Why would anyone want to create yet another shopping site on the web? For Fredrick Nijm, 31-year-old founder of Addoway.com, the answer is what it is for many (most? all?) entrepreneurs: "We started it to change the world."
Addoway, founded in 2010, is working on leveraging Facebook's "social graph," the application that developers use to tie into Facebook members' profiles and buying patterns. Nijm describes the company this way: "Addoway is an online marketplace that helps you buy with your friends and merchants you can trust. Our mission is to guide you to the most trustworthy shopping experience imaginable. Through our complete integration with Facebook's Social Graph, we recommend merchants your friends have purchased from in the past and merchants that your friends know personally. And by accessing a seller's reputation, credibility and influence scores, we offer an inside look into the seller before you buy. Making this information readily available, we are able to reduce the anxieties associated with marketplace shopping and allow you to make more confident buying decisions."
Nijm and his partner invested $150,000 to start the company. Family, friends and angel investors kicked in another $95,000. The company hopes to break even in 2012. It is projecting about $550,000 in revenue for 2011. So, from the literal ground floor, what lessons has Nijm learned so far?
He says his biggest mistakes have been:
- Not shipping: "Taking too long to come out with a feature, because we wanted it to be as perfect as possible. The problem is that it will never be perfect and you will always be adjusting and pivoting all of the time. Get it out there and see what people think."
- It gets worse: "We didn't realize that there were going to be more bad days ahead of us than good days. You have to be beyond strong to run your own business. You have to be dedicated, passionate, resilient, and take criticism with a grain of salt. Some feedback needs to be taken and others ignored, but which is which?"
- PR doesn't make everything okay: "Thinking we had to get featured in TechCrunch or Mashable to have a chance. Well, we got featured and we realized it's just a small piece of the overall pie. A very small piece."
- Not taking personal time to relax:" It's easy to be focusing on your business seven days a week 17 hours a day, but you need time to just unwind and be with yourself, family, and friends. I now spend time writing to release tension."
And his best decisions:
- Define a niche: "Sticking to our core focus on making Addoway all about trustworthy shopping. Everyone constantly told us to go after a niche market like collectibles because it's easier to grow that way, but we decided to follow our gut and go with it -- and it's working."
- Delegation of tasks: "It's easy to want to do everything, but you need to realize how much your time is worth and quantify if you should be spending time doing things that are more cost effective outsourcing."
- Getting an office: "It's easy to work from home or different coffee shops, but it's difficult to come together, focus, and strategize in those environments. Ever since getting the office we were able to bring on another employee, whiteboard our information, which is way more exciting than I ever thought it would be, and most importantly stay energized and on point."
Nijm has staked out a good role model for his entrepreneurial goals: Sean Parker, a co-founder of Plaxo and Napster, and a player in the launch of Facebook. "Some people give me a hard time when I say Sean Parker because when you think of him you think of the partying and rock and roll status, but in all honesty, the man is a genius. He hasn't just done it one or two times. Whatever he touches turns into gold. "
Addoway is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.), an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth. This is part of an occasional series reporting on some of its members.