A Poolside Chat With Noah Kagan - Part 2

A few weeks ago, we sat down and talked with legendary taco connoisseur and entrepreneur Noah Kagan. He’s better known for the latter…

Noah was employee No. 30 at Facebook, employee No. 4 at Mint.com, and now runs AppSumo – which is the gold standard in software deals in marketing circles.

His YouTube channel also just passed 100K subscribers – he’s pretty much a certified YouTuber now. 

In Part 2, we’re diving into Noah’s growth mindset behind AppSumo, finding what you love, and more.

For Part 1, go here.

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How did you kickstart AppSumo? What was the secret to its success?

I think the way I started it was – I think there’s two things. It’s what you have learned from everything you’ve done that you can make better today. 

So, I worked at Intel in a cubicle. That sucked. And then I did Product Management at Facebook. And I was like, oh, I like making web products. Then I did marketing at MIT. And I was like, oh, marketing is really hard for people. 

And then I worked in games, Facebook games, we were one of the biggest Facebook game developers. And I was like, oh, I fucking hate games. I don’t play any games. I hate all these Farmville people. And so after all those things I was like, well, I like marketing and I like tech. 

So I looked back at what I already enjoyed. And then I kind of tried to look forward to say, what is something that everyone really needs help with, because I think all these businesses start with very unimportant problems. 

And it’s literally the same amount of life to work on an unimportant problem as an important problem. It’s the exact same amount of time. So, work on something that’s important and that has a big fucking market. I copied MacHeist, that’s what I actually copied. They did Mac bundles, and I was like, software is gonna get big. 

I liked that way of marketing – which is like these deals and time-based stuff. Getting customers for people is never going to go out of business. That was where I started. 

And I started on a weekend. You can go to my YouTube channel, and I tell people: You only need a weekend, you don’t need any fucking money. You don’t need a developer, and you could validate any type of thing you want to start. And I found that to be the most helpful way to serve businesses. 

So I thought, how do we win? I think there’s two ways that we’ve won. 

Number one, I think we treated it like a professional. I see a lot of people out there and companies treating it like a hobby. And that’s great. But that’s a hobby. If you were trying to treat it like a professional, there’s a difference, like a professional approach it much more different.

And I think a lot of the other competitors, even to this day are like, we’ll maybe do a deal. Our stuff is treated extremely seriously, we work on it all the time, the people that we hire are MIT grads.

I’ve worked at some pretty impressive companies. AppSumo is very serious. 

And so, I think a lot of businesses people think like, I’m gonna do YouTube, and if it gets big, I’ll do it seriously. Well, it’s not gonna get serious unless you take it serious. So, take it fucking serious. And guess what, it’ll probably get big. 

I don’t even still think we’re winning. It’s a big company. We have a lot of people working there. And we make a lot of money, and we help a lot of people. But being Jewish, I think it leaves some level of dissatisfaction. Like we launched and we’ll make, like, let’s say $100,000. Well, did we really help the customers as much as we could? And I can’t teach that. And it’s also not a great way to live, because I’m never satisfied. 

So, I’m working on trying to be more satisfied. But I think some of the most successful people just have constant dissatisfaction.

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It seems like a lot of the most successful people don’t retire. Like Warren Buffett, for example.

Retiring doesn’t make any sense to me. Why don’t you find things that you’ll never want to stop doing? When my parents retired, they were in the older generation that had jobs that sucked. They complained about it all the time. And then the first moment that they could get the 4% rule, which is, you know, taking your money out of your retirement accounts and living off that, they did. And that to me seems like hell. 

So, I think it is hard for all of us, including myself, to find and accept the thing that we just enjoy doing and making that our careers.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done (in life)?

Sex without condoms. I think that’s kind of crazy. People have sex without condoms. I think it’s very risky. That’s some very expensive sex. That could be literally like, $100,000 sex. I’m not a very risky entrepreneur. I think I’m more risky, non-professionally. But professionally, most of the stuff we do is pretty calculated.

But I think there’s personal risks, like doing drugs. So I’ve done drugs. I do drugs. Is that the risk of impacting my brain worth it? Like a few hours of fun?

I’m also learning how to fly, and that’s pretty fucking risky. Like that’s 1 in 1000 die, so I don’t really think it’s worth it. But I guess I’m doing it because I like being on that edge of life because there is some fear that if I’m not prepared that I can die.

Do you play any video games?

I only play chess. It’s the only game I play. I did watch Queen’s Gambit. It was amazing. Yeah.

But, I didn’t feel like it was that productive. So I don’t watch as many movies and stuff. I don’t watch a lot of shows. And I either read or hang out, or I play an obsessive amount of chess.

You walked on a Tony Robbins seminar, and wrote a blog post about it. Does his team still talk to you after that? What was the reaction like?

I’ve been writing online since 2000, and only maybe three of my articles have gone viral. That was one of them. 

I probably spent three months working on that article. It wasn’t like a weekend write up. I’ve also had ones like the Facebook post where I said I got fired by Facebook. I wrote that in like a few hours. I just threw it up and then it went viral. 

So when I posted the Tony article, his team asked me to take it down. And the reason I posted the article was because so every person I talked to about Tony Robbins was like, 

“That was the best thing I’ve ever gone to and my life is changed.”

And honestly, you can have your life changed by going to McDonald’s. When you go to events, you pay money and you fly somewhere and you expect a result. Almost matter what, you rationalize how it was a good decision. After the event, I would talk to these people, and ask,  

“What about all this other shit?”

And they’ll say,

“Oh yeah, that part wasn’t great.”

I actually complimented Tony a lot in my article. But they asked me to change it. And I was like, I’d rather have you guys not be a customer. If they were paying a lot more, I’d probably change it.

Another thing about Tony Robbins: Everyone who goes to his events, in the business world, says,

“Oh I’m not going for Tony. I’m just going to see how he does it.”

Anyhow, with Tony, at the same event I went to, someone probably had their life dramatically changed. But someone like me also went: This is something I would never want to go to. I’m not trying to discourage people. I think people should try it. I think you should try the food and dishes of life and see which one fits your taste buds. For me, it was a no brainer.

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Where can people learn more about what you do?

If you’re starting a business or growing a business or you have a thing you want to sell to a million entrepreneurs: appsumo.com or appsumo.com/sell

If you want to learn more about me, my newsletter you can go to okdork.com or follow me on YouTube

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