STARTUP

How an American Kid in Budapest and a Programmer in Thailand Built a Million-Dollar Startup

My company wouldn’t have ever gotten off the ground if I hadn’t taken a serious leap of faith.

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BY Jordan Fried - 14 Jun 2017
Wat Arun temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In 2013, after managing to liberate myself from my corporate job, I found myself in a very fortunate position.

I had discovered the world of "affiliate marketing" and quickly learned how to make a full-time income with nothing more than my old laptop and a stable internet connection.

For two years, I worked alone and did well for myself, even earning a six-figure annual income--but I was hungry for more.

Since I was a complete "noob" in this new online world, I decided it was time to meet other successful affiliate marketers. This is how I found my 24-year-old self on a plane from Budapest to Las Vegas in January 2014 to attend the Affiliate Summit West conference.

I was here to meet other successful affiliates and to try to learn what was possible--and I wanted to meet with the company that was sending me my commissions checks every month.

My affiliate manager arranged a dinner with me and the CEO of the company. I put on a nice suit and expected a serious evening ahead.

As I arrived at the restaurant I was greeted by the CEO, who turned out to also be a 24-year-old kid. I had no idea that the company I made my full-time income promoting was run by someone the same age as me.

Since we were kids in Las Vegas, we found ourselves in a nightclub (his treat) where he arranged bottle service. Flavor Flav even showed up for some drinks.

As we made our way through several bottles of vodka and attempted to make conversation by shouting in each other's ears, I couldn't shake the thought that I was promoting a company run by someone my own age.

I was too drunk to shake the idea: "Heck, if he could do it, so could I."

At that point, I'd been living in Budapest, Hungary for several years. I'd already asked several local computer programmers if they could help me build a piece of software (which would eventually end up up powering my future company, Buffered).

Sunset in Phuket, an island in Thailand, in 2014.

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One of those programmers seemed particularly promising, but he was taking a months-long vacation in Thailand at the time. So I did what any sane person would do: I flew from Las Vegas to Budapest, packed a bag in less than 24 hours, and went on a flight to Thailand to (successfully) convince him to join.

The next stop was back to Budapest, where we worked from home for the first couple months -- literally from my spare bedroom. I committed every last penny I had to salaries, startup costs, and putting the company together.

Nine months after the conference in Las Vegas, we had the first version of our software ready. We launched Buffered in September of 2014, and in that moment, I realized: If we don't started making money quickly, I'm going to go broke.

I wish I could tell you that it was all rainbows and sunshine from that point on, but the company struggled from the start. I almost did go broke. After all, I'd never run a software company before.

Still, I was determined to succeed and keep the project going, which is exactly what I did for the next three years. The company eventually became a million-dollar business, from which I was able to successfully exit in February 2017.

Starting Buffered was one of the riskiest things I've ever done. I had a comfortable and profitable life as an affiliate marketer, and running a software company was anything but easy.

I really can't complain about the result.