The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
Chad Johnson is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Digs, a hybrid Real Estate/FinTech startup which was recently acquired by OJO Labs. My background is in UI/UX design and I’ve been working with startups for about 10 years.
What did it take / how did you get started?
Our mission is to democratize homeownership by providing financial tools that make it easier to afford a home and manage that home as a financial asset once you own it. Homeownership is one of the best ways a person can begin to build wealth, but it has become less and less accessible for Americans due to a number of social and economic barriers. We’d like to change that.
We started out locally in Chicago by starting our own apartment rental service and giving a portion of our commission back as “homebuyer credits” to help people jumpstart saving for their first home. We also paired this with educational content about first-time homebuyers and partnered with lenders to give additional rewards to our clients.
We found the main issue was people simply didn’t know where to start when it came to homeownership and were unaware of first-time homebuyer loans, downpayment assistance programs, and other outlets that made homeownership more accessible. After this caught on, we entered the FinTech space by building a financial platform that allowed people to deposit savings and connect other financial accounts to track their progress towards homeownership.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle?
We’re really excited about the future of Digs! Now that we’ve been acquired by OJO Labs, we’ll have a lot more resources and feel confident we’ll be able to grow and accomplish our mission. OJO is mission-driven just like us so we share many of the same values and goals. Not to mention their leadership team consists of some of the smartest people in the industry, so we can learn a lot from them.
What drives / motivates you?
Solving tough problems that affect millions of people, including myself. I actually still rent, so I know first hand how frustrating it is to want to own a home and not have the first clue how to get there. I also enjoy the challenge - If I’m not challenged with my work, I get bored really easily. I also want my work to make a difference. I really want to be able to advance the human race in some way before I die!
On a personal level, I enjoy autonomy in my work which is what attracted me to entrepreneurship in the first place.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
If you really want to start a business, go work for someone else/a company you really look up to and learn from them first. Then decide if you really want to be a co-founder. I also think you can be an entrepreneur without being a co-founder. There’s nothing wrong with being the 3rd, 4th, or 100th hire at a company that is doing really innovative things. In a lot of cases, you get all of the benefits of being an entrepreneur without the high levels of stress that co-founders face.
For those of you that do want to start a business, I also urge you to take it as far as you can WHILE working full-time. And when you do go full-time on your business, make sure your business is making some kind of predictable revenue and you’re on a path to be able to pay yourself a meaningful salary. As for savings, you should save AT LEAST 6 months of salary, and I really think that is conservative. Everything with entrepreneurship is going to be 3x: 3x harder than you think, take 3x longer than you think, and cost 3x more than you think.
What has been the hardest part of the hustle?
Raising money. If you can get away with bootstrapping, do it! Raising money is the hardest thing in the world as a first-time entrepreneur. And this is coming from someone with privilege: I’m a straight, white, college educated male. The other benefit of bootstrapping is you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. If you don’t find the right investors, it can be really hard to pivot and raise additional capital if you don’t hit certain milestones.
Work-life balance and mental health. I can't stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself. I was really bad at this my first year as an entrepreneur - take breaks, eat right, exercise. It sounds simple but it's easy to get caught up in your work.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
Side or full-time hustle?
Stage (Additional Question)
We were recently acquired by OJO Labs, and were about to raise a $2M seed round
List the founders
Chad Johnson, Patrick McLoughlin, Joe Ahern
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
# of Employees?
3 full-time, currently looking for full-time software engineers!
When did you start?
How much did it cost to launch?
Roughly $100k (combo of cash and sweat equity)
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
Self-funded, startup accelerators, pitch competitions, and some angel investors
Any call to action?
We're hiring frontend engineers.