July 22nd, 2020
Hypothesis: 

Adding a dynamic progress bar in the header of my articles would increase time on site.

The scrolling progress bar looked like this:

Scrolling progress bar in action.


Results:

The scrolling progress bar actually performed worse for session duration, bounce rate, and pages per session.

Average session duration:

  • Without progress bar: 1:48
  • With the progress bar: 1:38

Bounce rate:

  • Without progress bar: 64.5%
  • With the progress bar: 65.2%

Pages / session:

  • Without progress bar: 1.8
  • With the progress bar: 1.74

AB test results in GA.

The test ran for about 3 weeks. It’s been removed from the site now.

I’m not sure why this performed worse, maybe it scared readers by showing them just how long some of the articles were, especially on mobile.

July 21st, 2020
I had two conversations with people about COVID today.

One was with a dentist in New York City. He said:

“We’re only seeing about 40% of the business that we used to. The PPP money is running out. I also had to fire our maid because I can’t trust where she’s been. Tomorrow, I’m driving to Texas to pick up my grandparents because I’m afraid they’ll be infected.”

The other conversation was with my new friend, Katie. She said:

“I think this is a great time to be in New York City. My business has been affected, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m spending more time doing outdoor activities and hanging out with my friends than ever before. I wake up early every day and do activities and I feel great.”

Katie went searching and identified something positive that came from this pandemic - and she chose to communicate that with me instead of defaulting to dread (like most people do).

This kind of positive attitude is infectious, and we talked for some time about the positive things that will come out of this pandemic.

I’m tired of hearing about the COVID dread - and it’s nice to find other people that feel the same way.

We should all be more like Katie, and also surround ourselves with more Katies.

July 20th, 2020
One of the hardest parts about owning a business is that I can't commiserate with anyone about my struggles.

Not with my employees, my customers, my investors (if I had any), and not with my co-founders.

Sometimes, I just want to complain! But that is a very dangerous thing to do.

Even if I'm just irritable and tired, like today, I cannot show it.

When messages and emails come in, it's my duty as a business owner and a leader to handle them as promptly and correctly as possible - and to show no complaints while doing so.

When I was an employee, I could complain all I wanted. I could take the onus off of myself in most situations, and wave my hands in the air in surrender when I didn't have an answer.

If I did this as a founder, my company wouldn't exist anymore, and nobody would want to work for me.

It is the leader's job to always have the solution - every question or unknown must have an answer, a plan, and a way to move forward.

It is an amazing experience in personal growth. I'd recommend it to everyone.

note: the only acceptable people to commiserate with are other founders, which is always nice. Or with friends and family, but often they can't relate.

July 19th, 2020
There are two types of people in this world:

  1. People that say they want to do things
  2. People that do things

If you want to do something, then why haven’t you already gotten started?

Let me give an example: running a half marathon.

Here’s how these two people would approach this:

  1. “I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon. I’d like to do it by the time I’m 40.”
  2. “When’s the next half marathon in my city? Ok, I’m signing up for it right now.”

July 18th, 2020
Why do we need to be constantly logged in to YouTube, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter?

These apps all work fine anonymously - we can still watch YouTube videos without being signed in. We can still browse Reddit without an account.

These companies really want us to always be logged in, for obvious reasons.

But what’s our incentive? So we can be served the “best” content - so we can feel connected and up to date?

While logged in, my YouTube recommended feed is doing a great job of serving me interesting content - but is that a good thing? Do I need to watch another video on the Astros cheating scandal? Probably not.

Nowadays, I try to stay logged out as much as I can.

Sometimes I need to post things and respond to messages or comments. In these moments, I will log in temporarily, but be sure to log out right after.

Afraid of missing out on some great content? Don’t worry - you won’t miss much.

I’ll still come across the best content organically - such as a friend sending me a video or a tweet, or when I go searching for that content with intent.

And I can still enjoy it without logging in!

July 17th, 2020
The media is incentivized to exaggerate things to build a narrative.

The coverage of coronavirus reminds me of 9/11 when many people were driven by fear to fight terrorism and invade the Middle East.

It seems that the media benefits if COVID gets worse. They're incentivized to create fear.

What if COVID wasn't actually as bad as it seems? Would the media follow that lede? Of course not.

Conversation between regular people in LA & NYC

6AM
July 16th, 2020
I love playing tennis.

Although I'm a runner, I think I like tennis more right now.

I wake up at 6 AM every day to get to the courts early.

Here in New York City, the courts are crowded and sometimes I have to wait for up to two hours, just to play for one hour.

If you wake up at 6 AM to do anything voluntarily, it's a pretty good sign you love doing it.

I don't even own a racket. I've just borrowed my friend's racket who never plays.

It's funny how people own things and never use them.

Most people buy these things to feel good - like people who love the idea of tennis so they buy the rackets, the tennis bag, the shoes, the balls, the attire, but then play once a year.

True passion doesn't care about any of that.

It's the same for starting a business. Some people do it for the status, the LinkedIn bio, or so they can introduce themselves as a 'founder'.

But the real entrepreneurs just quietly wake up at 6 AM every day and work.

I don't care about my racket, how I look, what shoes I use. I just want to go out and play. 

It's what gets me out of bed at 6 AM every day.

July 15th, 2020
Have you ever experienced that small moment in time when everything feels perfect?

When you feel completely content with your life. When you feel that you could die right then and it would be fine. When you don’t want anything more, or anything less. Where you don’t feel lonely or anxious or self-conscious, just bliss.

It usually only lasts for a few minutes, sometimes an hour or two. Maybe after a great workout. Or after a successful business day. Or with someone you love.

Right now I’m having one of those moments. Life is good. I finished up my work for the day and walked to a small city park and read my new book.

Then I walked to the Hudson River and I’m watching the sunset. I’m just by myself, typing out this note on my phone on the Apple notes app.

My phone's in airplane mode and I’m just chilling and thinking and by myself.

These moments are quite rare for me, so I felt compelled to get it on paper as the moment is happening.

Lately, I’ve been having more of these moments. Maybe it’s because I’m finally back in New York, or because business has been good lately.

I never know how many more moments of these you’ll have. When they happen, I’d like to record them by writing them down, recording a voice memo, or talking about them with our friends and family.

.

July 14th, 2020
In every industry, there will always be “talkers”.

The people that are always talking a big game. They say things with a lot of conviction and sound really smart - and sometimes make you feel dumb.

If you ever get a chance to look under the hood, you’ll discover these people have nothing. They have no success, no money, and they’re really annoying to be around.

Their life is a constant cover-up. They can’t improve their business and/or life because all of their mental energy is spent on talking - and inflating their image.

It’s not their fault, though. When they grew up, they never got to learn the concept of hard work. They learned that they could use their words to get through most of life. They believe that how you’re perceived is more important than who you are, deep down.

For them, things “got done” because they lied and said they did, or “money was made” because they raised money from investors.

No, things only get done if you do them, and money only gets made if you sold your product to real customers with real money that is sitting in your real bank account.

If someone’s a talker, everyone around them already knows it, but they’re too scared to say it - or everyone gossips about them behind their back.

Regardless, nobody will ever trust them with their time/money/companionship - not even their closest "friends". It’s quite a sad life.

July 13th, 2020
Watch out! VCs just learned about “CoMmUnItIes”.

Example 1 & 2.

When VCs start blabbing about the “next big thing” like this, it’s a sign to run for the hills.

Chatbots, crypto, VR - they’ve all gone through this.

But this time, it’s about “communities” - which is not a new concept and there is no new technology.

We’ve been building communities for years already.

All businesses are already ‘communities’ - we just don’t call it that.

Barstool Sports? That’s a community of frat bros. Dribbble? A community for designers. Your local gym is a community for people who like to work out. Your workplace is a community. Your favorite YouTuber? That's a community.

If anyone tells you they are an “expert community builder”, also run for the hills.

Communities are not Slack groups and forums. Communities live across all platforms - Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, the mainstream media, and in real life.

Usually, the best communities are hard to define, don’t live in on any specific platform and are not owned by any corporation.

Can we stop Silicon Valley'ing the idea of community?

July 12th, 2020
Want to read more? Want to learn to code? 

Want to connect with people on a deeper level? Want to enjoy a movie?

Want to be happier? Want to be more present?

Make a plan and stick to it

Set a concrete plan to go to the library, the coffee shop, the bookstore, on a hike, on a date, play tennis, get drinks, meet with friends, and go to the park.

Stop being so wishy-washy. Stop saying “we should hang out” or “we’ll figure it out” - take the initiative and put the onus on yourself - don’t wait for someone else to make the move.

Make these plans ahead of time and only with the people you want to spend your time with. 

Stick to your plans as if your reputation depends on it.

Once you’ve made your plans, stop thinking about your other plans, or what else you might be missing out on.

While executing your plans, leave your phone at home. 

Leave it for 4 hours. Leave it for 8 hours. Leave it for the whole day.

Give the people you’re with your 100% undivided attention, even if they don’t always return the favor.

Don’t bring your phone as a ‘just in case’. What if someone needs to get a hold of me? Fuck that! Live in the present.

July 11th, 2020
Every choice in life has pros and cons.

A recent choice I’ve made is quitting alcohol.

The con of quitting alcohol? Drinking with friends is no longer fun. 

As they get drunk, they release their inhibitions and have a good time. I don’t - I just stay in my normal state. 

The music gets turned up loud, conversations become less intelligible, and the party starts. And I just feel awkward as fuck - although I know it’s all in my head.

It sucks because I feel that I can’t "party" anymore.

The pros?

After I stopped drinking, I noticed just how much drinking depleted my energy, even hours or days after the act.

If I had a drink over lunch, I would feel tired for the rest of the afternoon.

Quitting alcohol has given me superhuman energy levels. Often, it feels like too much energy. 

Lately, I’ve been working out twice a day. I’m never tired.

The other main benefit? Less anxiety.

For me, drinking was a bandaid for my anxiety. Two drinks will bring it down from a 6/10 to a 2/10. But the hangover will bring it back to an 8/10.

Lately, my anxiety levels have been a 3/10, when they’re usually a 6/10.

Most people don’t think they have an alcohol problem - but sometimes our problems are just not noticeable because they have become so normal in our lives.

This is why I think it’s important to rip things out of our own lives like alcohol, caffeine, meat, food, nicotine, sex, material possessions, social media, our phones, the news, politics, etc.

It is what gives us a new perspective and makes us better humans. It is the spice of life.

July 10th, 2020
(this is an excerpt from my YC application last year)

Q: Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to work for Kanye West on a contract basis.

I'm a huge Kanye fan - so how could I turn down that opportunity?

I drove to his secret location to work with him and his team. I had expectations that it would be this life-changing experience, working with insanely talented A-players.

When I got there, I realized that it was just like any other company I've worked at before: poor communication, gossip, people complaining about their bosses, turnover, etc - there was nothing magical or special there.

This reminded me that my only path to fulfillment is by creating my own shit. I will never be happy working for someone else or following someone else's dream, even if that person happens to be the greatest artist of our generation.

I will never work for Kanye. I will collaborate with Kanye. Those are two very different ways of looking at life.

Kanye did not become Kanye by working for someone else. He created his own shit!

July 9th, 2020
I haven’t had much to write about over the last few days.

But I’d just like to say that instant coffee is really great.

You can buy a big jar that makes 200+ cups.

It’s really cheap and there’s no cleanup.

You don’t need a coffee maker, espresso machine, or french press, just hot water!

It’s also made of 100% pure coffee, no additives!

It’s not as good as drip coffee or a latte, but I don’t mind.



July 8th, 2020
Google Analytics is an amazing tool.

Right now I'm testing a scrolling progress bar feature.

I wanted to be able to see the effect on users who spend at least 10 seconds on my site.

This is where segments come in.

To create a segment, go to Admin > Segments > Create A Segment:

Create a segment


Now, you can toggle this segment on any reports you're looking at:

Now, you can add the segment up at the top


Now, I can filter out most of the users that bounced immediately and see how the A/B test is doing.

A/B test

July 7th, 2020
Employees work eight hours per day, five days per week.

Why? Because it’s the norm.

Does it make any sense? Not really.

Are 8 hours too much? Probably.

Are you a really efficient employee? It doesn’t matter. You still have to log on at 9 am and log off at 6 pm, every day of the week.

Whose fault is this? Your coworkers.

The other employees at your company are actually stealing your time - every day.

They slacked off, drank at the watercooler, gossiped, created stupid meetings, and called in sick.

All of this wasted time is what led to the 8-hour workday - it’s already built-in!

At its core, a business does not trust its employees. That’s why businesses mandate this across-the-board work schedule.

Everyone comes in at 9 and usually leaves around 6.”

Instead of rewarding great employees with time & freedom, businesses reward great employees with money. Why? Because (1) it’s a much simpler system and (2) employees value money greater than time.

When you start your own business, you don’t always get to reward yourself with money, but you’ll always get to reward yourself with time.

Time is infinitely more valuable than money, and it took me until I was 25 to figure that out.

I believe that all people should (at least once) experience what it's like to not have a 9 to 5 job.

It's not for everyone, but for some people, it's everything. For me it was.

July 6th, 2020
If you ever visit New York City, try to find Matthew Silver

Matthew typically wears a leotard and/or a diaper, has a giant beard, and entertains people by making farting noises with his mouth.

If you were in a rush to the subway, you might think he’s just some crazy homeless dude on PCP.

But if you looked closer, you'd realize he’s doing an act, and trying to change the world with peace, love, and humor.

This 5-minute video is worth a watch.

To some, Matthew is a crazy person. To me, he’s an artist.

Matthew Silver


July 5th, 2020
Fresh off of my think week, this June 2020 was the first full month of focus on Starter Story in a long time.

If you didn’t get a chance to read last month’s update, it’s important. (I didn’t send my monthly update last month because of the protests and craziness going on at the time)

But the tl;dr is that I’ll be moving most of my focus back to Starter Story.

Throughout June it’s become even more clear that this is the right move. 

The premium membership is performing very well. We did $8K+ gross revenue in June - that’s a 50% increase over May’s $5.4K, which was a 70% increase over April.

The growth here is promising but also shows why it’s so important to focus on just one thing - channeling all our energy purely into Starter Story is producing results. 

It also shows how much potential Starter Story has, and how under-monetized it is.

The main contributors to this growth? (1) more, diverse content (2) aggressive A/B testing (3) a metered paywall (4) switching to annual-only memberships and (5) taking advantage of email marketing automation (shoutout Klaviyo).

As far as content, we tested out a bunch of things with the ultimate goal of figuring out what our users want.

One experiment was to test if our readers want more “industry trends” (inspiration from Trends and trends.vc). We ran some experiments with content like this but it performed very poorly.

What worked? Our business ideas database - which further confirms our hypothesis that people want help finding a business idea.

To learn more about our users, we’ve started doing 1 on 1 video calls with them. We’ve been learning more about what our users are working on and where they’re struggling.

We also spent more time building out the backend CMS of Starter Story. It’s pretty damn cool what we’re building - as it allows us to take advantage of our growing database of case studies, tools, etc. 

Ultimately, this will allow us to be able to scale content in a way that other blogs cannot - because of the amount of data we collect on everything.

We also tested a new style of newsletter which is more long-form and opinionated. It is performing well so far.

Lastly, we spent much of June thinking about how we can approach decisions and ideas more experimentally - mostly building MVPs of new features and A/B testing everything - I wrote a bit about it here

June Numbers

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $11,921 (+30%)
- Traffic: 85k unique users (-4%)
- Content published: +109 (+17%)
- New email subscribers (net): +2,469 (+41.57%)
- Email collection rate: 3.4%

Plan for July

Our main focus for July is (1) more scalable content and (2) more optimization.

Our goal is to publish 150 pieces of content and roll out 2 new “types” of content as experiments.

We’ll also be building out a scalable system for our step-by-step “how-to” guides, as we believe there is a huge gap in this kind of content online.

This next month we will add time on site and pages per session as key metrics going forward - we want to keep people on the site longer. We will build and test features and optimize for that as we go.

A couple of other smaller things:

  • Test out selling a course for a fixed price
  • Run an ongoing survey with readers
  • Try out some social media ads

Goals for July

  1. Pieces of content published: 150
  2. Email collection rate: 5%
  3. Subscription impressions: 10%
  4. New customers: 2.5% (as % of subscription impressions)
  5. Time On Site: 3:00
  6. Average Pages Per Session: 2.2

July 4th, 2020
I wish I was more impulsive.

I think too much before I act - and I always regret it, after the fact.

Today, I met a girl with friends and we hung out for a while. At the end of the night, I didn’t ask for her number. I think I overheard she had a boyfriend and then I got in my own head.

What would it matter if I just asked? She would have just said she had a boyfriend and I would have gotten my answer. Instead, I was all in my head about it.

Moving back to NYC and being in more social situations has led to many little situations like this - where I got in my own head and then kicked myself for it later.

That's the bigger issue - me not being present. I’m working really hard on that.

July 3rd, 2020
I did the math… I’m now generating more revenue with my own business than I did as a software engineer.

It’s a nice milestone, but it doesn’t mean anything.

Making $1,000/month with your own business is more valuable than $5,000/month with a salaried job.

The difference with building your own business is that you’re building something that you can sell at the end.

If you build a business that profits $100k per year, you keep that money and you get to sell the business for an extra $1M.

As an employee, you get nothing at the end.

The other difference is that a business has unlimited growth potential

While you might make $50k/year in Year 1, what’s to say you won’t be making $100k in Year 2? And $200k in Year 3? And $400k in Year 5? $1M in Year 6?

As a salaried employee, you’re probably limited to about $250k/year.

Most salaried employees can’t even comprehend the idea of making $1M+/year because it can only be attained from many years of building businesses, and failing (a lot). 

That’s the difference between entrepreneurs and employees. It’s a complete change in mindset.