Managing a small business is hard. But managing a startup is harder, especially if it is your first time. But through consistency and dedication, anything is possible. The proof: my guest for this week – Juan Felipe Campos, a startup mentor and speaker at Google Launchpad.
My first interaction with Juan was completely by accident. We came across during a discussion in a marketing group, and he accepted my request for an interview.
It took a month to get the interview answers, but his detailed and invaluable answers will keep you glued till the end. So here it goes…
Dropping out of Harvard
Juan had the entrepreneurial spirit that led him to drop out of Harvard to launch his first startup.
’I started expressing a lot of entrepreneurial interests as a little kid and started a band in high school that would grow to tens of thousands of fans, and even started negotiating deals with a major record label,’ he says, adding that it was music that helped him achieve his dream of entrepreneurship.
After being inspired by music and tasting fame, Juan started a degree in Music Business from Berklee College of Music. This led him to start his first record label in the summer of 2010, right after graduation.
He proudly exclaims, ‘Since then, I have never looked back and never though of a traditional job [ever again].’
The Transition From Band Member to Startup Owner
There is always a light-bulb moment for all would-be entrepreneurs that leads them to break free from the traditional nine-to-five routine. For Juan, it happened during his years in music.
He learnt about the concept of ‘product quality’ while working in the music industry on one of his labels. He says, ‘whether it was by recording with better equipment or improving the songwriting process, I was OBSESSED with building a better ‘product’.’
But the only problem: products don’t get sold on their own. This was a key learning curve that needed attention. Juan says this ‘discovery of importance of distribution’ – a pivotal point in his career – made him excel at the art of traction and acquisition. This was so he could maximize control of his projects’ success. And that’s how he delved into the world of growth hacking.
‘It came into my life in the form of tutorial videos, blogs, and online courses. I put to everything to practice with my own startup’
Later, he went on to establish his second startup, ‘Nomad app.’ – an app that promotes nomadic lifestyle.
NomadApp became an instant hit thanks to Instagram and Facebook. Within a couple of months, it amassed thousands of followers.
It had more than one thousand beta testers with a waitlist of five thousand travelers ready to get onboard. This traction caught the attention of a funding program through Sprint. And later, Plug & Play Tech Center and the Go Silicon Valley accelerators took notice.
Selling a $300,000 House With $300 Facebook Budget
But success and thirst for tinkering with growth marketing for Juan didn’t just end here. In the early days, Facebook was testing ads for businesses, so he started taking interest in it as well.
And after relentless trial and error, Juan finally sold a client’s house for $300,000. This was only using Facebook adverts with a budget of $300. He says, ‘we were able to sell the house faster than property management companies with big budgets that pray and spray,’ because they targeted a specific segment of the population.
Journey From Being a Founder To Becoming a Mentor
Juan now mentors startups on growth, acquisition, and customer retention strategies in Latin America. ‘It excites me to help them growth hack their marketing and customer acquisition process,’ he adds.
But he is not a close proponent of viral marketing and says, ‘If the business doesn’t make sense on paper, no amount of Reddit viral posts will save the startup.’
For this reason, he focuses solely on making practical business models that work for startups. His job at Manos is to work as a service partner through Growth Masters – an agency that he founded exclusively for these startups, and currently serves as its VP for Technology.
Plans For Future
Juan plans to distribute Manos Accelerator’s online curriculum to universities in Latin America. The $10,000 per month license gives 500 students per university access to world class training from educators at Stanford, Twitter, GoPro, Google, and many other prominent companies.
Life Lessons Learned
While telling about his story, Juan says a life lesson he learned from a Canadian angel investor was to prioritize profitability over other options.
‘He taught me to prioritize profitability over running a scalable startup or even delighting the customer. This is a pretty controversial topic because most entrepreneurs with a corporate background are wired to put the client’s happiness above all things or to run these startups with a Fortune 500 mentality, but then again… most startups fail,’ he explains.
For him, spending 70% to 80% of time on closing sales and generating leads is far more important for running a profitable business instead of spending all of that time on bringing more customer-requested features in the initial stages of the startup.
‘I’ve learned that most entrepreneurs do the complete opposite and spend almost NO time on selling or getting sign ups,’ he adds.
Rapid Fire Round
After a impressive startup session with Juan, I went on with my usual quick-question firing streak. Here are some of his best shots.
Cryptocurrency is a rising trend, what is your take on its future?
Cryptocurrency is an inevitable reality of our future, but I think it’s too volatile to be a good investment opportunity for most people right now. This is especially true for early stage entrepreneurs. I’ve seen too many people risk their life savings and retirement funds on a market that changes daily. Crypto will make many billionaires, but a lot more broke people.
‘Crypto will make many billionaires, but a lot more broke.’
Describe your job to a three-year old
People who run businesses don’t always have friends or experience to do it the right way.
Your fun drills
Play music and go long-boarding.
Your Workplace Picture
So have your found some new inspiration to pursue your dream of entrepreneurship? Let us know in the comments below.