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 😁

https://www.starterstory.com/one-person-business-ideas


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.

Consistency

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)

90/10

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.
August 18th, 2021
We’re already more than halfway through August, apologies for my lateness!

July 2021 was a strong, promising month. We did $45.2K in revenue, a 2.74% increase over last month and our 2nd best month ever!

Unfortunately, traffic was down around 10% since last month, but, again, putting things in perspective, traffic is up 570% compared to July 2020!

Our focus on email continues to pay off, and will be an anchor for the business. The newsletter just crossed 120K subscribers, and we’ve generated $9,028 strictly from our newsletter and automated email flows over the last 30 days.

We have 19 people working on Starter Story right now! Most are “part time”, but that is by design. We’re building a distributed media team - people from all around the world, who work on different aspects of the business. Writers, editors, programmers, analysts, and more. We assign them work, and they get it done, on their own time.

And we’re building software that can manage this and scale. As we grow, this will become 30, 40, 50 and then 100 people, all working together to create and improve our content that helps entrepreneurs and founders across the lifecycle of starting and running a business.

For example, the team is in the process of deploying our “best coworking spaces” content across 60+ cities. This content, specifically, is still in the experiment phase - our software enables this - to test out and deploy this content quickly and with low expense. Low risk, high reward!

We’re doing the same thing with our ”best VC firms” content, our instagram bios content, our new start a business checklists, and tons more experiments.

Our goal is to scale this process of creating, deploying, and improving content. How can we do it faster, leaner? How can we enable our team to do it on their own (and without much oversight from us)? 

My background is in software, and I always thought I would build a SaaS business… But over the last year, I’ve slowly come to the realization that I’m building a digital media company. The more I realize this, the more excited I get about the future of Starter Story.

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot more stuff about how others have built media companies. If you know of any good books, podcasts, etc on this, please send them my way!

We are also looking for people to join us in all aspects of the business. I explained above how we work, so if that sounds interesting to you, and you’d like to contribute something to Starter Story, let me know!

Have a great month, and thanks for reading!
July 15th, 2021
Build something real, something that stands on its own.
July 12th, 2021
Important not to forget about the main goal: 5M visitors/month by the end of the year.

Our other goal is $100k/month by end of the year, but we’d easily hit that with this kind of traffic.

So what’s the only thing in our control? The content and product that we produce. That’s it. That’s where 99% of my focus needs to be.

What is going to get us there? Aggressively scaling our content operation with laser focus.  Doing more than the others. 

That’s it! 

Everything else follows that. Mailing list, subscribers, and ad dollars. They all follow content expansion and growth.

Need to focus on working on the right projects and not working on the wrong projects.

We can’t do everything great. But we can do one thing great and the rest OK. Because the rest can be optimized later.
July 12th, 2021
In June, we officially crossed $500K ARR (yearly run rate)!

June 2021:

  • Revenue: $43.9K (+7% MoM)
  • Uniques (GA): 749K (+0% MoM)
  • Newsletter: 108K Total (+10K) (-40% MoM)

Apologies for the short update, but June was more or less the same as May... 

Last month, this month, and for the rest of the year we are working hard and staying focused on our goal to reach 5 million visitors per month.

This goal is very ambitious (we are at ~1M/month right now) but we are still gunning for it!

We’re spending most of our time thinking and executing on projects that will reach more entrepreneurs around the world.

From finding the right business idea to finding a manufacturer to growing your business to selling your business, we’re always thinking of new tools that can help entrepreneurs across the entrepreneurial “stack”, or across the entire lifecycle of starting a business.

In other words, when you start a business, you have a million questions. Our goal is to answer those questions.

And as a business, we’re thinking every day about how we can do this at scale. Better, faster, cheaper, and of higher quality.

This is what sets us apart from other media companies and blogs. Our never-ending improvements, new inventions, and engineering mindset will strengthen our business over time, and make us more profitable and sustainable.

And more importantly, it will lead to helping more people around the world start and grow their own businesses.

We’ll keep pushing forward on our 5M goal by the end of the year!

Thanks for following along :)
June 14th, 2021
Hey everyone,

We made great progress at Starter Story last month (May 2021). 

Today we crossed a big milestone: 100K email subscribers! That feels like a big achievement and I believe we have a clear path to 1M subscribers!

Our email list is 100% organic - we’ve never paid for subscribers (maybe we’ll do that one day). But right now, we’ll focus on growing our web audience and the email list will grow with it.

We did $41K in revenue on an accrual basis. We’re continuing to diversify our income streams, and we’re putting most of our profits back into growth and hiring (which I’ll talk about in a sec).

Traffic hit another all time high. SimilarWeb pegs us at 1.15M visits to starterstory.com in May 2021. Google Analytics tallied ~750K uniques. Our other analytics tools show ~1M visitors and ~1.4M pageviews.

Key Metrics for May 2021

  • Revenue: $41.1K (+31% MoM)
  • Uniques (GA): 749K (+23% MoM)
  • Newsletter: 98K Total (+17K) (+45% MoM)

Here are a few of the cool new things we are focused and working on:

Scaling Content Team

We are building lots of software and processes around hiring, training, and deploying our content team to create new content, improve existing content, improve our databases, and more.

In other words, we’re planning and creating content with a software-first approach. All content-related tasks are planned and “deployed” inside of our backend.

Our content team is already 10+ people, and this system allows us to eventually scale to 100+. We have a lot more work to do to get there, but it is exciting.

For example, here is a task in our backend to update some data and create a new article:


And here’s an example email from our content system, assigning our team some tasks for the day:


We’re “open sourcing” our content

Alongside our scalable system I mentioned above, we’ve built the beginnings of a Wikipedia-style platform.

We are currently testing a small portion of our content to be 100% editable by the public. For example, our starter profiles for Ankur Nagpal and Ryan Hoover are editable by you, right now!

Why do this? I started Starter Story because most of the content about entrepreneurship on the internet was terrible. This is because it’s not actually written by founders. And this remains to be the case today.

What if this content was written by actual founders? Why isn’t there an encyclopedia like Wikipedia for starting a business? We are building this.

In the long run, this will also allow us to scale more than we ever could with purely internal team working on content. Eventually our content team will be all the millions of founders out there in the world. If that becomes true, we’ll be the biggest business media property on the internet.

Email Optin Optimizations

We saw impressive growth in our email list, mainly because we’ve been testing more targeted opt-ins. 

For example, when you’re on a piece of content about starting a hair product line, we show some very targeted messaging for the reader:


Simple things like these can 3-5x optin rate for the page, and we are spending a lot of time testing these opt-ins. 

Overall, our optin rate to our email list was 2.28% for May 2021, a 17% increase from last month’s 1.94%. Our goal is to get this number to 5% over the next couple months. Aggressive but doable!

Goals For June

  1. Goal #1: 22 pieces of non-interview quality content published per day, trailing 30 days by June 30, 2021.
  2. Goal #2: 5% Email Opt In Rate and $0.10 Revenue Per Recipient (RPR) by June 30, 2021.
  3. Goal #3: 80+ Lighthouse Score On All Pages Mobile & Desktop + All “Good” Core Vitals by June 30th, 2021.
  4. Goal #4: Launch new “database” to readers.

Thanks for reading and see you next month!
30K
May 19th, 2021
Yesterday we hit 30K in one day for the first time!!

.
May 19th, 2021
Americans and the West are not ready for the tidal wave of globalized talent that will make up the companies of tomorrow.

I'm hiring people from around the world who do better work, with a better attitude, in half the time, and half the cost.