Foundr: How to Launch a Wildly Successful Digital Magazine like Nathan Chan

I’m a big fan of Foundr Magazine – one of the most successful digital publications for young entrepreneurs and startup founders.

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Its creator, Nathan Chan, started from nothing, and built it up to a 6-figure business, and brough people like Richard Branson, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, and more, on the cover.

I talked about this successful business venture on the podcast a few episodes ago, but will now bring up the question again.

Let’s see how all this started, and what it takes to launch such a magazine in today’s competitive world.

Why and How Nathan Chan Started Foundr Magazine?

He started Foundr back in 2013 and it was his first real business.

The main thing people ask him, is why a magazine. That wasn’t one of the most popular formats, especially for newbies in the startup scene. What’s more, the field was conquered by names like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Time, and a few others you’re familiar with.

While still on his day job, he was listening to podcasts and reading stuff on entrepreneurship, just like anyone else. But nothing was exactly what he was looking for, so he decided to build such a product in the form of a magazine.

As we know, some of the best businesses are based on their founder’s passion or a problem he struggled with. That’s when you can be sure the product is great as there’s something personal involved, and it always reaches the right audience.

Such was the case with Instagram, where one of the founders – Kevin Systrom – pursued his passion for photography and his desire to give people a way to share their photos and make them even more beautiful. Well, millions of users are loving him for that every single day.

So, back to Nathan Chan.

He knew podcasts were quite a trend at that time, but mostly because of 1 element – the interview with a successful person and the life lessons he shared in an episode.

So, he kept that part, but used another medium.

That’s one of the ways he differentiated him, by not creating yet another blog, YouTube channel or podcast. He truly felt the need for such a product too.

But what about the tech side of all this?

Well, his area of expertise was IT, but he knew nothing about publishing, design and apps before he started. But he took the leap anyways.

He created the magazine using a special software that enables anyone to start one – MagCast.

The Early Days of Foundr

foundr magazine issues

Things weren’t easy in the beginning.

Nathan Chan actually used a different name for the magazine but got sued by a big American company. So he changed it, and anything else about the brand, and basically pivoted.

He chose Foundr without an E, not because there’s a competitor with that name, but because he wanted to make sure that no other product would be similar to his. Plus, it sounded better.

Design is one of the elements that make the magazine so successful. It’s easy to read and pleasant to look at. But Nathan had to try 3 different graphic designers until he found the right one.

It Wasn’t a Success in The Beginning

There weren’t only hardships for Nathan himself when he started, but the magazine wasn’t an overnight success either.

No one really knew about him and on the first issue cover, there was a stock image. But he followed the advice of Seth Godin who says ‘just ship it’ and launched anyways.

So, when talking about what it takes to become a successful startup founder, no matter what your product or niche is, it’s about persistence and patience before anything else.

Nathan didn’t consider the podcast an option in the beginning, it’s something that just happened naturally once things took off. And now the Foundr Podcast is big part of the brand and leads to many new prospects.

As for how long it took him to replace his regular job, that’s 1 year.

After that, he simply started making more from Foundr magazine and entered the world of digital publishing full-time.

Distributing The Magazine

Many people assume that when having a magazine, coming up with content would be the most difficult part. Well, it turns out it’s not.

Foundr is a monthly edition. Each month they have 3 interviews and around 7 or 8 articles. All that is turned into a PDF file.

Nathan and the team distribute it on the Apple and Google Play stores, and anything else is handled by the platforms from then on.

Something else worth mentioning, is that Nathan Chan was a true hustler. I don’t think there’s any other way to make it, build a great product and make millions.

After all, he built his way up to a well-known publisher.

No one wanted to be interviewed for a magazine they didn’t know about, but he took tens of steps to reach out to Richard Branson and get him on the cover, which is actually the issue he offers for free that hooks people.

He had to work on his project before and after work while at his 9-to-5 job, and even shares in an interview with Pat Flynn for the SPI podcast that he was doing it during his lunch break too.

Another thing worth mentioning is the message of Foundr magazine.

Nathan Chan started it because he wanted a publication that would resonate with a specific group of people – young entrepreneurs and early stage startup founders.

Since then, with every issue of the magazine, every blog post and podcast episode, every Instagram image quote that’s part of their social media strategy, design element on the site or product, he’s been following the same values and vision.

What’s Different About Foundr?

The main elements that make it great are:

  • design;
  • smart strategies;
  • having a strong message and staying true to it;
  • different medium;
  • reaching influencers that are usually hard to get;
  • dominating the right social media platform for their audience;
  • practical and motivational content that speaks to the reader;
  • doing all the necessary hard work in the beginning to create a fantastic product.

What do you think about the success story of Foundr magazine?

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Lidiya K

Lidiya K

Author, blogger and podcaster in the fields of self-improvement and life hacking. Creator of Let's Reach Success.
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
Lidiya K

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