GE 187: Jonathan Abrams Reveals Key Lessons Learned While Building Nuzzel (NYT Best App of 2016) and Friendster to 100M Users (podcast)

Jonathan Abrams

Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Jonathan Abrams, founder and CEO of Nuzzel, which allows you to discover top news from friends and influencers. Jonathan was also previously the founder of Friendster, which was a forerunner to Facebook and had over 100 million members.

Listen as Jonathan explains why you don’t need a social media account to engage with thought influencers and famous people, how word-of-mouth advertising and getting investors is easy when you’ve got something of value, what lessons he learned from founding Friendster, and how easy Nuzzel makes it to curate an email newsletter on your phone while standing in line for coffee!

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: Jonathan Abrams Reveals Key Lessons Learned While Building Nuzzel (NYT Best App of 2016) and Friendster to 100M Users TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:28 – Jonathan began as a software engineer, became an entrepreneur, and is currently working on Nuzzel
    • 01:47 – Nuzzel gives personalized recommendations of news to people using social signals
    • 02:08 – Nuzzel was launched two years ago—first on web and email, then later on iPhone and Android
    • 02:19 – They now have a new platform where people can curate email newsletters
  • 02:50 – Eric shares that Nuzzel is one of the first apps he opens when he wakes up to get updated on what is going on
    • 03:12 – Nuzzel makes life easier for Eric
  • 03:25 – Jonathan shares why he started Nuzzel: he noticed that the more he got excited with Twitter, the more he would follow people who interested him
    • 03:40 – He could not keep up with all the people he was following so he needed a tool to help him use Twitter more effectively
  • 03:46 – Not everybody uses Twitter and this was limiting the impact of Nuzzel, so they also got connected with Facebook
  • 04:04 – People do not use news apps or news aggregation tools
  • 04:31 – The mission of Nuzzel is to connect people with information that is not on Facebook
  • 04:50 – E-mail newsletters are old school, but are also really hot right now
    • 05:09 – E-mail newsletters are an easy way of getting content
  • 05:22 – Many people who use Nuzzel are famous people, influencers, are on social media, and have podcasts to promote content
  • 06:18 – Jonathan encourages Eric to have a newsletter
    • 06:34 – Eric can curate his own newsletter using Nuzzel and people can subscribe to that
  • 06:53 – People who do not have Twitter can still subscribe to Eric’s newsletter with their email address
    • 07:08 – People can also reply, encouraging engagement
  • 07:20 – There is no charge to use the platform
  • 07:28 – The vision is to build a network of newsletters and include relevant native advertising within it
  • 08:10 – Similar to Pocket in having email sponsored ads
  • 08:32 – Nuzzel’s investors
  • 08:40 – How is Nuzzel growing and acquiring its first thousand customers?
    • 08:48 – Jonathan says they started by making a great tool, put it out there, and saw a great response
    • 09:03 – Chris Sacca and Mark Benioff are some of Nuzzel’s users who eventually became investors
    • 09:38 – Nuzzel has been featured in The New York Times as among the best apps of the year and in other media outlets such as Google Play
    • 10:00 – Twitter users are also posting about Nuzzel
  • 10:10 – An app-centric approach was limiting to some people so the email was maximized to reach a bigger audience
  • 10:30 – What is working best for Nuzzel in terms of customer acquisition?
    • 10:55 – They are still working on reaching a bigger number of people, thus the newsletter platform was launched
    • 11:04 – Tools are being created to make Nuzzel easier to use for people
    • 11:58 – The newsletter platform would allow people to invite their friends to use Nuzzel
    • 12:07 – Media companies are also being approached to use the platform
  • 13:06 – Eric wanted to do newsletters but was discouraged because of the costs involved
    • 13:20 – Eric can now do newsletters and curate because of Nuzzel
    • 13:28 – Mailchimp or Tinyletter are great tools but requires a lot of effort
    • 13:45 – Nuzzel works by creating the tools, recommending content that can be used in any person’s newsletter, and refers to stories you can use from other sites
  • 14:10 – Jonathan says they want to make sending a newsletter as easy as posting on Twitter
  • 14:40 – Nuzzel’s struggle is in finding people who use news apps and dealing with the reality that news is not inherently viral
  • 16:20 – Nuzzel is not just an app company and it’s mobile
    • 16:45 – Nuzzel started as a web prototype
    • 17:05 – The people using it ask for daily emails
    • 17:15 – It was also launched as an IOS app, iPad and Android
    • 17:27 – Around 2/3 of its users use the IOS app
  • 17:34 – Curating email newsletters on the phone is a convenience people want
  • 18:58 – What was the biggest mistake for Friendster?
    • 19:30 – Friendster was different than MySpace or Facebook as they invented the concept of inviting friends to join the site
    • 20:09 – Problems with technology and scaling emerged and people had a hard time using it so they moved on
    • 20:50 – The vision of Friendster to get people to connect was good, but it was Facebook who succeeded in that
    • 21:13 – MySpace went too far with its features
    • 21:43 – Friendster was a great brand but had technology problems
  • 22:35 – Kent Lindstrom, the original CEO of Friendster is now Nuzzel’s COO
  • 22:46 – Friendster was hiring people based on their resume and not based on whether or not they were a fit for the company
  • 23:18 – What’s a new tool you’ve added to make your life easier?
    • 23:36 – A change from Amazon to a new vendor was a big improvement
  • 24:26 – What is one must-read book you’d recommend to everyone?
    • 24:56 – Jonathan is currently reading The Three-Body Problem, but is a bit confused with it
  • 25:39 – The best way to find Jonathan online is on Twitter

3 Key Points:

  1. Nuzzel has launched a new platform where people can create and curate their own newsletters.
  2. Most everyone has an email address; make your product accessible so that all you need to join is an email account.
  3. Curating newsletters while still being mobile is what sets Nuzzel apart. — test

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