Brutally Honest BUSINESS Advice (Part 1)

Apr 11, 2024 12:31 pm

This email is from THIS podcast - Spotify - iTunes

AppSumo is about to do $100M in revenue this year.

But before that:

• Rejected by Microsoft and Google (twice!)

• Fired by both Facebook and Mint after less than a year

• And built 20+ startups that didn’t work out

In short… I’ve made A LOT of mistakes.

Today, I want to share 9 pieces of brutally honest business advice to my younger self:

1/ Spend more time picking your partners

In my previous business, Gambit - I always thought of us as a 3-headed dog. Each partner thought we were most important and each of us had our own idea of the best direction for us to go in.

I’ll let you in on a little secret… it didn’t work well.

A lot of entrepreneurs tell me they need a co-founder, and my response is always, “Do you really need a co-founder?”

Because let me tell ya - who you partner with matters A LOT.

If you don’t find the right one, it’s a HUGE pain in the ass.

Now, the way I view partnerships is like a “Business Marriage”.

If I can’t see myself working with someone for 10 years, I won’t work with them for 5 minutes.

Go on many “dates” with potential business partners. And don’t let finding a business partner be an excuse for getting your business started.

2/ Learn personal finance

I know what you’re thinking. Finance? Boooring.

But learning about your money is a game-changer - and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy.

I’ve kept the same simple spreadsheet with my Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth for the past decade.

Here’s my exact net worth from February 2018:


Finance, at its core, is understanding how much money is coming into your business and how much is going out.

And trust me, nothing is more important than knowing where your money is. If you don’t track your numbers, you have NO CLUE what the bottleneck is.

No numbers = randomness

Even to this day, we grow AppSumo by focusing on budgets and financial models.

1- if you pay attention to money, you can grow it.

2- if you know how to track a budget, you can improve it.

3- if you aren't taking care of the basics of personal finance, DO it.

3/ Work-life balance is stupid early on

Early on in your career, being intense is a HUGE asset.

When I was building Gambit, I worked 16-hour days…

I remember being up at 3 am so I could do a pitch call with a company in Sweden… and at the moment I LOVED it. It was exhilarating to be on the hunt for a new customer.

Here’s a press page I created from Gambit:


We were making $150,000 a day in revenue and $15,000 a day in profit (!!) for 3 people.

If there are time-sensitive opportunities, go ALL in.

Intensity gets the ball rolling. Sustainability gets the ball winning.

4/ Let your hate, motivate

After I got fired by Facebook, I applied to Yahoo and they somehow gave me a $105,000 job offer. Pretty sizable money for a 26-year-old.

But something didn’t feel right. It felt like going backward and not the right chance to prove Facebook wrong. 

I was so angry. Honestly - sometimes I’m still angry and insecure thinking back to those Facebook people.

Find someone to hate. And let your hate, motivate.

Over time, you can change from trying to prove others wrong to start proving yourself right.

But almost EVERY very successful entrepreneur had some deeper issue that they were trying to solve through starting a biz.

5/ Follow your curiosity, not the crowd

  • I tried building Facebook games - I don’t play any games
  • I tried building Affiliate blog websites - they are scammy-ish 
  • I tried dropshipping bracelets - yea, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

None of these are “bad”, but what I ultimately learned is when you chase what you’re curious about you’ll stick with it much longer.

Instead of getting into AI or Crypto or whatever else is hot right now, ask yourself:

• What are the things you’re using day-to-day?

• What problems are you excited to work on?

• What are you genuinely curious about?

Because the point isn’t to “win” business. It’s to STAY in business. (Click to tweet)

And the best way to stay in business is to go after problems you’re actually excited about solving.


6/ Gifts for business marketing

Gifts are the cheapest way to build friendships. Maybe it’s un-secretly my love language.

I sent a pair of running shoes to Greg Tseng of Tagged, a potential customer. I ended up doing tens of thousands from that one customer.

You want it to be things they see and use regularly.

My favorite types of gifts:

• Ember Coffee Mugs for teammates at AppSumo

• Gave a camera to Ali Abdaal for his date night

• Got Air Jordans for Lewis Howes (I noticed his old ones were scuffed)

It doesn’t have to be expensive. People just want to feel acknowledged.

7/ Make your first $1

I remember the first AppSumo sale like it was yesterday. Seriously, I recall the $12 PayPal email that came in and the validation and momentum from those first dollars STILL gets me excited.

Getting $1 from someone is one of the biggest confidence boosters in business. And the beauty of it is that you can do that today if you are just getting started.

To be a millionaire, you have to start with a dollar-aire.

Think NOW, not HOW - What can you do TODAY to get that first $1 if you are just starting? I promise you it will change everything.


8/ The best biz is the one that works

My conference biz (CommunityNext) was doing $200k a year and potentially more if I took it seriously. But I didn't want to be known as a networker or event organizer… so I quit. Cold turkey.


Web Badge from my first conference

A bud Charles Hudson started his own biz that modeled mine, and so did Sam Parr and both went on to sell those businesses for multi-millions.

I wish I could tell my younger self to stop prematurely quitting things that are working.

It’s challenging to find a biz that people WANT, so once you find it, keep it going at all expenses.

You don't have to be the one to do it. Hire someone else if your biz is working. I promise you it’ll be worth it.

Most people stick with losers too long and don’t stick with winners long enough. (Click to tweet)

9/ Take more swings

As you may be able to tell, when I was young, I tried a lot of businesses (almost too many).

Each swing taught me a valuable lesson.

When you’re young, you don’t need your business to be a success for it to be worth starting. The knowledge and skills you gain far outweigh any monetary outcome.

It’s not about WHAT you achieve, it’s about WHO you become.


Everything I tried (and failed) led me to where I am today.

So even if you can’t immediately see the fruits of your labor – just know that your swings DO COMPOUND.

Keep starting things. Keep taking swings.

Rooting for you,

Noah 🌮

Ps. Million Dollar Weekend is the business book I wish I had when I was younger. It contains everything I’ve learned from building eight million-dollar businesses. Let’s build your dream business this weekend! 💚