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📩 How One Founder Went from 0 to 80,000 Subs on their Newsletter

Today's insanely helpful deep dive takes less than 3:25 mins to skim and 10x more helpful then your BBA degree

Hey, this is Napkin Notes: we meet and learn from the quickest-moving founders on the planet so you can sit cozy at home and learn from them every Friday morning ☕️

Today’s deep dive is for all of you who wrote “growing an email list” on your 2024 bucket list.

After all, it’s likely one of the smartest and most defensible assets you can build in 2024. Why you ask?

  • 📱 no algorithm needed

  • 💸 no paid ads needed

  • ✅ just consistency, creativity and good ol’ compound growth

We’ll jam more below. But if a friend sent you this, subscribe here so you don’t miss the next one 🔒

Even Bobby Axelrod starts his Friday reading Napkin Notes.

Today’s outline will be:

  • 📰 Some Startup News

  • 📩 Email Growth 101 with Ziyaan Virji

  • 🔒 RSVP to our interview with Arlene Dickinson and Ryan Holmes

  • 💡 Startup Ideas to Vote On

  • 📸 Visual of the Week

Enough salad and soup, let’s get to the main meal 🍜

📰 Startup News:

The App Store is breaking up in Europe. Elon wants more Tesla shares. GenAI is still all the hype. Uber shut down Drizly after it purchased it for $1B. OpenAI was a hot topic at Davos. The SEC is still short on crypto. And you should probably save your seat for our AMA with celebrity investor Arlene Dickinson.

Let’s riggidy-roll ⚡️

📩 Newsletter Growth 101 with Ziyaan Virji

There’s a reason everyone and their golden retriever is trying to scale a newsletter. It’s smart, super cheap and one of the most powerful assets to own and leverage for your startup.

All the smartest founders are building them:

The list is endless. But the high-signal advice on how to scale your own newsletter is not. Hence, the title of this newsletter.

Help us give a warm welcome to Ziyaan Virji. Although he may seem big and scary because he’s grown to 80,000 subscribers, he’s not. In fact, he’s likely one of the most friendly founders on the internet:

  • he’s in his 20s

  • from Tanzania

  • and has a heart to grow the biggest community of young people

We caught up with him over the phone a couple of days ago to ask if he wanted to share some advice with our Napkin Note readers who wanna scale their own newsletter and here’s what he had to say 🥁

If you had 1 hour today to get started on your newsletter journey what would you do this week to move the dial?

“Firstly, figure out who your dream demographic is (age, job, hobbies etc). Second, setup a BeeHiiv account for free. Thirdly spin up a google doc lead gen magnet of valueable things you wanna help that audience with. Then lastly, export a list of contacts you have in Gmail or wherever, that you can send your first couple newsletters to for gaining momunteum. You need a home crowd to cheer you on and spread the word as you get started.”

- Ziyaan Virji
  • What are the 3 most powerful levers you’ve used to grow your newsletter?

1. Go hard on LinkedIn content as it’s the greenest field of opportunity right now. Post sneak peaks or testimonials of your newsletter content then drive people to sign up by commenting or reaching out to you for the link. Test content as much as possible then double down on what works

2. Make an amazing live google doc of valueable resources, tips, insights you can send your audience and add to over time. Use this as a gating item to drive people to sign up and improve it each week. Make it so good people wanna forward it to their friends so a ripple effect occurs across your demographic (reference this example from Kernal). Then watch how much traffic happens and begin making paid ads or partnerships via the traction you’re seeing.

3. Team up with other creators/organizations that have aligned audinces to your own: if I’m going after people aged 15-18 curious about internships, grants and university scholarships, I’ll team up with people that have that audinece already so I can help them out. Others should do the same with whoever has already captured their dream audience

- Ziyaan Virji
  • Why now? Why should we give an “F” to build an audience on email when TikTok, X, LinkedIn and IG are all the rave?

Great question. Here’s a couple high value reasons why you should give an F and start building tonight:

- Advertisers/brands are looking for engaged audiences to team up with and pay, so it’s a blue sky opportuity

- FB, Twitter, TikTok is a pay to play game with an algo always changing. In email newsletters, there’s no algo. You control the audience. It makes a world of a difference

- Acquisition cost for me is $0 vs on social media it can be way higher. So when I monetize for myself or my startup, margins are way more healthier

- The lifetime value of my customer/reader is also going to be decades as email is always going to be around vs who knows if people will have a FB, Tik Tok or IG account in decades

The last thing I’ll say is first time founders stress about a perfect product, 2nd time founder stress about perfect distribution. Building a newsletter is a powerful way to become invincible at building distribution no one can ever take away from you.

- Ziyaan Virji
  • What’s been the most meaningful benefit (personal and business) that has come from writing your newsletter?

- Meeting Sahil Bloom in person was pretty awesome

- Signing deals and seeing brands (like IBO.org) believe in content I write with my own hands is pretty wild

- And helping create something my younger self would have loved and hearing that from my readers is likely the most fufilling thing on the personal side

- Ziyaan Virji
  • Who’s your dream coffee to meet with in the newsletter world and what would you ask them?

I think Sam Parr and Alex Lieberman would be at the top of my list. I’d love to ask them how I can scale from 100K to 1M+ subs and what tactics are needed to get there. So if anyone knows them well enough to put in a good word, i’d love to have a facetime with them before I end 2024.

- Ziyaan Virji

So there you go founders.

An interview with the email king himself.

If people have questions, drop Ziyaan a note here: [email protected] 

And if you’re a young person looking for more resources to scale your career, be sure to subscribe to his newsletter if you haven’t already.

Leaders of Today NewsletterJoin 100,000+ young people who receive the weekly newsletter, where I share opportunities, resources and ideas for you start your leadership journey today!

🍾 Startup Ideas of the Week

Got your own idea to validate? Tap below.

☕️ Steal Our Goals Guide for 2024

Need help to hit the ground running in 2024? Tap below. We’ve got tons of guides and e-books calling your name.

🖼 Cheeky Visual of the Week

Someone needs to build this ASAP. If that’s you, take the playbook here

💚 The Kernal Fam

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