This CEO built his company for $60 in one weekend—it brought in $80 million last year: 'You can copy my model'

this ceo built his company for $60 in one weekend—it brought in $80 million last year: 'you can copy my model'

Kagan founded AppSumo over a weekend in 2010, spending $60 on a developer and a domain name. In 2023 the company had $80 million in sales.

Noah Kagan’s book “Million Dollar Weekend” isn’t about getting rich quick.

The multimillionaire founder and CEO of discount software firm AppSumo would be the first to tell you that he didn’t become wealthy overnight.

But by acting quickly and decisively when he realized he had a good idea on his hands, he put himself in the position to succeed. It took Kagan, now 41, just a few days in 2010 to found AppSumo, a company which brought in about $80 million in revenue last year.

Kagan’s idea: copying MacHeist, a site that offers discounted software bundles for Apple users, and making a similar service available for PC. Kagan emailed the founder of Imgur, an image-sharing service popular on Reddit, and offered to promote a discounted version of the software in exchange for a percentage of what he sold.

Then he reached out to Reddit’s founding engineer to ask if he could advertise the deal on the site for free.

“Why not?” Kagan recalls hearing. “Our users love Imgur. They’ll be thrilled to get a discount.”

He paid a developer in Pakistan $48 to build a website with a PayPal button and spent $12 on a domain name. One weekend, $60 down, and he was up and running. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you may be able to ensure that history repeats itself Kagan says: “Literally, you can copy my model.”

Here are three steps he recommends for anyone looking to start a successful business in 48 hours.

1. Get started now

Your natural instinct when looking to start a business may be to learn as much as you possibly can. You might spend days taking courses, reading books and watching YouTube videos to build up your expertise. But ultimately, you’re wasting time, Kagan says.

“You’ve got to start today. You can’t keep watching videos,” he says.

What does that mean? It means that you’ll likely have some ideas that don’t quite get off the ground and others that outright fail from the jump. Consider these experiments rather than failures, Kagan says – experiences you can learn from.

Successful entrepreneurs, Kagan writes, “take action first, get real feedback, and learn from that, which is a million times more valuable than any book or course. And quicker!”

2. ‘Practice the skill of asking’

Starting a small business, as Kagan describes it, is really a series of asks — a process you’ll have to get comfortable with if you want to succeed.

“You have to practice the skill of asking,” Kagan says. “Asking someone to be your customer, asking someone to be your partner, asking someone for feedback on your idea.”

The scariest part about asking is the possibility that you’ll be rejected. To assuage that feeling, Kagan reminds himself that, in the grand scheme of his life, none of the people rejecting him will end up being all that important. He even goes so far as to set a rejection goal for himself when rolling out a new idea or initiative.

“‘This is going to suck. Let me aim to get at least 20 rejections,'” he says he tells himself. “That alone helps me accept that I will get rejected and turn it more into a game versus a blow to my self-worth.”

3. Find a problem people will give you money to solve

When launching a business, you shouldn’t be looking to drum up excitement from a product. Rather, you should be looking to find existing demand and satisfy it.

“The most important thing is that you’re solving a problem people are excited to give you money for,” Kagan says. “You have to find a thing.”

Your process may lead you to many things that don’t work. Kagan’s mishaps include forays into online gambling (“no one came”) and lawn care (“no one wanted to give me money”).

When you have a potential hit on your hands, though, you’ll know it, he says, citing his company’s foray into offering discounted alternatives to popular software solutions.

“I asked people if they were interested in a DocuSign alternative,” he says. “I did $3,000 in 24 hours.”

Once you find something that works, double and triple down, Kagan says.

“The best business is the one that works,” he says. “I started three other businesses that did similar things. And when I finally cancelled those and really focused on the one that worked, that’s when my business really took off.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

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