Dominic is the founder of MentorCruise, a mentorship platform that helps ambitious people in tech reach their career goals quicker, which he’s taken from idea to over $1 million in annualized volume.
In the past, he has worked as a machine learning engineer and built over a dozen software products.
Where did the idea for MentorCruise come from?
I come from a non-traditional background in tech. A lot of my early career years were spent going through MOOC courses and other self-teaching methods. The game changer in all of these courses was the mentorship and networking aspect – being able to directly talk to an expert and develop. A well-placed referral by an advisor ended up giving me my career start.
The initial idea was to create a “no-strings-attached” alternative of mentorship to the often costly bootcamps and courses out there. We’ve developed to new niches and use cases since then.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As a bootstrapped small business, the nature of our work is still “everyone does a bit of everything”. We’re a small team of 5 people now, but this doesn’t quite cover all we do. My work days are mixed between product work, coding, marketing, business development and all the small intricacies of running a small business.
For years, I’ve built MentorCruise as a sideproject. Being able to make the most out of little time is therefore no secret to me. I’m a big productivity nerd (and an ex-employee of Todoist), so I love to experiment with my daily work and productivity methods, such as GTD and eat the frog.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s important to understand that ideas are worth nothing. My desk is sometimes littered with notepads and post-its full of great-sounding ideas, and yet, I choose to let most of them die.
A viable business needs three components: customer pain, a viable solution, and a functioning business model. I think the easiest is to start seeking a customer pain, not an idea. From there, talk to potential customers and engineer a viable solution. Once the solution seems viable enough, think about a business model that extracts the appropriate value you’re creating.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The fact that it’s getting easier than ever to start a small business, with seller software like Gumroad or Lemon Squeezy, deep billing APIs like Stripe and ever-growing access to marketplaces and tools.
Work is fundamentally changing. I started working remotely in 2018 and people thought it was crazy and unproductive. Just two years later, we were all forced to try this new method of working and many have stuck with it. The next stage is going to be smaller, creator-led companies. The layoffs we are hearing about will just accelerate that. A new way of working, away from the cubicle-led 9-to-5 and to more flexible and free work arrangements, that’s exciting to me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t have a good productivity hack. All I can say is that I work incredibly consistency. So while others may be running a sprint and burning themselves out, I’m able to keep going at this pace forever. Core to this is a good productivity system, but I’d say it’s also part of the mindset that “getting 1% better everyday” yields more success than trying to be great, once.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I started working on MentorCruise when I was quite young, 20 years old to be exact. I’d say now that I’m 25, I have lost a lot of the time anxiety I had back then. I was unsatisfied with the growth and trajectory of MentorCruise in the first years, not realizing that I had so much time left and available.
Now, MentorCruise is doing really well and that anxiety is gone. I just had to trust the process.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think people should not build a business, unless they are *really* into entrepreneurship. I think it’s not a great solution to being laid off. I don’t think a mid-life crisis is an excellent time to start a business. I don’t even think it’s a promising way to build wealth (a big tech job can be much more lucrative, consistently).
Luckily, nowadays there are a lot of different paths someone can take. For example, async remote work delivers the same freedoms as “being your own boss” at a fraction of the risk. A Google Engineer is able to build much more wealth in five years than most entrepreneurs will in a lifetime.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Not to sound like a broken record – but staying consistent, staying healthy and motivated. Business is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure you outlive your competitors, not try to crush them on a battlefield.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
– Reading a lot!
– Keeping an open mind to new marketing channels (e.g. billboards CAN work!)
– Hiring much smarter people than myself
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the early stages, MentorCruise had a lot of adversaries and repeatedly our business was put in danger, e.g. through regulation changes or partners closing their businesses. In those times it’s crucial to stay calm. Panic doesn’t help anyone. It’s important to trust that things always have a way to be solved.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If there was a productized services where we could hire customer support agents, add them to our Help Scout setup and have them write FAQs, documentation and instructions, I’d gladly pay for that!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It would be my new wallet from Whitstable Craft Co. https://whitstablecraftco.com/
It’s handmade by a fellow entrepreneur, made from the best leather to last a lifetime and fits in my front pocket. It has made my wallet a lot lighter and is a great conversation starter. I got more as gifts for the family!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Notion (https://www.notion.so/) is probably where most of our work happens. We use it for EVERYTHING, from support documentation, playbooks, task management, employee onboard and more.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m a big fan of the Sprint book by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures. I think so many processes in startups take too long and are dangerous to a company’s survival. Testing out risky ideas in a week is very intriguing.
What is your favorite quote?
Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
- Consistency beats intensity
- Keep a calm head, stay collected
- Start with a customer pain and think of “ideas” from there
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.