Host of Hacker Noon Founder Interviews
Ben was one of the first hires at Product Hunt, and is now teaching people how to build an internet business without code at newCo.
Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Ben Tossell: I have a bit of a patchy background, I did international business with Mandarin in university, came out and ended up in Social Media Advertising for an agency and we were then acquired by Sprinklr. I quit and moved back in with my parents because I needed to ‘sort my life out’, worked for my dads law firm for a bit doing Social while I was getting my foot in tech.
I joined a few Slack channels and ended up feeling comfortable in Maker Hunt which Eric Willis was running. I offered to help him write out all the AMAs we were doing in Slack and publish them on Medium — it was hard! They were daily!!! I was hanging around trying to be helpful chatting to people and talk about projects. I saw Startup Stash and had spoken to Bram before, so I made my own version, Marketing Stack — with the help of Mubashar Iqbal. This went crazy on Product Hunt and ended up one of the top 20 upvoted products ever!
I got recommended to Ryan Hoover, founder of PH, by Erik Torenberg and Bram (separately) and Ryan said “I think we should have a chat”. Needless to say I was shocked! But I had been trying to help with PH community Slacks too so it got me noticed. I got offered to join the team remotely, told me Dad I’m quitting and began my stint at PH. It was awesome. A young non-technical person at early stages of PH, seeing thousands of products launch daily, being a hunter across the internet myself too. I got to chat and help out people from Slack, Google, Facebook, Y Combinator, First Round and loads more! I wrote a bit about my time at PH here: https://medium.com/swlh/2-months-working-at-product-hunt-a1e5fb7624e2 There is a lot I could say about my time there but I’ll just say that it was a great opportunity, made me hungry to make more side projects and I love the people I worked with there! Massive thanks to Ryan.
Since we were acquired I was growing tired of community management and was looking for more. I’d been launching side projects all the time but just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I left PH and realised I’m not hugely qualified for anything specific except being a community manager, which I didn’t want to do. I’m more of a generalist. So I did some freelancing but client work is very difficult and not very consistent, it was a tough 9 months or so but I had a friend who was doing work with me which helped keep me sane. Diving more and more into indiehackers.com I just knew I needed to productise myself and produce something I could control (win or fail). But WTF was I going to ‘productise’?!
What motivated you to get started with newCo?
This led me to newCo. I’ve always made no-code projects instead of code because I always felt like I just wanted to get the 80% MVP built, not have to learn how a language works to then figure out my project needs. But I’m 100% behind building and shipping, if code is your tool, use it! I do want to learn to code. But I knew so many people out there either don’t want to, feel like they can’t or want to just validate their ideas quickly and easily. I knew I’d done this a lot so I thought I can do something here. Taking inspiration from laracasts, gorails and egghead I thought, I can build and film myself and see if people would pay to watch! Turns out they did.
What went into building the initial product?
I set up a typeform with payment, imported my subscribers from articles I wrote like “Non technical guide to building side projects’ : https://medium.com/startup-grind/the-non-technical-guide-to-launching-products-side-projects-1c5a9562fdb3 sent an email out and asked for money! A few people paid. Then I decided to put together a landing page and make it look more official. This led to more sales.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
I charge people monthly, yearly or lifetime access to access premium content. I put out some free videos, some free curated resources and stuff, tweet and email people. I’m probably annoying a lot of people who I connected with over the years :)
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?
Charging from day one. But once you charge, you gotta ship videos otherwise you have to give their money back! No better motivator to keep me accountable. Also everyone hates the sound of their own voice, I just decided I dont care anymore haha. Making sure I can support myself is also a challenge I’m juggling at the moment!
If you weren’t building newCo, what would you be doing?
Flitting around getting rejections and thinking WTF am I even qualified to do?!
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I lived in China for 5 months for university (I know a few friends from PH that will get a kick out of me saying that — Ayrton, Andrew and Mike).
Where can people go to learn more about you and newCo?
Follow me on Twitter @bentossell and check out the site https://www.newco.app/ :)
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