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Rick Blyth

Rick Blyth

3 months ago

Looking for a Reliable Micro SaaS Niche

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Aaron Dinin, PhD

Aaron Dinin, PhD

2 months ago

I'll Never Forget the Day a Venture Capitalist Made Me Feel Like a Dunce

Are you an idiot at fundraising?

Image courtesy Inzmam Khan via Pexels

Humans undervalue what they don't grasp. Consider NASCAR. How is that a sport? ask uneducated observers. Circular traffic. Driving near a car's physical limits is different from daily driving. When driving at 200 mph, seemingly simple things like changing gas weight or asphalt temperature might be life-or-death.

Venture investors do something similar in entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs don't realize how complex venture finance is.

In my early startup days, I didn't comprehend venture capital's intricacy. I thought VCs were rich folks looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg. I was meant to be a sleek, enthusiastic young entrepreneur who could razzle-dazzle investors.

Finally, one of the VCs I was trying to woo set me straight. He insulted me.

How I learned that I was approaching the wrong investor

I was constructing a consumer-facing, pre-revenue marketplace firm. I looked for investors in my old university's alumni database. My city had one. After some research, I learned he was a partner at a growth-stage, energy-focused VC company with billions under management.

Billions? I thought. Surely he can write a million-dollar cheque. He'd hardly notice.

I emailed the VC about our shared alumni status, explaining that I was building a startup in the area and wanted advice. When he agreed to meet the next week, I prepared my pitch deck.

First error.

The meeting seemed like a funding request. Imagine the awkwardness.

His assistant walked me to the firm's conference room and told me her boss was running late. While waiting, I prepared my pitch. I connected my computer to the projector, queued up my PowerPoint slides, and waited for the VC.

He didn't say hello or apologize when he entered a few minutes later. What are you doing?

Hi! I said, Confused but confident. Dinin Aaron. My startup's pitch.

Who? Suspicious, he replied. Your email says otherwise. You wanted help.

I said, "Isn't that a euphemism for contacting investors?" Fundraising I figured I should pitch you.

As he sat down, he smiled and said, "Put away your computer." You need to study venture capital.

Recognizing the business aspects of venture capital

The VC taught me venture capital in an hour. Young entrepreneur me needed this lesson. I assume you need it, so I'm sharing it.

Most people view venture money from an entrepreneur's perspective, he said. They envision a world where venture capital serves entrepreneurs and startups.

As my VC indicated, VCs perceive their work differently. Venture investors don't serve entrepreneurs. Instead, they run businesses. Their product doesn't look like most products. Instead, the VCs you're proposing have recognized an undervalued market segment. By investing in undervalued companies, they hope to profit. It's their investment thesis.

Your company doesn't fit my investment thesis, the venture capitalist told me. Your pitch won't beat my investing theory. I invest in multimillion-dollar clean energy companies. Asking me to invest in you is like ordering a breakfast burrito at a fancy steakhouse. They could, but why? They don't do that.

Yeah, I’m not a fine steak yet, I laughed, feeling like a fool for pitching a growth-stage VC used to looking at energy businesses with millions in revenues on my pre-revenue, consumer startup.

He stressed that it's not necessary. There are investors targeting your company. Not me. Find investors and pitch them.

Remember this when fundraising. Your investors aren't philanthropists who want to help entrepreneurs realize their company goals. Venture capital is a sophisticated investment strategy, and VC firm managers are industry experts. They're looking for companies that meet their investment criteria. As a young entrepreneur, I didn't grasp this, which is why I struggled to raise money. In retrospect, I probably seemed like an idiot. Hopefully, you won't after reading this.

cdixon

cdixon

5 months ago

2000s Toys, Secrets, and Cycles

During the dot-com bust, I started my internet career. People used the internet intermittently to check email, plan travel, and do research. The average internet user spent 30 minutes online a day, compared to 7 today. To use the internet, you had to "log on" (most people still used dial-up), unlike today's always-on, high-speed mobile internet. In 2001, Amazon's market cap was $2.2B, 1/500th of what it is today. A study asked Americans if they'd adopt broadband, and most said no. They didn't see a need to speed up email, the most popular internet use. The National Academy of Sciences ranked the internet 13th among the 100 greatest inventions, below radio and phones. The internet was a cool invention, but it had limited uses and wasn't a good place to build a business. 

A small but growing movement of developers and founders believed the internet could be more than a read-only medium, allowing anyone to create and publish. This is web 2. The runner up name was read-write web. (These terms were used in prominent publications and conferences.) 

Web 2 concepts included letting users publish whatever they want ("user generated content" was a buzzword), social graphs, APIs and mashups (what we call composability today), and tagging over hierarchical navigation. Technical innovations occurred. A seemingly simple but important one was dynamically updating web pages without reloading. This is now how people expect web apps to work. Mobile devices that could access the web were niche (I was an avid Sidekick user). 

The contrast between what smart founders and engineers discussed over dinner and on weekends and what the mainstream tech world took seriously during the week was striking. Enterprise security appliances, essentially preloaded servers with security software, were a popular trend. Many of the same people would talk about "serious" products at work, then talk about consumer internet products and web 2. It was tech's biggest news. Web 2 products were seen as toys, not real businesses. They were hobbies, not work-related. 

There's a strong correlation between rich product design spaces and what smart people find interesting, which took me some time to learn and led to blog posts like "The next big thing will start out looking like a toy" Web 2's novel product design possibilities sparked dinner and weekend conversations. Imagine combining these features. What if you used this pattern elsewhere? What new product ideas are next? This excited people. "Serious stuff" like security appliances seemed more limited. 

The small and passionate web 2 community also stood out. I attended the first New York Tech meetup in 2004. Everyone fit in Meetup's small conference room. Late at night, people demoed their software and chatted. I have old friends. Sometimes I get asked how I first met old friends like Fred Wilson and Alexis Ohanian. These topics didn't interest many people, especially on the east coast. We were friends. Real community. Alex Rampell, who now works with me at a16z, is someone I met in 2003 when a friend said, "Hey, I met someone else interested in consumer internet." Rare. People were focused and enthusiastic. Revolution seemed imminent. We knew a secret nobody else did. 

My web 2 startup was called SiteAdvisor. When my co-founders and I started developing the idea in 2003, web security was out of control. Phishing and spyware were common on Internet Explorer PCs. SiteAdvisor was designed to warn users about security threats like phishing and spyware, and then, using web 2 concepts like user-generated reviews, add more subjective judgments (similar to what TrustPilot seems to do today). This staged approach was common at the time; I called it "Come for the tool, stay for the network." We built APIs, encouraged mashups, and did SEO marketing. 

Yahoo's 2005 acquisitions of Flickr and Delicious boosted web 2 in 2005. By today's standards, the amounts were small, around $30M each, but it was a signal. Web 2 was assumed to be a fun hobby, a way to build cool stuff, but not a business. Yahoo was a savvy company that said it would make web 2 a priority. 

As I recall, that's when web 2 started becoming mainstream tech. Early web 2 founders transitioned successfully. Other entrepreneurs built on the early enthusiasts' work. Competition shifted from ideation to execution. You had to decide if you wanted to be an idealistic indie bar band or a pragmatic stadium band. 

Web 2 was booming in 2007 Facebook passed 10M users, Twitter grew and got VC funding, and Google bought YouTube. The 2008 financial crisis tested entrepreneurs' resolve. Smart people predicted another great depression as tech funding dried up. 

Many people struggled during the recession. 2008-2011 was a golden age for startups. By 2009, talented founders were flooding Apple's iPhone app store. Mobile apps were booming. Uber, Venmo, Snap, and Instagram were all founded between 2009 and 2011. Social media (which had replaced web 2), cloud computing (which enabled apps to scale server side), and smartphones converged. Even if social, cloud, and mobile improve linearly, the combination could improve exponentially. 

This chart shows how I view product and financial cycles. Product and financial cycles evolve separately. The Nasdaq index is a proxy for the financial sentiment. Financial sentiment wildly fluctuates. 

Next row shows iconic startup or product years. Bottom-row product cycles dictate timing. Product cycles are more predictable than financial cycles because they follow internal logic. In the incubation phase, enthusiasts build products for other enthusiasts on nights and weekends. When the right mix of technology, talent, and community knowledge arrives, products go mainstream. (I show the biggest tech cycles in the chart, but smaller ones happen, like web 2 in the 2000s and fintech and SaaS in the 2010s.) 

Tech has changed since the 2000s. Few tech giants dominate the internet, exerting economic and cultural influence. In the 2000s, web 2 was ignored or dismissed as trivial. Entrenched interests respond aggressively to new movements that could threaten them. Creative patterns from the 2000s continue today, driven by enthusiasts who see possibilities where others don't. Know where to look. Crypto and web 3 are where I'd start. 

Today's negative financial sentiment reminds me of 2008. If we face a prolonged downturn, we can learn from 2008 by preserving capital and focusing on the long term. Keep an eye on the product cycle. Smart people are interested in things with product potential. This becomes true. Toys become necessities. Hobbies become mainstream. Optimists build the future, not cynics.


Full article is available here

Sanjay Priyadarshi

Sanjay Priyadarshi

1 month ago

Meet a Programmer Who Turned Down Microsoft's $10,000,000,000 Acquisition Offer

Failures inspire young developers

Photo of Jason Citron from Marketrealist.com

Jason citron created many products.

These products flopped.

Microsoft offered $10 billion for one of these products.

He rejected the offer since he was so confident in his success.

Let’s find out how he built a product that is currently valued at $15 billion.

Early in his youth, Jason began learning to code.

Jason's father taught him programming and IT.

His father wanted to help him earn money when he needed it.

Jason created video games and websites in high school.

Jason realized early on that his IT and programming skills could make him money.

Jason's parents misjudged his aptitude for programming.

Jason frequented online programming communities.

He looked for web developers. He created websites for those people.

His parents suspected Jason sold drugs online. When he said he used programming to make money, they were shocked.

They helped him set up a PayPal account.

Florida higher education to study video game creation

Jason never attended an expensive university.

He studied game design in Florida.

“Higher Education is an interesting part of society… When I work with people, the school they went to never comes up… only thing that matters is what can you do…At the end of the day, the beauty of silicon valley is that if you have a great idea and you can bring it to the life, you can convince a total stranger to give you money and join your project… This notion that you have to go to a great school didn’t end up being a thing for me.”

Jason's life was altered by Steve Jobs' keynote address.

After graduating, Jason joined an incubator.

Jason created a video-dating site first.

Bad idea.

Nobody wanted to use it when it was released, so they shut it down.

He made a multiplayer game.

It was released on Bebo. 10,000 people played it.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple app store, he stopped playing.

The introduction of the app store resembled that of a new gaming console.

Jason's life altered after Steve Jobs' 2008 address.

“Whenever a new video game console is launched, that’s the opportunity for a new video game studio to get started, it’s because there aren’t too many games available…When a new PlayStation comes out, since it’s a new system, there’s only a handful of titles available… If you can be a launch title you can get a lot of distribution.”

Apple's app store provided a chance to start a video game company.

They released an app after 5 months of work.

Aurora Feint is the game.

Jason believed 1000 players in a week would be wonderful. A thousand players joined in the first hour.

Over time, Aurora Feints' game didn't gain traction. They don't make enough money to keep playing.

They could only make enough for one month.

Instead of buying video games, buy technology

Jason saw that they established a leaderboard, chat rooms, and multiplayer capabilities and believed other developers would want to use these.

They opted to sell the prior game's technology.

OpenFeint.

Assisting other game developers

They had no money in the bank to create everything needed to make the technology user-friendly.

Jason and Daniel designed a website saying:

“If you’re making a video game and want to have a drop in multiplayer support, you can use our system”

TechCrunch covered their website launch, and they gained a few hundred mailing list subscribers.

They raised seed funding with the mailing list.

Nearly all iPhone game developers started adopting the Open Feint logo.

“It was pretty wild… It was really like a whole social platform for people to play with their friends.”

What kind of a business model was it?

OpenFeint originally planned to make the software free for all games. As the game gained popularity, they demanded payment.

They later concluded it wasn't a good business concept.

It became free eventually.

Acquired for $104 million

Open Feint's users and employees grew tremendously.

GREE bought OpenFeint for $104 million in April 2011.

GREE initially committed to helping Jason and his team build a fantastic company.

Three or four months after the acquisition, Jason recognized they had a different vision.

He quit.

Jason's Original Vision for the iPad

Jason focused on distribution in 2012 to help businesses stand out.

The iPad market and user base were growing tremendously.

Jason said the iPad may replace mobile gadgets.

iPad gamers behaved differently than mobile gamers.

People sat longer and experienced more using an iPad.

“The idea I had was what if we built a gaming business that was more like traditional video games but played on tablets as opposed to some kind of mobile game that I’ve been doing before.”

Unexpected insight after researching the video game industry

Jason learned from studying the gaming industry that long-standing companies had advantages beyond a single release.

Previously, long-standing video game firms had their own distribution system. This distribution strategy could buffer time between successful titles.

Sony, Microsoft, and Valve all have gaming consoles and online stores.

So he built a distribution system.

He created a group chat app for gamers.

He envisioned a team-based multiplayer game with text and voice interaction.

His objective was to develop a communication network, release more games, and start a game distribution business.

Remaking the video game League of Legends

Jason and his crew reimagined a League of Legends game mode for 12-inch glass.

They adapted the game for tablets.

League of Legends was PC-only.

So they rebuilt it.

They overhauled the game and included native mobile experiences to stand out.

Hammer and Chisel was the company's name.

18 people worked on the game.

The game was funded. The game took 2.5 years to make.

Was the game a success?

July 2014 marked the game's release. The team's hopes were dashed.

Critics initially praised the game.

Initial installation was widespread.

The game failed.

As time passed, the team realized iPad gaming wouldn't increase much and mobile would win.

Jason was given a fresh idea by Stan Vishnevskiy.

Stan Vishnevskiy was a corporate engineer.

He told Jason about his plan to design a communication app without a game.

This concept seeded modern strife.

“The insight that he really had was to put a couple of dots together… we’re seeing our customers communicating around our own game with all these different apps and also ourselves when we’re playing on PC… We should solve that problem directly rather than needing to build a new game…we should start making it on PC.”

So began Discord.

Online socializing with pals was the newest trend.

Jason grew up playing video games with his friends.

He never played outside.

Jason had many great moments playing video games with his closest buddy, wife, and brother.

Discord was about providing a location for you and your group to speak and hang out.

Like a private cafe, bedroom, or living room.

Discord was developed for you and your friends on computers and phones.

You can quickly call your buddies during a game to conduct a conference call. Put the call on speaker and talk while playing.

Discord wanted to give every player a unique experience. Because coordinating across apps was a headache.

The entire team started concentrating on Discord.

Jason decided Hammer and Chisel would focus on their chat app.

Jason didn't want to make a video game.

How Discord attracted the appropriate attention

During the first five months, the entire team worked on the game and got feedback from friends.

This ensures product improvement. As a result, some teammates' buddies started utilizing Discord.

The team knew it would become something, but the result was buggy. App occasionally crashed.

Jason persuaded a gamer friend to write on Reddit about the software.

New people would find Discord. Why not?

Reddit users discovered Discord and 50 started using it frequently.

Discord was launched.

Rejecting the $10 billion acquisition proposal

Discord has increased in recent years.

It sends billions of messages.

Discord's users aren't tracked. They're privacy-focused.

Purchase offer

Covid boosted Discord's user base.

Weekly, billions of messages were transmitted.

Microsoft offered $10 billion for Discord in 2021.

Jason sold Open Feint for $104m in 2011.

This time, he believed in the product so much that he rejected Microsoft's offer.

“I was talking to some people in the team about which way we could go… The good thing was that most of the team wanted to continue building.”

Last time, Discord was valued at $15 billion.

Discord raised money on March 12, 2022.

The $15 billion corporation raised $500 million in 2021.

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James White

James White

21 days ago

Ray Dalio suggests reading these three books in 2022.

An inspiring reading list

Wikimedia Commons

I'm no billionaire or hedge-fund manager. My bank account doesn't have millions. Ray Dalio's love of reading motivates me to think differently.

Here are some books recommended by Ray Dalio. Each influenced me. Hope they'll help you.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Page Count: 512
Rating on Goodreads: 4.39

My favorite nonfiction book.

Sapiens explores human evolution. It explains how Homo Sapiens developed from hunter-gatherers to a dominant species. Amazing!

Sapiens will teach you about human history. Yuval Noah Harari has a follow-up book on human evolution.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • The tendency for luxuries to turn into necessities and give rise to new obligations is one of history's few unbreakable laws.

  • Happiness is not dependent on material wealth, physical health, or even community. Instead, it depends on how closely subjective expectations and objective circumstances align.

  • The romantic comparison between today's industry, which obliterates the environment, and our forefathers, who coexisted well with nature, is unfounded. Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for eradicating the most plant and animal species even before the Industrial Revolution. The unfortunate distinction of being the most lethal species in the history of life belongs to us.

The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Page Count: 375
Rating on Goodreads: 4.13

Great book: The Power Of Habit. It illustrates why habits are everything. The book explains how healthier habits can improve your life, career, and society.

The Power of Habit rocks. It's a great book on productivity. Its suggestions helped me build healthier behaviors (and drop bad ones).

Read ASAP!

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • Change may not occur quickly or without difficulty. However, almost any behavior may be changed with enough time and effort.

  • People who exercise begin to eat better and produce more at work. They are less smokers and are more patient with friends and family. They claim to feel less anxious and use their credit cards less frequently. A fundamental habit that sparks broad change is exercise.

  • Habits are strong but also delicate. They may develop independently of our awareness or may be purposefully created. They frequently happen without our consent, but they can be altered by changing their constituent pieces. They have a much greater influence on how we live than we realize; in fact, they are so powerful that they cause our brains to adhere to them above all else, including common sense.

Tribe Of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

Page Count: 561
Rating on Goodreads: 4.06

Unusual book structure. It's worth reading if you want to learn from successful people.

The book is Q&A-style. Tim questions everyone. Each chapter features a different person's life-changing advice. In the book, Pressfield, Willink, Grylls, and Ravikant are interviewed.

Amazing!

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • According to one's courage, life can either get smaller or bigger.

  • Don't engage in actions that you are aware are immoral. The reputation you have with yourself is all that constitutes self-esteem. Always be aware.

  • People mistakenly believe that focusing means accepting the task at hand. However, that is in no way what it represents. It entails rejecting the numerous other worthwhile suggestions that exist. You must choose wisely. Actually, I'm just as proud of the things we haven't accomplished as I am of what I have. Saying no to 1,000 things is what innovation is.

Glorin Santhosh

Glorin Santhosh

18 days ago

In his final days, Steve Jobs sent an email to himself. What It Said Was This

An email capturing Steve Jobs's philosophy.

Photo by Konsepta Studio on Unsplash

Steve Jobs may have been the most inspired and driven entrepreneur.

He worked on projects because he wanted to leave a legacy.

Steve Jobs' final email to himself encapsulated his philosophy.

After his death from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, Laurene Powell Jobs released the email. He was 56.

Read: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (#BestSeller)

The Email:

September 2010 Steve Jobs email:

“I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow, I do not breed or perfect the seeds.” “I do not make my own clothing. I speak a language I did not invent or refine,” he continued. “I did not discover the mathematics I use… I am moved by music I did not create myself.”

Jobs ended his email by reflecting on how others created everything he uses.

He wrote:

“When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.”

From the Steve Jobs Archive

The Apple co-founder concluded by praising humanity.

“I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object-oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with. I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well-being,” he concluded.

The email was made public as a part of the Steve Jobs Archive, a website that was launched in tribute to his legacy.

Steve Jobs' widow founded the internet archive. Apple CEO Tim Cook and former design leader Jony Ive were prominent guests.

Steve Jobs has always inspired because he shows how even the best can be improved.

High expectations were always there, and they were consistently met.

We miss him because he was one of the few with lifelong enthusiasm and persona.

Joseph Mavericks

Joseph Mavericks

3 months ago

You Don't Have to Spend $250 on TikTok Ads Because I Did

900K impressions, 8K clicks, and $$$ orders…

Photo by Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash

I recently started dropshipping. Now that I own my business and can charge it as a business expense, it feels less like money wasted if it doesn't work. I also made t-shirts to sell. I intended to open a t-shirt store and had many designs on a hard drive. I read that Tiktok advertising had a high conversion rate and low cost because they were new. According to many, the advertising' cost/efficiency ratio would plummet and become as bad as Google or Facebook Ads. Now felt like the moment to try Tiktok marketing and dropshipping. I work in marketing for a SaaS firm and have seen how poorly ads perform. I wanted to try it alone.

I set up $250 and ran advertising for a week. Before that, I made my own products, store, and marketing. In this post, I'll show you my process and results.

Setting up the store

Dropshipping is a sort of retail business in which the manufacturer ships the product directly to the client through an online platform maintained by a seller. The seller takes orders but has no stock. The manufacturer handles all orders. This no-stock concept increases profitability and flexibility.

In my situation, I used previous t-shirt designs to make my own product. I didn't want to handle order fulfillment logistics, so I looked for a way to print my designs on demand, ship them, and handle order tracking/returns automatically. So I found Printful.

Source

I needed to connect my backend and supplier to a storefront so visitors could buy. 99% of dropshippers use Shopify, but I didn't want to master the difficult application. I wanted a one-day project. I'd previously worked with Big Cartel, so I chose them.

Source

Big Cartel doesn't collect commissions on sales, simply a monthly flat price ($9.99 to $19.99 depending on your plan).

After opening a Big Cartel account, I uploaded 21 designs and product shots, then synced each product with Printful.

Source (the store is down to 5 products because I switched back to the free plan)

Developing the ads

I mocked up my designs on cool people photographs from placeit.net, a great tool for creating product visuals when you don't have a studio, camera gear, or models to wear your t-shirts.

I opened an account on the website and had advertising visuals within 2 hours.

Source

Because my designs are simple (black design on white t-shirt), I chose happy, stylish people on plain-colored backdrops. After that, I had to develop an animated slideshow.

Because I'm a graphic designer, I chose to use Adobe Premiere to create animated Tiktok advertising.

Premiere is a fancy video editing application used for more than advertisements. Premiere is used to edit movies, not social media marketing. I wanted this experiment to be quick, so I got 3 social media ad templates from motionarray.com and threw my visuals in. All the transitions and animations were pre-made in the files, so it only took a few hours to compile. The result:

I downloaded 3 different soundtracks for the videos to determine which would convert best.

After that, I opened a Tiktok business account, uploaded my films, and inserted ad info. They went live within one hour.

The (poor) outcomes

Image by author

As a European company, I couldn't deliver ads in the US. All of my advertisements' material (title, description, and call to action) was in English, hence they continued getting rejected in Europe for countries that didn't speak English. There are a lot of them:

I lost a lot of quality traffic, but I felt that if the images were engaging, people would check out the store and buy my t-shirts. I was wrong.

  • 51,071 impressions on Day 1. 0 orders after 411 clicks

  • 114,053 impressions on Day 2. 1.004 clicks and no orders

  • Day 3: 987 clicks, 103,685 impressions, and 0 orders

  • 101,437 impressions on Day 4. 0 orders after 963 clicks

  • 115,053 impressions on Day 5. 1,050 clicks and no purchases

  • 125,799 impressions on day 6. 1,184 clicks, no purchases

  • 115,547 impressions on Day 7. 1,050 clicks and no purchases

  • 121,456 impressions on day 8. 1,083 clicks, no purchases

  • 47,586 impressions on Day 9. 419 Clicks. No orders

My overall conversion rate for video advertisements was 0.9%. TikTok's paid ad formats all result in strong engagement rates (ads average 3% to 12% CTR to site), therefore a 1 to 2% CTR should have been doable.

My one-week experiment yielded 8,151 ad clicks but no sales. Even if 0.1% of those clicks converted, I should have made 8 sales. Even companies with horrible web marketing would get one download or trial sign-up for every 8,151 clicks. I knew that because my advertising were in English, I had no impressions in the main EU markets (France, Spain, Italy, Germany), and that this impacted my conversion potential. I still couldn't believe my numbers.

I dug into the statistics and found that Tiktok's stats didn't match my store traffic data.

Looking more closely at the numbers

My ads were approved on April 26 but didn't appear until April 27. My store dashboard showed 440 visitors but 1,004 clicks on Tiktok. This happens often while tracking campaign results since different platforms handle comparable user activities (click, view) differently. In online marketing, residual data won't always match across tools.

My data gap was too large. Even if half of the 1,004 persons who clicked closed their browser or left before the store site loaded, I would have gained 502 visitors. The significant difference between Tiktok clicks and Big Cartel store visits made me suspicious. It happened all week:

  • Day 1: 440 store visits and 1004 ad clicks

  • Day 2: 482 store visits, 987 ad clicks

  • 3rd day: 963 hits on ads, 452 store visits

  • 443 store visits and 1,050 ad clicks on day 4.

  • Day 5: 459 store visits and 1,184 ad clicks

  • Day 6: 430 store visits and 1,050 ad clicks

  • Day 7: 409 store visits and 1,031 ad clicks

  • Day 8: 166 store visits and 418 ad clicks

The disparity wasn't related to residual data or data processing. The disparity between visits and clicks looked regular, but I couldn't explain it.

After the campaign concluded, I discovered all my creative assets (the videos) had a 0% CTR and a $0 expenditure in a separate dashboard. Whether it's a dashboard reporting issue or a budget allocation bug, online marketers shouldn't see this.

Image by author

Tiktok can present any stats they want on their dashboard, just like any other platform that runs advertisements to promote content to its users. I can't verify that 895,687 individuals saw and clicked on my ad. I invested $200 for what appears to be around 900K impressions, which is an excellent ROI. No one bought a t-shirt, even an unattractive one, out of 900K people?

Would I do it again?

Nope. Whether I didn't make sales because Tiktok inflated the dashboard numbers or because I'm horrible at producing advertising and items that sell, I’ll stick to writing content and making videos. If setting up a business and ads in a few days was all it took to make money online, everyone would do it.

Video advertisements and dropshipping aren't dead. As long as the internet exists, people will click ads and buy stuff. Converting ads and selling stuff takes a lot of work, and I want to focus on other things.

I had always wanted to try dropshipping and I’m happy I did, I just won’t stick to it because that’s not something I’m interested in getting better at.

If I want to sell t-shirts again, I'll avoid Tiktok advertisements and find another route.