Bug
May 27th, 2022
If someone runs into a bug on Starter Story, I always try to send them a personal email that it was fixed.

If the user is logged in, my error reporting tool Sentry tells me what user experienced the bug.

If someone did that to me, I think it would be pretty cool. Customer service and care goes a long way.
May 26th, 2022
I invest money every single week. 60% into index funds (auto balancing robo investor). 20% into equities. And 20% into Bitcoin.

I have it set up so it withdraws and deposits the money automatically every week. I barely even think about it much. But it feels like a nice way to financial independence. 

1. Make consistent money from a profitable business (cash flow)
2. Don't spend too much of it on yourself, invest as much cash as you can each week
3. Sell that profitable business one day

You get the best of both worlds if you do this. You build wealth predictably, but also set yourself up for a potential big exit lump sum (if you're lucky). 

But if that doesn't work, you can always fall back on your money you diligently invested.

And if you're really lucky, something like Bitcoin really pays off.
May 25th, 2022
It blows my mind how endless the possibilities there are building your own business. It is fulfilling and fun and scary. I'm grateful I get to do this every day. Right now I sit here on my couch building. Building cool shit that makes money. Unbelievable that I do this for a living. That is all.
May 17th, 2022
Just came across this media company called 'Future' today. Never heard of them before, but they are primarily digital media and run lots of smaller sites.

They have literally hundreds of "brands" (websites) that they manage.

Their revenue is $756M with an operating profit margin of 32%. That's $243M in profit. (source)

I've found a few other companies that are doing this well: Dotdash, Red Ventures, & Ziff Davis. I'm sure there are many more. I love the model.

This is what we're building at Starter Story! Profitable, focused on one channel, all digital, and one day we'll have a few brands. 
May 16th, 2022
I had a shower thought today. 

Disruption happens a lot differently (and more slowly) than we think.

For example, think about disruption in the newspaper industry by the internet:

Newspapers didn’t immediately go online once the internet was created. Rather, blogs and websites started cropping up, and slowly people started getting their news from the internet.

This adoption took years. Once the shift already happened, the newspapers finally went online. But it was too late. Only a complete shift in business model  would allow them to survive.

The next big industries to get disrupted are healthcare and education.

And I think the same thing will happen in healthcare.

Doctors and hospitals aren’t going to adopt new technologies. They have no incentive to. Their system works just fine right now.

But, just like the newspaper industry, people will find new, better, and more convenient ways of getting health care.

For example, the Apple watch can track many of your vitals. And Levels can analyze your blood. You can get prescriptions online. You can see doctors online. WebMD. The list goes on.

Slowly, these methods will become more popular than going to the doctor / hospital. Health care costs will go down for the average person. 

The profits will be sucked out of the healthcare industry. Only then will the hospitals and administrators realize they need to adopt these new technologies to survive as a business. 

But it will be too late, just like the newspapers. With their business model (massive fixed costs), they won’t be able to make it work.

The same will happen in education. We won’t replace traditional college. But less people will go every year. Thousands of apps, websites, and platforms will replace traditional education (Starter Story being one of them).

Colleges will try to implement these new technologies, but it will be too late.
May 13th, 2022
I want to be a more positive person. More optimistic, less pessimistic. Glass half full, instead of glass half empty. 

Stop saying sarcastic, clever, or negative skewing things, in my personal and professional life. 

What I’ve been doing lately is just noticing whenever I have negative thoughts or say negative things. It’s OK to have them. But just noticing them is the first step.

I think that with positive thinking, I could achieve more and be happier. It feels like it’s one of those things that I need to “unlock” so I can level up.

More to come on this.
May 11th, 2022
I've been working on rebuilding our "databases" at Starter Story. I want them to be way more useful, and have them look a lot more professional.

It all started with this database for side hustles.

side hustles database


I modeled this off of the U.S. News Best Universities database and UX. I love how that page looks and feels. And it does very well in Google search.

That project took forever, but now we're migrating the database to work for other "objects", the first one being our tools database. It uses the same code and logic.

Here is the before and after:


You can now search, filter, and sort the tools, and see all 2,500+ tools, and ton of more metadata for each tool. Let me know what you think! (and if anything can be improved in terms of functionality, design, etc)

Here it is in all its glory. Really proud of this!

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 10.16.01 AM.png 732 KB


The next one we will migrate is our business ideas database, which is a long time coming :)
May 10th, 2022
Today, I find myself with a million tasks to do. Last week I was away, and the work piled up… 

On one hand, it’s kind of depressing to think that the rest of my life is filled with work. Filled with various tasks I need to complete every day, that in the grand scheme, are mostly pointless. 

95% of the things I did today will amount to nothing. Will be forgotten in 5 years. The project will fail, wither out, I’ll lose interest, or I’ll find a better way to do the thing.

But that is kind of the beauty of it all. There is no end

And if there was an end, I know I would only feel temporary finality, and probably go start working on something new, and the work would start all over.

Lately I’ve been enjoying the process of doing my small, pointless tasks. Instead of feeling burdened by them, I feel empowered by them. They give my purpose.

I work hard to do them to the best of my ability. I’m not focused on just getting them done, but doing them well, with care and passion.

Sure, there are truly pointless tasks you shouldn’t do at all. And you should outsource things to save you time. But there will always be more work after that. And that’s a good thing.

The work never ends. So enjoy the work, learn to love the work. Get addicted to the daily work. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
May 9th, 2022
I spent the last week in Mexico. A few days at a tennis camp during the week, and then a weekend bachelor party with old college friends.

Traveling is finally, finally a thing again. And it felt really nice.

In 2021 I almost never traveled, and it definitely affected my mental health.

Although flying on planes and going through airports are still such a nuisance, it is so very worth it to get out there and see the world.

I forgot how travel opens up your perspective. Being in Mexico City reminded me just how small my own world is.

And seeing friends is worth all the money you have to spend. Bachelor parties and weddings and other related events are so expensive, and sometimes that bothers me. But they are worth the money. Getting together with friends is priceless.

I want to do that a lot more this year. Take more weekend trips. Take advantage of this time where nobody is worried about Covid and we can go anywhere.
May 4th, 2022
More updates on the Starter Story business model transition (to ads). We are finally starting to see some success. 

Although it’s taken months of thinking and planning and selling, we have officially locked down 3 big advertisers. For a total of $23K recurring ad revenue per month.

Our goal is to do everything in our power to make them happy, and keep them on board and get them to renew past their original contracts. 

Our longer term goal is to get to $50K recurring ad revenue per month by the end of September. 

Once we hit that, I think we’ll have a pretty solid grasp on the sales process (and better cash flows), and we can hire a salesperson to do this work. 

Then, we can put more time and energy into growing our inventory, so we can sell more ads.
May 3rd, 2022
Since I started playing tennis, I’ve been documenting every time I’ve played, practiced, or just hit around for fun.

I track lots of things, such as type of play, opponent, court type, duration, score, and some notes.


(I didn’t actually start doing this until 1 year in, so I had to make up some of the data based on my old playing habits)

I put this all in my “Life” spreadsheet where I also track personal finances, expenses, investments, my business, and other things. I used to have a few different spreadsheets for this, but recently I merged them all into one.

The first tab of my “Life” spreadsheet is my high level “Home” dashboard where I can see bigger picture stuff, like net worth, last 30 months expenses, etc.

I just use some formulas on the raw data and can see some pretty cool stuff. 

For example, how many hours I’ve spent playing in the last 30 days, or my official win-loss record.


I’ve dedicated 715 hours to playing tennis over the last couple years. Sometimes, I wish I could get better, faster. But then I realize that 700 hours is really not that much. Imagine how good I’ll be at 10,000 hours!
April 29th, 2022
As a first time founder I focused way too much on implementation. What coding language to use, what marketing strategy, what the business model will be.

Over-systemizing, over-optimizing, and overthinking.

What I’ve learned over the years:

The most valuable thing to focus on is one question: am I helping people? 

Am I adding genuine value to at least one person’s life? Success scales when I do more of that.

I talk to aspiring founders and they ask me questions like “should I do e-commerce or should I make an app?”. I think that’s the wrong way to think about building a business. Because that’s doing it for you, not for others.

I believe we would be more successful (more quickly) if we just focused on helping people. 

Why? Because the job of a business is to serve its customers. Not to serve you. The best founders are servants to their customers.

This is something I’m only realizing years into my entrepreneurship journey. To be frank, I got into entrepreneurship for me

Because I wanted people to use the products that I designed and created. And I wanted to quit my 9 to 5. I didn't want to work for someone else anymore.

Those were perfectly normal motivations to start a business, and they actually make sense for why so many people make the leap.

But now, I'm getting close to Year 5 of building businesses full time, and I’m sensing a shift.

Those things don’t motivate me much anymore. I get the most joy out of helping people. I think this will lead to far more growth, too. Will keep you updated.
April 28th, 2022
I don’t eat breakfast and I have a big smoothie for lunch almost every day. 

Ingredients:

  • Kale or spinach (two handfuls)
  • Peanut butter (large overflowing spoonful)
  • Greek yogurt (regular spoonful)
  • One banana
  • Protein powder
  • 1-2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
  • Ice

And blend that shit up.

Optional ingredients: oats, chia/flax seeds, blueberries or other fruits, honey, or whatever you feel like trying.

This smoothie is not too sweet but it’s also not too sour. Because of the peanut butter, it’s perfectly smooth and creamy.

Smoothies work for me because (1) I don’t like preparing food and (2) they’re generally healthy and low in calories.

If you’re serious about smoothies, I highly recommend this blender (affiliate link) even though it’s disgustingly expensive.
April 27th, 2022
Over the past year, we’ve been building out our task management system for Starter Story. 

Essentially, it’s Trello inside of our actual CMS.

Our team is global, in different time zones, and many of our freelancers work part time. We don’t have meetings or use Slack, so this task management system is our way of working async

How it works

We use the comments section on our blog posts to assign tasks, get work done, analyze performance, and general discussion.

Freelancers get assigned tasks, and people can reply to tasks, leave replies, tag each other, etc. Everyone also gets email notifications (which is useful for busy freelancers).

Let me show you a simple example.

When we have an idea for a new blog post, we create the empty post in the backend. 

Then, this comment gets created, and assigned to one of our content writers.


Essentially, this is a task, with a due date, to get an article first draft completed.

What’s so useful is that this is in the comments of the actual article, so we can always go back and see the history of all changes or projects around that article.

This has allowed us to build systems and processes around how articles get written and reviewed (first draft, editor review, final review), which we can delegate to other freelancers. 

This is how we are building a scalable asynchronous media company.

Additionally, this allows us to improve content in a structured way. If we see some content that has potential to move up in search engines, we create a task in those same comments, assigned to one of our freelancers who specializes in SEO.

Here’s a simple example:


Why we are doing this

Our goal is to build a scalable asynchronous media company.

There have been a lot of growing pains (mostly in our process itself), but we have been able to change how the thing works dynamically based on trial and error.

This is something I could see growing into 100+ freelancers, all working together. Right now we have about 15 people working inside this tool.

And, this would work across multiple sites (something we plan on doing in the future).

You could do this in Trello or other task management tools, but building this internally does give us an extra level of ownership, customization, and flexibility.

The key here is the process and systems you define that work for you, not the technology you use!

(if you thought this post was interesting, let me know, i'm curious if ppl are interested in behind the scenes stuff like this)
April 26th, 2022
Building a successful subscription-based media business is extremely hard to do as a young company.

I cannot name one successful community that is less than a few years old that makes millions per year.

The successful ones are built over many years and/or have some X-factor (huge distribution channel, insane word of mouth, huge market trend). 

For example, the New York Times has a huge subscription business. But it’s built on an excellent brand and decades of publishing and another solid business model of ads. They built a subscription to diversify their revenue, and they had millions of traffic and brand loyalty that got them millions of subscribers.

It’s extremely hard to build a media company and paywall everything right out of the gate and expect it to work because it worked for the New York Times. You might be able to do it with VC money, but I can’t think of many media brands that bootstrapped it.

I think this is what a lot of people get wrong, including me. At Starter Story, our membership is stagnating. It’s not really growing or dying.

I’ve realized subscriptions are not a truly scalable business model for a young media company. As a mature company, it’s a great way to capture money from your loyal users. but we (Starter Story) are not a mature company yet. We are too early in the life cycle.

So that’s why we are turning our focus back to the ad model this year.

If we can continue to grow content, traffic, and our newsletter, we can sell more ads and land more sponsors. That is actually a scalable business model, so I’ve been doubling down on that as of late.

Plus, you see the latest Netflix news? They lost 200k subscribers. Netflix is probably the most popular subscription in the world. If Netflix loses subscribers, I think every other subscription based business is going to lose subscribers over the next few months. Get ready for it.

I’ll keep you updated on this blog about how that’s going. I hope you like these kinds of updates?
April 25th, 2022
I haven’t gone for a run in over a year. Tennis took over my life.

But this weekend, I ran a half marathon. I flew back home to visit family and run the race with my mom. 

I wasn’t really looking forward to it as it was snowing and raining on the morning of the race, but when I got there, it all changed. I got pumped as hell.

The atmosphere, just like all road races I’ve experienced, was electric. 

I missed that.

I missed being surrounded by thousands of people that all worked their ass off and trained for months leading up - all of us standing in unison at the starting line at 6AM, adrenaline pumping, and freezing our tails off - with the goal of achieving 13.1 or 26.2 miles on our feet.

But even more, I missed what running does to your mind.

Running gives you space to think. Think about your life. Your business. Your goals. Your past. Your future.

There is no other sport like that - where you go out, alone with your thoughts for hours.

I need to be running more. 

My life was better when I was running every day.
April 22nd, 2022
It's funny, I remember discovering the Keto diet 10 years ago on a small but passionate subreddit. I tried it and lost 20 lbs, it felt like a magic diet. But all my friends thought it was super weird.

Fast forward 10 years, and it is totally mainstream! It's a good lesson to remind us that if something gets a small cult following online, there's a good chance it will take off and become huge. Just takes many years to become a reality.

(I'm not Keto, this is more of a lesson in markets and business)
April 20th, 2022
Some tips for starting a newsletter:

Don't worry about the number of subscribers, but rather the engagement. Open rate, etc. 

Learn best practices in terms of list cleaning and maintenance. Don't be afraid to remove people off your list and directly ask for readers to unsubscribe.

In terms of advertising and making money from your newsletter, it is ideal to have a newsletter that is sent more than monthly, or weekly. A newsletter with 7,000 subscribers that sends weekly will generally make the same money as a newsletter with 1,000 subscribers that sends 7 days a week.

Ask your readers to reply. This is good for open rates and deliverability. It also lets you talk to your readers and really understand what they want.

Spend some time on the design. Make it look nice, simple, and readable.

Look at the numbers aggressively. If open rates are going down, do something about it, ask for help.

Unfortunately, I learned all of these the hard way 😆
April 19th, 2022
Start every day by creating something. A tweet, a comment, a blog post, a design, a few notes in a journal, some code, etc. I always feel better for the rest of the day with the feeling that I produced at least something, and not just consumed.
April 18th, 2022
One thing that most people can’t wrap their heads around: that businesses grow.

Most people think in terms of their salary. That if you make $50K this year, a nice increase would be to make $55K next year.

But businesses can grow 2x or 3x or 10x in one year, especially in the early years.

I remember back in the day, my friends would ask me how Starter Story was doing. I’d tell them $10k/month, and they’d be like “wait last time you told me you were making $5k/month?”. 

For them, that didn’t seem realistic. For me, I was thinking about how to reach the next growth milestone.