[Interview] Sam Parr, Founder of The Hustle

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On the average day, nearly 205 billion emails are sent between Internet users inboxes. The Whalebone Department of Convenient Statistics estimates that as much as 95% of those emails are nothing more than boring status notes like, “Just checking in, how’s that assignment I needed yesterday coming?” and “Sorry for the delay in response, I’ve been trying my hardest not to answer this e-mail.” We know this because we send and receive these notes every hour of every day each week—it’s just a reality of doing business in the digital age.

Luckily though, there’s an e-mail that’s recently been popping up our inboxes on the daily, and it’s keeping us sane by delivering fresh and relevant content that’s actually worth reading, all the way through, sometimes twice. You may have heard of it by now—it’s called The Hustle.

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Every single day at 12pm EST, the San Francisco-based digital media/news startup sends off a note that’s as informative as it is hilarious—filled with the latest news in tech, business and millennial culture. We’re talking stories behind the latest apps and startups, everything secretly in the works at Netflix, and even little things that make e-mail great again, like shower thoughts: “Elon Musk sounds like a perfume or cologne”.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with the man behind our favorite daily e-mail, Sam Parr, who is founder and CEO of the Hustle—as well as a successful former hot dog stand proprietor—to talk a bit more about making e-mails that don’t suck, the key to attracting 1M+ readers in less than two years, and more.

Let’s kick this off with the one question every human with an e-mail address and overflowing inbox wants to know: Why start a newsletter right now?

Don’t start an email newsletter! That’d be more competition for us.

We’re in the golden age of content. Everyone’s doing it. There’s a lot of good stuff out there but also a whole lot of junk. Because of that, everything’s overflowing. Your social feeds, email, text, apps. There are thousands of options.

In my opinion though, very few people are doing newsletters the right way. Very few. Yet, it’s where most young people spend their time. To me that’s just a simple supply and demand issue.

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I feel like I read somewhere that before you started The Hustle, you worked on a startups and hot dogs (maybe not together, nor in that order). Am I just making that up?

‘Tis true. Before I was a wannabe media mogul, I was a hot dog stand proprietor.

During college in Nashville, Tennessee I started a chain of hot dog stands called Southern Sam’s. “Wieners as big as a baby’s arm.”

In high school, I always had side hustles but at age 20 I had the itch to start legit brick and mortar business. Before settling on an idea I had a few requirements:

  • It had to be cheap ($500 or less in start up capital)
  • I wanted to work outside
  • The hours wouldn’t require early mornings

So, after doing some research I settled on a hot dog stand. It was a super fun, albeit tough, business to run. That type of work makes me appreciate having a cushy office job now as working on your feet is super physically demanding and gets old fast.

Let’s say a small town kid from the East Coast with very little knowledge about the tech industry, or business news in general, randomly decides to sign himself up for The Hustle. After one month of reading it daily, he has become…

The funniest/smartest person in the office.

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If what I’ve heard is true, and if Drake songs from 2014 still mean anything at all to anyone, the number of folks reading The Hustle went from 0 to 100, real quick (and by 100 we mean 500,000+). What’s been your secret sauce to high growth?

This is a shitty answer because it’s not tactical or replicable, but word of mouth.

We got our initial 60k (or so) subscribers by writing controversial articles like, “How to scam Amazon,” “Why most self help authors who call themselves ‘best selling authors’ are full of shit,” and “How to microdose LSD.”

It only takes a quick Google to see that while millions of people loved these articles, tons of people also hated them. I think stirring up controversy is a great way to get traction early on.

What’s been the most bizarre note you’ve received from a reader?

Someone once sent us an email that said something like, “Hey guys, as I sit here BBQing, I thought I’d take a second to write you and say thanks for giving me the news each day.” At the end of the email he asked for my address. Three days later I had about five pounds of beef brisket mailed to me.

Give us one thing you do on the Internet every day to stay on top of the game? And then one thing you do offline top stay on top of the game as well.

I’m a religious reddit user. I read r/technology and r/politics everyday to stay on top of the news (along with reading The Hustle). I typically read the comments of the top posts to get the inside scoop and read all the funny jokes (which I then steal and try to make my coworkers laugh).

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I also love r/publicfreakout, r/justiceporn, and r/funny to get a good laugh.

Offline, I have the same sleep schedule seven days a week. Midnight to 7 AM. I also think bragging about how little sleep you get is stupid.

Maybe I’m still a bit feeling the fire from that 2014 Drake allusion in Question #4, but if you could have any one hip-hop legend (dead or alive) help co-write a special edition of the newsletter, who would it be?

Tupac, without a doubt. He was only 25 years old when he died. Amazing how much impact he had on the world in such a short time. He had so much wisdom for such a young age yet was brash and immature enough to keep things interesting.

I think stirring up controversy is a great way to get traction early on.

Most important e-mail you’ve ever sent during your career?

[An e-mail to] the first investor that said yes. It was a $100,000 check, and it changed my life, as it was validation in our idea and team.

We made it. Last one. What’s 2017 looking like for The Hustle? I know you guys have some awesome events on the horizon. What’s good with those? And anything fresh/big picture for the company as a whole that you can talk about?

Hit 1m daily active users by October. Take a few more steps towards becoming the next CNN. We also have Hustle Con on June 23rd. Casey Neistat is speaking, along with the founders of WeWork, ClassPass and a ton others. We’ll have 2,500 of our readers there, so will be a helluva good time.

To receive a daily e-mail you’ll enjoy from the folks over at The Hustle, sign-up at www.thehustle.co. Thanks Sam.