November 13th, 2020
Seeing if there’s some interest...

I have a unique strategy to grow search traffic through code, data, automation, outsourcing, and UGC.

I don’t see this talked about in SEO land, because mainly it requires some technical ability (need to be able to code).

Starter Story will do 300k+ uniques this month, and forecasting 500k by January 2021.

I know this strategy can be applied to other niches. Starter Story is about starting businesses. But this would work in pets, plants, fashion, food, travel, and hundreds of other topics.

What you’d need for this:

  • Ability to code (or to put a full-time engineer on this)
  • Time / patience / long term mindset (can take months to rank)
  • Some money (to pay for tools / engineer / data / outsourcing)

Would this be valuable to you?

If this sounds interesting, please reach out to me, and let me know what blog you’re trying to grow. If you want to start something, that could work too.

(my email is the mail icon at bottom of this post)

--

Update: I've decided to do a course. You can preorder here. I'd still love if you emailed me :)
BTC
November 12th, 2020
I've been doing a lot of research and learning about cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.

Honestly, I completely ignored it over the past few years, even when it kinda blew up in 2018. I thought it was a fad.

But a few things have changed:

  • I have less trust in U.S. gov to manage the economy and the dollar
  • I have less trust in corporations to do the right thing. If Google and Facebook are evil, are the banks not?
  • I have more money (thinking about what could happen to it)
  • Many of the people I look up to are invested heavily in it
  • Bigger financial institutions are starting to take Bitcoin seriously

Right now, it feels like an exciting time, like cryptocurrencies are on the cusp of something big. I can't miss this.
November 11th, 2020
As I’ve gained a small following on Twitter, I’ve become more and more afraid to tweet stuff and be myself. Why? Many reasons, which I'll outline some in this post.

This is what's called a fear setting exercise. I’ll write about my specific fear about why I don’t tweet, and then write about the reality, and why that fear is actually not valid. Here goes...

Fear: I’m afraid people will ‘out’ me as an impostor. Running a business is imperfect, and if people look close enough, they’ll uncover the truths I’ve stretched, things I’ve said and haven’t fulfilled, and the weak points in my business.
Reality: Overly self-imporant. People aren’t looking that closely at your every move. If they wanted to find it, they would have already.

Fear: I’m afraid I won’t get any likes, and people will unfollow me because they see I don’t get many likes.
Reality: Most things you say won’t get likes. People won’t unfollow you for that, they’ll just keep reading their timeline. More important to be authentic. It’s better to be authentic than get lots of likes.

Fear: I’m afraid to broadcast and overshare.
Reality: Overly self-important. Nobody looks at your timeline like you do. People follow you for a reason. People follow you because you did something cool like build your own business. Even the little things you share have a lot of value.

Fear: I’m afraid haters will attack me, find holes in my business, and exploit them.
Reality: People will just unfollow me. There are always haters, but haters just say mean things, but don’t actually execute on anything.

Fear: I’m afraid people will tell me I’m wrong.
Reality: This happens all the time, and it’s actually a good thing. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, that's the point. As long as you're honest and clear, you can't be wrong, or right. You're just being you.

Fear: I’m afraid to lose followers.
Reality: Followers are not worth much. If you lose them, you’d probably lose them anyway. If you polarize, you’ll gain quality followers which lead to more quality engagement, which will lead to a healthier, more engaged audience in the long run.

Fear: I’m afraid to tweet things unrelated to the topics for which people followed me in the first place.
Reality: People change and evolve. You may lose followers in the short term, but look at people like PewDiePie: he constantly changed and evolved but that’s what made him authentic, and why his success has lasted longer than everyone else’s.

Fear: I’m afraid of IRL friends judging me.
Reality: They don’t follow me on Twitter. And if they do, why would they judge me for being authentic? Maybe they are not good friends.

Fear: I’m afraid that my boss, customers, investors, etc will judge me.
Reality: I’m lucky to be my own boss and can say things without the risk of losing my job. That is more than most people can say. Again though, this goes back to being overly self-important. Nobody is watching my ‘moves’ as much as I think they are.

Fear: I’m afraid of not being able to one-up myself.
Reality: One-upping yourself is impossible. But you can one-up yourself by doing things differently. Like Pieter Levels… He’s launching small fun apps and having a great time. He doesn’t have to create a unicorn startup after his success bootstrapping, he just does different stuff. That’s still leveling up, but just in a different direction. His audience still grows.

Fear: I’m afraid to be judged by ‘smarter’ people. Some people follow me on Twitter that I really look up to. I’m worried they’ll judge me and stop following me.
Reality: Same logic as losing regular followers above. People that I look up to people are no more special than anyone else, and also change just like I do. I probably have a skewed perception of these people anyway. It’s better to build relationships than think about who’s following who.

This has been helpful!
November 11th, 2020
There are a million ways to make a million dollars. 

Call it hubris, but I know how I could make a million dollars in six months if I did a few things.

I’m not saying these things are easy, but they are quite simple. They’d just be time-consuming. And it would mean going in a different direction with my company.

If I had investors, I might be labeled as ‘fiscally irresponsible’. I’d be doing them a disservice by not following the money.

But I don’t want to do those things! I know that I should, but I’m not motivated enough to work really hard on them. They don’t sound like any fun, or what I’m excited about.

I asked my founder friend about this:

“Do you ever think you’re a ‘bad’ entrepreneur because you don’t always follow the money?”

His response:

"Yes, I go through this. I could be rich if I did [REDACTED]. As an entrepreneur, you realize there are unlimited opportunities to make unlimited money. But, we became entrepreneurs because we love to build things. Because we wanted to build our own things. If we were only in it for the money, we’d be better off working salary jobs and investing our profits.”

You can always follow the money more. But the more you follow it, the more you sacrifice in other areas. Your time. Your fulfillment. Your vision.

You’ll never be able to fully maximize money following. There’s always more money right around the corner. 

So, keep a balance. You’ll still get rich, it just might be a bit slower.

Make a million doing the things you love. That’ll feel better in the end.
November 10th, 2020
Great month for revenue, traffic, and email subscribers (all-time record on all accounts). 

236K uniques to the site, a 51% increase in traffic over last month! Revenue also at an all-time high at $17.1K.


Our growth is mainly from all of the SEO work we’ve been doing over the last 3-4 months. You can go back to our last few updates and learn more about that.

Ideas 2.0

In October, we spent a lot of time working on Ideas 2.0, which shows off thousands of business ideas and lots of metadata around them. We are rolling this out today. Here’s what it looks like:


New Tagging System

We also put a ton of work into our new tagging system on the backend. 

This will allow us to tag business ideas with different characteristics, like funding, business model, skills, growth methods, and more metadata that we want to add.

As we keep enriching this structured database, we can do really cool stuff. For example, a how-to guide can be generated through our tagging system. The possibilities are quite endless. If we do this at scale, we’ll have millions more in traffic.

In a way, our goal is to be the “Crunchbase of small business ideas” and this gets us closer to that.


Some new pricing

We ran some AB tests and found that people are willing to pay $179 for a lifetime membership at about the same ROI that people would pay $99. We’ll raise our prices to that. I’ve been thinking about raising our prices, in general. Starter Story is probably too cheap.

New Content Experiments

Here’s some of the new content we’re trying last month:

- Best Books For X (leans on UGC)
- Best Tools For X (leans on UGC)
- Email Subject Lines
- Slogans
- Quotes
- Hashtags

October Numbers

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $17.1K (+11%)
- Traffic: 236K unique users (+51%)
- Content published: +240 (+38%)
- New email subscribers (net): +4.4K (+47%)
- Email collection rate: 2.1% (-12%)

Plans For Future

micro

This month, we’ll keep pushing on new content ideas. We’re still gunning towards our goal of 500k monthly uniques by the end of the year. I think we have a good chance.

We have a good playbook for growing through SEO now, so now we’re trying to think about how we can build more tools, and more process around this. Our focus has and will always lean on code, automation, and outsourcing to keep scaling that.

macro

We’ve spent so much time on growing traffic over the last few months, but eventually, we’ll want to think a bit more about different growth channels and more monetization.

What’s on my mind are two things (1) YouTube and (2) courses.

YouTube

I chatted with my buddy who has 100K+ subscribers on YouTube and he sees an opportunity to turn our case studies into YouTube videos. 

If we do this right, we could have hundreds of YouTube videos and a massive new acquisition channel. This would be a super long term play, but I think it can be huge.

Courses

Eventually, we will want to sell some courses. This is a huge revenue opportunity because our traffic is so high and people are willing to pay a lot for courses. 

I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but we’ll probably start with super-niche courses, like “how to get started on TikTok for your business”. I can imagine that one day, we have dozens of smaller courses that all drive revenue.

(previous monthly updates)
November 10th, 2020
Internet communities are filled with keyboard warriors who are certain they could build a unicorn startup on nights and weekends with a CRUD app.

They just haven't gotten around to getting started.

(inspired by this)
November 9th, 2020
I wrote 365 blog posts in 365 days. My thoughts:

1. Writing solves problems. 

When things got hard, I pulled up a blank Google doc. When depressed or frustrated, I used writing to (1) get it out of my system and (2) reason through solutions.

Not only did writing solve personal issues, but business ones too. In the last year, I’ve doubled revenue and tripled web traffic. This is not luck! It’s from writing (example).

Would I have figured these things out on my own? Yes, but slower. By writing, I was able to think and move faster. Probably 2-3x faster.

2. Writing builds real-life confidence.

Some people are “talkers”. They’re innately smooth and charismatic. I’m not one of those people. But I’d like to be better.

Writing helps. 

In real-life situations, I found myself mentally referencing back to my writing. My blog posts were like nodes in my brain, helping me express myself better.

3. Writing is a skill

Now, writing feels more like an extension of my body. Like writing code, or proficiency in Excel.

Compared to a year ago, I write better, faster, and with more confidence.

This has translated to other domains: emails, texts, tweets, etc. 

Yesterday, my friend told me I should write an important email instead of him: “because I’m the better writer”. That felt good.

4. Writing forces you to be vulnerable

Throughout the year, I dug deeper into topics. I peeled back the onion more and more.

I shared some things I thought I never would. But pulling these out led to my best writing, and my biggest progress IRL.

Being vulnerable is essential to great writing, because it’s accessing your true feelings. Whenever I do this correctly, I get emails and DMs where people say “Damn I can really relate to this”.

5. Accountability

If I miss a day of writing, I have to donate $20. I knew I needed this accountability to really get better.

Two things: 

(1) the thought of losing money got me to write every day
(2) doing it in public forced me to polish and refine my writing

This forced over a thousand hours of (often painful) writing and re-writing. That’s what really pushed me this year.

Nobody read my daily blog for months. Now it has 1,000 daily readers!
November 8th, 2020
If I were to guess, I’d say the average “serious” Fantasy sports participant spends 8 hours per week on it, including:

  • checking the fantasy app
  • setting your lineup
  • reading news & analysis
  • trades
  • text groups
  • actual watching of games

If the season is 16 weeks, that’s 64 hours of fantasy football, every year. 

That’s 5.3 full days spent on Fantasy, almost a full week out of every year.

That’s why I stopped.
November 7th, 2020
Going to therapy is actually not much about talking about your problems, it’s about digging up your past.

My past is filled with many repressed stories. There’s a good chance I don’t even remember them, because my brain has completely blocked them out.

Digging out these stories might be one of the most important things I’ll ever do. Because it helps me understand who I am as a person today, my opinions, and how I make decisions.

It helps me get a better understanding of my anxiety, my fears. “Why am I so worried about X?” It’s all from my past.

If I don’t dig these things out, they will linger for the rest of my life. If I can come to terms with them, I can be free.
November 6th, 2020
Another YC interview. Another rejection.

This time it was closer, I think. Better business idea. Better team. More experience.

In terms of rejection sting:

  • First YC rejection (2017): sad for a week
  • Second YC rejection (2019): sad for a few days
  • Third YC rejection (2020): sad for a few hours

I’ll always remember this quote from a YC applicant’s experience:

I’ve seen people who grew up in privileged families became super depressed and went to see therapists after getting tiny rejections (e.g., negative comments on their projects or people didn’t reply their emails)— those people hadn’t faced any difficulties growing up, so they didn’t get enough “rejection trainings” when they were young. It’s good to be rejected again and again.

Some people are so afraid of rejection that they can’t do anything, they’re paralyzed. I know a lot of people like this.

I’ve never been the greatest at rejection, but I’m working on it. In the last year, I’ve grown a lot here.

But I need to get rejected more. Why? Because my rejection last night is now giving me fuel. 

Today, I don't feel sad. Today, I'm motivated and inspired.
November 5th, 2020
I don’t believe in stock picking, but I like to make small bets on products that I use.

Upwork, a talent/freelancing platform, is a product I use every day. It’s a great product and it’s been huge for my business.

So, I invested some money into them a few weeks back. Today, their stock popped 40%.



I’m not trying to show off that I bought at the right time, as I plan to hold this stock for a very long time, regardless of price fluctuations.

The key here is that I had a little “insider information”: that I use it and love the product! I recommend it to everyone. I even wrote about it in some blog posts. 

Feel clueless about stocks? Just look around. Invest in what you know. Invest in what you use. 

Chances are, you have better intuition about some companies than Wall St does. I bet that I know more about Upwork than the average Upwork investor.

I’m investing in them because I believe in them as a company. I have a strong intuition they will only get bigger.
November 4th, 2020
Right now, I’m working really hard on something new. I can’t talk about it until next week, but it is challenging. It’s challenging in a good way. It’s also draining. But being drained means I’m pushing myself. Even if the outcome is not what I hope for, I always come out of these things as a better human. Right now, I’m so deep into it that I can’t even find the motivation to write, or anything decent to write about. Next week, I’ll be back at it.
November 3rd, 2020
Hey, it’s election day!

I came across an article today that projected Democrats have a 75% chance of flipping the Senate.

The specifics on that article are not important. More importantly, that article is a small reminder of how brilliantly designed our democracy is.

Parties and attitudes change. Every some-odd years, the tables get turned. For some years, Democrats run things, and for some years Conservatives run things. It wouldn’t be good if either ran things for too long.

Right now Democrats are the underdogs, and it’s given them a dog in the fight. They need to win. But just a few years ago, it was Conservatives who were underdogs. Eventually, the tables will turn again, and Conservatives will need to change some things to win it back again.

It was set up this way for a reason. Checks and balances. It doesn’t allow any group to have power and influence for too long. It forces change to be slow. That’s by design.

This is especially great because a regular citizen like me doesn’t have to be worried too much about what’s going on in Washington.

It’s why I don’t follow political news much. Most of the things covered in the news are inconsequential to my life, especially the hearsay and “scandals” that pollute the conversation.

But I also think “who our President is” isn’t all that important. Why? Because I know that in 4-8 years we’ll have a new one who will be the exact opposite of Trump, balancing it all out and bringing things back to ‘normal’.

I’m able to tune 95% of it out because I know over the long term things are generally balanced.

This outlook allows me to stay focused on my own life because I trust that this system works (it’s been proven for over 200+ years).

This is actually the same way a great business is built. Build systems. Understand incentives. Delegate. Leverage. Patience. And most importantly, trust the process.

If you get stuck in the day to day, you won’t make progress or be able to scale. And it will all break down.

In other words, Democracy has systems just like businesses do. 

In America, I think the right systems are in place. It’s not perfect. But it’s working.
November 2nd, 2020
I ran into an old friend at a party a few weeks ago. I told her I started a company. She asked:

“Oh wow, how big are you guys?”

This question can be interpreted in many ways. Funding? Revenue? Impact?

But I know better. To ‘normal’ people, this question usually means: 

“How many people work at your company?”

It’s nice to tell friends that I have a few employees (so I don’t sound like a complete shlub), however “number of employees” is not something I think about.

My goal is to actually keep that number as low as possible. I have a small team and I will keep it that way.

With fewer people, you can move faster because you can all stay in sync faster. Less meetings and more actual work.

If you have a team of 10, or 20, or 100+, imagine how much more time you’d spend to make sure everyone is on the same page?

With fewer people, you spend less. When COVID hit earlier this year, I didn’t have to fire people or change the business. We were able to keep our heads down and just keep doing our work. We weathered the “March & April storm” and came out of it bigger than before.

With fewer people, you are forced to leverage technology. Tech should always be the focus of the business. We automate everything we can. We focus on user-generated content. We focus on SEO.

But you know what beats all of this? Leadership and vision. With great leadership, you can have 1 employee or 1,000 employees and both see amazing results.

Why? Because a leader learns how to grow from 1 employee to 1,000 in the best way for the company. A leader learns when to hire and when not to. A leader learns how to delegate their work and challenge & motivate their employees. A leader learns company morale.

It’s not about having a huge team, or one employee. It’s about having just the right amount.

“1 or 2 efficient people can do as much as 50 clueless people.” - Harry Dry
November 1st, 2020
I met up with a founder the other day for dinner. He doubled his business in six months.

His biggest takeaway: invest in yourself. 

  • He spends on gym, nice apartment, nice car
  • He spent $20K on an executive coach
  • He wanted a better chair for his workstation, so he bought the $800 chair

He didn't buy these things because he’s materialistic, he bought these things because spending money motivates him to make more money.

And having nice things makes him feel good, and give him the confidence to reach wild goals.
October 31st, 2020
People don’t do mean or disrespectful things because they are bad people, or have bad intentions.

They do them out of insecurity of themselves.

The man with road rage who flips you off is probably stressed about how he’s always late to things. He wants to fix his lateness in this moment, but there’s nothing he can do but get mad at you.

The Karen who needs to talk to the manager probably has a fucked up situation at home. Maybe she has no control or freedom, so she takes it out on the only thing she feels she can have control over.
October 30th, 2020
I will be buying the iPhone 12 Mini.

Nobody seems to be talking about it, but I want this one!

Why do our phones need to get bigger and bigger? 

I want a smaller phone, that does less things. I don’t want to watch movies on my phone. I just want it to text and make calls and listen to music and take some photos.

I think some people actually believe a bigger screen would allow them “to get more business done”, just like they believe having an external monitor will make them more productive.

When in reality, we get more done with less. Take Slack and email off of your phone for a week: you’ll be more productive and have far more peace of mind. Then, take Instagram, FB, LinkedIn, news apps, etc off. You'll achieve your dreams.

I’ll take a smaller phone. Less space in my pocket. 

I hope they’ll make an even smaller phone after this. Maybe other people feel this way, and the iPhone mini is a massive success? I will certainly be rocking my iPhone Mini with pride, showing everyone that less is more!

.

iPhone mini on the left.
October 29th, 2020
I realized that I “think” in terms of months.

Right now, I’m getting excited about November. And some changes in my life.

And then I look at December, and how that might play out with my business, and the holidays, and seeing my family.

And then January, how it will be the new year and a really big month for my business. And then February, how I will be preparing for the marathon. And then March, how I will run the marathon and be generally less busy and traveling more.

This is all subject to change, but I always have this "short term monthly plan” going on in the back of my mind.

Some people think in days, or weeks, or seasons, or years, or decades.

I’m not sure what is best. It depends on what you’re planning, and the circumstances.

For me, months feel like the “right” metric. It’s long enough to not worry about the little stuff, but short enough to be able to move fast and adapt.

Does anyone else feel like this?

October 29th, 2020
I know a lot of smart people that mistake politics for creative expression.

These people have original opinions and ideas, but they are too afraid to share them. They’re afraid of what people will say or think.

So, they put themselves behind a politician, or a party.

This immediately de-risks their statements or opinions. So they can say a lot of crazy things. They can scream and yell and feel “heard”. With no repercussions. All the blame can go to the boss (the politician).

To them, this feels like creative expression, but it is actually the opposite because it doesn’t involve thinking for yourself.

If you can’t think for yourself, you can’t create. You can’t be bold. You can’t be original.

These smart people would be much more fulfilled if they took that energy and created things. 

Created art. Created companies. Created new politicians. Created change.