February 3rd, 2021
This is my favorite part of Jeff Bezos’ goodbye letter to Amazon

How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. 

We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. 

If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.

“Invention” is also my favorite part about being an entrepreneur and starting businesses.

When you think of an “inventor”, you might think of someone who creates gizmos, or electric cars, or the light bulb.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

invention - noun - a unique or novel device, method, composition or process.

I’m also an inventor. I invent features, processes, strategies, new business models, and new ideas.

One of Amazon’s mentioned inventions was “1-click check out”. That doesn’t sound like an invention! 

But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it was a new idea.

All that matters is they came up with the idea, experimented and executed, and eventually had success.

They probably had thousands of ideas that didn’t work out. That’s all part of being an inventor.

I have a new respect for Jeff Bezos after reading this email. Even though he’s the richest man, he’s still reminiscing about the cool, small, fun inventions that collectively built the Amazon empire.

A lot of people ask me questions about how I built Starter Story. “How did you do XYZ?”

My answer? We invented it. We went through the painful process of research, experimenting, executing, trial and error, failure, and learning from my mistakes.

Just like Amazon, we came up with new ideas and we turned them into reality.

I’m not sure if you can be successful as an entrepreneur without the ability to invent.

And even more importantly, inventing is the most fun part about being an entrepreneur, for me. If I didn’t get to invent, I’m not sure I’d still be here...

At Starter Story, we are inventing:

  • An automated UGC interview process (2,500+ interviews)
  • More transparency in entrepreneurship than mostly anywhere else
  • An SEO machine and scalable backend (the ideas behind Lean SEO)
  • The biggest database of business ideas in the world
  • A new style of running a business with freelancers
  • Tons of automations
  • And more...

To you, these may sound silly and not that inventive. But for me, I obsess over these things.

Maybe you can show me some other people doing similar things. But what you don’t see is the nuance

There is nobody else doing these things in the same way that we are, therefore, we invented them. We are inventors.

From now on, I might start calling myself an inventor.

Because it’s fucking awesome to be an inventor. This is why I do it. To create new valuable things out of nothing that people use.

That is the greatest feeling in starting a business - that you invented something new.
February 2nd, 2021
A message I wrote to all Pigeon users:

After two years of working on this project, I've decided to shut down Pigeon.

Unfortunately, Pigeon is not a viable business due to the large fees we have to pay to use Google's API. We cannot sustain the business and stay profitable, and we are forced to shut down.

The product will remain fully functional until March 30, 2021
. If you have important data in Pigeon, please export your data by March 30, 2021.

If you're a paying user, your subscription has been canceled. If you bought a yearly subscription, please email me and I will refund you prorated.

Building Pigeon was a wonderful experience, but I'm sorry it didn't work out. Thank you for your time and for checking out our cool little tool.

Thank you,

January 28th, 2021
The GameStop saga is absolutely insane. A defining moment for the internet.

I can't look away. I find it utterly captivating.

This is the modern day David vs. Goliath.

I need to figure out how to focus on work. This has become too much...
January 26th, 2021
I wrote this yesterday in about 3 minutes. Wrote it for myself. I just needed to get those thoughts on paper...

Then, I had a ton of people DM me about it, tweet about it, etc.

I seem to have hit a nerve, which wasn’t my intention, but why?

My blog here hasn’t been top priority lately… Traffic is down, shares are down, etc.

But what’s different about that blog post and others? That one was super honest and real.

Those were my real feelings at that moment and I had an urge to write about it.

That’s what I need to keep doing on this blog. If I go back one year and look at my posts, they’re all like this.

Need to be more in touch with myself. The only way to grow and be happy. And it's when I love writing.
January 26th, 2021
A couple years ago, this would mean I'm trending on Hacker News.

I would be going crazy.

This many people are using something I built, right now!?

Now this is just normal. It's like this every minute of every day...

January 25th, 2021
This is a letter to myself to remind me about my priorities.

We should be focusing on making Starter Story a whole lot better.

Not courses, not YouTube videos, not interesting tweets. 

We should be 99% focused on creating an insanely valuable website and resource for users.

Our only goal: Help people start and grow their business. Help them better. Help them more.

It’s so easy to get caught up in things other than your mission. Revenue, traffic, press, ego, funding, employees, “calls”, “partnerships”, going on podcasts, looking good to others in your industry. Status games!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. 

Personally, I’d like to care less about all of this. I wish I was a bit more detached from all this “industry” stuff, and it’s something I’m always working on.

Our goal should always be to create something that is amazing for USERS. Our users are not on Twitter. Everything we do, every decision we make, we must be thinking HARD about the user.

If we stay focused on this, we will grow bigger than ever. And in the end, have more “status” than we would if we played “status games” in early days. 

Luckily, we’re in a position where we can do this, right now. We are profitable and can allocate resources effectively to our mission. I am very grateful for that.

We don’t need to do too many “money grabs”.

With every decision and project, let’s ask ourselves:

Is what we are working on going to improve the website? Improve the user experience? Make our database and pages more accurate and useful? Will it help someone out there start a business?
January 25th, 2021
Here’s a trend I’m seeing on Twitter recently. These kind of “influencer” guys posting tweetstorms that get thousands of likes and RTs…

Part of me feels jealous. I spend a lot of time on Twitter and try to share valuable things, but I don’t have results like that.

I see some guy sharing a bit of cringey, surface-level advice on personal productivity and getting massively rewarded on the platform…

“Here are 10 things I learned in my 20s…”

And that hurts a bit. At some level, I want those results, too. I want the fame and the glory and the thousands of RTs.

But I also can’t see myself sharing this “mainstream” advice which I can only describe with the word “basic”.

It’s just kind of sad that Twitter is becoming like this, or at least that kind of thing is entering into my circle every time I go on the platform.

I unfollowed a bunch of people recently just because I don’t really want to see this thing. There is some envy at play here, but also, this “content” is not of value to me at all. In fact, it’s probably a detriment to my own success.

But there’s always a balance. To avoid the bullshit, I’ll probably also miss a lot of valuable things…

I just hate to see it because it’s so clearly a “tactic”. The content is posted to be optimized for likes and retweets, but it’s not really optimized to provide value.

That’s the bigger problem with social media. That people are rewarded for what they say not what they do.

It’s annoying to see these influencer guys gain 20k,30k & 100k followers from these “tactics”.

But at the end of the day, followers != impact.

Looking good on social media is one of the ultimate traps. I love this tweet:

I’m just rambling at this point, but felt it was important to get some of my thoughts down...
January 22nd, 2021
The LA Marathon was moved to May, so I'm finally getting back started with my marathon training.

I was kind of dreading it, but now that I've run a few days, I'm remembering why I love training so much.

It gives me a tiny feeling of purpose every day. Every night, I go to bed and check what I have to do the next day. I plan my day around my training.

I have a hard rule that I can never go under on my training. If I have to run 5 miles, 4.9 is not enough. I'll run around the block at the end if I need to.

Here's my spreadsheet for training. I always use Hal Higdon for training schedules.

My marathon training spreadsheet.
January 20th, 2021
Instagram is the new Facebook. I go on there, and nobody makes posts anymore.

Just like how people stopped posting photos on Facebook or updating their relationship status.

Still, there are Instagram stories. But stories, these days, are mainly used for reposts and the occasional virtue signaling. 

I imagine posting stories will also slowly fade. I haven’t posted a story in months, and none of my friends seem to do it either…

Some interesting responses here:

January 18th, 2021
I should get 8 hours of sleep. If I get 5 hours of sleep, I'm irritable, pessimistic, and can't focus.
January 16th, 2021
I love working from coffee shops, and I’ve missed it for so long. I’ve been going to Panera bread every morning for the last week.

A nice mix of folks here, all doing different things. Some old folks chatting, some young kids studying, a realtor meeting his clients, someone reading the paper, etc.

The energy here is so much more productive than working from home. I can’t stand working from home.
January 15th, 2021
I do have a chip on my shoulder... When you bootstrap, you get laughed at... I never took it personal and I never held a grudge. But it's motivating.

With my business, it's hard to get recognition, and that motivates me.

One funny story is: I connected with an executive on LinkedIn, and later went to SXSW. I saw that same executive was going there. So I said to him: 'We should meet up'. We scheduled a 2PM time to meet.

At that time, I didn't have any money. I was staying an hour outside of Austin at a motel. And I drove into SXSW through the rain to go meet this individual. And... he never showed up for the meeting. And at 2:05PM I got a text message that said 'Hey, I had to do something. If you see me on the street, feel free to say hi'.

And I actually taped that person's business card to my wall in my office... Just to motivate me.

And the funny thing is. Years later, that person lost their job and got intro'd to me and interviewed to help work at our company.

I, of course, didn't mention it. And he was totally respectful. And very smart. It wasn't a fit, and I didn't not hire him because of what happened, but my point is that as an entrepreneur I still want more recognition for our platform. And some people still do think it's a joke. And I still get denied for certain things that I want to. That pushes me to keep going.

Love this podcast with Evan Britton, the creator of Famous Birthdays (1B pageviews/year).
January 13th, 2021
This is an excerpt from the Starter Story newsletter

I just heard about this product called “Newsletter OS” created by Janel from Barcelona. She reported having made over $30K in a few weeks.

What is it? It’s an instructional wiki for people that want to start their own newsletter.

She reported it took her about 150 hours to create. She made $1K on the first two days after launch. By my calculation, she’s now made over $30K.

This can be replicated over 1000s of topics & industries

This concept would be successful over lots of more ideas. For example, you could create an “OS” for:

  • Learn to code
  • Get into a good college
  • Get into law school
  • Getting into coding bootcamp
  • Get started with tennis
  • Running a marathon
  • Getting set up as a therapist
  • Buying stocks
  • Starting an e-commerce store
  • Email marketing
  • Woodworking
  • ANYTHING from our 3,000+ business ideas
  • I could go on for hours. You get my point…

All you need is some specialized knowledge about the topic.

How it works

It’s super simple. 

  • At its core, it’s just a Notion project (free to use). 
  • It’s sold through Gumroad.

I love this as a side project

Whether you’ve got a full-time job, or you’re running a bigger business, this could be an easy side project to:

(1) make some money selling knowledge you already have, and 
(2) grow your audience by helping others

You’re just selling your notes

Do you already take notes and do some writing for yourself? Well, this project is essentially just open-sourcing your notes to the public.

I realize there is more work than this... but not much.

Also, knowing you may open-source your notes can be motivation to write better (and become smarter).

You can validate in days

I don’t even think you need to spend 150 hours as Janel did.

As long as you’re an “expert” in some small, specialized topic, you could start selling & validating in a few days.

And even better, your “wiki” is a work in progress, being updated as you go. As you promote and sell, you can add more stuff, create fancy graphics, etc.

It’s “open source”

What I also like about this project is that it has the benefits of open source. 

By using a tool like Notion, you can invite friends, collaborators, and more experts to improve the content.

Easy to repurpose content

Don’t have an audience? Well, the content of the wiki will build your audience.

Take your notes (or the pages) and repurpose them to YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, or even when someone emails you a question about XYZ.

It’s a good SEO play

And lastly, you can have lasting sales with SEO. You can convert your Notion project to a website with something like Super.

That way, customers can find the content of the wiki directly through search engines and then buy the product to get the “full suite”. Try to collect emails on these pages.

Want more?

If you liked this business idea, I’ll be sending another business idea like this tomorrow at 12:15PM EST to our premium newsletter. Sign up here to get it for 35% off, ends today.

P.S. Credit goes to @csallen for this idea from the Indie Hackers podcast.