16 (Painful) Lessons I Learned Building Lurn Nation

Want to get the FULL story from Anik? Check out the entire podcast episode to learn the story of #LurnNation.

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A lot of people don’t know this, but Lurn Nation didn’t turn out amazing the first time I tried to build it.

It’s actually a painful story—with a happy ending.

We recently finished celebrating our one-year anniversary of our Lurn Nation platform and our Lurn Center—but it’s been a lot longer than one year in the making.

I actually began building this platform around 11 years ago!

It was my dream for 11 years to build an educational platform, and I've finally done it. But it didn’t fully come together until I'd spent years, and millions of dollars, to get there.

I made quite a few mistakes along the way, but I never gave up. 

I know a lot of you have wanted to hear my story, and I think now is a good time to share it with you for a few reasons:

  • We now have a beautiful platform up and running.
  • I learned a lot from the mistakes I made, and I want to help you avoid some of those mistakes in your own journey. 
  • I want to show you that—no matter how tough things get—you should never give up.

So, let’s jump back 11 years into the past to see where this all started.

The Beginning Of Lurn Nation

Around 11 years ago, things were going great. 

But if you know me, you know I'm never quite satisfied with the status quo—it's what makes me who I am. 

I had bigger ideas and goals that I wanted to accomplish.

It was around that time period that I decided I wanted to build an educational platform to reach more people and change more lives. I wanted to build a place where people could add their own courses and teach what they were good at.

I figured this would be a disruption in education. 

With that, I could become a billionaire and be on the cover of all of the magazines!

I was young and thought I could do anything at any timeso I decided to jump in and build it even though I didn’t know a thing about technology at that time.

I was running a marketing business, but I wanted to try anyway.

So, that led to my first try.

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My First Attempt At Building Lurn Nation

Four lessons learned building Lurn Nation the first time

Lessons Learned

  1. Outsourcing isn't always the right choice
  2. Faster isn't necessarily better
  3. Junior teams need a lot of direction
  4. Focus

The first thing I thought was, “If I want to build a tech platform, I need coders.”

So, what do big businesses do? They outsource!

I figured I’d outsource to India.

I’m Indian and I knew people in India, so it seemed like a good fit. I met with a company in India, and they said they could build the platform in just a few months.

Talk about red flags.

But I thought that was great, mainly because I didn’t know what to look for.

I didn’t understand that there's a process when it comes to building a tech platform, so I kept shifting my ideas about what I wanted. 

I was also young, so nothing seemed like it was moving fast enough.

In the middle of the project, I decided to ditch outsourcing and start my own business. My thought process was that if I hired a bunch of junior developers, I could save some money.

Another huge mistake.

I set up an office in India and started hiring people, but I hired the wrong people. These people needed leadership because NO ONE on the team had EVER built a tech platform before.

Unfortunately, my main business started to fall apart because I wasn't giving it the attention it needed.

I was near bankruptcy and was spending my time and money trying to build a platform that was falling apart. I really was at my darkest moments, and I realized the platform most likely wasn’t going to happen.

Still, I pushed it and decided to go live anyway.

The very day I decided to go live, my now wife showed me something that made me go, “Oh crap…”

Udemy.

Someone else had developed what I wanted to develop, but their team was WAY more technical. They were a small team who knew what they were doing, and they kicked my butt.

But I figured I could still compete, so I brought my code back with me to the United States and showed it to a trusted friend to look over.

After 10 days, my friend asked to jump on a call to tell me my code was useless.

He'd showed it to a few of his developer friends, and they all agreed the code was so bad that there was nothing there to even salvage. 

I had spent YEARS and MILLIONS of dollars, and I had NOTHING to show for it.

I can still feel that feeling to this day.

It’s times like those that we really need to buck up and accept our failures, but we can’t let those failures collapse us. I decided I was going to own up to my failure and take a step back to figure out my next steps.

After some time passed, I decided to have another go at it.

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My Second Attempt At Building Lurn Nation

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Lessons Learned

  1. Research a company thoroughly before hiring them
  2. Have a development schedule
  3. Don't keep pouring money into a project if there's no return on your investment
  4. Plan more than you build

I spent YEARS getting out of debt after my first run at building Lurn Nation.

Once I did, I decided to try again. 

I found a company in Myrtle Beach and hired them, but that company started to fall apart within months. 

Another waste of time and resources.

That was when I learned that you can’t just blindly build; you need a development schedule. Luckily, I had learned that you can’t keep pouring money into a business if you aren’t seeing returns.

So I decided to pull the plug.

This time, I'd spent a few hundred thousand instead of MILLIONS.

It was another expensive mistake, but I was at least learning how to minimize these mistakes rather than compound them.

It was also during this attempt that I learned one of the most important lessons about development that I've ever learned. If you want to develop a technical platform, you need to spend five times as much time PLANNING your platform as you do actually developing it.

Then came the THIRD try.

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My Third Attempt At Building Lurn Nation

Four lessons learned building Lurn Nation the third time

Lessons Learned

  1. Avoid project creep
  2. Hire experienced people who know what they're doing
  3. Use focus groups and talk with your end users
  4. Don't quit

For this attempt, I decided I needed to sit down and figure out what my feature sets would be. 

I needed to know how it was all going to work.

I also knew I needed to avoid project creep, which is the death of a technical project.

I wasn’t going to allow that to happen this time, so I ended up finding someone that was project-oriented to keep the project on track and—let me tell you—he shined.

He isn’t a super technical guy, but he knows processes.

We did the operational document, which allowed us to figure out what the feature was supposed to look like and how it would work. One thing I wish we had done more of at this stage was to work more closely with focus groups. 

If you talk with your end users throughout the entire process, you can cut significant chunks of time off of your development process.

Anyway, we then found a UI designer so the tech team could see how it was supposed to work. It wasn’t until all of this was out of the way that we finally started to develop the platform itself.

Then, in April of 2018, we rolled out the alpha program.

The concept had changed, and I decided to move away from the open platform idea.

Still, I finished my dream of creating an educational platform.

Here’s the thing—we still have a ton of features in development, and we currently have two years of development mapped out.

When it's finished, it's going to be the best education platform on the planet.

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Your Big Dream

If your dream is big enough, it may take a few attempts to get there.

You can’t quit because the first time didn’t work out, though! And you can't quit the second or third time either if you believe in what you're doing.

As long as you learn from every mistake, you’ll get closer and closer to your goal.

Now you need to ask yourself if YOUR dreams worth it.

(NOTE: Want to get the FULL story from Anik? Check out the entire podcast episode to learn the story of #LurnNation.)