Spanish Or Bust: From Idea to Launch in 5 days and 100 dollars

You’ve probably seen a few of these “Startup in a Week” type posts before. I’ve always found it fascinating to be able to follow along with a such a rapid development of a functioning business.

And now, I’m in the position to create one of my own.

The Project

I’ve launched a variety of projects in the past — and as a student with very limited funds, I’ve learned to make ‘a lot’ out of ‘a little’. That’s why I’m limiting my launch budget to $100, forcing myself to launch in 5 days and documenting every step of the process.

I’ll be building a website/web app with only a bit of coding knowledge — and share the entire process, step-by-step, being sure to include important, often overlooked bits — such as how to SSL (https) on your site for free.

I’m sure I’ll face quite a few challenges along the way, but hopefully my methods for overcoming them will be interesting and valuable to anyone following along. Likewise, I’m hoping to get advice and feedback in real time.

The Problem

Never make something for the sake of making it and expect people to want it — always base what you make off of a problem you or others have.

The idea I’m using is something I’ve had kicking around for awhile, related to another interest of mine: language learning. I speak Spanish and French as well as English, and through the process of learning them I was met with some crazy obstacles.

“Where can I find someone to speak with? Where do I even start learning? Where can I find basic stories to practice reading?”. Eventually, I found the appropriate websites and books that answered the majority of my questions.

The only problem that remained… how can I stay motivated to actually follow through and learn these languages to fluency?

This seemed like a “me problem”, until I realized that wherever I looked, language learners were having the same dilemma.

Why hadn’t someone done something about this problem yet? And how could I do something about it?

The Idea

Looking back, there were two things that motivated me most: money (in the form of a trip to Peru — thanks dad!) and the social/pride aspect of it (being as white as I am, no one expects me to be near-fluent in Spanish).

Now, I can’t exactly give cash rewards and high social standings to people if they learn a language. What I can do is take their money and shame them in front of their friends if they don’t. No, seriously — hear me out.

Everyone knows that feeling of excited motivation when we decide to commit to do something — “Nothing can stop me! I’m gonna do it no matter what!”. But when that wears off, there’s nothing left to keep you working on it.

Now what if in that moment of excited committal you signed up for a website that would ensure you completed what you set out to do?

And what if, as a consequence, it would charge your credit card $XXX.XX and tweet from your account telling all your friends you failed if you didn’t?

Now there’d be something there to keep you working towards your goal.

My idea is to make a site where you pick a level (basic, conversational, fluent), pick a date to reach that level by, enter your credit card and pick an amount to be charged if your fail (either with Stripe or Paypal, but I’m leaning towards Stripe) and connect your twitter account.

Then when that date comes around, you get an email with a link to a short 5 minute quiz at the level you chose. If you pass — congrats! You don’t get charged a penny and nothing gets tweeted out. If you fail though — the site will tweet out a nasty message and charge your credit card, as well as challenging you to try committing again.

Building it

As I see it, there are a few major tasks to complete — one per day:

  • Day 1: logo design and HTML/CSS front-end (including domain and hosting)
  • Day 2: PHP functionality (keeping track of users and dates)
  • Day 3: Stripe integration
  • Day 4: developing the quizzes
  • Day 5: publicity, bug fixes and prepare for launch
  • Launch Day

In tomorrow’s Day 1 post (likely posted pretty late), I’ll share how I go from an idea and to sketches, to a logo-and-all completed (albeit non-functional, it’s just HTML/CSS) website in day one.