An interview with Nico, the founder of Failory

Failory is a site and newsletter dedicated to the experiences of failed startups. Founded in 2017 by Nico, Failory has since grown into a profitable enterprise with employees, an e-book, and over 7,000 subscribers.

We caught up with Nico to learn about his journey, and to understand what it takes to become a successful newsletter.

Tell us a bit about Failory?

Failory is a content site for startup founders.

I started it in July 2017 as a website in which I interviewed founders of failed startups. The motivation was to make failure and mistakes something to learn from, rather than something to be ashamed of.

Since then, it has changed a lot. Not only do we currently publish interviews with failed startup founders, but also with successful ones, as well as articles and podcasts on startup-related topics.

Still, everything we publish and create has a distinguished focus on failure.

What is your background and what made you start Failory?

I’m 19 years old, and was born and live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started the project when I was 15, with a partner, who has since stepped aside from the business. I’m studying business economics at university, and work on Failory in my free time. 

I was inspired by the business model of Indie Hacker, a website which interviews successful startup founders. At that time, I spent many hours per week reading the site’s interviews.

One day, I decided to learn more about failed startups, and found that there was little information online. Despite 90% of startups failing, no one was publishing the stories behind these.

That’s why, motivated by Indie Hacker’s success and clever business model, I started Failory.

What media does Failory use to deliver content to its readership?

We have a website in which we publish all of our content. We mostly do written form content, though we ran a podcast for some months.

How have you monetized Failory?

Failory is monetized in 3 ways:

  1. Sponsorships: We sell sponsorship slots in our newsletter and website. Lately, we’ve mainly been selling a package of sponsorship slots which lasts for one month as is priced at $2,500/month.
  2. Affiliate links: We recommend tools and services throughout our website. Many of these recommendations contain an affiliate link. If the user buys one of these products, we earn a commission.
  3. Digital products: In November 2020 we launched Failory’s first digital product: an eBook about product-market fit. We got a spike in sales that month and the following one. Since then, we consistently get 7-15 sales each month without any new promotional efforts.

I plan to focus mainly on monetization through digital products. I’m beginning to work on an online course, which we’ll launch in the following months.

 

Previously, I concentrated on the first two monetization strategies. Now, I’ll be shifting focus towards the third strategy, as Failory’s audience is willing to pay for our products, and building your products is more profitable than recommending or advertising others.

 

If it isn’t too much to ask, how much is Failory making?

Failory is making between $2k-$3k per month. Our goal for 2021 is to grow it to $10k/mo.

I’m reinvesting a big percentage of the revenues, as I want the project to grow faster. I live with my parents, so I fortunately have $0 expenses per month.

Wow! How long did it take you to get to that point?

It’s been three years since Failory’s launch. However, we only started monetizing the project in 2019.

Monetization has been difficult for me. I’ve tried lots of different strategies, but none completely worked. With the three methods explained above, I think I finally found the correct combination of monetization methods, with a particular focus on digital products.

What was the biggest hurdle or surprise you faced when you first started?

Delegation has been a huge challenge. I’ve been running Failory on the side while studying for high school and, more recently, for university. For many years, I’ve been doing it completely on my own. I tried to delegate things on many occasions but with little success.

This year, I’ve finally been able to delegate most of the day-to-day running of Failory. I hired someone from Spain to take care of Failory’s interviews and content projects. A student from the Philippines has also recently joined us to take care of new content projects as well.

Lately, I’m more focused on Failory’s growth and new projects. It’s been a few months with this new organization, but it’s already bringing great results, seen on our faster launch of projects and revenue growth.

Was it expensive to start Failory? What are the costs involved with running Failory?  

I was able to start Failory with some money I made selling old books I had at home, so it was not expensive.

It cost around $5 to get the domain and $20-$30 to hire a freelancer to create content for Failory’s blog. I was able to get 3-month access to Webflow for free and, after that, I started paying $20/mo, which was Failory’s unique expense for a long time.

Nowadays, costs are higher, as we currently have more tools:

  • Webflow: $20/mo
  • ConvertKit: $140/mo
  • Jetboost: $20/mo
  • Pigeon: $20/mo

There are some other tools I get when needed, which might add $20-$50 per month.

Besides that, I’m paying freelance writers and the person I’ve hired.

I’d say profits are around 50%-70% of the monthly revenues. Of course, I could keep things less expensive: stop investing in freelancers, replace some tools, etc. However, I want Failory to grow faster and, without living costs, I can afford to reinvest 100% of our monthly revenues back into the project.

How did you grow and retain your readership? 

Our weekly newsletter has been a powerful way to retain our readership, with over 7,000 email subscribers who receive Failory’s latest content every Thursday. It has allowed me to build really close relationships with some of our subscribers.

Even if a user doesn’t subscribe to the newsletter, if they find the site and enjoy what they’ve read, it generally returns over time, as Failory is unique in the sense that it’s one of the only websites talking about the failure of startups.  

As for growing readership, my main focus has been on SEO. Nowadays, 80% of Failory’s traffic (50k-60k users per month) comes from organic sources. By the end of 2021, I plan to grow this number to 150k/mo.

To do so, we’re launching various new content projects, such as a Google Cemetery, where we’ve analyzed why +100 projects from Google failed, and a collection of +350 startup pitch decks.

Finally, any top tips for people starting a new newsletter?

Firstly, be consistent. If you subscribe to newsletters, do this experiment: login to your Substack’s Reader account; and look at the Substack newsletters you’ve subscribed to in the past in the left column. You’ll find that at least half of these haven’t sent any emails in the past months. Consistency will already place your newsletter above the rest.

Secondly, talk with your subscribers as much as possible. Optimize your newsletter for replies, not for open and click rates. Building an engaged subscriber base, willing to provide you with feedback on the newsletter, and interested in you continuing to run the newsletter is the most powerful tool you can have as a newsletter creator.

Finally, keep your newsletter clean. Remove cold subscribers every 2-3 months.

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