6-Figure Acquisition At Age 16 💸

Building and exiting 2 Edtech startups, scaling to 20k users in 6 months, and undergoing a 6-figure acquisition

Hello hello hello! Welcome back to Delta X Newletter - I’m currently listening to nice music while writing this newsletter and feeling pumped to write this :)

I met Calix at a hackathon around a year ago. We didn’t do that well (rip disaster tracker hacker 😂), but I’ve been grateful to get to know Calix and his journey in web dev and SaaS (Software as a Service) startups.

Since then, he’s built and sold 2 edtech companies - one of which scaled to 20k users in 6 months and was recently acquired in a 6-figure acquisition. (did I mention he’s only 16?? 😮)

Lots of fun things to talk about in this edition 😁:

  1. 🧠 Mental models for self-learning new concepts

  2. 🛠 How to build, scale, and sell a startup

  3. 🕒 Why timing is really important for growth

🎙 Δx podcast

It’s podcast timeeee. This is honestly one of the most authentic, fun, and down-to-earth conversations I’ve had in a while - bit longer than usual but I promise it’s worth it 😉

From self-learning web development to getting his first software engineering internship @ 14 💻, Calix talks about his approach for learning new skills rapidly and how going out of your comfort zone can be a faster and more fun way of building new things.

You’ll hear about the hidden challenges behind growth, getting your product in front of people, and the unconventional method of community-based user acquisition. 🤔

This is the story of how Calix built, scaled, and sold his startup Hours 💸 (among others), and valuable lessons for anyone wishing to learn or build something new.

[Some inside jokes from this episode: banging your head against the wall but gone right, Cirqman, walking penguin, etc. I laugh every time I listen to this episode haha]

💎 Δx takeaways

At some point, we’ve all had to take on the challenge of learning something new on our own accord. Going through the process of actually understanding and applying something can be really difficult. 😕

On one hand, there’s “tutorial hell” - you get stuck in tutorial after tutorial but can’t actually build anything of your own. ❌ And then there’s the looming mountain of having to learn something completely from scratch and the time it takes to reach a deep understanding. ⛰

You’re probably wondering how Calix was able to self-learn web dev and acquire the skills to build these awesome SaaS startups.

Here’s how Calix self-learned CSS (language for stylizing websites 🎨): he took an advanced course 3 times, each time with a different purpose and approach:

  1. Typed exactly what the tutorial was typing ⌨

  2. Repeat but pause the video and try to figure out what the tutorial will type ⏸

  3. Design the entire site himself and watch the video again to make sure ▶

He says he’s never had to take another CSS course again.

“Tell Me and I Forget; Teach Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Learn”

Ok, so now that you have learned something new - how do you actually start building and scaling? 📈

First of all, it’s important to note that you’re not always going to be able to crack the case the first time around. If you run into a roadblock, it’s okay to just walk away from it and then come back later once the timing is right. 🛣

This is something which is really hard for me to - I feel like I’m giving up or quitting by pausing to stop working on a problem for a bit. In reality, it’s just about waiting and finding the right time. ⌚

Learning is non-linear, and hardest of all, you don’t know what you don’t know. 🔮 It’s not like in school when you are given the prerequisites and have a clear learning path laid out for you. It’s more like walking through a forest and having to find your own path, doubling back, exploring, etc.

That’s what Calix did for Hours (the startup he scaled to tens of thousands of users and later sold in a 6-figure contract). He actually attempted to build months earlier but didn’t have the skills to. It wasn’t until later on once he had already worked on another project that he was able to go back to his idea and execute it. 💡

Ok, so now that you’ve built something, how do you scale? Here’s some main takeaways I got from Calix’s story with Hours:

  • Action > words; best way to test your product is to get it in front of people and let the product speak for itself 🗣

  • Find where your people are (hint: it’s not always just Insta/FB/Twitter):

  • If you get 1 person who likes your product, they will sell your product for you 💗; do things that don't scale

  • And finally, just have fun! 🐧

If you haven’t yet, go go go listen to the podcast! (and let me know what you think if you feel like it - just hit reply and shoot me a message, I respond to each one 😸)

📰 Δx change

Let’s talk change:

  • Solar-powered sub-zero water splitting: Researchers have developed a solar-powered system that splits water at -20°C. The technology could serve as a renewable fuel source in high altitude and polar environments — and it’s way better for the environment.

And something special for you this week: Today I launched a new organization with my team @ Zipline Theory. It follows a similar and simple principle as the one driving this newsletter - early exposure to a variety of fields, especially ones not traditionally taught in schools 🏫, is really important for broadening your horizons and discovering new passions. 💫

Just think about all the doors that stay closed if you never get the chance to explore them. I have friends who fell in love with cybersecurity, or economics, or web dev, or material science, just because of one event or early exposure that changed their trajectory. If they never got the chance to try them, how would they ever know that they would’ve loved it?

I’ve been thankful to have witnessed students who attended our past events - ex. our future of cyberspace program funded by the Department of Defense, $500+ in cash prizes, CTFs, and speakers from ex-Microsoft and NAVWAR 🐱‍💻 - develop deep interests in pursuing new fields. 🦾

We’re hoping to take that to a new level and spark more passions globally :)

Check us out at website or on socials @ziplinetheory - exciting events and opportunities coming up soon 😉

Hope you enjoyed this edition of Delta X Newsletter, and have an awesome next 2 weeks! 💙


Ellen X

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for sticking to the very end - sending good vibes your way ;)