MFM #97 with Andrew Wilkinson: The Warren Buffett of the Internet Returns

On today's episode, Shaan and Sam are joined by Andrew Wilkinson, "The Warren Buffett of the Internet". They talk about why it's so much better to be Warren Buffett and not Elon Musk, how Andrew started a local newsletter that became bigger than his local newspaper, and what the guys would do to generate millions in a short period of time.


July 31, 2020

The onus of innovating 👴🏻

  • Like Buffett, not Elon: Andrew would rather invest in great businesses and lead a more balanced life than attempt to innovate and be stressed constantly.
  • Andrew embraces EB White’s quote: “I wake every morning trying to decide if I want to enjoy the day or make it better” 
  • “I’d way rather own 10 car dealerships and sit on them for 50 years, live a nice life, have lots of kids live somewhere I like, hang out with my friends than spend 50 years trying to innovate and do something crazy and launch rockets to Mars, but have a miserable life.” – Andrew Wilinson 
  • Marc Andreesen on Buffett: “Every time I hear a story like See’s Candies, I want to go find the new scientific superfood candy company that’s going to blow them right out of the water. We’re wired completely opposite in that sense. Basically, he’s betting against change. We’re betting for change.”
  • The rules of investing in startups and value investing are completely different.
  • We are not that important: If Steve Jobs hadn’t started the smartphone, someone else would have.
  • 3 ways to a meaningful life, choose one: 1) do whatever it takes to make yourself happy; 2) make the biggest impact or contribution to society possible; 3) win and challenge yourself to achieve as much as possible.
  • 3 types of business people: “the person who invented the burrito, the person who created Chipotle, or … the CEO of Chipotle”
  • “I’m just not going to go and, you know, try and build the next great business in VR. I’m going to wait a while and wait for all those guys to figure that out. And then maybe I’ll do something there.” -Andrew Wilkinson

What Andrew’s been up to? 📰

  • Capital Daily: Fed up with poor local news coverage in his town of Victoria, BC, Canada, Andrew started his own local news outlet, Capital Daily, a newsletter covering the city of Victoria. With 40k subscribers in a city of 200k, Capital Daily has a bigger audience than the local newspaper.
  • Numbers: Andrew was able to grow Capita Daily for “a couple hundred grand”. His monetization includes affiliate ads, where returns can be higher than regular ads. Although he admits it’s not the world’s best business, he envisions replicating the model in different cities with each newsletter generating $200k-$500k in profits.
  • Local news: Sam mentions that the local news can be tough. Attempts like Patch and Denverite have struggled. Although, local businesses journals like Business Journals generate hundreds of millions in revenue. N2 Publishing has also found some success in this sector.
  • Portfolio: Andrew has invested in 80 businesses, many in minority capacity. “We’ve started a variety of these businesses. And to be honest, the purpose of them is to distract me so that I don’t make dumb mistakes. I like taking action. I like doing stuff, but the best investing is done while you’re just sitting there on your hands.”-Andrew Wilkinson

Million Dollar Challenge 💰

  • Million Dollar Challenge: How would Andrew make millions in a couple of months? He thinks one approach would be the Million Dollar Homepage 2.0. This would mean finding a gimmick that can go viral and generate buzz and money quickly.
  • Millionaire apps: There are many apps generating millions with little overhead. These include Donald Trump voice imitators and plant identifiers. Emulating these apps can generate millions if well executed.
  • Sam’s Approach: Sam would go the lead gen route to generate millions. He would try to find leads for businesses like irrigation or trucking and sell them. Andrew disagrees — he thinks a successful lead gen business is too easy to copy, and wouldn’t last long.
  • Hunt Product Hunt: Interesting new apps are constantly being created, but fizzle out because their creators are often engineers not marketers.💡 Idea: Go back a few months on Product Hunt, find interesting products that fizzled out and then approach those developers and offer to buy those products cheaply. 
  • Example: An example of the above is Jiff AI. Jiff AI uses AI to make your camera look better while you’re teleconferencing, while interesting, it fizzled out. Mmhmm, a very similar product, has raised millions because it was founded by a credible founder.
  • Light and Airy: Photo editor with a huge following in the mommy blogger space. 💡 Idea: Light and Airy for ecommerce companies. Shaan believes this can easily be a multi-million dollar business.

Other nuggets 🏆

  • Levels: Sam invested in seed round of glucose monitoring startup Levels. Shaan and Andrew dislike that Levels doesn’t own its own hardware, but are very bullish on the market overall. Lots of people should be monitoring their glucose levels, not just diabetics. A Challenge that Levels will face is the high cost of monitors. See also: Dexcom.
  • Andrew on angel investing: “I have a $10 million venture portfolio and if I had just taken that same money and put it in the S&P 500 or Apple stock or anything else, I would be way richer. And it would be way safer. I’d have a more liquid net worth. Like, so I don’t think that angel investing is a good way to make money. I think it’s a good way if you’ve got a good network in San Francisco and you invest in your friends, you’ll probably do okay. There are easier ways to make money.”
  • Mailman: Andrew is creating Mailman (in beta), a gmail plugin that will have many of the same features as Hey. Mailman will deliver emails only a few times a day and blocks first time email addresses.

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