Startup Radius interviewed Wesley Milan, a found of Gadups – world’s first social platform for hobbyists, pilots, and enthusiasts of remote-controlled devices (RC helicopters, RC planes, RC cars, drones and more). On Gadups, people share their experiences, keep their friends close, post photos, videos, and more. That’s a fully functioning community!
It’s a story of going from a hobby to a business idea! Learn why you should be passionate about what you do, why Facebook is the Top1 competitor of Gadups, why you should listen to your audience and pay more attention to social media and email communications, and when it’s the right time to start monetizing your product. Enjoy!
Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Gadups?
Gadups is the world’s first social platform 100% dedicated to hobbyists, pilots, and enthusiasts of remote-controlled devices.
We are working on special features to improve the day-to-day of hobbyists that will transform Gadups into an essential toolset for people involved in all steps of their models’ “lives,” from the design to the performance and tuning of their models. We’ll custom design those features by listening to the needs of our users.
Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or a money-making idea?
I’m an RC helicopter pilot, not as good as I like to be, mainly because, for the past one-and-a-half-years, I have dedicated all my extra time to build Gadups, and I have had no time to enjoy my hobby. My team and I love all things RC, and our goals with this project are to make the community united, put people and information together, and to help new hobbyists learn the art of building and the techniques of piloting, following good practices, and respecting the law and people.
Some people think that remote controlled devices are toys, but RC Helicopters can cause serious injuries; drones can damage commercial airplanes, but only when the pilot doesn’t know or does not respect the rules. I dreamed of a place where beginners can learn from experienced pilots, and good pilots can help each other improve their abilities and share great projects with other members of the community.
Time for bragging! How big are you – traffic, users, anything else?
We are at a very early stage, validating the business model and market acceptance. Our platform is prepared for high traffic, but we know that could take a long time to happen.
Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad are they?
At this moment our more significant competitor is Facebook, where almost all hobbyists are, and this will change in a few months when we publish our tools then Gadups will be more than a social platform. At that moment, the Facebook functionalities will be just a small part of our product.
Facebook is an excellent platform no doubt, but they will never create custom features for all markets, and that is the main reason why we believe Gadups can grow and become a great place for hobbyists and pilots.
Some people say Gadups competes with RC forums, but that is not true. The forums are a completely different solution. We want people to keep using them and share their topics on Gadups. We have no pretension that we are better than anyone else. We just want to be different and be a place where hobbyists can bring new ideas, share fun moments, and count on us for any software solution that makes their lives easier.
Who uses Gadups? What is your perfect buyer persona?
We built this platform for everyone who practices or is interested in any modeling hobby like RC cars, helicopters, airplanes, boats, trains, and more. Even IoT people are welcome.
IoT and RC communities walk side by side. People from RC uses proto-boards to build new airplanes and drone prototypes. The IoT makers use of software and emerging technologies developed by RC enthusiasts on their projects.
Our perfect user is someone who likes to disseminate knowledge, make good friends, and share great moments.
Were there any early “growth hacks” or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
I’m an optimistic guy. We are still growing, but if I had something to call “growth hack” based on my experience with other projects, I would say “listen to your users”; this will always be the most critical growth hack any startup can do.
I usually hear from my mentors that “no business plan can survive the first customer contact.” If we want to survive, we’ll have to listen and change and become what the RC market wants us to be.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building Gadups early on, and how did you solve them?
That is a hard question. I’ll tell you that there was one technical challenge, and a personal one.
Technically, Gadups should be scalable, cheap to run at the beginning, and resilient in order to support a large amount of data and users. I had to put away 30 years of pre-conceived notions of software development, put down my pride, and go after new technologies and techniques in order to build this platform, looking for something that could offer flexibility, scalability, and low cost.
Personally, the hardest part was learning to separate the creator from the creation, along with being prepared to read hard feedback. People don’t know how hard it is to build something like this, but it’s not their fault; most people have never coded or even created a business. You must be patient, filter the emotional words from the heavy feedback, and try to understand what made that person tell you that, and then you could change your product in a way to make that person’s life better.
If you could give marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?
Listen to your customers. If you do that, they will guide you to success.
Which marketing channels do you prefer and why?
Social channels are the best way to know your customers’ needs and desires.
The other marketing channel I love is email, but not marketing email. I prefer personal email where I can ask them what they need or like to have. I know in the future I’ll not be able to talk to everybody, but I’ll keep trying as much as I can and keep listening directly from each one what they expect from Gadups.
Is Gadups monetized?
Not yet. We have a couple of ads spots to help with our current expenses.
In the future, we’ll have premium features for customers and companies to make the customers’ lives easier.
We choose the freemium model, and we hope that works because we don’t want to depend on ads revenue, especially the part that includes selling users data to make money; we’ll close the website before doing that.
What are the top 5-10 products/services you use in your company, and why do you like them?
- Pingdom: no matter where you are running your application, they will keep you informed as to how healthy it is.
- Keymetrics is another excellent solution. While Pingdom reveals how things are going outside your application, Keymetrics reveals how things are going inside. Beyond an application monitor, they help you improve it with performance feedback and issue tracking.
- Google Analytics is a fundamental tool. Even if you have other analytics, like Woopra, you just can’t let GA out of your product.
- MailChimp offers great performance and excellent metrics. Aside from that, they have good prices and straightforward API integration.
- Slack is a great team chat. Not only that, but if you use Slack and Asana together, you have a combo solution for developers and marketing teams.
- Moreover, the best tool we use here is Open Mind. We are always looking for new solutions to improve our productivity and give us more time to think about the product.