GE 210: Noah Kagan Shares His Journey from Facebook Employee #30 to Getting 700K Subscribers for AppSumo (podcast) With Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan

Hey everyone, today I share the mic with Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo and AppSumo, and host of Noah Kagan Presents. He was also Employee #30 at Facebook!

Tune in to hear Noah discuss how to create content that works, how he built Sumo and AppSumo by persisting and evolving, why you need to stick with marketing for at least four years, and the two things that surprised him about growing a business.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: Noah Kagan – From Facebook Employee #30 to Getting 700K Subscribers for AppSumo TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:37 – Leave a review and rating and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • 01:00 – Eric introduces Noah Kagan who is among the first 10 guests of Growth Everywhere
    • 03:25 – Eric shares that when he first started doing podcasts, he only had 9 downloads a day and has now grown to 35,000 in a day
  • 04:13 – For podcasts, if you have old stuff that is good, just recycle it and it can double or even triple the traffic
  • 05:18 – Noah says you get what you put in
    • 05:20 – He spent two months writing a Tony Robbins’ article and it became popular
    • 05:34 – He spent 15 minutes doing a video for YouTube and only got a few views
  • 06:32 – “The easiest way to win is just persist and evolve”
    • 07:18 – In marketing and in business, you should know how to stick with something for a long time
    • 07:37 – Look at what’s working and evolve it
    • 08:04 – Noah says his videos regarding marketing strategies perform well
  • 08:41 – If you are a marketer, know what your goal is
  • 09:04 – For Noah, the goal for AppSumo is to acquire half a million email subscribers in 2 years
  • 09:44 – For Sumo, they have revenue goals every year
  • 10:10 – In setting a goal, be honest with yourself and place it where you can regularly see it
  • 11:44 – People who have reached their financial goals – Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Elon Musk – are not after the money anymore, but are after a vision
  • 12:10 – Noah is now focused on the purpose rather than making money
  • 12:20 – To figure out what your vision is, talk to a friend, look at your interests and the things you worked on in the past year
  • 13:02 – Noah loves to promote great things and this is what he does with his work
    • 14:17 – Sumo helps the underdog so that they can grow and develop
  • 14:35 – Eric says Noah uses the Top of Mind strategies
    • 15:03 – The best marketing is when people “see you everywhere”
  • 15:28 – Target specific people and cater to them as opposed to being broad
  • 16:07 – The two things Noah learned about goals: they should be hard and they should be continuous
    • 16:39 – The vision is a destination that is almost unreachable but something that you genuinely want
    • 16:46 – The timing for your goals should extend beyond a year; for Noah, they have goals set out as far as 2020
  • 17:21 – Eric’s long-term vision is to improve education around the world, but how he will do it changes constantly
  • 18:51 – “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do”
  • 19:16 – Noah would set targets for his podcast, but became disappointed when nothing worked and when the growth was slow
  • 20:16 – Do not be so focused on the goal that you do not see the amazing things happening around you
  • 20:21 – There should be a balance between your plan and creating the right habits
    • 20:49 – One of Noah’s habits is doing the podcast every Tuesday
    • 21:04 – Noah held a technology conference for his club and it became a yearly tradition
  • 22:10 – There should be one day reserved as a day off or a block day
    • 22:46 – Creative ideas come when you are not working in front of your computer
    • 23:11 – Eric went to Napa alone for two days and spent the time strategizing
    • 23:33 – Everybody has to find their creative zone
  • 24:23 – The two strategies to being productive: either do things and figure it out or think about it first and do it afterwards
    • 25:20 – In the case of Sumo and AppSumo, Noah realized that the more people are left alone, the better they become at the task
  • 26:11 – Eric knows someone who grew his company’s revenue by hiring good people and getting out of their way
    • 26:56 – To know if you’ve hired great people, think about how much you are paying them; great people do not come cheap
  • 27:35 – People want to feel empowered by being given a clear goal and vision and then the autonomy to make the decisions
    • 28:03 – As a boss, your role is to trust them but verify their work
  • 28:23 – For AppSumo, they have a yearly and monthly revenue target and they get a report every Monday to show how they are doing
  • 28:56 – To hold your business accountable, have a monthly board meeting
  • 29:07 – Find someone you can talk to who will give you good information about your business
  • 29:43 – Every business is like a Google map—you have a destination and route and when there is a traffic jam, you look for other ways to go around it without changing your destination
  • 30:57 – Eric asks Noah how he finds great board members
    • 31:08 – When Noah started AppSumo, he looked for people who knew the specific things he wanted to learn and it was effective at first, but not for the long term
    • 32:17 – A good strategy is to have informal advisers and ask them to look at your numbers; over time the adviser gets involved in helping the business to grow more
    • 33:51 – A board member may disagree but this will help you look at an issue from a different perspective
    • 34:07 – Find someone who will give you value and who really cares
  • 35:07 – The two things that surprised Noah about growing a business: having monthly board meetings and hiring a recruiter early on
  • 36:06 – There is a lot that can be accomplished in a day, so the important thing is to know what to prioritize
  • 37:14 – If you are just starting out in YouTube, you have to be strategic
  • 37:50 – With today’s technology, everyone can be a star, but there are also more things that are vying for your attention
    • 38:14 – Do the topics that people really want and focus on the quality
    • 38:31 – Invest your time in the content you create
    • 39:17 – Figure out your own unique angle
  • 39:45 – Eric says he likes Noah’s videos because he is being himself in them
    • 40:11 – Be yourself by dealing with your frustrations
  • 40:22 – Noah journals and has bought a chair that he likes to sit on
  • 41:18 – Noah knows a guy who is rich who likes to ask for discounts; he says he is rich because he keeps on asking for discounts
  • 41:45 – In terms of being yourself, find the things that you are great at and that give you energy
    • 42:08 – Learn how to work smarter and be mindful of how you spend your days
    • 43:16 – You can get more out of your day if you spend it on things that give you energy
  • 44:25 – One of Noah’s struggles is finding out if he should do things he is great at or fix the things where he is weak
    • 44:33 – Noah realized he should do the things he is great at and hire people who are strong where he is weak
    • 44:58 – The pigeon theory is when you go somewhere, poop and then fly away
    • 45:17 – If you are committed to doing something, you will figure out ways to come up with ideas
    • 45:30 – “No time is no excuse”
    • 46:03 – The pigeon theory is about knowing what you are strong at and being a part of the solution rather than the problem
  • 47:10 – Noah is very good at feedback and this has contributed to his success
    • 47:32 – “When someone gives you feedback, the first thing you do is say ‘thank you’” – Keith Ferrazzi
    • 48:47 – People should not be defensive when they are receiving feedback
    • 49:03 – Noah gives feedback to a lot of people, but they don’t really listen to it
  • 51:07 – Noah is not into buying businesses and is an angel investor for only 2 companies because he is focused on growing his own companies
  • 52:02 – AppSumo had some problems in the past and Noah had to let go of people; they went back to the basics and they are now much larger than before
  • 52:43 – A vision for AppSumo is to simplify the number of software that’s being used by people
  • 53:26 – When your customer reacts positively to your product, then you should build on that
    • 54:11 – Do not find the next new thing, just work on how you can make your products better
    • 55:40 – It’s easier to work on the things you already have rather than to build new things
    • 56:14 – More often than not, removing things is better for your business than adding new things
  • 57:27 – Noah thinks he is making his videos too quickly
    • 58:03 – Noah says he likes for his videos to be evergreen
  • 58:34 – Facebook succeeded because they were focused; at the beginning they were only focused on Harvard students, then moved from one step to the next until they are now dominating the scene
  • 59:06 – You should recognize what works and do more of that
  • 59:30 – Eric heard that “the organization’s weakness is the CEO’s greatest strength”
    • 59:44 – Noah says the company is a projection of the owner in real life
  • 1:00:16 – Noah is great at growing, but is not as great at maintaining the company and has hired people for that
  • 1:00:43 – Noah is looking for an assistant
    • 1:00:50 – One applicant is a 23-year-old girl who answered questions well and is being paid $22 per hour
    • 1:01:05 – The other applicant is a 50-year-old woman who charges $50 per hour and is a career executive assistant who has 20 years of experience
    • 1:01:38 – Eric was in the same situation recently with two applicants who had equal experience but different rates—they went with the cheaper one
    • 1:02:14 – In Noah’s scenario, Eric would have chosen the woman with more experience because she could get things done faster
    • 1:02:18 – Noah is also leaning towards the woman with more experience
    • 1:02:39 – In sports, the ones who win are those that are paid the highest
  • 1:03:11 – Noah asked the help of an expert for his podcast and YouTube videos
    • 1:04:15 – In hiring coaches and experts, you get what you paid for
    • 1:05:14 – Noah says it is easier to keep people happy rather than look for new employees
  • 1:06:02 – Connect with Noah at AppSumo and Sumo
  • 1:06:18 – Also check out Noah Kagan Presents and search him on YouTube
  • 1:06:27 – Add Noah on Snapchat
  • 1:06:42 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

  1. Persist and evolve—these are the keys to winning and keeping up with the market.
  2. You get what you put in—create a quality product and reap the rewards.
  3. It is easier to grow and develop what is working than building something brand new.

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