In early 2019, I was brought on to become the first Product hire at Failory, an online resource that covers startup post-mortems. I became a concrete part of an at-most-five-person machine (we had a number of freelancers who wrote articles from time to time) and spent my time iterating on the main product as well a handful of special projects.
Although Failory's 10,000-subscriber newsletter seemed like a powerful channel, a look under the hood revealed that it wasn't as impressive. It had an abysmal open and clickthrough rate, was caught by the spam filters of several email clients, and only engaged a fraction of its subscriber base. I spent my first week A/B testing newsletter formats, copyediting subject lines, hunting through emojis, and crafting a delightful end-to-end email onboarding experience that pulled us out of emails' spam mail abyss. This process, frankly, did numbers. The week after's edition boasted 2x its usual CTR, a ~15% higher open rate, and sparked readers to reply to our newsletter — a first.
Additionally, I redesigned Failory's website and website structure. The new direction of the site was much sleeker and made articles much easier to read. Lots of elements from my redesign have been ported over to version 3.0 of the site
Similar to any other content business on the web, Failory partook in the vying for eyeballs clickbait race and slapped labels like "", "COMPLETE", "100+ BEST", "The Ultimate" anywhere they fit. I worked to right this direction a little. In the handful of pieces that I wrote, I pushed for quality over sheer quantity, injected personality / poked fun at things, and included call-to-actions in my footers like a short, post-article survey and my email for responses or tips. This led to some good learnings for us at the time — readers either went out of their way to voice their enjoyment of the more playful tone or sent us links of further readings / things to cover; all they really needed was an avenue to do this. Some of my articles at Failory:
What Happened to Sip, the Product Hunt Tech News Project? - My first ever article! One of the only Failory articles sporting an "Opinion" section and a CTA in the footer. This got some love from the folks at Product Hunt
The Indonesian Startup Landscape - The pilot piece to a series of geo deep-dives from folks on the inside; Failory's first article with real conversations! Funnily cited in a number of real-life conversations where I — rightfully so — dropped the "I wrote that" bomb. When I left, article had something like 25k reads
Additionally, I buffed out the rest of our web content by building out Company Cemeteries (in 2018, when it still a fresh idea). As an additional layer to the regular Cemetery that covered startup post-mortems, Company Cemeteries dove deep into spun down products at large companies (eg. Amazon Dash, Google Hangouts today). I collected a spreadsheet of 200+ products at these companies through Twitter DMs — lots of interesting "you-should-build-this-out" company hackathon products that never got any coverage
Meant to be Failory's high school – collegiate arm. I brought on a friend at Princeton to lead East Coast expansion with plans for us to meet in the middle, bringing on university leads as we moved and planned out a year-long content "syllabus". Spent weekends recording fun, green-room–style content, partnered with the Intercollegiate Entrepreneurship Network at Princeton, and got bites at Georgia Tech, Brown, Stanford, and high schools nationwide. Really fun branding around company "report cards" and an eventual parent-teacher meeting event. Sadly, partnership was never announced and program never went live because of larger fires to extinguish. Something to go in the Failory Cemetery :)
The Failory Podcast
Towards the tail-end of my stretch at Failory, I spent all of my time working on every aspect of the Failory Podcast, the first step outside of our comfort medium of text. For each of the founders that we brought onto the show, I dove deep into the rabbit holes of their backgrounds to write episodes, chronicling my research and potential lines of questioning into initial documents I sent them before the show — this was something that founders loved.
From there, I'd schedule, host and record episodes of the show all remotely, either awkwardly coaxing founders to record individual audio on their iPhones or being extremely grateful when they had a proper microphone set up. Finally, I also worked closely with our editor Joshua in mixing and editing the final episode on top of writing show notes and punny pre-shows introductions. The podcast garnered a great amount of day 1 traction from Twitter and Product Hunt and was very popular among our subscribers. In total, before I left, the podcast had hit around ~20,000 downloads across all channels. You can listen to the podcast here — once you / if you ever get past cringy 19-year-old Brandon, the folks we brought on the show do have some really good insights