting up on my own somewhere down the line in my career.
A few years on, I started working as an online community manager for a poker school. The poker school I was working with made money through the affiliate model whereby we earned a commission whenever players were referred to online poker rooms.
My colleagues and I were primarily involved with creating high-quality content and social media posts in order to attract leads and interest to the poker school’s website. It was during that time that I learnt the importance of creating high-quality content (video tutorials, guides, walk-throughs etc.) which would capture user interest and also be good from a search engine point of view.
Starting up a Business from Scratch
At some point, I came to the realization that whatever the poker school was doing, perhaps I could do it on my own.
At that point, I started working on my own standalone content development projects and sites. During this time, my business partner and I ended up starting up Cloudwards with the goal of trying to help people find the best cloud apps and services for their needs.
The primary trigger for figuring out our target market segment for Cloudwards came from our own frustrating experiences around losing data hosted with cloud-hosted sites. During our work with content-development sites, on more than a couple of occasions, we found ourselves losing documents and media stored in cloud locations. We decided that our mission with Cloudwards would be to provide a reliable, current resource for people who were looking for expert advice regarding solutions in the area of cloud storage, backup, and services.
The Journey So Far
We started off covering only online backup and cloud storage services because not a lot of people were aware of the importance of regularly backing up their data, or were living with the notion that uploading files to Dropbox would be enough; One has to remember that back in 2012, there was not a whole lot of quality information and advice on the internet related to cloud backups and storage strategy.
It served me well while starting up that I invested time in giving my team-members instructional content related to their job. So what I did was create in-depth documentation with video tutorials which would walk them step-by-step through the process of research, content-development and review. All this documentation was aimed at giving them the necessary information related to authoring articles and reviews, and then letting them internalize that in order to write quality content and articulate it clearly.
So far, we have focused on three different types of content on Cloudwards – news, reviews/comparisons and expert articles in the areas of cloud storage, online backup, web hosting and VPN. While the news section provides comprehensive coverage of recent developments in the cloud area, our expert articles go in-depth into explaining cloud products, technologies, and services. We are also reputed for our top quality reviews/ comparisons for a vast array of products in the cloud marketplace.
The 5 Business Lessons Learnt From My Journey
Here are the 5 most important business lessons I’ve learnt by moving from being the community manager for an online poker site to starting up my own business.
Fail to plan = Plan to fail
As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It is true that startup journey from ideation to incubation to growth seldom goes per plan and is often bumpy. Having said that, it is always good to have one for the big things in particular. Plans can and do change mid-way. But it’s always good to have one listing out several backup options – that way when things break down, the move forward happens in a fairly organized way.
Take my example – I never had a plan that I would start something in the cloud area – but I did have a tentative plan that I was going to start up on my own.
Plans don’t have to necessarily be super-specific so long as a) they are clear b) they reflect at the fundamental level, what your passion and drive are all about.
As long as the overarching master plan is in place, the details will work themselves out as you continue to absorb diverse experiences through the course of your career.
Most learning happens by doing
College and school education culminating in a degree can at best give you a strong grounding in some fundamental concepts and provide a conceptual understanding of some key areas.
Most of the learning that will take you closer to your dream of starting up will happen as you course through your career and various jobs.
As you climb up the ladder, learning keeps building and of course there is an element of serendipity to it too. I was working with a poker school when I gained experience creating quality content and that was when the value of high-quality content well and truly hit me in my face. Such serendipitous experiences shape your learning and growth in ways you cannot even begin to imagine – All you need to do is grab them and go on!
Customer experience matters… Immensely!
For any business, the customer/consumer is king, always was and always will be.
Your own experiences as a customer and consumer will shape you enormously and contribute immensely to the evolution of any ideas and plans regarding entrepreneurship.
The history of business is replete with cases of people who were so frustrated by the quality of service they were getting from a particular provider as a customer that it triggered a chain of thoughts around “Should things be this bad?” and “Can things not be any better?”
And further ideation took these people from “Can I do it better?” towards “How can I do it better?” and what followed became history.
The starting point for the idea to start Cloudwards was in the frustrating experiences we had faced while storing our data to cloud locations and losing the data and documents. Your own experiences as a customer and consumer will give you a lot of food for thought regarding your entrepreneurship ambitions
Start Small, Grow Slow
Again, this is one more well-known adage but one often forgotten in the heady cocktail created by a combination of irrational exuberance, market pressures, financial stress and inexperience. This is one blunder that often proves costly for a startup.
Once you define your market niche, you and the group of founders should first come up with a growth plan that defines – in which quarter what you plan to accomplish. Once you sketch this plan out to 4-6 quarters and have it run by experienced folks, you will have a better idea of how realistic your growth plan really is.
Murphy’s law always rules – always plan that things will go wrong and build suitable buffers into your timelines, plans, and estimates.
Planning for a conservative growth path won’t hurt in most cases although an overly conservative one might. Differentiating between the two is a job probably well left to some VC’s, PE investors and some grey-haired experienced professionals who could be well-placed to guide you.
Redefine Your Niche and Goals Until You Strike Gold
This goes to the core of what is it that you want to do as an entrepreneur – What is the business goal that is sought to be accomplished? What is the market niche that I am seeking to target?
This statement of your target market niche and business goal is like a living vision for the business that keeps changing as time goes by.
Put down this statement and keep coming back to it every month, if not every week. Your concept of what you are looking to do will keep changing and you should ruthlessly take out what is not relevant any longer to keep it current.
This statement of goal and the target niche go to the heart of determining whether your startup will survive its first year in business. Of course, execution matters but executing actions to meet a flawed goal or to target a niche that no longer exists is not going to help. Keep this statement updated and run it by some experienced folks to see if it could be a good one.
We are a company with a singular focus on helping people define their cloud and backup strategy. We have a group of people with diverse skills working with us, ranging from web designers to programmers, editors, and content developers. Right now, we are a team of 10 freelancers, sometimes more, sometimes less and we are growing at a healthy pace.
In the coming months and years, we’re going to expand Cloudwards into as many cloud categories as possible, which would not be difficult at all given our track record of growth so far. We consider it our mission to provide expert guidance related to the entire Cloud area including software, services, and backup, and facilitate customer choice through the use of comparison charts, in-depth reviews, and customer feedback.