Dominic is the founder of MentorCruise.com, an online marketplace for IT mentoring. His MRR has increased from $700 to $4,600 after three years of thrift. He is actively involved in every facet of the company as the only entrepreneur and has two part-time helpers. He took part in a variety of online learning opportunities before starting MentorCruise, including MOOCs, which had the most effects on him.
Dominic established the online marketplace for IT mentoring called MentorCruise. Individuals can receive assistance and accountability from mentors. By 2020, their MRR will have climbed from $700 to $4,600 after three years of thrift. Since then, their MRR has increased by a factor of two and is now $7,800.
What are you currently working on and who are you?
I appreciate you having me. I am the founder of the tech-focused mentorship service MentorCruise.com.
I’m a 23-year-old living in Zurich, Switzerland. When I was just 20 years old, on my way home from work, I established MentorCruise.
The foundation of MentorCruise is based on the straightforward idea that for people to succeed, they need responsibility and assistance. Both of these can be given by a mentor.
Effective mentors are hard to come by, though, and most formal mentor-mentee relationships are formed in formalized workplace settings.
We have information on about 500 mentors, including what they are willing to do for mentees and what it would cost.
We don’t rely on sessions, paid calls, or minute-by-minute billing as other services do; instead, you pay a set monthly cost and may contact your mentor anytime you need to. There is a diminution.
I am actively involved in every facet of the company as the only entrepreneur. In terms of customer service and development, I now have two part-time helpers, but I still have a lot of work to do in terms of product, expansion, marketing, and community support.
What is your background, and how did you come up with this idea?
I took part in a variety of online learning opportunities before starting MentorCruise, including MOOCs. The classes and programs that offered one-on-one mentorship had the most effects on me out of all of them.
These mentorship initiatives, however, were essentially side projects for these enterprises. The core was always the academic work. You would no longer have access to your mentor if you stopped attending classes.
Even more crucially, your mentor will no longer be there once your education is finished and the vital job-hunting and interviewing phase starts.
As a 19-year-old entering the workforce, I experienced this directly, and I found that many of my classmates had similar experiences. I made the decision to start by just compiling an index of everyone because many of us were operating on both ends of the market, looking for a mentor as well as mentoring students.
This is how we got our first dozen or so users; before releasing anything, I ended up meeting with over 100 potential mentors, and some of them came through these learning groups.
This was my first effort at starting a business or coming up with a viable business idea, and it was also the first to bring in money.
How did you turn a concept into a finished product?
This was really upsetting for a first-time entrepreneur. Today, I am knowledgeable about how to validate an idea, talk to customers, create a minimal viable product (MVP), and then conceptualize a suitable product in the right sequence. In hindsight, I had no idea!
Websites like ProductHunt and IndieHackers were new to me.
So I started building utilizing the resources I already had (the ability to code in Python and the ability to create some basic HTML/CSS). A landing page comes first, followed by the actual product.
In hindsight, I made a ton of mistakes: instead of letting my project’s first users dictate its scope, I thought about all the great things I might add while I was commuting.
I did everything in my head rather than confirming the business and finding out what potential mentors and mentees would want. In all honesty, this project was destined to fail.
I ended up with an excessively broad MVP scope. There had to be a way to schedule meetings on the internet, right? I had to develop my own messaging system because the other options were too expensive. How about a community, a way for people to email each other example tasks, and a to-do list feature? Let’s also incorporate this.
Speaking with people on a daily basis was the one thing I did well. I believed that the presence of outstanding mentors on the page was essential for the project’s success, so I daily DMed and contacted people to invite them to join.
The minimal viable product (MVP), which is excessively long and mainly because of its massive scope, took me around four to five months to develop. More than 100 people, many of whom had 10,000 Twitter followers, expressed interest in becoming mentors when I was ready to debut.
The plan was simple: They would all join up, share their profiles, and a wave of new followers would arrive.
That, of course, did not happen. About 10 of the 100 interested parties joined up, and maybe one or two of them shared their profiles with others. The job has just started.
What marketing techniques did you use to grow your company?
My flimsy “influencer technique” didn’t sell well. These well-known individuals serving as mentors had some influence. The first paying customer registered about two to three weeks after the website launched. I witnessed the application being submitted, the mentor approving it, the protégé setting up payment, and then, suddenly, I was the proud recipient of my first $5 or so (at the time, I had a pretty unappealing commission structure).
It turns out that Google had indexed their mentor’s profile, and when they were looking for this renowned developer, they came upon the chance and snatched it.
Therefore, I think this was how we got our first 10 paying customers. I eventually found myself spending two hours every day just finding new advisers. The team grew from 10 mentors to twenty, then thirty, and finally fifty over time. Most of them were successful in finding a hire through their network.
Later, I understood how useful search was for this. In the end, I produced a large number of landing sites that currently dominate Google’s first page. I made significant investments in our blog, which has grown to be a useful tool for job changers. Every time someone laments their inability to find a mentor online, we are there.
But it took years for this to pay off.
Development of Monthly MentorCruise Revenue
However, service is ultimately what matters. The information that existing mentors share with their friends and colleagues. the fact that our mentors are mentioned in writing and by peers. A beneficial network effect results from each new mentor drawing in more mentees and mentors.
Today, we make a lot of efforts to keep up our development and momentum. We ask mentors to share more, have a community forum, a new affiliate program, a mentor referral scheme, sponsored commercials, and we reward mentor performance.
What are you doing right now? What are your long-term goals?
In 2020, MentorCruise had its most prosperous year to date. By the end of 2020, MRR will have grown from around $700 to about $4,600. Our income has already increased by another double since then, to $7,800.
Whether or if it is all we earn or just our portion is a common worry. We only talk about revenue when it comes to our portion. Currently, the market’s total monthly volume is around $40,000. It’s crazy!
We expand at a healthy rate of 10% every month. We pay $15 a month to Postmark, $49 a month to Tapfiliate, and $20 a month for hosting out of our strong pre-employment revenues.
As I’ve already indicated, we collaborate with Embarque on our material, and we have two outstanding part-time support and engineering staff members.
I believe we will be able to maintain this rate of growth for some time. It would suggest that by the end of the year, our MRR would exceed $16,000. enough for me to recruit one or two helpers and work on the company full-time.
We can’t stand still if we want to achieve this. I am working really hard right now to make sure mentors can perform to the best of their abilities. For instance, mentor profiles have substantially changed since last month.
What have you learned the most since you joined MentorCruise?
That is a difficult question. To be quite honest, when I started, I had no idea how to start a business. I’ve already had the chance to think back on a few of the early choices I made when developing MentorCruise, but I still pick up new knowledge every day.
I feel it a privilege to have the opportunity to think about such issues again while guiding others.
Always start with validation while building a business. Once you’ve found 10 people ready to pay to have the problem fixed, you may start working on the solution.
Your MVP should have the smallest possible scope. If it’s possible to make money without first producing a product, you could be onto something.
Your growth strategy is just as crucial as your concept. You shouldn’t introduce a product if you have no idea how to market it.
Pay attention to your customers, but resist doing all they want of you. When someone reports an issue or asks for a new feature, it’s easy to become alarmed. But you need to set priorities.
What were the toughest obstacles you overcame? What were your biggest mistakes?
We spoke about the overrated MVP. Although it took me 4-5 months to build it initially, it also took months of effort to return to a common ground (while deleting many of the features in the process). This is one of the things that aggravates me the most.
I also said that the commission from our first paying customer was around $5. We simply hesitated to charge enough:
Customers were concerned about our weekly billing, which did not provide us much security.
When compared to our rivals, we only charged a 10% commission.
Regarding the prices that people should charge, we made no recommendations.
This problem was fixed, and once we changed our company strategy, our growth picked up dramatically.
There are a lot more reasons I could provide, but they all come down to the same thing: I lacked the guts to take chances. I was cautious to make any adjustments while I had $100 in MRR since I didn’t want to risk losing it. I thought the firm was feasible as-is at $500 in MRR.
The key is that you cannot assume that the same tactics that produced an MRR of $500 would likewise provide an MRR of $5,000. You must take chances, and doing so is simpler when your company is smaller.
What equipment and sources would you recommend?
One of the business-building books that most affected my viewpoint was Built to Sell by John Warrillow. It is a beneficial manual, in my opinion, for business owners who have a strong commitment to their company.
It has also given me a lot of knowledge about hiring staff, spending money, and automating particular chores. It’s probably the reason why, as a founder, my business doesn’t collapse if I take a week off. Few individuals can make this claim about themselves. It provides me a benefit since I could run this company for a very long time without becoming tired.
I don’t really like internet communities. A large number of them are overly marketed and of little use. Adding someone to a Slack channel does not make them part of a community.
Because of this, I like Founder Summit. They are the only community I usually visit, and I think they are a really bright collection of people.
Then there are the established sites like Reddit, ProductHunt, and IndieHackers. All of them are great places to meet new people.
My contradictory thoughts on Facebook Groups. Facebook annoys me, but I appreciate the organizations. They usually contain a sizable number of people without other social media profiles and are a massive ecosystem unto itself. It is advantageous to emerge from the cocoon.
For further information
If you want to be a mentor, submit an application! On MentorCruise, mentoring is popular. You will join our community, a closely knit network of experts in the tech sector. From YC founders to FAANG veterans, we have them all.
If you are in the trenches attempting to get a new job, advance in your profession, or ultimately build your business, think about having a mentor.
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