Building Gateway to 3000 Users: a journey of 2 Years

Let me start this off by saying I’m sorry to those whom I ever criticized what they built, I didn’t know better. Building a product or company is hard and I respect anyone who even attempts it. Respect ❤. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to build Gateway, an app that helps people to learn interesting topics, earn rewards and discover products.

The idea of Gateway started looming in my mind about 2 years ago when I was working as the regional growth lead for a blockchain project. I was sure there was a better way to get people to use blockchain & Crypto products. PR, Ads, Influencers and community outreach were just not efficient enough. It only attracted people interested in making money from crypto, not particularly to use products to solve their day-to-day problems. There must be a better way but I wasn’t sure what it was

After my contract with the blockchain project expired, I started ScaleHut – a blockchain marketing agency while also working short contract jobs at various organizations including a Blockchain VC firm, a B2B blockchain company and a launchpad for crypto projects

The combined experience of it all started to accumulate and I was gaining clarity. However, the eureka moment was when we had a client (a crypto wallet) at ScaleHut who had a target of acquiring 10k users. We tried all traditional channels of growth- Facebook & Google but they denied our ads due to bans & restrictions on apps that allowed buying & selling of crypto.

We were out of ideas, but the client decided to go via the airdrop route. They eventually got over 18k users but it came at a cost. The users they got only came to use the product because of the promised airdrop, and bailed out. The number of people who deleted the app or never used it after the campaign was probably close to 80%. Crazy!! 

It occurred to me that education was a key part of the acquisition process. I started thinking of how to educate, incentivise and convert people to frequent users of crypto products

In April 2022, I took a trip to Dubai to attend the Binance conference. A lot of the conversations during the conference kept on mentioning how education was the key to the success of the crypto and blockchain industry. 

This was the final signal I needed to make a move on my not-so-clear idea. So I purchased the domain Celoacademy.com, thinking I will start from the Celo ecosystem, but we were told it went against their brand policies.

So we needed a new name, enter Gateway!! , then we purchased the gatewayapp.co domain

As an experienced growth marketer, my mind is built to experiment and build on the data to make my decisions. So we started on a Telegram group, where I was running small experiments with education programs, Ads, and member responses

I reached out to my now cofounder, Anthony Osazee based in Hong Kong to pitch the idea to him. He bought the idea and we both agreed to pull resources together and in 2 weeks, he wired me a couple of thousands of dollars. Then we hired a development agency to help build our first MVP. 

We were initially building the blockchain parts of Gateway on the Celo blockchain but we got no support from them. About 2 months into building the MVP, we applied to 7 blockchains for grants. 5 of them rejected us, 1 gave no response and finally, 1 gave us a glimpse of hope and invited us to an interview.

2 weeks after the interview, we were approved for a $30,000 grant from NEAR Protocol to build on their blockchain. This was a big win for us and a big validation that we were up to something. We launched the V1 of Gateway on the web on Dec 26, 2022

We started to talk to investors, not necessarily to raise money but to learn how the process works. We learned that no one is going to fund us if we don’t fully manage the technology stack. We needed to bring our development in-house. We began searching for a CTO endlessly, I reached out to a senior Engineer and he recommended Emmanuel. A few interview sessions with Emmanuel and he joined us as the third co-founder.

We launched a scrappy web app and getting the first 500 users was probably the hardest part of the journey. We started with our telegram community,  posted on all our individual social media and reached out to everyone who submitted their details to participate in our user research campaign when we were building the app

In March 2023, the Android & IOS apps of Gateway were launched to the public. We took in the feedback of users using the web app and we improved on them intensively in the mobile apps. Mobile apps are much easier to use than web apps, it also helps users to come back to use the app, which helps us to build more value-driven relationships with them

We created a persona for an average person who could use Gateway to be between ages 18 – 30, internet savvy, know crypto or must have heard about crypto somewhere and has interests in online learning platforms like Duolingo, Udemy, and Coursera. 

To get to 3000 users, we explored so many growth hacks. 

Firstly, we assumed the best place to find our type of audience was in Universities, so we kicked off a university campaign with some university leaders, it performed badly. The team had a poor strategy, the numbers were really low and people who were acquired by them were forced to do it

Secondly, we tried Ads on Facebook & Google. Google has blacklisted my name from their advertising books in the past for breaking their advertising policies (you can’t blame a man who needs to sell affiliate products to survive) so Google was out of it. I tried Facebook and surprisingly, it performed better than I anticipated. 

Thirdly, we launched an in-house Ambassador program for people who were our earliest members and referred people to our platform. We extended the program to people from other universities and picked a handful from over 100 applicants. The rewards we offered were cash bonuses, the opportunity to learn & work with experts at Gateway, a box of merch and an opportunity for a paid internship. We set some performance metrics to be met and a weekly elimination system for poor performers. This was a really great channel for us because we were able to acquire high-quality users and gather real-time feedback on our to improve our app

In April 2023, we were one of the last 15 startups and the only African team out of 400 startup applications that got into a German/South Korean accelerator program.

Gateway crossed 3000 users across 25 countries (mainly Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom and Indonesia) with the above mentioned strategies and I’m looking forward to the next 100,000 learners & product discoverers on the app

I’m not sure what the future holds for us but I’m looking forward to it, I quite like the suspense and intensity like it’s a God of War gameplay on PlayStation.

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