Interview with Thomas Oppong (Founder AllTopStartups.com)
Thomas is the founder of Alltopstartups, a platform which shares resources young entrepreneurs need to start and grow successful businesses. He has been passionately blogging on business and technology for over three years.
His work has earned him a lot of international recognition with features on Smallbusinessheroes.co.uk and Evancarmichael.com as a top source of resources for entrepreneurs. His work has also been featured at Entrepreneur Magazine, TIME Magazine, Business Insider, FoxNews, The Huffington Post, Life Hacker, The New York Observer, Social Media Examiner; just to name a few.
In an exclusive interview with Techpreneur, he shares his journey as an entrepreneur and what it takes to be a successful one at that.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Thomas Oppong, an entrepreneur, and a full-time blogger. I am the Founding Editor at Alltopstartups.com where I share resources for starting and growing a startup. I am the Curator at Postanly.com, a weekly digest of the best productivity, career and self-improvement posts from around the web.
I also maintain an active Medium account where I write about life lessons, personal development and launching meaningful projects you deeply care about. I am a Columnist @Inc. Magazine, a Contributor @Observer and @HuffingtonPost. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Sociology from KNUST.
What ignited the spark in you to start AllTopStartups?
I love exploring new ideas, innovations and technologies that are changing how we live and work. I started AllTopStartups in 2009 whilst at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). It used to be a personal platform where I aggregated some of the best and top technology ideas at the time. A few years after publishing hundreds of innovative startups, many people were interested in the ideas I wrote about and the startups behind them. My personal quest to find the best technology ideas turned into a startup blog.
AllTopStartups.com has been acknowledged as a top source of resources for entrepreneurs by several international agencies, what has attributed to this success?
The blog is yet to reach the standard I expect of it. I am constantly looking for the best ways to grow it. I strive for consistency and quality of work. The commitment to improve the blog’s posts, design and engagement keeps it relevant. I still treat every new post as the first. I edit almost every post myself. I have set the bar really high for myself. It’s the only way to get attention in the crowded blogosphere. I have consistently invested in growing the blog’s social audience. I pay other blogging professionals to help where I fall short.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
It’s a combination of passion, grit and the ability to execute. Every entrepreneur needs that intense, driving or overmastering feeling of conviction about his or her idea to take it all the way to the top. If you are not deeply passionate about the career choice, you will give up at some point. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s only those with insane commitment that can survive.
Grit is passion and perseverance at work. Successful entrepreneurs have the strength to keep going even when they screw up and face obstacles. Even when progress is slow and they run out of steam. If you have what it takes to get an idea from nothing to a stable and growing business, you will go far on your entrepreneurship journey. Ideas are cheap, it’s execution that matters more.
What are some of your failures and what have you learned from them?
I tried launching a content search app sometime in 2014. I paid a freelancer hundreds of dollars on Elance now UpWork for a beta version but the app didn’t work as I expected. It was a terrible investment. I have moved on since then. I don’t regret trying. I am still trying out projects every now and then. I have also tried launching other blogs in different industries but the workload was just too much, so I gave up and concentrated on AllTopStartups.
How do you generate new ideas for content on your platform?
BuzzSumo is a perfect app that helps me find ideas that work. I also reply on news feeds. I go through hundreds of feeds every morning. I have feeds for different topics. I use Quora and Reddit too. Generally, I explore ideas about business and entrepreneurship. My favorite apps for getting story ideas are Google Newsstand, Flipboard, Digg, TechCrunch, LinkedIn Pulse, and Pocket. I bookmark a lot of articles every week to read later. I use Pocket for my bookmarking needs. Many agencies and freelancers also submit guest content for AllTopStartups.
How do you drive revenue from your business?
It’s a combination of different options. But mostly content advertising. Most blogs try different options and stick to what works best. Adsense is great but you need hundreds of thousands of traffic to make the most of it. I don’t attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. AllTopStartups is growing but not exponentially. I am exploring influencer marketing but I am very selective on products or services I amplify. I currently work with a few technology companies and I focus on writing industry content for them.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Content. Quality content is still king. Many people I work with find my work on different platforms and make contact with me for related work. In recent times, Medium has been my most successful platform. It’s one of the best platforms anyone can leverage to show amazing projects and ideas. My work reaches hundreds of thousands of people on Medium than even my blog. I spent most of my time sharing productivity and career content on Medium in the second half of 2016 than on AllTopStartups.
What should the world expect from you and your business in the next 3 years?
A lot more refined and highly targeted content. More niche books and even online courses. Possibly better marketing businesses. I am looking into exploring and researching about how to be a better version of yourself. A lot of my original content will focus on that. Entrepreneurship is hugely about finding yourself and pursuing projects and ideas that make you come alive. If people knew what to focus on in life, choosing entrepreneurship as a career option will come naturally.
What’s your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Choosing to do projects I deeply care about. Many employees are unmotivated, unsure of themselves, or can’t lose themselves into their work. Choosing to pursue work as an entrepreneur brings fulfilment even as you solve problems and create solutions to help others. When you begin to do “actual work’ that means the world to you, everything falls in place. Purposeful work eases the pain of the long hours that seem to always drag and gives you the rare opportunity to make a dent in the world. To show your work and share your ideas.
If you had the chance to start all over again, what will you do differently?
I will read more books about doing better in life and business. Life learning makes things a lot easier for everyone not just for entrepreneurs. And will definitely risk more and fail better. And instead of waiting to perfect projects, I will launch and iterate. I will do more of what brings out the best in me instead of trying to fit in.
On writing, I will concentrate on just amazing content right from the beginning. And focus on building a personal brand. Quality online assets cannot be overemphasized. I won’t waste time trying to pitch popular online media sites to feature my work. I spent too much time in 2014 pursuing big online media brands to show my work. Today, I get invites to write for them. At some point when they can’t ignore you, you will be invited to share with their audience. Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. When you focus on doing your absolute best work, the rest will eventually follow.
Where can people find out more about you?
On my blog, AllTopStartups.com. And on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. I share a lot about myself and everything I do on those platforms. In recent times, I am leveraging Medium to help people choose themselves and pursue personal projects that means the world to them.