Sam Parr is no stranger to killer ideas. From creating the world’s first roommate matching app to The Hustle newsletter, he has transformed basic concepts into millions of dollars.
In this episode on the Marketing Against the Grain YouTube Channel YouTube Channel, hosted by HubSpot chief marketing officer Kipp Bodnar and Zapier chief marketing officer Kieran Flanagan, Parr dished on how he builds his network of entrepreneurs, his favorite research tools, and more.
1. Your Network Is Your Net Worth.
Before The Hustle exploded, Parr spent his early 20s building relationships with a slew of successful entrepreneurs. He credits his networking skills to two parts: confidence and persistence.
For example, he wanted to connect with the founder of Business Insider, Kevin P. Ryan, who also helped create MongoDB, Zola, and other companies. To start, Parr emailed him about The Hustle — his newsletter inspired by Business Insider.
As expected, Parr’s email got lost in the shuffle. Instead of giving up, he sent another. Then another. Eventually, Ryan responded — but only after realizing Parr wouldn’t stop until he got a response. By then, Parr had sent 30 emails to Ryan.
Though it takes time and may feel embarrassing, being persistent puts you on someone's radar. Once every 30 emails, they might check out your work and want to tag along. Put aside your fears, keep your head held high, and send those cold emails, phone calls, and messages.
2. Chill With the Modeling.
When some entrepreneurs find an idea, they start modeling. They create growth projections. They model how focusing on one feature compares to another. They want to minimize risk, so they map out every possible pathway.
But it may be better to stop modeling and start doing. “You [model] because you’re afraid,” Parr says. “Modeling like this is procrastinating.”
How does Parr pursue his ideas? He uses back-of-the-envelope calculations, or rough estimates based on a handful of available numbers.
For example, say he has an idea for a newsletter. Five people tell him he can get $25 in ad revenue per 1k people from a high-quality audience. Looking at Business Insider’s traffic, he saw they reach 80m people per month — indicating a viable business model.
Parr used this information — not a million different models — as a starting point for The Hustle, which now boasts 2.5m+ subscribers. If you’re trying to launch a million-dollar business, skip the models — they won’t do you any favors.
3. Research Tools Exist — Check These Out.
Ideas don’t usually appear out of thin air — seek out trends, new ways of thinking, and business models using different resources. Parr’s favorite research tools include:
- Companies House: features income statements for UK companies with $20m+ in revenue.
- SimilarWeb: estimates total traffic sessions, traffic sources, and time spent on site.
- AnnualReports.com: houses hundreds of thousands of publicly available annual company reports.
- Wayback Machine: archives old versions of websites.
- Meta Ad Library: shows all advertisements running on Meta sites, including Facebook and Instagram ads.
- Moat: features any company’s banners and ads on Google Ads.
- Semrush: offers data into any company’s paid search.
These tools tune Parr into popular trends, quirky businesses, and profitability. As an example, he uncovered a horribly designed website that specializes in erotica primarily for women. Using SimilarWeb, he discovered the site saw 60m+ monthly visits with an average duration of 17 minutes — indicating a huge amount of demand.
He tested it out by creating his own version, which featured a monthly subscription, a few Facebook ads, and two freelance writers. In one day, he made back the $500 he spent on ads. He refunded these erotica connoisseurs and gave the idea to a Trends user, who later sold the business for $500k.
4. Everyone Is Insecure.
Confidence didn’t always come naturally to Parr. He used to fear going against the grain, unsure of what the unknown would entail. But through his experience hosting Hustle Con, a conference that brought together hundreds of founders and entrepreneurs, he realized something: We’re all kinda dumb.
At Hustle Con, Parr invited speakers to come an hour early under the ruse of a mic check. Except he just wanted to hang out with them.
Through these interactions, Parr witnessed that top entrepreneurs — some of his heroes — worry about renewals, projections, firing employees, profitability, and more. In short, even the most successful founders lack confidence.
“These people are all dumb idiots, just like me,” Parr jokes.
By talking to these people, Parr learned everyone fears doing XYZ — but he encourages budding entrepreneurs to not let these feelings get in the way of taking action. Remind yourself: The majority of successful people lack serious confidence.
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