An interview with Nico the founder of Failory

Failory is a site and newsletter that is dedicated to the experiences of failed startups. It was founded in 2017 by Nico and 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 the 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. We are currently not only publishing interviews with failed startup founders, but also with successful ones as well as articles and podcasts on startup-related topics.

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

What is your background and what made you start Failory?

I’m 19 year old currently, born and living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I started the project I was 15. I did it with a partner, who has since stepped aside from the business. I’m studying business economics at university and working on Failory on my free time. 

I started Failory inspired by Indie Hacker’s business model. IH is a website in which successful startup founders are interviewed. At that time, I’d spend many hours per week reading their interviews.

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

That’s how, motivated by IH’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 do mostly 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. We’ve lately been mainly selling a package of sponsorship slots which lasts for one month as is priced at $2,500/month.
  2. Affiliate links: We recommend many 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 have been consistently getting 7-15 sales every 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 be launching in the following few months.

I previously was mainly concentrated on the first two monetization strategies, but now that I know that Failory’s audience is willing to pay for our products and that building your own products is more profitable than recommending or advertising other’s ones, I’ll be focusing on strategy 3.

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?

So it’s been 3 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 worked completely well. I think I’ve finally found the correct combination of monetization methods, which are the 3 explained above, with a focus on the third one (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 a Spanish guy to take care of Failory’s interviews and content projects. A student from Philippines has also recently joined us to take care of new content projects as well.

I’m lately 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 from selling old books I had on my house, so it was definitely not expensive.

It cost around $5 to get the domain and $20-30 to hire a freelancer to write some stuff for Failory’s blog. I was able to get a 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 bigger. We currently have many more tools:

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

And some other tools I get when I need, which might add $20-$50 per month.

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

I’d say profits are around 50%-70% of the monthly revenues. Of course I could keep things learner, stop investing in freelancers, replace some tools, etc. However, I want Failory to grow faster and I don’t have any living costs, so I can afford re-investing 100% of our monthly revenues into the project.

How did you grow and retain your readership? 

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

Besides that, as Failory is quite unique in the sense that it’s one of the only websites talking about failure of startups. When a user finds the site and enjoys a few readings, it generally returns over time even if they don’t subscribe to the newsletter.

As for growing the readership, I’ve been mainly focused on SEO. Nowadays, 80% of Failory’s traffic (50k-60k users per month) comes from organic sources. My plan is to grow this number to 150k/mo by the end of 2021.

To do so, we’re launching lots of 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?

First, be consistent. If you generally subscribe to newsletters, do this experiment: go to Substack’s Reader and log in into your account; in the left column you’ll see all the Substack newsletters you’ve subscribed to in the past. You’ll find that at least half of these haven’t sent any emails in the past months. Consistency will already place your newsletter over the majority of the rest.

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

Third and lastly, keep your newsletter clean. Remove cold subscribers every 2-3 months. 

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