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.
April 18th, 2022
Last year, I started building a system for reminding myself to buy birthday gifts for my friends, family, and loved ones. 

I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people (need to work on that) and since I have some extra money left over from my business, I thought that buying gifts for people would be a nice use of the money.

I also live in Florida now, and I don’t live close by to most of my best friends and family anymore.

How it works

I went to Facebook and did a spreadsheet export of all my friends, and their birthdays.

I did some cleanup on the spreadsheet, keeping the friends that I actually wanted to stay in touch with, and imported of them into Google Calendar, under their own calendar.

Birthdays for April 2022

For each event, I set an email reminder 7-10 days before, and another reminder on the day of.

Reminders for calendar event

Notification in email

I use my inbox as a sort of todo list, so when this reminder comes into my inbox (10 days before their birthday), it stays there until I figure out the birthday gift. At that point, I have a few days to come up with a gift idea and get it shipped out so it arrives before their birthday.

Then, on the day of their birthday, I get another notification, so I can remember to text or call them.

Buying gifts

It’s been a year, and I’m still figuring this part out. My goal is to get them something unique, or meaningful to our relationship. 

Sometimes it's a gift based on an inside joke we have. Sometimes it's a recognition for something they've been working hard  on.

Etsy is amazing for designing custom gifts. As a gift for my musician friend, I had someone on Etsy design a plaque for reaching 100,000 streams on Spotify.

Custom recording plaque

Or, I’ll design something on Canva, and put it on a t-shirt or hat or a mug.

On Etsy, you can do cool things like this for $25-$50.

Some other good, easy gifts you can do:

  • Buying stuff on Amazon (easiest method)
  • Buying a great book for a friend on something they are interested in
  • Gift cards to their favorite local coffee shops
  • Find out where they are going to dinner, and call the restaurant and order a bottle of wine to be delivered to their table and surprise them.

After doing this for one year, I’ve found that the gifts can sometimes be a hit or miss, or that is at least my perception. I think that some people love getting stuff with sentimental value, but it might be trash to others.

But that's OK! I'll take a mental note of this and switch up my strategy in the following year.

Something I've been doing lately is actually just writing birthday cards by hand and shipping them via snail mail. I'll report back on this next year.

Why I’m writing about this

Giving gifts is a form of gratitude. And gratitude is something that I’m working on as a human. 

As far as the cost, it’s not as bad as you might think. If the average gift is $50 and I do it for 50 people, that’s $2,500 per year. And there are ways you could still do this with far less money.

I’m lucky to be in a place where I can afford that, but more importantly I believe that this money and time invested in your friends and family is worth it.

The last thing I’ll say about this: it does take some time out of your day. Thinking about the right gift, searching for it, logistics, etc. It might sound like a hassle at first, but I actually feel great when I successfully figure out a good gift, and even better when they let me know they got their gift.

I’ve never been one to give gifts, but I’ve really enjoyed doing this over the last year, and plan to do it going forward.
April 17th, 2022
Keep learning and keep shipping. 

Have a healthy balance of those two things every day, do it consistently over many years, and you'll be very successful and happy.
April 15th, 2022
Recently, to help email deliverability for our newsletter, we started asking people to reply to our emails. This (apparently) is a signal that tells Google and other inbox providers that you're not a spammer.

Once we started doing this, I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, we get dozens of replies every day, and it's actually amazing to read them, and I wish we had done it sooner. 

It gives us a chance to understand a bit more about our readers, and have a genuine chance to talk to them!

For example, here is one that I love. Someone out there is going through their first moment in realizing they are an entrepreneur. Love to see it.

Email From Reader.png 458 KB
April 14th, 2022
One of the coolest feelings in the world is to create something that works and helps people, detached from you.

Whether that’s:

  • a part of your business that runs on its own, and you built that process
  • a YouTube video that gets watched a few times a day that you recorded years ago
  • a piece of art you created that gets seen by hundreds of people per week
  • or a some code you wrote in an app that’s used every day

This isn’t about leverage, or passive income, or anything. 

I’m talking about the feelings of accomplishment we get, as creators, when we actually get these right. 

Because there’s a lot of hard work and failure to do something like that, even on a small scale.

That’s what keeps me motivated on most days.

April 13th, 2022
I looked through my timeline, and I guess I stopped blogging every day over the last year. I even stopped doing my monthly updates. Part of me thinks that it’s like some sort of depression, but really, I think I’m just going through changes, as a person and as an entrepreneur.

I’ve just been a more balanced person, I would say. I ended the nomad life and got a nice apartment with my girlfriend.

I’ve been playing tons of tennis and really trying to improve my game in the long haul. I see tennis as another side hustle, in some ways, although it doesn’t make any money. It’s something that I really enjoy building and growing and learning.

We also got a dog. I bought a car, too. A couple years ago, I would have told you I’d never do these things.

Also, my business is changing. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about what’s going on because I’m not sure it’s going to work out! It feels like we are blazing a different path, now. I’m talking to people in new industries that I didn’t know existed.

Every year (as an entrepreneur) I become dumber and I realize I know very little. 

And to write a really good blog post, you really have to feel confident (and complete) on your topics, especially if you want to write great pieces.

But more and more lately, I’m in learning mode. Embracing the idea of being a life long learner.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be writing. I still write every day, often it’s just in a notebook, or something internal for Starter Story.

I’m resurrecting this daily blog, starting yesterday. More to come.
April 12th, 2022
I stopped listening to music while working. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened over time. 

And in the past couple years, I also stopped following my favorite genre and many of the artists in it.

If I ever hear that they released new music, sometimes I’ll go listen, but often I lose interest quickly.

As someone who was obsessed with music in his 20s, I was intrigued as to why this was. So I looked it up.

I now can’t find the article, but the premise was that in our teens and 20s, music helps us form and reinforce our identity. We listen to the same music as our friends, online or offline, as a way to feel connected and like we belong.

But as we get older, we have a better sense of who we are, and what we want to do in life. So music is less effective for that.

I certainly feel that way - I’m way more confident in who I am than I was in my 30s. I’ve made a lot of decisions over the past couple of years to stop doing things that were mainly just to fit in. And start doing things that were true to myself.
January 2nd, 2022
1. Help 1B entrepreneurs by 2025

Impact 1 Billion entrepreneurs by January 1, 2025 - reach 1 Billion unique individuals through Starter Story's products and media.

This is the most important goal because it prioritizes everything else. Every hour of every day will have a purpose, as this is the main goal that I'm working towards for the next 3 years.

Good things come in threes, right? Every 3 years, I set a goal like this. And I put it on a piece of paper and try to read it every morning and evening.

One thing I need to do better: announce this goal to the world. I need to talk about it more. I have some fear that maybe I can't do it, or this is a stupid goal. But I need to be open... There's no more hiding when you state your intentions and purpose with the world.

2. 6AM Wakeup

6AM Weekdays & 6AM Weekends. 

Been doing this for a couple months, but I need a few more months to build the habit.

This is the habit that makes all the other good habits fall into place: reading, writing, eating well, etc.

3. NTRP 4.5 Ranking (tennis)

Right now 3.5. In order to get better, I need to:

  • Find the right coach & take 1 lesson per week
  • Play 1 match per week
  • Play 1 person better than me per week
  • Learn to learn: Drills, books, and cross-training

4. Life & People

  • Take a week off every quarter, disconnect, learn something new
  • Travel somewhere every month, even if it’s just for the weekend, or working out of a different city. Spend money on travel.
December 2nd, 2021
Unemployment is not high because people are lazy... 

Unemployment is high because people are starting their own business.

(+ some thoughts as we enter 2022)

To start a business in 2021:

- You can start with $0 (no VC needed)
- You don't need a co-founder
- You don't need an accountant, lawyer, coder, marketer, etc
- You don't need 'entrepreneur secret sauce' to build a successful business
But most people get the word 'business' wrong. 

They think of a nice small business, e.g. ice cream shop or restaurant.

'Business' in 2021 is:

YouTuber, TikToker, podcaster, course seller, e-commerce store operated from bedroom, etc

Those are the new BUSINESSES.
In other words, a good business to start in 2021 is:

Solo, digital, online, from home, non-disruptive, using skills you already have.

For example, this entrepreneur (with no prior experience) makes six figures per day helping people learn Excel on TikTok.

Her background? 

She was teaching Excel for fun at her day job. Regular job, climbing the corporate ladder...

But then COVID happened and she all of a sudden had: TIME.

With this extra time, she started teaching people Excel on TikTok. 

Now a multimillion-dollar business...
IMO this is only the beginning.

Now we will see a tidal wave of skilled employees taking their talents to the Internet (like the Excel TikToker).

Before 2020, only the 'Innovators' were building solo online businesses.

Now we are entering 'Early Adopters' phase.

Of course, I've seen countless people starting one person, solo, online companies at starterstory.com.

Actually, I have 100 examples to show you 😁


This is actually part of my thesis at Starter Story:

In 50 years, I believe there will be more solo businesses than employees in the world.

This is why I'm so stoked to be building Starter Story! 

We will accelerate that movement!
October 23rd, 2021
Two days ago, I lost a tennis match that I shouldn’t have lost. It really made me frustrated. I couldn’t sleep that night, and I kept criticizing myself for how I blew my lead - I choked!

I went online and did some more research. Came across this video:

What I took away from this video: Pressure is a privilege. Instead of running from the pressure moments, and wanting to avoid the “nerves”, embrace them.

Flip the “nerves” on their head. Have fun. Be less concerned with the outcome and be more concerned with the present.

Because “nerves” are what lead to progress, if you handle them right. 

Being nervous means you’re out of your comfort zone. Which is Step 1 (in tennis, and in life). The only thing you can control is your reaction to those nerves.

You can embrace the pressure, focus, and be at peace with the outcome. Or you can panic, and figure out how to get back into your comfort zone.

What do you say? “Today I lost” or “Today I learned”?

The comfort zone, the learning zone, and the panic zone

You can’t play a really conservative game if you want to win (comfort zone). You also can’t panic and try to hit shots that are out of your wheelhouse. You need to have a balance and hit the shots you know you can hit, be aggressive, and be OK with fucking up, as long as you’re LEARNING from your fuck ups.

Today, I went into a match with this new mindset. 

I started out really poorly, lost the first set 1-6. 

But it didn’t really phase me. I breathed, laughed, and smiled. I made conversation with the people around me.

Then I took the 2nd set 6-4.

After each changeover, I muttered to myself “embrace the pressure”. I said it loud enough for people to hear me. I smiled and didn’t think about the outcome of the match.

Went to the 3rd set (tiebreaker) with the same mentality. 

Here’s an example of what I changed: Before, on a second serve, I’d be nervous and think: “what if I miss this?”. But this time, I felt grateful to have this pressure on me. I embraced the nerves, threw the ball up, and visualized exactly how I wanted to hit it.

I “went for my shots” and I didn’t get mad at myself when I missed. Because I was making the tough, aggressive shots, that I needed to win, and I wasn’t falling back into my comfort zone.

When I missed, I told myself “that was the right shot, good job”. 

I won the tiebreak 11-8 and won the match.

Today was my biggest breakthrough, so far, in tennis. This breakthrough had nothing to do with strokes or technique, it was purely mental. 

When you’re in the match, you’re not going to get better physically - you can only focus on being mentally tough. Tennis is such a mental game. 

I love this game and I feel such a privilege to go through this process!

October 17th, 2021
Yesterday I lost a tennis match for the first time in a while.

It made me think again about what Harry Dry once asked me about tennis: “do you love to lose?”

I think about that often... I don’t love to lose, but I do believe that losing leads to more progress than winning - especially if you want to get better, faster.

Novak Djokovic’s all-time record is 978 wins, 198 losses. That means he still loses around 2 of every 12 matches.

Denis Kudla’s (the #95 tennis player in the world) all-time record is 61 wins, 107 losses. That means he loses almost 2 of every 3 matches.

But Denis Kudla has still won over $3.5M in his career purely from tennis matches.

The Pusher

Yesterday, I lost to a pusher

In tennis, a pusher (also called a grinder) is an opponent who always hits the ball back in the court, but without any power and speed.

A pusher hopes for a long match. They can get to every ball. And they get most balls back. They grind and wait patiently for you to make the mistake.

After I lost to the pusher, I searched YouTube for strategies on how to beat pushers. This comment made me stop and think:

Pushers are like the gatekeepers to becoming a strong player. Once you’re good and have a complete game they are easy to beat. But as you are learning they are extremely tough.

I love this way of looking at it. Pushers are actually the definition of mediocrity. Their strategy works and they can win matches, but they will never reach the next level.

To Get Better, You Have To Get Worse

Pushers are the type of people that believe success comes purely from hard work and a “grind” mentality.

They’re not willing to take a step back and focus on fundamentals. They’re not willing to fix the holes in their game. They’re not willing to fix their backhand.

I think tennis is like a lot of things in life. 

To get better at something, you have to get worse at it, first. Whatever you're trying to learn or improve - you have be OK with sucking at it for a temporary period of time.

Most people are too scared of that idea and they won't even get started

The Mediocre Backhand

For example, if you have a mediocre backhand. 

The pusher won’t fix his mediocre backhand. He’ll cover it up, hide it, and protect it with hacky tactics. The pusher avoids his weaknesses.

The balanced player will fix it, and embrace it. He’ll get lessons, watch videos, hit backhands for hours, and will be OK with losing 10+ matches while developing his new backhand. 

The balanced player embraces his weaknesses. He loves losing. 

And in the end, he wins.
October 13th, 2021
I think people take things way too literally, especially on the Internet. 

"When a wise man points at the moon, the imbecile examines the finger." - Confucious
October 12th, 2021
Today, I’m going on a podcast interview with a podcast that interviews media company founders.

To be honest, I don’t think I do that well on podcasts. I get nervous, and I worry that my story is not that interesting.

Part of that is because I don’t do a great job preparing. So I’m writing this as preparation, and something I will send to Simon before we start the interview :)

This is mainly rambling, but it’s helpful for me as the days that I started Starter Story seem like forever ago…

Building a great business is the product of following the money and pivoting

What is funny about Starter Story is that it was not the business I intended on building. I guess that is kind of embarrassing because you could imply that I’ve built a business I don’t like.

But I think that is business. There are a couple key lessons here that I think you can only learn by going through the process:

I think this is true for most if not all businesses. The problem is that we only see the final product in other businesses. We see Airbnb and are in awe of the thing they built. But we don’t see the years of toiling, changing business models, etc.

I read a book a while back that talked about this. There was a small side character on Seinfeld. The character was a bit of a joke, but was a meme hit with fans.

Most actors would hate this - to be known as one character for the rest of their life - but this actor embraced it, and used his 15 mins of fame for further endorsements and made millions off this character.

In other words, they gave him an inch and he took a mile. Most actors would have too much ego here. But this actor ran with it. And he had a very successful career after that, even in other roles!

This is something I’ve learned as a founder. Follow the money, even if it hurts your ego. Because the money is usually right. The money is actually what the customer wants, and what your product business should be. Great entrepreneurs follow the money.

So this is what I think about when I look back at the business I’ve built. It’s not necessarily what I envisioned 4 years ago, but it’s the result of a series of changes and decisions that followed the money.

But of course there is a balance. As founders, we have a vision too. Sometimes that vision does not involve following the money. And you can’t always follow the money. There is a balance.

Usually founders have selfish motives

Anyways, what I think is interesting is that Starter Story started as a business I wanted to build, not as something that was really “needed” in this world.

That is not something that I love to admit, but it’s true. I also think this is the case for many founders, especially on their first startups.

They build things because they want to build things. Or they hated their boss(es). Or they build something because it sounds cool. Or they build something to impress others (status, family, women, etc)., 

But often, when they retell their story, they revise history and make it seem like there was a big hole in the market, or that they built this product because of some selfless urge to help people.

But that is mostly a lie. Because there really are no “new” businesses. Even when Airbnb started, there were other options. Vrbo started in 1995.

But Airbnb wanted to build it differently, or their way. And I think that is similar to how I felt with Starter Story. There were other sites that interviewed founders, but I wanted to do it differently. I wanted our interviews to be way more in depth. I wanted to focus on the specifics. I wanted it to be a publication that “real” founders would read.

I also started it because I wanted to build something. And put something “real” into the world. That was exciting enough for me to put all my passion behind it.

And the minimal traction I had was enough to keep me motivated. I remember having 25 people on my email list. That was exciting. I remember having 1,000 people visit the site in one month. To me, that was so cool.

Everything kind of built off of that. I realized I was helping people. I got emails from people telling me that I inspired them to start a business, even successful ones.

So I just kept going.

Admittedly, my goal back then was to just stop working for “the man”. I was building a business on nights and weekends and enjoying it. And in the back of my mind, I had an inkling that this business could help me quit my full time job.

At the time, I was in no position to do that. I was in a decent amount of credit card debt and student loan debt. I didn’t have more than a few thousand dollars to my name.

Sidenote: I think that things have changed a lot now. Seems like money is everywhere and people feel like they can quit their jobs and be fine. Back then, people weren’t starting side hustles and YouTube channels like they are now. Back then, making money online was quite unheard of in mainstream circles.

But, like I said before, I created Starter Story with the hopes that it would help me find the “right” business idea, ideally a SaaS business that I could start. I was a software engineer, so I felt that building software was my advantage.

Once I got Starter Story off the ground, I actually started dabbling in new businesses. But, to make a long story short, I always came back to Starter Story, as it was the bread winner.


Looking back, what made Starter Story work was actually my own consistency. I always showed up. There were always emails to answer, interviews to publish, and newsletters to send out.

And I never wanted to let anyone down. I didn’t want to let down my sponsors, who were paying a fixed amount per month. I wanted to make sure they got the eyeballs and clicks they paid for.

I didn’t want to let down the founders we interviewed. They spent time answering our questions and I wanted them to get something out of it.

And I didn’t want to let down the readers. I always wanted the site to feel like it had new content.

So, maybe Starter Story’s success is partly due to my own need to be liked. Or my fear of letting people down. It’s funny when I angle it that way.

But what I love about this is: this is the story of most media companies (and most companies in general). A company is built over years, and there is usually not some breakthrough moment like we all dream of.

Just showing up every day, and showing up 100% (not splitting your time across multiple companies)


It took me over 2 years to go full time into Starter Story, and it’s not because it wasn’t making enough money. Starter Story was making $5-6K/month and I had already quit my full time job.

I wasn’t full-time on Starter Story because I was already building a new business, and I was putting in 80% of my time into that new business… Even got a YC interview.

But my hubris got the best of me. I thought I could build another business easily off the backs of my Starter Story success. I thought I had some magical execution formula that I could parlay into a SaaS business. After a year of work, I only got that business to ~$1k/month.

It all came to a head after that, early last year, when I finally realized:

For my SaaS business, I was putting in 90% of my time and making 10% of my total revenue. For Starter Story, I was putting in 10% of my time, and making 90% of the revenue.

That is the exact opposite of following the money, as referenced above. And this when I learned that lesson!

And that’s when I realized I needed to go full time on Starter Story. Because I actually had more competitive advantages as a founder with Starter Story than I did for the SaaS business.

In the first month of going full time, I think we almost doubled revenue. Just the increased focus was enough. And looking at the 90/10 formula that makes sense. A simple shift in focus can make a huge difference.