A writer who built a $20 million media company

A creator's journey is quite incredible. Often marked with highs and lows — they inspire those around them in an instant. Their lives are full of rich stories and adventures not because they happen to them, but because that's how they choose to live — unabashedly and with a meaningful purpose.


Sam Parr is an entrepreneur, podcaster, and the founder of The Hustle. Before selling The Hustle to Hubspot, Sam has led a fascinating life — the events of which we'll unfold further. Some of his early ventures involve running a hot dog stand and an online liquor store. His friends describe him as a business owner, CEO of a fast-growing company and a podcaster.

His self-introduction comes with a disclaimer, though — he doesn't describe himself as a journalist, creator, or writer because he focuses more on research rather than creation. As a curious individual, learning and research are essential aspects of his life — so is an adventure. He believes in leading an adventurous life because he cares about it and the stories that come with it.

The Beginning

When you start a journey, it's naturally the most exciting phase because it could lead you anywhere. Sam has been blogging since the early 2000s to document his experiences. But, he hoped that fast-growing startups would notice his blog and offer a job. Besides, his desire to get popular with girls and people, in general, made him blog a lot.

"I was consistently blogging assuming people will like me more, or I'll become famous. I also think I did it as a way to meet internet friends. I've got so many online friends I've never met in real life, and a lot of them came from blogging."

In 2010, Sam created his first video on YouTube, and it fetched numerous views. He also had around 5,000 friends on Facebook in those days, which he says was a big deal to him. Back then, it was all about documenting his experiences. Some of his early posts include his experience with taking LSD or his attempt of consuming only Soylent for a month.

"I'd drive my motorcycle across the country and write about it on Facebook. People throughout the country would friend me because they knew a friend who knew me and would host me in their homes. I've been doing that since probably 2010."

The Curious Kid

As a child, Sam got into trouble frequently owing to his curiosity. He'd ask his parents' friends how much they were making or how they were able to afford a specific car. 

"I didn't care about making money, but I cared about the mechanics of being great. For instance, I ran track and field and if I met a good runner, I used to be curious about their workout, diet, workout hours, or how much weight they lift while running. I'd ask specific questions."

His curiosity grew even as he got older, and as someone who was always fascinated about the things around him — from how buildings were built to the invention of air conditioners, his fascination led him to understand that in a business, you can make something at a lower price and sell it at a higher price.

A snippet from our interview where Sam talks about his attitude towards learning & being curious.

But even now, it's incredible how curious Sam is! Research keeps him moving onwards and upwards; while he shares his learnings on his podcast, he has also been tracking and maintaining numbers since his early blogging days. For instance, he's read over 60 biographies and noted the date when those iconic people started building something and the day they became successful.

Blogging: Where Did It Lead?

Sam's experiences hooked people to his blog as his posts were relevant and exciting. As a matter of fact, when he blogged about quitting alcohol, it generated over 50,000 views and went viral. Sam also met his wife through his blog.

"One of the ways that I met my wife was that she read about me and my cross-country motorcycle trip from California to New York and back. I wrote about it, some publications covered it too. She thought it was cool, and that's how we met."

Finding an apartment in San Francisco is quite tricky. To guide and help people stand out with their Craigslist applications, Sam wrote and published a PDF. By selling each PDF for $50, he made around $5,000 every month. Interestingly, his wife bought one even before meeting him. One thing led to another, and soon, he floated Hustle Con — a conference inspired by TED talks. 

"TEDx conferences inspired me, but I was too poor to attend. It was around $10,000."

Sam hosted Hustle Con to discover and meet new people. To make the conference popular, he started blogging about it on The Hustle. He wrote about the speakers, and much to his chagrin, some posts fetched about 3,000 views in a day.

The conference turned into a media company in no time, which he sold to Hubspot for tens of millions of dollars.

The Evolution of Personal Blog

Although his intention behind the blog was to score a job, he also wanted to be wealthy. In due course, he realized that running a business is far more profitable than a job. In the initial days of Hustle Con, too, he had no idea he'd end up making money through it. 

Hustle made $300,000 in the first business year, boosting Sam's confidence. He realized he could pull this through and make money out of it. Then, he met a famous blogger, Neville Medhora — at 22, he was making $50,000 with his blog. When he complimented Sam's work and said he was pretty great, he realized that he could create content to pay his bills despite not liking it much.

"I got lucky. It made a profit of about $50,000-60,000 in a few weeks, going beyond my expectations. Then, it hit me — although I hated blogging, I was good at it, loved the results, and figured I could build a business around it. I may not be the best, but I'm pretty good; at least good enough to make a living out of it. I'd be an idiot to not pursue it, so I decided to do it instead of taking up a job."

The Podcast Journey

Sam's podcast My First Million is close to a million listens monthly, and he runs it with his friend, Shaan Puri — an angel investor and founder of Bebo, a startup that got acquired by Twitch. Shaan and Sam are super curious, which led them to discover interesting people every week. They'd ask them to come over to the office to interact and ask questions.

"We met a guy who owned a real estate empire of about a hundred million dollars. Another time, we met someone from the CIA who'd gone undercover, and also discovered a guy who owned an arcade."

Initially, these two would only ask them questions; but eventually, Shaan recommended recording and doing it on-air. That's how the podcast arose; later, when a guest didn't show up, they decided to keep the podcast between the two of them and discuss interesting things they've learned. They release three episodes a week, and seldom do interviews.

A podcast clip from My First Million Podcast

Major Inspirations

Sam reads a lot and has read about historical entrepreneurs whose behavior inspired him. For instance, he found John Rockefeller incredibly honest, wonderful, calm, even-tempered; he was a good family guy and a ruthless businessman. 

"Do you know Laird Hamilton? He's a blonde hair surfer, and I love such explorers. Have you heard of Lewis and Clark? They were explorers during the time Thomas Jefferson was America’s President. He asked the two to explore the world till the end and come back. It took them three years, and I thought it was bold to explore. I'm fascinated by Christopher Columbus too — he was an asshole, a bad guy, but can you imagine how bold it is to get on a boat, and explore."

Sam states he finds those who are crazy enough to explore quite heroic. He mentioned reading a book on the Wright Brothers and thought it was incredibly courageous for two brothers from Ohio to invent and fly the first airplane. 

"They had the confidence and audacity to think they could invent it. I think those are the best traits one can have. I love the American dream stories; I'm obsessed with them. The Wright Brothers weren't immigrants, but they were also nobodies who went ahead and created something, exceeding all expectations. And I think that's fucking cool. In India, too, there's Neeraj Chopra who won gold at the Olympics. I paid attention to his journey, and he grew from nothing, which is awesome. I love that story."

The Other Side Of Blogging

In Sam's line of work, while it's relatively normal to stumble upon successful and driven individuals, he often met bizarre people. Once, he met someone who was making $60,000 in a month by just plagiarising. He'd pick popular Kindle titles, hire someone from the Philippines to rewrite them, create product descriptions on Amazon with similar titles and images. He'd also pay people to upvote or review these books, and that's how he made money.

A snippet from our interview where Sam shares his craziest experience on getting started with The Hustle.

This was his first blog post on Hustle, and the publisher threatened to sue him. Sam says he distinctly remembers receiving their call and how stressful it was. 

"Later, they called us back and said they were only trying to scare us and that they got the point of my joke. They learned that I had no bad intention, asked me to take the post down, and publicly apologize. Well, that was our very first business day."

However, through the internet, Sam met several others and became friends with some. At his wedding, he had four people. Neville was one of them, who Sam met through blogging. He invited him as a speaker to Hustle Con and offered his couch for accommodation. Now, Neville is one of his best friends. Jack Smith was the second person at the wedding, who he met through blogging again. The third guest was someone who bought Sam's Craigslist PDF, and they became friends. The fourth guest, too, happened through blogging.

"I had a book club and used to blog about what I was reading. So, the fourth guy and I started sharing ideas on books — that's how we met. I've met all my friends through blogging."

On Content Creation

Sam admits he hates creating content, but as a good copywriter and someone who has learned its ropes, he understands its impact and the reach his content has garnered. 

"I'm not even remotely comparing myself, but you know Usain Bolt — when someone asked him if he likes to train, he said he hates it. That he can't stand it as it doesn't make him feel good. But, he's thankful when his workout is over. That's how I feel about blogging; I hate it but I'm thankful every time it's done, and I feel happy that I've done it."

He enjoys research — apart from deconstructing different businesses, getting to the core of complicated topics, and understanding their operations.

A snippet from our interview where Sam shares his views on Quality vs Quantity.

On that note, Sam wishes he'd explored YouTube much earlier as he knew it was bound to be huge. 

"Although I tinkered with YouTube, I should've treated it more seriously. But, I did pick email as my main medium in 2014, which was the right move. I thought it was a great idea, and frankly, we got lucky. Looking at how big newsletters are now, it would have been difficult to become as huge. I'm glad we picked email early on as it’s still one of the most powerful mediums."

When asked how he feels about the advent of newer platforms, he said it was okay not to be on them owing to the effort they need. He refers to the time in 2010 when one of his YouTube videos went viral with a million views. Despite the virality, he wasn't enthusiastic about recording himself all the time or editing the videos.

"It's so much work, but the cool thing about writing is, you can do it by yourself in a closet with no lights on or even at bedtime. And that's what I like doing, so I don't enjoy investing effort for other platforms."

On Burnout

Sam says burnout is a choice and that if someone commits to a daily publishing schedule, it's natural to wear out. Casey Neistat vlogged every single day for around 900 days, which led to fatigue and burnout. He doesn't vlog anymore. Sam wrote The Hustle as a daily email and hated it. He describes it as hard and exhausting. That's when he turned it into a weekly mailer. 

"You'll need a break, that's for sure. And the thing is, you don't have to commit to what you don't want. If you're a blogger with an infrequent publishing schedule, you may not encounter a burnout. But if you choose and commit to a daily publishing schedule or several times in a week, you'd likely be worn out."

Revenue Models

Even if Sam didn't sell The Hustle, it would've made about $20 million this year and perhaps, around $8 million from subscriptions. Their subscription business, Trends, is reasonably profitable through advertising. Before COVID, they were making millions from the conferences too. 

Sam didn't realize it was possible to make money from subscriptions out of fear of not being good enough or that people wouldn't pay for his content. 

"But I saw others doing it and thought we could too. When The Hustle got to a million subscribers, we were making about $8 million through advertising. That's when we launched the subscription model."

Even before Sam struck gold with The Hustle, he made a couple of thousand dollars monthly from the Craigslist PDF. Then, he created a content school that drove revenue too; subsequently, he also launched some courses, including an Ideation Bootcamp, which made $300,000 in the first 30 days. For the content school, one of the first courses he created was on copywriting, priced at $2,000. Those who were keen on learning from his copywriting expertise or research skills readily signed up for the paid classes.

The Way Forward

Apart from making money from selling courses and The Hustle, Sam is also an angel investor, watching out for investing in cool startups. So, you could say he plans to try a little bit of everything. Sam intends to spend the next few years blogging and learning. He also says his end goal is just happiness.

"I enjoy the process of learning; I've just read some books on Native Americans and was amazed at their lives. While I can't use that learning anywhere, I found it crazy fascinating, and that's a part of my process. I want to be happy and lead a fun life. And if I read, I can acquire skills to make many things a reality. I just sold my company, so eventually, I've got to do something. I'll put myself through school — my own school, and hopefully, master a few topics and figure out my next move."

With his curiosity and the drive to learn and experience more from life, we're sure Sam will be a force to reckon with. There shall be more adventures and stories beyond a doubt. 

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