Table of Contents
- Tell us about your product and what inspired you to start it?
- How long did it take you to acquire your first 50 customers, and what was your growth strategy?
- Which technology stack are you using and what challenges and limitations does it pose?
- What are some of the most essential tools that you use for your business?
- What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
- Your recommended books/podcasts/newsletters etc.:
Denis Kazakov is the founder of Learn Azure - All-in-one solution to learn Microsoft Azure Services and become certified professional
Tell us about your product and what inspired you to start it?
From the moment I first learned to program 20 years ago, I knew that I wanted to create something truly meaningful for people. For years, this dream remained just that, until fate presented me with the perfect opportunity to make it a reality.
Two years ago, I realized that I needed to upskill in Cloud Computing and Microsoft Azure Services. Not only would this benefit my personal growth, but it would also enhance my professional profile and remote job prospects. And, as it turns out, I was right on the money!
As I went about my day-to-day, I found myself spending a lot of time offline, commuting, studying, or just grabbing a tea at my local café. I searched high and low for a mobile app that could help me prepare for Azure exams, but my search came up empty. Frustrated, I took matters into my own hands and set out to create my own app. And thus, "Learn Azure" was born.
How long did it take you to acquire your first 50 customers, and what was your growth strategy?
On New Year's Eve in 2021, I finally released my passion project: the Learn Azure app, available on both AppStore and Google Play. It was completely free at the time, and to my delight, the app was off to a great start, with 50 downloads on the very first day, and over 600 downloads on Android and 120 on iOS in the first month alone.
But things really took off when I shared the app in relevant Facebook groups focused on Azure. Suddenly, the number of downloads skyrocketed to 2,500 per month across both platforms. It was such an exciting moment, knowing that my creation was making an impact in the world of cloud computing.
Since then, I've continued to add new features to the app, and implemented monetization in October 2022. It's been an incredible journey, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my love of Azure with the world.
Which technology stack are you using and what challenges and limitations does it pose?
Initially, the Learn Azure app had no backend, and I used Xamarin for development.
Today, the app has a large infrastructure built around it, including:
◉ In-house tools to input and validate learning content
◉ Automation tools and scripts to load and populate the app's data with learning content
◉ Backend and databases
◉ Analytics and error handling
I use Microsoft's technology stack because it provides an excellent ecosystem for all stages of product development and support, including:
⊛ Visual Studio for Mac/Windows + .NET 7 + Xamarin
⊛ ASP.NET MVC 7 WebApi / MVC
⊛ Azure Functions
⊛ Azure App Service
⊛ Azure SQL
⊛ AppCenter + Azure App Insights
⊛ Azure Virtual Machine
⊛ Github / Bitbucket
As for challenges, cross-platform mobile development requires a lot of flexibility and experience from developer, especially when dealing with iOS or Android-specific features such as remote push notifications, in-app purchases, and custom UI controls. Another client-side challenge is to ensure the app remains compatible with the latest updates of iOS and Android.
Regarding backend development, the biggest challenge was ensuring stability and scalability. Fortunately, Azure Services excel at this task.
What are some of the most essential tools that you use for your business?
‣ When it comes to running Windows on my Mac, Parallels Desktop is my go-to solution. It's reliable and easy to use, making it a breeze to switch between operating systems and run any Windows-specific programs or apps.
‣ For all my design needs, I turn to Canva. This versatile tool allows me to create eye-catching graphics, whether it's designing logos, social media posts, or simple images for community posts. With Canva, even a design novice like me can create professional-looking visuals.
‣ To stay on top of things, I rely on Logsnag. This handy tool sends me daily notifications about new users, sales, and support requests, making it easy to stay up-to-date on everything that's happening with my app.
‣ For project management, Trello is my top pick. It helps me keep track of progress and organize the development process. With Trello, I can easily visualize what needs to be done and stay on track to meet my goals.
‣ When it comes to creating checklists and roadmaps for the next version of my app, I turn to Dropbox Paper. This intuitive tool lets me collaborate with anyone and brainstorm ideas in real-time, making it a valuable addition to my workflow.
‣ For all my other writing needs, from creating requirements for freelancers to structuring learning content, Google Docs is my trusty sidekick. It's easy to use and offers a wide range of formatting options, making it a great all-around tool for any writing project.
‣ To keep things simple and reduce mental load, I rely on the standard Apple notes, reminders, and calendar apps. They may not be the flashiest tools out there, but they get the job done and help me stay organized on a daily basis.
What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
Starting something new can be a daunting experience, and our initial fears can often seem overwhelming. But what we imagine in our minds is often far from reality. We may fear failure, judgment, or the unknown, but once we take that first step, we often realize that our fears were unfounded.
It can also be disheartening when those closest to us don't believe in our dreams until they see tangible results. But don't let that discourage you from pursuing your goals. Remember, your passion and determination can be enough to see you through even when others are doubtful.
It's important to remember that achieving a goal requires consistency and perseverance. It's easy to get discouraged or feel overwhelmed, but the key is to keep going. Break your goal down into smaller, manageable tasks and focus on one step at a time. With each small victory, you'll build momentum and confidence, and before you know it, you'll be well on your way to achieving your goal.
Finally, motivation can come from the circumstances around us. Whether it's a challenging situation or a positive experience, these can often be the catalysts that spark our drive to move forward. Embrace the circumstances and use them as fuel to keep pushing towards your goals. With time and effort, anything is possible.
Your recommended books/podcasts/newsletters etc.:
Those books may seem outdated, but they had a profound impact on my life. Out of the hundreds of books I've read, these few were the ones that truly changed the game. They challenged my beliefs and perceptions, and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. It's amazing how a few simple words on a page can have such a powerful effect on one's life. These books have become a part of me, and I'm grateful for the lessons they taught me.
- "Start Small. Stay Small." by Rob Walling
- "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
About computer science and programming:
- "The Art of Programming" by Donald Knuth
- "Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools"
- "Choose yourself" by James Altucher
- "The 5am Club" by Robin Sharma
If you passionate about Microsoft technologies I'd recommend to subscribe for those one:
- https://csharpdigest.net/ - C# Digest
- https://azureweekly.info/ - Azure Newsletter
- Learn Azure Community in Telegram