Hello fellow startup enthusiasts, marketers, developers and entrepreneurs! StartupRadius interviewed Flashcards for Developers team, a company that approached such competitive markets as e-learning and products for developers with a curated list of flashcards to boost professional skills. Web app allows developers, both beginners and pros, to learn new things and have an easier way to digest complicated concepts of coding.

Learn how Flashcards for Developers entered the e-learning market, why the best product to develop is the one you will use yourself, how YCombinator really helps startups to grow, and why throwing money at a problem (aka using paid marketing channels before you have reached a Product-Market Fit) is not the best idea. Enjoy!

Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Flashcards for Developers?

Flashcards for Developers is a web app to assist developers to learn various topics. We have structured our website to be easily accessible and contain bite-sized information in the form of flashcards. We want our users to be able to easily digest complicated concepts and by using spaced-repetition they can retain that knowledge for long periods of time.

Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?

My name is Nick Engmann and a while ago I realized I fell into a pattern that helped form some lousy learning habits. Whenever I ran into bugs in a code build I, like most developers, would StackOverflow the error to find a solution. Seconds later I would be copy and pasting a code snippet and would be back in business.

But I realized, I wasn’t learning much in those interactions. I solved my immediate error and that was great. But, without spending the time to refresh myself on the reasons behind the problem I would run into the same sorts of bugs weeks or even days later.

Luckily, I realized that I wasn’t completely alone in this. My good friend (and fantastic Co-Founder) Niko Lazaris shared my frustration.  Over the past four months, we’ve partnered together to build something to help developers identify what they should be learning. To build something that could help developers prep for interviews. And all while being easily accessible so they could spend a few minutes to learn, refresh and improve

flashcards for developers - learning for developers

Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else?

We will happily brag about our current successes. Here are some of the statistics that mean a lot to us:

  • We currently have over 300 user accounts in either our paid or free tier.
  • We have over 2500 Flashcards in total. These flashcards range from beginner level content to advanced “Pro” level content. And those flashcards have been studied over 90,000 times
  • We have 85 flashcard decks available. And we are currently releasing 5 new decks every week.
  • We have 12 unique collections. Deck collections group specific developer topics, like python development, or general web development.

Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?

Plenty of EduTech companies like Duolingo, Quizlet and Khan Academy incorporate flashcards in their product because there are communities that flock to them for long-term learning of difficult subjects. Flashcards are a straightforward form of active learning that has lasted for years.

However, when it comes to content for developers, these platforms are lacking. We want to provide a place for that content to live. We want to create a platform where developers can share flashcards for the plethora of programming languages, APIs, design patterns and other topics for software developers.

Something that would give the developer community the opportunity to add in their content specifically tailored to the courses and subjects they find interesting and find topics that they didn’t even know existed.

Who use Flashcards for Developers? What is your perfect buyer persona?

Just like the name says, our primary market is developers. Developers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and passions. Because of that, we wanted to create a large variety of content for those developers to access.

We are finding that most developers who use our website are in either in college or doing interview preparation. These developers often use our deck collections which group different decks by a specific topic (Python Development, or C/C++ Development).

We think our perfect buyer persona is someone who is interested in lifelong learning and our site is perfect for that. It allows a user to find new topics, APIs, or platforms that they had no idea about. Using our platform allows those individuals to take a few minutes out of their day, either on the bus or board in the office and expand their horizons.

Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?

My co-founder and I were accepted into YCombinator’s Startup School this last August and it taught us a lot of different growth tactics. My all-time favorite one was their advice on using your team’s small size as an advantage.

Large companies have to go through a complicated chain of commands to implement key design or feature implementations. However, because of our agileness, we were able to obtain user feedback quickly and regularly change our design to best fit our user’s needs.

flashcards for developers - learn to code

What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?

Finding Product-Market Fit is one of the hardest things for any startup. Product-Market Fit is the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. Figuring out which statistic would determine Product-Market Fit for us has been one of the biggest challenges for us at this stage.

There are a lot of different statistics that any startup can look at to determine success. We’ve tried to look at page traffic, overall revenue, and either weekly users. But in the end, we’ve decided that the metric we are most interested in is weekly active users.

We want to create a website that promotes good habits in its users. Something that engages the community and invites them to keep returning to maintain the knowledge they learned and explore new topics to learn.

If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?

This marketing advice I’m about to give also was some wisdom imparted onto us by YCombinators’ Startup School. Their advice was not to pay for marketing until you have achieved Product-Market Fit. It’s relatively simple to throw money at a problem and get results but timing is critical.

The reason for this is pretty apparent. If you are spending money on advertising and you aren’t making consistent revenue yet you are just losing money. You may be obtaining impressions but if you haven’t solved the fundamental issues of user retention it is difficult to turn those impressions into revenue.

Which marketing channels you prefer and why?

We are currently marketing through a few social media channels, Reddit, HackerNews, Facebook groups, and various Slack communities. We prefer Reddit and Hacker News because of the size of those platforms and the niche supportive developer sub-communities they support.

We announce any new features and decks we’ve created weekly with our mailing list and we make new collections posts on Reddit, HackerNews, and Facebook once or twice a month.

Are you monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method?

We are monetized using a subscription plan. Users pay $6 a month and they get access to our Pro level content. This content is structured for interview preparation and also contains more advanced developer topics.

We also give our users the ability to create private decks. These private decks help serve the users specific flashcard needs without broadcasting that information to the entire community. Much like how private repositories work on sites like Github.

We believe this monetization method helps our users grow as lifelong learners. We are continually interviewing our users as well to figure out more features that they are interested in and have a few more surprises further down the pipeline.

What are the top products or services you use in your company and why do you like them?

  1. Slack – A great platform to host a team, feed analytics into and grow a community. Feel free to join our Slack community and talk to other developers
  2. Airtable – A super powerful platform that can host collaborative tables and Kanban boards.
  3. MailChimp  Easy management of email marketing and generating email content. Subscribe to our mailing list to get updates on the new decks and features we release every week.
  4. Google AnalyticsIn-depth analysis of traffic, user demographics, conversions and more, giving detailed insight into different tactics used.
  5. GitHub – We want to be a community facing web application so we chose Github to place our public codebase.
  6. MixPanel – Another analysis tool to track our user demographics as well as give insight into our user funnels.