The Hustle launched two months ago on July 7th. I don’t plan on doing this type of update regularly, but I wanted to share this so my fellow startup nerds who hope to someday build a media company can learn from what we’ve done thus far.
Also, as much as I tease Business Insider for clickbaity headlines and soulless articles, I actually really respect what they’ve done, particularly the updates their CEO writes about growing their small startup to the behemoth that it is today.
Posts like that have helped me learn how to grow our company, so hopefully this will do these same for you.
Plus, it’ll be fun in three years to look back when we’re reaching 50 million people each month and see how we’ve grown :).
If you really like this kind of thing then maybe I’ll continue to do it. If you dig this, let me know below in the comments section or, even better, share this on Facebook and join our email newsletter.
Since going live, The Hustle has had 555,958 unique visitors. Although traffic isn’t our number one focus (our email list size is), I’m quite proud of that number. 1,808 people came to the site the day we launched and we’ve been linked to by other sites over 350 times.
It took us a few weeks to test different site designs, but over the past few weeks we’ve collected around 3,000 emails each week. Not a bad start.
To put those numbers in perspective, we’re growing at the same pace that the fastest-growing media companies in the world grew at. Granted, we’re still in our infancy, only 60-days-old, and this is an industry with lots of ups and downs so success is far from guaranteed, it’s nice to know that we’re starting out on par with TheSkimm, Elite Daily, Thrillist, Business Insider and other new media companies we respect.
So far there are three interesting things about our traffic.
The first is that the majority of it has been completely organic. We run $10 to $20 a day in Facebook ads to boost our posts. Besides that we haven’t spent a dime on advertising. The majority of traffic comes from people sharing our content on Facebook and our email list.
The second interesting tidbit is that we’ve only published 33 pieces of content so far. That’s significantly lower than any media company I know of. Business Insider and Elite Daily currently publish hundreds, if not thousands of posts per day. Even when they were starting out it appears they were publishing at least 10 articles each day. Bleacher Report averaged 230 posts a day by their ninth month, which is the same month they passed 1,000,000 monthly visitors for the first time.
We’ll have that kind of frequency soon, but right now our focus is on learning how to create and scale exciting longform, high-quality content. Once we figure that out and increase our publishing frequency, traffic will grow like a mofo.
And finally, the third point is that we’ve done all of this without a full-time writer. Because we’ve been slow to find the first hire (maybe even too slow), I’ve done a lot of the writing and editing. John, my co-founder, takes care of all things tech and design and occasionally writes. And Kera, our head of operations, does all of the proofing while also planning our next Hustle Con.
Once our full-time writers start this month, I expect traffic, as well as our email list size, to increase significantly.
Now that I’ve gotten all the humblebrags out of the way, let’s talk about things that aren’t going well. If I listed out all of our mess-ups, this list could go on for pages, but I’ll be brief.
The first thing that isn’t going amazing is revenue.
We didn’t start this company just because John and I are unemployable assholes who are naive enough to think we can create something that millions of people want. We also started a company so we could make ourselves, our team, and our shareholders filthy stinkin’ rich. We are, after all, a business and need to make payroll.
Unfortunately, in media it’s impossible to make revenue without having a large audience. To attract the big bucks, on the low end we need at least a million monthly unique visitors and an email list of 50,000. Even though we hit 300,000 in the last 30 days, realistically we’re still a very, VERY small fish in a massive pond.
We plan on becoming a billion-dollar company through native advertising and sponsored content, the same business model as TheSkimm, Business Insider, Vice, and pretty much every other new digital media business, but we’re not there, yet.
(BTW – saying “we’re gonna be a billion-dollar company” is such a cliche and something I never thought I’d say, but investors love that kind of talk and I am 100% trying to build an extremely valuable company… so excuse the buzzword.)
Fortunately for us, we will (most likely) make close to seven figures from our conference, Hustle Con. However, that’s not happening until May. Even though Hustle Con has proven to be extremely profitable, it’s still nerve-wracking to rely on it as our only form of income.
Plus, nothing is guaranteed. There’s definitely a chance that few people will come and sponsorships will be impossible to land. That’s highly unlikely, but I’ll save the bravado – burning money each month without bringing any in keeps me up at night.
Another thing that hasn’t been perfect involves the type of content we’re creating. I’m not sure we’ve found “our thing” yet. Maybe this isn’t a problem and you love everything we’re creating, but I think we still haven’t honed in on our voice yet. I’m not too worried about this, because I know it’ll come, but you know, it’s still not perfect yet.
As of this writing (Sept 9th) we are a team of four. We’ve hired two more people who start in two weeks. One of those hires is a writer, the other will be part writer and editor, part content strategist.
Salaries have been our biggest expense so far, and it’ll remain that way for the next few years. We’ve spent about $13,000 for each of the last two months, most of which went to salaries. We pay ourselves very little. This will increase to $25,000 in the next few months when the new team members come on board.
In addition to hiring a badass team, we’ve also put together an amazing group of advisors and investors.
- Matthew Brimer, founder of General Assembly (past Hustle Con speaker)
- Tim Chen (past Hustle Con speaker) and Jacob Gibson, founders of NerdWallet
- Bhaskar Ghosh, VP at NerdWallet
- Elizabeth Yin, Partner at 500 Startups
- Eric Bahn, founder of Beat The GMAT
- Tim Russell, founder of Governors Ball
- Mike Cheung, founder of Caerus Advisor
- Fred Akalin, Amazon
- Neville Medhora, NevBlog.com, AppSumo (past Hustle Con speaker)
- Sieva Kozinsky, founder of StudySoup
- Ricky Wong, Partner at Idea Bulb Ventures
- David Hauser, founder of Grasshopper
So what’s next?
Well, our overall, long-term goal is to become the biggest and best creator of content for entrepreneurial millennials. We think there’s a massive gap created by older and stuffy content sites like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and newish but boring sites like Inc, Forbes, and Fast Company.
There are millions of young professionals who want to live epic lives, and we wanna be the place they turn to for education, entertainment, and inspiration. That means TV shows, podcasts, documentaries, web content, and much more.
For the short term, our goal is to grow our email list to 100,000 emails by next June, or (hopefully) much sooner. To get there we’ll continue to make badass, long-form content for smart, curious, and entrepreneurial millennials.
The blind leading the blind
Before I end this, I want to make something clear: John (my co-founder) and I do not have any experience in media.
We’ve built a company together in the past, but we’re total noobs to the content game. We started a media company because we: a) love creating content and are (arguably) good at it and b) saw a massive void in the market for casual yet respectful content for professional 20-somethings.
Neither of us are journalists or describe ourselves as writers. So, if there’s anything to take away from this rambling post it’s that if you wanna do something, just do it. No one really knows what they’re doing, and the ones who seem like they do are just really good bullshitters. We’re all figuring this out as we go.
If you wanna follow along, make sure to enter your email on this page and like us on Facebook. And if you really like this type of post, please let me know in the comments below so we know to keep ‘em coming.
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