Sam Parr (@theSamParr) and Shaan Puri (@ShaanVP) have both sold their businesses and are currently hosting one of the best business podcasts out there. In this episode, we talk about what it's like to be in their position now and what kind of businesses they would start if they were doing it all over today.
• Listen to My First Million: https://thehustle.co/my-first-million-podcast/
• Follow Sam on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theSamParr
• Follow Shaan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShaanVP
What's up, everybody? This is Courtland from indiehackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast. More people than ever are building cool stuff online and making a lot of money in the process. On this show, I sit down with these indie hackers to discuss the ideas, the opportunities, and the strategies they're taking advantage of so the rest of us can do the same.
All right. I'm here with Shaan Puri and Sam Parr, two of my favorite podcast hosts. You guys host the excellent show, My First Million, welcome to the Indie Hackers podcast.
All right, let me ask you a question. What was the valuation of Stripe when you sold to them?
I think it was like $9 billion in like April 2000.
Three part question that results in Sam knowing your current bank balance. That was part one.
Okay, I’m not going to answer the third question. I know what the third question is, I’m not going to answer it.
What's the valuation now?
It's $95 billion now, I think.
By the way, it wasn't even risky back then. Did it feel risky when you…
No, no. It didn't feel risky at all at the time, because Stripe was obviously a good company already. But also, that wasn't even on my mind. I wasn't thinking what's the valuation of Stripe.
I was more just thinking like, I'm running this really tiny, scrappy website. How do I make enough money to pay my rent? was just trying to get sponsors and I had this giant list of the perfect sponsors for Indie Hackers, and Stripe was number one on that list.
After I built up enough sales skills, I was gonna reach out to them. But before I got to that point, Patrick, the CEO emailed me and was like, hey, can we buy Indie Hackers? I was like, yeah, of course it's much better than getting a sponsor.
Right. Shaan, you know Courtland has a brother?
Yeah. I found this out the other day that you have a twin brother.
Yeah. But they don't look identical, but they look similar. He came to my house. He came to Austin like a month ago or three weeks ago. He came over on like a Tuesday or Wednesday and we had a good time. Then he ended up coming over on Friday and we ate dinner, and he was like, you guys want to go out? And I'm like, no, I don't really go out. But Sarah, my wife was like, yeah, I'll go out with you. They went out until like three or 4:00 AM partying.
I can't even get my brother to go out with me. I'm like, hey dude, come visit me in Seattle. He's like, nah, I got better things to do. I just saw him last week for the very first time since the pandemic started.
He's like my right hand man at Indie Hackers, kind of in the same way that you two work together on your show, My First Million. Why don't you tell listeners what your show is about in case they haven't heard it yet?
It’s basically two dudes who started startups and have been doing it for like 10 years, just getting together and shoot the shit about what other startups either are cool that we've seen, or we think would be cool if somebody started.
It's kind of, it's basically a brainstorm and what happens is if you listen to it, most people who listen to it, they get entertainment cause it's kind of fun and it's off the cuff and it's me and Sam go back and forth a little bit, but the big thing is it gets the wheels turning.
Once you start listening to this, you'll just start seeing business ideas and opportunities all over the place. Almost to an extent that's kind of annoying. It's a switch you can't turn off. That's how we're wired. That's how we are. We are kind of infecting other people with the same disease.
A lot of people think that we're just showing up and in some regards it's true and that we can totally go off the cuff, but we also research way more than people probably think.
Throughout the week, we'll see stuff. I don't actually know how Shaan does it. I think he, well, he probably does the same thing, but I'll get on the phone with someone and I'll say, tell me everything.
I'm taking notes and I'm like, thanks. I mean, it's very like traditional journalism and I'm like, by the way, everything you say I'm going to talk about, so don't talk to me about anything you don't want everyone to know. It's pretty cool.
Well, I think the difference is a lot of people will be like, oh, that makes sense. You have the show, so you do research for the show. The reality is, I think for the last 10 years, this is all we did in general. We're just curious cats who can't stop.
In the same way that Sam's like what was Stripe's valuation when you got acquired? Okay, cool. Then Sam will be like what is a typical acqui-hire worth? Then he'll do all this research just for your own shits and giggles. Then that just gets stored in your memory bank somewhere.
What happened was we just do that naturally as a part of our daily work. We're lucky that our job kind of lets us just go down these rabbit holes. You see a business, like today I was going for a run and this truck was driving. It had a piece of heavy machinery behind it called and it said Van Meer and our good buddy’s last name is Van Meer.
I was like, well, I'm just on this run where I'm supposed to be focused on running. Instead, I literally pause for a second. I Google Van Meer. I'm like, is this like his great grandfather? What is this brand? I bet you these tractor companies crush it. How much does this Van Meer company make? What’s their business model? How long have they been around? Are there any new companies doing this?
That's an addiction that I have basically that's my process. My process is constantly going around the world observing things and then go down the rabbit hole to figure out what's the backstory behind all that.
I did that the other day. I've seen, have you ever seen these semi-trucks and on the back, they have what looks like a tail? It's like a two foot. How do I describe it? Imagine the back of a truck and it has these like wings, but they kind of curve in. It's like the end of a cube. I'm not explaining it well, but the end of a cube. It's got these wings that point in.
I saw one of these trucks the other day and I was like, what the hell is this? I looked this service up. It’s like a spoiler for a truck, but it doesn't look like a traditional spoiler, but yeah, that's exactly what it is.
I looked it up and I'm like, what the hell is this thing? There was a company based out of Redwood City making these, and I just saw them on the road. I'm like, what the hell? They promise that it's going to make you like 0.5% more efficient. It's only like $500 or whatever it is.
I did the exact same thing. I saw this on this truck. I'm like, I gotta get to know what this is. The company sold for $200 million not that long. ATD Dynamics I believe is what it was called. Anyway, this is yeah, we do the exact same shit.
Well, it's addictive to listen to you because even on my show, I'll do like a brainstorming episode every now and then. If I just call an episode “Business Ideas for 2021”, it gets like twice as many downloads as every other episode cause people are like, hell yeah, I want some free business ideas.
But then I worry that people who are like addicted to these types of shows aren't actually building stuff or doing anything because you just want to hear more and more ideas rather than actually like start working on something.
I call that getting addicted to the medicine where you take the medicine, it's supposed to cure the problem and you’re supposed to be able to move on with your life. Some people just love drinking Robitussin every day at some point, right?
You don't want to get stuck in that pattern where you just want to keep getting more and more advice, more and more ideas. It's like, well, yeah, if it's for entertainment, which I think is what most people do they get it for to use it for entertainment.
They want to have friends in their life that want to geek out about business the way they do. We are like their friends who like to nerd out about business even more than they do.
I also think that like, we do have a lot of legit ballers who are listeners. I mean, you said you're a listener, so there's not that many people that ever take action on anything. But I do think we've got a really good ratio of that.
I think in the future, I think actually we should consider almost, I'm incredibly fascinated with the idea of going daily. We haven't discussed it yet, but it's something I think about. I find myself listening to Brendan Schaub and all these other podcasts and I love them because they talk about current events and they give their opinion on it.
I think there's a world where we could kind of do that. The reason I'm saying that is we kind of already do. When something happens, like the other day when Bitcoin dropped, Shaan did a thing right away on a Sunday morning and it was a huge hit.
We definitely, we don't do a traditional, maybe podcasts, like a lot of people in our industry do where they're doing like interviews or something that's a little bit more evergreen and we do evergreen stuff, but we definitely can react really quickly to things with our angle. That's kind of intriguing.
Yeah. I think evergreen content’s overrated. I mean, it's kind of a cliche that that's the type of content you should be putting your time into.
If you're trying to do something that's entertaining and you want people to come back every single day, nobody's really creative enough to make evergreen content every single day. If you're just giving your opinions on the news, like shit happens and people want to know about it and they like your personality then you can just get on the air and just be authentic, or just write authentically with your voice. You can rack up like millions of listeners or subscribers.
In fact, this is how most of the big media companies online operate. Sam, your newsletter, The Hustle, has a couple of million subscribers just giving your opinions and takes on the news.
It started, I don't know if you know how it started, but it started off when he was at the beginning it was more like evergreen hits, long form, super interesting blogs kind of going for home runs. We're going to talk about a topic nobody's talking about in a way that nobody's talking about it. It's going to be amazingly manufactured. Then we're going to distribute that and try to get that one blog post to like millions of visits.
It was working, but it was also like, dude, is this the treadmill I want to be on? Or what if we just went lightweight daily, react to the news, summarize and react to the news, give people what they need to know in five minutes and not try to be a kind of genius, original content creator every week. That’s my summary, at least. Sam, I don't know if that's accurate.
That's very accurate. It was hard. I mean, I could do it probably, but it's a hard ass life and it's really hard to hire for. There's a reason why Casey Neistat did what he did for a year and then quit. He was like, oh my God, this is exhausting. It's challenging.
Yeah. It's just too hard. If your goal is to produce content and your strategy is that you're going to come up with new, interesting ideas for every video or every podcast, that idea is dead on arrival, I think.
You got to index on some other source of novelty, whether it's the news or on this show, I don't ever come up with new business ideas. I just have people on who have their own business ideas. That is an endless process. I'm never going to run out of people to interview who have cool and interesting new business ideas. That's just a much better way to go about it.
I think you guys on your show, My First Million you have, I don't know, kind of the same thing. You're talking about other business ideas that others have come up with and you also just got bought by a HubSpot, so I'd assume, at least you, Sam probably have some sort of financial incentive to keep working on the show and making it go.
The podcast is his job.
Yeah. The podcast is my job. When we were going to sell, they started reaching out to us and during that time I had basically already made an offer to someone to be the CEO, so I could do podcast stuff. They wanted to buy us, and I go, okay, well, I'm going to have to rescind my offer to this guy because I was promising him that he's going to run it independently and that's no longer going to be true.
I did that with him, and I go, but then you also have to promote someone from within or hire someone to be the boss, because I'm not going to be the boss. I would love to be here and continue doing content because I love it, but I'm not going to be the CEO.
Also, there's no, we don't have an earn-out. There's no, there’s milestones that we want to hit, but I don't have money on the line in order to hit that milestone. It's a little bit different. When you're saying I'm in the trenches, I am, but I would do it anyway.
I would say it's more like there's a period when you get acquired where you're like, all right, give me the Kool-Aid. Pass the Kool-Aid, I'll drink it. You know?
I think for a lot of people, I was this way, at least I'll just speak for myself, there's a period where you're like, they give me the swag and then I show, well, at least when you're in person, it's a lot easier than when you're remote. It's very easy to just get swept up.
It's like, oh, I'm going to add you to this meeting. We'd love to pick your brain about X. You start getting pulled into all these strategy things cause you're the smart, new high-energy strategy guy who's not scarred and jaded by all past failures. You start getting pulled into all these things and you're able to contribute and you meet all these people and you're in the cafeteria and you're like, God, my life has no stress now because I sold my startup. There's a period where you're like all about it.
Then what I've seen, I'll just speak for myself, there's a transition period where like, okay. Working super hard here really doesn't really get me any more or less than if I just do what I enjoy and I work like a certain amount of freedom and lack of oversight. I think, Courtland, you were talking about this a little earlier.
I did this at Twitch, which is the first year I tried to kill it. I did everything I could, I wasn't like working a hundred hours a week, but the hours I was working, I was like, I'm going to do the most high-impact thing I could do for this company at all times. I'm going to be me on blast, and I was doing it.
Then a year in I was like, well, I'm leading this team. At a big company, it's really like you're doing all the jobs of a startup CEO without the upside. It's hire and fire people, set the strategy, dictate the roadmap, manage a whole 30 people, pitch for funding basically. Your funding is just headcount and resources. It's like all the jobs of a CEO without the actual freedom and actual upside of a startup.
I went to the CEO and I was like, I just hit my one year. I'm thinking about what's next. You know, it's smart to either sign up now for another full year or bounce if I want to bounce. I said, I have a lot of fun here, but if I'm going to do all this work for a startup, I should just go start my own startup. I should own all my upside. You understand?
He’s a founder, so he understood. I said, but there could be a model here that works. Here's what I would like. I sort of laid out a role that I thought would be fun for me. It was basically, something I'm interested in with no direct reports with it's not a mission critical project like the one I was doing before. It's more of a creativity fund, freedom type project.
I was like, you know, I'm going to work this hard, and I still think I'll make an impact, but I'm going to work roughly this hard. I got all these other things I do, the podcast is growing. So, if y'all are cool with all that, then I'd love to stay on.
They gave it to me. I guess, I've seen that that's a pretty typical path of a founder. You go from I want to crush it, justify it, learn everything I can from this company and prove myself. Then you're like, okay, don't need to prove myself so much anymore. I’ve proved myself, I’ve learned a bunch of stuff. It's kind of repetitive.
Now let me transition to either out the door or chill mode where you're cruising, doing just the parts you enjoy with none of the stuff you don't enjoy. Then gets the itch to go do the thing again. That's the pattern I’ve seen.
And they know that. The buyers know that.
They know that. Yeah. At first, I was so afraid to be like, I’ve really loved these people and I connected with them. So, I was like, I'm gonna level with you. I was waiting for them to flinch. And they're like, dude, we've seen this rodeo like a hundred times. We get it.
I know who you are. I knew that when I got you, when we bought the company and look, I want you to be here forever. Literally Emmett, the CEO, messaged me one day. He just goes, look, I know you're going to want to go start a company someday. I wish we could keep you forever. I know that's not going to be the case. When you do your next thing, I'll be your first check-in.
That was a totally different mindset than what I thought would be no, what you're saying is bad and evil and how dare you. The people pleaser in me was still a little bit hesitant to just be fully honest. But when I did, I was like, oh great. This is no problem.
They understand there. And this, and it's a big show. I think I'm the star and they're like, dude, there’s thousands of people at this company and next year there'll be a new you. We've seen this turnover five times.
There's also this middle ground which is who cares what the paperwork says? There's a handshake agreement that says, you ethically say I'm going to provide value to you. You're going to provide value to me. Me personally, I'm still more important. I'm more important to myself than that company is, so I'm not going to die to help you, but we have a handshake agreement I'm going to give you value. I'm also going to extract value and hopefully it's a 51 49, when you get more value, but that's what we're gonna do.
Well, there's this path that I see a lot of people taking right now that Shaan, you kind of seem to be on. It's kind of like this individual successful investor, rich tech guy path.
It seemingly goes like this. You build an audience for yourself, you've got a podcast or you're on Clubhouse or you're on Twitter all the time. You just sort of put out your wisdom and your knowledge into the universe and the people who like you glom onto you and the people who don't follow you.
You keep doing that day after day, week after week. You treat that like a full-time job, and you build an audience, and you start to get to know a lot of people. Through that, you start getting access to investment opportunities.
Overall, you're converting social capital into financial capital. The social capital is all the trust that you're building with your audience day after day, just kind of showing up and proving to people that you actually are who you say you are, and you know what you're talking about. Then people come to you with deals, and you can invest much earlier than the average person gets a look.
For example, someone who's doing this really well is Sahil from Gumroad. He started Gumroad. Gumroad is huge. That doesn't necessarily mean he's super liquid, right? The company’s worth a lot, but he hasn't sold it or exited. Where's he going to make money?
Well, it turns out people really like Sahil. They like what he has to say. He's constantly going on every podcast. He's tweeting like it's his job. He was early to Clubhouse. He's got a huge following on Clubhouse.
Then he also set up a rolling fund and I don't know how often it would be, once every week, once every few days somebody just puts like $20,000-$25,000 in his rolling fund for him to invest. Now I think he has like $13 million that he's investing on behalf of other people. He gets to keep a percentage of the profits and also a percentage of the money in total.
That's pretty lucrative if you have a big audience. So, Shaan, it kinda seems to me like you're going down the same way.
Yeah. Well, I think it's, I actually think it's fairly paved this path, but I think that it's a path that's been paved, but then all of a sudden they built all these new roadside things. It's like, oh, that restaurant wasn't here before. Oh, there's a gas station. Wow. Now we can go way further. That’s what I see.
So, so I grew up and there was a couple of major influences on me when I was kind of making a shift into business and the first was a Tim Ferriss. Somebody, somehow, some way I got my hands on “Four Hour Workweek” and I had what you call the four hour fever, which is when you finish the book for the next four hours, you're like, fuck everything in my life.
I'm changing everything. I'm doing all these things. Why don't I have passive income? Why am I working so hard? Why don't I have a virtual assistant? Why don't I travel? Why don't I get fit? You want to change all these things because he makes it seem so desirable and so achievable.
That was the first big influence on me and a guy like Tim Ferriss, in many ways when you know the person who sort of shows you the way, you're like, I respect you. I like you, but also, I kind of want to be you. That's all I saw: here's a dude who basically took his own life experiences, distilled it down into some kind of operating philosophy and then package it up for the world to consume through books and a blog, essentially and then later a podcast later, a newsletter, other things.
He translated his fame into access for deals. He invested in Uber invested, I think in Twitter, at a couple of other big ones, and also had a great kind of friend group that emerged from that. He was just always hanging with interesting people; that seemed super fun to me.
So, I really liked this guy's lifestyle. I thought, I didn't really even decide at that time, but I always just thought, oh, that's amazing. But to me at the time, it felt like if I wanted to pursue that, it felt like saying, I want to go be LeBron James, or I want to go into Hollywood and be George Clooney.
It just felt like that's a lottery game. There's not, I can't name 15 Tim Ferriss’s at the time. At least I thought there's only a few people. This is probably not a good path to bet on. So that was the first influence.
Second one was Tony Robbins, same sort of thing. I was like, oh wow, this guy's great. I discovered his content helped me out a lot. Changed the way I saw the world with his operating philosophy. I was like, I went to one of his events and I was like, holy fuck. There's 10,000 people in this arena paying thousands of dollars to just attend this guy’s show, this performance.
I've never seen anybody like this. Never seen a speaker captivate people like this, how the fuck does this guy do it? I was pretty enamored with that. It was very intoxicating to see. I thought, okay, I don't really want this lifestyle.
Just like with Tim Ferriss, I didn't want to write books because that seems slow and kind of boring. Just like Tony Robbins, I didn't want to go on tour, but I wanted elements of what they had, which was a cool set of life experiences, which you then distill into the operating philosophy. You share that and you build a big, trusted audience and then you turn that social capital into financial capital so that, that funds you doing you full time, your job, your company is you.
I just thought, oh, that's pretty fun. I think a guy like Tim Ferriss, I think he basically just wakes up. I dunno, Sam actually knows him, but I met him once and he seemed like a pretty curious dude. What it seemed like his life is he wakes up, he's curious about a thing. It might be because he's having some pain point in his life, like, I want to lose belly fat or I just got diagnosed with this disorder and this is the traditional medicine, but doesn't seem to work so well, what are the alternatives?
Then he just goes down that rabbit hole. He learns about it from the best, he self-experiments, and then he comes out the other side and he teaches that to everybody else. I thought, oh, that's dope. This dude just gets to be a curious student and gets paid millions of dollars for it. That seems like way more fun than what I was doing, then a normal job, for sure, but even more fun than being a startup CEO, picking a market, raising money from investors, having a team that you got to go into the office every day and keep everybody happy and keep everybody motivated, come up with your strategy.
I basically just looked at it once I sold my company, I was like, all right. Am I going to stop bullshitting or what? Am I going to try that path even though the odds seem bad? Or am I, should I just put away that idea forever? I decided to lean into it.
And by the way, the odds aren't that bad.
At the time, it felt really hard and impossible.
Well, to be Tim Ferriss, it's like you said, he was like one of the only ones doing that, but it wasn't like a very clear path to follow. Whereas now there's just so many different niches.
Once you get into it, you see there’s so much. He might be number one in that kind of field, actually, Tony Robbins and others are kind of a little bit bigger than him, but then, then you have him, but then you have, a rung down you'll have, whoever pick your favorite, James Clear or Ramit Sethi, or whoever. Then you have in every niche, you have a thought leader.
You realize, okay, it's not an all or nothing game. At the minimum I can land in kind of level three right now and feel some version of success. Then if I just keep going, maybe I'll get there. I'm pretty sure cocky slash confidence. I was like, okay, you know, why not me? Right.
I met Tim. I was like, there's nothing magical about this guy. He seems like a normal person, just like me, who just did him on blast for 10, 15 years. I could do that. That seems doable. So, that's how I described this path.
It's not always about an investment. Sure, Tim Ferriss made a lot of money from investing, but talking about James Clear, just spoke with him and Mark Manson the other week, they were both prolific bloggers. James Clear, for example, he was able to grow his mailing list to a million subscribers just from blogging consistently and being really good at SEO. Then they both wrote books and they just kinda took their best blog posts that they had proven worked to the best, and they turned them into bestselling books.
Yeah, exactly. I think Mark's book, if you read, I went and read an annual report from Fox News Corp, whoever owns Penguin Books or something. They're like, what's his book called? It's like called “Fuck it. I don't care.”
It's “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.”
They positioned it as the breakout hit that saved the company. I mean, it was a pretty big smash, right?
It's huge. It's huge. I mean, people severely underestimated how much money you can make from a really good book if you have a huge audience. Most nonfiction books probably sell a thousand or a few thousand copies, if you're lucky, but “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” sold something like 14 million copies and Mark probably makes $2 or $3 a copy.
No way. You're telling me, you think he made over $30 million off that book?
I think he made at least $30 million.
No way. I so don't believe that. That's amazing.
Books can be ridiculously lucrative, but it's hard. James Clear, again, he had a million email subscribers. In addition to doing all the work of writing a book and getting all those subscribers, he also did 400 podcast interviews before the release of “Atomic Habits.”
These are the top books in their categories, but I suspect that if you have a huge audience beforehand, you can kind of play publishers off of each other. I've had multiple publishers email me about doing a book for Indie Hackers. You could probably negotiate to get higher than the industry standard of 15% royalties on book sales.
I don't remember if it's Tim that told me this, or if I read it about him, but I think he said in order, revenue streams were something like, highest to lowest, was investing, advertising revenue, and then significantly blown number three was books.
Right. That doesn't shock me. I mean, I think successful tech startups are a lot more lucrative than books. I think Tim was early to Uber or something crazy.
Shopify dude, just those two alone.
That's a whole other level.
It could be in the hundred million plus range.
Being early to $100 billion startup is among the best investments that any human has ever made ever.
Even, even that that's what I have to say when there's new stuff built on the road, what are the things that, for me, I used was this idea of a rolling fund. Sam does SPVs and syndicates on AngelList.
I’m pretty sure Tim was investing his own money. Maybe there was some backend deal where whatever Sequoia gave him money as a scout or something, but I think he was just investing his own money.
For example, we're nowhere near Tim's size. We’re not even close. I tweeted out, “Hey, I want to raise a rolling fund. You know, if people want to co-invest in deals with me, I've been investing and here's an option.” Here's a link basically. That turned in for me, with zero outreach, zero meetings, and zero reaching out to my own personal networks. These are all strangers from the internet who just follow the podcast or follow me on Twitter.
That became $4 million a year of investible income, just to put that into terms. That's not a huge number, right. I think Sam will probably invest even more, maybe five times more this year off his syndicates. He did the same thing. He just leveraged his own fame to raise money.
If you just do the math on that. Let's say $4 million a year. My standard carry is 20%. I don't take any management fees, but I could take a 2% management fee. 2% management fee, that's $80 K a year. That's pretty much a starting salary.
It’s what pays the bills.
That was my salary. That was my salary when I started. That's the first part.
Then you take the carry. You’re basically saying of every $4 million invested, it's the equivalent of me getting to write about $ 800,000, let's just round up to $1 million a year of startup investments.
The startup investments take, let's call it 10 years to mature, for that fund to fully pay out. That's basically $10 million of investment of money that I get to invest that I didn't have to take out of pocket. That's $10 million of equity value without counting in the appreciation of any of those investments.
A good fund might three X in value. A good fund, it could do better, but even just normal, solid returns over the ten-year period would be a triple. That would mean that my $10 million in equity value, it becomes like $30 million in equity value.
This is for something that I did, I just snapped my fingers and turned audience into cash. But it's a win-win, it's not like I'm charging them something. I'm giving them access into a) my brain of knowing what startup investments are good and bad, but b) my deal flow of deals they could never get access to in the private market.
You get this win-win with your audience. But it's pretty massive value. That vehicle, that rolling fund that didn't exist for Tim Ferriss. It didn't exist for Tony Robins. They had to find a different way. It's just, everything's easier now.
Stripe made it easier to take payments. It's easier now to raise money. It's easier to create merch. It's easier to create a course. It's easier to do all the different business model tactics that you can do.
Pomp is another kind of solo creator. He's got a job board. He's big in Bitcoin and that's what he's known for. He created pmpcryptojobs.com or something that. He's making, he didn't confirm this, but just my own kind of sleuthing here, he's making almost a million dollars a year off his job board.
He was a high level person at Snap or Facebook, whatever. He's basically replacing that with a passive income stream. Again, just snap his finger, spin up a financial asset. Tim Ferriss could have done that. But they didn't have these tools nor awareness to use it. They were following the traditional playbook, which was write books, give speeches, go get paid $30,000 to go talk at some company. The last one was he created a TV show. It was you go from mainstream media. Now we have like way more tools in our tool belt that we can use to generate much more income.
Despite all these tools that help you make money, I still don't think it's necessarily the most accessible path to start with. Cause you've got to build an audience first and that's a dog eat dog world.
A ton of people are out there hustling, trying to make a name for themselves. Most of the people I know who've succeeded are kind of like the two of you where you have these previous business successes that lends you credence and help your audiences build trust with you.
Yeah. But by the way, we didn't have that audience either like 18 months ago and neither did Pomp. Pomp didn't have that audience two years ago, three years ago.
It can be built fairly quickly, but you're right. Not everybody wants to, or can, I'm not, this is not a thing where I'm like, anybody can do it. It's anybody can do it, but not everybody can do it. It is open to all, but it is not going to be achievable by all.
Okay. Let's get into some ideas. Let's talk about ideas the average person can do or build. You guys have your own sources of ideas. Sam, you've got The Hustle, you've got a team of journalists who are literally working around the clock to find new, interesting business stories and ideas to bring to you.
For me, I've got Indie Hackers. I'll go to the Indie Hackers product directory, I'll just sort by recently updated. Then I'll look at who's making at least $10,000 a month in revenue and just see what pops up, see what cool ideas people are working on.
I need like a growth rate one.
Yeah, I should add that for sure. I built this whole directory a few years ago and there was only like a hundred products on it. I checked the other day. Now there's over 14,000 products where people will sort of share what they're doing and how much money they're making and what they're working on and how they come up with their idea and stuff. I should definitely have more features to it at this point. Cause it's pretty cool.
One of the trends I've been noticing is just people sort of deconstructing and making really small, niche versions of big venture0funded apps. A good one is like calm.com. It's a big mindfulness and sort of meditation app. There's some others in the sector that are making tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. They've got a ton of investment.
Then on Indie Hackers, I've found people who are making little, small versions of them. One of them is called Mantra. It was built by this guy a few years ago, and you can look at his timeline and see exactly what his thought process was.
He says he was lying in bed, watching his girlfriend at the time use a daily affirmations app. He figured he could build something better. This is the very first app he's ever made and it's super simple. I downloaded the app, you open it up and it's just got different categories for affirmations.
It's got improve your sex life. These affirmations will help create a more satisfying sexual experience in your life. And generate wealth. These affirmations will help attract wealth, abundance, and prosperity to your life and just stuff like that.
It turns out a few years later, 200,000 people have downloaded this. He decided to add subscriptions. You pay $20 a year to get access to themes and music and whatever. I think he made $3,500 in his very first month.
He's got 10,000 reviews, and the average rating is 4.8.
Yeah, he's doing pretty well. His latest update, he's now at $15,000 a month in revenue. He writes about how he's completely underestimated how big his app could get. He totally under invested in it. He hasn't spent a single dime on paid marketing, and instead he spent the last few years just working on other apps. He kind of regrets it and now he’s going back to work on Mantra and give it more attention.
Shaan, you should tell him about horoscopes, cause that's the exact same thing here.
What about horoscopes?
Did we interview the guy? His name was Ross. There's this guy who raised money from a bunch of New York media folks. Maybe he raised $15 million and he was, his app was in the same space as this Mantra app, but basically, Courtland, did you know that women love horoscopes?
I've yet to date anybody who wasn't into astrology. So yeah, I'm aware.
I dismiss horoscopes as some woowoo nonsense, bullshit, but even smart women, like my wife and Shaan's wife are into it, even if it's at a casual level. I was thinking I'm also into a ton of bro science as well. It's just like their version of bro science.
We found there was this app that raised maybe $10 or $15 million, and they're probably making millions of dollars a year doing horoscopes. Then we went and found horoscope. Was it horoscope or Sudoku, something like that, where it was the most old school, not nice looking website.
They were very likely could be making 10 million a year off of these things. It was just getting crazy amounts of traffic because the amount of people who read or consume horoscope content is, like half of America. Cause it's like 80% of women check it out.
It's smart too, because it's daily. You don't just check your horoscope once and then never again. You come back and check it every single day. It's like what we were talking about earlier with the news and entertainment. This is something where you can collect subscription revenue and people aren't going to stop coming back.
I was given an example of there's a guy who's building some app that it connects you with kind of experts. It's sort of like if you're redoing your kitchen, you can actually like, get a 15 minute video call with this person from HGTV. They found all these like, Justin Bieber’s stylist will give you style advice for 30 minutes if you want to pay $150 or whatever.
t's sort of like cameo, but you're booking these 15, 30 minute calls with the who's who of fashion, beauty, home improvement, all these categories. I was looking at their number and I was like, oh yeah, that's great. You've seen some growth, which vertical is it? Is there one winner? They're like, yeah, you know, it's spread out. I was like, yeah, but certainly one has to be doing better than all the others.
They're like, yeah, actually, astrology is doing pretty well. I was like, it’s not even on your site. He's like, yeah. Yeah. It's over there on the far right under this thing, because even he was kind of like it’s not the thing we want to lead with while we're fundraising.
He didn't say all that, but you could tell it wasn't what he thought would win, nor was it what they’d be promoting the most, but it was the thing that was working the best. He showed me.
I went down the rabbit hole again. I'm professionally curious. I go on Instagram and I start finding all the Instagram astrology accounts, astrology influencers, basically. It’s like 80,000, 90,0000, 200,000, 500,000 followers. These are just like some chick in Florida or some chick in Huntington Beach who dresses the way you would imagine. Her every post is like the chakras are aligned and today if you experience a good event, it's because I told you this or whatever, some bullshit.
Then the link in the bio is basically an Only Fans to book a reading with her and so I'm like, all right, hell yeah. Let's book a reading. Let's see, let's go end to end with this professional curiosity. It's sold out. Just every session is booked for weeks.
What he was doing with, some of those people were using his platform, but even the others were just using a bootleg version of this. It made me think there is an Only Fans for palm reading, astrology, horoscopes, sorta like relationship voodoo or whatever.
The same thing happens, not just in America, in India, this is huge thing in India. When you have a kid, you take your kid to the local grew because of course every village just happens to have a mystical guru that lives there. He's like Rafiki holding the baby Simba and looks at him and he'll write you on a scroll, like your whole life story and the do's and don'ts.
It's like don’t eat black beans. Don't get married in the month of September. Don't date anyone with the letter J and in their name. People believe this to their core. They're just like, he's a great guy, but his name is Trajan or whatever. He's got a J in there. We can't date Trajan. We gotta break up with Trajan here.
People believe this in every walk of life. I think that's one area a) Silicon Valley doesn't talk about but b) there's just a lot of simple software solutions you could build that can get you maybe not to a hundred million in revenue, but if you get to $10K a month in profit, you can get to $50K a month in profit doing these kinds of things.
It'll make you rich. We talk a lot about that on the podcast where it's pretty, raising money and going big I think it's sick. I'm happy that the people who do it, do it, and maybe I'll do it one day. But if your goal is to optimize for wealth creation, some of these apps or smaller, relatively smaller ideas are actually significantly likelier to make you wealthy and perhaps be more fun along the way.
And a lot of them are just repurposing ideas that have existed in the past in some form or another that used to be doing really well. You can kind of just look at like what people used to do that worked and then just try it again.
The horoscope industry, it has always had these influencers who people really trust. I don't know if you guys remember Ms. Cleo. She had this mystical hotline in the nineties. That business was crushing it, they made like a billion dollars or something.
Yeah. I mean, she was just a hired model or actually was…
Woah, she wasn't mystical?
She was a professional palm reader, but the owners of the marketing company heard her speak and they're like, oh my gosh, you are perfect. You're going to be our woman. You're our spokesperson. They paid her like a hundred grand a year or some normal salary. It was pretty wild.
A lot of this stuff seems scammy, but there's other examples.
Sleep is a great category. You're talking about Calm. One of comm's biggest features is sleep stories and it's a paid feature, but we know and have met owners of sleep apps that do everything from just white noise or raindrops sound effects or whatever, to sleep stories, to sleep stories but just in other languages. They just focus on the Spanish speaking market or whatever.
There's just an infinite number of these niches that exist both in software or in D2C. For example, just to tie it back into what we're talking about in the DTC space, the fact that Tim Ferriss doesn't have his own nootropic drink or kettlebell brand, left money on the table. You know what I mean?
The person who actually did this really well was Joe Rogan. He has Alpha Brain or whatever that supplement company is. I think Sam, you know the numbers better than I do on this, but that's a hundred million dollar a year company, I think.
It just was acquired the other day. Friends who know the company told me it sold for $350 million, and that Joe owned like 20% of it.
Right. A, that’s his own passion area. He talked about it in new ways. Why take sponsors’ money to talk about somebody else's brand when you could just be part owner or white label, any of these things. There's a whole suite of those types of ideas.
This happens. To look at another country, looking at India, all the famous kind of gurus in India. It's like, oh, this guy is a saint. He only accepts donations and makes millions of dollars of donations. Then as they get famous, like Ms. Cleo style, I think the top guy has his own ramen noodle company. He just licensed his face onto ramen noodles and crackers or something like that. He's a billionaire from this ramen noodle company. Yet at the same time, he's supposed to be this like religious saint.
Just the most basic stuff.
We can learn from them if you're trying to learn this what is this solo kind of solo creator playbook, where you got to know what are all the tools in the toolbox and then use the ones that you want.
But actually, I was gonna ask you a different question, which is, Joe Rogan remind me of this, who is having them most fun with what they do for a living? Somebody had asked me this question in our group chat.
I was like, great question. Because once you see that you see a model you're like, and it's not they're having the most fun. I think that would be super fun. If that was me, that's kind of one version of the question because that can become a blueprint then, like, why don't I just go in for that? My answer was Joe Rogan, and I'll give you kind of my defense for Joe Rogan, but I would love if you guys have other answers of somebody who you've seen, just having a blast, they're having a blast and you think it would be a blast for you too. I'm curious if there are any other answers.
The Joe Rogan reasoning to me is he, basically he's got the podcast, which clearly he does for fun. Cause he was doing it before it made any money before he sold the rights to Spotify for a hundred million dollars a year, he was doing it for free kind of in his bedroom, when there was no promise of money. He's just meeting bad-ass people, Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse, Tyson. He's just having conversations with interesting people.
Through that he gets a bunch of fans who love him. That sounds fun. Then he loves the UFC. He's a UFC commentator, but he also does it where he doesn't go to every event. That would be exhausting. That would be the trade-off where the hobby becomes a shitty job. Instead, he's like, no, I'm only going to do the big pay-per-views in Vegas. So, that's an easy flight for me. I'm not going to travel around the world trying to chase this thing around anymore. So that seems fun.
Then he's a stand-up comedian, which is a hard challenge, super fun thing to do. He sells out arenas all around the world. Then he's got his brand Alpha Brain or whatever, and he works out all the time. Joe Rogan just seems like he is doing all the things he wants at the highest level. It seems like that's a blast.
Who do you guys think is having the most fun?
Okay. I'm going to go with the founder CEOs of these humongous, like a hundred billion dollar plus tech companies. I'm talking about the Patrick Collison’s of the world, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Oracle, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, just these absolute titans who are controlling a ton of resource.
They're not just some hired guns CEO who came in later on to turn the ship around. These are people who were working on the projects that they started, that used to be tiny. It's kind of like their life mission. It's kind of like their baby. Once it gets big enough, it takes a lot, a lot of work, a lot of heartache to get to the point where they're at now.
But once it gets to that size, you can kind of delegate most of the important, urgent work to other people, your trusted lieutenants. Then you’re kinda in control of a massive amount of resources where you can work on your favorite thing and you can do side projects and all sorts of stuff. I think that's kind of the most enviable position to be in.
I think next week we're having the co-founder of HubSpot on, Dharmesh. I'll ask him, but I talked to him regularly and I'm almost positive he doesn't have any direct reports and I'm also, you can look this up, actually, I think he's the largest individual shareholder of HubSpot and his value of just HubSpot shares is over a billion.
I was like, what did you do this week? He's like, I bought my wife for her 40th or 50th birthday, I bought her this domain called the humanist.org. It's this philosophy we buy into and it's this community. I was like, is this what you do for fun? He's like, yeah. It's like the greatest job on earth.
I'll have to ask him. I'm not insinuating this, but it appears as though he's got a pretty nice life. I agree with you that having the resources of a huge company is quite amazing.
It's almost like you're at the top of a cult where you've got millions of people and maybe they're not following you because they believe in you. They follow you because they're getting paid, but they're still following you, nonetheless. They'll basically do whatever you ask them to do. You can set up whatever lifestyle you want to do. You have a certain amount of power that I think comes from only having lots of people working in concert with you that you can't get just from having lots of money.
You can deploy that money if you're super rich to get people to work in concert with you. But if you have a company kind of, everyone's bought into the Kool-Aid and they're pushing in the same direction and you can launch any sort of cool fun side project that you want to. Or you could just go take off for a few weeks and people don't really notice that you're gone because everything's sort of delegated.
When I compare that to the content creators of the world, like Tim Ferriss, I'm sure Tim Ferriss has some fun, but it seems kind of stressful to have to be Tim Ferriss all the time.
By the way, it's definitely stressful. I mean, he's blogged about depression and shit, and he suffers, although I would say that's part job, part genetic, but my best friend, Jack Smith, Jack Smith sold his company for $800 million, something like that. He probably walked away with before tax, nearly nine figures, so nearly $100 million.
He started the company when he was 23. He quit working there when he was 26. He's now 33 or 32. He lives in a house in Hawaii. He has no social, he has a Twitter handle. He has a Facebook profile, but he doesn't, he probably has 150 followers. He's not trying to impress anyone. He doesn't do any angel investing.
What he does in his free time is, he's a pen pal for inmates in prison. He's currently pen palling with this guy who taught himself math and he gets joy out of helping. The guy's like, yeah, I want to get this book and Jack just buys him the book, the math book and he enjoys conversing about it.
He loves testing different supplements and testing different products on Amazon. He doesn't have that need to create content or be a big shot. He's incredibly comfortable in his own skin. His wife started Coffee Meets Bagel, so she's also a big shot.
He lives on the beach in Hawaii in a rental unit that he probably pays $10,000 a month for. I think he is having the most fun because he doesn't feel the need. I think both Shaan and I, and probably you Courtland because we're like these like public facing things, we definitely have this need to be. Jack doesn't really have that. He only wants to be loved by his close friends. I think that there's something great to be said about contentment and humbleness and you are happy with what you have and you don't really need much or want more.
And he's also not on the content treadmill.
No, he doesn't need to get on it.
He’s not any treadmill. He's not on the money treadmill. He's not on the social climbing treadmill, he's not on the content treadmill. He's not on any treadmill. I kind of agree with you, Sam.
Which has its downsides, not having a mission. Sometimes it seems to get sad. He'll have to pick a project, but go ahead,
I was going to say, I totally disagree with what you said, Courtland and I kind of agree with what you said, Sam, so I'll give you both. Courtland, I totally disagree in the sense that what I've seen, at least, is the kind of the CEOs of the unicorns, here's your day.
Your day is mostly a combination of people problems. Your whole job was to put the right people in the right places, but then people are one of the buggy pieces of code out there. You're always debugging that, you're always debugging people.
The second thing is your putting out fires. There's always a fire in any big company, any sufficiently large company, there's always some rotating set of crises every month that requires your attention.
I don't think when Zuck creates Facebook, he wants people to be sharing cool photos of their lives. He doesn't want fake news misinformation. You know how much of these guys’ day has to go into solving the gnarly problem of the moment. I think, they try to hire away that, but at the end day they're accountable for it. They have to ultimately deal with these problems, people problems, then you have big company problems.
The last bit is you sort of lost the magic and the connection and the fun of building something yourself hands-on, which is probably what you'd like to do if you started one of these companies. Secondly, working with a small crew of people, cause now the place is so large you don't even recognize people in your own company.
Also, you lose the, in order to make a large company run, you need to recruit certain types of people, right? You need generals of armies and not guerrilla warfare like you're used to at the beginning. A lot of your good friends from the beginning of the company have moved on to do other things if you're still there.
So, I've seen, there was a big trade off in addition to the cool stuff you mentioned. That's why I wouldn't say, there's too many tradeoffs for me to say, oh, they're having the most fun. I think they're the busiest.
At Stripe you can see everybody's calendar. I just pulled up Patrick Collison’s calendar. What's this guy doing this week? I can see every single event.
Screenshare, bro. Let's go.
It's one of two. Either 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes. There's an executive assistant or two dedicated, their job is his calendar basically. Everybody wants his time and he's got, and he wants his own time. And so, you know, there's 30 minutes back-to-back everywhere.
Then there's the other one, which is super sparse where it's sort of like, well, I kind of don't do anything now, which is sort of fun at first, but I could also just quit if I really wanted to do nothing. So, instead I'm kind of like in this slightly unsatisfying position of like, my job is not to do any of the jobs. I'm sort of doing nothing. I'm supposed to think about the vision and shit like that.
What do you think about that? Is that true?
It's the first one. It's the 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes here, the meetings, but also like he does a lot of projects outside of that. It's very strictly eight to five, nine to five, then done. There's nothing outside of that. There are no obligations.
He is working on extra projects. He does, for example, the fast grants during COVID, where they're giving out money to researchers. Super awesome. This is a kind of a fun project. Before that, he was working with Tyler Cohen on doing a research project with why scientific progress has slowed down. He's also learning to fly planes. I was talking to him a couple months ago about a project we might work on together, just the two of us about helping to fund underrepresented minorities and groups to basically do cool things.
I don't know if he's a superhuman who just works 16 hours a day, but he's somehow finding time to work on all these cool pet projects with small groups of people and to fund it because he's got the resources of an entire organization behind him.
It's probably you're right. It's not the most fun job. He still has like a crazy amount of responsibility and fires to put out.
I’m saying he could cut out the Stripe part and do all those things also if he wants to go do those things. Sam brought up a good point, which is, there's the people who no longer are chasing desire. They're happy because they're sort of at peace. They're not just at war with some part of their life. That's like the monk, but there's the modern day monk.
You do meet some people like this, who just, they're not driven by their desire, because desire is basically saying I lack something. You're agreeing to be unhappy with the current thing to desire more. Then there's the people who I think me and Sam try to be more like right now, which is, I don't think either of us try to be the guy with no desires.
I think we try to be, well, I have healthy addictions. The things I want, I think are positive for me in the world, and the pursuit of them will make me ultimately better, healthier, have more fun and a happier person. All right. I got to choose an addiction, at least I chose a healthy one. I think those are the people kind of the second most fun.
What’s the end game though? Cause I'm like, I guess in a way, like me and Sam are following in your footsteps. Both of our companies got acquired. Both of us are still working with the acquirers. I don't have an end in mind. Sam, I don't know if you have an end in mind. Sam, when do you quit HubSpot and what do you do after that?
I don't have an end in mind. I think that you and I Courtland are in different positions, maybe. Well, you guys don't have, I don't have a goal that I have to hit and if I don't hit it, I don't make money. Truthfully, my life is awesome. I thoroughly enjoy what I do. I spend most of my time doing podcast stuff. I'm happy. I'm happy with my life.
I think that I enjoy being a HubSpot employee. Inevitably, I'm going to quit. When I do, I probably won't start something. I'll probably chill for 3, 4, 5 years and then start something. I don't really have an end game. I do think about it a lot and it stresses me out.
I try not to think about it. I'm really trying to enjoy the journey as much as possible. I'm in a position now that I have no wants out of life. I'm happy where I am. I would be happy with significantly less though. I'm a little, I'm quite in a satisfied area for now, but I like, like I do experience envy.
Like Shaan, people love when he invests in their company and I'm like, fuck, that's easy money. That's a great deal. He also is really good at spotting them. I experience envy or I experienced like, oh, I want to do that, too. But it's definitely not like I'm willing to dedicate my life to doing that at the moment.
Shaan, what's your end game because you don't have some date in the future, like Sam does where he's going to quit and do something else. You're kind of just staring ahead at the rest of your life. What do you do when you don't necessarily have a specific goal in mind?
Yeah. I'm basically chasing this thing called the perfect Tuesday. What I realized was having these goals or milestones or accomplishments is a false promise you make with yourself where you're like, ah, that's what I want. As you get there, you're like, okay, well you move the goalposts and you want something more, right?
We're already, I have more than I would have ever asked for 10 years ago. Now I'm like, oh, I want more and more and more and more. There's this disease of more. Instead, I basically went the other way and I was like, okay, instead of thinking about what's this 10 year vision for myself and what's the end game, it was sort of like, what's the now game? What is the perfect Tuesday for me right now? The perfect average Tuesday.
I did this exercise once that kind of changed the way I look at things. I said, what's the perfect normal day for me? Not perfect like everything goes right but if I was just to do all the things I love in a normal day. What are all those normal things?
They're not that hard. I love to wake up without the alarm. I love to wake up naturally rather than an alarm waking me up saying, well, shit, you got to do something. I'm feeling groggy. Now I wake up around 7:30 just because I started going to sleep earlier because I got a kid, but I don't wake up with an alarm anymore. That’s one thing.
These are gonna sound really stupid, but I'll just give you, I'll just walk you through some of the examples of how stupid this is, which is I love to shower. I just love having a shower. I get great ideas in the shower, shower’s super relaxing. I just noticed on a normal day, that's one of my favorite parts of the day is taking a great shower.
Two things, I started to appreciate this thing that seemed really mundane, stupid to have a goal of taking a great shower every day. But now I have a goal of taking a great shower video. Cause I know I love showering.
I love to work out. I want to have a great workout every day and not just generically a great workout. It's like, what are the most fun types of workouts for me? I want to do those every day. I have this day kind of mapped out where I'm like, these are the things I love doing on normal days. They don't take an outstanding event or it's not a vacation. It's like if my normal day was like this I'd be a happy camper right now
I have a great day. Then I mapped out what's a great week. Meaning what's a thing I do once a week. I'm not gonna do it every day, but I want to do it once a week. What's a great month. What's the thing I'm going to do once or twice a month that I'm not going to do every day. Then what do I do once or twice a year.
I wrote those out and I love this exercise so much. I had my mom do it. I was like, Mom, you're getting old. You gotta be having great days. All right. You don't think of yourself as an ambitious person, but you should be, you've, you've did all the hard work. You raised the kids, you worked your whole life. Now you should just be maximizing joy.
I should also be maximizing joy. This exercise helps me maximize joy. Now I'm basically just chasing architecting my life so that I'm having that perfect Tuesday, as often as I can and getting as close to it as I can. Same thing with the things I want to do every once a week or once a month. I know that was a little bit convoluted, but that's what I'm after.
No, I love it. It makes perfect sense. I think out of every group of people on the planet, entrepreneurs have to be the most neglectful of the present moment. We're always obsessed with some huge goal we've set. We're going to build that company. We're going to launch this app and we kind of forget about the days in between now and then.
We just sort of neglect the present for the future, which is dumb because the present is what life is made out of. It's made of an endless string of present moments. If you want to have a good, enjoyable life, you have to kind of resist that entrepreneurial urge to only care about the goal.
If you just imagine, draw a line and that's the time of your life. Let's say it's a year or 10 years that line represents. Then you have this milestone at the end, this goal at the end you're shooting for, and you have two options. Either you say I'll be happy when I get to the end. Okay, cool. Or you say I'm going to have fun the whole way all along the way.
It's very obvious when you draw that line, which of these diagrams is better. The one where you have fun just in that.at the end or the one where you have fun on every single dot along this line? It’s just so obvious. It’s nothing new. It's nothing insightful. Everybody's heard this cliche of enjoy the journey, not the destination.
When I look at that diagram, I'm like, what the fuck? Who cares what that end destination is? I want this line to be dope. I want to be having fun all the way. Especially if this line represents 10 years of my life, then I gotta make that happen. That becomes the focus.
Well, I think the issue is people hear this and it's almost like a cliché. That doesn't mean that it's wrong. I think a cliche is something that's smart enough that it became common advice. You know, it's about the journey, not about the destination, but it's still hard enough that people have been repeating this for years and people still don't understand or follow it.
I think people hear this from a couple of rich guys, like you two and they're like, okay. Yeah, it's easy for you to say. But in their shoes, they often see themselves as having to have this difficult, arduous journey to get to the point where they have enough money. Then they'll use that money to have a good journey and do something else.
Shaan, you are at this point where you can design this cool life for yourself in part because you have enough money that you don't have to go to a nine to five job ever again. When you say this, it's not like it's not easy for other people to follow that advice.
Well, what I'm basically saying is I'm not telling people don't chase the money. I guess what I'm telling people is it's a false choice that you either you suffer until you have money or you have fun, but you don't have money.
There are plenty of examples. If there's even one example, that means it is possible. There are plenty of examples of have fun and make a ton of money as a by-product. If that's an option on the table, you're crazy for settling for anything less than that if you're a sufficiently talented person.
If you're a talented enough person, which most people are who are listening to this, if you're sufficiently privileged and you have your faculties about you, that is an option on the table, have a shit ton of fun and make a shit ton of money, both. Then choosing one or the other is a silly option.
Okay. Question for both of you, what's your favorite example or story of how somebody can do that? If you're an indie hacker right now, you're just starting out, you've got nothing. How can you do something that works and that makes money and that also allows you to have fun.
Can I give one?
Yeah, give me one.
All right. I was at a friend's house yesterday and he was thinking about starting, he wanted to help kids start shit. And I'm like, basically I think that if you wanted to, if you were 18 years old and you had a summer and you wanted to build a business that made a hundred thousand dollars a year, I think it would be shockingly simple, not easy.
It would be hard physically to just dominate Yelp for a local service that would take you only like three to six weeks to like master.
Maybe trimming trees or something like that. I think that you could probably crush it that way and make hundreds of thousands of dollars in a relatively straightforward, non-intellectually challenging, low risk way. I think that most people could probably do that.
I think it's low risk. I don't think it's super strategically difficult, but also is that fun? How many people really enjoy going out in the hot weather and trimming trees?
I don't mind, like I just paid a guy $80 an hour to come to my house off TaskRabbit to power wash. He had a rinky dink $250 washer or whatever. I asked him what his plans were for the day. He was like, I've got eight of these planned.
So, I mean like, is power washing that, like does anyone love it? I don't know, but it's kind of fun to start a job and finish it and you can work outside in the sun.
Okay. I've got one. This is a company, another company that I found on Indie Hackers. It's called High Performers. The guy calls it Masterclass as a service for pro athletes.
I'm looking at this guy's timeline. His first post is from November 2020. He says I spoke to five pro athletes and I've got one of them to agree to partner with me. He helped this guy, this athlete, create a course. It's basically like a PowerPoint presentation that he created and he put it on Udemy. Then he helped this athlete sell the course to his own followers on social media.
Now eight months later, he's got this whole process on repeat. He's hired a salesperson to do all the outreach. He only has to do the part that he likes, actually working with the athletes and creating the course. He's making $10,000 a month, basically just doing what he loves and just making money in the process. The idea isn't even that creative, I mean, it's just Masterclass for a niche.
I did this with, um, there's this guy named Ben Askren who's in the UFC and he was an Olympic wrestler. I was a fan of his, I became friends with him on Twitter. He started talking to me about digital stuff because he didn't know anything about it although he had a huge following. I was like, why don't you start a course? He's like, I have no idea how. I was like, dude, I'll just call you once a week for like four weeks and we'll get this shit done.
He did it and he's got a wrestling course. I totally, I didn't charge him anything. I just wanted to become friends with him. But he would have paid, he offered to pay me money. I agree that that could definitely be a thing.
You literally did that for free. I mean, so that was just because you were having fun.
I mean, I think it's different, people have fun doing different things. I'll just speak for myself. If I was 21 again, or 22 or whatever and I'm like, all right, how do I have a bunch of fun and make a bunch of money at the same time? What I would do is actually very similar to these guys who hooked me and Sam up with our podcast studios that they set up for us and they're crushing it right now.
They are 21, by the way.
They were basically like, we're big fans of the show, because they were fans of the show. I would be a fan of our show if I was a kid again. They basically reached out and they're like, your guys' cameras stuff looks like shit. Your sound kind of sucks sometimes. We're really good at this. Do you want us to come like help you out? I'll set your thing up for free. Basically, pick a weekend, next weekend, the weekend after that, when can we come and set your thing up? I'm tired of listening to you guys with crappy audio and crappy video.
We were like, uh, okay. They showed us their YouTube channel. They're like, here's my YouTube channel. I don't have a ton of followers, but just look at the quality and you'll see, would you like to look like this? I'm like, hell yeah.
Then he sent me a menu. He sent me three setups. He's like, h you could look like this famous guy, this famous guy, this famous guy, which set up looks best to you? I was like, all right, fine, come on out here and give me option C. He's like, great. We'll be there this Sunday. They flew out here, they hung out. They did the hard work. They didn't ask for anything in return. I was like, dude, let me pay you guys something.
What would I get to do? I'd meet somebody who I'm really, I'm a big fan of, I would hook them up with something using a skill that's pretty easy to learn, really. Th ey basically found some lights that drilled into the wall and then they picked the right microphone. They plugged it into the right slot and whatever. They did the setup and then they followed up.
I was like, dude, I want to, I'll help you guys out. I'll mentor you guys. I'll hook you guys up with your, you want another opportunity? What do you want? They're like, yeah, we're trying to figure out what to do. What they figured out was there's a lot of podcasters like us out there that had really good hour long content.
What they did was they had from their own content, they had stumbled into this setup where they'd find talented video editors, basically overseas in the Philippines or wherever else. They train them on how to edit clips. Then basically they have a business where they just charge podcaster s was like us tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Yeah. Have you seen ours, Courtland?
Yeah, they look super good. I see them on Twitter.
Yeah, we pay them 30 grand a month.
They look super good. Have you put them on YouTube yet? Cause I'm trying to find you on YouTube now.
No. We suck at that part. Right now, forget that. I guess my point is these guys are making 30 grand a month just off us as one client. They can make, they probably can't charge everybody that much, but they can have like 20 clients doing this.
Basically, they're just doing labor arbitrage, talented people in the Philippines. Then they're getting to meet, like yesterday's “All In” podcast, which is one of the most famous business podcasts. It was like the whole first half of the thing was all about these guys. They said their names probably 50 times. They said their names like this kid Henry Bellcaster keeps sending us clips. Then we're in DMs with them. Chamath’s like, dude, you’re DM’ing Henry Bellcaster? Why? He’s like, yeah, they do a great job.
It was like a professional infomercial for them. They've become friends with these guys. They're hooking them up with great content and sure enough, those guys started paying for it. The next and the next, these guys will be making $1 to $2 million a year of profit if they play their cards right as 22-, 23-year-olds, just for operating a sweatshop of video editors in the Philippines. That’s what they’re doing.
I can't believe they pulled that off. They told me that they were going to try and do that. I was like, yeah, maybe that’ll work. And these guys kept at it. They killed them.
That's what my podcast editor did for me. He basically kept sending me clips of my show where he had edited the episodes better than I was editing them. So, eventually I just hired him.
What does that do? That does three things. You get good at content creation because that's your basic practicing that craft every day, that's a really valuable skill to start compounding at a young age. Second thing, you meet a bunch of cool ass people who are highly networked. They love, they know you and trust you. If you ever wanted to do a thing, if you have bigger ambitions, you can hit them up in one call, you're no longer cold, you're warm. They know you're good. They know you hustle and you do good work.
Last thing is they're going to make at least half a million dollars, probably close to one to $2 million of profit off this business in the next couple of years. You're a millionaire, congratulations. You had a bunch of fun doing it. Ghat's an easy example to me of something I would have done if I was their age.
Okay. If we distilled this into a playbook that people could follow. First, you find something that you genuinely like, and you take the time to get really good at it. Then you look to find somebody who's famous or cool, who's not really doing that good of a job at that thing. You do it for them for free.
They'll probably take notice because these are hard workers who really want to get better at whatever it is they’re doing. They'll hire you or they pay for your thing. They'll probably mentor you and you can just repeat this playbook for anyone you like and make a ton of money in the process while also getting to meet your heroes.
That's it. That's one path. That's one path that works. There are many; that’s one.
Cool. Well, that's a good takeaway to end the show on. Sam, Shaan, thanks for coming on. Can you let listeners know where they can go to find your podcast and whatever else you're working on?
Yeah, you can find our podcast if you just Google that.
You may have to scroll all the way up to the top of the charts cause we're pretty high up there now. So just go all the way up to number one and then we're just below that. My First Million in the podcast app store or whatever.
Follow Sam. He's @thesamparr on Twitter. I'm @ShaanVP on Twitter. Shaanpuri.com, that's my newsletter.
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