When Ted Nash was 12, he was setting up his first online business under his father’s signature as he was too young to sign contracts with the likes of iTunes, Amazon, and eBay himself.
Thus began the journey of this serial entrepreneur. Having raised his first round of funding from a group of angel investors in the UK, he launched a facial recognition application, Face Rate, on the App Store and became the first teenager in the world to achieve 1,000,000 App Store downloads.
Ted has built many businesses, his latest being Tapdaq, the company recently confirmed one of the biggest tech seed rounds in Europe with the completion of $1.4 million seed funding led by Balderton Capital and Open Ocean Capital.
Ted was recognised in the prestigious Forbes magazine, as one of the 30 Under 30’s for his work on Tapdaq and in March 2015, became the ‘Global Mobile Innovator Of The Year’ at The Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile event in the world.
Now 23 years old, Ted is internationally renowned within the technology industry and continues to be frequently featured in worldwide media, such as TechCrunch, Forbes, Wired, The Guardian and the BBC.
In our Interview series at App Inspiration by Arkenea, I spoke to this young and inspirational entrepreneur about shortlisting the best idea from the lot, garnering over a million app downloads, handling acquisition offers at a young age, and his advice for early startups.
Ted answers them straight from the heart, all from his personal experiences.
Q. Many aspiring entrepreneurs have several ideas – how do they choose one to go with?
Ted: I would say choose the one which you initially feel most passionately about. Ideas are a tiny part of initial validation, but a huge part of your eventual success.
The execution on the idea will continuously change to the point where you hardly recognise the concept you began with.
Getting to the end goal or building a successful business takes so much emotional and psychological exhaustion that you have to be totally in love with the problem you are trying to solve.
That’s how I would choose.
Q. Your app Face Rate garnered over a million downloads. What contributed to its success in the App Store – any specific marketing strategies or tactics you can share?
Ted: Well, I was 17 at the time, so whatever happened back in the day would not be applicable now. With that said, having been active on the App Store for such a long period of time I have certainly gained an incredibly unique perspective on growth techniques and methods to acquire users.
The only commonality between now and then for me would be the fact I have only ever built products to solve my own problems, or in that case, for my own entertainment.
Build a product a few people could love, because that scales and vitality through word and mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing.
Q. How did the app get acquired – can you share what you went through as a under-20 going through an acquisition?
Ted: It certainly wasn’t as straightforward as an acquisition because I still maintained ownership of some of the intellectual property. Which is why it should be classed as someone buying a license to use the technology I had built, not the entire company.
At the time, no due diligence was needed, because it was just me – so it was more a case of checking what I had claimed was correct.
Once that was cleared, and I could genuinely prove I had created what the media had described, it was a very smooth transition.
Q. Many young professionals at your age don’t even know where to get started. And you’ve achieved much success in your early 20s. What advice would you give to those in their 20s who want to start their first startup?
Ted: I think everyone has the capability to do something extraordinary, but due to environment, upbringing and ambition some people never achieve the potential they had deep down.
Choosing the entrepreneurial path by all intents and purposes is a ridiculously silly decision – you work unthinkable hours, it’s incredibly anti-social and nothing is guaranteed. In fact, you are most likely going to fail.
I have always said entrepreneurship is both a blessing and a curse.
For the ones out there who have embarked on their mission, I think the best advice I can give you would be the following:
- Persistence, passion and persuasion are the three most important attributes in my opinion. Do everything you can to hone the ability to be persistent, work hard to get a balance so you can remain passionate, and don’t give up when someone says no. Persuade them to rethink the decision.
- Experiential knowledge is far more valuable than priori knowledge. You should listen to what others tell you, and try as hard as you can to extrapolate their own experiential learnings so you can avoid mistakes, but the reality is, your journey is very unique. Only you have the answer to your own problems.
Q.What was the insight behind starting Tapdaq and how has it evolved since the time you launched?
Ted: We (Dom, Nick and I) launched Tapdaq to solve a problem we had came across ourselves. We were continuously building mobile applications but could not generate any traction.
The indie developer community is a very close knit one, so we asked around our friends to see if they were facing similar issues.
Sure enough, they were, and the developers we asked were far better developers then us.
So, that led us to create a platform whereby developers could very transparently collaborate with each other in order to trade installs via in-app advertising in order to grow their applications.
It has always been our mission to connect more developers to more people, and we are now the default tool for all application developers looking to build a substantial network, organically.
Q. Discovery is huge a challenge in today’s context when it comes to mobile apps. What should app developers focus on during and after launch of their app to get early traction?
Ted: For any developers launching a new application to an existing portfolio, they should focus on cross promotion. It’s been proven to be an incredibly successful route to success on the App Store.
For any developer launching their first application, I recommend focusing on social channels. If you have planned your app launch properly, you should have been built a loyal fan base that is keen to help you test your application on launch, whilst giving you honest feedback.
Applications are never successful on first launch, you need to learn from the metrics and continuously iterate to make a meaningful company.
Q. What has been your biggest learning from growth hacking so far?
Ted: Anyone calling themselves a growth hacker most likely is not.
Asking for advice on growth hacking is also a complete misnomer, because a growth hack should be totally unique to your brand or product.
Any growth hack I have ever done has very rarely been shared. Not because I am overly protective, but because I know it won’t work for the person I am talking with.
The only thing I would say is that, often adaptations from other growth hacking techniques can work very well. So try and network with others who you know have had success in growth previously.
Q. What is your single piece of advice for young startups on growth?
Ted: Don’t follow traditional routes, or conventional ones.
Find the grey area and exploit it.