A conversation with @AndrewWarner from Origami.
We're always trying to learn about all the interesting things happening in web3. To satiate our curiosity, we host a weekly-ish Twitter Spaces series called Coffee Conversations. What follows is a summary of the eighth episode.
For the eighth episode of Coffee Conversations, we hosted Andrew Warner from Origami. Andrew is an entrepreneur with a successful exit, and he recently launched his book Stop Asking Questions. Currently, he is involved with the promotional efforts at Origami.
Andrew's entrepreneurship journey began when he started a company with his brother back in the 2000s.
They got their first big break selling online greeting cards, and went on to sell advertisements in various newsletters.
After that gig, Andrew wanted to inspire the same passion for entrepreneurship in others, so he started conducting interviews with top Silicon Valley founders (such as those from Airbnb, Dropbox, etc.) on Mixergy.
He built a small following of people that had started their businesses while listening to his podcasts.
Andrew's friend Ben Huh introduced him to Orange DAO, which is how he got into web3.
He believes that the fundamental principles of growth and human behaviour stay the same across all industries.
To make tangible progress, you need to occasionally put yourself in a position of vulnerability, and always know who you are benefiting and how you are benefiting them.
Andrew's top tip for anyone looking to grow projects is to find the people that have leverage in your ecosystem, and then propose a partnership that is equally if not more beneficial to them.
This transcript is edited for brevity and clarity.
Infi: A very warm welcome to one and all! This is the eighth episode of Coffee Conversations, and today we have Andrew from Origami.
Andrew recently published a book, and has been exploring DAOs of late. We'll discuss their journey into web3, their thoughts on DAOs, and how DAOs and web3 projects can grow. I'm sure Andrew has some valuable insights since they're known for their marketing skills.
Jaris: That's right, Infi. I've had the pleasure of knowing Andrew for a few months now. Back in the day, he started a business called Bradford and Reed with his brother Michael. They started as an internet company, and one of their first products was an email newsletter. They eventually hit it big by selling online greeting cards. I'm excited to learn more about how Andrew grew his business and what sparked his interest in DAOs and web3.
Andrew: Thanks for having me!
My name is Andrew, but I named the company Bradford and Reed because I wanted people to take my sales calls. I figured that no one would take my call if I called and introduced myself as Andrew from whatever.com or some new startup. But if I said I was Andrew from Bradford and Reed, they might think I was a lawyer or someone from an investment bank, and they would take my call out of curiosity or fear. Once I had them on the phone, I could talk to them about sponsoring. And it worked.
I got people on the phone, talked to them about sponsoring, established a process for understanding their goals, and set up a trial that could be expanded. At our peak, we were doing $36 million in advertising sales, and almost all of the sales calls I made were based on techniques like these.
Eventually, I burned out, sold the company, and took a lot of time off.
After selling my company, I wanted to inspire others with the same entrepreneurial spirit that drove me. In fact, as a kid, I was more fascinated by business books and learning how all these entrepreneurs started from scratch and built successful businesses than by something like comic books.
I was especially drawn to Richard Branson, who found a way to sell records in the UK without paying taxes by buying them from other countries. While I may not be fully on board with that idea, I appreciate his hustle.
So at the time, I had this deep interest in entrepreneurship, which lit me up. I wanted others to feel the same way. So I started conducting interviews on Mixergy with founders of companies like Airbnb and Dropbox.
I connected with the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial community and developed a following of people who shared my enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. To this day, I've heard of people who started their businesses while listening to my interviews. Just last night, I had dinner with several people in Austin who were inspired by what I was doing. That's where it all started and what I was doing next.
So, after all that, I had the chance to interview the founder of Origami, Ben Huh. Ben and I are friends, and he was telling me about a WhatsApp group he was in with some Y Combinator-backed entrepreneurs. They were all chatting about crypto and NFTs and just imagining what the world could be like if things were decentralized.
By the way, do any of you know about Y Combinator? I'm kind of a big fan. What do you all think? Jaris?
Jaris: I'm familiar with Y Combinator, but I don't have a lot of context on them. If you have some information you would like to share, please do so.
Andrew: So YC is a startup accelerator and investment firm founded by Paul Graham, his wife, Jessica Livingston, and others. They invest small amounts of money into early-stage startups and help them grow and become successful businesses.
For example, they invested in the founders of Reddit, Airbnb, and Twitch - all of which have become hugely successful companies. So anyway, once these entrepreneurs received their training and funding from Y Combinator, they stayed in touch and formed a WhatsApp group to discuss their investments in NFTs.
They were so excited about the potential of these projects and wanted to see how far they could take it. One day, they decided to take things to the next level and invest together.
So Ben and the entrepreneurs then started Orange DAO, a huge success. They raised $80 million, and they thought, why not help others create DAOs too? That's when they created Origami.
I was talking to Ben about it, and I thought this was just too good of a story not to share with more people. I took the recordings from our interview and turned them into a podcast, which led to me posting short clips on TikTok and other platforms. I even started hosting events to spread the word about Origami.
And it's working! More and more people are interested in creating their own DAOs, and maybe even hiring Origami to help. The best part is that I'm learning so much about how DAOs work, and I'm excited to see where this knowledge will take me in the future.
Jaris: Wow, it's really interesting what you're sharing here! Starting off with your childhood mindset and how you were more into business books than comic books, that's really cool. I can relate to that because I also had an entrepreneurial mindset at a young age. And it's important to connect with like-minded people when not everyone thinks the same way. But having resources like the Mixergy podcast is a huge plus. It gives so much insight into how to become a successful entrepreneur.
I also read that you used credit and ingenuity to build a business that made 30 million dollars yearly. Can you share how you utilized credit to make that happen?
Andrew: When I was still living with my parents, I discovered I had a good credit score. So, I started applying for credit cards and paying off what was due. Over time, I got tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, which I accumulated and managed by paying on time.
When I started my company, I used those credit cards to take out lines of credit and ended up with around $73,000 in debt. I used some of it to pay for school, but most went towards advertising, renting office space, and hiring employees. This debt was key to my success because it created a sense of pressure to pay it off, or I would risk going bankrupt. So, every week, I ritualized checking my credit card debt and moving money around to pay the lowest interest rates possible.
I was always aware of my debt and didn't ignore it. I knew I had to find a way to crawl out of it, and that mindset kept me fired up and motivated every week. That sense of desperation even drove me to push harder to succeed.
Let me give you an example of how this played out. So I built up an email list and sold ads with a CPM of $3-$5. Then, I heard about Net Creations, selling ads to big companies like IBM with a CPM of $100-$200. I was in awe of how they could sell ads for that price and thought, "I need to get in on this!"
I started calling Michael, this guy who was partnering up with email newsletter publishers like me, every day. I would ask him if he could see the value in selling ads for my email newsletters, but he kept saying that my email list was too small and that they only worked with bigger lists.
That's when I got desperate. I drove up to Michael's office with a $20,000 check and told him that I was the guy who had been calling him all this time. I said, "I understand that you don't think it'll pay off, but I guarantee you it will. I'll use the money you help me earn to grow my email newsletters. And in a few months, I'll be big enough for it to be worthwhile for you to sell ads for me."
Michael wasn't sure what to do, but when the owner, Rosalyn, came in, he showed her the check and told her the story. She kept the check and never cashed it, and that's how I grew my newsletter by buying ads. That ended up being a partnership that lasted for years.
Jaris: Wow, that's an amazing story, Andrew! I really look up to you and your entrepreneurial spirit. You were truly determined to make that partnership happen, and it paid off in the end. I especially admire how you took risks and came up with creative solutions. Your story shows the power of persistence and creativity in business.
Andrew: I always tell people that sometimes, you need to put yourself in a position of vulnerability to grow. Take my own experience, for instance. I found a company selling ads at much higher rates than I was. I recognized that this company held a lot of leverage over me and the entire industry. And this is where I saw an opportunity for growth.
I understood that I could reap major benefits by partnering with this company. So, I made it my mission to partner with them and also make it worth their while. This last point is key.
I've done it before, and it worked wonders. If you can make a compelling case, you can do it too. It's crucial to keep in mind that people will almost always partner with you if they see value for themselves.
To talk a little more about growing projects in web3, you need to realize that it's quite simple when you break things down to their core principles. For example, the fundamental principles of interacting with people, creating partnerships, and building relationships don't change, no matter if you're in a big corporation, an NGO, or a startup. It's a universal truth that applies across the board.
Similarly, when growing projects, the strategy doesn't change when moving from one domain to another. The tactics might change, but the overall strategy is more or less similar. It's about understanding your market and your customers and having a clear vision for what you want to achieve. In other words, know who you are going to benefit and how. Once you know that, the execution might vary.
For me, it was walking up to Michael and handing him a $20,000 cheque. It could be something or someone else for you. But it's important to know your audience and the people or projects that have exceptional leverage in matters concerning your space.
Infi: I strongly second that. I often wonder how to approach marketing in the web3 space. But then, I quickly realize that I am wondering more about the tactical details.
When I refocus on the strategy, or on the fundamentals as you said, I shortly come up with what needs to be done at the moment. So it's always a good idea to go back to the basics if you ever feel puzzled or if you are looking for a better way to do things.
Alright, that was an insightful conversation! We've reached the end of this episode of Coffee Conversations. For anyone that joined late, we hosted Andrew, an entrepreneur and an author currently working at Origami.
We discussed their journey from running their web2 startup to their interview series with YC founders to now exploring the web3 ecosystem.
Andrew also shared with us some war stories from his time running his company, and talked about the right mindset to approach growth with.
Do follow them on Twitter and check out their new book!
Andrew, do you have anything to say before we finish?
Andrew: Yes, I would, first of all, like to thank you all for hosting me. I'm always excited to talk about growing projects, marketing, etc., and it was fun jamming with you.
What I love about web3 is how collaborative and helpful everyone is. I would love to continue to conversation sometime in the future. Let's do this again soon!
Infi: That's a great idea, Andrew. Thank you once again for taking out the time to join us today. For everyone in the audience, we appreciate your presence!
I can see a few reactions from the ones that have been here from the start. I hope you all had a good time, and I'll see you at the next one! Till then, stay safe and work hard.