Hi!

I know, I know. An update is long overdue.

Just so much has happened recently that the thought of writing a progress report became more and more intimidating. But of course, the longer I wait, the worse it gets.

So here it is, raw and unfiltered. Sorry if that’s not your kind of jam! I’m still trying to figure out how to integrate writing personal updates into my workflow. Coding is fun for me, putting myself out there isn’t. I always have to force myself to do it. (Of course, that's exactly why I’m doing it.) Allowing myself to write non-polished stuff will probably help.

I wrote the last update on the day Gum Spy launched. The launch went okay. It was on the last front page place on Product Hunt and I was afraid all day long that it would drop below the fold. (In case you’re not familiar with Product Hunt: that’s bad since it means that almost no one sees your project.) It was close but Gum Spy managed to stay on the front page. I made 11 sales on launch day and got 102 upvotes.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with these results. Gumroad is hot right now and I thought lots of people would be interested in analyzing what kind of products do best and how much they’re earning. But hey, 11 sales is not too shabby and the real work begins after launch day anyway.

The next day, I noticed that something is happening. I got lots of new Twitter followers and Gum Spy sales notifications all day long. At this point, I had around 600 Twitter followers and suddenly I’m getting hundreds of new followers. What’s going on?

I was confused until at 7.47pm I get a Twitter DM from Trevor McKendrick (Chief of Staff @ Lambda School) who I'd never talked to before.

Shaan and Sam’s podcast? I love the My first Million podcast! What’s going on?

I immediately started listening to the latest episode and indeed, they talk about me and Gum Spy.

“…. I’ll shout out the guys making this guy, Jakob Greenfeld, and I like this dude. He’s a kind of like built in public type of guy. And those are, those are my people. I like that. And so he’s built a bunch of different random projects. This is one of them. So what he said is let’s see who who’s got the best-selling stuff on Gumroad. So it’s just a list of the best selling stuff on Gumroad. […]

**

So I thought this is kind of cool. It’s cool way to see kind of what’s popular on Gumroad and I liked this guy Jakob’s style. I recommend you follow him and look at the different things he’s doing. He’s doing what he’s calling a Bootstrap MBA, which is like, how do I learn business through trying to bootstrap a bunch of projects over this year. And it’s going to cost me money. Maybe I’ll make some money. Maybe I’ll lose some money, but I’m definitely gonna learn about business by building a bunch of businesses this year. And I’m going to publish as I go.

**

And so I like what this guy’s up to. And I think this is a cool product.”

Uhm… wow. I’m totally blown away.

Now I wish I could say my outreach skillsare responsible for the shoutout. But the truth is that Shaan discovered Gum Spy on Product Hunt and learned about my other stuff via the little badge in the lower-right corner. I wrote a bit more about the badge here.

The My first Million shoutout is obviously far more than I ever could’ve hoped for. But this is probably also a perfect place and time for a healthy dose of reality.

The shoutout didn’t make me rich or famous. In total, it resulted in ~50 new Gum Spy sales, ~5 Product Explorer sales, ~100 new email subscribers, and ~600 new Twitter followers.

Sure, these are nice numbers. But they’re not life-altering

I’m not saying this to criticize Sam’s and Shaan’s podcast. Instead, what I’m trying to get at is that no podcast shoutout would’ve resulted in life-altering numbers. That’s simply how the world works. You get paid in relation to the value you provide and even the best marketing won’t change that equation dramatically.

I’m primarily writing this is as a reminder to myself. There’s a long, long journey ahead of me and I need to stay humble and focused.

We’re already 600 words in and so far, I’ve only talked about one out of the six projects I wanted to talk about. I knew this would be long. So now might be the perfect time to get another cup of coffee. I’ll wait.

You’re back? Awesome. Let’s move on.

A week after launching Gum Spy I finally managed to publish the first episodes (plus a short teaser!) of my new podcast, called the Product Explorer Podcast. I already mentioned the podcast in the last update but now it's finally live.

In some sense, it's a continuation of my “quote-driven launch” strategy that I started with Product Explorer. While Product Explorer was inspired by quotes by Andrew Wilkinson and Nathan Latka, the podcast is inspired by quotes by Jack Kerouac and Picasso.

The context of the first one, is this great story about a woman who approached Picasso in a restaurant and asked him “could you sketch something for me? I’ll pay you for it. Name your price.”. So Picasso complied, quickly sketched something and then said, okay, that will be $10,000. And the woman just stares at him and says, but you did that in 30 seconds.

Picasso just stuffs the sketch into his jacket pocket and says “You are wrong,” “It took me 40 years.

A similar story is when Jack Kerouac was asked “How long did it take you to write On the Road?” he replied, “Three weeks.” But then he’s asked, “How long were you on the road for?,” Kerouac says, “Seven years.” In other words, Kerouac spent 7 years and 3 weeks writing that book.

Now the podcast is inspired by the observation that it’s exactly the same with most entrepreneurial journeys. From the outside, big hits often look like an overnight success because the long previous journey is quickly forgotten. But it’s precisely all these less successful attempts that came before the big hit that got them where they are now.

Hence I’m talking to successful makers about all the projects they created in the past, not just their biggest hits.

My first guests were Mubashar Iqbal and Rob Hope, and I recorded a third episode with Helen Ryles that I’ll publish next week. In fact, Helen has the most incredible entrepreneurial approach I ever heard of and now that she told me about it I want to emulate it. So if any of this sounds remotely interesting and you don’t want to miss this episode, make sure to subscribe.

The next thing I “launched” was Sumo Spy. The story here is that while I was working on Gum Spy, I created a similar database for App Sumo products. I never did anything with it until one morning, I decided to have a closer look. One thing that immediately stood out to me was just how much money some of the companies make on App Sumo. I shared this observation along with some diagram on Twitter.

Since quite a few people were interested in my observation, I spontaneously decided to publish the data as well. As an experiment, I decided to make it available as a pay-what-you-want product.

Around 50 people “bought it” and, in total, I made $30 from two donations.

On the same day I tweeted about Sumo Spy, I also announced another project: Indie Drops. To understand this project’s background, we need to take a few steps back and talk about yet another project of mine.

Due to my work on the Project Explorer Podcast, I discovered that I really enjoy podcasting. Hence I decided to start yet another one with a different focus: product ideas.

Here’s the pitch I send out to people I want to talk to:

I host a podcast inspired by the My first Million Podcast (basically just as an excuse to talk about cool product ideas). Would you be interested in joining me for an episode? The idea is that we schedule a Zoom call, both bring a list with product ideas and then discuss them for an hour or so.

My first guest was Daniel K. Hunter who writes the amazing Pain Pointsnewsletter. During our call, we came up with the idea for Indie Drops. So instead of saying much about it, I’ll simply refer you to the podcast episode.

I already recorded two further episodes of the Product Ideas Podcast but since I haven’t published them yet, I’ll take about them in a future update.

I’ll only say that recording them has been incredibly fun and I’m looking for guests for further episodes. So if you have a list with cool product ideas and want to talk to me, feel free to send me a message! (In contrast to other podcasts, I’m not focusing on interviewing famous people. Instead, I’m happy to talk to anyone with interesting ideas.)

We’re now at 1500 words and I realize that we both need a short break. So here a few random things that also happened since the last update:

  • My Product Ideas Newsletter got a shoutout in the amazing Alternative Assets newsletter.
  • Antonio recently decided to start an experiment similar to my Bootstrap MBA experiment.
  • I discovered a new Gum Spy use-case: checking income claims.
  • I got quite a few questions on how to build something like Gum Spy or Product Explorer. So I created a little site that collects information on the LAGstack: Landing page + Airtable + Gumroad. I’ll probably publish a few tutorials on the site in the next weeks. Otherwise I have no plans for the site other than promoting the stack. (I swear I’m not paid by Gumroad or Airtable, just a huge fan. There aren’t even affiliate links on the site!)

After this short intermezzo, let’s get back to the main story.

There is, in fact, just one additional project I launched so far. But the story is a cool one.

Last Friday, I saw a tweet by Mike Rubini.

I thought this was an awesome idea and something I’d be thinking about myself. Everyone loves newsletters right now and thus a product like Gum Spy but for newsletters would certainly do well. However, I didn’t build anything in that direction because a newsletter list without subscriber numbers would be pretty boring. But Mike’s tweet motivated me to take another look at the problem. It turns out that, at least for Substack newsletters, it’s possible to collect subscriber numbers.

I then reached out to Mike and since he’s busy with other projects he said he’s cool with me launching a Substack database. Awesome! I wrote the code and sent my gentle robots to collect the data. There are lots of Substack newsletters and collecting the data took more than 24 hours.

So when I traveled to visit my parents the next day, the code was still running. But since my plan was to launch Newsletter Spy on Monday, this wasn’t a big problem. Or so, I thought.

On Saturday, a guy who calls himself Nik McFly on Twitter announcedthat he just published a “Full Directory of 5000+ Substack Newsletters”. Oh damn. I was too slow. And since I was still visiting my parents and didn’t bring my computer, there was nothing I could do.

But then I had an idea. Maybe I could connect to my computer at home using TeamViewer and publish my data this way? I called my girlfriend who was at home and helped me to establish the connection.

Luckily, the robots were already finished and thus I was able to announce a first version of my database 90 minutes after Nik’s tweet.

One thing I immediately noticed is that my robots found more than 20,000 Substack newsletters whereas Nik only talked about 5000 of them. I then checked his website again and it turned out that his data is 5 months old. Also he didn’t include subscriber numbers….

So yeah, instead of panicking, I should have checked Nik’s data first.

Later that day I chatted with Nik and we decided to partner up. He’s now selling my database on his website and gets a commission of each sale.

On Monday, I then launched Newsletter Spy properly on Product Hunt. With 400+ upvotes, the launch went (by my standards) amazingly well. So far I made around 50 sales and worked the last few days on adding new features like contact information to the database.

That’s the current status. Thank you for reading all of this!

Speak soon,

Jakob

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