Are you ready for an awe-inspiring episode where we unveil the secrets of entrepreneurial success?
Make sure to listen to this episode, for we are to feature Nathan Chan, a publisher and the editor of Foundr Magazine, a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs which he launched in March 2013 from his bedroom. In a short period of time, it became a top ten-ranked business and investing magazine on the App Store.
As publisher of Foundr, Nathan was a runner-up for the Publisher of the Year for 2015 in the Digital Magazine Awards. He has had the pleasure of interviewing some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs around the world, namely Sir Richard Branson, Ariana Huffington, Tim Ferriss, Barbara Corcoran, Tony Robbins, Seth Gordon, and many more.
And in this episode, Nathan talks about how he managed to scale Foundr which started out as a passion project, all while sharing valuable tips on how to become a successful entrepreneur in the age of the internet.
Why you have to check out today’s podcast:
- Be inspired: Know the story behind Foundr’s success and get crucial pointers on how to scale your business with the help of the internet
- Learn where to get access to interviews and other valuable materials featuring some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the world
- Get insights on how to become successful in your business and as an entrepreneur
“If you want to build a successful business, you just have to want it so extremely badly and you just have to be prepared to work your ass off, really. There’s no other shortcuts there.”
– Nathan Chan
01:38 – “It started as a passion project”: What gave Nathan the idea of creating a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs
03:13 – “Knowing the kind of content that our audience loves and producing it at scale”: What Nathan thinks made his idea successful where others would not be
05:11 – “It’s more than just having a magazine, it’s having social proof and credibility”: How Foundr was able to interview hard to reach prestigious entrepreneurs
09:37 – “The next piece of the puzzle is to create more product, and create more product specifically that our audience is asking for”: What Nathan aims as Foundr’s next steps
15:05 – Foundr’s current manpower
15:38 – “It’s just a way of giving back”: What speaking gigs bring to Nathan and Foundr in terms of learning and leveraging
19:14 – “Be prepared to work your ass off”: Nathan’s essential tip for entrepreneurs to succeed
19:14 – Connect with Nathan Chan
“And being an entrepreneur now, it’s like the new cool. It’s cool to be an entrepreneur. And the Internet has changed the game.” – Nathan Chan
“I think it’s more than just having a magazine, it’s having social proof and credibility… And to get even Richard Branson, it was partly because we had a magazine, but also it’s also about finding the right people, and finding people when they’re looking for press.” – Nathan Chan
“I don’t want to make the brand about me, to be honest, Katrina. Yes, I’m the leader. Yes, we’ve got a great story, but Foundr is essentially much bigger than me now, and I just want to build an amazing brand that helps tens of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people.” – Nathan Chan
People / Resources Mentioned:
Connect with Nathan Chan:
Full Interview Transcript
(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)
I’m your host, Katrina Burrus, and today we’re going to interview Nathan Chan.
Nathan Chan is a publisher and editor of Foundr Magazine. It’s a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs on the App Store and Google Play Store. Nathan launched Foundr in March 2013 from his bedroom, and in a small period of time, it became a top ten-ranked business and investing magazine on the App Store. As publisher of Foundr, Nathan was a runner up for the Publisher of the Year for 2015 in the Digital Magazine Awards. He has had the pleasure of interviewing some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs around the world, namely Sir Richard Branson, Ariana Huffington, Tim Ferriss, Barbara Corcoran, Tony Robbins, and Seth Godin, and many more. So, Nathan, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Katrina. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
“IT STARTED AS A PASSION PROJECT: WHAT GAVE NATHAN THE IDEA OF CREATING A DIGITAL MAGAZINE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
Well, it’s a pleasure for me, too. Tell me, what gave you the idea of creating a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs?
Look, it wasn’t what most people probably assume when I started Foundr. It was not like some big strategy and really well executed with this idea that just come to me one day. It was kind of something that happened as a natural progression, and it started because I myself was a young, aspiring novice entrepreneur. I didn’t know much about publishing apps, anything of the sort. But I identified that there wasn’t really a magazine in the space that spoke to young entrepreneurs; that actually targeted young aspiring entrepreneurs and founders.
And I was just looking for a marketing job. The work that I was doing at that point in time wasn’t fulfilling. I was working in IT support, and I absolutely hated it. And just by sheer luck that I kind of fell into it and I decided that I wanted to create this magazine, and I thought it might be a good idea. I didn’t know; I started as a passion project, which has now turned into a company that produces content consumed by millions every single month. So, yeah, three years ago, it was just an idea, a passion project. I never thought it would get to where it is right now.
“KNOWING THE KIND OF CONTENT THAT OUR AUDIENCE LOVES AND PRODUCING IT AT SCALE”: WHAT NATHAN THINKS MADE HIS IDEA SUCCESSFUL WHERE OTHERS WOULD NOT BE
So what do you think that made you successful where others would not? Is it the market that was a demand, or was there something else? What’s your ideas on that?
One thing that I think is really important when you come with a business idea is you create something people want to buy, right? And being an entrepreneur now, it’s like the new cool. It’s cool to be an entrepreneur. And the Internet has changed the game. So, a lot of people right now are working on something. Right now, if you want to become an entrepreneur, there’s no better time in history because of the Internet. And that means there’s a lot of people looking for this kind of content. And this market is only going to get more crowded, there’s only going to be more players, there’s only going to be more people producing content and all sorts of things. And that was something that I kept in mind; that entrepreneurship is hot, and it’s going to continue to grow.
So, the first reason that we’ve got where we are today is because it is a hot market. And two, we produce great content. That’s something that is the brand, it’s the product, it’s everything that we do; whether it’s the blog post, whether it’s social media, whether it’s one of our courses, whether it’s any piece of content – magazine, podcast. It’s really good. And I say it’s really good with confidence because I know what’s out there. I know this space extremely well, and I know it’s better than most. And with that, it gets the cut through; and we get interviews with such hard to reach people. We pay a lot of attention to design, and we care.
So, knowing the kind of content that our audience loves and producing it at scale and just really understanding what people want, what people need, what’s helping them, is really what’s fueling the growth of the brand.
“IT’S MORE THAN JUST HAVING A MAGAZINE, IT’S HAVING SOCIAL PROOF AND CREDIBILITY”: HOW FOUNDR WAS ABLE TO INTERVIEW HARD TO REACH PRESTIGIOUS ENTREPRENEURS
You also approach a lot of prestigious people to be interviewed and very difficult to reach. What was your strategy? How did you approach them?
This was something that I worked out myself, just as a byproduct of starting a magazine. To be honest with you, Katrina, I had no idea – for example, I’d interviewed last week the founder of AOL, who’s a billionaire. Or this week I interviewed Robert Herjavec, who’s one of the sharks of Shark Tank America. I didn’t know that having a magazine allows you to have these opportunities. But I think it’s more than just having a magazine, it’s having social proof and credibility. And for us, in the early days, first it was the 8th issue, we interviewed Richard Branson for the magazine. And from that, that became a snowball effect for us to be able to get access to all these hard to reach prestigious entrepreneurs. And to get even Richard Branson, it was partly because we had a magazine, but also it’s also about finding the right people, and finding people when they’re looking for press. Both Robert Herjivac this week and Steve Case last week, I interviewed them both because they’ve got books coming out at the moment. I also interviewed them because I was actually pitched by their PR people. But I’m also doing a lot of pitching myself. You have to find the right person to pitch, and you also have to find that person when they’re willing to only give up their time; when they’re looking for press.
And so, another thing you have to think about is it’s always about creating a mutually beneficial exchange in value and finding out what that person wants. Just like any good partnership, I see every single person that comes on that we feature in the magazine or interview for the podcast or feature on the blog or whatever as a partnership. And I have to constantly work out when I’m pitching that person. What do they want? Because if you can give people what they want, then you can work out some sort of deal or exchange in value. And for us, it doesn’t cost us anything to interview these people. And what it allows us to do is produce great content for our audience and give them great insights from proven entrepreneurs that know what it takes to build multimillion dollar companies, billion dollar companies.
And also, lastly, it allows us to have these influencers and rock stars everywhere where you ever come in touch with our content, which effectively allows us to jack their credibility. By association, the brand grows and earns immediate trust. So, if you come to the Foundr website, you’ll see Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Barbara Corcoran, Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, or whoever. And straight away, if you never heard of the brand, don’t know anything about us, you see great design and you can see straight away “Oh, okay, well, these guys interviewed all these guys, all these successful entrepreneurs. I love these guys. Well, these guys must be awesome. Okay, they’re giving these interviews away for free?” And then “Oh, I’ll listen to one of those interviews. It’s really good.” So, can you see how it kind of flows on?
So, first that there’s a timing issue when they’re ready to publicize something they want, it’s in a sort of an agreement, what could help them and what could help you. And it’s also I guess the first one, Richard Branson is by having him, it gives credibility and credibility by association, if I understood correctly.
Yes, that’s correct. And we actually wrote an in-depth blog post – it’s like five to six thousand words – which reveals our whole process on how we get interviews with hard to reach people. So, if you go to foundrmag.com/getinterviews, you’ll be able to read that blog post where we go into all the tactics and strategies and the tools that we use on a much deeper level.
“THE NEXT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE IS TO CREATE MORE PRODUCT, AND CREATE MORE PRODUCT SPECIFICALLY THAT OUR AUDIENCE IS ASKING FOR”: WHAT NATHAN AIMS AS FOUNDR’S NEXT STEPS
Excellent. Great. And what are some of your future plans? You’ve done extremely well with your magazine. You’ve got a niche market that is in high demand. You have easy contacts now with prestigious people. What’s the next step?
So the next step is really building up our back-end sales funnel. So, I say the magazine, the podcast, the blog, the social channels, they’re working quite well. We’ve got a very strong marketing engine, and we’ve got all the content creation systems processes down pat, and that’s working really well. So now, the next piece of the puzzle is to create more product, and create more product specifically that our audience is asking for. So, we’ve already started to test this in the sense we created an Instagram course. It’s called instagram domination. And we created that because we’ve had a lot of success on Instagram. We’ve grown our following from zero to now we’re at close to 800,000 followers in about 18 months. And a lot of people were asking me personally to consult, and I didn’t want to do that. And when we wrote a blog post about how we’ve done it, but obviously there’s only so much a blog post can cover. A lot of people were interested in us creating a course for the community. And it’s been an amazing course. It’s had tremendous success with a lot of our students. We’ve got hundreds of successful students.
So, what has happened is I’ve identified now a new market for us to step into, and that is still in the entrepreneurship space, still serving the exact same audience, but just serving on a much deeper level. Because the podcast, the blog post, the social content, the magazine can only help so much. But some people want more help and some people want other things. And those other things, that’s what we’re on solving. For example, there’s many people in our audience that follow our content, but they haven’t started a business yet. So, we need to create a course on how to start a business, an in-depth video course on how to start a business. And it needs to be taught by other experts, because I think for us to build a scalable asset that could one day potentially be sold, I cannot teach every single course. I think that would be a very foolish move. So, I have to start to remove myself from the brand now as well. So, I taught the instagram courses as a test, but all future courses will be taught by other people, and I plan to produce courses at scale. By the end of next year, we need to have at least 10 to 15 courses covering the following topics: One, how to start a business; Two, copywriting; Three, content marketing; Four, how to raise capital; Five, how to find a mentor; Six, how to scale your business; Seven, how to build your email list; Eight, how to hire; Nine, I can’t remember the other two, but you can get where I’m going to. These are core things that people keep asking us for more help on.
So, do you give any coaching as well on a one to one, or is that not a good use of your time?
No. I focus 100% of my time on building the Foundr brand. I don’t do any consulting. I don’t really do many speaking gigs. I only want to do four a year. And that’s my focus. I think if I did consulting, that doesn’t make the work we do about Foundr, it makes it about me. And if I wanted to, I could do consulting under the Nathan Chan personal brand. And that’s a purely cash flow play. But I think I’m looking for leverage, Katrina. I’m looking for things that we can do to grow the Foundr brand. That’s my goal. Unfortunately, I don’t do consulting one on one. The best way we can help people is through our work at Foundr, and that’s where I believe is the most scalable. And I don’t want to make the brand about me, to be honest, Katrina. Yes, I’m the leader. Yes, we’ve got a great story, but Foundr is essentially much bigger than me now, and I just want to build an amazing brand that helps tens of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people. So, yeah, one to one is just not an efficient way for me to find leverage and to reach that goal.
And tell our listeners. How many times do you blog a week, for example?
We don’t blog as much as you would probably think, Katrina. We produce probably about two to three in-depth blog posts a week, plus the podcast, which is another blog. Apart from that, that’s all we do. But these pieces are extremely in-depth. Like, if you go and check out that one in particular, on how to find and connect and interview hard to reach people, that’s super in-depth, we could charge for that. The information and the way we spread it out and package it up, it is so good, we could charge for it; and we give it away for free. So, we produce blog posts always at least 2000 to 2500 word plus. And eventually, yeah, we want to be producing that every single day. Pieces of content like that. Blog posts every single day.
FOUNDR’S CURRENT MANPOWER
So tell us about you personally. What’s your age and how many people are working for you?
I’m 29. I’ll turn 30 at the end of this year. We’ve got six or seven full time staff members, four in Melbourne, one in the States, one in Canada, two in the Philippines. And we have a ton of contractors that work for us, whether it’s writers, designers, other consultants. We’re growing very fast. Like, for example, this time last year, it was just me and ton of contractors.
“IT’S JUST A WAY OF GIVING BACK”: WHAT SPEAKING GIGS BRING TO NATHAN AND FOUNDR IN TERMS OF LEARNING AND LEVERAGING
Yeah. That’s exponential. And tell us, you say you did four speaking gigs a year, and I’ve seen you speak at Tropical Think Tank. Tell us what those speaking gigs bring you.
It’s just a way of giving back. But the main reason I do it is to connect with the other speakers because I’m very big on networking. I believe that in order to grow the business, networking is everything. Relationships is everything. So, yeah, it’s a way for me to give back. It’s a way for me to learn from other people, and it’s a way for me to connect with the speakers.
So how did you leverage, for example, the last Tropical Think Tank?
Okay, I’ll tell you, and I’ll be 100% transparent.
So, I’ll tell you all the things that I took away from it, and I’ll tell you all the things that I’ve leveraged. So, Tropical Think Tank was in March. It was three months ago. And in the space of three months, I came up with an idea for a piece of software that we’re going to create for one of our products called “Foundrs’ Club”. It’s going to be a Mastermind software, and one of the attendees will potentially build that software for us. I learned so much about the power of Masterminds, that’s why I want to build this software for our Foundr Club community. I also learned the power of events, and since going to that event, I want to start creating events for Foundr, and at least one a year.
I also connected with a lot of the speakers, and many of them I’m either interviewing, or I’ve been on their podcasts. And also, they’re doing private coaching, webinars, and mentor sessions for our paid community in Foundrs Club. So, that’s a lot of leverage there. Plus, I got to learn a lot more about a lot of the attendees; what their biggest problems, frustrations, and desires are, because Chris has a similar audience to Foundr. So, it got me to understand where people are at, what they’re looking for, where they need more help, and it just really gives me more insight into what’s working and what’s not. And so, yeah, that’s a lot of what I’ve done. Does that help answer your question?
Yes, very well. Good, you got a lot out of it. Can’t wait to see your next event on Foundr. Your Mastermind.
At Chris’s event, I learned how powerful Masterminds were, but I also realized that Masterminds are expensive. A lot of people charge you like, $5,000 to join an in-person Mastermind. And I know that events are expensive to go to as well. So I thought, “What is the most scalable thing that we can do if we know Masterminds are powerful?” And I started looking to see if there was a software to allow you to create Masterminds on scale, and it turns out there isn’t. So, we’re going to build custom software that when you join our membership community, Foundrs’ Club, the software will work out and ask you a series of questions and then it will connect you up and put you into a mastermind and organize the weekly calls or monthly calls every single month and help keep you accountable, all on automation done at scale. So, that was a big takeaway.
Excellent. And you have found the person that can create the software?
Okay, but if that doesn’t work, somebody else will work it, right?
Yeah, that’s right. But I came up with the idea because of that event.
“BE PREPARED TO WORK YOUR ASS OFF”: NATHAN’S ESSENTIAL TIP FOR ENTREPRENEURS TO SUCCEED
Excellent. Thank you, Nathan. We’re coming to the end, so I want to ask you one last question. It’s what tip would you give to an entrepreneur? Now, you’re creating all these courses, and of course I encourage our listeners to go and check out your website. But what would you say is one essential tip for entrepreneurs to succeed?
I think whatever you do, you just have to want it bad enough, almost to the point it’s an obsession. Not to the point that you don’t have a life – obviously, you still spend a lot of time with your friends and family and have a social life and spend time not working on weekends, and stuff like that. But I think if you want to build a successful business, you just have to want it so extremely badly and you just have to be prepared to work your ass off, really. There’s no other shortcuts there. And if you don’t know the answers like I didn’t when I started Foundr – when I started Foundr, this is a digital magazine. Nothing about publishing, nothing about apps, nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about design, editorial content, nothing at all. This is my first business. The key thing is that what I didn’t know, I made up in man-hours. So what I didn’t know, I made up in man-hours; And I went out there and I spoke to people to find out what I didn’t know. And if you want it bad enough, you’re prepared to do that. And if you want it bad enough, you’ll work and do the work that needs to be done to get where you want to go. And I think that’s the key, right?
But also, you have to set goals. I think a lot of people, it’s all well and good. A lot of people say they want to be successful. They say they want to build a successful business, but they don’t really want it bad enough. It’s more that “It would be nice”. They’re not prepared to make the sacrifices or do the work. And also, you need to know that direction; and you have to set these goals and you have to obsess about these goals and you have to think about them all the time and you have to work on them every single day.
And yeah, I think that’s a good place to start.
CONNECT WITH NATHAN CHAN
Excellent, Nathan. Thank you so very much. And where can people get a hold of you and your magazine? What do you recommend they go to?
So, if you want to know more about us, just go to foundrmag.com.
And stay tuned for his future courses. I’ll vouch for them.
Awesome. Thank you so much, Katrina. But look, even if people don’t want to buy our products, that’s cool, too. 95% of our stuff is free. Please, by all means, just go to the website, check it out.
Okay. Thank you, Nathan.