🎉 Two Years of Newcomer! 🎉
My reflections on going independent + what's next for Newcomer
I can’t believe it’s been two years since I quit my job at Bloomberg and launched this newsletter.
Today, more than 42,000 people receive some version of Newcomer and more than 2,200 pay for it. And this is just the beginning.
In celebration, I’m offering an annual subscription for 50% off — just $99.50 for the first year (renews at $199.00).
I just raised prices for new subscribers (as I’ll discuss more below). After the discount expires on Oct. 31, new annual subscriptions will cost $199. (Existing subscribers, the price you’re paying won’t change.)
This is Newcomer’s biggest discount ever and isn’t likely to happen ever again at this magnitude.
Here’s a look at some of my favorite stories from the past 12 months:
I kept you in the loop on venture capital funding and how VCs were thinking about startup valuations. At the stock market peak in November last year, I wrote about startups raising at unicorn valuations with less than $10 million in ARR (and sometimes much less). Then as markets started to fall, I gave you a glimpse into my texts with investors Keith Rabois and Garry Tan who told me what they thought about the market downturn. In August, I wrote about the market uptick but warned that “personally, I think there’s plenty of pain ahead of us.”
I published several as-if-you-were-there portraits of some of the key moments in Silicon Valley — whether it was Coatue’s exclusive “East Meets West” conference, Kara Swisher’s last Code, or an intimate gathering of up-and-coming venture capitalists.
On the Dead Cat podcast, we published a far ranging interview with Travis Kalanick’s chief lieutenant at Uber, Emil Michael, where we reexamined the scandals that plagued Uber five years later. On the podcast, we flipped the script and interviewed Swisher. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, we talked with startup founder Kiki Freedman about her company, Hey Jane, which gets patients abortion pills over the internet.
State of the Newsletter
I’m a big believer in — to borrow from the growth hacker vocabulary — building in public. So what follows is as transparent a rundown of how I’m thinking about my business as you’re likely to see anywhere.
More than 2,200 people pay for a Newcomer subscription.
There’s nothing more validating to a business than people actually paying for your service.
I can finally say “we” now without invoking a self-important royal “we.”
Newcomer has hired its first employee — Riley Konsella, a startup operator with a passion for the newsletter business. Konsella is my “chief of staff” — a kind of ridiculous, ill-defined job title as there ever was one. But one month into the job, Konsella has got us surveying subscribers, understanding our metrics, getting our business accounting in order, planning stories more thoughtfully, and strategizing about how Newcomer can continue to grow.
For all my coverage of cash-burning, venture-backed startups, I’m enjoying building my business on the back of real cashflow. It means that I’m making sustainable moves, hiring when it makes sense and not just throwing money at my problems. I’m sure I could have grown faster if I were blowing money on Newcomer Twitter ads or buying email distribution lists. But given customer growth has been hard fought, I can say with confidence that this is a business with real customer demand.
The key driver for paid subscriber growth has been clear: great stories. When I published deep dives into Tiger Global and Coatue I saw big subscriber spikes.
On the free side, Substack’s recommendation feature — which allows other newsletter writers to tout Newcomer — has created a very obvious inflection point in the growth of my free list.
I’m particularly grateful to Gergely Orosz at the Pragmatic Engineer. He’s been a great ally. We have both published each other’s posts in our newsletters. Most importantly, Orosz is by far the largest Newcomer recommender, sending me more than 10,000 new readers.
I also wanted to express my gratitude to Substack as personified by co-founders Chris Best and Hamish McKenzie, head of writer development Hanne Winarsky, and communications chief Helen Tobin. (And also thanks to Lulu Cheng Meservey for her tour as Substack’s VP of communications.)
Substack is the most helpful tech platform that you could hope for. And they sent me these beautiful flowers when I got engaged two months ago. (Hysterically, they were much bigger than the ones that I bought my fiancée.)
Newcomer Survey Results
I was pleasantly surprised that the vast majority of Newcomer subscribers are paying “to get intel on what venture capitalists are talking about behind the scenes.”
Far fewer people said they were doing it out of blind support or some benevolent desire to support independent journalism (though I’m also grateful for people who subscribe for those reasons).
I think you should blindly support me.
Readers were mostly happy with the amount of content that they’re receiving with 52% saying that they were “happy with the current mix of quality and quantity” and 25% going so far as to say “I want Eric to double down on depth and quality, even if that means fewer articles.”
Still, I’m hungry to produce more compelling writing for readers and my hope is that a chief of staff will help make an even more efficient reporter.
Numerous survey responders recommended increased interaction with Newcomer through a regular reader mail bag post. So we are going to implement that idea soon. We will solicit reader questions more formally next Monday and hope to publish a reader mailbag on Nov. 7. For the time being you’re welcome to submit questions to me at email@example.com.
The most popular imagined subscriber benefit is “an exclusive database of bios and brief explainers of some of the most important people in Silicon Valley.” I definitely think that’s something we are going to work on over time. We also received requests to spend more time profiling up-and-coming investors, so I could imagine writing some stories looking at promising new managers and then compiling them into a more persistent database.
Another survey response suggested there is strong interest in “essays or analytical writing from founders, VCs, and other Silicon Valley types.” So that’s an idea that I’m going to explore. It’s good to know that there’s strong reader demand as I know there’s a strong demand from VC-types to be listened to. The main challenge would just be assuring quality control. Yes, readers like the idea in the abstract but I would want to make sure the writing is compelling.
Interestingly, readers weren’t particularly worried about my writing being too political. In fact, more people were in favor of “stronger editorial stances on moral and political issues facing tech” than were in favor of “writing that’s less opinionated or political.”
Paid Newcomer subscribers are very wealthy. Forty-four percent of paid subscribers say they work in venture capital / private investment. Another 30% work in private tech startups.
Growing the Business
I think a price hike is in order for Newcomer. Many of the people who subscribe are doing so they can track potential startup investments, keep abreast of valuation trends, and track their competitors. They’re subscribing for work and often they’re expensing subscriptions. VC sources regularly tell me that I should raise the subscription price.
So I’m going to raise prices for new subscribers. Going forward, Newcomer will cost $19 a month or $199 a year, up from $15 a month and $150 a year.
Existing subscribers won’t see their prices change.
Until Oct. 31, I’m offering an annual subscription for $99.50 for the first year.
If you want to subscribe at full freight, you can always grab a founding subscription and set it at a price that makes you happy.
Over time, we’re going to try to develop more perks that come with a founding subscription — and maybe we’ll give it a new name.
For the time being, it’s still just a nice way to show your support for Newcomer.
Corporate subscriptions and advertising
Given the number of our emails that are getting forwarded around entire venture capital firms, companies, and public relations agencies, I’m definitely excited to roll out corporate subscriptions in the next couple weeks. If you’d be interested in a corporate subscription, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve never had any moral objections to advertising. We still haven’t run a single advertisement two years in, though I’ve gotten offers.
I’m definitely open to a sponsorship. More than 50% of our free subscribers said that their households earn more than $200,000 a year with more than 17% saying they make more than $500,000 a year. If you run marketing for Porsche, you know where to reach me.
At the end of the day, people subscribe to read great stories. Everything else is nice to think about. There are always ways to improve. But my goal is to spend most of my time trying to understand what’s really going on in the venture capital industry. If I do that well, Newcomer will continue to thrive.
Later this week, I’m going to publish an interview with one of the world’s most renowned venture capitalists. I’m also going to email out some of the greatest hits from the archives.
Thank you for your support. I’d encourage you to tweet out this post, share why you subscribe to Newcomer, and tell your friends about the discount we have running this week.