Noah Kagan on Entrepreneurship, and a Tool to Help Us All
Noah Kagan was the 30th hire of Facebook, an early hire of Mint.com, and creator of AppSumo, which is a free newsletter to help startups kick ass. He also is one of the most interesting innovators I have ever met, and I am honored to call him my friend.
Noah spoke at AlleyNYC and we hang out in similar circles. However, our friendship was solidified when we travelled together to Moscow last year. This trip was awesome, and we were accompanied by Alexis Ohanian, Mike Seibel, Steve Hoffman, Tikhon Bernstam, Roger Dickey, Emmett Shear, and Justin Kan. Talk about a group of people: excluding me, these guys revolutionized the Internet. Noah blogged about the trip here.
(PRO TIP: I want to give a HUGE congratulations to Justin, Mike, Emmett and the whole Twitch team for a $1 billion exit to Amazon. First YC team to have a billion-dollar exit. You're buying the drinks. Story here. )
Over the past year, most of us have kept in touch. Aside from being amazing entrepreneurs, this is a group of just awesome, authentic people. I have learned so much from them and ask their advice frequently. Most recently, I asked Noah to share some quick business advice with us:
Look for the anomalies of success: When Noah started AppSumo he never asked for emails. Then, over time, he realized if he got an email he didn’t have to do amnesia marketing, where you have to start over every time to reach your customers. What you need to do in your business is pay attention to which parts of your business are working and why. Then do way more of that.
Related: Big Business Meets the Startup World
His company saw that emails helped grow their business and focused exclusively on growing their email list to 700,000. His company recently released a free tool called SumoMe.com, which comprises all the tools they’ve built internally to grow their email list. Check it out.
Founders, STOP being lazy: Noah believes that entrepreneurs are becoming lazy. He feels that you need to go out and make opportunities happen, instead of waiting for them come to you. “A lot of founders I talk to these days think that you will just build something and get users," he said. "You have to work your ass off, fight for every customer and opportunity that is out there. This takes work, and it’s not sexy. It’s hard work.”
I cannot tell you how much I agree with this philosophy. We all read stories of these huge wins and the media sometimes makes it look easy. As I’ve said before, the Yankees make it look easy, too, but you try hitting a 100 MPH fastball. It took years of conditioning and training to become that good. Read Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers” and refer to the 10,000 time rule. You want to be good at something? Try doing it 10,000 times and work your ass off.
Related: 6 Ways to Avoid Getting Screwed
Be Persistent: Noah also believes that founders are not patient enough. “The challenge is persisting and being patient when things don’t seem as promising," he told me. "It’s inevitable that every business, including public companies, will face highs and lows. It’s how you keep going when it seems low that will help you get to where you want to be going. Avoid looking for quick fixes and, like Ryan Holiday suggests, sometimes ‘the obstacle is the way.’ A successful business takes time. One trick that’s helped AppSumo is to imagine that it’ll take two years to be successful. It helps persevere during darker days.”
Again, I wholeheartedly agree with Noah. I like to refer to that saying, “It took me 10 years to look like an overnight success.” There is no such thing as quick money. Building a successful business starts with a solid foundation. If you rush that, your foundation will be weak and susceptible to all types of issues. Take the time you need to work from the ground up. That’s not to say people do not get lucky. But I believe it’s true what they say: luck happens when hard work meets opportunity.
Noah Kagan is the Chief Email Sumo at SumoMe.com, a collection of free tools to grow your email list. Grab the free spreadsheets he uses for his email marketing. His knowledge is vast as his experience and we can all benefit from the insight. I am going to continue to hit up some of my friends who have influenced me over the years with the hopes that it helps you grow your business and you win big. Hustle ON.