Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey, my name is Andrei Rotariu and I started Crypto Fireside, a crypto-related publication that focuses on crypto education through guides, reviews, interviews, and even satire.
I was inspired to start Crypto Fireside in part by Pat from Starter Story which is why if you asked me what the flagship product was a year ago I would have probably said the interviews that I do, but now the publication itself is the flagship because it can be used as a resource to learn and educate yourself.
Crypto Fireside is just over a year old in technical terms and it’s turning over on average about $200 a month. Monetization has not been a focus, and instead, I’ve focused on testing, getting the platform right, and preparing everything for take-off!
You can view this interview with Pat and Starter Story as somewhat of a ride-along, seeing as I am right at the very beginning of this journey.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been a writer and storyteller as far back as I can remember. I never went to school to study writing, journalism, or anything like that but I got involved with online content generation a long time ago and kind of fell in love with writing as opposed to filmmaking or other types of media just because of how easy it is. With writing, you just write, no cameras, nothing else necessary, just words and ideas.
I’m from Melbourne, Australia but moved to Dresden, Germany, (chasing the girl of my dreams) for a year around 2006. I pretty quickly ran out of money and couldn’t find work and so the only thing to do was go online and look for work.
I trialed different kinds of content related to cryptocurrency. Once I saw what worked I just rinsed and repeated.
I began to learn about affiliate marketing, user-generated content, copywriting, email lists, SEO, website development, and more. I eventually got conned by one of those “turn-key website” scams and lost a few hundred bucks. Of course, I didn’t learn my lesson and so I got scammed again this time by people selling me wholesale video games that didn’t exist…
…16+ years on, after falling for one too many scams, I kind of like to think I figured a lot of it out.
I’ve created a long list of websites, blogs, and social media pages, so many that I can’t even count. Most of them I abandoned. One or two still exist somewhere out there. One of my success stories is OzGreyhoundSales. This was a marketplace for Australian racing greyhounds that I built and then sold in 2013 after realizing I knew nothing about the space (and that it was a bit dodgy) and another was TheLizardPeople which was a satire blog that was poking fun at conspiracy theories. I eventually sold this one too.
All of this was my way of learning and teaching myself the ways of the web without any formal education because I’m just not cut out for that way of learning.
In 2013 someone introduced me to Bitcoin and that was it, I was obsessed.
I realized instantly what so many others had realized before me, which was how freeing and truly democratic Bitcoin and the decentralized blockchain technology that powered it was. I’m still surprised to this day when people argue about whether or not it has any value, in my mind, they confuse bitcoin the currency with Bitcoin the technology.
Around that same time, Dogecoin was released and when I heard that one of the founders Jackson Palmer was a fellow Aussie living in Syndey, I reached out to him immediately. I can't recall the reason exactly, but think it had something to do with asking him which charities the Doge team was supporting, he responded, we went back and forth a few times and that was that.
To make a long story short, I went kneck deep into Doge because I loved how fun it was, I’ve always loved comedy, memes, satire, and the rest and so one thing led to another. I had set up a Doge-inspired meme website and had somehow managed to accumulate millions upon millions of Dogecoins which at the top would have been valued at $2 million. I lost it all, of course, through a combination of being a complete dumbass and generally just thinking it would go nowhere (Dogecoin). I wrote about that here if anyone is interested in reading and here is the original Dogecoin address I used at the time.
The next crypto project to grab my attention was called the Safe Network. It was being developed by Maidsafe, a company based out of Ayr, Scotland, and headed up by a guy called David Irvine.
Safe Network had it all and still does. All of the true virtues and ethos of crypto, being freedom and decentralization, as well as the privacy aspects that the cypherpunk movements had fought for.
Fast forward, I had been writing on Medium mostly about Safe Network but I was also reading a lot of founder stories and similar stuff. I was a subscriber to all of the entrepreneurial-related subs on Reddit, I watched most of the entrepreneur channels on YouTube and of course, I read StarterStory and so Pats StarterStory was one of the initial inspirations for Crypto Fireside which I bet this audience doesn't hear often! I even stole some of my interview questions from Pat, sorry mate!
So that was the light bulb moment. It went together like a nice sandwich. Writing + Medium + Crypto + Interviews. It made sense to me anyway.
I had some small connections here and there in the crypto space just because of my time spent messing around and blowing up laptops trying to mine among other things and so I reached out to a few people and asked if I could interview them and they said yes. My first interview was with Professor Kronos (previously Professor Ponzo) from a project called RootKit Finance which at the time had a market cap of 40 or 50 million dollars.
One thing led to another and the next thing you know I was branding it and found myself working on it most days. It grew from there into other types of content and somehow along the way Hacker Noon made me a verified contributor and I started to get offers from people to write for them or publish sponsored posts.
The domain and content have recently all been migrated away from Medium and Crypto Fireside now has its own home and can sink its roots in properly.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
It was all through Medium in the beginning.
I liked Medium and still do because of how simple it is. I'm also a bit of a stickler for minimalism. I think Medium calls what they do ‘beautiful’, I wouldn’t go that far honestly, haha! But it is very clean and crisp looking, the editor is awesome and you can tell a lot of thought and hard work went into it.
Medium doesn’t offer much in the way of design which I suppose is part of why it works.
I played around with some color schemes and things that I liked. Part of the domain and brand name is Fireside which came from sitting down and interviewing people initially and so I felt the need to use warm colors like orange, red and yellow, and of course, that needs to be contrasted with a purple type of color but purple is too vivid and so I went with a maroon which is also the current color scheme on the new site.
The other thing I liked about Medium is that it was a free test bed. I could publish content and see if people enjoyed it or got value out of it through the comments, claps, and the number of followers and email subscribers I got. The downside to that is of course that I ended up having to delete all of that content post migration! More on that later!
Having a clean and uncluttered design was a must once I decided I was going to migrate away from Medium and so I spent a lot of time reviewing options. The web being the efficient place that it is, kept throwing WordPress at me, but honestly, I am not a fan of WordPress and never have been. It's too clunky and has too many bolted-on applications and plugins that just weird me out.
One of the people I interviewed, Memphis from RedSeaCrypto, well he and I got talking and I mentioned I was looking for a solution. Memphis recommended I check out Ghost.
I read as much as I could about Ghost, just to make sure that it would be the right solution and it seemed like it was going to be a great fit but I held off and didn’t pull the trigger. One of the reasons being I wondered how I would migrate all of the content over, it was going to take me forever!
That’s when I found out that Ghost offers a free concierge-style migration service for anyone who signs up for their Ghost Pro hosting plan. This was something I was going to do anyway because I hate all that hosting and server stuff usually. I signed up almost immediately afterward.
When choosing the theme, design, and layout, I looked at different options and even considered a custom solution but ended up going with the out-of-box Casper theme because of how simple and light it was.
Casper comes with a few feed layout options. I’ve settled on the grid style just because of how much content fits into the screen nicely when viewing on a desktop.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Starting on Medium there was no launch, it was just an idea, born out of many other previous ideas, born out of many other trials and tests and long nights, 16 years worth in fact and as explained earlier I just went with it, which I’ve never had a problem doing before and it kind of all just started to work, I don’t know how to explain it other than to say there was no friction.
Every other crazy business idea that I have had or started (and believe me I have had some hair-brained ones like the time I ran a dog search and rescue business) always had this friction, like it wasn’t meant to be or something. Well, Crypto Fireside didn’t have that, right from the start it just kind of worked and so I just kept going and never even thought about a ‘launch’.
The first post I ever published under the Crypto Fireside banner was on April 24th, 2021. Fast forward a little over a year and I finally decided to migrate it all away from Medium and onto a platform provided by Ghost. That was just recently, a month ago in mid-July (2022) to be exact.
Before migrating all of the content, I let my readers and audience know what I was doing and that I was making the switch with a couple of posts.
One of the posts titled ‘Goodbye Medium, Hello Ghost’ went a little viral when it was published on Medium. I Tweeted about it here because one of the things I spoke about in the post was that Medium does not do much for folks that don’t fit its look and feel and the interesting thing was that the post itself was the perfect example of what I was talking about. It ended gaining something like 30k views and only 1% of that was from Medium. The Internet Gods must have a dry sense of humor.
After migrating all of the content over, I put something up on Product Hunt. It felt like a milestone, even though I was ripping my hair out having to delete all the content I had worked to publish in Medium and Hacker Noon because the account manager from Ezoic said I had to. This was part of their terms around duplicate content, even though I had purposely marked every single post on both Hacker Noon and Medium with the appropriate canonical links.
It is, what it is.
I think apart from the above, the launch, I posted another Tweet (below) and afterward I smoked a cigar, drank a glass or three of whiskey, and celebrated the ‘launch’ that way.
Mistakes are supposed to happen though and as long as you learn from them it's all good.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The idea initially was to just test and see if the content worked as STEP 1. In my mind, if the content is not palatable for people and also difficult to churn out for me then it's not going to work.
As part of this process, I trialed different kinds of content related to cryptocurrency. Once I saw what worked I just rinsed and repeated but would again go back to trying different content because, as I say, Medium and my time spent there were all purposeful. It was all a test and that's all that it was supposed to ever be.
Just now I am beginning to think about ‘OK, how do I grow the audience and what do I do with it?’. I've tested the idea, tested the content, migrated the site and so now it's time to test monetization methods and test the audience.
In terms of answering the question, all of the initial readers came through Medium, but not exactly. Let me explain.
Medium is great, but it has a very specific audience that is not really into crypto or related topics. I think at some point Medium even tagged me as a top writer in several of their crypto topics such as Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, and Privacy even though I didn’t write as often as others or have as big a hits as some folks did and again, that’s because crypto, blockchain and the like are not popular category tags as compared with lifestyle, entrepreneurship, and politics.
What this means is that to even test the content and see how I could attract readers I realized very early on that I needed to do my own distribution because there was no way I could rely on discovery through Medium.
As part of that process I began to republish my content on Hacker Noon, simply because I knew they had a huge reach as well as distributing content via Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, and more.
A few of my posts on Reddit and Hacker News would gain me tens of thousands of views and that meant more followers and more subscribers.
SEO was not a part of my distribution plans at this stage because I knew that I would potentially do that work for nothing seeing as I was going to migrate away from medium eventually. Whereas compared to now, I am really ramping up the SEO and it appears to be having positive effects which is fantastic news.
The aim is for a lot of new readerships to come in from search engines. If I can answer people's questions or walk them through any problem that they have in the crypto world then I believe it’ll be a positive relationship with the search engines and the people doing the searching.
Had I stayed on Medium, which I wouldn’t have, I would have just continued doing what I was doing because it was working, you can see a graph below of our follower and subscriber growth. The more I posted on Medium and as long as I got titles, images, and tagging right the followers and subscribers continued to grow but remember, this was mostly not due to Medium or their discovery.
If you want to write on Medium and make a business out of it, here is a tip, go find out what their top most popular tags are, look at the top stories and write about that stuff, just make it better!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The migration only just happened and the site launched via Ghost on the 17th of July. So in a sense, it could be argued that this is a brand new project which means I don’t have a lot of data.
I’m looking at web stats and can see just under 18k visits and about 13k users. If I calculate the days doing the setup and migration I think I lost about a week plus/minus. In my mind, that's great.
We’ve only published a handful of new articles and we had a loss in traffic there for a little while until we taught the search engine crawlers that we had migrated and to send the traffic to us instead of Medium.
We’re also already monetized and generating revenue having had Ezoic set up on the 21st of July. It’s meager for now, but I don't really have any monetization goals right at this moment and so it's all a bonus.
I think if you said to anyone that they could set up a brand new website and have it monetized and generate over 17k views in under a month most people would not believe you and yet we’ve managed to achieve that, yes, with a whole year of work leading up to that.
Had we started under our own domain and platform it's likely we’d be twice as far ahead as we are now, but it's also likely the opposite would have happened.
In hindsight, migrating is more like a reset than it is starting over or starting from scratch.
Pretty much every single dollar earned is put straight back in.
Occasionally someone will ask me to do some freelance writing work or to do a sponsored post or something (which by the way I found out that you can’t do on Medium and so I started a press account via Hacker Noon and utilized their brand as author service).
I think I have put about $5,000 of my own money into it and it generated about $500 in combined ad revenue from Ezoic and the Medium partner program earnings. I’ve ticked over approximately $2,000 from sponsored posts and freelance writing gigs. It’s good to note that almost none of this latter part was sought out by me, and so the cost of acquisition is virtually zero.
I guess that works out to be an almost down-the-middle 50/50 split between revenue and profit but honestly, it's not even at the level where I am looking at any of that or needing to.
If it was only about that (short-term $), I would have stuck to Medium because you can see all metrics were on the rise. I think once CF can consistently sit at around 100k views per month I can start to test what works and what doesn't. This is a long-term project being built to be sustainable and so I need that ability to zoom out which will only come with time.
Traffic currently as of right now sits at 18k for the month of which 12k are new users, 760 returning, and 244 email subs.
In the past while on Medium we had 1700 followers, and some months traffic was getting to 50-60k views per month.
Our best post generated 13k views on Medium and the same post republished on Hacker Noon got about 24k.
The goal for Crypto Fireside is to ideally monetize mostly through ads and be somewhat passive, as much as I think that word is loaded.
The reason I want to aim for monetization through ads is important to me because I feel it's almost more honest even though it can seem somewhat annoying. Annoying but honest, I’ll take that any day over the alternative.
Crypto itself has at times been consumed with news about rug pulls and scams or projects that for whatever reason just tanked and with it people's money. Additionally, the crypto space is filled with people selling courses, membership programs, paid newsletters, buy and sell pick services, AI trading programs and of course, all of the same snake-oil salesmen that seem to scurry from industry to industry scamming and ripping people off and so I know I could take the audience I have now and monetize it fast through affiliate programs, hawking all kinds of crud, but that is not what Crypto Fireside is or what it's aiming to be.
In my mind, there is something disingenuous about writing and giving advice or creating guides on the one hand but promoting a program, product, or service on the other, especially in this space.
I want to try and keep it pure so that the readers that come by know that they can keep coming back because we’re not just trying to hang them upside down and empty their pockets or that we’re not just reviewing products and services because we are being paid to. I think that's gross and unfortunately, 90% of the space is this way. I’ve seen it first hand, I've been offered all kinds of fast money-making opportunities in the short amount of time CF has existed.
Because I want to aim to monetize through ads, there is a big focus on SEO at the moment and our very limited work in this area (3 weeks) is already beginning to pay off with all SEO metrics improving.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think I spoke on it earlier but in terms of mistakes, I learned that ad management companies are very strict about how they define “duplicate content”. That’s something I had assumed I knew the answer to. I thought that I could keep all of my content on both Medium and Hacker Noon and have it all point to the cryptofireside.com domain but that is not the case. To be able to be monetized through many ad networks you can’t even have the scent of duplicate content attached to you or they won't work with you.
This meant I had wasted a hell of a lot of time and energy creating canonical links and then having to delete everything anyway. Mistakes are supposed to happen though and as long as you learn from them it's all good.
I learned that I could focus and commit to one project if I forced myself to.
In previous times, I’d jump from one thing to the other. Many people say I have some kind of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I don't know whether I do or don’t or whether that even exists or not but in the past I struggled to stick to one project, however, this time round I realized how great the opportunity was and so after reading Atomic Habits by James Clear I knew I needed to do something different.
I committed to sticking to it and doing something every single day that would add to it, no matter how small that action was. Write content, tweet, research, read, interview someone, send an email, send a DM, whatever it was I did something daily until the habit was built. One simple way I did this was to tape a note to my laptop that says “STICK TO THE PLAN”. That plan was a document I had on my computer which lays it all out.
If I ever got lazy, that note would be burning a hole into my psyche and I’d force myself to do something about it. That very note is pictured below.
I mentioned opportunities. I’m from Melbourne, Australia and for those that don’t know, our Government went somewhat tyrannical during Covid and locked us down for a really long time, I think outside of China we got hit with the world's longest and most strict lockdowns.
It was during this time that I thought I could make something good come of this and so I used my time while locked down to work on CF. What else was there to do? You couldn’t go to the gym, you couldn’t even go outside at times, it was horrible and so I just thought that this was a golden opportunity that needed to be taken and so I took it and have not looked back.
Finally, I learned that family and friends need to support you. My wife has supported me with most of my insane ideas, bless her! This time though we sat down and worked out that if she took on a little more with stuff around the house, like cooking, cleaning, and looking after the kids which I’d normally also do because I’m a modern domesticated guru, haha, that I could spend that time working on the site and the content. As I write this my wife has wrangled the kids in and out of the car from school to the dinner table and now to their after-school activities while I have been sitting here writing this.
Oh yeah, I should mention, that one other thing I did not expect was that I’d meet so many cool new people and even make friends. One of my first interviews was with an artist by the name of Abbas Husain.
Abbas designed an NFT after me, which I thought was pretty cool.
I mentioned Memphis from RedSeaCrypto earlier being the person that put me onto Ghost. Well, another one that I have become close with is Doug from Aytwit engineering. Doug has done some freelance development work on Crypto Fireside. Reuben from Firo is another one that I regularly keep in contact with and there are many others.
One of the things I do after each interview is that I add the interviewee to a secret little networking group that I created on Telegram. Once in there everyone has the ability to chat or reach out to one another. This is great for networking and solidifying relationships.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Previously I used Medium for blogging and I’d recommend it to any aspiring writer, blogger, or publisher.
I use Ghost Pro for my hosting, publishing, and emails. Again can’t recommend it more and no I will not use affiliate links for Ghost on CF.
I had a Grammarly premium account but honestly, Grammarly can be a huge pain in you know what and so I got rid of the premium account.
I use most of the common web tools people would expect like Google analytics.
I’ve used SEM Rush and AHREFs but I don't get much out of them. I have a service provider that does keyword research for me. This guy will beat any software hands down, for starters because he is a human but also because he has the experience and it's a one-on-one personalized service.
I also have some distribution tools that I am currently testing such as Quuu Promote.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’ve been reading books on business, success, habits, and entrepreneurship since I was 19 years old (I’m 37 now). Out of all the things I have ever read and listened to, hands down the best resource I have found, which is free and readily available in various formats on Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, and on the creator's own website is Naval Ravikants How to Get Rich (without getting lucky).
Hands down, no question about it, the best. If you want to get into business, become an entrepreneur, start something, finish something or whatever it is, listen to or read it. Personally, I have listened to this about 100 times because I’m a bit of a meathead.
The information is perfectly distilled. It’s like a Venn diagram of all the things that work which cuts across all industries, spaces, projects, people, and everything else.
Naval looked at it all, took everything out that is questionable or could even be considered questionable, removed it and all that is left is the foundation. He then takes that foundation and summarizes it all into something that's like poetry or philosophy, only its real and tangible information you can use.
I like that it’s understandable too. I’m big on that with my own content. It’s pointless writing or making something that people won’t understand because it's too wordy or the words are designed only for a select group of academics to understand.
One other noteworthy mention is that lunatic Dan Pena. He’s not everyone's cup of tea but I vibe with a lot of what he says and even though I’m not out there trying to buy up million-dollar businesses which seem to be his model, he’s great.
From the crypto world, it’s gotta be the whitepaper of all whitepapers.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Seeing as I was just plugging Navals work, something I agree with him on is that all successful people have an action bias.
I have interviewed a bunch of them and the one consistent thing among them is that they take action and although it may sound like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how many theorists or wantrepreneurs there are out there.
That is not to say that all you should do is take action because at some point you need to stop, evaluate, learn, maybe pivot, add something, remove something, or whatever, but it's like this if you sit around thinking and as the saying goes over-analyzing you get analysis paralysis, so you have to start.
Personally, I am a self-motivated person and I’m enthusiastic about what I do and so I have not ever struggled with aspects of motivation and the like, although I have had those feelings from time to time and what I do is simple, I take a break from what I am doing, I go for a walk, I take a shower, I go to the gym and I play some pump up music, this works for me 99% of the time and when it doesn’t it just means I need to let it go for today and get back on the horse tomorrow.
One way I like to motivate myself, is I like to think about time. Time is valuable. In fact, it’s probably the most valuable thing that there is. Time is equitable because we all get the same, but it also runs out and I don't want to be sitting there watching TV because when I am on my death bed someday in the future, I don't want to be kicking myself because I didn’t do that thing and instead I wasted my precious time doing something meaningless like watching TV.
This is a huge motivator for me. Knowing I am going to die one day and its ticking along towards that inevitable point in time bit by tiny bit, unless I do something, it’ll all be a grand waste of time.
Besides that, I think you also gotta get the basics right. Meaning, health, relationships, and so on. If you're in a bad relationship or you struggle to find good friends or your health is not on point, you need to get those things right because it's going to affect you at some point in time and pull you back into it whether you like it or not. Best resolve those issues first before you test your health and relationships.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
This is a yes and no answer.
I have some funding for writing work that needs to be done and so if anyone is out there reading this that understands and has a passion for cryptocurrency, NFTs, and blockchain technology and can also write and understands SEO reach out to me.
I am also looking for unpaid contributing authors. This is a great opportunity for aspiring bloggers, writers, and journalists. Each contributing author gets his or her own page which has a bio section that can link out to the author's website and social media. This can be used as a reference as well as for some SEO benefits. Additionally, I will write a reference letter for any contributing writer in return for the great work that they do. Reach out!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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