The podcast is back! Today I’m talking with Turner Novak. Turner is someone I’ve followed for a long time. He has an amazing Twitter account where he drops hilarious memes, talks about life as an investor, and makes fun of venture capitalists and founders.
He also posts deep dives on companies like Snapchat about how their earnings work, what’s going on in TikTok ads, and a lot more. It’s an interesting balance, and he does all this while investing in early-stage companies as a venture capitalist.
In today’s episode Turner and I talk about how he creates content. We get into how he uses his funnel to raise capital, and how to generate the highest return on investment (ROI) for your audience. We also talk about how he grew to 130,000 followers on Twitter, why he failed to get a job in venture capital and had to start his own firm, and how to create a successful newsletter.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Easy ways to grow your newsletter audience
- How Turner varies his content to get more engagement
- Why getting to know your audience is so important
- How Turner used writing to expand his venture capital network
Turner’s Links & Resources
- Subscribe to Turner’s newsletter, The Split
- Follow Turner on Twitter
- Banana Capital’s website
- Follow Banana Capital on Twitter
If I want to connect with a founder who’s starting a company, whether they’re super early, whether they have a product or don’t have a product, have customers or don’t—someone that’s pretty early in the company building journey—I want to meet a founder who wants to build a publicly traded company, and I want to meet them now.
I try to make all my content hit that category, that’s ultimately the audience, so just make good content for your audience.
Okay, the podcast is back. We took a hiatus for most of the summer. I got super-busy running ConvertKit, which is what I do. We’ve done some interesting things in the meantime, we’ve launched the ConvertKit sponsor network, a bunch of new features, and we hosted a conference. So many things that meant I couldn’t run the podcast, but the podcast is back. It’s happening.
Today’s episode is with Turner Novak. Turner is someone I’ve followed for a long time. He has this amazing, hilarious Twitter account where he’s dropping memes, he’s talking about life as an investor, he’s making fun of venture capitalists and founders, and just this whole ecosystem.
He also posts these deep dives on companies like Snapchat and others; how their earnings work, what’s going on in TikTok ads, all this stuff. So it’s a really interesting balance, and his whole thing is he’s investing in early-stage companies as a venture capitalist.
I wanted to have him on to talk about how he thinks about content and his funnel, how it attracts founders, how he raises capital, and just this idea of how do you have the highest return on investment—the highest ROI—for the attention that you capture. Everything from memes to high-value educational content.
Turner talks about how he grew to 130,000 followers on Twitter, how he failed to get a job in venture capital and had to start his own firm, and what he does is with his newsletter and everything from there.
That’s the episode, let’s dive in.
Turner, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
I want to start with some quick context. What is Banana Capital, and what made you start it?
Banana Capital. It’s a venture capital fund I started in January of 2021. It was kind of a cascading effect of trying to get a job in VC. No one would hire me. If you want the longer story I can get into it, but it led to me starting my own fund. So, potentially a good or bad thing that someone who couldn’t get a job, wasn’t even good enough to get a job somewhere else, started their own fund.
Yeah. I, well, I think that’s the story of a lot of creators, right. Of someone being like, oh, I’m gonna get a job writing for this publication or filmmaking for whoever. And everyone’s like, no, you’re not good enough. Where’s your portfolio? Where’s your background? You’re like, no, no, no. I like hire me. I am good.
And then eventually like, screw it. I’ll hire myself. you know,
Yeah. It, it it’s sort of what happened.
It, it was kind of, I did, I did get jobs like an internship, and then I teamed up with these two other guys that run real estate firm and we were raising a venture. From their real estate investors. and then I, I was also trying to then raise, that fund and just, I had a lot of investors that were like, oh, you should just launch your own fund.
So that’s, that’s what I did. I’m making it sound like a very quick and painless process, but it was actually very painful because we started raising that first fund. The first close was set for March 31st, 2020. Which, if you remember March 31st, 2020, it was peak COVID insanity. I mean, no one was parting with their capital cause the stock market was down and people really didn’t know what was gonna happen, you know, just not just in, in the markets, but just like in the world.
So that was a very interesting time, a lot of scar tissue that I’ll probably never forget from that kind of experience. but yeah, overall. It’s it’s been fun and yeah, we have a pretty small fund. Our first fund is a 10 million fund, that we, we invest globally, mostly preseason and seed, which is just like a fancy way of saying like, we’re usually in like the first or second round of capital that a company raises.
So there’s not a whole lot of proof points. Sometimes it’s before there’s a product. Sometimes there’s a product, there’s some customers, but I mean, you’re doing maybe a million dollars in revenue, but usually less than that, you maybe have. Single or double digit customers. if you’re a consumer product, maybe like a hundred people have bought something or ordered something, or if it’s Like a consumer social thing, maybe there’s like tens of thousands of, of users or a hundred thousands.
Like it really, it really kind of depends and we’re pretty opportunistic and we don’t have hard rules. We just, we try to invest as early as possible.
Yeah. What are the, what are the types of companies, that you’re investing in?
So typically we’re investing in, I kind of pitch it as consumer facing products. So it’s a lot of just purely consumer businesses. Like I kind of think about it as consumer internet platforms. So are you building. What the next TikTok or Airbnb or Instagram or Spotify looks like, you know, there’s a, a bunch of these, you know, publicly traded consumer facing businesses.
I also put like Walmart, Amazon in that bucket just are you building potentially a publicly traded company that impacts a lot of consumers. but then that also leads to a lot of like software businesses that are kind of bottoms up, you know, consumer facing quote unquote. I mean, you’d probably put, convert it in that bucket too.
Like you’re usually selling to an individual. and then sometimes it’ll be like dev tools. it’s, one of the bigger investments we’ve made recently. You know, I think dev tools, you’re trying to convince an engineer at a company to start using something. but then eventually you’re going up the stack and you’re trying to convince the CTO to spend a million dollars or, or tens of millions to, to use your product. typically it’s probably about 50 to 75% of the companies are in north America. but we’ve done quite a bit international doing pretty, pretty open to anything. like probably the weirdest I’ve made three investments in Pakistan, which it’s, it’s the fifth highest populated country in the world, but there’s not a very large startup ecosystem.
Also invested in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Italy, Sweden. Couple in the UK couple in France, one in Nigeria, and then, Mexico, Brazil, two in Brazil, and then a bunch us Canada, all that kinda stuff.
Now what, what’s your average check size that you’re putting into these companies?
Or does it range a lot?
It, it does range right now. We’re probably averaging about 500 grant per investment. and trying to think of, like what our average valuation has. Recently it’s we probably shoot for about, it’s like two to 5% ownership of the company. I think our average over the last couple quarters has been like 3% ownership.
Yeah, they’re meaningful for sure. but we’re not, we don’t like lead rounds or anything. We’re happy to be the first people to invest. It’s just a pretty small fund. So I can’t come in and say, Hey, I’ll give you 5 million. It’s usually here’s 500,000. It’s, it’s a significant amount for us.
It’s a large percent of, of our fund. but I’m not you know, I’m not the sequoias or the a 16 Zs. I don’t have billions of dollars to, to throw around. So we make. Probably like three per quarter, three to four investments per quarter. So it’s, it’s about one per month. and some of those are gonna be following on, like, we’ll invest in like the very first round, like a preceded pre-launch it’s going well, we’ll be like, Hey, here’s another 250,003 or four or five months later.
Like sometimes we’ll do something like that yeah, we try to basically the only rules we try to have the bulk of the fund invested below a 30 million valuation. So we’ve done a couple smaller checks later stage. but that’s not really venture capital at that point. So we’re trying to find things where there could be a hundred X return on that one investment.
And, if you’re not familiar with how venture capital works, you make a portfolio 20 to 50 investments. Most of them fail go to zero because everyone’s kind of trying to hit a grand slam. And hopefully you get one or two or three that, that were a hundred X return and that kind of offsets all the losers.
And, at the end of the day, if you do it well, you’ll get a. Three to 10 X return on the fund, which is really good. but most people don’t do that. Most venture funds actually lose money on average. So it’s a really pretty hard, asset class that we could at, but leading into the conversation, having an audience and a brand can actually be super helpful to do that well, or at least above average.
So that’s kind of why I started writing online and kind of building a, building a brain online.
Well, yeah, that’s a lot of what I want to talk about cuz I think that these, like investor creators are a really interesting, I guess group of creators of basically this idea of when you, as a creator, you’re, you’re capturing attention, right? You’re bringing people in, people are reading, you know, your content, watching your videos, whatever it is, subscribing and then saying like, entertain me, educate me, something like that.
And in trade I’ll give you my attention. And then as a creator, your job is to basically say, okay, well I want to make money doing this somehow, you know, short term or long term, what, what’s the, what’s the highest ROI place that I can direct this. And so I wrote a blog post called, the billion dollar creator.
Which is, is about this question, right? Should I have sponsors? Should I, you know, if I’m an athlete, should I do like brand deals and endorsements? and ultimately it’s like, if you, my conclusion is, using the attention to own equity in something. So the attention to increase the value of something you own equity in is the highest ROI.
So I’m curious your take on that. And especially because. With investing, you know, you’re basically using like capturing attention and then driving, using it for deal flow and all that to invest in companies and then ultimately grow the value of those companies. so how do you think about the intersection between, you know, attention and investing?
Yeah. it’s a good question. I haven’t thought about this a whole lot historically. but yeah, I think I kind of started more as an investor. Like I didn’t go and go out and say like, Hey, I want to be a creator. Make content online. I was really into like public markets, public stocks, and I kind of went down this rabbit hole of, oh, there’s these great businesses like Facebook, Uber, Amazon.
I guess, I don’t know what they’re all worth today. They’ve gone down a bit recently, but like they’re like trillion dollar, you know, a hundred billion dollar companies. and if you, like, if you like, look at the stock chart and you go back, you’re like, huh, there’s like an IPO. You could, you could buy stock in the IPO and there you I’m sure.
A lot of people listening have seen, there’s like a meme almost of like, oh, if you bought stock in Amazon at the IPO, here’s how much money you would’ve made. And I was like, oh yeah, but. Wait, you can actually invest before the IPO. Like you can buy stock in these privately privately held companies and you go back far enough.
It’s like, wow. Like there were people that invested in Amazon’s like seed round, like when Amazon was a startup and they didn’t have any revenue and no, no customers yet. And I was like, man, that’s where the best returns are. Like, why don’t I just find me so many super early. And then I realized to get into VC, like venture capital.
I was like wow, I do not have the right resume. No one’s gonna hire me. No, one’s even gonna respond to my email, like, asking to, to chat. so I kind of backed into it and was like, huh, like, basically it comes down to people thinking that you’re smart and you’re gonna help their company. And you’re gonna be like, it’s kind of like the only asset class where. The asset chooses the investor versus the investor choosing the asset.
So like, in the public markets, you can pull up Robin hood, Schwab, Scott trade, TD market trade, just, enter the ticker and click buy. And you own it with private markets. And really with like VC specifically, like the asset, like the founder and the company generally is kind of seeking out and, and specifically like the best founders and the best companies are kind of like they’re picking who invests in them.
So you have to make people think. You’re gonna be a good person to add to that, to that cap table, cuz there’s gonna be a lot of people who want to, so I just kind of realized like, huh, I need to show what I’m thinking about. And like, prove that I’m smart. Prove that I know what I’m talking about. Just like show some different thesis that I have.
So the right founders are talking to me. and initially it was tailored towards getting a job in VC. and then over time it’s kind of tailored a little bit more and we can talk maybe how the strategy’s changed, but yeah, it’s kind. So it’s basically like a, if I had to get really scientific and I don’t always think about it this way, but if you really had to drill it down, it’s like a top of funnel.
It’s just like having founders that you think are gonna build really large compelling businesses, like reach out to me or be receptive when I reach out to them. Cause they’ve heard of me. And then you kind of have this funnel, you’re working it down of like, okay, we’ll probably make 20 investments a year or 15, or I guess like 12 a year.
We’ll probably do like 15 a year, this year. It’s definitely to your point about the ROI. It’s definitely high, if you can do it. Well, I think, like I said earlier, a lot of venture funds don’t actually make that much money, like profits on the investments. you know, a lot of ‘em make money.
When you, when you raise funds from your investors is a VC. You get, you get a management fee on the funds that you’ve raised and oftentimes. these firms actually make more money. from the management fees from the dollars raised and the actual profits from the investments, which is again, a whole nother topic.
I, I, I, never want to fall into that trap.
But yeah, so if you’re, if you’re really good at what you do. You’ll make a bunch of money on the good investments that you make from like all the profits and the investments. And I think you need to be, you need to have a brand. And for someone like me, who I didn’t go to Stanford or work at Uber, there really was.
There’s no reason for any founder to take my money. There’s no reason I’d be able to add any value at all. for me, my, my angle was I just write online people. I’ll meet people that way. So.
Yeah. I mean, that’s how I’ve built. My entire network is writing on the internet and then people pay attention and like, Hey, let’s be friends.
Let’s, let’s follow your stuff. So how did you. Like choose a platform. Did you start out, you had a subst newsletter and, and, and, Twitter, which, which came first of where you were writing and, and how’d you get that early start building an audience.
It started with Twitter.
It actually started Initially, in college, I wrote on this website called seeking alpha, which is this kind of, I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like a very, low non-institutional grade, like stock research thing, where website, where anyone can, can write about stock.
And I used to write about some stocks in there, cuz I. Get paid like a hundred dollars per article. And I, I didn’t have any money in college. A hundred dollars was like a lot of money. and then I, I started doing a couple, I didn’t use it for, I don’t know, five or six years after I graduated, but then I started to write a couple just like pieces on some publicly traded companies or just like build a track record.
Cause I thought maybe they’re out into VC. Was working at like one of these like big tech companies, just getting a job at them. so I started writing about Snapchat right. after the IPO. I was like, oh, everyone thinks this company’s going bankrupt. It’s next MySpace. I laid out the case. I was basically like, it’s the same business model as Facebook. And they have the same number of users in the us, which is where Facebook makes all its money. They have the same number of us users as Instagram and Instagram’s worth a hundred billion dollars analyst thing.
So it was a lot more in depth than this, but it was just like oh, this is, this is the bull case. I’d written written on there just a couple articles. thought I thought it was gonna I thought it was gonna be right. Eventually it was not right. Like at the time I probably looked like a fool. and actually. One of, someone at CNBC reached out to my employer and was like Hey, does your analyst want to come on CNBC?
And like talk about Snapchat and like, cuz the stock like, at tank that day or whatever. And yeah, it was, it wasn’t like something I was doing through my employer was kind of for fun on the side and they’re like, whoa, we can’t have you doing this. You’re gonna have to take this down. So I was like, oh shoot.
So then I just was kinda like, huh, well what can I do. I had like used Twitter a lot for, over the last, like 10, 13 years. I think I joined in 2009. Just used it for fantasy football and like D. Following new stuff like that. And I was like, oh, maybe I can just start tweeting. Like I’m not putting out official, like stock equity report.
It’s just kind of 280 characters. It might have even been 140 characters at the time. and yeah, so I just, I did a couple threads on, just Snapchat. I basically took some of the long form that I’d written and I just like made him into threads on Twitter. And this was probably, it was either like the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.
It was right around the time that actually Kylie Jenner came out and said she doesn’t use Snapchat anymore. And that’s when the stock like really tanked. So I kind of like took advantage of that and was just like, Hey, they just redesign the app. I here’s all these things that they’re doing that I think are good for the business model.
And it was basically, it was a bunch of product changes that they made. So it was interesting to people. I, you know, I had. Two or 300 followers on Twitter. It was just people from high school, basically who don’t use it anymore. and, I think I used, with stocks, you can add like a cash tag. So I did like the dollar symbol snap, which was like a lot of people search that.
And, I’ll never forget this, a reporter. And I think he was working at the verge, his name’s Alex Heath. He like retweeted it and like quote tweeted and it was. This was really good or something. I forget what he said. And I just kind of met, met people through that chain of events and writing a little bit more about snap and started writing about other things.
And, and it was always very much focused on like, I’m just trying to put out good content and I want smart people. I want like one really smart VCE to follow me and Make the decision to hire me. That was like the only goal. and so I, think I I started tweeting about like TikTok the day that musically rebranded as TikTok.
I was like, I used it and I was just like, holy cow, this is so good. This is gonna be like the biggest company in the world one day, like they’re gonna beat Facebook and I just started tweeting about it. And, I met a lot of people through that and I just picked a couple topics and I kind of slowly added new things over time.
And then. through this process, got a job in VC. One of the things I did was a kind of a fantasy VC portfolio. So it’s Like fantasy football or fantasy sports. but fake VC money, like at a fake million dollars and write, you know, like a memo on each company. No idea what I was doing, to be honest, I didn’t have a job yet. That was one of the things I I wrote about. and all these things, like, I guess you could say like objectively, like at the time they were just interesting to people. So I’d just pick up a couple followers. People would retweet I’d DM people, they DME. So just slowly build a network through that. I would definitely say it all kind of compounded over time.
Like it got easier as it went, ended up getting a job. I took an internship at a fund. just to make the jump into VC. And then I met these, the guys at Gil, my partner, Keith and Damien teamed up with them. I had started the subs stack after it was the summer, just the summer off COVID, and just decided like, oh, I need to do some more long form pieces.
This is probably smart. I think there’s like a hole in the market for just, like deep dive research reports on companies that, haven’t really been covered very much. So I wrote. I think I wrote about snap once, bite dance and TikTok, which I just knew really well from following it and kind of took a lot of the stuff I’ve been learning.
And then another deep dive on another Chinese company called pin Dodo, which is this it’s, they’re bigger than Alibaba now in China. And they were founded in 2015. So it was an insane story. and then, it just got really tricky with fundraising was just. Hard all the time. So I didn’t have time to do these long research reports sort of. And I just I kind of went back to Twitter and I realized that, know. I had realized this a little bit before that. So it was probably like three years ago. I realized how well memes did. And I just kind of started posting more memes and they were very easy, like so easy compared to like the ROI.
When you want to talk about ROI, it’s like insane. so people still knew and thought I was smart. But I also had a pretty big top of funnel. so I leaned into that a little bit more. and then that I probably did, I, I went very hard on the memes for like a year and a half. And just recently I’ve kind of started this like more consistent newsletter again. if I had to walk through, like, that’s kind of like the five minute journey, lots of learnings along the way, probably messed up certain points along the way too, but happy to talk more.
Well, I’m curious about you have this balance between like, Really thoughtful essays, like well researched, you know, investing reports and then just straight up memes, like just pure entertainment. it’s interesting. I’ve heard people, I think, Nick Huber, talked about this as he differentiates and his Twitter growth between like, as he moves down the funnel and he’ll put out these things.
That he like, kind of believes, but are specifically made to be controversial. You know, that he’s just like pure top of funnel. Cause he’s like, I want the max number of views on this. And then some people would be like, most people would be like, I hate you. And then some people would be like, okay, this is interesting, you know, and like move down and then all the way down the funnel, he’ll be. Cost segregation studies for real estate and, you know, and like his people will be following that.
So I’m curious for you, it sounds like kind of a similar approach right. Of memes to, you know, it’s entertaining stuff. We want to be on Twitter, to be entertained as much as if not more than to be educated.
And so yeah, that is at your top of the funnel. And then you just think of, as it. works down the funnel, you change the type of content.
Yeah, yeah, I would say so. I think.I probably don’t maximize the, the broad top of funnel as much as someone like Nick. Like I really, I really don’t want to tick anyone off. I don’t, I I’d rather just not tick anyone off and, have a smaller top funnel. cuz I think too, you know, I think there are actually some people that probably hate me that probably think I’m an idiot, which is fine. I, you know, I’m not, not that smart. but you know, it’s probably like with the memes, it. 99% of founders who have raised money and talked to VCs. They like, they agree. like, they totally get it. And they think it’s hilarious. And probably Like 90 or 95% of other VCs also think it’s funny. Cause most of my memes are just like making fun of myself and and VCs as a whole.
That’s one thing I, I never target like, individual. there’s, maybe been one, one in like professor Galloway. I, feel like he’s kind of like a, he’s a character. He’s a great, if you want to talk about greater case studies, he’s done an amazing job in marketing himself. but yeah, I really, I never go after any individuals. It’s just like venture capitalists as a class because we, as we also make fun of ourselves as like a whole class. So like 90% of VCs think it’s funny, but, and there’ll randomly times we’ll go on so much profile and I’m like blocked or whatever. And it’s like, oh, Guess they don’t have a sense of humor. but yeah.
And then there’s, I think it is interesting the way that VC, like investing works the way the funnel works. like the funnels. Definitely. Like you, you meet people and you like slowly, if you want to get scientific, like qualifying people down, just building relationships with people that you’ve met.
And from my, in my case, usually it’s through Twitter. Sometimes we’ll just straight up get a DM, like, Hey, I read something that you wrote, you know, I, I was leading Facebook last am and I’m building a new company. We should chat. it’s a pretty quick funnel funnel movement. so there’s a little bit of that too, for sure. but it’s kind of, it’s very hard to define because you don’t really know what’s going, like what’s going on in the back end. Maybe like a founder who’s been building a company for six months has been waiting to reach out to you and chat. And you don’t really know Like how they’re necessarily moving through the funnel.
They might not even follow me on Twitter. so I just kind of think about it as you know, you gotta with VC, you need to say top of mind with people. So with the content I put out, it’s just, it’s things that are shareable, you know, things that are like more viral, like, memes, and then also things that are. Are just more like thoughtful, like, oh, wrote like a longer article, some tweets that were actually insightful versus funny. but then also with VC, I think the investments that you make is kind of like your content and like what keeps people top of mind? Like if I was, if I was like the, the first investor in Facebook, I’m sure I could like delete myself from the internet and I would still have insane deal flow.
So that parts to that starts to kind of play in as well. When you think about like, how the funnel works.
So the, the deal flow is really the biggest source of like, if I’m thinking about as a, as a content creator, trying to sell products, then I’m, I’m saying, Hey, I put out this content, I got X number of followers that turned into newsletter subscribers, and then this turned into course sales or book sales or whatever other thing, you’re basically, you don’t have as clear of a funnel, but it has that result of like all of this content, these people paying attention, some more on the newsletter potentially.
And then the conversion, you know, or the further down the funnel is that event of someone DMing you and ed, basically saying like, Hey man, been following your stuff, you know, we’re seeing pretty sweet growth. Like it’s still super early. I’d love to have you on the, you know, I’d love to have you come on as an investor, which that could be so disconnected which I guess is the point that you’re making like, the me might be the first thing that they they’d see, but you’re never gonna get
Yeah, well, in reality, the meme might not be the first thing they, like, they might have seen something that was, you know, like, oh, Turner seems pretty smart. And then the meme six months later triggered like it like reactivated. Yeah. But the other thing to think about is it’s not like it’s just, it’s just about convincing, founders to let me invest in their companies.
You, you also like the, the, if you really consider about like when it converts into money in my pocket, like as a as a, creator, you, like I said, you do make some money from the management fees, but hopefully if I’m good, I’ll make more money when the companies exit and you know, you get a cut of the profits that probably won’t happen for like years.
So. That’s that’s part of it, but then there’s also the part of you have to raise money from limited partner, like LPs, who are, who are, who invest in your fund. So that’s almost like a different funnel in a way. And I guarantee like I will meet LPs. They work at like a university endowment. They’re like, Oh, I follow you on you on Twitter.
Like I thought, I didn’t know you were real. I thought you were a meme account. So like it’s, it’s figur also. How do you convert them down to funnel, but then also for them, you know, you have to convince them that you have a good enough product, which is, it’s basically saying like, Hey, I’m trying to raise 50 million, a hundred million, a billion dollars.
Whatever the number is I’m meeting these founders and they’re letting me invest X amount in their company. Like if you raise a 10 million fund, you’re probably investing 200 to 500 K. If you raise a 50 million fund, you need to invest 500 K to a couple million like per, per company. If you raise a billion dollar fund.
You need to prove that you can deploy 25 to $50 million like per company. So kind of moving LPs through that phase like also fits in with the type of content that you’re making to, attract the right kind of founders, like at different stages of their companies and like how much money they’ll, they’ll let you invest. if that makes sense. so you basically have to do it in like different phases where like you know, my, my very first fund, it was a 10 million fund. , it almost didn’t matter cause I can invest a hundred grand in a company and that’s, it’s fairly easy to do, I guess like I’m, I’m not making this seem like it’s super simple, but, and you know, now I’m kind of at a phase where I’m, I’m trying to invest a little bit more, so there’ll be some cases like there’s been a couple cases I’ve invested like a million dollars or $10 million in one company.
And I need to be able to prove to, my investors that like. I can do this consistently. And then also I can do it successfully. Like they want to see some cash come back. So I might need 10 years for some of those investments to, to exit and like fully monetize, I guess, and move all the way down the funnel if, if we’re thinking like a creator. so yeah, it’s almost like a multi-sided marketplace where you’re, you’re trying to balance everyone.
Yeah. Okay. There’s two places I want to go with that. One is like the long-term investment side. Let’s go there in a second, or like the long payback period.
But the other is like the two-sided marketplace, of needing to attract the LPs. Do you think about it deliberately of like, oh, these are the, the next 10 LPs that I want to work with and here’s how I’m gonna engage with them or that, you know, that contact, you know, like running a sales process or how is that working in, you know, in your content?
What’s the funnel on that side.
Yeah, that is, is much more an enterprise sales process. And I think generally with the, like with the founders, like, as you increase the check sizes, like when you think about that funnel and like how the the type of conversion and, you know, quote unquote, monetization changes, parts of it changes to an enterprise sales process. So like there I’m at. A founder of a company that you, that I’m sure everyone listening to has heard of. And they just that day, like, oh yeah, sure. I’ll invest in your fund. And they just gave me money.
There are others where they may work at like a pension plan, like a teacher’s retirement fund, or like a university endowment.
That’s like a five year, you know, enterprise sales process. But they might invest because those people don’t invest like 10,000. You know, a hundred thousand dollars in funds they’re oh, they’re looking to deploy, like they have a multi-billion dollar portfolio and to make it worth their time, they invest like millions of dollars at a time.
So they’re making a decision of like, okay, we want to invest 5 million. We need to make sure that we know what we’re getting into. So yeah. So that’s generally a much longer. Sales process. not, not just on like the, getting to, to know you, but also on like you as a, as a product, as an investor, seeing it all play out. and I think the content’s probably different too. Like I’m sure I’m sure there’s LPs. that, would just love me to write like thought leadership, like how the world’s changing and like crystal ball predictions and stuff. I actually don’t think that founders care and some founders don’t actually like that.
So I kind of tailor most of my content more towards founders and some LPs get it some don’t. but, but yeah, it’s definitely, I think the other piece is you as a VC with content, you can be helpful with like recruiting and like customer acquisition and, and like future fundraising. So some of your content is also tailored towards.
Talented engineer designers, executives, customers that, you know, the, the product’s a perfect fit. They just don’t know about it yet. also like other VCs that are like, oh, Turner smart. He invests in this company. I should check it out. There’s a little bit of that too. So there’s like, I don’t know. It’s like a five-sided marketplace or some ridiculous number.
I’m sure there’s more, more, stakeholders or viewers of, or consumers of my content. So, definitely a lot of moving pieces.
Yeah. I mean, and the content gives you a lot of leverage in each of those areas. I always talk about having an audience is basically the cheat code in business in all of these areas. Cuz you’re like, oh, I don’t know this person. Oh. But turns out they follow me on Twitter. Like maybe I can fire off a quick DM or you know, people have heard of you they’ve responded to your emails.
Any of those things. How do you think about that? Long-term payoff versus the short-term payoff because you’re playing a game that yes, there’s some management fees in the short-term, but like your expected value is coming many years down the road. Whereas I think most creators are thinking about. Like expected value from the course launch that I’m doing next week, you know, or from the affiliate link that I can include in this week’s newsletter or the, the sponsorship slot, you know?
Right. So you’re, you’re on a operating on a fundamentally different time horizon. And I’m curious how, like the pros and cons of that
Yeah. so that’s, so with the newsletter launching, I’m actually gonna start doing just a little bit of monetization of the newsletter. It’s gonna be. I’m gonna be leaving a lot on the table. Like I’m so what I’m doing is we’re gonna just run some ads and we’re also doing a job board for hiring, and it’s just basically prioritizing my own portfolio companies for the ads.
So it’s like, Hey, you’re, you’re a CSH company. You’re building like you know, some software for like, help a business. I like, I don’t know the category and I have a bunch of founders that. Run those types of businesses that read the newsletter and we’ll slide you in. You can like test newsletter ads, see how well they perform for you. and you know, before you go out and truly raise like a series a you’re raising like tens of millions of dollars, and you’re actually gonna dump money into newsletter ads, like test ‘em with me, you can use ‘em for free. And then I will run just like, if there’s like other companies that it’s like, I think it makes sense.
They think they want to reach my audience. I’ll I’ll let ‘em run ads. so I don’t know. I don’t know what the monetization of the newsletter will be. Maybe. 50% as well as I probably could do it but again, I’m. Hopefully the benefit is even more because I’m giving it to my portfolio companies where I have a higher ROI at the end. so that’s one way I’ve kind of offset and helped with, or going to help with that sort of mismatch. But it’s definitely been challenging where I’m like, man, I need more people to help me do things and I don’t have any money. because. The way you monetize, you, do get a little bit of money when you raise The venture fund.
It’s not a lot. What some emerging younger managers do is they will accelerate their management fees, where you get more of it in the beginning and less, further down the road. and I did do that and it. did help but it’s, it’s still not a lot. so that’s partially partially why I haven’t really done.
We, the team’s so pretty small, cause I usually don’t have a lot to pay people, but, as you, as you layer in more funds and then also, because the management fees, you gotta fund, you know, it’s X percent of year. For however many years and you do another one on top of it. So it was like, you know, you double how you double your income, I guess, but you’re, you’re paying more people to help you with things. and then also adding a newsletter. We’ll probably add other stuff too. So I’ll make a little bit more money, but yeah, it’s definitely, I’m not living like the extravagant, I have friends who are making like multi 10, 10 digits a year in like run rate revenue from there they’re creator businesses.
And I’m over here still not, you know, probably like 1% of that. Maybe maybe 5% of that. So I’m like, okay, well, well, you know, still figuring it out. But, but yeah, so it’s hard, very, very difficult to balance it all for sure. I think you just have to be really patient and, I’ve just always been trying to focus on making good content at the end of the
And I think eventually it’ll, it’ll pay.
Yeah. So I mean, what I see you doing is making these long term investments that will pay off really well. that’s the theory, that’s the goal. Anyway, and then now I think what you’re doing with The Split is interesting of. Having more of that newsletter content and saying, okay, what else can pay me today?
You know, and, and can turn into like, allowing to hire more employees and all
I saw you’re hiring ahead of content. Is that right?
Yeah, I’m not really sure what it’s gonna look like. so to be honest, so even with the newsletter, I’m definitely not like going out and trying to monetize, you know, quote unquote as much as I can. it really is like all the real will tie back into the portfolio companies for banana, for banana camp, but Like for the venture venture arm. yeah, so for the, the head of content, I, basically just want somebody to help me manage and like, cuz it sort of it’s like, it’s basically like, I don’t know. Three to 10 paragraphs, like editorial, just kind of me really quick touching on something I think is interesting. And then just like a bunch of interesting links.
And then we’re probably gonna have more like ops type media company stuff on the back end. So I don’t even know what that title should be. Head of content might not be a good title, but trying to find somebody just to help do that. And it’s not gonna be like ghost Writer type stuff. Like when I, when we add to the team, they’ll be like You know, Jen just joined the team.
Like she’s helping us do some stuff. so it’s, I, I think that maybe scales a little bit more you know, I’m kind of trying to make, so the, the brand is like, relatable as an individual. like, I think that’s why creators do so well is. cause people identify with the creator as an individual. So we’re trying to, trying to make sure we, we kind of keep that going where it’s just like, you know, people really connect with, with what we.
Yeah, I like that. How many subscribers do you have for The Split now?
So it’s 11,400 subscribers, but more than that was from my subst. So I took my subs converted to the newsletter. Basically. I just kinda said, Hey, I’m gonna start writing consistently. It’s gonna change a little bit. You can not subscribe if you want. Some people did. I think it was like, I had like, just under 12 K.
So I don’t know what that number is. It’s like less than 5%, like, you know, 3% of people unsubscribed or something. Yeah. Well actually it’s probably more than a few hundred, cuz I’ve gained a couple right since then, but, but yeah, for the most part, I think we’ve kind of settled in, so I, I have no idea how to grow a newsletter.
So that’s one of the things I need to figure out like a consistent daily, newsletter. So I think having Twitter helps with that, but I’m very bad at being self-promotional. so I need to figure out how, how you do that effectively as a creator. But I think I’ll, I’ll just kind of keep leaning on that, like just making good, interesting content.
I think cross-promoting, and like elevating other people also helps grow your own audience as a creator. So I’ll probably continue to kind of lean on stuff like that. don’t have a playbook yet,
Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen like Twitter works very, very well for growing newsletters and a bunch of our mutual friends have done that. Well, the thing that I always forget to do is like that weekly post, you know, for a weekly newsletter, at least saying like, Hey, you know, in, like to tomorrow, I’m gonna send out this issue that talks about, you know, a full breakdown on Snapchat’s earnings report or whatever it is, right.
Like sign up here to get it. And like that’s worth 50 to 200 subscribers to your newsletter right there usually.
That’s good. I should start doing that.
It often is. I mean, go basically go look at what Sawhill bloom is doing and, and just copy him.
Yeah, that I probably should.
He was giving me a hard time about it after one of the times he was on the show, cuz I wasn’t doing that.
And he was like, dude, You all, you have to do once a week or so you can do the tweet of like, Hey, I usually write about X, Y, and Z go sign up, you know, or if you didn’t know, I write a newsletter.
And then another time a week, do the, Hey, I’m going to like one that I did, Figma as a company, right. Is just they’re they’re killing it in the design world. I come from, like, my background is as a designer. . And so I was like, I wrote an article breaking down why I think they won, why they beat out envision and Photoshop and everyone else. And so posting on Twitter and saying, Hey, I wrote this essay, I’m sending it to my newsletter tomorrow, sign up here to get it.
I actually did it last minute where I was like, I wrote this newsletter, I’m sending it out in 20 minutes. , I’m here to get it, but that’s still got 30 subscribers, you know? that kind of thing. If you’re putting out the content anyway, basically doing different calls to action, like that can, can work really well.
Okay. I will, I, I will look up what you’re doing. I, I will look up what Sahil’s doing too. I’m pretty good friends with him. I just never like tried to copy his, his, his greater growth playbook, but I agree. He definitely does it very, very well.
Yep. I think, I mean, you have what, 130,000, followers on Twitter.
Yeah. And it’s, it’s surprising cuz like I will get people to be that, say like, oh, I didn’t realize you had like a venture fund. I like had this for like two years. So people you really need to remind people
Like why, why you exist?
Yeah. I mean, that’s a great point. I, cause I saw, you’ll see people say like, Hey, to all my new followers, here’s what I do.
And they’ll like break it down in, in like one or one to three tweets of like, I have this and I work on this and I care about the other things. And I see that and I’m like, really.
And then I think about it, like my own Twitter, you know, this year I’ve, doubled it from like less than 40,000 to almost 80,000.
And then you realize like, oh, most of these people probably have no idea who I am. I just like, wrote a thread once that they were like oh, that’s interesting. You know, so anyway, the point is to do these like subscribe to my newsletter and then also like these periodic.
Probably once a quarter, like this is who I am. This is what I do.
Yeah. I definitely, I need to I need to, do a lot of the best practices. I was leaving a ton on the table for me. I, I was always just focused on making sure I was a good investor and like the creating was kind of, it, was like non commercialized, I guess. I was just kind of like.
Like it all kind of tied in together, but I was definitely not measuring anything, not like tracking. Like I know, some people who maybe are. in like a similar position to me, they like report their follower growth in their like month in their Like, quarterly, investor updates. And I don’t really, really keep track that kind of stuff.
Like it’s literally, it has not been very. Like product dies or commercialized at all. So, I think I’m gonna start doing that a little bit more, but I think you need to make sure you remain really authentic. Cause I think people can under like people really pick up on when you start to, you know, quote unquote sell out or like, I, don’t know if that’s the right word, but you just need to make sure you keep it, you know, authentic to who you are. and I think a lot of times. people actually appreciate understanding and knowing the human behind it. like I, I get a lot of times where, founders who followed me on Twitter for a couple years, they’ve been like, dude, I followed you on Twitter for Like, three years. like I feel like, I know you cuz I am basically just myself on Twitter.
It’s very not, I, I don’t like do anything fake at all. It’s literally like, oh I love memes. I just like post memes and like, share all the. But I’m tweeting, like, things I think are interesting or that I’m following. So people like know what I’m interested in, And, and that helps with the flywheel of like the venture stuff is like, if you follow me on Twitter, you probably know exactly the kind of companies I’m investing in.
And I have like inside jokes to, like I’m one of the people that invested in those 15 minute grocery delivery companies that have made a lot of noise. So there’s a lot of like, there’s that plus probably like a couple other ongoing jokes that my, you know, the, the followers have. Like, I don’t answer.
DMS is one, I was probably like a classic creator problem, which is like staying on top of those. there’s definitely a couple other, a
Where it’s like, you know, people, you know, people are like, in, on the jokes with you, so
That’s awesome. When you I mean, you have it in your, Twitter bio of having fun at Banana Capital in The Split, you know? And so you ever were like, started doing like pure growth hack threads, you know, where everyone could tell you just copied and pasted that from Wikipedia or whatever, they’d be like,
You know, that would be the cell version of it. Whereas, you
Your memes about like VC’s being helpful, you know, it’s like, okay, that’s just fine.
Yeah, I kind trying to tailor it towards it’s all towards like towards founder. So I think about like, okay, if I want to connect with a founder, who’s starting a company. They’re they’re super early, whether they don’t, whether they like have a product, don’t have a product, have a customers don’t like, they’re so pretty early in like the company building journey.
I want to meet a founder who wants to build a publicly traded company and I want to meet ‘em now. So I kind of, I kind of try to make all my content kind of hit that category. And there’s certain like types of founders that it works really well with. Like younger-ish founders are like, oh, this guy’s hilarious.
Like I follow a bunch of ECS. They they’re so boring and like the stuff they tweet about makes no sense, but this guy’s hilarious. And then there’s another bucket where it’s like the founder who’s done like three or four businesses. They’ve been screwed over by VCs a couple times. And they like hate him and they like get all my jokes and they’re just like, oh, you just seem great to work with.
And then there’s probably a bucket in the middle where it’s like the very serious founders who. Like they want a board member to wear a suit and all that kind stuff. Like, and that’s just not who I’m gonna hit. So I think it’s probably like understanding like audience segmentation too. so yeah, that’s ultimately like the audience, like you just like make good content for your audience and minus founders that want to.
Start and scale really big company. So I try to keep it, I try to keep that in mind with everything that I’m doing. And then there’s side side targets too. And like side audiences of like other investors, talented people that might want to work at those companies, but then those people will probably want to start their own company in the future.
So you’re kind of hitting two with one and then, you know, potential investors in my own fund downstream like public market investors or other VCs. so I think just broadly. Creating content. That’s interesting to people interested in like technology related businesses. That’s kind of the, the sweet spot, which is actually a pretty big strike zone.
Yeah. There’s a lot there. Okay. So you’re talking about creating good content and that being the key to the flywheel, Like, what is your, your process there? If any, is it just this entertains me? And so I posted it or is it like I’m actively
Things? These are how I’m writing jokes or memes. This is how I’m doing my research and, the balance. I’m trying to find between each one.
Yeah. I I don’t do a lot of like how to, or like business 1 0 1 type things for me, it’s typically, I will see a funny video that I just can think of a funny caption with, and I’ll just throw it the caption on with the tweet. And that takes anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes, and very, very high ROI.
And then. I do just, just generally like broad areas I’m interested in, I’ll like share links or, you know, share a couple thoughts on something. and, yeah, it’s, it’s generally things I’m like interested in and. and. it’s it’s I generally kind of target towards like, I don’t, I don’t do much, like, learn with me, like I’m gonna teach you things for me.
It’s more of like, I I don’t know what the percentage is, but like the, the, top half of people who like, know what I’m talking about already, just cuz for me, like I’m not, I’m not trying to, ultimately I’m not trying to like, you know, monetize my audience with like courses or educational stuff and getting those kind of people.
It’s more so like. The people who we like work on things together. Like the founder who needs 500 grand, I invest. And like we work on, I help them with like some biz dev customer stuff. Cause I like know a bunch of their customers. I can like intru ‘em to the CEOs or something. Like, that’s kind of how I try to like tailor the content and, and kind of target the audience, I guess.
But again, I don’t, I’ve definitely not done a good job of thinking about this from like, Scientific, breaking it all down perspective. Like probably some other people have, which I’m definitely going to start doing a little bit more. but again, I think you gotta, you gotta make sure you show like your authentic self that kind of shines through whatever you’re, however, you’re creating your content, whether it’s, you know, how tos, whether you’re doing like courses, whether you’re selling like a product, et cetera.
Yeah, I like it. Okay. so there’s like being an authentic self and, and all of that.
If someone else was at say, you know, five or 10,000 followers on Twitter, and they’re like, Hey, I want to grow to 25,000, over this next period of time, what are like what are some of the other things that you would tell them, to keep in mind or strategies to try.
Yeah. what worked best for me was meeting other people who were in like a similar position, just in terms of like career creator, journey, business journey, like just people that are kind, I guess you consider your peers and almost. Like working together, quote unquote, but more so just like making friends with them. if I had to give you like a scientific playbook on how to do it, it’s like get featured in some of those like best accounts to follow threads or like get people to tag you on things. Just get people to say like, Hey, like subscribe. I just subscribed. Turner’s newsletter. It’s great. You should subscribe.
But more. so I try to do that stuff organically. and like, I would say, like, try to understand how the Twitter algorithm works. like, basically if you like a tweet that tweet will show up in the timeline of all the people who follow you. if multiple people with a lot of followers, like your tweet, it will show up in a lot of timelines.
If they reply. if somebody with a replies to a tweet, it’s more likely. That tweet that they reply to will show up in the timelines of of the people who follow them. so I just try to do that for other people. Like just friends who like, oh, they launch your newsletter, I’ll retweet it. I’ll like I’ll reply, you know?
Or like and like a lot of times, a lot of stuff I’m doing, it’s kind of like tech and founder related. So like, When I have friends, even if I, if I, investor didn’t invest like in their company, I’ll reply. And I’ll like, it I’ll, I usually only retweet if it’s one of my own portfolio companies, just for the sake of, segregating it.
But I’m really, I’m happy to like, Reply to a friend’s thing and, you know, try to help help them out. so I’d say they kind of do that, you know, I’m sure probably people are in like group chats with other creators. It’s always helpful. I’m in, I mean, one right now that’s been blowing up this morning, someone new join.
So everyone was like there’s like a hundred unread texts and like the signal I have to read, but like, everyone was like, oh, like, I love what you do here. Like, how do you do this? And people just like sharing knowledge. I would say, try to find, try to find your peers, be friends, like, be like as UNT, transactional as possible.
And that’s actually how you’ll you’ll have like a better time with it. If you like, just approach it. more of like, Hey, like I just want to like, you know, be, let’s just be nice to each other, just be friends and you’ll, you’ll find that there’s opportunities to kind of actually benefit each other over time.
Yeah, I like it. I mean, I’ve definitely benefited from having whether a more like formal mastermind group years ago to now just like the text groups or the a DM group, you know, with people where it’s saying, Hey, you know, here’s something that I learned, this is what works, you know? what do you think I’m gonna post this thread or this blog post?
What do you think of this?
I’m stuck on it. Can someone write a better one for
Someone’s like, yeah, it’s this. You’re like, oh, yep. That’s a way better headline, you know?
And it was like, no.
Were just like, oh, this is better. Like, that was the first thing they thought of. And you’re like, wow, I never would’ve thought of that.
Yep. And then also, you know, just even the basic things of, I drop this thread, you know, or, or this tweet will a few people go in, give it a
Early on, cuz it totally makes a difference in Twitter’s algorithms. They’re like. Great. This is popular. Like, let’s keep it. Let’s keep promoting it. It’s gonna get good engagement.
Yeah. Which, which I do think Twitter. will start to change that, I guess.
I, I don’t have a strong opinion on how it will change or what they should do, but it does, it does feel like people are starting to get ticked off with like the formulaic. I just tried Google drive. Here’s eight tips.
Everyone should know. And like how do use, like Google drive, whatever, like
How do those threads get like 20,000 retweets? And I’m just like,
So the thing, the thing I come back to with any sort of content like that is, I’m sure everyone listening knows about Snapchat, which is like this app. A lot of every kid in the country uses it. They, they make most of their money from this side business, like a different tab. That’s basically content like media from different like media companies.
The most popular one is from the daily mail. if you’re familiar with the daily mail, it’s like a tabloid click bait type thing.
The thing gets 40 million views a day on Snapchat like that, that content. I’m like, and that’s our most popular piece of content on Snapchat. So anytime just something on the internet just doesn’t make sense to me.
I just remember that, like, there is such a long tail, like 99% of people who. They just like, they, they, they’re not like super sophisticated and they’re like you know, how do I like grow my audience? And how do I make good content? They’re just like, oh, Kim, Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson just split up like that articles gonna get like a hundred million views, cuz it just appeals to a common denominator people. So when you think about like some of these threads, it’s like How to like format things and Excel, like that’s actually pretty, it appeals to a very broad audience.
Very broad appeal. Yeah.
And I think TikTok has trained people to, like content, to like show appreciation. and like for a lot of people, that’s like the equivalent of like, a tip where they, like, if someone makes good content, they’ll like, like it like show appreciation.
And I think a lot of these creators have, you know, they’ve at the end. of the thread, they’ll be like, Hey, if you liked the content. Give the first tweet alike so that other people will see it. And I think that has just trained people where like, that’s, it’s become very pervasive and people, participate in like the liking of those.
And, and like, some people will just be like, oh, this looks like it took a lot of effort. I’ll give it a like, Not knowing the whole Wikipedia arbitrage or whatever, whatever, like is going on on the back end. But yeah, I think, I think Twitter’s gonna make some changes to the algorithm to be totally honest. I I don’t know. It’s just, it’s a whole different podcast episode, but
How it works is important to, to growing as a creator.
Yep. I love it.
Well, let’s leave it there for today. Where should people go to follow you on Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter?
Yeah, my Twitter is just my name, @TurnerNovak. My newsletter is The Split. I don’t have a fancy domain name yet because I just started it. It’s TheSplit.beehiiv.com. I’m unfortunately not using ConvertKit, but you can find the newsletter in my Twitter bio.
That’s all right, there’s still time.
You’ll get me to switch soon.
Sounds good. I’m certain of it. We’ll have to jam later on sponsors, and there’s still other stuff we could talk about.
Yeah, for sure.
But, yeah, good to hang out. We’ll follow you around the web.
Awesome. Thank you.