March 29, 2023

Life-Changing Wisdom with Arvid Kahl: From Selling a SaaS Business to Becoming a Creator

Life-Changing Wisdom with Arvid Kahl: From Selling a SaaS Business to Becoming a Creator
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E24: Today, we're talking to Arvid Kahl, the co-founder of FeedbackPanda, a SaaS startup that was acquired by SureSwift Capital. Arvid shares insights about selling his SaaS business, and then more importantly, his current content strategy, which he seems to be slowly building into another successful business venture, this time as a creator.

On this episode, we touch upon a wide range of topics such as the shift in the economic mindset that comes with selling a business for a large sum, Arvid's content strategy, which Arvid sums up as, "adding tiny things that already fit into the existing system."

We discuss how his small weekly blog grew rapidly and acquired a massive following, how he deploys the same content to four separate content delivery mechanisms with great success. And finally, how he effectively uses AI as a writing buddy to augment his content tasks.

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TOPICS:

Bootstrapping Feedback Panda to $55k in MRR (2:13)

Selling Feedback Panda for "Life Changing Amount" of Money (5:12)

How Selling Feedback Panda Changed His Approach to Work (7:23)

How Arvid Started Writing Online (8:58)

Why Arvid Backdated His Content on His Blog (10:00)

How Arvid Boosted His Credibility Online (12:13)

How Arvid Started His Newsletter (15:33)

Why Having a Regular Cadence For Your Newsletter is Important (16:40)

How Arvid Launched His Podcast (18:33)

Arvid's Process for Content Distribution (19:00)

How Arvid's New Podcast Format Accelerated His Podcast Growth (22:17)

How Arvid Sources New Content Ideas (23:00)

Arvid' Most Popular Podcast Episodes and Why (24:25)

How Arvid Uses ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence (26:26)

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LINKS:

Episode 22 - Newsletter Success Launch Plan: 4 Effective Strategies to Kickstart Your Newsletter

Episode 23 - Grow Your Newsletter Fast: Secrets to Skyrocketing Your Subscribers

Arvid's Podcast: The Bootstrapped Founder

Follow Arvid on Twitter

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***
DESCRIPTION:
Learn how to grow your business with the best growth tactics for founders & creators one week at a time. Hosted by serial entrepreneur Yong-Soo Chung.

Past guests: Kevon Cheung, Arvid Kahl, Justin Gordon, Jeremy Enns

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ABOUT THE HOST:
Yong-Soo is a serial entrepreneur bootstrapping his business from $0 to $20m over 8 years. Now, he's on a mission to help founders & creators build a loyal audience, create irresistible product offers, and grow their business sustainably.

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Transcript

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid Kahl loves talking to people.

Arvid Kahl:

Well, I spend 25 hours a day on Twitter. Really, every single day, I get up and I get to get up and I get to go to Twitter and hang out with people. It's a lot of fun.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid is full of memorable quotes like this. They're not just amazing quotes, they are amazing life philosophies, if you ask me. For example, I love his perspective on work and hobbies.

Arvid Kahl:

I have the theory that at some point in your life, work turns into play and play turns into work if you do it right.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Or this one about empowering the people with everything he builds.

Arvid Kahl:

I always thought as a technical person, building things is the best thing ever. But the meaning that I found in building a business that actually empowers and serves people just washed this away.

Yong-Soo Chung:

That's because Arvid truly believes in building relationships with people.

Arvid Kahl:

That has always been my goal, right? It has been my goal when I was working as a regular engineer for other people in other businesses. I tried to involve myself in the community, both in the business and the local software engineering communities. I went to meetups and that kind of stuff. But yeah, I've always been trying to connect. That's really what I aimed at in the past, and have time to actually do it, because you mentioned selling a business, that opened up a lot of time for me.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Hi, my name is Yong-Soo Chung, and I'm a first generation Korean American entrepreneur living the American dream. I started Urban EDC to cater to enthusiasts of everyday carry gear. I also own two other successful ventures, GrowthJet, a climate-neutral certified third-party logistics company for fast-growing eCommerce brands, and Spotted by Humphrey, an online dog boutique curating dog goods for good dogs, with Humphrey, our French Bulldog, as our chief marketing officer with over 150,000 followers across all of its social media platforms. Through these three ventures, my business makes an annual revenue near eight figures, and I'm here to tell you how you can do the same.

On this episode of First Class Founders, we're talking to Arvid Kahl, the co-founder of FeedbackPanda, a SaaS startup that was originally aimed at teachers of ESL, English as a second language. FeedbackPanda provides easy to use student feedback and comment templates for teachers, allowing them to spend their time providing quality teaching instead of writing student comments and reports. Arvid and his business partner, Danielle, sold their startup to SureSwift Capital in 2019 for an undisclosed sum.

Arvid Kahl:

I'm not really allowed to talk about the number, because that's in the contract, I guess, but we sold for a life-changing amount of money.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I've been following Arvid on Twitter for a while now. I've been observing the amazing connections he forms with people on Twitter and how he always has incredible insights for the questions he gets on Twitter. I also was curious about the content strategy he employs for all of his distribution channels, including his newsletter and podcast, because if you're one of Arvid's 100,000 followers on Twitter, chances are you've seen the sheer volume of great content he shares across all of his channels. So I decided to invite Arvid for a chat and talk to him about selling his SaaS business, and then more importantly, his current content strategy, which he seems to be slowly building into another successful business venture, this time as a creator.

On this episode, I'm going to share with you the lessons I learned from my conversation with Arvid. We touch upon a wide range of topics such as the shift in the economic mindset that comes with selling a business for a large sum, Arvid's content strategy, which can be summed up as-

Arvid Kahl:

Adding tiny things that already fit into the existing system.

Yong-Soo Chung:

How his small weekly blog grew rapidly and acquired a massive following. How he deploys the same content to four separate content delivery mechanisms with great success. And finally, how he effectively uses AI as a writing buddy to augment his content tasks. Let's get down to business.

Arvid is not an ordinary founder by any stretch of the imagination. Before bootstrapping FeedbackPanda, Arvid was working full-time as a software engineer in the industrial Internet of Things space. His partner and girlfriend, Danielle, was an opera singer auditioning for roles and side hustling as an online ESL teacher. It was this side hustle that led to them bootstrapping FeedbackPanda. Danielle needed a way to give quick feedback to her students and manage it all in one central location. The jury-rigged system of spreadsheets and templates quickly grew cumbersome to manage, and thus FeedbackPanda was born.

To say that FeedbackPanda was pretty much an instant hit with all of Danielle's fellow ESL teachers wouldn't be an exaggeration at all. In fact, it quickly acquired paying customers, and within two years, they had grown to 5,000 customers, bringing in $55,000 in monthly recurring revenue, or MRR. By all accounts, it was a pretty successful SaaS business. Even more impressive when you consider that it was founded and run by only two people, Danielle and Arvid.

Arvid Kahl:

But it also put me into a tough spot because you're two people in the business. That generally means the bust factor, the what if something happens factor is quite high, right? If I were unavailable for the business, nobody could build the product, nobody could even restart the server. So there was always this risk, and that created a lot of anxiety in me because I needed to be present whenever something needed to be done. So I was dealing with a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of this baseline fear that I had at any given moment, at any given day, that something might happen that I might not be fast enough to respond.

Yong-Soo Chung:

On top of that, Danielle and Arvid were based in Berlin, which meant that their expenses were also pretty high.

Arvid Kahl:

We were living paycheck to paycheck, both of us. We were living in Berlin, a big city, right? In Europe. It's maybe not the most expensive metropolis that we have in Europe, but it is quite expensive still to live in the middle of a city.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Thankfully, FeedbackPanda was bringing in good money.

Arvid Kahl:

We had $55,000 a month in revenue and maybe $8,000 to $10,000 in cost. It was substantial, the money that came in.

Yong-Soo Chung:

But all of that money, all of that wealth was locked away in FeedbackPanda.

Arvid Kahl:

That was risky. We felt, "What if we lose this? What if this is the thing that we could have had, but that it imploded for some reason?" That was also one of the reasons that we actively sought potentially exiting the business.

Yong-Soo Chung:

So when SureSwift Capital approached them with an offer, the decision was more or less straightforward.

Arvid Kahl:

I personally was quite glad that we had this opportunity, and I very much pushed for selling the business at that point. We probably could have kept running it for a while, but we chose not to, mostly to appease my mental health issues at that point, and so we sold.

Yong-Soo Chung:

As I mentioned earlier, they sold FeedbackPanda for an undisclosed sum that Arvid only describes as-

Arvid Kahl:

A life-changing amount of money. That life-changing amount of money wasn't just financially life-changing, which it was, but it gave me a different perspective, because the moment that amount of money hits your bank account, you shift your mindset. Because all of a sudden, you don't think about, "Okay, what am I going to do for grocery money this month?" you think about, "Okay, in the next 20 years, what am I going to invest in?" It is a very post-economic state of mind. You don't have to make economic choices anymore. You make long-term meta economic choices.

Yong-Soo Chung:

One of these meta economic choices that Arvid made would happen soon after the acquisition, during the transition period.

Arvid Kahl:

We had a couple of months that we still needed to be there for the business that acquired us to answer questions and help train the people that were essentially replacing us. So I had a lot of time while I was sitting in front of my computer waiting for work that may or may not come. We had set up our business in a way that everything was highly automated and well documented anyway, so it was very quick and easy for them to actually take all the knowledge and all the things that they needed from us. So we didn't really have to train anybody, but we still needed to be present.

Yong-Soo Chung:

While waiting for people to ask him questions about FeedbackPanda, Arvid would spend his time jotting down ideas for various topics such as scaling customer service, or which tech stack to use, or about the stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems that came with running a SaaS business.

Arvid Kahl:

So I had a big old Notion document, and whenever a topic came to my mind, when I reflected on something that I did during building the business or before or after, anything that came to my mind, I would put just a line in a Notion document, "This is a topic I want to talk about."

Yong-Soo Chung:

Then in October of 2019, Danielle and Arvid took a vacation to South Africa.

Arvid Kahl:

But even in that wonderful hut in the Kruger National Park, both of us were still sitting there, "So what's next? What are we going to do?" We couldn't shake it. We were so just involved in building things and making things happen, that just relaxing was such a weird feeling.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Yeah, the classic founder's dilemma. You never stop thinking about what you want to build next. Anyways, they both dove into their respective happy places. Danielle, being a trained musician, dove into music. And Arvid?

Arvid Kahl:

And for me, it was just figuring things out and communicating that with people, apparently.

Yong-Soo Chung:

So he started writing. His Notion document had nearly 200 topics.

Arvid Kahl:

I took 10 of these topics and started writing about them. I'm an outline writer, so I wrote outlines first, and then at a later point, went into the outlines and fleshed them out. I ended up with 10 articles before I started my blog. So I had 10 things written. And then I started my blog. So the blog was something that I started with a lot of content already there. I backdated them to the weeks before, so it looked like the blog had already been around for two months. It's kind of the idea that there was already kind of this cadence that I suggested.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think this is an excellent lesson for content creators to take away. Arvid's lesson number one, start with a bank of content and ensure that it suggests an existing cadence. A bank of content is the quickest way to demonstrate the length and breadth of your knowledge to your readers. By posting articles on several different subjects, Arvid sent out a signal to his readers that he was well versed in those subjects, and more importantly, willing to share his original thoughts about those subjects.

The other thing that he did was to backdate the posts to suggest an existing cadence. An existing cadence indicates to your readers that you're committed to the task, and reassures them that there's more to come from you.

What happened next is a bit of luck and a bit of genius, both, in my opinion. But before I tell you that, I'd like to take a moment here to tell you about my own newsletter.

It's called The Brief, and it's a companion newsletter to this podcast. I'm building First Class Founders in public. That means I share weekly reflections, including valuable lessons that I learned while experimenting with strategies on growing my podcast and newsletter. I don't hold anything back. In fact, I reveal all my podcast and newsletter metrics, like downloads and subscriber numbers inside the newsletter. So if you're curious and want to see some behind the scenes content of this podcast, you'll love my newsletter. Go ahead and sign up at firstclassfounders.com/newsletter. I'll see you there.

Okay, back to what I was saying. After Arvid started the blog, a chance talk at a prestigious conference helped him boost his credibility almost overnight. But in case you're thinking that he got lucky, think again because when you hear the sequence of events that transpired, you'll notice that Arvid made his own luck. I'll let Arvid explain how he did this himself.

Arvid Kahl:

On Twitter, I had 400 followers at that point, painfully accumulated over the last 10-ish years. I had really only friends and people that you randomly follow. It wasn't really that much of a following at that point. But one thing that really helped me was having some kind of credibility almost thrust upon me by appearing on stage at MicroConf Europe back in 2019.

Little story here, little side note. We had sold the business. We just wanted to go on vacation at MicroConf first happening. MicroConf, for everybody who doesn't know, is a small entrepreneurial conference for software as service founders who target B2B businesses. It's kind of micro businesses, but still a conference for the people trying to figure out how to deal with MRR and growth and all these kind of things. So it was great. It was a great conference.

While we didn't really have a slot to talk, there were attendee talks at the conference. You could kind of pitch your idea about what you wanted to talk about, and then the people going to the conference would vote, and the top four or six would get to speak for 10 minutes, something like that. Our talk was about how we sold the business. And obviously, the attendees at such a conference liked the idea of knowing how people sell their businesses, so we got selected. We made up a little talk and we gave it on stage.

Thank you very much.

Yong-Soo Chung:

That talk brought them the attention of all the founders who were present at the conference. All the founders present at the conference saw Arvid and Danielle as successful post-exit founders who had shared their learnings. The same was also captured in a video which made the rounds on social media too.

Arvid Kahl:

So when I started going back to Twitter after the conference, I had a lot of friends really quick. So going to this event and actually pushing out there what I was doing and what we had accomplished, that created a lot of momentum for us to then further my audience growth by just people retweeting what I was talking about, because they knew at that point, I was credible. That really helped.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid smartly used his credibility boost to direct people to his blog by posting links to it in his Twitter interactions with the people.

Arvid Kahl:

So people would find my blog. And over time, people would read it, which was great, and they would communicate to me about it on Twitter.

Yong-Soo Chung:

There's a mini lesson here for all of us. Use any and all credibility boost you acquire to promote your own content in the early days. Get as many people as possible to read your content if you want to build yourself a following. I'm calling this a mini lesson because there's a bigger lesson to follow shortly, so make sure you're paying attention to this next part.

The credibility boost from MicroConf and the subsequent video of their talk had raised Arvid's profile as a successful post-exit founder. His blog was being well received by the people who had discovered them in the aftermath of the conference. His language and style were easy to follow, and people were interacting with and sharing his content quite regularly on social media.

But here was the problem. Having a blog was not an assurance of regular content. And in the current age of content creation, regularity matters. People expect to see new and fresh content from creators each week. So if Arvid had to retain his followers and their attention, he would have to commit to writing regularly.

Arvid Kahl:

But I'm quite a lazy person by nature. I try to avoid work however much I can. So I had to find some kind of accountability regimen for myself, just to keep me going, which is why I started the newsletter. The newsletter is really just the article that I write, pasted into an email service provider, and then couple links.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think this was a genius move on his part. I'm going to call it for a second lesson of the day. Arvid's lesson number two, build accountability for yourself. If you want to become an effective content creator, you must find simple yet effective ways to build accountability for yourself. For Arvid, it was simple as converting a blog into a weekly newsletter.

Arvid Kahl:

The moment I had my first newsletter subscriber, I knew I would have to do this forever.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Another thing to know here is that Arvid set a very clear boundary for himself with the weekly cadence for the newsletter. With FeedbackPanda sold to SureSwift Capital, he had no other pressing duties. He could have chosen to dive deep into the content creation space and decided that he wanted to do it full-time, but instead, he decided that he didn't want to overburden himself.

Arvid Kahl:

I wanted to write one article, because I felt, "Hey, I'm in my post-exit life. I don't want to work too hard. Write one thing a week and post it. That should be enough," because I also wanted to relax from these very stressful years that I had spent, not just building the business, but also being a full-time engineer.

Yong-Soo Chung:

This strangely worked incredibly well for him. Because he was able to focus his efforts and energies entirely into that one single post, it reflected in the quality of the post. Soon enough, it also began reflecting in the metrics.

Arvid Kahl:

And it slowly grew, right? Both my Twitter audience and my newsletter audience slowly trickled up there. It wasn't massive. It was just maybe 10 people a day, but do that for 30 days, and you have 300 people, right? Do that for a couple months, and you have a couple thousand. It makes a lot of difference.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Building a newsletter is hard work. I dedicated two entire episodes of this podcast to the subject, the two previous episodes, 22 and 23, in which I explained how to launch and grow your newsletter. I outlined several methods that I have used for my own newsletter, The Brief, and shared the results of my own experiments in those episodes. If you haven't heard those episodes yet, I recommend that you bookmark them and queue them to play immediately after this one. That way, you can combine any lessons you learn from this episode with the lessons from those two episodes, and supercharge your own newsletter. But Arvid didn't just stop at the newsletter.

Arvid Kahl:

People told me, "I love your writing, love your blog, love your newsletter, but I don't have time to read. The only time that I really have in a day is when I'm driving in my car."

Yong-Soo Chung:

Yeah, you guessed it. Podcasts.

Arvid Kahl:

I guess the deciding moment was when somebody told me, "I'm dyslexic. I love what you're saying, but I have a hard time reading it."

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid simply took the content of the newsletter, and recorded in audio.

Arvid Kahl:

So that's where the podcast started. The podcast was really just me narrating the article that I wrote from my blog and my newsletter at the same time.

Yong-Soo Chung:

And with a format like this...

Arvid Kahl:

YouTube was just the next iteration. I just turned on the camera while I was narrating the thing.

Yong-Soo Chung:

One thing I absolutely loved about Arvid's process is that at no point did he allow himself to make any choices or decisions that would overwhelm him with additional work.

Arvid Kahl:

I'm adding tiny things that already fit into the existing system, because I don't want to add something completely overwhelming. That's not how I work. That's not why I spent so much grueling time building a business and selling it so now that I would have a 60 hour work week again. That's not going to happen.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Isn't that just brilliant? Arvid takes a single piece of content and converts it into four different formats. All four formats receive the same exact content. They're all different distribution channels for the same content.

Arvid Kahl:

But I'm trying to add small things that benefit from the existing things. Synergize with these things or the already existing things so that I can amplify the potential value that my outputs have.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think this qualifies as our lesson number three. Arvid's lesson number three, synergize with already existing stuff, so you can amplify the potential value of your outputs. Or in simple words, don't be afraid to reuse any or even all of your content across different distribution channels. If you're worried that people might get turned off and quit your channel or something, A, not everyone consumes the same content on all distribution channels, and B, Arvid's success underscores this further.

Arvid Kahl:

I have a monetized newsletter and monetized podcast that bring in $4,000 a month reliably. It's almost real income just from the one thing that I write a week, and its four different shapes. That's the whole idea. As little work as needed to reach as much distribution as possible.

Yong-Soo Chung:

But Arvid's evolution was not yet complete. There was another level that he was yet to reach. And like all his previous steps, it happened because he wanted to make a small change to his existing workflow. A small change that yielded big returns for Arvid. I'll tell you what that was in a bit.

But first, I want to take a quick detour and remind you that you can listen to the raw, unedited version of my conversation with Arvid if you want a peek behind the scenes. We touched upon several other things that I couldn't include in our conversation here. For example, Arvid spoke about how he views sales and marketing in the context of his content creation process and how he has come to understand their importance. Here's a sneak preview.

Arvid Kahl:

I still wanted to make money. I still wanted to be a viable business, because I am an entrepreneur. But the goal is not to maximize profits.

Yong-Soo Chung:

The full conversation will be made available to members of the First Class Founders community, which you can join by going to firstclassfounders.com/join. I'll see you inside the membership.

Okay, let's get back to the small change to his workflow that Arvid mentioned. I'm sure you're very curious to know what that was, right? Once again, I'm going to let Arvid do the talking.

Arvid Kahl:

170 some episodes, or 168 or something, it was just a pure monologue kind of show. I would take a topic, I would just think about it, write about it, talk about it in video, capture that, and that would be the show. And then at some point, I guess a couple months ago, maybe half a year ago, I decided, "Hey, I'm lonely here in my office. I'm going to talk to people." That was really the thought. And I decided to do interviews as well for my podcast.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Interviews. When you really think about it, interviews were a natural progression from the monologue format of the podcast. It was a small change to his workflow, but a huge improvement to his content.

Arvid Kahl:

That's kind of how it started. I was talking to people that I really wanted to learn from myself, as a founder and as a creator, and then share that with the world as well.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Interestingly, the interviews opened up a new and delightful avenue of content generation for Arvid.

Arvid Kahl:

In those interviews, I would have thoughts, I would have ideas for things to talk about. So I don't even need to source my ideas myself anymore, I just need to have a chat with somebody, and something will come up, about which I will then write the week of the interview. So both the interview and the topic that I talk about in my monologue thing are interconnected.

Yong-Soo Chung:

What a fascinating way to generate original content. Arvid uses these interviews with his guests as a source of fresh ideas. And now our conversation turns into an excellent wellspring of fresh ideas infused with perspectives. In Arvid's own words...

Arvid Kahl:

I kind of outsource my ideation to the conversations with really interesting people.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think this approach of generating content qualifies as our fourth lesson from Arvid. Arvid's lesson number four, there are always new and interesting ways to generate content from your existing workflows. These conversations have yielded some really interesting content, like the conversation he had with Daniel Vassallo, the guy behind the many small bets approach.

Arvid Kahl:

The Daniel Vassallo episode really was just me talking to Dan about things that we both care about, building businesses like doing entrepreneurship, right, and calmly and relaxed and diversifying things that we both care about, and I just wanted his perspective on this as well.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Or the conversation he had with Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad, which coincidentally happened around the time Gumroad raised their prices, resulting in outrage from the community.

Arvid Kahl:

Sahil and I were talking that day, and we kind of came to the conclusion, "Yeah, we should talk about this," and he said, "Yeah, sure, let's do it." I said, "We will have this conversation, but I will probably ask you a couple questions you're not going to like." He agreed, and then we had the conversation. And I as quickly as possible, edited the thing and put it on YouTube, and it became part of the actual conversation in the community.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid also delves into deeper topics quite frequently. For instance, recently when the startup, ProfitWell, was sold to Paddle for $200 million, he had a chat with the founder, Patrick Campbell, about mental health.

Arvid Kahl:

That was just something that I wanted to know, right? This guy has a nine-figure exit. How does that work? Also, are you happy now? And then all of a sudden, in that hour, we talked about him struggling with imposter syndrome after making hundreds of millions of dollars, right? That's just something that you don't expect if you don't have the opportunity to talk to these people.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Not to forget, when you do an interview with someone, you automatically double your reach since you now have two people trying to promote the same content to two likely different sets of people. Of course, this also raises an interesting question. Should you focus on getting bigger names to interview for your podcast so they can exponentially boost your reach? Or should you stick to people who are closest to the kind of content you want to create, but sacrifice some of the reach? We'll tackle this in another episode of the podcast, since this merits a discussion entirely on its own.

Coming back to Arvid, since he was a software engineer, I had to ask him his opinions about the hottest piece of tech to land in a long time, ChatGPT and AI in general. This is what he had to say on the subject.

Arvid Kahl:

I've been using AI for a while because I've been a customer for Grammarly for many years, and that is essentially an AI-based grammar checking tool. That has been very helpful for me as a English as a second language speaker. I need to have some assistance sometimes and in some places with phrases that I'm not usually writing in any particular way, and it's very helpful as a tool.

And with open AI stuff in general, I wasn't a big fan of GPT-3. I just really didn't know how to use it. But ChatGPT is a different story. The actual capacity of conversational AI that I cannot just use as an input, output system, but that is actually a writing partner, that changed a lot for me.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Here's where things get really interesting. What Arvid is about to describe is his unique method of using ChatGPT as a writing buddy. I want you to pay close attention to this process, because it reveals two very interesting things, one being about Arvid, and the second being about a fascinating way to use generative AI effectively. See if you can spot it before I combine both of them into lesson number five.

Arvid Kahl:

So whenever I have an idea now at this point, I tend to dictate it into my phone. I have a Notion document. I just turn on the little voice to text feature that my iPhone has, and I start talking, just babbling away about whatever I think about a particular topic.

Yong-Soo Chung:

This yields a big blob of unstructured text.

Arvid Kahl:

But it is text. It's usable for text-based systems. So I copy the text at this point, I go to ChatGPT, and I tell it, "Hey, here is a transcript of a thought that I had about a specific topic." That's kind of the verbatim phrase that I use. "Extract the key idea or the key three ideas from this, and put them into an outline," and then I paste the transcript. And the magic of this AI system is that it actually is capable of turning my unstructured thought into a structured outline. That is usually enough for me just to read the outline is to, "Okay, this is what I want to talk about. These things, I don't care about. These things, I care about. This is the topic, the part of the topic that I really want to dive into," and just take the outline as another stepping stone towards the final piece of content that I want to write about.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Step one, Arvid uses ChatGPT to convert unstructured ideas into structured outlines.

Arvid Kahl:

And then I start a conversation with ChatGPT. I tell it, "Okay, now this is what I want to talk about. Generate a blog post outline for a 2,000 word blog post for me," and then it does that on this topic, and 50% of that is total crap. It's the worst potential thing you could ever talk about in a blog post. It's generic, it's pointless, it's wrong. But the other 50% has potential. So I take these other 50% of the thing, just the bullet points, and say, "Okay, for these bullet points, generate a couple sub-bullet points," and then it comes up with specific sub-bullet points for these pre-filtered things that I already think have potential. And from those, I choose again, half, and then I end up with a structure that I can now follow and actually think about and then write my own actual content for.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Step two, Arvid uses ChatGPT to further refine the structured outline into specific bullet points, and then writes his own content. If you ask me, this second step is crucial. Arvid doesn't take the ChatGPT output as is.

Arvid Kahl:

I hate AI written things, because they always sound generic, which is, I guess, the idea, right? To be appealing to as many people as possible. That's how these language models work. They want to write believable stuff. And the more generically applicable it is to anybody's life, the more believable it is.

Yong-Soo Chung:

It's true. In fact, I think that is what GPTZero, the ChatGPT identifier, currently does. It looks for predictability and perplexity of text to determine whether a particular bit of text was written by a human or generated using ChatGPT.

Arvid Kahl:

So I try to use these AI tools as kind of fire and forget idea generating things, and then pick and choose the things I like, and then write an actual blog post from there.

Yong-Soo Chung:

That right there, that's our lesson number five for this episode. Arvid's lesson number five, use AI tools to generate ideas, but filter it through your own judgment. And you can also use ChatGPT as an even more tightly knit writing buddy. In fact, Arvid tells me that he uses it very liberally with his writing.

Arvid Kahl:

It's a free writing buddy that can also be used for many other things. Sometimes I just tell it, "Give me a synonym for this word," and then it gives me a weird synonym that I don't like. "Give me 10 more," and then it comes up with 10 more. And then I say, "Give me 20 more," and it comes up with 20 more. It's bizarre. Within a second, you have the work that would take you five minutes with a thesaurus or Googling around, and for that, it's extremely helpful for a writer.

I take a paragraph I don't like, but I have written, but I don't like, put it in there. "Reformulate this to be better, to be more expressive, to be more energetic," and it comes up with something, I hate it again. It comes up with something, it's slightly better. "Do this again, but put 50% more Star Trek jokes in there," and then it does that and then it comes back, something that I could have written within an hour, but I kind of co-wrote with this AI in two minutes.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think this is a great point to close the episode. Let's quickly recap all of Arvid's lessons from today's episode, shall we? Arvid's lesson number one, start with a bank of content and ensure that it suggests an existing cadence. Arvid's lesson number two, find a way to build accountability for yourself. Arvid's lesson number three, synergize with already existing stuff so you can amplify the potential value of your output. Arvid's lesson number four, there are always new and interesting ways to generate content from your existing tasks. Arvid's lesson number five, use AI tools to generate ideas, but filter it through your own judgment. That's it. You can follow and talk to Arvid on Twitter at...

Arvid Kahl:

Arvidkahl, A-R-V-I-D-K-A-H-L. From there, you'll find all my books and my courses and whatnot, and my writing and my YouTubes and my podcast and my newsletter. I have a lot going on. But in the end, just pick whatever medium you enjoy, and you'll find something that I'm doing in this medium.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Arvid is also building something else, something interesting.

Arvid Kahl:

Now I really want to dive more into calm entrepreneurship, the idea of building businesses in a sustainable and non-chaotic manner, right? Which is what I'm currently doing. I'm building a media business. I also have a software as a service product and project on the side. It is also very calm, right? Slowly growing. Not too much pressure, not too much expectation building around it, but building a sustainable business. That's what I'm working on. That will be out, well, hopefully within the next six months. Who knows?

Yong-Soo Chung:

Wise words from Arvid. Any message to budding entrepreneurs out there?

Arvid Kahl:

Hustle culture is a problem. Tell you that. Hustle culture is one of the most destructive things that many founders believe to be important to the journey. We all get enveloped in these stories, right? Where people just try to sell us the dream and tell us that we have to work 80 hours a week. Man, work eight hours a week. Follow the Tim Ferriss approach, the four-hour work week. That's kind of what got me into entrepreneurship. The idea...

I mean, obviously, it's not real. He works way more than four hours. But he works on stuff that builds wealth for him way beyond the amount of hours, billable hours that he puts into it, right? That's the idea. The idea is to work effectively. It's to work in a way to build systems and processes that work for you. Not to spend 40 hours inside of a process, but it's like working on the business, not in the business. So that's kind of what I'm trying to be better at myself and teach people at the same time.

Yong-Soo Chung:

All right, that wraps up today's show. In the next episode of First Class Founders, I'm going to show you the step-by-step playbook on how to start a side hustle and build it to your first million dollars in revenue. This is the exact same playbook I used to build my first company, Urban EDC. You don't want to miss out on this one.

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