May 4th, 2020
(this is an excerpt of my monthly update email)

Note: Going forward, I want these emails to be less "matter of fact" and more genuine. More getting my thoughts on paper, and hopefully a more enjoyable read for you. (I will still continue to have full transparency as far as numbers).

April 2020:

April was a record month, for both traffic and revenue, which came as a surprise since March was so dismal. This was the result of (I think) two things:

(1) Coronavirus media mayhem has died down, but now people are stuck at home, on the internet, looking for something to do.

The response from 'How To Say No' has been crazy! The page has been visited over 50k times in the last month, and it continues to get traffic and people sharing it on Twitter every day. For me, this whole thing reinforces how important it is to think outside the box when it comes to marketing. Although the project is a bit silly, it has contributed to significant growth for both Starter Story and Pigeon. For Starter Story, it seems to have helped bump up our overall search traffic by at least 50%. And for Pigeon, it's driven ~300 users. I often think of Hubspot (a $5B+ company now) that attributes their early success to side project marketing.

A couple of big things on the Pigeon front:

(1) Pigeon is now a freemium product. I was a bit nervous about how this would go, but after seeing a month of data, I think it's the right move. We're seeing people sign up, kick around the product, become engaged with the product, and eventually pay for the product when they need some extra features, or reach a certain limit. I've also noticed a couple of other great things about this model: One, it's forcing us to think harder about onboarding, engagement, user experience, and design - we're now tracking things like daily active users, and cohort analysis and making decisions and goals from this data. This kind of thinking + freemium forces Pigeon to become a way better product, and that can already be reflected in the changes / new features we added in April.

(2) Pigeon will eventually be rebranded and become "a part" of Starter Story. I'm still thinking deeply about this and I don't know what we will call it, but the main idea is that I believe everything should just be "one company" and "one brand". Why run separate businesses? Starter Story will continue to grow into a big publication for business & entrepreneurship, and Pigeon is software that these entrepreneurs use to get their business off the ground. Content + software will be a really powerful combo, i.e. Hubspot.

On the Starter Story front:

(1) We tried launching a community for premium members, and it failed. The main issue was engagement, and we couldn't get people to write posts or contribute organically. We put a lot of effort into this, but after 2 months it felt like we should let it go. The obvious giveaway was when we had people signing up for the subscription, and not even joining the FB group... We will move away from the community and focus on what we do best - providing great (and premium) content on the website.

(2) We are doubling down on getting emails, email marketing, and overall monetization. Overall, we need to be more aggressive when it comes to marketing and selling, and letting readers know that we have a paid subscription. We made sweeping changes across the website (to get more emails) and are now collecting 3x the amount of emails than we were before. We also just built a real nurturing sequence to get people interested in the subscription. We also are testing out pages like this and this.


- Total Revenue: $9,184 (+6%)
- Starter Story Traffic: 700k pageviews (+42%)
- Pieces of content published: 104 (-4%)
- SS Email List: 13,500 total subscribers (+87% in net new subscribers)
- Starter Story Subscription MRR: $1.6K (+$100 MRR)
- Pigeon MRR: $1.3K (+$250 MRR)

Goals for May:

I'm trying a "less is more" approach to goals these days:

- 500 Daily Active Users For Pigeon
- Run a 10k every day
- Develop and scale more "automated" roundup articles for Starter Story ("business ideas for women")
- Develop and scale "templates" blog posts for Pigeon

Thanks for reading!