Neeraj Joshi

@jneeraj0807

How a Solo, Non-Technical Founder learned to code and built a successful Tech Startup

PushInterview 05:

The journey of how a Solo, Non-Technical Founder learned to code and built EDM Hunters

In the 21st century that we live in, whenever we talk about a tech startup, the first thing that comes to mind is often “coding”. So is it even possible for a non-technical founder to build a successful tech startup?

Don’t be disheartened if you are a non-technical founder. History says, Yes of course!

Credits: iPrice

Brian Chesky (Founder of AirBnB), Ryan Hoover (Founder of Product Hunt) and Sean Rad (Founder of Tinder) all being non-technical founders built some of the most successful tech startups.

But how did they succeed? Read through this interview to know:

“How a Solo, Non-Technical Founder, Jaskaran, learned to code and built a successful Tech Startup”

This is the fifth interview of the series “PushInterview: Interviews that helps you Pushstart powered by Pushstart.

Check out our previous interview on “How I built one of the most active startup communities of India” if you happen to miss it.

🕴Who are you?

I am the one wearing the black t-shirt

Hi Pushstarters! I’m Jaskaran Rana, a 25-year-old music enthusiast, and a non-techie turned coder from India. I graduated from Manipal Institute of Technology in the year 2014.

I built EDM Hunters, an electronic music discovery startup back in my final year at college all by myself.

Post college, I worked with BuyingIQ and CollegeDekho for around 3 years before finally quitting in February 2017 and working full time on EDM Hunters.

Working with these startups immensely helped me hone my technical skills and gain critical insights into what goes behind building a tech startup from scratch.

🤔 What’s the deal with EDM Hunters?

EDM Hunters was a passion project born out of my love for electronic music.
The current version of EDM Hunters

EDM Hunters was built for dance music enthusiasts like me to get the daily fix of electronic music. EDM Hunters is currently developed and run solely by me.

Being extremely passionate about Electronic Dance Music, I started building EDM Hunters back in college in the year 2014.

It was started with the aim of helping both new and seasoned listeners of the genre discover the best and latest songs of electronic music.

I believe that community wins over algorithms and experts when it comes to supporting new and undiscovered talent.

That’s why on EDM Hunters it is the community which decides the top songs.

You can browse through various music charts to discover top songs by artists, genre, DJs, month and year, all compiled based on likes, play count, and downloads.

💯 What motivated you to start EDM Hunters?

My motivation for building EDM Hunters was to consolidate all my learnings of “How to Code” into a real-life project, while at the same time build a product that I would personally love to use.

Back in college, I started listening to electronic music and got instantly hooked.

EDM had just started gaining popularity and entering the mainstream music scene. As an ardent electronic music fan, I was disgruntled by the lack of mediums on which one could discover electronic music of his/her choice.

There wasn’t a one-stop solution to help me discover this kind of music at one place.

Thus, EDM Hunters was born to solve this problem.

🛠 What all went into building the initial product?

To give you a bit of a background, I wasn’t a bright student academically in my college.

Though my major was Computer Science, I didn’t know how to code until my final year. I had a 5.0 GPA and was barely able to pass my exams. The main reason for this was the way the course was taught.

The education system here in India focuses more on Rote learning than Practical learning. After a point, It becomes difficult to pay attention.

To learn to code, I decided to give online courses a shot. Codecademy helped me immensely at the initial stage.

I learned Python, JavaScript, jQuery, and HTML/CSS in a span of 6 months. Following that, I decided to learn Django, a web framework based on Python.

I started building EDM Hunters in my final year at college. I used to work on it after my classes and on the weekends.

I was done with the basic prototype in 3 months and launched the initial version in January 2014.

This is how EDM Hunters looked at the initial stage:

The initial version of EDM Hunters

Post-launch I kept on iterating with the design and features of the website. It didn’t take a lot of money to launch the site. Primarily, the only cost associated was with hosting it.

Since I decided to use a VPS, that turned out to be pretty cheap.

I get this question a lot: How do you source your songs?

I use 3 different sources for the songs. My primary source is Beatport, which is a music store for electronic music. I use their API to get all the songs of a specific artist. They also provide me with a 2-minute preview of each song to stream.

The other source is SoundCloud, where artists upload their own songs. I use their API to stream the songs. I use the YouTube API to stream the videos.

Do remember that I learned to code because I was really passionate about solving the problem.

🤝 How did you get your initial users?

The growth in traffic has been pretty phenomenal. To be honest, when I first launched EDM Hunters, I didn’t expect it to grow as big as it is right now.

For the first 6 months, the traffic was pretty much non-existent with less than 1k visitors/month.

However, after I got my first job, I started learning new things every day. Whenever I learned something new which was relevant and could be integrated into my own site, I did so the same night.

I also started doing a lot of research on SEO.

Counter to what many people believe, there isn’t a secret recipe for SEO. It is just about building a website with good user experience while making it easily indexable and searchable for the bots.

Some SEO tricks that helped me:

  • Try to get a backlink from other relevant and high-quality websites.
  • Ensure a faster load time.
  • Make sure that your website is mobile friendly and test this exhaustively.
  • Keep content unique and relevant to your website.
  • Give each page a relevant and unique title. Add in a meta description to each page describing the purpose.
  • Mark up your site using schema.org, if applicable, to display rich snippets.
  • Build a sitemap for your website and submit it using the Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Use HTML correctly (tags, titles, and alt attributes on images).
  • Try to use relevant keywords in the URL.
Growth in traffic from 2014 to 2016

Currently, the website has over 500k+ sessions every month, with 85% of the traffic being organic and it is increasing at the rate of 20% month-on-month.

SEO has been the major driving force behind the growth of EDM Hunters. For me, it’s been more about identifying the right keywords with sufficient traffic and building products around them.

If I had to attribute another reason for growth, it would be good media coverage. I tried to get the word out for EDM Hunters by attempting to get it covered by various blogs.

I was lucky enough to get featured in some of the prominent blogs like YourStory, IndieHackers, Homegrown, and MyVenture. Recently, it also got featured in a promotional video for Codecademy.

Growth has all been organic till now with SEO contributing to the majority of it.

💰 What is your business model?

I didn’t start EDM Hunters with a “business model” in mind. I started it because of my passion and love for electronic music.

Currently, the major source of income is Advertisement. I started off with Google AdSense, one of the most famous Ad network.

After using it for some time, I realised that it didn’t have potential to offer substantial revenue, as the Ads were not really relevant to my users.

I decided to integrate a few niche Ad networks that primarily focussed on music. I am currently using Wavo Boost Ad network and Feature.fm on my website. These offer better value to the users and are now a major chunk of my Ad revenue.

The current average revenue from these Ad networks:

Around Rs. 80k — Rs. 100k per month

The revenue is directly proportional to the traffic. So an increase in traffic leads to an increase in revenue.

I have also started promoting upcoming artists and labels using sponsored listings on my website. There are various plans available to choose from, ranging from $10 to $300.

The money made from these ranges anywhere between:

Rs. 15k to Rs. 50k per month

I’ll be working towards building a more stable and concrete sponsored listing network in the time to come.

💪 Being a Solo Founder, how do you keep yourself motivated?

Being a Solo Founder is definitely not the easiest thing out there. It’s easy to lose motivation and keep on procrastinating.

But I guess what really motivated me was the cause. Since I was passionate about the product I was building, I wanted to build it in the best possible way.

Taken in the right sense, Obsession can be a good motivator.

There are a bunch of other things Solo Founders can try though:

Try surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs, programmers, or designers.

You could also try working in a co-working space where you can find like-minded people, especially those with whom you can bounce off ideas.

🏁 What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

I just launched a revamped UI for EDM Hunters. Creating a mobile app for EDM Hunters has been on my mind for quite some time now. I have been learning React Native and would be using it to build the app for both iOS and Android.

I am planning to build a concrete sponsored listing network which would help budding artists gain visibility alongside the mainstream artists.

Also, I will be focussing on building a strong social presence alongside steady organic growth.

I have a bunch of other projects I’m planning to work on. I will be building a product which is aimed at music producers and creators. I also have plans to launch a project around live gigs in India.

Some exciting times ahead I guess, keep a look out guys!

🌋 The biggest challenges you have faced till now?

Like any other non-technical founder, the initial phase when I started to learn to code was the toughest for me.

The decision to build an entire website on my own, from the frontend to the backend and being able to visualise how all the things connect and work together as a whole was quite challenging at the start.

I had help from a couple of coder friends which was a big plus. For anything else, I always had the internet at my disposal.

All you need from your end is total dedication. If you are ready to put in the efforts, they will definitely bear fruits in the long run.

🗒 What is your advice to Pushstarters starting out?

Things might seem complex at the beginning, just don’t be intimidated. Everyone started off at the same spot.
  • Especially for non-technical founders: Start with a small project and try to get your fundamentals clear.
  • It gets intimidating at times but the key is not to give up. There is nothing more satisfying than watching something you wanted to build come to life.
  • Try to find an internship/job at a startup to start with. Startups are always on the lookout for enthusiastic people with relevant skills. This is the best possible way to gain some on-field experience.
  • Be prepared to fail. Not all Startup Ideas turn into the Next Big Thing. In order to succeed in a business, you must be prepared to fail.
It is all about how passionate you are to solve the problem and not about knowing “How to Code”.

✉️ How can we get in touch with you?

You can reach out to me on Linkedin, Facebook or info@edmhunters.com.

Thanks a lot for reading! If you liked it, please support by clapping 👏🏻 and sharing the post. Feel free to leave a comment 💬 below.

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Hey! Neeraj here, the founder of Pushstart, India’s most active entrepreneur community. I release interviews with successful entrepreneurs every week. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook | Linkedin | neeraj.joshi@pushstart.in | Twitter.

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