Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
Software Engineering Daily is a daily podcast about software topics. Each episode is ~60 minutes and focuses on a specific technology, company, or idea. Our goal is to provide education and entertainment to the listeners.
SE Daily gets ~140,000 downloads per week, and we sell $60,000 in ads during a good month.
What motivated you to get started with Software Engineering Daily?
I apprenticed under Robert Blumen, the editor of Software Engineering Radio. SE Radio is the longest-running podcast about software engineering. During the time I volunteered for SE Radio, I saw how passionate the listener base was. An average episode of SE Radio gets 50,000 downloads.
In 2015, I frequently ran out of engineering podcasts to listen to. There just wasn't enough software engineering podcast content.
What went into building the initial product?
SE Daily was inexpensive to build. I used a cheap WordPress host, a cheap microphone, and free audio editing software.
Before I left Amazon, I had the first 15 interviews scheduled. The interview topics included ReactJS, Bitcoin, and Apache Spark — and I had no experience with any of these technologies.
But that is OK — as a podcaster, you don't need to know the right answers. You just need to have good questions. My days were spent studying the unfamiliar topics.
I took long jogs listening to This Week In Startups and James Altucher. I ate baked chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes for every meal. I fell in love with a militant routine.
The early days felt so good. I had 60% conviction that this podcast could turn into a business. The downside risk was minimal. Worst-case scenario I would learn a lot. I was in "flow state".
I'm grateful that some big names were willing to come on my podcast early on: Stephen Wolfram, Seth Godin, Matei Zaharia, Andreas Antonopoulos. These interviews boosted our popularity.
After we validated the revenue model, Pranay Mohan joined me full time. Pranay helped establish the long-term vision for SE Daily — our map to moving beyond the podcast. After he helped get our flywheel spinning, he left to go work for Snap as an engineer.
How have you attracted users and grown Software Engineering Daily?
In July 2015 I posted the first episode of SE Daily. Since launch we have posted an episode most weekdays. Word of mouth has been our main growth source.
|Sept 1, '15||1060|
|Jan 1, '16||2580|
|May 1, '16||4416|
|Sept 1, '16||17675|
|Jan 1, '17||22546|
SE Daily is a two-sided marketplace. One side of the marketplace is advertisers, the other our community. We try to bring those two sides together harmoniously.
Erika Hokanson joined in 2016 and has scaled our business on every dimension. Erika sees weaknesses and opportunities in SE Daily which I am blind to.
We love to get feedback and criticism from our listeners. We work closely with advertisers to make sure we are meeting their needs.
We take inspiration from high-quality, durable media companies. We don't mind growing slowly. The longer it takes for someone to find us, the more content we will have when they do.
A notable expansion has been our open source project. It was started by Keith and Craig Holliday, who are prolific open source developers. It has snowballed into a community of contributors.
What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
SE Daily is mostly ad supported. Our iOS, Android, and web apps allow listeners to opt out of ads by paying $10/month or $100/year. We use Stripe for subscription payments.
At the beginning, Hired and Digital Ocean both took a risk with SE Daily. When I sent them an email, we were under 2,000 listeners. They tested small campaigns (~$2,500 each) and saw positive results. Other direct response brands like Wealthfront followed shortly after.
Over time we have developed outbound and inbound sales. Our advertisers have many choices where to spend their money — we need to make sure that they have a good experience and ROI from SE Daily.
Our monthly ad sales have variance, usually falling between $30-60k. We focus on selling to technology companies.
Podcast ads are an uncommon ad unit, so we need to explain how it works and why it is powerful.
Our monthly ad sales fall when we fail to deliver value to our advertisers. Or when we lose focus, or get overconfident.
What are your goals for the future?
Producing high-quality content remains the focus of SE Daily. From that core competency, we tinker with adjacent businesses.
Jason Bautista joined us full time as a software engineer and designer. He is an engine of creative expansion — a da Vinci type who has a wellspring of ideas, but also the discipline to materialize singular features.
The Software Daily open source project is a place for people to socialize and collaborate on software. We welcome anyone who is looking to build software — engineer or not. Expert or novice.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
My years playing poker in high school and college were formative. Poker was a good way to learn about myself — to explore risk, psychology, and math. Poker exposed me to the variance of the universe, and let me sample the pain it can bring.
When I was 19 there was a month when I played poorly and lost ~$250k. This was money that I had built up from $100. I quit shortly after that. It took me awhile to recover my psychological bearings.
After I quit poker, I felt lost for the next two years. Luckily, I was in college, which is a good place to be lost in. I tried out several majors. Finding computer science gave me something new to be excited about.
If I had to start over I would prioritize health — exercise, diet, sleep, socialization, getting outside for fresh air. I would be nicer to those who love me, and try to opt for kindness over cleverness.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have a mental library of people that I am trying to understand. I like to imagine the world through their eyes.
Many learners like myself are turning away from studying books and turning towards studying people.
Books offer a condensed manifesto. With Twitter, podcasts, and YouTube you can get a kaleidoscopic view of a person's total idea set.
By focusing on people, you get exposed to their beliefs, habits, diets, exercise routines, conversational tactics.
It's useful to explore the "intellectual dark web": Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Jocko Willink, Tim Ferriss. The business equivalents are people like Peter Thiel, Jason Calacanis, Vitalik Buterin, Auren Hoffman.
Posters around my apartment have long-term thinking aphorisms: "Get rich slow," "If you don't know what you want you are unlikely to get it," "Begin with the end in mind."
I enjoy healthy mind expansion activities: cooking unintuitive meals, sampling trendy exercise routines, encouraging taboo conversations.
I got extremely lucky with my parents. My mom is an entrepreneur. My dad became a doctor because he likes to talk to people — he taught me to ask questions. They gave me all the tools I need to succeed.
Finally, my friend Edaena Salinas has encouraged my creativity since college. Having a friend who will take you seriously and believe in your artistic/entrepreneurial ideas really helps. She now runs The Women in Tech Show and is inspiring many more people.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
You are special. We need you. There is something unique inside of you that nobody else can create.
Push yourself harder. Exercise more. Take in more information. Run more experiments. Build convictions about what you hold true. Adopt the "9-9-6" mentality of the Chinese tech workforce. (Work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.)
Have a long-term vision. Determine where you want to be in 10 years, and work backwards from that goal until you get to the present.
Robert Greene and Seth Godin are my author picks for someone starting out. Listen to some podcasts/YouTube interviews with them. If you like that material pick up Mastery or Icarus Deception.
Where can we go to learn more?
- the_prion and software_daily on Twitter
- Software Engineering Daily
- The Prion on Spotify and on SoundCloud
- Adforprize is a platform for creative video advertising
I love to connect with new people. Please reach out if:
- you have feedback on SE Daily (or if you want to advertise with us)
- you want to collaborate on music
- you have experience with online advertising
Please ask questions or offer feedback in the comments below.
Want to build your own business like Software Engineering Daily?
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