Hey everyone! A heads up that today’s episode, has some adult language. So if you’re me and listen to podcasts while your kids are running in and out of the room, maybe save this one for later.
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S: You can wing it and I think you should wing it. I remember someone was, “Well, what’s your five-year projections?” I’m like, “What? What are you talking about?”
I don’t project five years out. Are you crazy? I think that you shouldn’t project that. I have this vague vision of what’s gonna happen in the future, but I’m going to zig and zag every single day and figure it out as I go.
Each week, millions of listeners tune into a podcast called My First Million, listening to Sam Parr break down business ideas with his co-host, Shaan Puri.
If you’re into building businesses, you’ve probably heard bits and pieces of Sam’s story. But today, you’ll learn how he went from being a scrappy college kid with a hot dog stand to one of the leading voices in entrepreneurship.
[theme music crescendo]
I’m Lexi Grant and you’re listening to, They Got Acquired. A show about life-changing business acquisitions, and founders, who don’t follow the Silicon Valley narrative.
Today, you’ll hear from Sam Parr, a serial entrepreneur with an intense curiosity about how things work. He catapulted to celebrity status within the startup world when he sold a daily newsletter called The Hustle for a reported 8 figures.
But how did this down-to-earth guy with no previous media experience build such a valuable company? Keep listening, to find out. Here’s his story.
L: You sold The Hustle to HubSpot for eight figures in 2021. Can you tell us how the deal came about?
S: In October, they emailed me saying they want to do a partnership. That was vague to me. Just tell me: “Are you trying to buy us? Because if you are, maybe we can have a conversation, but don’t waste my time. And they go: “Yeah, we’re trying to buy you. We’re not going to waste your time”
I sent them an email and I listed every reason why we are bad, why we suck, and what’s wrong with our company. I also listed every reason why we’re awesome and why this maybe could work. I sent it to them because I wanted to end it.
They replied and they go: “That sounds great. We’re okay with all this.” And I go: “Great call me.” That’s how it started.
L: How did you feel after you sold?
S: When I was running the company, I hired a CEO because I was out of my element. I’m not really that much of a business person; I’m an artist. I was being a business person and I was worn out and I wanted to create, not have meetings and manage people. That’s not my skill set. So I was really worn out.
L: It’s stressful. Yeah.
S: I was in fight-or-flight mode. I always felt someone’s coming to me for something. Am I going to get a fight right now? Or am I going to back down? Am I going to beat up or get beat up? What’s going to happen right now? And I felt like that for years.
Then, when I sold, I was a person with poor eyesight who put on glasses and saw the world differently. I was, “Oh my God, living is so wonderful! This is life? I could have been living this for a time. I just felt great.”
With millions of readers and an increasingly popular podcast, it would be easy to assume that Sam has everything figured out.
But he doesn’t subscribe to a well-curated plan or rigid set of rules. He prefers to jump into the deep end and learn to swim as he goes. And that just might be the secret to all of his success.
S: I worked for this guy who had a TV show called American Pickers. I was a fan of his show and I met him on the street and I asked him if I could help run the store that he was opening.
American Pickers is kind of like pawn stores where they would buy old junk and explain the history about it, make it a little bit nicer / refurbish it, and then resell it. There was always a line of people to come into our store. I met a guy in the store who had a hot dog stand in storage. I have no idea how the conversation came to that, but when it did it, a light bulb went off in my head. I just said, “Can I rent that from you and pay you at the end of the month?” And he said yes.
L: Was it successful?
S: Yeah. On a slow day I would walk away with $150 in my pocket, and on a great day about $1,000.
Sam was attending Belmont University in Nashville, thanks to a track scholarship, and he had plans to graduate with a Music Business degree.
But the hot dog stand got Sam hooked on building businesses. And then he noticed an interesting one he wanted to work for.
S: There was this really famous runner named Christopher Lukezic. He was a professional runner and he quit running in his peak. It’s not like running pays a lot, but he was probably making hundreds of thousands of dollars doing a sport that he loved, but he quit to join this company called Air Bed and Breakfast.
I was like: What is this website called Air Bed and Breakfast? I emailed them and told them I thought their website was amazing: “I’m in town, and can I interview for a job?” They said to come to the office tomorrow. But, I actually wasn’t there. I was still in Nashville, Tennessee.
I emailed the CEO, Joe Gebbia, and he offered me an interview. So, I flew out there the next day. They gave me an interview, and he offered me the job. I flew back, left school, sold all my stuff, and flew back to San Francisco. The Sunday before I was supposed to start, Airbnb calls me and took away my offer, saying I lied to them.
S: In college, I had a little bit of a drug and alcohol problem and I got arrested and I lied about it. I didn’t tell anyone on the Airbnb background check. I just said no on the checkbox that asks if you are currently under investigation.
I forget exactly what it was, but I thought the way they worded it, that technically, I haven’t been convicted yet because there was one time where I was still in trouble. And, I was, “Well, I’m kind of telling the truth.” But they’re like, “No, you smart ass. You should have told us and we could have worked with you, but we can’t hire a liar. And they fired me. They were right to do that.”
S: So I was stuck in San Francisco. I had a couple thousand dollars and no job. It was the lowest point in my life. That was devastating.
It was a horrible moment for my family. I remember my mom crying. She was so sad for me. It makes me sad just thinking about it.
It worked out wonderfully. It changed my life around. I got my act together. I don’t do any drugs. I do zero alcohol and I changed that day.
[music plays for a beat]
It would take years and a lot of intentional effort for Sam to get sober. He would eventually finish his Business degree, but he was determined to make things work in San Francisco. So while getting help from a doctor for his alcohol addiction, he got involved in the startup scene.
He met a website designer named John Havel, who was working on a roommate-matching website called Bunk. Sam convinced John to let him join the project.
S: It was basically Tinder for roommates, which is silly because we should’ve just done Tinder for Tinder.
It was an app where you could swipe “Yes” or “No” on who you want to meet to team up and get an apartment. It was okay. We sold it. At the end of selling it, I had made probably a hundred thousand dollars, which was awesome for a young person. But it wasn’t a home run.
L: Got you on the right track, though.
S: It got me in the right track. During that period, I started a book club and I met so many people. I started a blog. I met and read like crazy. I met so many people and I would host events and that’s was my foundation for creating a really strong network.
L: How did you sell that business?
S: An apartment listing company called Apartment List saw it and thought we were cool and they just emailed us. When we sold it, it wasn’t that much money. It was around $15,000 up front, but then I worked there for a year and I got paid bonuses and these things for making the app better.
L: So, you stayed on for a little while.
S: I stayed on for 366 days.
L: Right when your contract was up.
S: Yeah. The day.
L: During that time, were you thinking about what you wanted to do next?
S: Yeah, for sure I was. But I hadn’t honed in on it. I didn’t know what it was.
I left in either April or May, and then I basically took a week off and drove my car to LA and back. And then I started working on a conference called Hustle Con. I did that just as a way to kill time, thinking maybe this isn’t going to be The Thing, but maybe it’ll help me find The Thing.
Sam’s goal for Hustle Con was simple: he wanted to create a fun, one-day event that gave people who were interested in startups, tactical advice. Using the network he’d built over the last few years, Sam pulled together some sponsors and speakers. And then, he got to work marketing the event.
It was a great idea, except for one small detail. Sam only had six weeks to convince people to sign up for this conference.
L: How’d you get enough people to go?
S: I created a blog and a newsletter. I would write these newsletters twice a week about each speaker who was coming and then turn the newsletter into a blog post. I would post the blog post on Hacker News and Reddit and 500-1,000 people would come to the website, enter their email address, and go back into the beginning of the email sequence that I’d already written a few weeks prior. I would ask them to come and share the blog, and they would share a little bit. At the end of 3-4 weeks, I had 2,000-3,000 people a day coming to the website.
L: Wow. That’s cool. You’re really a content marketer at heart.
S: Yeah, for sure. I would say I’m a creator. It sounds weird, but I think I’m an artist. I view this not in the traditional sense of making a beautiful painting, but feeling the energy of creating and sharing is definitely innate in me, and I feel pain if I can’t do it.
That first Hustle Con was a success. Thanks to event sponsors and volunteers who were eager to help run the show in exchange for a free ticket, the whole thing only cost Sam $6,000, and made around $50,000.
So he did a second one, which cost $17,000 and made $188,000. He had obviously found something that resonated — but Sam wasn’t crazy about the business model.
S: I thought conferences are kind of cool, but kind of a pain in the butt. All the revenue comes in the last two weeks. It’s incredibly stressful. It’s kind of training for a marathon. It sucks. It sucks. It sucks. Then you are done and you’re, “Oh, that was kind of fun. I want to do it again.” But it still sucks 98% of the time. Then, you’re, “Oh, that’s awesome.” That’s kinda how it felt, and I realized I didn’t want the business to rely solely on that.
I still didn’t think this was The Thing, but asked myself why people were coming. I realized, at the time, I’ve created a newsletter and that’s how I got people to come to the event and people would write me saying they love this newsletter. It’s hilarious. Or they learn a lot. They how I write and they would sometimes give me compliments. I thought, “Well, maybe this is The Thing.” That’s when I started The Hustle.
The first version of The Hustle wasn’t a daily news email, but a series of two or three interesting evergreen stories that Sam would write each week. Sam’s goal was to grow the email list using the same content marketing, that he’d used for Hustle Con.
S: I asked myself: Where do these people live? Where are they on the internet? Because I can’t just make someone come to my website. Instead, I’ve got to make something that lives where the people already are, and a fraction of them will start coming to the website for us.
That was Reddit. I think it’s a lot harder to do it now, but the first week we launched, I wrote this article about how Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora, talks at Hustle Con about how he convinces police employees to work for two years without pay, because he ran out of money, and it worked out. I posted it on Reddit and we had a million people come to our website the first week.
Then the second week, we basically created this series where I knew this guy that had this really shady business, where he would plagiarize books on Amazon, particularly books on how to sleep with women, for men. I was like: “Dude, you’re a nerd. You don’t sleep with women. You don’t know anything about this.” And he was, “Yeah. I just copy other people using authors in the Philippines to rewrite it. Then I get a different title and cover for five bucks on Fiverr, and I put it on Amazon and I make 50 grand a month.”
I thought that was outrageous, and it made me angry. We wrote an article about that and we posted it on Reddit in the “self-publishing” category. I knew they were going to get angry and they did and they shared it crazy.
The next week we decided to try it out. We plagiarized a book, made it a bestseller, and the publisher that owned that title was Harlequin. I had no idea what Harlequin was, but it’s the largest publisher of romantic novels. They threatened to take me to court and told me to call them.
We got on the phone, and I apologized, and I was, “We’re on your side. We’re trying to say this is ridiculous. We’re not mocking you or anything. We just picked that random example to prove our point that Amazon needs to fix this.” They let it slide, but asked that we apologize to your audience. And we made a deal. We did crazy stuff that. every week.
L: That’s funny. Was there anything else that really contributed to the growth in those early days?
S: No, it was really the first hundred thousand almost explicitly. It was just me writing ten articles a week. But I would write it. So, Sam Parr would write a couple a week. Then, I had this alter ego who is this woman named Steph Whitfield, and she would write. I would go into what this woman would think. I had a character in my head and then I had Sid Finch, Steph Whitfield, and Steve Garcia.
Steve Garcia—that’s a combination of Steve Jobs and Jerry Garcia. He likes drugs and we wrote about Steve Garcia doing LSD and how it helped his depression. I had these alter egos that I would step into.
Then there was Steph Whitfield and she would write to her about how men hit on her on LinkedIn. It’s ridiculous, disgusting, and it needs to stop, because one girl I was seeing at the time a guy hit on her LinkedIn and it was ridiculous—Stephanie has to write about this. I would have all these alter egos just churning out articles.
L: Did you have profiles for them on Reddit?
S: Yeah, for sure. And I had profiles on LinkedIn.
L: So I think a critic would say—or a cynic would say—you made shit up then to grow the audience?
S: Yeah, that’s fair. But I would say that a lot of it was opinion-based stuff. Or I would take things that were happening in real life that people had told me about, and I would say I heard a story about this and I would use it. I would use those alter egos to say different opinions.
Was I making stuff up? Kind of, but I don’t know. I did genuinely think: How does this character think about this? How would she react to this? Let’s write my opinion on it. So, it was as made up as an opinion could be made up.
L: Who were you initially selling advertising to?
S: My first few advertisers was WealthFront, Lawtrades, Casper, and General Assembly. All of their founders had previously spoken Hustle Con or were somehow related. Maybe they were a friend of a person who spoke at Hustle Con. The first ad I sold, I think it was to this company called Lawtrades, which is still around. Then the second one was WealthFront. In each of those ads was around a thousand dollars
L: How many subscribers did you have at that point?
S: Around 75,000 or 80,000.
L: Wow. That’s crazy. That’s not much for a huge list.
S: No one thought about email advertising at the time. Everyone dismissed it.
But Sam wasn’t dismissing it. If anything, he wanted to go all in. Because something told him that The Hustle could be so much more. He just had to find a way to scale.
S: TheSkimm had just came out and I knew about email and I loved news. I’d read the biography of Ted Turner. He’s the guy who started CNN. And I was very inspired by him and I love news. I loved reading the news and I thought let’s just start a news business and we’ll do it via email.
Because, coming up with these crazy stories and doing outlandish stunts—it’s exhausting and it’s hard. I didn’t know what’s going to hit, but if we created news that people could rely on every single day, more people are going to engage with us. We switched on May 1, 2016.
This decision, was a turning point. In their first year, The Hustle reached 100,000 email subscribers. Then half a million for the second year, and 1 million in the third.
After the break, you’ll hear how Sam built a team that could keep up with that growth. Plus, how he turned two hobbies into money-making machines, leading up to his acquisition.
S: If I say I’m going to do something, I always show up. I don’t miss stuff. Even as a kid, when we should go play basketball or play frisbee at 8am. I’m done. I’ll be there. I always show up.
We hope you’ll show up with us, after the break.
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L: What was your leadership style when you’re at that? When you’re running The Hustle day-to-day?
S: It evolved. I was 24 when I started. Now, I’m a lot more calm and empathetic, but I’m relatively brash and I have a sense of urgency with everything I do. So we move—I move quickly. I move very quickly. The things that I care about, I micromanage and I go all in on, but I only care about one or two things and the rest I let other people do their business.
So, there’s a whole bunch of people who love working for me, and then there’s some people who are just polar opposites. They don’t love my style of brute force. But the people who love action, launching, and figuring things out—they really love it.
But I’m pretty hands-off on things that I don’t like. For accounting, this person who works for me named Edie would ask me questions about my opinion. And I’m like: “Edie, I don’t care. Just do it however you want. I’m paying you money because you are so good at this, and I’m so bad at this. Whatever you’d to do, just do it. I don’t care.”
S: I’m good at spending money to make more money. I just want to tell you what I want to build and what I think it costs, and other people can let me know if that’s possible. Besides that, make sure everything looks nice and we’re not breaking the law.
In the early years, The Hustle was a lean machine, with Sam handling most of the content, sales and advertising. He had brought in an employee to help run events, as well as a co-founder, John Havel — the same partner from his previous business — who managed all the web and tech pieces for the first few years.
But as The Hustle grew, Sam added more team members to write content and drive ad sales.
L: I’m curious what you’ve learned about hiring writers. Cause it’s a pain point for a lot of people.
S: Hiring writers is really hard. It’s really hard because me, as a writer, I can say they are a pain in the ass. The people who are the best, typically are the biggest pain in the ass. Because what makes you good at that, often makes you a pain in the butt to work with. It’s people who are late all the time or are so creative that you can’t hold them down.
I used to try to hold these people down and give very strict guidelines to follow. Now, I’m not going to give you a hard time. If you’re a weirdo, just please just get it done. Once I had that attitude, life was a lot better. But, early on, finding writers was so hard.
The best thing that we did was I would find people who weren’t writers, but who had personal blogs that were really good—this is before Substack—or who are really funny or interesting or clever on Twitter. And we would hire them.
L: What about the sales side?
S: We hired a sales person as our eighth or ninth employee. That salesperson basically helped us make all of our money. Because I had basically got us to $30,000 in monthly revenue based off advertising. We hired him and he got us $100,000 a month really quickly.
L: What were they doing different? Were they selling more ads? Were they selling them for more money? How did that work?
S: Two things. The first is I would always undersell. Maybe I had confidence issues, but I always thought there’s no way someone’s going to give me $5,000 for this. This person who came in had previously sold ads for $100,000 or $200,000.
I didn’t. I had never worked at a big company. I didn’t understand how advertisers thought or worked, and this person did. I didn’t know what a sales pipeline meant. I didn’t know what that meant, which means, you have to do X cold calls in order to get Y leads in order to get Z prospects—you know, that pipeline.
They knew how to do all of that. They just set it up and made it very systematic and they were far more confident than I was. Then they hired other salespeople, set quotas, and ran a tight ship. I didn’t understand that you could do that with sales. I was kind of anti-sales.
I didn’t want to be one of those gregarious, idiot guys who wear those brown shoes, tight jeans, perfect white teeth, who people think are lying. You know, that stereotypical, tech-bro, enterprise sales software person.
L: But you were smart enough to know, to hire someone that didn’t know how to do it.
Of course you want those salespeople and a sales team that can create demand. I knew that our guys were all going to be loud—and they were, in fact, all loud. But they were wonderful people and they did a really good job.
By 2019, The Hustle had more than a million email subscribers and was well on its way to becoming an ad-sales machine. So when a friend of Sam’s asked him to listen to a podcast that he was working on, Sam thought, “Why not add this to The Hustle portfolio as well?”
S: The second I heard it, I knew I was made to do this.
The friend was Shaan Puri, a guy that Sam had met during the early Hustle Con years. They’d stayed in touch, meeting every week to talk through business ideas. Sam respected Shaan and saw this as an opportunity for them to work together.
S: I basically bought the rights to the podcast and The Hustle owned it and he hosted it by himself for maybe six months.
It did okay, but then one day a guest had booked space at a studio to record and didn’t show up, and it was either him or me. We viewed it as just doing that thing that we do. We were like, “All right. Let’s do it!” And we did it and it became a hit.
The podcast was called My First Million. Once they found a format that worked, Shaan and Sam used the show to do what they do best: discuss business ideas.
L: It’s not just a regular Q&A. You basically shoot the shit and share ideas and trends you’ve noticed.
S: Yeah, a lot of people say you’re just shooting the shit, and in a way that’s right. In a way, it is totally off-the-cuff. What people don’t realize is that that is a learned skill. Shaan and I are naturally good at that, but we study it. I wouldn’t exactly say we’re funny, but we study comedians, we study writing, we study how to be sharp, and we work on our language.
When we’re recording, we are being authentic. We’re being our authentic selves, but we’re also performing, we’re being our best authentic self, and it’s really hard.
L: How did you grow the podcast? Because I’m thinking back to how you grew with The Hustle and it’s actually really different. It’s content. Everyone tends to group content together, but you’re really good at written content marketing, and this is different. So how did you grow that?
S: Here’s the crappy answer: growing my newsletter was easy. Growing the podcast—it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have no idea how I did it. We sent out an email to The Hustle when the first day the podcast was released and it got 60,000 downloads. Then, for the next six months, it slowly went down to 10,000 or 5,000 downloads.
Then we decided to be consistent, do it all the time, and keep getting better. We just kept getting better and better and better. People start talking about it. That’s such a horrible answer to people because the answer is that we just shut up and released 2-3 episodes every single week for two years. That’s a short amount of time, I understand. But, it worked.
The download numbers worked their way up from thousands each month to hundreds of thousands each month.
But Sam also had his eye on ways to diversify revenue for The Hustle. That’s when he came up with a new product called Trends, which delivers business ideas and research to a member-only community.
S: With The Hustle, the idea was to build up a huge audience and then create more products to sell to them. I was doing research on what we could sell to them, and I would send these reports to my friends and coworkers about the things that we could sell. They said the reports were really good, so we should just sell those. I thought that was a great idea. People pay for that. So I said, “Yeah, let’s try it.”
I’m running a report on this. It’s going to come out at this time. If you want to sign up, you can pre-buy here.
L: How much did you sell it for?
S: I created a landing page on Gumroad and we sold for $30 and that made $5,000. Then I created a website that looked a little bit prettier, and I sold that for $300 and that made $50,000. That was all done in a handful of weeks.
L: I love the story because you basically turned what was a hobby that you love doing into a business?
S: Yeah, Trends basically is. Our podcast is called My First Million and it’s gotten a little bit popular now, and we kind of break down businesses. Trends is that, but way more in depth. And that was my hobby.
Once 2021 rolled around, The Hustle had become an empire. It had Hustle Con, the daily newsletter, Trends subscriptions, and the My First Million podcast.
Sam had a lot going for him. But with this growth brought more responsibility — especially when it came to managing his team of around 30 employees. There were some days where Sam would talk to his wife, Sarah, about how hard it was.
S: There’d be so many nights where I would say, “Sarah, I’m quitting. I’m done. I’m quitting.” She would just rub my back, because I was laying on the floor. She wouldn’t even say anything and eventually would say, “You’re not going to quit. Come on.”
She was incredibly emotionally supportive. I’m neurotic; I go up and down. She’s very stable.
Sam got to thinking about what life could be without having to oversee the daily grind of The Hustle. Since he’d raised around $800,000 from investors early on in the business, he felt somewhat indebted to them to keep up the growth.
L: I’ve heard you say that you wished you hadn’t raised. Is that true?
S: It’s hard to say because it’s worked so well. Do I wish I would have taken that chance? Yeah. Hindsight’s 2020. Do I regret doing it? Yes, but I likely would have done it again. It was a fine decision, given the information I had at the time.
Once you give away a percentage or sell a percentage of your company, it’s your duty to run it for what’s best in mind for the shareholders, not necessarily the best in mind for you. I would rather have been selfish and maybe my creative outlet would have been far more exciting.
If it was just the Sam Parr Show, we could just say, “Hey guys, you know what? Our plan was selling ads. How about we don’t sell ads this week, and we just put nonprofits in there?” Just doing crazy stuff that didn’t make sense. I wish I could have done that, but because I had shareholders—even though I was the biggest one—I had to do them.
Some of my employees owned shares, too, so they would’ve said, “We’re just fucking all this money! What are we doing? We can’t do that.” And they would’ve been right. It is unfair. But I wish I could have done it.
So when HubSpot reached out to Sam, he found himself open to talking about selling the company. He was already looking to hire a CEO to take over day-to-day operations and people management, but this potential sale could set him up for long-term financial security.
HubSpot is a marketing software company, sometimes referred to as a CRM, because their software includes customer relationship management. It made sense to Sam that HubSpot would want to access — and sell to — The Hustle’s audience.
L: They’re a CRM company. So why were they interested in acquiring a media company like The Hustle?
S: At the time, HubSpot was had 80,000 – 100,000 customers. Their primary user was a small-to-medium-sized business, and they got famous through blogging. All of their users came from a blog.
They’ve got 10 – 20 million uniques to their blog. It’s huge, or maybe less. That works for them. But they did kind of miss the boat a little bit on newsletters. They made all this money from 8 million or 10 million people coming to their website. They thought, “What could we do if we were emailing 60 million times? If we can only convert 3,000 of those 2 million people to be customers, that’s tens of millions of dollars in recurring revenue. That might be interesting.” And I agree. It was very interesting.
L: Did you have an advisor for the sale because you know, it’s a big deal. How do you know what you’re doing?
S: I didn’t have a banker, but I had hired super-expensive, fancy lawyers, and they were my advisor. They were my lawyer, my advisor, my therapists, all-in-one. Because I hosted Hustle Con, I had a lot of founder friends. My friend, Dave Nemetz who founded Bleacher Report, my Joe Speiser who founded Little Things, Ramit Sethi—I would text them and they would help me answer questions and figure things out. But I purposely didn’t hire a banker.
S: I am not sure if this is the right move, but I can’t stand bankers. I felt they were always lying to me or being slick. I hired one banker one time and he recommended showing up to this meeting late so they think that we’ve got the upper hand. That’s not how I roll.
Then, when he flew with me, he would want to fly first class, and I had to pay for it. And I said we are flying economy. I just didn’t have some of the values these guys had.
L: You haven’t publicly shared how much it’s sold for, but Axios reported it sold for $27 million. I’m curious why you’re private about this particular part of your life when you’re open about a lot of other sensitive topics.
S: A few reasons was that I was issued a large amount of HubSpot stock that was vesting over this year. I didn’t exactly know how to price that, because when we sold to them they were worth $16 billion last week or two weeks ago. But for the tech sell-off, they were worth $43 billion. As of right now, they’re worth $25 billion. So, I don’t know.
We sold to them for one amount and then they announced their stock went up from $16 billion to $30 billion. My stock doubled in two weeks. So, I don’t know what we would say we sold for. But, I also felt embarrassed talking about it. I had a number in my head that I basically wanted to make around $20 million by the time I was 30. It was above that.
L: What’s your involvement with The Hustle now? Are you working on a day-to-day at all?
S: My only role is the podcast. When I sold, I told them I’m out of my element. I can’t run this company anymore. So, if you want to buy it, you’re going to have to hire this guy who I was going to hire a CEO. His name’s Jordan. And they said “Yeah.”
Less than a year later, My First Million gets more than 2 million downloads a month. Sam’s proud of the growth, but can’t tell you exactly how they got there.
And that’s one of the things that draws people to Sam. Accomplishments aside, he’s still a down-to-earth guy who gets excited about creating things. Except in his case, creating things leads to revenue.
S: I’m not driven to be a billionaire, but I’m driven by doing something meaningful. I have a feeling that if I do something meaningful to me, it so happens that it’s going to make a lot of money. But even if it doesn’t, I’m okay with that.
L: Now that you have this sale under your belt, is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to?
S: Having kids. I’m looking forward to that. And starting another company in the next year. Maybe not the next year or two—maybe five years. I don’t have a plan, but I’ve enjoyed relaxing. I’m going to relax for a little while longer and then I’m pumped to get after it again.
L: Looking back. What are you most proud of?
S: Getting my life together when I was at a low point, and just not giving up when people laughed at me.
When I was from Missouri, when I was first moved to California, and I had never been west of Colorado. Things worked out, so it’s not that I’m complaining. But, people would make fun of me. They’d say things like, “Why are you saying ‘y’all,’ you’re such a redneck.” I’m not a fucking redneck, man, just because I talk a lot. Anyway, that always really bothered me.
L: Look where you are now.
S: It works out. I’m still I’m I’m still a redneck properly.
Redneck or not, Sam has come a long way.
Hearing the tactics of HOW he grows businesses — it’s energizing.
But to put a finger on WHY he’s been so successful, you have to go DEEPER than tactics.
He followed his curiosity with dogged persistence. Even when people wrote him off. Even when he wasn’t sure how things would turn out.
To me, that’s the secret to building anything successful.
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Thanks for listening to They Got Acquired. I’m Lexi Grant, and if you want to learn about more business acquisitions Sam’s, go to TheyGotAcquired.com and sign up for our email newsletter. We share lots of resources for founders, professionals in the M&A space, and anyone who wants to sell an online business.
If you’d to learn more about Sam, look to the show notes for all the ways you can connect. And for more information on our sponsor, Chicago Partners, visit ChicagoPartnersLLC.com.
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This episode was produced, written and sound designed by Laura Boach. If you liked this story, please share it with a friend, and leave us a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. We have more amazing episodes coming your way — and every single share and review helps us get the word out. Thanks again, and we’ll see you next time.