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Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones.
This one's going to be shorter than usual.
I started writing a longer article but realized I was rushing it because I didn't have a lot of time to devote to thoroughly researching a well-informed article for you guys. So I decided to punt on that article and just share an interesting observation I had this past week instead.
Some of the coolest non-media companies started out as a newsletter.
In the startup world, it's common wisdom to validate your idea with a landing page and an email list. If people go to the landing page, like what you're selling and sign up, then you can proceed with confidence that you're working on a problem people actually have.
But what if you took it a step further? Instead of using the email list to validate the idea, just start sending them the product via email? Now I'm not talking about media companies like The Hustle or theSkimm. I'm talking about that weird cross-over where you’re using email as the delivery mechanism for a distinctly non-media product.
Let's look at some examples:
AngelList — investors
"AngelList is a curated email distribution list of angel and seed stage investors. Nivi and Naval screen the companies / deals that get pushed out to this list, and they screen the investors for inclusion on the receiving end." —TheNextWeb
Product Hunt — products
"'I would often browse the App Store in other countries, curious to see what topped the charts in these cultures, and explore new startups on AngelList to understand what people were building,' Ryan explains. He continued, 'Me and my friends would often share new apps and products with each other. But I realized there was no place on the internet [to surf] the day’s newest, cool product launches.' He started Product Hunt as an email list (a form of it which still exists today). The idea took off, quickly adding a few hundred people to the list in the first week." —TheNextWeb
AppSumo — deals
"In true “wantrepreneur” fashion I created a website to collect emails from friends and see if I could start a business helping companies get new customers. To validate that I could actually help companies get new customers, I started finding web apps that I knew people were using. Then I would see if I could sell the premium versions of those apps to people." —AppSumo
Unsplash — images
"We hated expensive, cheesy stock photos. Instead, we teamed up with a local photographer to take a few custom shots. We only used one photo though. So with the extras, we setup a $19 tumblr theme and gave the rest of the images away for free." —Unsplash
With the exception of AngelList, I remember receiving emails from each of these companies in their early-days. In fact, I remember when Unsplash launched and I downloaded those original images and thought, “I wish I could find more non-cheesy stock photos like these.” Demand validated.
These companies started out by leveraging an email list or a blog as a simple way to get the value to their users quickly without spinning up complex infrastructure first.
And it makes you think... with tools like Substack and Beehiv that provide email distribution, web presence, native network effects, and paywalls, what sort of ideas can you pressure test quickly?
Just something to brew on.
That’s all for this one - I’ll catch ya next week.
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