From 0 to 3K Users in 3 Weeks: An AI Entrepreneur Shares His Viral Growth Hacks
How does a new startup gain early traction and nail its launch? Sebastian, the 25-year-old founder of ChatIQ, may have the answer. In under 3 weeks, ChatIQ has organically acquired over 3,500 customers for their AI chatbot software - all through organic video marketing. According to Sebastian, it's important to identify the trends that motivate users; in this case, it was a short-form video."Knowing there was huge explosive potential in short-form content, I sat down one night, edited six short videos until about 4 a.m., and then over the next 24 hours posted them. The first five were getting a few hundred, maybe 1000, views. I was documenting the process as I was gradually getting a new user; I think I was averaging around 5-10 a day for a couple of days. Then suddenly, the sixth TikTok I posted got over 130k views. In a couple of days, I’d gone from 15 users to over 800.” he told Jobdai.
With this vision in mind, Sebastian taught himself the fundamentals of coding to create ChatIQ's user interface and produced short videos for Tiktok and Instagram. Today, ChatIQ is transforming the custom chatbot industry by combining the power of ChatGPT with custom training data from real customers - and all at a fraction of the price.
Hey Sebastian, please tell us a little bit about your background and your company. Some background on me. I'm 25, and I have started multiple businesses ever since I was 12, I was always coming up with new ideas and constantly analysing various businesses, every time I saw a company doing well I’d try and work out HOW, what was it they were doing to get customers and retain them to be successful. I started off as most people seem to, selling sweets at school(I'm guessing I was around 12/13 at the time), I did this with my brothers, and it only made a small amount of money (£70 ish in a couple of days) but was probably the first time I saw success. From there I continued trying all sorts of things, a lot of it with my brothers, until eventually sometime around the age of 16 by luck my brother and I had success with a photography education company, promoted through youtube, building a channel up to >150k subs over 5 years, we sold courses, digital products and 1 on 1 coaching. It never made a lot of money but was enough to help pay for my brother and me to get through university. (I did Physics with Astrophysics at bristol university). We loved every second of it as photography was a huge passion and helping fellow photographers was hugely rewarding, but over time it became too much like a job and we lost love for it. After university, I spent 2 years running various e-commerce brands, both with my own money and also working for other businesses, spending over $10M with clients on advertising and perfecting my marketing skills. This was all very much planned, I wanted to be able to build a company myself that was successful and knew if I learned from bigger companies it'll fast-track my progress.
Eventually, I felt like I’d learned everything I needed to learn and wanted a new challenge, this for me was always going to be SAAS. So I went about building some practice apps (various dashboards and CRM tools), launching them on websites like Appsumo, I think in a total of 1 year I made $350 from 2 apps, so wasn't a huge success. Then back in November of 2022 I quit all work I was doing and spent 6 months without work or income planning what I wanted to do next, I went about focusing on building up marketing channels on youtube, I didn't know what the product was going to be yet but I knew id need a way to sell it. This was a tough time, no money was coming in and all I was doing was just working on a blind belief eventually something would stick. In April 4 days after my 25th birthday, I launched ChatIQ on TikTok and it saw huge success.
How did you come up with the idea for ChatIQ?
I was planning out different business ideas/software I could create in a short period of time, (that'd have the skills to build myself) and I was also super interested in OpenAI. I knew it was a huge emerging market but didn't quite know how I could use it (at the time I had no idea id even be able to build an app that uses it).
I knew businesses spent huge amounts of time and money working on converting cold traffic into customers, using chatbots, email marketing and all sorts. This is time-consuming and expensive. So wanted to build a solution that would; A) use AI as it was hugely trending and also insanely powerful B) was easy to use and affordable/customisable for businesses. The initial idea was a chatbot for agency businesses (as I’d worked in and on them for a few years and understood the market) but eventually as I developed the chatbot I wanted it to become something everyone and anyone could use and let them decide on the use case. I build the tools to make it easy for users, and they have control. (I’ve spoken to so many people with creative ideas for chatbots because of this move)
How did you go from idea to product?
Originally I built the chatbot on GPT3, throwing it together to see if it even is able to get responses from the AI. I even had to build my own chatbot memory function that would save the users' chat history. at the time the ChatGPT API hadn’t been released. The initial product was very clunky and required a lot of time on my end to get it working for a customer, I had to actively develop the customer's own personal chatbot one by one, test it and manually integrate it into their website. But I was getting feedback from clients constantly. I found these first few customers mostly through LinkedIn.
I spent hours adding updates and improvements with a focus on allowing users to train and build their own chatbots because the first build just wasn't scalable enough. I had 0 knowledge of Java, HTML etc so learned it all myself, then once the first basic AI chatbot was built I trained my own ChatIQ chatbot on dev documentation, tutorials, OpenAI docs etc and used ChatIQ as a tool to help me speed up the process of developing ChatIQ, this probably accelerated the growth by at least 3x. While I was working on updates, ChatIQ would be working on debugging issues I was having in the background. (I should add it came up with the solutions for debugging rather than actually doing the work)
I then added more data to my ChatIQ bot to help me write the website copy quicker. And now this ChatIQ chatbot is a core part of running my own business. (first time I've written that down, sounds funny to read back)
How did you acquire 3500 users in 3 weeks?
Because when I stopped all work back in November 2022 to focus on launching a saas business, I had spent some time building up a youtube channel, I uploaded over 100 videos in just 2 months and got it to 1000 subscribers around January 2023, I had a platform to launch on and get some initial users. However, the youtube channel wasn't really in the correct niche (I probably could have planned that better)
So, knowing there was huge explosive potential in short-form content I sat down one night, edited 6 short videos until about 4 am, and then over the next 24 hours posted them. The first 5 were getting a few hundred, maybe 1000 views. I was documenting the process as I was gradually getting a new user, I think I was averaging around 5-10 a day for a couple of days. Then suddenly the 6th TikTok I posted got over 130k views. In a couple of days, I’d gone from 15 users to over 800.
The marketing strategy was always to start with organic video content, something id got working before with my photography business years ago, I knew I'd done it once before so could do it again. Then just doubled down on that. Although the numbers are exciting for growth and obviously needed, the focus in my eyes is 100% user satisfaction. It was always a dream to build a successful saas product, it happened faster than I expected but as long as my users are happy with ChatIQ and it can provide them with everything they need from it I'm happy.
We heard you are talking about AI employees. How are you using AI to automate your startup instead of hiring? So hiring is hugely important for me, when I bring someone on board we bring on only the best, our users want the best so it requires the best minds to achieve this.
But we use ChatIQ a lot within our business to speed up processes. I mentioned previously how I trained my personal ChatIQ bot to help me develop the product further and get instant answers 24/7. this chatbot is designed to be a second brain behind the business and allow me to tap into knowledge and skills that would cost a fortune for a small startup to hire
We also use ChatIQ for coming up with new marketing angles, analysing our current performance and using that to iterate new ideas and strategies. Basically, we are able to always think 2 steps ahead.
Because these chatbots are very customisable, in 1 minute I can have a chatbot that is an expert in marketing and copywriting, with access to advanced tutorials on copywriting and marketing strategies and in the next it can be trained on advanced development docs (I am improving the application for ChatIQ to help with more advanced coding tasks) and helping me develop the product further and faster. This has allowed me to scale faster and farther than I could have ever done without using custom-trained AI chatbots. It also handles a lot of customer service within our own application (showing youtube tutorials on how to set up a chatbot for example).
(you could also train a ChatIQ bot on a document such as this and get it to help you speed up blog post writing for example)
Finally, what are your long-term goals for the future of ChatIQ? For me I want to continue to work on this project, the applications of AI are only just beginning to be understood and the advancements are only going to accelerate.
ChatIQ will continue to focus on user experience, providing users with the best tools possible. I want people to be able to train and use AI within their own businesses and lives to improve their output.
We are scaling rapidly, we are hiring the best talent possible and are here to stay.