the gap

30-Day Startup Challenge: My Niche Revealed

There's a world of opportunity out there.


15 days ago I announced the start of a 30-day challenge where I would attempt to make money with an online business, from scratch.

We’re already past the half way mark now, so let me address the topic I know you’re most interested in: Have I made any money?

I have.

The startup has made a few hundred dollars so far, which I almost can’t believe.

It’s hard for me to convey my true emotions via text, but the tweet below would come close if Twitter allowed me to fit in ten extra exclamation points after “First sale!”.

If you missed the original post, the reason I am so genuinely surprised is because of the criteria I’m working with:

  • I’m not using my name or connections
  • I’m not offering any kind of service (one sale and you could make $x,xxx fairly easily)
  • I haven’t spent a cent on advertising
  • I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never tried to make money this way before

While I’m over the moon that in a fortnight I’ll be able to share with you exactly how I made money, I hope the real lesson is not how much I make, but rather what happens when you have an idea and make it more than just an idea.

What happens when you stop consuming and start creating.

The Three Biggest Problems I’ve Faced So Far

While I have some great insights to share with you in the big reveal, I have faced a few issues along the way.

The first problem is more of a realisation of how stupid I am, rather than anything specifically to do with building or promoting the website.

Whenever I make typos in my blog posts, people are very quick to let me know. I do appreciate the heads up, as I hate finding spelling mistakes after hitting publish (I’m sure there will still be some in this post).

Surprisingly, nobody corrected me about the fact that this is not actually a 30-day challenge.

I started on February the 21st, and I’m revealing the results on March 21st. That’s just 28 days.

I’ll stick with the ’30 day challenge’ theme as I’ve used it now (and it sounds better), but the fact that I can’t count should give you more hope that you can replicate my success 😉

I also didn’t account for the two to three days taken to write this update (and record the podcast), and two to three days I’ll need to write the final update.

Even if I work every weekend, that still just leaves me with around 22 days to see results.

Suffice to say that I am not going to have as much time as I would like to actually promote the website. This is not an excuse – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can do in such little time (and with such a small budget) – but it does limit how far I can take things.

By now I expected to have the website completely finished, but as soon as I hit publish on this post I still need a day or two to add content before focusing on marketing.

The second problem I’ve had since undertaking this challenge is that I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t do.

I ask myself things like, “Should I be going at this 8-10 hours per day to get the best results for the case study?

My concern being that if I work on the website “full-time”, I have to remember that most people can’t dedicate as much time to online ventures, so my 22 days would be the equivalent of someone else working part-time for months.

I’ve also had to answer, “Should I put a few hundred dollars into ads, just to show what would happen if I did? Especially now that I’ve made money without spending money?

And, “If I try some other ‘tactics’ out of curiosity – like sending videos created with screen recording software – would people judge that the microphone I used wasn’t free?

Ultimately, I’ve found it difficult to know where I’m aligning with the goal of the challenge – motivating people to take action – and where I should ‘push’ things a little to have a more inspiring end result to share with you.

This thinking has led me to make a few decisions.

I have decided that I will not spend any money on advertising. I said at the start of the challenge I may spend up to $1,000 to get better results, but I don’t want you to think it was a requirement to my “success”.

So, no ads.

I have decided not to work on weekends. That technically makes this an 18-day challenge. I’m still putting in a decent amount of work, but not an amount that even those with a full-time job couldn’t replicate.

I have decided I will not attempt to make any more sales (I’ve made five so far). Four sales were using free tools and tactics. One was helped by a video I made using screen-recording software which costs $97 and my microphone (which wasn’t free).

Five sales is enough for you to see this works, so I’m now going to focus on free traffic generation, rather than increasing revenues.

The third and final problem is really just a personal issue, but I feel quite strongly about it.

I hate using a pen name.

I’m using one so that I don’t receive any benefit from my current “influence”, but people are buying something from an alter-ego of mine and it just feels…wrong.

I’ve chatted with truly awesome people thanks to this challenge but they now know me as some other name. Some other person.

There have been a few people I’ve connected with, whether they purchased something or not, that I wanted to be honest with about who I really am before the results of the challenge come out (I requested that they don’t share what I’m working on).

That got some interesting responses.

I have to admit I’ll be a little relieved when this challenge is over, so I can go back to being Dave Cunningham Glen Allsopp again. (That’s a joke for long time ViperChill readers).

Revealing My Niche and Market Research

If you read the first update then you’ll know that I alluded to the market I’ve decided to target: Condensed learning.

I know that doesn’t reveal much about how I’m making money, but it does show the value-proposition I’m focused on.

One thing I should note is that how I do things these days is different to how most people decide to build online projects.

Most people have an idea, see if anyone else is doing it, and then build something if there isn’t much competition.

Every update I share on Gaps is focused on the opposite: We find people succeeding with a certain online business model, and then get inspiration for other opportunities which could follow a similar path to success.

This means I didn’t have the idea for this project and then find the examples I’m about to share. I found the examples first, and then had the business idea.

Finding a successful marketing agency who were doing things differently to the norm was the key factor in building my own successful agency, so I have a lot of faith in this method.

With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the businesses which inspired my latest undertaking.

The Company Making $100,000+ Per Month, Condensing Books

The first brand we’re going to look at is one you may be familiar with.

Blinkist offer a subscription service which condenses best-selling nonfiction books into “powerful shorts” you can read or listen to.

If you would love to read more but find yourself lacking in time, that’s where Blinkist thrives.

In their own words,

Blinkist takes great works of nonfiction and distils them into powerful, made-for-mobile packs called books-in-blinks. Each book-in-blinks gives you the key concepts of an entire book in about 15 minutes.

Launched in 2012, co-founder Sebastain Klien revealed in a previous interview that after leaving University, he didn’t have the time to read as much as he’d like.

He wasn’t alone in this thinking. Three of his close friends shared his regret of not giving reading the attention it deserves.

Together they founded the service which now boasts over 1 million users.

After initially launching in German, they later expanded to include English summaries. Data from SimilarWeb reports that they’re now reaching more than 600,000 visitors per month.

With over 30% of this traffic now hailing from the United States, moving to English summaries was a smart move.

The company is generating more than $100,000 per month, thanks to premium pricing options at $50 or $80 per year to access their entire library.

The Philosopher With 10,000 Monthly Subscribers

Blinkist came four years after this next example, but they’ve both succeeded by focusing on very similar business models.

Whereas Blinkist offers science, business and economic book summaries, a company called Philosophers Notes shows there’s a market for more focused offerings.

Brian Johnson created Philosophers Notes in 2008, offering text and audio summaries of the best personal development books.

These summaries are presented to users in the form of a 6 page PDF, a 20 minute audio recording and a 10 minute ‘Philosophers Notes TV’ episode.

Making a few thousand dollars in it’s very first month, the early success was a sign of things to come.

With almost 10,000 users paying a $10 monthly access fee, you can do the maths and see this is another 7-figure business that isn’t slowing down.

The Philosophers Notes collection has now grown to over 400 book summaries, with 5 more added each month.

As for their traffic stats, SimilarWeb estimates the site received around 200,000 visits in January of this year.

The Book Summaries Which Resulted in 733,000 YouTube Subscribers

It’s not just in text and audio where people are looking to fast-track their learning. Getting insights from watching videos is also incredibly popular.

One YouTube channel which is doing incredibly well for having so few videos is Fight Mediocrity. With over 730,000 subscribers, they’re proof that people can’t get enough of animated book summaries.

Their most popular video, with millions of views, is a summary of a The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. They took a 381 page book and turned it into a video summary lasting less than 7 minutes.

A few months ago I created my own animated summary of one of my favourite business books: Oversubscribed, by Daniel Priestley.

You can see the video I created below:

The reaction on Facebook and Twitter was incredible, so I would definitely like to do more of them in the future.

The Two-Minute Podcast with 28 Million Monthly Downloads

With podcasts hitting record download numbers in iTunes for 2016, it should be no surprise that a podcast focused on summarising daily news has been a hit.

Their download numbers are certainly helped by the fact that the podcast is published by the BBC, but it does show another example of how much people like to have information condensed for them.

Their News Summary is a 2 minute recording of the days news from around the world.

As the podcast gives listeners a snapshot of world affairs without having to watch hours of news, I can certainly understand the appeal.

My Own Twist on This Concept

As much as I would love to tell you exactly what I’m doing, I have to be a little more broad about my descriptions here.

If my case study gets any benefit from people associating it with me, that ruins most of what I’ve done with this project, so I would rather be vague than specific.

The original idea behind this case study was to take the best content in a specific niche, condense it, and then make money from the following that I build.

I say original idea as I have pivoted slightly from this concept but I’m still working on something I would personally use myself.

Again, I apologise that I can’t really give too many specifics about what I’m doing, but hopefully the examples above give a clearer picture of my focus.

The concept is something that can work in dozens of different industries, so I don’t think I’ll be the only person with this type of business after the case study results are revealed.

You could of course, win the website.

The Five Potential Winners of the Project

A fortnight ago I asked you to tweet about this live challenge in order to stand a chance of winning the business I’m working on.

It would be ironic for me to work on the site when Gaps was literally created to share ideas I don’t have time to build myself, so I hope someone can take the project further over the coming months and years.

I had originally said that I would randomly pick three people who could win the contest, but I have now changed that to five.

The reason I’ve picked five potential winners is because there’s a good chance that some wouldn’t actually want to work on the idea or focus on growing it. If I was to hand you an affiliate site focused on selling Barbie dolls, for example, you likely wouldn’t be very passionate about the project.

I would hate to give the brand to someone who has no interest in growing it, so I’ll ask each of the five winners at the end of the case study whether they would actually want to grow the brand, and how they would go about doing so.

Congratulations to the five people featured below. One of them is going to be taking over the project once my 30 28 days are up.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

As you know, I’m not doing this challenge to make money. I have nothing to sell, and I’m not running any ads or posting any affiliate links. I just wanted to reach more people with this journey, so thank you for helping me do that.

I only have around 9 working days left on the project, so that’s all from me for now.

The final update, where I will reveal the site and all of my marketing tactics, will be live on March 21st. That’s two weeks from today.

If you don’t want to miss any updates, make sure you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or via our newsletter.

Clicking the heart button below lets us know what types of success stories and opportunities you would like to see more of. Thank you so much for reading!

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