Nathan Chan, CEO of Foundr Magazine
100th Episode Switch up! Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine, interviewed by Dan Norris on Lessons Learned & the Future of the Company
On November 9, 2014, I released the first episode of the Foundr Podcast. It was with Fabio Rosati, then-CEO of Elance. To be completely honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to achieve by releasing a podcast. At the time, it was just another way for us to give to our community, by releasing the audio of our interviews for free.
Fast-forward to today and I can’t believe we’re at our 100th episode! It’s flown by and so much has changed since. But the entire time I’ve kept in mind this piece of advice from my friend Daniel DiPiazza:
“Keep producing content on a consistent basis every single week, keep getting next-level epic interviews, and people will come.”
He was totally right. In the years since that first episode, we’ve managed to become one of the top 10 podcasts for business, we have over 70,000 downloads a month, and it’s done wonders for our business.
So to mark this occasion, we decided to do something a little different in this episode. Instead of me asking all the questions, I’ll be the one getting interviewed for a change! My good friend Dan Norris of WP Curve took over as host, and we took a look back at how Foundr started three years ago and how far we’ve come since then.
I’m going to share with you the story behind Foundr, how it all started, and the strategies I used to start the company on the path it’s on today. I also took a crack at some predictions about where we’ll be by our 200th episode.
- The story behind Foundr and how it all started
- Who my biggest sources of inspiration are and how they shaped Foundr’s vision
- My strategy for pitching and landing interviews with the best entrepreneurs in the world
- Why you need to focus on design if you want to be successful
- What’s going on behind-the-scenes at Foundr and what’s coming next!
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Nathan Chan
Nathan: Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of “The Founder Podcast.” Sorry about the, “Woo hoo.” I thought I’d just mix it up. It’s a celebratory episode. We’ve reached a milestone. That’s 100 episodes now, and it’s crazy to think that we started this podcast November 2014 and how far it’s come. It’s been so incredible to speak to so many of you guys, so many of our listeners, so many people in our community. We have such an amazing community here at Founder, and it’s only growing, and it’s just been such an amazing experience.
If I look back on the past 100 episodes, it’s just been an absolute wave of knowledge shared and a wave of knowledge that I’ve been able to, luckily enough, take in. It’s just been a great journey, and we’re having a lot of fun here at Founder. You know? Every single day, we get closer to our vision and mission to now impact the lives of tens of millions of entrepreneurs consuming our content. So because it is the hundredth episode, I thought it would be cool to just have a little bit of a celebration, mix things up, switch gears, and have one of my good, dear friends, Dan Norris, interview me.
Now, Dan Norris is a fellow Australian. He’s based out of the Gold Coast. I met him about a year ago. I think I was speaking at another…at the same conference or something in Melbourne. Yeah, we’ve just kind of really hit it off, and he’s someone that I speak to pretty much on a daily basis now. He’s really into startups, like me, and he runs like three different companies. He’s a cofounder of a company called WP Curve. He runs a brewing company, called Black Hops Brewing, and he also has his own line of books, called “The Seven Day Startup,” “Content Machine,” and now he’s creating another book on how to start your own brewery, which is really, really cool.
So this guy…I have a lot of respect for Dan, and he’s done a lot of interviews, himself. So I thought it would be really cool. He asked a lot of interesting questions. I hope they’re interesting for you guys, anyways. I think he did a great job. We had a lot of fun and some good laughs, and you guys might see a side to me that you’ve never seen before, which might be interesting for you guys. Otherwise, you can get a picture and an insight around how we’re trying to build this media startup and how far I’m trying to take it and what’s working, what’s not working, and the things that I’m working on behind the scenes, that you guys might not be aware of.
So yeah, guys. Look. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your time, attention, and just spreading the word. I know many of you do tell your friends. You know, if you haven’t told a friend that’s an entrepreneur, that you think would like this, please do. Yeah, look. Thank you so much for your time and your support and being part of this community. We’re building something truly amazing here. All right. Now let’s jump into the show.
Dan: Nathan, from Founder Magazine. Question number one: How did you get your job?
Nathan: Okay. Yeah. Wow. I’ve never been on the receiving end of that. So…
Dan: It’s one of those kind of awkward questions, but it normally gets a good answer in the end.
Nathan: You want to know the work I’m doing today at Founder? Or you want to know…
Dan: Yeah. How did it start? How did you start Founder? And what were you doing before?
Nathan: Yeah. So I started Founder, March 2013, while I was working my day job at the time, which was IT support at a company called Intrepid Travel. It all started really because I was just like hating working in IT, and I wanted to do something else. I wanted to find work that I was passionate about. I was just kind of one of these people that, you know, hated my 9:00-to-5:00 job but didn’t want to accept it. You know?
A little bit before I launched the magazine, I was going down this path of like trying to work out, you know, what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Read Tim Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Work Week,” read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” by Robert Kiyosaki. I went back to Uni during that period as well, while I was working full-time. I went back and did a masters of marketing, and I was doing that part-time. Then I wrapped that because I thought I wanted to work in marketing, but then no one would give me a job. So I was like, “Maybe I could do online marketing.” Then I ended up finding “The Challenge,” By Ed Dale. Then I was on his email list.
Then yeah, you know, he talked about this amazing software that he was building, called Mag Cast, which would allow you to create your own digital magazine. I thought that that was such a brilliant idea to create a magazine on the app store, on the Google Play Store for mobile and tablet devices. I purchased that software. So I found an off-the-shelf publisher, and I did look at a few other options at the time as well for creating a digital magazine. So this idea was kind of fueled that maybe a good business idea would be a digital magazine.
At first, actually, I was gonna do a magazine on horse racing. Because you…I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, Dan, but you know how much I love horse racing. Right?
Dan: Yeah, yeah. I know you like going to the races.
Nathan: Yeah, like, I have a share, like a 1% share in a horse. One of my best mates and my housemate, my ex-housemate…I don’t live with him anymore. He was like a horse-racing juno, and he’s always on TV, only like TVN and stuff, and he got me into horse racing. Yeah, I just really enjoy it. So I was thinking of starting a horse-racing magazine with him, and it was gonna be like, you know, just covering horse-racing around the globe, but then really focusing during the spring carnival. We really were like talking about doing it because we’re living together. So I purchased the software to create your own magazine and your own app.
Yeah. Look. I didn’t have much money at the time. It cost me $2K USD to use that software. I put it on my credit card. Had no money at the time. I always was terrible with money. I used to literally, like, always travel and fill up my credit card and then just work towards paying it off during my day job. I’d never be like in a positive balance. Whenever I got paid, I’d have to put all my…away everything I earned onto my credit card. Then I’d live off my credit card. That’s how much I used to struggle.
Nathan: I didn’t make much at my day job. I was just like, you know…It was not really a money thing. But at the same time, it was. It was more like I needed to find work that fulfilled me, and that was the core driving factor. So what happened was my horse-racing magazine idea just kind of canned because my housemate…He got a job full-time at a company called racing.com.
Nathan: And he couldn’t…He wasn’t allowed to do any side gigs.
Dan: Oh, okay.
Nathan: What the funny thing is is I always do something with someone. I don’t like being alone. I always go to the shops with someone. I always travel with someone. I’m not a very independent person. The magazine was like kind of the first big step of kind of me doing something independently. What really led up to that was…During that whole time…So I stuffed around, dude, for at least six months, trying to work out what this magazine was going to be.
So I purchased the software in June 2012, and then I had to go to France to do my exchange. I did an exchange in France, in a town called Rance. It’s called but pronounced as “Rance.” Anyways, I did a…I finished off the rest of my degree, doing an exchange in France, and I was traveled all around Europe. During that time, I was thinking, “What am I gonna do for the magazine? What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?”
Then my housemate told me he got a job and that he couldn’t do it anymore, and then I was thinking about what ideas. You know, I started listening to podcasts. I started reading about people like Pat Flynn and reading his blog, even like reading blog and all these crazy people.
What ended up happening was I just came up with this light-bulb moment when I got back. It was like, “Okay. Well, there’s actually no magazines out there for young entrepreneurs, for aspiring entrepreneurs, for novice-stage entrepreneurs. I think there might be something here.” Then I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t know anything about entrepreneurship. Why don’t I just use this magazine as a side-hustle project to learn about business, to learn about entrepreneurship and just report what I’m finding every month in the magazine?”
Also, at the same time, maybe I can get a marketing job and get some experience, because no one would hire me because I didn’t have any experience. Then, you know, it took, as you can imagine, took a while to launch the magazine, about four or five months, and went up and back, went through a few different graphic designers. Ended up settling with the, still, to this day, the designer we use, Karen, and he’s amazing. He’s from India. I even went to his wedding with my girlfriend, Emily, and it was just amazing to meet him in person.
Yeah, launched the magazine. First day we launched, made $5. Then it was like, “Okay. Now we’ve got actually two people buying the magazine, subscribed. How are we going to create the next issue?” Then, you know, I just…Me, as a person, I don’t like to let people down, especially if they’re paying for something. Just knowing that we had those subscribers, I just produced the magazine every single month. Then, you know, after about a year, I built it up, the recurring revenue from Apple and Google Play, to replace my income. Took me about a year and replaced my income, could cover operating costs, pay myself a measly salary.
Then I left my job and went full-time on it, and that was about two years ago, two and a half, yeah, about two years ago. Yeah, here we are today. So that’s how I started.
Dan: Well, that’s cool. A couple of things. First of all, I’ve got about 20 questions. So if you’re gonna take 10 minutes to answer every single question, this is gonna be a long-ass podcast.
Nathan: Yeah, sorry. My bad, dude. I’ll…Yeah, okay. Let’s…I’ll do a better job.
Dan: The other thing I realized is your story is quite similar to mine. I also…I actually failed marketing. So I had to change degrees. I also read…Those two books you mentioned are probably the most influential books I’ve read to actually get me to make major changes in my business. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” was the one that really got me to start a business, and “Four-Hour Work Week” was the one that got me to sell my business, which was also in June 2012, to start a new business, which is kind of funny. I also did the challenge really early on and was…learned everything about online marketing from that, and my family used to own racehorses. So that’s kind of crazy.
Nathan: Wow. That is so crazy, dude.
Dan: Yeah, I never actually realized that. I knew you liked the races, but you know most people who like the races don’t like horses. They just like going to the races.
Nathan: Oh, yeah. I’m a bit of both.
Dan: Yeah. Sport is good in Melbourne too. It’s like a whole new level. Races. Footie. Anything.
Nathan: Yeah, I don’t really like sport that much, but I resonate with you too about how you said you failed marketing. Like, in my first degree, I failed like six subjects, dude. I was trying to transfer to marketing but couldn’t because I failed so many subjects.
Dan: Wow. That’s funny. I had to transfer out of marketing because I got a 2, and a 2 is a pass if marketing isn’t your major, but if it is your major, then it’s not counted. So I wanted that subject to count.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Dan: And we both end up in marketing. That’s pretty cool. All right. So I better move on. With…So I’ve got a bunch of questions about Founder and about the business behind it and also about the podcast being the hundredth episode. But with the magazine…So you’re hustling together these early issues. Was there a moment in there when you went from just like some guy randomly putting these magazines together, to, you know, like really getting on the map, like really getting people’s attention? Was there like one moment that stands out?
Nathan: When we got the interview with Richard Branson, that was as massive, pivotal turning point for the business. We’ve had some big events that have really kind of been pivotal turning moments, and that was the first one.
Dan: So how far in was that from when you started?
Nathan: So first four months in, I pitched Richard Branson. So I, you know, found his head of PR, pitched her. I pitched on the phone as well, and I ended up landing that interview and that cover story, and that went out live, issue number 8. But at the same time, when I just got the interview with Richard Branson, we were actually sued for trademark infringement, by one of the biggest business magazines in the state. So I can’t say who it was. The name wasn’t actually called Founder. It was called something else.
So four months in, we got the interview with Richard Branson, which was a pivotal point. Also, we changed the name, and the name is 100 times better than what we previously had. I think that was a massive blessing in disguise and also a pivotal point as well.
Dan: That’s crazy. That would’ve been a crazy time for you.
Nathan: Oh, man. It was super, super, super stressful. Like, I was lucky enough that the company that I was working at, they…The CEO actually helped me work through that lawsuit and, also, one of my other mentors. So yeah, I had a lot of support. I was lucky and didn’t end up having to pay anything. I was served. I got my FedEx package, and it’s just a, if anything, really good adding thing to the story now.
Dan: Bloody hell. Welcome to business.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. Welcome to business. First ever business. Four months in, get served, yeah, by a big corporation. It was scary.
Dan: With when you mentioned the Richard Branson…Like, you pitched the PR person on the phone. Can we dig into that a little bit? Like, I know when I first saw Founder Magazine, I just kind of assumed it was like this big, epic organization. When I found out it was you, I’m like, “Holy shit. I didn’t actually know that.” Like, it was really surprising. Like, how do you actually get these people to…Four or five months in, how are you getting these people to be on your magazine?
Nathan: Yeah. So look. With full transparency, Dan, the first issue, if you look at that, it doesn’t even have a successful person on the front cover. It’s a stock image. It’s like this Superman thing. It’s super embarrassing. So if you go to foundermag.com/magazine, if you scroll down, you’ll be able to see the first issue, the cover of the first issue. So at the start, no one would get back to me, and I just kind of worked my way up. You know, the second issue, we had Dan…not Dan. We had Ed Dale on the front cover.
Nathan: Then the third issue, we had a friend, a new friend of mine, called Benny Sue. Then the fourth issue, we had…I think it was maybe Natalie Sissen or Neil Patel. We just kind of worked our way up. Then once we got the Branson issue, that was a big pivotal point for us to be able to get more interviews with high-calibur, rock-star influencers in the entrepreneurship startup space, but…
Dan: Yeah, because I guess part of my thinking is like some of those guys you mentioned are sort of more online marketing guys, who probably really aren’t massively hard to get because they know the value of putting themselves out there and building their personal brand and all that. But some of the guys you’re getting on these days are guys who are going on TV. They’re not writing guest posts on blogs for.
Nathan: No. No, not at all. Like, dude, I spoke to the founder of AOL, billionaire, Steve Case, last week. I spoke to Robert Herjavec, “Shark Tank” shark on “US Shark Tank.” So yeah. Look. Now it’s really easy. So we actually reveal our whole process if you go to foundermag.com/getinterviews. We reveal our whole process on how we get interviews with all these hard-to-reach people. But in the early days, I got lucky. I pitched Richard Branson, found his head of PR and played on the fact that his first business venture was, in fact, a magazine. It was a student magazine.
Also, I played on the fact that we’re targeting young, aspiring, novice-stage entrepreneurs, and that’s something that he’s very big on, helping the leaders of tomorrow.
Nathan: And even though we didn’t have many readers, I just pitched, and he’s been on the front cover of every single business magazine anyways. It just kind of worked. I pitched for a Skype interview. He said, “No, I can only do an email interview,” and we just kind of ran with that and took it from there. You know, we’ve used that as a springboard. Now we don’t have a problem getting interviews. Now we get 10 to 20 pitches a day. So it’s just kind of building up that reputation.
But irregardless to what you said around you didn’t think it was me, you thought it was a big corporation. That’s awesome to hear that because that was something that I learned very, very early on from Karan, our graphic designer for the magazine and our branding. He taught me the power of design, and really double-downing and investing on design is so extremely important. You can…Anyone that follows any of our stuff, you can see that across, whether it’s, you know, inside Founder’s Club, you know, one of our…you know, our membership, or even one of our training products, like the Instagram course or whether you go to the podcast cover artwork or our quotes on Instagram. Anything we put out, we pay a lot of attention to design.
Dan: Yeah, and I think that gives it a level of credibility that sets it apart from the average website or blog, for sure.
Dan: I’m glad you brought that up because I think it’s also like…It’s almost like something that most entrepreneurs, I think, under-value. Like, they kind of think they’ll invest in design once they can afford to do that. It’s really interesting that you named design as one of the main reasons why you’ve been able to really level up. I think the other thing is, like…I think in business, a lot of people…It’s what they think of that determines the outcome they get. You thought of getting Richard Branson on the front of your magazine, and that’s the reason you got Richard Branson on the front of your magazine.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. That’s right. You don’t know if you don’t pitch.
Dan: Yeah. So but you must have…I mean what made you even think that he would possibly say yes to that? Like, how did you get the confidence to even ask him?
Nathan: Because he’d been on so many other magazines, dude.
Nathan: Like, he’s been on every single business magazine. If you go into the newsstand right now, you know, the news agent or wherever you get your magazines, wherever around the world, there’ll be magazines, business magazines me and you have never heard of. Right?
Nathan: You’ll see him on the front cover. Never even heard of.
Dan: So did you strategically pick him because you knew he was like really big on media and thought there’s more chance of him saying, “Yes?”
Nathan: There was a little bit of strategy, but not like in the way you’re saying it. It was just kind of like, “Let’s pitch. See what happens.”
Nathan: I think it might be possible. I didn’t know it with 100% confidence, but I placed a lot of emphasis and pressure on myself. You know? You know me. When we talk, dude, I have a lot of big hopes and dreams around, you know, the things that I do always, and I set these kind of goals. So yeah, that was one of them. It was like, “I hope this happens. But if it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t, but I hope.”
Dan: So to dig into that just a tiny bit more before I move on, with…Say I want to get someone on my podcast. If it’s someone I know, even if they’re like a reasonably big name, normally it’ll be a case of sending a message and asking them. With this kind of process, with getting big names, maybe not Richard Branson, but maybe Tony Robbins or Gary Vee or Daymond John some of these guys who you probably don’t know before hand, what’s the level of communication back and forth that has to happen to make that happen? Like, are we talking one or two emails? Or we talking months and months of chasing them?
Nathan: Yeah, it depends. See, this is a really good question because it depends on the person. It depends on the situation. It depends on whether they’re looking for press or not. Gary V and Tony Robbins, they were both looking for press because they both launched their books. All I had to do was find the right person to speak to. Tony Robbins was easier than I thought it would be because it turned out that he had a PR team that Tim Ferriss used, and we just interviewed Tim Ferriss, and I had a good relationship now with that PR team, like this agency. With Gary V, his team actually come to me because they were cueing up press for their books.
Nathan: With Daymond John, that was 100% cold. I went to…You know, I did a whole ton of searching. I went and found Daymond John’s website, emailed the contact form. I spoke to one guy, and then he said, “You need to speak to this person,” and then I spoke to this other person, and I was emailing up and back for at least six months, going up and back to get Daymond on.
Nathan: That was quite an intense one. Barbara Corcoran. You know, I went to her website, emailed. They said, “No.” I come back a year later and said, “You know, this is what’s happened since,” and then they said, “Yes.”
Dan: Wow. Yeah.
Nathan: So sometimes you have to follow up. Like, you know, Jamie Oliver has said, “No,” to me, and I need to follow that up at the moment. Mark Cuban has said, “No,” to me. I need to follow that up at the moment. Elon Musk. I never got onto his team. They’ve got like a…This is the first time I’ve ever experienced this, but Elon Musk’s team…You can’t cold-email them. You get a bounce back. You can’t cold-email them. So they only have internal. They only accept internal comps or something insane, dude, and I emailed…
Dan: That’s pretty tough.
Nathan: I emailed the head of PR at Tesla and the head of PR at SpaceX. So yeah, I kept getting bounce-backs, and I know that that’s the correct email. I’ve looked at that person on LinkedIn. Yeah. So yeah, it all really depends on the person, but the key thing here is, Dan, if that person is looking for press and who’s the right person you need to speak to that’s gonna say, “Yes,” or, “No.”
Dan: Okay. And what about, just to wrap up this topic…When do you give up? Do you give up only when they say, “No?”
Nathan: Yeah, I give up when they say, “No,” but I’ll come back to them. So like for example, I tried to pitch the founder for the founder of Slack. I found their head of PR. They actually use an agency. So I pitched their head of PR.
Nathan: Yep. So they have their…Their head of PR sent me to their PR agency, and then the PR agency sent me to…The global PR agency sent me to the Australian PR agency, and they said, “No,” and I’ll come back. There’s certain ones that I’ll come back to. Steve Wozniak, I’ll probably never come back to. I think it’s just…I’ve tried like two or three times, following up over the past year to year-and-a-half. I’ll never come back to that one. I don’t think it’ll ever happen.
Dan: In that instance, have you gotten a, “No?” Or are you just getting ignored?
Nathan: Getting, “No’s.”
Nathan: Yeah, I think like almost to the point that I’m annoying them.
Nathan: And they’re getting frustrated and irritated. If that’s the case, then I’ll just say, “Look.” You know? I won’t bother them anymore. Then maybe I’ll try Steve Wozniak again in about a year or two. We’ll see how we go. But yeah, that one in particular, I won’t follow up again.
Dan: Oh, cool. That’s interesting. So just one more about the magazine. Do you have favorite editions? Or favorite covers?
Nathan: Yeah, favorite cover and favorite edition would be the Seth Godin one. We put like so much effort into that, and the cover…I love the cover. It’s so cool. It’s pretty much just Seth Godin with his head turned upside-down, and I had to ask Seth’s permission because I thought he might be offended by that, and he loved it. It was just around, you know…It was called “The Change-Maker’s Issue,” and we interviewed like…It was awesome.
Dan: Oh, that’s cool. Seth’s a bit of a legend in the online..I guess in the business world, generally.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. Not just marketing, man. He’s a startup boss, dude.
Dan: All right. Cool. Well, that’s excellent. Now let’s move on because also, you got this magazine going. You mentioned you were getting subscriptions via the App Store and the Play Store, which is obviously making you a little bit of money. But at some point…I know how Founder makes its money now is a bit different to just a subscription. So what does Founder look like right now as a business? How do you make your money?
Nathan: Yeah. So a big part of what’s driving Founder now is not so much the subscriptions, but more the back-end products, whether it’s our membership site, Founder’s Club, or whether it’s our course, the Instagram domination. We’re building all these other courses. But you know, what I realized, right, Dan, was you can only make so much money in terms of from a $2.99 subscription. I think we did a really good job. Also, what I realized is like Founder right now…If you go to the App Store right now and look at the rankings in America or anywhere, we’re like one of the top 10 business and investing magazines, so the top 10 business magazine in our category, always. Sometimes we even out-rank Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes.
I realized, you know, the money that we were making with that…Like, those guys must have been making much more than us. Right? Because we… Apple actually reports gross. They report gross, and they report ranking, in terms of downloads. I realized that we didn’t cap out. We have definitely capped out, like, the magazine, but I realized that, you know, any good business, I think…In particular, a media company…I was so humbled and blessed to hear about this company called Mequoda, M-E-Q-U-O-D-A, that talk about if you’re a publisher, this is the kind of business model you should have as a publisher or media company. This is how it works, and they talk about having the magazine on the front end, but having back-end products, whether that’s events, membership sites, paid newsletters, courses, all these other revenue-generating products on the back end, and that’s where it’s moving.
What those guys, Mequoda, do is they help publishers that have been running like a print magazine for 20 years, and now they’re struggling because they can’t make enough money off ads and subscriptions, and they’re consultants. I’ve never paid them, but their blog posts are terrific. I just followed that model, and that’s what I’ve been following since. I worked out that it’s…You know, you can only make so much from a front-end subscription, front-end product. So the magazine is always gonna be the face of the business, but I believe the real money is made on the back end, with other products.
Dan: Oh, that’s cool. That’s a good testimonial for that content.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. It’s good. That’s just from researching, dude. I didn’t know the answers. I’m not a publisher. I don’t come from a media company background, but I just had to kind of work out and find out what’s working. I could see that we were hitting not market saturation, but we were doing a well-enough job that maybe it was time to move on to the next thing.
Dan: Yeah. Was the Ed Dale challenge stuff in the back of your mind? I know in that course, he talks about different ways of monetizing and building an online audience, and this stuff was probably going through your mind at the time as well.
Nathan: Yeah. So what was cool is I actually, you know, ended up becoming friends with Ed, you know, even business partners to a certain extent, where we do some things together. I’ve been lucky enough to hear, you know, “This is what I think you should do. This is what I think is next.” I’ve been speaking to people, and it just kind of so-called happened that when I was trying to grow the magazine, you know, we did some cool stuff on Instagram, and then all these people started…and we wrote a blog post about it, and then all these people asking us to consult. Then I was reading about this stuff that Mequoda was saying. Then I sent, you know, an email out to our database at the time of like 2000 people, said like, “Would you guys be interested in a course maybe? I don’t want to do consulting, and I want to keep everything under Founder.” Then people said, “Yes.” I put up a sales page. They bought.
Then I was like, “Okay.” Like, online education. I want to disrupt this space now. let’s create 10 courses on every single question and every single blog post that’s done really well on the site. Yeah, then it’s kind of like, you know, I keep tweaking the model. As you know, Dan, you and me were talking about Founder TV and Netflix for entrepreneurs. Like, I’m constantly thinking in a, “What does the next two, three years look like?” Right now, it’s Founder on the front end, the podcast on the front end, the social on the front end, the blog, the podcast, all the front-end stuff. We’ve got a really good marketing engine. Now we need to focus on the email marketing, the funnels, and building up the back-end products. Then we want to do courses at scale and getting more into video stuff and taking it one step at a time, but that’s how the model is looking that I’m envisioning right now.
Dan: That’s cool. The first course. Was that the Instagram course?
Dan: Yeah. Okay. I’ll get to that in a little bit. Just still on the business for now. Is Instagram your biggest growth channel? Is that the thing that sort of made you get people into your funnel more so than anything else? Or is it something else?
Nathan: Yeah, it’s a combination. Instagram, in terms of pure, cold, hard leads, that’s still, to this day, our best growth channel. That’s generated at least, I think in the past year, at least 100,000-plus email subscribers in the past year, at least, maybe even close to 250,000. So that’s been one of our biggest growth channels, for sure, in terms of exposure, eyeballs, leads, traffic.
But another piece that’s really helped is just creating amazing content in general, giving it away for free, and also building the brand. I’m very big on branding. So if we keep getting these influencers that are rock-stars in the entrepreneurship startup space, and we keep producing podcast episodes and giving them away and then showcasing these influencers all over our collateral, all over our site, people keep talking. That word of mouth is talking. Then people keep spreading the word about the podcast episodes.
The podcast is really taking off now. I’ve been doing the podcast for…I started the podcast the same time I started on Instagram. So November 2014. So the podcast has been out for 18 months, and it’s really started to find its legs right now. Yeah.
Dan: Let’s get into that because that’s what I was gonna move onto. Why did you start the podcast?
Nathan: Because we produced the magazine, and always inside every single issue, you know, we have interviews. I was putting those recording…We’d do a feature write-up. So we’d get a writer to do a featured write-up. Then those actual interviews…We’re editing them and putting them inside the magazine. People could…If you wanted to, you could listen to the audio instead of reading. This is so funny because I had a few friends like, “When are you gonna start a podcast?” I always said, “No, I don’t want to start a podcast. I’m not interested in starting a podcast.” You know, that’s so cool that David has joined us. You know David really well, but I met Dave on the phone. We’ve been friends since I started Founder. I met him in the first three or four months of starting Founder.
I remember saying to Dave like, “Dude. We’ve got all these interviews locked up inside the magazine. I’m thinking of turning it into a podcast. What do you think? Do you think I’d be doing a disservice to our paid magazine subscribers?” He’s like, “Dude.” He’s like, “I would just test it and see what happens. And if you get any kickback or anyone complaining, then you can re-evaluate from there.” Still, to this day, I’ve never had not one person complain.
So it was kind of like we started the podcast as a play because we had all these amazing interviews locked up inside the magazine. Let’s give away our best ones for free and put it in the podcast. Then it’s an alternative. Some people like to consume their content over audio. Then some people like to consume their content packaged up and to be read. Obviously the magazine has all these other articles and all these other amazing pieces of content. But yeah, it was kind of a happy medium. You know? It’s just been producing every single week since.
Dan: That’s cool. You mentioned that the podcast is growing really quickly. What does your reach look like? Do you look at download numbers? Or do you look at what you’re ranking in iTunes?
Nathan: Yeah, both. So download numbers, we get at least now 70,000-a-month.
Nathan: Also, in terms of ranking, we’re constantly in the top 50 podcasts in the business category in America, which is the only state that I…the only country I care about, mainly, because that’s where our biggest customer base is. That’s where it’s all happening. So yeah, we’re constantly like…We’re creeping up. You know it’s funny. We never used to get many downloads at all, but one…My friend, Daniel, gave me some amazing advice. He said, “All you have to do with podcasts…” He doesn’t even have a big podcast, but he said, “This is what I would do. This is what you have to think about. It’s like keep producing content on a consistent basis, every single week. Keep getting next-level, epic interviews, and just people will come. You do those two things.” That’s what we’ve done.
We don’t even promote it very hard. We don’t even, like, email our guests to ask them to share it or anything like that. People are just spreading the word. I also know that it’s really taking off because I get a lot of people contacting me more than ever now, how much they love the podcast and particular episodes.
Dan: Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, it’s one of those mediums that it’s kind of hard to tell when you’re getting traction, but you really notice it when you go to events because everyone comes up and talks to you and tells you that they know from the podcast.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right. So also, getting on other people’s podcasts has been a big one. Getting on other people’s big podcasts has been a big one as well.
Dan: Yeah. So okay. That’s interesting. So with the getting on other people’s podcasts, have you got any advice around that? How have you gotten on…Just because I know you’ve been on some big ones. How have you gotten onto those?
Nathan: Yeah, I think another pivotal turning point…We talk about pivotal turning points, Dan. Another pivotal turning point was actually when I got on Pat Flynn’s podcast, because he’s got a massive audience. I got on his podcast this time last year, and that was when I was in the states. When I came back from the states, that’s when things really…That was another pivotal moment when things really started to take off. You know, I hired my first full-time staff member. Now we’ve got, like, seven or something. So yeah, to get on podcasts, I think it’s all about any good partnership, a mutually beneficial exchange in values.
So what I was doing was…You know, if I want to get on someone’s podcast, and I love their work, and I think they can provide value to our audience, I get them on our podcast, and I get them on the magazine. Then, you know, I say, “Look. I’m not sure if this is your thing, but I’d love to come on your show. I can talk about this, this, this, and this.” The things that I say I’m gonna talk about are the things I know that people want to hear about. Like, for example, how I got an interview with Richard Branson, how we’ve generated hundreds of thousands of email subscribers from Instagram and gone from zero to $500K in a year, how we get interviews with next-level people, how we’ve built up this digital magazine, you know, all these other things, what the business model looks like. That’s the kind of questions that people always love to know, and I say those. Then if people say, “Yes,” they say, “Yes.” If they don’t, they don’t. It’s just kind of like good copy, just good sales stuff, knowing what people want to hear. That’s kind of what I’m doing.
Dan: Yeah, I always say like if you want to get in the news, you need to do something newsworthy, and it’s like the ultimate PR hack. If you want to get on a podcast, you need to do something worth talking about.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right. So the next dream for both me and you is for us to get on, like, you know, Tim Ferriss’ podcast or James Aldrich’s, you know, yeah, Gary V’s maybe. They’re the next big ones.
Dan: Yeah. No, that’ll be good. So Tim…I guess Tim’s will be one of the biggest business podcasts now. Right?
Nathan: Yeah. That one is definitely number one.
Dan: Yeah. Oh, that’s cool. With the guests you’ve had on there, is there any guests that stood out as like delivering a surprising amount of value? Or just particularly cool to talk to?
Nathan: Oh, man. There’s been so many. It comes in waves, and it’s just kind of second nature to me that I’m lucky enough to speak to these people and ask them pretty much business questions that I’m struggling with or I want to know. I just always take so much.
But one in particular that was really amazing, and it’s a really cool story, and I’ll keep it tight, is when I interviewed Chris Brogan. I said, “Can you introduce me to two people?” So another way I get interviews is if I interview someone, I get them to introduce me to people. Sometimes that can be really powerful to get these next-level interviews.
He said, “I’m gonna introduce you to two people that no one’s ever heard of before, but that will be amazing interviews.” One of them will this guy called Gary Miller, a lovely guy. He runs the top bed-and-breakfast in the Hamptons. He invited me and Emily as personal guests after I interviewed him. We actually took up his offer last year to stay as personal guests. Please keep in mind, you know, this is where Scarlett Johansen, Gwyneth Paltrow, they go to this bed-and-breakfast to relax and stuff in the Hamptons. We’re probably gonna go back, me and Emily, this year when we go to the states, next month.
So I took him up on that offer and just…His whole story about how he’s trying to disrupt the hospitality industry is just so fascinating, and his story about how he takes care of his team and how much of an amazing leader he is is just so incredibly fascinating. It took me…He blew me away. It was one of my favorite episodes to-date.
Dan: That’s very cool. If the people listening haven’t heard it, do you remember the episode number?
Nathan: Yeah, it’s episode 21.
Dan: Cool. Okay. Sounds good. So let’s move on. I know you’ve got a bunch of communities online. You mentioned before the Instagram domination course and Founder Club. I’m a part of both of those communities, and you got a really active group of people in there. So I put the question out to them. What would they ask you if they got the chance to interview you? I had probably about 30 or 40 responses, but I picked a few out of here that I particularly liked. So let’s get into those.
Nathan: Yeah, sure. Let’s do it.
Dan: Paul Higgins…This was a question I was gonna ask you anyway, but Paul Higgins says, “Who inspires you in business?”
Nathan: Yeah. Wow. There’s heaps of people that I kind of follow that I really like to follow, and I listen to every single word they say. I listen to everything that Gary V does. He really inspires me.
Nathan: I quite often, as I mentioned to you the other day, I really like Ben Horowitz, and I listen to everything that he does. He’s an insane…I reckon guys like that, like the dudes from Andreessen-Horowitz, they are the real powerful people in the world. These are the guys choosing, you know, the next Twitters and the next Facebooks to invest in and fueling them, which essentially changes the world in a big way.
So yeah, I quite like those guys. I really like Kevin Rose and his podcast. I’m a massive fan. I listen to a lot of those podcasts. I quite like Tim Ferriss’ stuff. I don’t listen to it enough. In terms of the businesses that have a similar model to Founder, that we’re kind of looking at, I’m kind of looking at and thinking, “Yeah, that’s cool. It inspires me,” is in particular Vishen Lakhiani, from Mindvalley. I think he’s doing an incredible job. That’s a $100 million company now.
Nathan: So I quite like to watch and listen and see what he has to say about all sorts of things and education in particular. Then yeah, those are just a few that come to mind. So yeah.
Dan: Yeah, cool. That’s good. Man, it’s kind of hard. Like, you’re interested in so many areas. You probably got people in online marketing that you look up to, people that are just doing inspirational stuff, and people who got similar businesses. But I know talking to you, you could probably talk all day about that topic.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right. There’s so many different people, man. I try to keep my finger on the pulse with everything, so kind of like a broad kind of reach of…I’m signed up to everyone’s email list. Another one I really like, I think, who’s doing an incredible job, is Ryan Dice. I think he’s…
Dan: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: I think he’s done an incredible transition as an Internet marketer to really build digital marketer as a brand and producing amazing content and very, very good at email marketing and producing really good quality content and paid products. I’d like to speak to him. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done, and I think he’s smart, very smart guy.
Dan: Yeah, I like it when these Internet marketer guys just go beyond it and build their own brands, like a sort of Clay Collins Lead Pages type thing or, you know, Nathan Barry with Convert, guys that were sort of known as doing info products, have just gone into build products and are doing something a lot bigger and more scalable. It’s interesting to follow that.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I think Ryan Dice is doing an incredible job. I really like his stuff.
Dan: Yeah, he even…He does big conferences around the world and stuff, as well as part of digital market. Isn’t he?
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. Apparently. I haven’t been to one, but apparently they’re really, really good.
Dan: Cool. What about…So Adam and Claire from your group says, “What was your vision for Founder when you started?” We did talk a little bit about the origin story, but we didn’t really talk specifically about like what were you thinking. Where were you thinking it would end up?
Nathan: Dude, I had no idea. When I first started, I was hoping that I could get a marketing job. I remember I even went to a marketing interview, internally at the company I was working at. I didn’t get that job, and I took my iPad with the first two issues of the magazine to show them how keen I was to work in marketing.
Dan: Cool. Wow, that’s cool.
Nathan: They didn’t give me the job. They didn’t give me the job. They chose someone else. I had a masters in marketing, and I was so hungry. They just wouldn’t give me a crack, even though I was like really good friends with the CEO, and he’s like a mentor to me. It was kind of like out of his court. He just left the decision up to the head of marketing and stuff. It just didn’t work out. It was kind of a blessing in disguise, but…
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah.
Nathan: So you can see, from there, like, there was no vision. It was like when I first started, it was like, “Can I get a job in marketing?” Maybe I can turn this into a lifestyle business, and I could travel the world. But the more and more…As time went on, and the more and more people I started speaking to, it was like it’s not a matter of if I can build up Founder to leave my job and do this stuff full-time. It was a matter of when. Then I just kept working from that. Then even when I left my job, I remember having a specific conversation with that, in particular, mentor, Daryl Wade, who I’ve interviewed for the podcast as well. I’ll tell you what episode that was. That was Episode 74.
So for Episode 74, that was an incredible interview. I remember actually having a conversation with him after I left my job, and we caught up, you know, six months later, and I said, “Look. I don’t know if I want to make this an actual startup or a lifestyle business. I’ve got two choices.” Now I can go off and really scale this thing up, or I can just travel the world and just work on the magazine and work with contractors and just kind of pot around. He said, “You know what kind of business I think you should build.”
Then yeah, you know, I just kind of fell in love with the vision. Now we think 100 times bigger and just kind of evolved.
Dan: That’s really cool. Dave Jennens asks, “Why do you go to the US every year?”
Nathan: Yeah. So that’s a really great question. That’s something that I started doing last year. So the thing is, right, a lot of people, online entrepreneurs, startups…It’s all happening in the states. Me and you both know this, Dan. It’s not…nowhere near as prevalent, nowhere near as powerful, nowhere near as many next-level connections in Australia compared to the states. So we know that. So middle of last year, I said to myself, “I’ve got to go to the states. I’ve got to catch up with a lot of these people I speak to on Skype, a lot of these people that I’ve made online, and I’ve got to catch up and, you know, just get amongst the startup culture.” That’s what I did, and it was amazing.
I was lucky enough to catch up for coffee with Seth Godin, had a game-changing conversation with him and all these other crazy people. You know? I realized that if Founder is really going to grow, I need to stay on the cutting edge. When I went there, after I left, I was so embarrassed with my vision, that it just caused this trigger inside of me to just think 100 times bigger. Now I think 100 times bigger. I’m pushing 100 times harder. Speed and urgency, you know, ramped up times 100, with everything we do. Now it’s like, “Okay. This is a thing that I do every single year, and I’m doing it again this year.” I go, you know, four to five weeks, every single year, and just network, speak to game-changers, just try and grab some of what’s going on in the states because people in the states think so much bigger, and I need that to push harder and faster.
Dan: For sure.
Nathan: Yeah, grow the company.
Dan: Love it. Okay. Last community question. David says, “How do you pronounce mojito?”
Nathan: Yeah. I pronounce it mojito. Taking the piss. What I mean by, “Taking the piss?” Just it’s a laugh for being an idiot. That’s kind of like my humor. I have very dry humor. So the inside joke is: A while back, me, David, and Dan Norris…So David, he works at Founder. He’s pretty much like my right-hand man. You know, we went and got…We had got some drinks, and, you know, I wanted to get mojitos, and I actually, at the bar, asked, “Can I have three mojitos,” or whatever. Now it’s just a joke, and I always call mojitos, mojitos, just to be an idiot, and it’s just funny.
Dan: But just to clarify, did…At the time, did you think it was actually pronounced mojito?
Nathan: No. I was just taking a…To be honest, I’ve been doing that for years, man. You’re not the only person I say that to, and I just do it to take the piss, just for a laugh, and I tried to convince you that’s what I thought. Yeah.
Dan: Well, that’s been fun. I’ve just got one more question to wrap up, and that is where will…This isn’t a community question, but I think a couple people might have asked something similar. Where will Founder be in three to five years from now?
Nathan: Hard to say. Being a young kid, you know…People consider me young. I’m 29. I do, you know, fantasize of one day maybe selling the company. Who knows? I don’t know if it’ll ever come to that because I love…What I do at Founder, I was born to do. But I think in three to five years…I don’t like to think that far ahead. I try to think max two to three years ahead. But in three to five years, I’d anticipate that we’d be getting closer to becoming, you know, a very well-known brand, maybe not to the point of Ink, Fast Company, Forbes, or Entrepreneur, but kind of like, you know, the next web kind of caliber.
Nathan: I believe that in the next three to five years, at least in the tens of millions, at least, tens and tens of millions will consumer our content, whether it’s through radio, video, audio, whatever web traffic, social. It’s kind of exciting even talking about it, to think how far I believe we can take the brand. Then also, I think we’ll be very, very big on producing high-quality content at scale. Yeah. The opportunities that we have in front of us are kind of endless, but that’s…Yeah, in terms of reach and impact, I’d anticipate, in the next three to five years, in the tens of millions impacting. Yeah, for sure. Every single month.
Dan: Well, knowing you, I’m sure you’ll achieve that and more. So thanks for letting me do this. It’s been really, really fun. Thanks for everything you do, all the content you guys put out. It’s really inspirational for other people. Congratulations on the 100 episodes. I wish you a good 100 more and all the best in the future. I look forward to catching up for a mojito.
Nathan: Yeah, thanks, man. Look. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to do this. This was an incredible interview. I knew you’d do an amazing job. So yeah, thank you so much for the kind words, dude. It’s been amazing having you as a close friend and just bouncing ideas and helping each other grow. So yeah, thanks again, dude.
Dan: All good. See you soon, brother.
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