Launching and growing a business under the age of 30
Jack Underwood, CEO and co-founder of Circuit explains to Business Leader about how he launched and then grew a business – all before the age of 30.
Experience may come with age but youth doesn’t have to be a disadvantage in business.
I set up Circuit at the age of 23 and although I met some resistance, I was ambitious and knew I’d found an unrealised opportunity. Four years later and Circuit has hit $10 million in ARR despite not courting traditional VC.
There’s nothing stopping young entrepreneurs from launching and growing their own successful businesses before they celebrate 30. It might need a little extra creativity and resourcefulness but that’s all. Here’s how I built my company and how other young entrepreneurs can build theirs too.
- Leaning on paid ads
Paid ads are a lifesaver for young entrepreneurs. The brilliant thing about paid ads is the feedback cycle is incredibly quick. You can buy 100 clicks and 24 hours later you’ll know if your product solves a problem or not. There’s no other channel that can give you such quick feedback, for so little cost.
Circuit’s success has relied on only ever spending on ads where we had positive ROI and, in the early days, focusing on very low volume, low cost ads. In the beginning, we’d spend between £10 and £20 a day on just 20 to 40 installs. These numbers seem small but they’re more than enough to validate, iterate, and improve on your product offering and monetisation.
As your product improves, you can then afford to tap into more and more volume profitability and create a positive feedback loop where increasing ad spend allows you to create a better product, which in turn fuels ad spend. This flywheel effect is the fastest way to improve your product or service and build momentum.
- Knowing how to spot an unrealised opportunity
Knowing I’d found an unrealised opportunity gave me the confidence and urgency to start my own business at 23. I knew I had to act before others did but also that there was a deep need for my product.
A surefire way to identify an unrealised opportunity is by looking for areas where the current product or service offering is poor, but people are still buying the product or using it anyway. This shows there’s a real need for a solution and proves that a market already exists. You don’t have to work to create a customer base and can focus on building the best product or service in a market that already exists.
The impetus behind Circuit was seeing that delivery drivers were heavily dependent on technology but were having to rely on products that weren’t properly built for them or that did a poor job. I knew that if I created something that specifically catered to their unique needs, I’d have a market-leading product that could truly add value.
- Charging customers from the very beginning
You need to charge your customers from day one. Offering your product for free to get feedback may be tempting but charging from the beginning gives you a critical advantage.
Paying customers will give you very different feedback to those using a product for free. You need this level of scrutiny in order to refine your service and make it as user-friendly as possible.
Making your customers pay will also indicate the long-term prospects of your business. Nothing tells you if a customer would be willing to pay for something like actually asking them to pay right now. If they’re not willing to do so, you can work out why and fix it before it’s too late.
- Basing your economics on a single customer
The simplest way to make sure your company turns a profit – at any age – is to ensure the unit economics work out.
Set aside the bigger picture for one moment and consider how will make a profit on a single customer. Can you acquire a customer, sell them a product or service and still have money left over? If yes, then you know you’re on the right track. But if you can’t make enough money from a single transaction then you need to address this before you scale.
- Knowing how to interpret feature requests
Customers will come to you with feature requests and you need to listen to them. But you should be focusing on the root problem, not their suggested solution. A customer will generally be unable to tell you the best way to solve a problem but their feature request gives you key insight into how your service can be improved.
You need to understand why this particular feature is requested and what problem it is attempting to solve – then come up with the best possible answer to that problem.
Wading through others’ assumptions as a young entrepreneur can be challenging but growing a successful business in your 20s is not only exciting, it’s achievable. You don’t need mountains of capital to quickly scale if you have a unique idea and a clear handle on your business model.