Building a podcast with 100+ million downloads as an 18 year old
Harry Stebbings dreamed of being a VC. After starting a podcast as a law student, Harry quickly made his dream come true.
Twenty Minute VC (20VC) is one of my favorite podcasts. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I used to listen to it all the time. Interviews with Justin Kan, Naval Ravikant, and Jason Calacanis were my favorite!
But I didn't know Harry Stebbings started this when he was only 18! Now, the podcast has over 100 million downloads. Here's the story 👇
Getting into VC and starting the podcast
Harry Stebbings got into VC after watching the film "The Social Network" when he was only 13 years old. He loved the scene with Peter Thiel and began to study the world of venture capital afterward.
While commuting to school 5 years later, Harry decided to start a podcast around interviewing VCs.
He's always had an interest in this area, no one else was doing this at the time, and the money could help pay for his Mother's healthcare.
Harry understood two things:
84% of commutes in London are under 30 minutes
78% podcast listeners churn to new episodes if the previous one isn't finished
So the idea was simple! Create a 20-minute podcast interviewing the world's best VCs, and post 3 times a week.
How to find podcast guests
But Harry was only 18. He had no connections, no background, and no reputation.
How was he supposed to get podcast guests and viewers?
For Harry, it was all about finding the right first guest. Someone who is high profile and respected, but appeared nice enough to agree to an interview. This turned out to be Guy Kawasaki, who Harry contacted through cold emailing
The request was brief and genuine, and asking for only 20 minutes of someone's time seems to be around the sweet spot.
Afterward, Harry asked Guy for 3 recommendations on future guests.
Things began to roll! The podcast hosted guests like Jason Lemkin, Ryan Hoover, Mark Suster, etc. All from a mix of reaching out and referrals!
In November 2015, just 10 months after the podcast was created, a single episode reached 100,000 listeners. And just one month later, Arielle Zuckerberg, Mark's sister, reached out.
Harry dropped out of school and pursued this podcast full-time.
Twenty Minute VC's Key Distribution System
What really began to separate Twenty Minute VC was the distribution. While Harry would post content 3 times a week, he spend the majority of his time actually distributing his content.
He focused on growing his Twitter, where he knew there was a large tech and VC presence. He'd spend 20 minutes every night sending a personalized DM to all of his followers, even though he hit well over 15,000 at that point!
After each episode, Harry systematically looked for distribution. He specifically aimed for people who are "incentivized" to share that piece of content.
Eventually, he built a community of champions willing to promote his content.
Harry would also ask for recommendations for future guests after each episode.
As a previous podcast guest, you would likely share the episode if you saw your recommendation go through! People like to feel a part of the creation process, and doing so encourages them to share actively.
Cross-promotion was also key to the early days of success for Twenty Minute VC. Harry was a common contributor to TechCrunch, posting blog-form content of his early podcast episodes. This blog gets millions of visitors a day, and utilizing guest posts is a great way to get early traction!
Nearly 8 years later, 20VC has over 100 million downloads.
Harry Stebbings fulfilled his dream of being a VC, managing a micro VC fund of over $8 million.
The craziest part? His podcast still posts 3 times a week.
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