Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey guys! My name is Matt Ward and I’m the founder and CEO of The Disruptors, a podcast about the future of all of us where TED level scientists, startup founders and experts join me to discuss the big issues facing humanity and how we can solve them together. I also run The Syndicate, a podcast and investment group focused on early stage startup investing.
I wanted to make a difference in the world and for me, two things drive exponentially better results and impact for all of us, startups solving big problems and innovators tackling epic and existential problems.
I have structured my work and efforts around this to empower others to change the world for the better and have the pleasure of talking to the smartest, most influential folks trying to do the same.
Since launching the podcast in May of 2018 we’ve surpassed 182,648 downloads and are working to break 2M in 2019.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is as a serial entrepreneur. I got into ecommerce, built the top crowdfunding podcast and discovered that helping people raise money was a terrible business model - because they didn’t have anything to pay me with but dreams.
I sold that and later transitioned into manufacturing my own products, starting an outdoors product line selling primarily via Amazon. I scaled that business from my initial $8k investment into a 7 figure exit in 12 months.
There are no rules. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you there are.
During this time I launched another podcast, FBA ALLSTARS, a podcast where I detailed my ecommerce journey and shared the strategies and tactics working for me.
Ultimately, that podcast allowed me to reinvest 100% of profits into the business, living off affiliate commissions from various software tools that helped me run my business with only a few virtual assistants.
The goal of the business was to have the money and peace of mind to pursue bigger, more meaningful missions. Throughout this time I worked as a consultant and later startup advisor on growth hacking, marketing, sales, network effects… basically, anything to build a business faster and to this day advise a handful of promising companies.
I got into investing in early stage tech companies after listening and researching the ins and outs of angel investing. I later started The Syndicate to both learn more about angel investing and help others deploy their capital in high growth startups. The podcast grew well, is still running and is supported by minimal advertising. Through this, I became more interested in and involved with exponential technologies, hence The Disruptors.
BTW, throughout this time I lived in Southeast Asia and South America, met my wife, moved to Europe, lived in South Africa, wrote my first book and our son was born. There is no right time for anything, only now, only the present. Don’t wait for tomorrow!
Take us through the process of getting started and launching.
The Disruptors came about through several podcast interviews I conducted with Singularity University faculty members for The Syndicate.
The technologies and trends we discussed were so fascinating for me and so underappreciated by the general public that I knew the world needed to hear a message of hope and optimism, needed to understand where we were headed.
I got guests by leveraging past work (interviews with folks like Seth Godin, Tim O’Reilly, Tim Draper and hundreds more), my network and a ton of outreach to find incredible, original innovators to have on.
How we differentiate from TED talks
I like TED, I think their talks are great. They’re lacking too though. There is only so much you can get from a 5-15 minute scripted talk. It is surface level at best. On The Disruptors we have these same caliber of conversations, but over a 1-1.5 hour timeframe.
This allows us to dig deeper, explore more related and interesting trends, technologies and ethical considerations and in general inspire more folks to pursue these type of career paths.
I leveraged my existing audience, friends and family, a bit of podcast advertising: ~$500 and social networks like Facebook, Reddit and Linkedin to promote the show.
For podcasts especially, this is very important early on to be featured in the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes, a bit of a black box where both newly listed and highly successful podcasts get chosen by Apple to receive extra exposure. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t release stats or criteria for making the cut and we didn’t make it despite solid download numbers and a push of reviews..
Funding the business
I self-funded the business, using money from previous sale/earnout and sweat equity to grow. My podcast editor and assistant did double duty, now working on both projects and I partnered with a 501(c)3 non-profit to be able to accept tax-deductible donations.
Because our organization is mission-driven and relies on listener support, we qualify for financially sponsored status and I believe listeners would rather fund meaningful projects that burn their money giving it to Uncle Sam. So far this is still slow but growing.
Originally the podcast was called FringeFM, our site at fringe.fm. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to me at the time, there was another website and podcast called thefringe.fm.
They were the “legit” UFO hunters… enough said. We decided to execute a painful rebrand despite being over 50 episodes into to avoid confusion. The hardest part was definitely getting new logo/cover art and switching over the site/porting domain from fringe.fm to disruptors.fm
Major Lesson: Checking branding, trademarks, domains!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Epic content/product quality - nothing else really matters, especially for podcasts. Examples would include high production value podcasts like NPR or Hardcore History, incredible/exclusive guests like Tim Ferriss has or cutting edge news and/or science to compete with cable news shows.
Obviously we do email marketing. We build an email list by offering bonus free content on our site and getting visitors to subscribe for access. Then with that we notify subscribers of new episodes and upcoming livestreams to attempt to increase engagement and downloads of our shows, and hopefully exposure as well..
We also post on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin groups and Reddit, primarily to reach new audiences. This is done as a basic post in several relevant groups from each basically saying, “Thought this might be interesting and put a ton of time into chatting with XYZ. Thought you’d enjoy this. Would love to hear your thoughts.” The more personalized and targeted to the group the better.
Asking for support
The biggest thing we do is asking listeners for support and sharing, iTunes reviews too.
Word of mouth
Word of mouth is critical to podcast growth, there aren’t great discovery systems/algorithms for podcasts so for most podcast listeners, the way they discover new shows is by hearing about them from a friend or family member. The same is true with interview style podcasts, getting your guests to do promotion for you allows you to leverage their audience and reputation and grow even faster.
Asking guests to share
Because of that, we send every podcast guest a detailed email the day their episode goes live with simple, easy to follow steps to promote it like ClickToTweet, canned social status to post and even an email to send their followers.
While most don’t follow through, some will and it is the incremental improvement that leads to exponential growth over time.
What’s the business model and how you do make money?
Podcasts are traditionally monetized via advertising. We find this wrong and disingenuous, especially for the topics we are discussing for The Disruptors. It is our hope to be able to fund the podcast purely through patron support. We accept Patreon, Paypal, Stripe, cryptocurrencies and more.
We still have a long ways to go in this department but believe it is a viable option given other podcasts who succeed with this model. We also pursued grant money, both from private foundations and the US government given our promotion and engagement for students and individuals around STEM technologies and fields but have not been successful to date and will likely not continue.
My 10x Goals:
- Live to be a healthy 153 (ps this is actually reasonable, check out the podcast to find out why)
- Add 10-15yrs avg life in next 10-15yrs
- End factory farming by 2030
- Human space settlement by 2033
- Create longer-term mindset
- End “climate change myth belief” by 2028
Disruptors 10x Goals:
- Reach 250,000 downloads per episode
- Indirectly lead to the creation of 1000 startups that wouldn’t have existed otherwise
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Slack (do not use email for team communication!!!)
Hubspot for scheduling future follow up and canned replies/email templates
Some email marketing software (doesn’t really matter which) for autoresponders
Fiverr (or DesignCrowd) for design services
The Disruptors and The Syndicate are both syndicated out to all major podcasting apps/platforms using Wordpress PowerPress plugin.
Outsourcing: Seriously, hire someone else to do low value tasks/labor. You will thank yourself later.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I have actually compiled a list of my favorite/most recommended books and podcasts here: https://disruptors.fm/resources/
Podcast pro tip: Constantly increase listening speed to increase your output and educational input. I do 3.2-3.7x, depends on the podcast.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
- There are no rules. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you there are.
- If you want to change the world or change your life, start now.
- It doesn’t take 10 times or 100 times the effort to achieve 10 or 100x results.
- Think bigger.
- Stop second guessing yourself.
- Say no more often.
- Don’t try to do everything.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for committed unpaid interns or folks interested in our mission and able to help promote the cause.
Where can we go to learn more?
The Disruptors Podcast:
Other Android apps: https://disruptors.fm/android
My personal information:
Medium Blog: https://medium.com/@mattwardio
The Syndicate Podcast:
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.
Interested in sharing your own story? Find out how!