Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It is, of course, home of the ambitious upstart. You know, the guest I’m about to introduce you to is someone that I met when I was going to do interviews at a conference.
I’ll let you guys in on a little secret–one of the reasons why I ask great questions when I do conferences frankly even here on Mixergy is before I get the guest on, I often will ask their friends, I ask people in the audience, I ask people who are competitors of theirs, “What do you want to know about this guy? What should I be asking?” So, at conferences, I would often fan out and talk to every single person I could and take notes on what they came to the conference for, what they want to know, etc.
And then one year when Jason Calacanis invited me to do a bunch of interviews at his conference, I said, “I think I need help. I need people to help me ask more questions of the audience so I could get a better beat on what they want to know.” So, I tweeted out and two people responded and said that they–I think actually more than two people, but two people I liked–said that they wanted to come in and help out. And one of those people is the guy you’re about to meet today.
His name is Sam Parr. We got along really well. We ended up having scotch night. He came over to my house for poker. Then I spoke at one of his events, then another and then I saw a post that he did where he said that his company got $500,000 and they’re going to be reckless with it and they want the world to see it and experience that recklessness. And I’ve experienced it a little bit. I invited him here to talk about what he did with that money and more importantly how he earned that money.
Sam Parr is the founder of The Hustle. It’s a combination kind of like picture Vice with Fast Company. If they were to marry each other, this is what you’d get. You’d get The Hustle. He’s also the producer of Hustle Con, which is a conference for non-tech founders. That means if you don’t know about how to code, if you don’t want to be the person who’s in the office heads down, constantly coding, this is your conference, Hustle Con.
This interview is sponsored by two great sponsors, one of which I think we got from Sam. It’s Toptal. If you’re looking to hire a developer, you’ve got to check out Toptal. If you’re looking to hire a developer, you’ve got to check out Toptal. The other is Pipedrive. Later on I’ll tell you why if you need to get more sales, you’ve got to check out this little piece of software called Pipedrive.
But first, Sam, welcome.
Sam: Hey, man. What’s happening?
Andrew: Good. I’m a little distracted because we’re still getting outside noises in this interview. And you’ve got a good mic too.
Sam: Our office is in the Inner Sunset. It’s Craigslist’s old office, actually.
Sam: It’s like right on the street where the trolley cars are. So, I apologize.
Andrew: So, we’re going to get noise everywhere.
Sam: I’m loud. I’ll be loud for you.
Andrew: Yeah. All right. Let’s get into it. The $500,000 came from where?
Sam: Okay. So, we started as a conference. The end goal was to become a big media company similar to Business Insider or Fast Company, Vice. But we decided to start as a conference because I saw lots of my friends raise money and it looked like hell because they were giving up a lot of their business and they were the slaves to the investors. So, we threw a conference called Hustle Con and made about $200,000-$250,000 and then we ended up raising another $300,000 from our speakers, who were entrepreneurs.
Andrew: Got it. Before you actually did Hustle Con. You did a couple of smaller events–Bootstrap Live, right?
Sam: Yeah. That was fun. You hosted it.
Andrew: Yeah. Why did you gloss over that? I kind of feel like there’s some energy connected to it that I’d like you to explain.
Sam: It was cool.
Sam: It was small. It was tiny. It made like $3,000, like 200 people came. It was like three hours long. It was tiny. That was just to test my idea and see if it would be fun to do this.
Andrew: You didn’t know at the time you were going to do a bigger conference, did you?
Sam: No. I hate conferences up until recently.
Andrew: I get the feeling that you had this startup that brought you to San Francisco and you figured, “I’m here. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I need to just experiment a little bit.” And you said, “I’m going to start with this little event.” And then that led to another thing and another thing and before long you were running The Hustle.
Sam: That’s correct. Very early on I just kind of figured out that if you do lots of things, the thing that you really want to do eventually shows itself and one thing very quickly leads to another thing.
Andrew: What was that startup that you started and sold?
Sam: So, my senior year in college–it was a roommate matching company and the way it started I was a senior in college and I flew out to San Francisco because I had a job interview at Airbnb. I met this guy named John on Airbnb while I was crashing at his house for my interview. He had this idea for a roommate matching company.
I got the job at Airbnb two weeks later. And I ended up calling John and I was like, “I don’t want to work for Airbnb. Can I please…?” At first it was like, “Can I work for you?” And then eventually it was like, “Can I run this with you?” So, it was the world’s first roommate matching iPhone app. This was before Tinder was like Tinder, but it was basically Tinder for roommates.
Andrew: What made it Tinder for roommates? Was it the swiping?
Sam: Yeah. But this was before swiping was popular, which is crazy because it was only a few years ago.
Andrew: So, I could install the app and start swiping through people until I find the ones that I think would make good roommates for me. Is that right?
Sam: Yeah, but only if you’re San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Boston and New York.
Andrew: Okay. Why didn’t that blow up and become the next big thing?
Sam: Well, John and I started–well, he had started it and I joined him a couple weeks later. We got, I guess, technically acqui-hired like ten months later. When that happened, I was a bad employee pretty much and I just was not passionate and I didn’t really care.
Andrew: Why did you guys get acqui-hired? I remember actually when you were here for scotch–you don’t drink, but anyone can enjoy scotch night–I remember that someone, I think it was Justin, pushed you and said, “Don’t you just want to make good money and be okay.” And you said, “No, I have to have it be big.”
Sam: I wanted to be huge, yeah.
Andrew: “I want to be huge,” right? Like you would give up a $100,000 job. You would give up $100,000 in the bank if it meant you couldn’t have an opportunity to do something big, right?
Sam: Look, the type of stuff that you and I anyone else, a lot of people who watch Mixergy and a lot of people who are on Mixergy, it’s very easy to make money. So, money is extremely important to me, but what else is important is I can affect hundreds of millions of people every single month. That is what’s exciting and more so, I want to be able to create thousands of job. You can’t do that with a roommate matching iPhone app.
Andrew: I see. What if you just follow it along and see if you can go from roommate matching to something else?
Sam: Maybe. But it’s just a numbers game. There aren’t that many people in America who need a roommate.
Andrew: I see. That’s why you gave it up. That’s why you were willing to?
Andrew: Ultimately it wasn’t your decision, though. It was John’s, wasn’t it?
Sam: No, we were cofounders. I ended up selling my car. So, I had $5,000. So, I brought that to the table. So, I invested my time and money and we were cofounders. I was also 23. I was crazy. I partied a lot. I didn’t really care also. I was stupid.
Andrew: What did you do that was the stupidest thing that you’re too embarrassed to admit right now?
Sam: Well, I would go out and party and get hammered like every single night and I would like–
Andrew: That seems pretty common here though.
Sam: Well, maybe it seems common to you. But my friends are all nerds now.
Andrew: So, how bad did it get? Did you black out?
Andrew: I’ve never blacked out. What was that like?
Sam: It’s pretty scary because you don’t know how you got home or if you did anything stupid. You’ve never been blacked out?
Andrew: No. I tend to be a little too rigid to the point where I can’t let go to that degree.
Sam: Well, most entrepreneurs, I think–and you are included in this, for sure–are OCD and they’re obsessive. So, if I start something, I’m crazy about it and I’ll go as hard as I can go until I can’t go any harder.
Andrew: I see. And that’s where the alcohol… Gotcha. So, for me, even when I drink a lot, I don’t stop being me. If anything, I’m still obsessive about my goal. You reminded me of one of the first questions I asked you when we first met. Do you remember what that was?
Sam: You asked me when I lost my virginity.
Andrew: Right. I don’t even know how that came up.
Sam: It was so inappropriate. It was hilarious.
Andrew: I could be drinking and my goal would still be like to get to know the person.
Sam: You asked when I lost my virginity. I was like, “What the hell are you talking about, dude?”
Andrew: It wasn’t about the answer to that question, it was about how I am now putting a stake in the ground saying, “We’re not getting into BS business talk. We’re going talk like real people and get excessively personal to the point where we’re almost a little embarrassed and as a result, we’re going to be bonded.” That’s what I was doing. That question was like a throwaway question that was a little bit for laughs. That was the essence of my approach there.
Sam: Yeah. Another time when we went out to dinner, you asked my buddy some questions and he ended up crying 20 minutes later.
Andrew: You swear that someone cried?
Sam: Yeah. You were asking him about his father who had died.
Andrew: No, but he was okay with that, wasn’t he?
Sam: Yeah, I think he was okay.
Andrew: Be honest with me.
Sam: You were like a therapist that night.
Andrew: Right. I thought you were saying that I asked such personal questions that after I left, 20 minutes later he started crying because he couldn’t believe what he got into.
Sam: No. He wasn’t offended, but it was pretty wild how deep you got within ten minutes.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s important to me. I’m glad we got to go to that place. That’s one of the reasons why we’re super bonded. I still didn’t know this about you despite that bond. I didn’t know that you sold moonshine online and I didn’t realize you had a hotdog stand or a few.
Sam: That’s what I did in college. When I was in college, I worked for this guy–have you seen that TV show, “American Pickers?”
Sam: It’s a popular TV show on the History Channel.
Andrew: I don’t own a TV. Because I don’t own a TV, I’m so far out of this stuff.
Sam: You know what “Pawn Stars” is?
Sam: It’s like the show that came on right after that. It was just like it but a little bit different. Well, I worked for this guy and that was like the first entrepreneur I met. I was like, “Damn, this guy is making a killing on his own. He works for himself and I have to like do whatever he tells me.”
So, this was in the South. I used to live in the South. So, through this guy, I met a bunch of moonshiners and I learned about moonshine. So, I started an online liquor store in college. That was making great money. Then from there, I started a hotdog stand because I wanted to be able to drink during the day and be outside all day.
Andrew: You would actually literally drink while you were selling hotdogs?
Sam: Hell yeah, Southern Sam’s, “Wieners as big as a baby’s arm,” that was our company name. Of course I’m going to drink when I own a company called Southern Sam’s.
Andrew: Did you learn anything about sales from that, from selling hotdogs?
Sam: Yeah. What I tell people is if you can learn how to sell meat to someone on the street, then you can sell anything.
Andrew: How could you do it? What did you learn about sales there?
Sam: Well, most products are commodities. So, if you can build a relationship with the person by sticking out and causing emotion in the buyer, then it’s very easy to sell something.
Andrew: How did you create emotion while selling hotdogs?
Sam: So, the slogan was, “Wieners as big as a baby’s arm,” so, people laughed at that. Some of my girlfriends wear tank tops and it said Bikini Weenie Girls. They were helping sell. We would give discounts to people if they sent a photo of their baby’s arm in a bun with mustard on it. Just doing shit like that, it was laughter. It made them laugh.
Andrew: Was this your business?
Andrew: It was. So, you came up with a name, you came up with the discount idea, etc.?
Sam: Yeah. It’s not like a startup. I started it with $500. I went to the DMV and got my LLC or wherever it was–not my LLC, whatever it was.
Andrew: Your corporation paper.
Sam: Yeah. I got my business license. This wasn’t like a tech startup. But it was good. You could make like $1,000 day.
Sam: Hell yeah.
Andrew: What did you do with that money?
Sam: I moved out to San Francisco. I saved it. I didn’t do anything with it.
Andrew: But $1,000 a day even if you work for 30 days, you end up with more than enough money to come to San Francisco.
Sam: Well, it’s not all profit, but yeah, you make some good money. Not every day was $1,000 a day. On a slow day, we’d make like $200. But I had contracts with some of the concert venues and I would be their late night provider and you could make like $1,000 on a Friday or Saturday night.
Sam: Too many people try to get into internet businesses, but if you really want to work for yourself, it’s not that hard to go out and sell something on the street.
Andrew: Yeah. But that’s not a long-term life. That’s a fun thing to do for a bit, but it’s not… Why are you furrowing your brow?
Sam: I think you’re wrong.
Sam: Yeah, dude. Would you like to own a McDonalds?
Andrew: Yeah, but not that’s it. I couldn’t just sell hotdogs.
Sam: Well, could you own many McDonalds? Magic Johnson owns tons of Starbucks and Burger Kings.
Andrew: As investments. That’s not his life. I couldn’t do it as my life.
Sam: I think as an owner, it’s not like you’re doing it every day.
Andrew: I see. All right. Fair enough. I like that you were willing to push back on that. What about the moonshine business? I think I saw a link to that. That was on a WordPress.com page, right?
Sam: Dude, that was the most ghetto site ever. But I’d be in class and I had it connected to PayPal and I would hear, “Ca-ching, ca-ching…” That was doing good. But it was illegal. I thought I was doing it legally. I could have gotten away with it. But I had to shut it down after a while because I didn’t want to get in trouble anymore.
Andrew: I see. Now you’re linking over to one of my past interviewees, Clawhammer Supply, which lets you make moonshine at home.
Sam: That’s just an affiliate link because I still get traffic to that website.
Andrew: How much money did you make from that, from selling moonshine?
Sam: That one would make like $400 or $500 a day, a lot of it being profit.
Andrew: I’ve got to tell people the URL. I’m going to do it.
Sam: It’s MoonshineOnline.WordPress.com.
Andrew: They’ve got to go see this. Here’s the interesting thing here. Your email is on the right margin. It’s SP@BunkSF.com. That’s the roommate business that we’re talking about. So, you had this up even while you were doing the roommate business.
Sam: Yeah. But it’s not a thing anymore. The site’s real, but I don’t know how to delete it. I don’t even know the login anymore. Yeah. Look at the comments. There are people commenting and they’re asking for it. I still get people seeking me out to this day asking me to ship moonshine all over the world.
Andrew: “Do you post to the UK? I really want to try this stuff.”
Sam: See? It’s like all over the world people want this stuff. If someone wants a business right now, they should start–it wasn’t really moonshine. It was white whiskey. Moonshine means illegal whiskey. This was legal whiskey. But if someone wanted to start a boutique whiskey, specifically the moonshine section, clear whiskey, they could make a lot of money.
Andrew: I agree with you 100 percent. I don’t think people are going to drink moonshine on a regular basis, though who knows. But I do think the novelty of moonshine is enough of a draw for dinner. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but if I have people over to my house and they want to try different whiskeys, I’ll bring out my nice scotches, I’ll bring out my interesting ryes, but I’ll also bring out a moonshine because it just blows their mind in a more interesting way than a $300 scotch, for example.
Sam: Right. It’s just like crappy whiskey, but people love it, especially overseas. So, when I started this, this was right when that TV show “Moonshiners” because popular and I started getting tons of traffic. But anyone out there is listening to this and wants to get into a business, they could totally get into this.
Andrew: What did you sell roommates for? How much money?
Sam: All in all, I walked away with like $100,000 probably. I had like a salary and like bonuses.
Andrew: The $100,000 includes the salary and bonuses?
Sam: No, a little bit more than that. We got probably about that, John and I together, probably $200,000.
Andrew: $200,000 for the business including a salary?
Sam: Yeah. It wasn’t that big of a deal.
Andrew: No, because you were working with him for about a year.
Sam: Eight months.
Andrew: Eight months.
Sam: Ten months–wait, from July to February, I think.
Andrew: Okay. Did you save it?
Sam: I was 22. I didn’t know what I was doing. I could have negotiated big time, but I was an idiot.
Andrew: Did you save the money?
Sam: Yeah, dude. I’m super tight. That’s how I was able to start my other companies.
Andrew: What do you mean by super tight?
Sam: I have a budget and I write down every cent that I spend every single day?
Andrew: Is it in front of you right now?
Sam: It’s on my iPhone.
Andrew: Can I see it?
Sam: Yeah, sure, but it only says breakfast, but yeah, I’ll show you.
Andrew: That’s okay. I used to be obsessed with JP Getty. He was the richest man in the world in his day. He was such a freaking eccentric. Everything from the way that he used to have a payphone in his house to he would have seven women in his house that would live with him to the fact that he didn’t pay ransom to bring back his kid and his kid’s ear was mailed to him. He was really interesting and strange. One of the things he used to do is he used to keep track of every expense that he had for the day. It would be like $200,000 for an oil rig and $0.50 for a sandwich all recorded.
Sam: Yeah, so did John Rockefeller and that’s where I learned about this. It’s just an app.
Andrew: What’s that app?
Sam: My Weekly Budget. I don’t think the category matters. Breakfast was just the first category. So, anytime I spend anything, I just type in $14 spent. I give myself a budget of $250 a week.
Andrew: What’s one thing that would shock your friends that you are tight with financially?
Sam: Definitely food. When I go to the restaurant, I look at every price. I’m okay now. I’ve always not had to be broke. But when I go to a restaurant, I’ll look at the menu and get one of the cheapest things or only get a soda if it’s a refill.
Andrew: So, you’d be willing to sit there with friends that are having a sandwich, having a burger and you’ll have the free refill soda?
Sam: No, I would get food. But like if I’m like going to order a coffee, I will definitely get the normal coffee because iced coffees aren’t refills.
Andrew: I see. They’re much more expensive if you get a latte.
Sam: Yeah. If there’s bread on the menu, I’ll ask for bread and I’ll get filled up on that before I order. That’s just being a business owner. You can go bankrupt.
Andrew: I actually feel like I need to be better about that stuff if for no other reason than to get myself fin the right frame of mind. It’s so easy to spend–I can now spend with my watch, literally. I’ll just tap something over at the Walgreens and pay. It disconnects me from my spending. You say, “So what, at Walgreens how much are you really going to spend?” It’s not about that. It’s the mentality. I feel like you have a much better discipline about it and I need to get better at it.
Sam: That’s exactly what it is. I don’t care about the money. I’ll give money to a lot of people. I’m reckless with money sometimes. It’s about the discipline.
Andrew: What are you reckless with?
Sam: Like I’ll buy a $300 or $400 pair of jeans or something or like a fancy watch. I don’t care.
Andrew: It’s intentional and it’s not just thrown around.
Sam: Right. I don’t mind spending a lot of money on certain things.
Andrew: Right, a nice jacket. I’ve seen you wear those. All right. Let me do a quick sponsorship break. This is for Toptal. I actually was wrong. I don’t think you introduced us to Toptal. I think we just kind of knew about Toptal because they had such a good interview experience when I interviewed their founder.
But what you did was you told Sachit–Sachit Gupta, who was starting to sell ads for Mixergy–he came to you and said, “What do you think? I’m going to start selling ads. You sold ads for the conference. Who should I talk to, what kinds of companies?” What you said to him was, “Go for…” Do you remember?
Sam: Yeah. Go for companies that have massive–like a customer spend massive. That’s typically a recruiter, lawyer, some consultants, but recruiters and lawyers are pretty easy.
Andrew: Right. So, what he did was I guess he ended up with Toptal, which is not exactly a recruiter. A recruiter can make $30,000, $50,000 on a hire.
Sam: Toptal spends a shit ton on marketing.
Andrew: Right. What Toptal does is they kind of undercut those recruiters because they have a network of developers that they test, that they vet, that they make sure are the right kinds of developers for their network and then when a client says, “I have this new app that I need a developer to work with me on,” Toptal goes to their network, finds the right person and they match you up based not just on what you need and the language, but on how you work, what you’re looking for, on what your vision is for your business and they match you up.
You end up with a good developer that you can hire and often start with the next day. If you’re not happy with them, they have a money back guarantee. It’s not even a money back guarantee. I think it’s a, “We won’t take money from you,” guarantee.
The best way to get the details of it is to go to Toptal.com/Mixery. When you do that, you’re going to see that they have 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on your trial period of up to two weeks. There’s a special right now for Mixergy listeners. If you sign up, they’re going to give you 80 free Toptal developer hours when you pay for 80.
They’re such a good company. Andreessen Horowitz invested in them. Airbnb–why do you like working with them–Airbnb hired their people, just to finish that thought. What do you like about them?
Sam: They’re one of our advertisers as well, but I like them because Brendan, the founder, is a killer. He’s like super-aggressive. But Toptal makes a ton of money. They’ve only raised like $2 million and they’re like a $500 million company.
Andrew: That’s all they raised?
Sam: I think. Maybe less, maybe $1.5 million.
Andrew: I would think Andreessen Horowitz would have that in like the change drawer of their Tesla.
Sam: They could, but Toptal doesn’t need it. They’re a cash flow-heavy company.
Andrew: And the founder is such a killer. I don’t know how to communicate this except to say something that I probably shouldn’t in public. He was sitting in my house for dinner. I look at everybody–
Sam: I was there.
Andrew: Were you there?
Andrew: Everybody was relaxed and talking. Did you see him? He was like, “What the hell am I doing just chatting here and having a good time?” You can see that he just wants to get back to work.
Sam: Yeah. He was ripped too. And he was like uptight, in a cool way. I like this guy. His clothes all fit a certain way. You could just tell this guy is one of those aggressive, type-As.
Andrew: Right. When I first met him, I was introduced to him as a guy who was kind of living in a cave in South America just pounding away at his keyboard because he’s so obsessive. He had to build this company. A mutual friend said, “Look at how much the company is doing. I’ll tell you, but don’t say this publicly unless he tells you.”
Sam: I can say it. He wrote about it on The Hustle. They’re doing about $100 million in revenue.
Andrew: $100 million in revenue right now?
Andrew: Really fascinating person. I thought at first that he was just a digital nomad that cared more about his lifestyle than the business. No. He’s obsessive. I complicated him on the site. He goes, “Every pixel bas to go by me before…” I go, “How do you sleep? How do you have time?” He goes, “I don’t know.”
Sam: He goes, “I write every piece of word on the website.”
Andrew: Right, which is why for the first few times we did a Toptal sponsorship message, there was no Toptal.com/Mixergy, because he had to approve it, I’m guessing.
Sam: Yeah. He’s crazy. I like that guy.
Andrew: I do. I admire him completely and at the same time, you feel like how does anyone else get to do that? If I had to watch every single pixel on Mixergy, I’d pass out.
Sam: Well, some people are just special, I guess.
Andrew: I’ve got to get him on here to explain that. And he was also like in a polo match a few days before. That’s the thing about living in San Francisco. You’re watching how much you’re spending on coffee. This guy just came off of a polo horse because his company is making $100 million a year.
Sam: Yeah. He probably pays himself very little. Their company has a bunch of cash in the bank. They’re a good business. They’ll probably have an exit in the billion-dollar range, I bet.
Andrew: I know. You know what I should have done? I should dismissed everyone else, not paid attention to everyone else, just befriended him. I need a billionaire friend.
Sam: I’m shocked you don’t have one.
Andrew: I’m like an interesting person for billionaires. I’m not a buddy. I’m the person who will ask them personal questions, which is helpful sometimes but also dangerous.
Sam: You know more people than me and I probably have one or two billionaire friends.
Andrew: What do you mean by friends? Will they come over to your house? I’m going to blow my nose on the side while you answer that.
Sam: I’d go out to dinner with them. I don’t know if I’d go out to the house. We have an investor that’s probably pretty close to the billion-dollar range.
Andrew: Who’s the investor?
Sam: I’m not going to say.
Andrew: You’re not going to say the name of your investor?
Sam: I’m not going to say which one. Yeah, I’m not going to say.
Andrew: Who are the three most impressive investors?
Sam: The two founders of NerdWallet. NerdWallet, I don’t know this for sure, but I know for a fact up until recently they were bootstrapped and they probably made $100 million a year in revenue. Those two guys are big investors. And then Eric Bond is one of our investors. He’s from Beat the GMAT.
Andrew: I’ve got to get back on track here, but let me ask you this one question. Eric Bond came here to talk to me about how he built Beat the GMAT and sold that. Why do you think after doing that and taking some time off his follow up is to go work at Facebook?
Sam: Okay. I don’t know if this is true, but because he probably wants free healthcare because he just had kids and when you work at Facebook and you have a kid, the give you a $5,000 bonus and five months off and probably because he wants to meet potential people to work with.
Andrew: I could understand the last part. Health insurance is expensive but not that expensive. I probably spend more on lunch than I do on health insurance.
Sam: Yeah but Eric is like 35 years old. He’s worked on all his life on this company. He’s probably working like 80 hours a week. You go to Facebook and you can get away with 40 hours a week and get paid–I don’t know what he gets paid–high six figures probably.
Andrew: Maybe he’s getting to work on interesting stuff. Eric, please tell me why did you go to–I’m not judging. I’m not one of these people you have to be an entrepreneur or else you’re worthless in life. I understand there are times you want to work at a company. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying help me understand, Eric. Eric Bond, please, help me understand.
So, you’re doing this thing and meanwhile, you’re not liking working at Apartment List. It’s a great company. You like the founders. You admire what they built. It’s just not the right structure for you. You decided you want to organize an event. Where did you get your first guests, the first people who are going to pay to come watch the event?
Sam: I don’t know. This is weird. When I did the event the very first time by myself, I probably brought in like $60,000 in seven weeks. People were buying tickets before I even told anyone about it.
Andrew: The first time you did–we’re not talking about the conference. I’m talking about Bootstrap Live. I felt like that was the beginning that allowed you to do the conference.
Sam: That was easy, just Startup Digest.
Andrew: You just went to Startup Digest. You said, “I’m doing this event.” They basically sold your tickets for you.
Sam: It was a cool event. You were there. You were popular.
Andrew: I know people came because of me. I know people came because of some of the other attendees.
Sam: Here’s a little secret that I tell people. I guess it’s not a secret. Most events suck really, really bad. So, if you just make the copy for the page kind of funny, you stick out so easily and people share it.
Andrew: I see. And I’ve seen you do that stuff. Copywriting is big for you, even to this day, right?
Sam: Yeah. I discovered copywriting on Mixergy from Neville Medhora and he’s one of our investors now.
Andrew: Oh, he is?
Andrew: That guy’s a crack up. He is really funny. You told our producer, April Dykman that what you did was you studied copy on a regular basis and you now ask all the people that work at The Hustle to study copy. What do you mean? What kind of regular basis did you have for studying copy and how did you study it?
Sam: Well, I would find famous advertisements and I would copy them by hand for about two hours a day for like six months.
Andrew: This is Gary Halbert’s technique. He actually said this to his son in one of the Halbert letters. He said, “Go sit and write out by hand all of these different ads.” Where did you find the ads you were going to rewrite by hand?
Sam: I bought a David Ogilvy book and I bought a Joe Sugarman book and I copied lots of their ads. I didn’t know that Gary Halbert did it. I did it because this was how my brother learned to play guitar. He just would copy other people. I was like, “I could probably learn copywriting this way.” And then I learned it was popular.
Andrew: I see. Is there one piece of copy that you’re especially proud of that if somebody wanted to you learn your method and copy it by hand they should go check out?
Sam: Yeah, the emails that we sent from the Hustle Con account leading up to the conference are pretty hilarious? If you search “Sam Parr Hustle Con,” you’ll probably find a post on Neville Medhora’s blog and you’ll see all my emails.
Andrew: “Hustle Con, Neville…”
Sam: Sam Parr. The title says “Sam Parr Made $40,000 off Hustle Con.”
Andrew: There we go. “Hustle Con, 2014: I went. I spoke with Sam, made $40k from it.” This is all of your emails right here?
Sam: Most of them are in there. They’re really stupid, but they’re hilarious.
Andrew: What else did you do to learn copy?
Sam: I read religiously.
Andrew: Too many marketers ready marketing books. But I read a great book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. That was probably one of my favorites. “On Writing Well,” which was a similar title. I don’t remember the author of that, but I read him a lot. And then I would just read like famous classic pieces of literature.
Andrew: Let me see who wrote “On Writing Well…”
Sam: William Z, I believe.
Andrew: I’ve never heard of that one. William Zinsser.
Sam: Yeah. So, the best writers are from like long ago, I think. They write like your grandparents used to write. That’s like the best copywriters.
Andrew: When you tell your people at The Hustle to study copy, how do you tell them to study it?
Sam: I give them Neville Medhora’s course. I ask them to read “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman and I ask them to read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini.
Andrew: “Advertising Secrets” of what, “Of the Written Word?”
Sam: Yeah, I believe that’s what it’s called, by Joe Sugarman. It’s Joe Sugarman’s most popular book.
Andrew: Okay. I’ll find it later.
Sam: “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word.” It’s also sometimes called “Adweek Copywriting Handbook.” It’s got two titles.
Andrew: Here we go. I see. “Advertising Secrets of the Written World.” Oh man, it is available for $67 from Amazon in hardcover.
Sam: If you buy his other book called “The Copywriting Handbook,” it’s the same exact book and it’s like $5.
Andrew: Let’s see, “The Copywriting Handbook…”
Sam: I think that’s what it’s called. If you go to Amazon, you’ll see people also purchase this thing.
Andrew: I see what you mean, “Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters.” The Kindle edition of that sells for $12.79.
Sam: Yeah. This guy is the best. We hire journalists, so they have journalism backgrounds. So, we just give them this so they understand how people think.
Andrew: So, you started writing emails. You went to Startup Digest. You filled up the room. How did you know who to get to speak at the event?
Sam: Well, you were my friend and I knew that you were popular. So, I asked you to speak. I knew that people would pay money to see you. I liked Neville Medhora at the time. I was a fan of his. So, I emailed him and I said I would fly him up and pay for his accommodation, which really meant I bought him a cheap Southwest ticket and let him sleep on my couch. The other two speakers were just people I admired.
Andrew: I kind of feel like the nice thing about having Neville there is he’s in your house. You guys get to spend time talking through ideas, having him talk to you about your copywriting.
Sam: Well, that was the plan. He was charging $300 an hour for consulting. I was like, “Screw that. I’m going to fly this guy up here and we’re going to become friends.” Now he’s an investor.
Andrew: And he was good. He was such a funny guy there. He’s always energetic and you need that for a guest.
Sam: Yeah. He’s outlandish.
Andrew: So, you did the first one. How did you know this was what you should be doing next, that you should keep doing events?
Sam: I didn’t. I don’t plan on doing events for a long time.
Andrew: You did a second one and then you ended up doing–I feel like the conference is an event.
Sam: It is an event. It wasn’t an event in the same way that I look at a concert being an event. I wanted to start a concert company, but I didn’t know anyone in the music industry, so that’s why started a tech conference, because I had lots of people in the tech industry. But the main goal was to start a media company. Conferences are a great stream of revenue for media companies.
Andrew: They are, but they’re a ton of work, don’t you think? The first time you did Hustle Con, how much work went into it? You’re smiling. You’re laughing this off because everyone says it’s a ton of work, but you have this shit-eating grin that you know it’s not what everyone says it is because you figured something out. What is it?
Sam: Dude, most conferences suck ass. If you make yours look kind of cool, it’s so easy. I take it back. It’s not easy. I work like 90 hours a week. It’s not easy. I work just as hard as everyone else. But when I worked at apartment list, I worked with a ton of consultants and bankers and they were all numbers guys and I learned how to do those numbers and be very formulaic about my analytics and stuff and just know that if you get x-amount of traffic, you convert at this rate and do all this math. I learned how to do that really well. That’s how we sold so many tickets.
Andrew: You just put that into a spreadsheet?
Sam: Exactly. So, we sold out two weeks ahead of time, whereas most conferences sellout two weeks before the event. We usually always sell out way ahead of time.
Andrew: What do you mean two weeks ahead of time? Two weeks after you started selling you sold out?
Sam: No, two weeks before the event actually happens, we always sell out.
Andrew: Most conferences?
Sam: It’s the other way around. One of our advisors is the founder of Governors Ball, who I met through you, Tom Russell. He told us that a lot of events sell out two weeks, like in the last two weeks. That’s when all the sales come, whereas ours it’s the opposite. We get a ton of sales in the first two weeks and it’s consistent the whole time.
Andrew: So, tell me about the conference. What went into it that you’re especially proud of, into putting the design and the experience together?
Sam: So, this year Hustle Con is in the Paramount Theater, which is a 3,000-person concert venue. So, we put a lot of effort into the venue. You and I went to Launch together and it was at a conference center. Ours aren’t like that. They feel like as a concert. We describe as a less-douchey version of a TED Talk. So, if you go to TED and it’s all dark and it’s got stadium seating and it feels like you’re at a Black Keys’ concert, that’s how we make ours feel. We make ours feel like you’re at a concert.
Andrew: Where was there first one? I was away on vacation and couldn’t come. Where was it?
Sam: That was at the Brava Theater in the Mission. That was a 400-person theater that I paid $3,000 to rent out. The second one was at a 6,000-person theater and that was six months after the first one at the Jewish Community Center and then this one is at the Paramount in Oakland, California, which is a very famous concert venue.
Andrew: How much is that costing you?
Andrew: Wow. So, you’re really growing here, ten times you were the first time.
Sam: Yeah. We’re going to have a good year.
Andrew: What kind of revenue did you guys do in 2015?
Sam: So, our fiscal year, if we do a good job, we’ll hit close to seven figures.
Andrew: Last year? This year?
Sam: Come this April, we’ll probably round out the year around seven figures.
Andrew: Wow. All right.
Sam: And then a lot of our revenue is going to come from our newsletter, which is where the big money is.
Andrew: I want to get into how you grew your newsletter because you grew it super-fast. Let’s just spend a little more time on how you got people to come to the conference. What did you do that was especially clever that got people to come?
Sam: At first we would send people gifts. So, when I wanted to get you to come, I sent you–I don’t know anything about whiskey, so it turns out I think I bought you a crappy bottle of whiskey, but I thought it was nice because it was expensive. But it was Johnnie Walker something, but it was like the most expensive one. I bought you a bottle of Johnnie Walker. Now what we do–this is more scalable–we send .gifs to people. We have customized .gifs that we send to all of our speakers. They’re really funny .gifs and we send them in the email.
Andrew: I’ve seen it. It’s you and a handful of other people holding up–
Sam: They’re different every time.
Andrew: It’s different each time.
Sam: Well, each year.
Andrew: And a .gif is what basically tells people you’re asking them to speak at the conference. What about for selling tickets?
Sam: So, for selling tickets, we created infographics on each speaker. The idea is just to make people interested in the infographics and if they want to come to the conference, they can.
Andrew: And that’s what worked for you? Is that the most effective way that you sold tickets?
Sam: So, we collect emails. And then we have a thing, this thing that we built, we took it from Tim Ferriss’ blog post and you can get discounts on your by getting friends to sign up to our email list. Then once we have people on our email list, we just send them funny infographics. At the very bottom of the infographic, it says, “This guy is going to speak,” or, “This guy or lady is going to speak at Hustle Con. If you want to come, here’s a link.”
Andrew: So, if I get you to join my mailing list–sorry, if I get my friend Sachit to join your mailing list, I get a discount on coming to the conference?
Sam: Yeah, like 50% off depending on how many friends you get to join our email list.
Andrew: I see. What software do you use to keep track of that?
Sam: We built it. We found it on GitHub and then we customized it. I have a developer friend. I bought him a pizza one night and he put it together for me. Now my cofounder knows how to do it.
Andrew: I kind of feel like there’s a way to do that using Kickoff Labs.
Sam: Yeah, there is now.
Andrew: But at the time you guys did it yourselves. That’s really smart. So, that helped you sell tickets because I guess once people get their friends to join the mailing list and they have a discount, they feel like they’ve earned it and they’re more likely to use it?
Sam: Yeah. When we sold out the conference and we got like 600 people there, our email list was only like 5,000 people. So, we just converted them really well.
Andrew: What else did you do to convert them well?
Sam: We had interesting speakers and we created cool infographics and we asked the speakers to share the infographics that we made on them.
Andrew: I see.
Sam: We only got like 1,000 or 2,000 daily visitors but it just converted well.
Andrew: Speakers, I was going to say, hate to promote events and say, “Go sign up for this. Buy me right now,” because if they’re going to use that kind of social capital, they want to use it on selling their own stuff, not selling your conference.
Sam: Yeah, these infographics are cool.
Andrew: The infographics they’re happy to share.
Sam: And they get shared thousands of times. If you Google Hustle Con Dave McClure, that infographic is probably shared 2,000 times.
Andrew: Here’s one that I like. I like the iCracked one. Nobody knows that iCracked did so well. They’re doing $25 million in sales. You did an infographic on it.
Sam: They’re doing way more than that now. He’s one of my best friends. They kill it. How many times did that get shared?
Andrew: 5,000 on Twitter, 155,000 on Facebook. It really did well. Let me do my next sponsorship message. The next sponsor is Pipedrive. Do you know Pipedrive?
Sam: Yeah. We tried it once. It’s for sending lots of emails?
Andrew: No. Pipedrive is for keeping track of sales that you do. So, what you do is…
Andrew: Okay. So, you might have used it. What didn’t you like about it?
Sam: What did I like?
Andrew: What did you not like about it?
Sam: I don’t remember. I think that we couldn’t afford it when we used it. We used like a trial. It was like a CRM for tracking your sponsors.
Andrew: Right. So, here’s a really good thing for people to know–if they want a 45-day trial so they can make some sales before they even have to pay, all they have to do is go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. So, imagine this–imagine you have to sell sponsors. Actually, let’s say you want to get people to speak at your event. You know there are a handful of things that if you do them right, you’re going to get them to speak, like send them a .gif, ask a friend to introduce you, comment on their tweets or something.
Sam: Follow up like five times.
Andrew: Follow up five times. Here’s what you do–you set up all your steps of your sales process into columns. Column one might be comment on something they have. Column two might be send them a .gif. Column three might be asking a friend to make an introduction. Column four might be follow up. Five, follow up. Column six might be follow up. Column seven is close that sucker, get them in there.
So, you lay them out in your columns and now as soon as soon as you have someone you want to invite, you write their name down on a little card in Pipedrive and put it in column one. Now it’s time for you to take your first step. Then a week later, you’ll get an alert that says it’s time to move them to column two, but you have to earn the right by doing the second thing you said you would do, which is create a .gif and send it over.
So, this is a way for you to keep track of all the steps that you want to take to close a sale and maybe even have a couple of other people on the team collaborate. So, maybe what you do is you send out the .gif and you ask for an introduction, but someone else on the site will follow up or someone else on your team will send a follow up email.
Anyway, that is what Pipedrive is about. If you want to grow more sales, you meaning not just Sam Parr, but anyone out there who’s trying to get more sales, Pipedrive is a fantastic tool. The only objection I’ve ever heard to Pipedrive–and I will be honest with you, people have objected–here’s the one big one–it doesn’t have whatever feature.
I don’t care about that. We are way too obsessed with too many features in our CRMs. I don’t need all the features. I’m not trying to recreate Salesforce. I’m not trying to get distracted. I’m trying to close sales. If it closes sales for me, I’m happy. If it doesn’t, I don’t want more features. That’s not going to help me. Get it right. That’s what Pipedrive does. That’s why we’ve been using Pipedrive for a very long time.
I have news for you, Sam. I’m probably not making money on these ads, even though they’re paying thousands of dollars because I’ve probably spent even more on Pipedrive over the years because I give this to everybody. If you are on my team, one of the first things you get is Pipedrive. One of the first things you get when I trust you is Pipedrive. All right, Pipedrive.com/Mixergy.
Andrew: I think I need to take it down a notch with my ads. What do you think?
Sam: I don’t know. You made me want to buy it.
Andrew: I should show you how I use it. I wanted, actually, Pipedrive to put me explaining how I use Pipedrive on Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. I think they have other things to worry about, so they didn’t get into it. Frankly, I think the way we do it is genius. My whole booking process used to be a freaking nightmare, now I have, if anything, way too many people who are booked to do interviews. But I’d be happy to do it for you if you ever ask. Let’s move on.
You got your event. The mailing list is part of the reason why you got it. Today you have how many people on the list?
Sam: About 70,000 have signed up.
Andrew: A mailing list is huge for sales.
Sam: That 70,000 list, that’s the one that we created starting August 1st.
Andrew: Okay. So, we’re talking about in the last four months or so.
Sam: Yeah, It’s January 12th now.
Andrew: Yeah. By the time this interview will be up, considering our backlog, it will be mid-February, frankly. But how did you grow it? Giving people discounts if they tell their friends is one thing. What else did you do?
Sam: That 70,000 list is The Hustle. The Hustle Con list, it’s part of that now. It’s all one list. But The Hustle is where we focus everything. The way we’ve gotten that is by getting lots of traffic on our website and through our ambassador program, which kills it.
Andrew: The Hustle is your content site. This is the one that’s like you want it to be the future Wall Street Journal.
Sam: Yeah. We want to hire a news team. I want to be like Mic.com or Business Insider or Wall Street Journal or New York Times.
Andrew: So, you were saying ambassadors. What do the ambassadors do?
Sam: So, we use the same software that we created for Hustle Con. When ambassadors share a certain amount of emails, they get access to a private Facebook group and they get free swag. We modeled it after theSkimm.com, which is a huge inspiration to us.
Andrew: Let me see theSkimm.com. I didn’t see what they did.
Sam: They’re like a $100 million company probably now. They’re quite a good company. I don’t even think–you can’t find it online anywhere. If you open like six of their emails in a row, you get sent an email asking you to join the ambassador program.
Andrew: First of all, how do you even know about this stuff? I’ve never heard of theSkimm.
Sam: TheSkimm is huge, dude.
Andrew: I had no idea, theSkimm with two Ms, right?
Sam: Yeah. They’re like one of the hottest startups in America right now. They probably have 3.5 people on their email list and they probably grew that in like three years.
Andrew: I had no idea. I’m reading Techmeme. I’m reading TechCrunch. I didn’t see them on there.
Sam: I bet you’ll know them now. They’re huge.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m checking them out now on SimilarWeb. I freaking love this SimilarWeb.
Sam: I’m obsessed with SimilarWeb too. They probably only get 200,000 to 300,000 uniques.
Andrew: 500,000 a month. That’s not that much.
Sam: Yeah, but their email list is like three or four million.
Andrew: What’s on the mailing list? “theSkimm is a daily email newsletter that gives you everything you need to start your day. We do the reading for you and breakdown the latest news and information with fresh editorial content.” I kind of feel like this is what Jason Calacanis is trying to do with Inside.
Sam: Maybe, but theSkimm is way bigger. Every 24-year old yuppie female in America is probably on theSkimm or knows of theSkimm. It’s awesome.
Andrew: How am I not knowing about this? Is it because I’m not in my 20s or is it because I don’t have a vagina?
Andrew: All right. I’m joining right now. I don’t care if I don’t qualify.
Sam: 30% of their audience is male, probably, maybe 20%.
Andrew: I’m subscribing. So, break down for me what they do with their ambassador program.
Sam: Same thing we do. We were inspired by them. You sign up, you’ve got to share four emails in order to become an ambassador. Once you become an ambassador, you go to our Facebook group and then once you share 10 times you get a free shirt. Once you share 50 times, you get a hoodie. Once you share 100 times, you get a free ticket to Hustle Con. We’ve had people get 2,000 emails.
Andrew: How do you keep track of shares?
Sam: Sorry, not shares. What I mean is how many people have signed up to our list, referrals.
Andrew: Got you. I see.
Sam: Or referrals come to our Facebook thing. We do AMAs and stuff. And then 10 referrals they get a t-shirt.
Andrew: Interesting. And this is your own homegrown software you use for that?
Sam: Yeah. We found it on GitHub and then customized it.
Andrew: What is the software you found on GitHub and customized?
Sam: Harrys.com used it for their launch. I found it on the Four-Hour Workweek.
Andrew: Got it. I love the way you think. What took us so long to get you on here? I’m looking here at–
Sam: I’m still not successful but at least right now we’ve got millions of readers. We had to wait until the audience was big. Hopefully when we have a $500 million company I can come on again.
Andrew: It is earlier than we usually do it. Here’s the thing. I’m in Pipedrive so I can see every email that you basically had with anyone on the team. You were originally put into our system over 605 days ago, right? Two years, 17 days is what I see, initially for what we call the 10k series.
Sam: Then I said no. You invited me on and I said not yet.
Andrew: I see. It says that it was lost and then I see an email that you said, “I was invited to do the first 10k series but turned it down because we weren’t ready. I think we are now.” This is what you sent us on August 14, 2015. “My cofounder Eric Bond has been on here before. We’ve both started and sold a company in the past. I’m 26. My first exit when I was 23. I’m also popular, internet popular, at least.” Should I be reading this?
Sam: Well, you make me sound douchey, but I don’t mind. I’m douchey sometimes.
Andrew: Actually, I do feel like that’s what made me hesitate for a second because it does sound douchey, but I like that. I like the clarity of this email and I like the way you ended it, “Holla at your boy.” I like the clarity and I like the relaxed attitude in it. That’s when I read it and I realized some people don’t like when I do stuff like this.
Sam: Well, I’m not at my core a douche, but I definitely come off like it. Once people know me, I’m not a bad guy. Hopefully you knew I’m not a bad guy.
Andrew: I didn’t even see it. Apparently everyone on the team thought, “This guy’s fine. Let’s bring him back on. Let’s make it happen.” So, what happened on August 14th that made you turn the corner here.
Sam: That’s when we announced our funding, our round of funding. It was only small. It was a small round of funding, I think.
Andrew: Okay. So, you felt, “All right, now I’ve made it.”
Andrew: What did you feel about that? Did you feel like, “I finally have said to the world what my revenue is so I can say to Andrew what it is or I can say on Mixergy?”
Sam: Yeah, probably. I still won’t talk about it a lot. Probably that reason. Plus, we’re trying to hire a lot of people, so it helps to hire people, to be honest. Well, I had a vision, our site is going to be fucking huge. I 100 percent believe that. I’m confident.
Andrew: Why? Does the world need another content site? We have tons of them.
Sam: Yeah, dude. They all suck. Think about it. There are lots of websites that are trying to–in my opinion, there’s like The New York Times and there’s CNN and there’s Fox News and they all do politics but there is not a great, young business publication for millennials like in the same way that our–
Andrew: Why does the world need a business publication for millennials?
Sam: Because there’s not anything else out there. Look at Wall Street Journal’s success to my parents’ generation. If that succeed so well and people crave that and they need it, we’re going to fill that void. People need news. We’re doing evergreen stuff now, but we’re soon going to do news. I think young people need that. I don’t think there’s a great outlet out there.
Andrew: Why? Why do we need news? Why do we need to even know? Let me take a look at TechCrunch right now or Techmeme.
Sam: Not TechCrunch though. Go to Bloomberg or go to Wall Street Journal. That’s what I’m talking about.
Andrew: I’ll go to Businessweek. I love Businessweek.com.
Sam: Right. That’s a great example.
Andrew: Anything Bloomberg puts out really is great and as soon as they bought Businessweek I felt like, “All right, that brand is saved.” Forbes Magazine has been trashed.
Sam: Forbes Magazine sucks. It’s awful.
Andrew: It does. It used to be so good.
Sam: We’re friends with one of the guys who started Forbes.com and even he hates Forbes.com. It sucks. Forbes.com sucks. Inc.com sucks.
Andrew: How do you have all these friends when you don’t drink by the way? Doesn’t that hurt?
Sam: People like you more when you don’t drink sometimes because they think you’re weird or something.
Andrew: Is it a little tough? I feel like there was a week there where a friend of mine was trying not to drink and I said, “I’m going to go for a week without drinking so I can see what he’s experiencing.” And the social part was really tough. I had to really–in personal life, I’m fine. If it’s me and my wife, I’m fine not having wine at dinner.
Sam: You’ve got to feel confident.
Andrew: So, I had a guy come over. He’s not going to come over to play Tiddlywinks. I don’t know what that is. He’s not coming over to bake with me. He’s coming over to just have a beer. So, I said fine. “I have to find a solution for this because I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to get into I’m not drinking with him. I just need to be. I can’t be the person who’s like not eating meat. I’m also the person who’s not having caffeine.”
Sam: It’s not that hard. I drink non-alcoholic beer and you just don’t be weird. You’d be like, “Hey, you want a beer.” And I say it like I say to you. I’ll be like, “Dude, take this shot.”
Andrew: I hate that. That jerk I get, the person who’s, “Take the shot.” So, he comes over and I say, “Here’s your beer. I’m going to drink this near-beer. Is that it?”
Sam: I don’t even say near-beer, dude. I just grab a drink and I say, “Let’s shoot the shit. You want a drink?” When I see their drink is empty, I go, “Here, I’ll get you another one.” And I’ll get another one.
Andrew: What happens when they make fun of you for drinking non-alcoholic beer because what’s the point of beer?
Sam: You grow a pair and be confident.
Andrew: What do you say? Literally, what do you do?
Sam: I don’t drink.
Andrew: That’s it. That’s what you say, “I don’t drink?”
Sam: I go, “I don’t drink, but I’m cool if you do. In fact, I have more fun when you drink a lot.”
Andrew: I got a cigar that night. I said, “I’m going to sit and smoke a cigar.
Sam: It’s only weird if you make it weird.
Andrew: It is a tough thing. You’ve got to acknowledge it’s a tough thing.
Sam: Not anymore.
Andrew: Not anymore because you’ve had some experience?
Sam: Yeah. That’s true. But after like three months of doing it, I was like, “This is awesome.” I have a long-term girlfriend now, but at the time, you get more girls when you don’t drink because people think you’re weird and you stick out. My friends liked me more because I could hold a conversation better.
Andrew: Let’s get back to why does anyone need more news. Look at this. Here’s what’s in the news today. “Periscope is going to stream video live within Twitter timeline.” Who cares? “Skype is going to add group video calling to iOS.” Well, I’m going to find out about it when my update comes in. “VLC is now available for Apple TV. Here’s our first impressions from Mac Stories.” Why does the world need more news? I kind of feel like having done Mixergy, I don’t want to touch news because news is just so useless.
Sam: No, it’s not.
Andrew: You told me to go to Bloomberg.
Sam: Okay. How about when New York Times did that amazing piece about Amazon about how they accused Amazon, Jeff Bezos of being a horrible leader.
Andrew: I feel like that’s not so much news. That’s much closer to what you guys do right now. Here’s news on Bloomberg Businessweek–number one headline, “Why Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Want Your Vote.” That’s the number one thing.
Sam: I don’t know. I haven’t read it. It could be extremely interesting. This is an election year. People want to learn about their politicians. They deserve to learn about their politicians and they deserve to learn about their politicians and they owe it to their country, I think.
Andrew: I don’t think I owe it to my country to learn about my politicians. I feel like I owe to my country–I love that you just gave that pissed off look when I said it.
Sam: Well, you can do what you want to do, but I bet you you’re one of those guys that says they never click ads. You click these things on your feed all the time.
Andrew: I use an ad blocker and I urge anyone who’s listening to my interview how thinks that my Toptal ad is not interesting, I really urge you to please, fast forward. Here’s what you do–listen to me on Overcast or one of those apps that will actually easily skip over 15 seconds. If I’m not interesting, do it and if you want to do me a solid, don’t listen to the bad ad, send me an email and say, “Here’s why the ad sucks.”
By the way, I’m only pushing your buttons because I feel like you’re very passionate about what you’re doing with content and I don’t just want it to sound like you’re in the content business, I want to tap into that passion. That’s why I’m pushing a little bit here.
Sam: Without great news and content companies, our lives would be significantly worse. For example, the Boston Globe in the early 2000s were some of the people that discovered the Vatican and how they were systematically covering up when their priests were–
Andrew: That’s your goal. That’s what you want to do, start exposing things like what the New York Times did about Amazon.
Sam: My goal is not to expose people. My goal is enlighten people and make their lives better. That is one of the things. We’re definitely going to have a whole entire team dedicated to investigative journalism, 100 percent. But our goal is to educate and inspire and make people just a little bit happier.
Andrew: I could see that. And the revenues are going to come from advertising?
Sam: Yeah. So, revenue will come from native advertising, sponsored content and our events. I see our event being a significant business, not huge, but I can see it bringing in $10 million a year, but I can see our advertising and sponsored content as well as our digital services, which we will continue to do creative services and things like that, that can make hundreds of millions of dollars a year if we play our cards right.
Andrew: How much are you raising now?
Sam: We try to raise as small as possible. I predict that our next round will be between one and three million.
Andrew: Who are you raising it from? What kinds of investors, I mean? I don’t mean specific names.
Sam: Ideally the same people who we raised from the first place.
Andrew: Really? You’re going to go back to the same individual angels and you’re going to do another round with angels?
Sam: Ideally. We also had a very prominent institution holler at us a few months ago that we turned down and we probably talked with them again.
Sam: They owned some of the most popular media properties in the world. So, we’ll probably talk to them.
Andrew: What do you feel we missed from this interview? Is there anything I didn’t cover here?
Sam: We didn’t talk about the tactics. I’m surprised.
Andrew: What are the tactics that we missed? Hit me.
Sam: I don’t know. There aren’t really tactics. Just do good shit.
Andrew: No, no, no. What do you do to make sure that you’re writing is good?
Sam: Well, there’s software that you can use to study what goes popular and what doesn’t.
Andrew: What do you use for that?
Sam: There are many things. You know, like BuzzSumo and then there’s something called CrowdTangle and then there are dozens of other things that you can use.
Andrew: What do you use CrowdTangle for?
Sam: We can see what our competitors are doing and we can see what’s over-performing on our page, so we can do more of it or less of what’s not performing well.
Andrew: What about BuzzSumo? How do you use that?
Sam: That helps us shape headline ideas.
Andrew: Give me an example. If you were going to write a post about how Elon Musk’s socks helped him become rich, that seems like an out there thing that maybe you guys would find a hook for. What would you do first?
Sam: It depends. So, you have to think how you’re going to distribute it. Are you going to distribute it social or search?
Andrew: Do you start off by thinking that way?
Sam: Yeah. So, for example, if you Google Sasha Grey right now, the really famous porn star–it’s safe.
Andrew: I know. I saw what you guys did about her.
Sam: Yeah. We’re the number one thing that comes up, besides her Wikipedia page maybe.
Andrew: I’m seeing Wikipedia. I’m seeing YouPorn for her next. Sasha Grey, right?
Sam: Yeah, Sasha Grey. You should see an article from The Hustle.
Andrew: I do see it on the first page. It’s under a couple of things like IMDB and Twitter and Wikipedia. There you guys are. I see what you mean. And that was intentional. That was you setting out to do that?
Sam: Well, we use 50%, 50% editorial opinion. So, we say this is something we feel an urge to cover and then the second part is, “Okay, if we’re going to cover it, how are we going to get the biggest bang for our buck and make sure this is distributed well?” So, if you Google Soylent, we’ll come up number one for Soylent. Usually we do, it depends.
Andrew: I see what you mean. Soylent–you guys come up underneath Twitter. You come up above their freaking page, except for the ads.
Andrew: No, I take it back. It looks like it’s an add but them, then Twitter, Wikipedia and you guys.
Sam: And then we’re above Tim Ferriss. We’re above Vice.
Andrew: Why do you think you’re above Tim Ferriss? He did a great article on them with Shane Snow.
Sam: Because we did a better job, I think. We got more links to us. We got like 15,000 shares. We just did a better job, I think.
Andrew: I would love to have you back on–I don’t know if you’re into this–to just break down your content process from coming up with an idea that you’re passionate about like Soylent to deciding where it’s going to go to creating the content so that it goes well in that medium that you picked, whether it’s social or search, the whole works, to evaluating afterwards. Is that something you’d be up to doing?
Sam: Yeah. A lot of people don’t realize it. It’s way more systematic than coming up with an idea. You’ve got to do lots of different things if you want to really make this a successful company.
Andrew: I would love to have you on here. I’m going to put this post up first and then I need to know from the audience what do you want to know. Is this something you guys want or is it just something I should just talk to him about privately.
Sam: I hope everyone wants this. Don’t you want millions of people coming to your site every month?
Andrew: I’ve got to ask them to tell me. I agree. I want to know. One way or another, I want to know it and I do think they want to know it. But I’d like for them to call it out and say specifically what they’re looking for or maybe we’re douchey here. Who knows? Would you be fully open about it or are you going to then sit there and say, “How do we hide enough…?”
Sam: No, dude. We do anything shady.
Andrew: I don’t mean the shady stuff, even clever stuff that anyone else can copy. Would you feel like you can’t talk about it yet?
Sam: No. There are not a lot of secrets here. We work really, really hard and just do fundamentally good stuff.
Andrew: All right. You really do. I don’t ever feel like when I read something on TheHustle.co that I have been manipulated into clicking and it’s just for Google and just for Google that it’s been written. I feel like it’s been really written well.
Sam: That’s our whole philosophy. This generation has been trained since we’ve been born.
Andrew: Look at how you get fired up. I love it.
Sam: Think about it. We’re in the click bait age. We’ve been trained since we were ten, we know that we’re going to be surprised. We see number three on this list. We already know this. We’re going to avoid that. So, these are things that the legacy media companies don’t understand.
Andrew: I get it. And I hate to admit it, sometimes I even want the stupid click bait, like at night when I’m not ready to go to sleep and I just want to puts around, I end up looking for click bait. But you’re right, there’s way too much of it and most content online absolutely stinks and I’m glad to see that you guys are willing to go deep with this, like really long articles, like so long sometimes I see it shared on Facebook and dammit, I can’t get to it, so I have to Instapaper it.
Sam: We’ve got a combination of short and long.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m not afraid of the long ones. I do Instapaper and I have it read to me. I love that on my runs.
Sam: Sometimes long is good. Sometimes short is good. We have a combination.
Andrew: All right. Cool. Anyone who wants to follow up with you has an easy way to do it. They can go over to TheHustle.co and read your stuff.
Sam: Or just Google The Hustle.
Andrew: Google. The Hustle. Why are you smiling when you say that?
Sam: Well, because we have a .co domain name. TheHustle.com was like $1 million.
Andrew: Did I just say TheHustle.com when I said it?
Sam: No, we’re .co.
Andrew: Let me see who’s got TheHustle.com.
Sam: It’s this guy in New York, I think.
Andrew: Why did you name it something you can’t ever get the .com for?
Sam: Well, we’re going to buy it eventually.
Andrew: Why are you saying that now? You should be saying this is so insignificant in the world of Google and social. Nobody cares about .com. Make the guy feel like what he’s got is not useful at all.
Sam: Well, I don’t know.
Andrew: You figured you were going to buy it at some point.
Sam: Yeah. I’m going to have some head honcho marketing guy signing our advertising bill and if it’s a .net he’s going to be like, “What the fuck is a .net?”
Andrew: It’s Omar Wasson who owns it.
Sam: Yeah. He’s a professor in New York. He wants $1 million.
Andrew: Omar, you’re kidding yourself. Of course you don’t want $1 million for it. Be reasonable.
Sam: We’ll get it. Mark my words.
Andrew: I wouldn’t say that because Omar is going to be listening, say, “Who cares? Mark my words, he’ll beg us to take it.” Look at every time you hear Chris Sacca talk. Chris Sacca talks more about Lyft than he talks about Gimlet, even when he’s on a podcast. Gimlet is a podcast company. He’ll talk more about Lyft, which is a competitor of a company he invests in, competitor of Uber, more than he talks about Gimlet and he always says, “Uber is never going to buy Lyft. What are they going to buy from them?”
All these guys investing in Lyft, there’s nothing there, right? Why is he doing it? Because I believe he’s trying to screw up Lyft’s funding. He’s trying to make Lyft sound so insignificant that they’ll never have an exit, that they’re going to die. We should do the same thing. Omar is never going to sell this .com.
Sam: I’m telling you I’m going to buy it from this guy. It’s a mission. This is a mission. This is like eventually Hustle.com.
Andrew: All right. I do love that you’ve got that attitude. What did you think about working with me at Jason Calacanis’ conference when you and I first met?
Sam: I still respect you a ton, but even at the time, I thought you were like this celebrity to me because I am a fan. I’m a startup nerd. So, I thought I was so cool. I was nervous. We met there at 7:00 a.m. and I was nervous to talk to all these people. It was really cool to see people come up to you and just introduce themselves. I was like, “Damn, I can’t believe you can be an entrepreneur and be almost famous.” That was really fun to see that.
It was cool to see you talk to a lot of these people on stage. It was also cool to see that you were someone I admired but, no disrespect, but I don’t think you’re particularly much smarter than I am or much more outgoing. That was cool. I was like, “Man, this guy is kind of like a hero of mine, but he’s just been at it and he works hard and he’s clever and he’s totally doable.”
Andrew: How about when you were at my house? Did you look around to see if there was anything funky…?
Sam: Your eating habits are weird.
Andrew: Tell me.
Sam: You’re a vegetarian. Are you Jewish?
Sam: I thought that you were Muslim because you’re from Jordan, I think.
Andrew: No, Iran.
Sam: So, that was cool. I liked that. I like people that are different from what I’m used to. I’m from the Midwest. Everyone is white or black.
Andrew: How did you know my religion? I kind of feel like I hide it because I have not interest.
Sam: Well, I think it’s funny and cool and interesting that you have a different name than your real name. I think that’s cool. That’s intriguing to me.
Andrew: What about my eating habits made you feel like it’s a little weird?
Sam: Because you’re like way different than me. You’re like a hippie. You love yoga and being a vegetarian.
Andrew: Not yoga, but I do love my edamame. I feel like when people come over, there’s always edamame.
Sam: Not yoga, meditation.
Andrew: Meditation, yes.
Sam: I’m totally not into that. So, its’ really fun to hang out with people that are into different things. You had a really well-designed house. I do what you do where I’m like, “I wonder if he owns it or how much he pays in rent or how much he bought it for,” because we’re competitive.
Andrew: Ah, really? You’re saying, “Where’s Andrew’s marker here? How do I exceed it? Can I exceed it?”
Sam: I don’t know how old you are. You’re probably 15 years older than me. I’m like, “I want to beat him.”
Andrew: Yeah. I know what you mean, right? Like we’re friends with each other and at the same time–not you and me, necessarily. I didn’t have that feeling with you. I’m friends with someone and at the same time I think, “How do I beat them?” It’s very weird. Do you have this with women and men or just men?
Sam: You had that woman from inDinero, real nice woman. I forget her name.
Andrew: Jessica Mah.
Sam: Jessica Mah, super nice, great woman. We hung out at your house and I see her on the cover of Inc. or something and I’m like, “I want to fucking crush her,” in a healthy way.
Andrew: Not crush her, but beat her in this race or do you mean crush her, do you want to take her down?
Sam: No, she’s a great lady. I would love to be friends with her.
Andrew: And just like that, I think our internet connection froze. So, I’m going to say thank you, Sam, for being on here. Thank you all for being a part–there we go. You’re back.
Sam: Sorry. Were you doing your ending thing?
Andrew: No, your video froze on me for a second.
Sam: I’m good. I like Jessica Mah, but I do want to destroy her accomplishments because it’s fun. It’s like you’re an athlete.
Andrew: I kind of get that. I actually had a friend who invited me over to his house and said, “Tell me again what’s your site?” And I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll email it to you.” Oh, you just wanted to edit it together. All right. So, Sam, I think we lost a bit of the conversation there.
Sam: No! That was good.
Andrew: I know, so good, that whole crush it part was especially fun.
Sam: That’s okay.
Andrew: I’d like to have you come back on here and talk about content and what your strategy is around there. I feel like this interview went really well. I hope we didn’t lose too much. I’ve got to run home to my son before my nanny goes.
Sam: How much did we lose, do you think?
Andrew: I have no freaking idea.
Sam: Maybe none, right?
Andrew: I know we didn’t lose it all because I quickly hit the spacebar on Finder and we have it. Let me end it with you here by saying thank you for being on Mixergy. Actually, thank you for being on Mixergy.
Everybody out there, if you like this interview, please tell your friends to go and subscribe. All they have to do is whip out their phones and sign up on whatever podcast app they have. If they have an iPhone, of course they have that podcast app that Apple puts in there. Subscribe them, show them how to learn from these entrepreneurs, how to get these stories directly delivered for free to their phones. I’d really appreciate if you did that.
Sam, thank you for being here. If we got cutoff before I said it before, anyone who wants to can go check out your site at TheHustle.co. Bye, everyone.