7 mins

Friday Feature: First Class Founders

How Yong-Soo Chung is building a media empire while running 3 other businesses.

Sameer Ansari

How Yong-Soo Chung is building a media empire while running 3 other businesses.

Yong-Soo Chong has bootstrapped his personal HoldCo to $20M in revenue in 8 years. But he’s now building a media/newsletter brand simultaneously.

Why?

“Founders need to have a public-facing personality to attract customers,” Yong-Soo said in our recent chat.

He has scaled First Class Founders to 12K subscribers in a year to grow his online reputation and leverage that distribution for monetary (increasing revenue) and personal benefits (lifetime friendships).

So, how is he growing the newsletter?

In this week’s Friday Feature, you’ll learn how Yong-Soo….

  1. Delegates to get the work done fast
  2. Builds in public
  3. Uses 5 Growth Levers™️ to grow

Ready? Let’s dive in!

#1 - Delegating to achieve 100x efficiency

Each First Class Founders issue has a podcast, content recommendations, and newsletter suggestions. That’s a lot of content.

Yong-Soo has to prepare the script, record the podcast, edit it, write the newsletter, handle promotions, and more. But he only spends 4 hours per week to do all this.

How? Delegation.

🧐 Why it’s awesome

→ Expertise: Delegation allows you to assign tasks to individuals with the right skills.

→ Efficiency: By distributing work, you save time and increase the company’s productivity.

→ Enhances creativity: When you give your team members the freedom to do the work in their own way, they’ll exercise their creativity muscle to find innovative solutions to problems.

🙋 How First Class Founders does it

Yong-Soo is a prime example of doing what Khe Hy would call $10,000/hour work.

Instead of doing the work himself ($10/hr work), he delegates all the work to his team of a producer, podcast editor, and newsletter assistant ($10K/hr work).

More done, less time, better quality. Win-win-win.

And, despite only spending only 4 hours per week, he’s creating a newsletter that will pay off huge dividends (establish his personal brand, forge million-dollar collaborations, etc.) in the coming years.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

STEP #1: Yong-Soo and his podcast producer meet every Monday to discuss the content angle for the episode, questions to ask the interviewee, etc.

STEP #2: The producer then creates the script & questions for Yong-Soo to ask during the podcast.

STEP #3: After the episode is recorded, the producer shares feedback on sound tones, story narration, and other stuff to improve the content.

Similarly, a newsletter assistant structures the content every week. Yong-Soo provides her with a short blurb, and she does everything else—research, writing the newsletter, and designing the cover art.


Bill Kerr shared with us how he is doing the same for his newsletter.

✏️Steal this for your newsletter​

If you’re co-running a newsletter with a partner (like the Office Party founders), you don’t need to hire someone to delegate tasks. You both can divide tasks and start working.

But solo operators can benefit from delegating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Follow these steps to hire and delegate:

→ Create SOPs: Document a step-by-step process for contractors/employees on how to perform routine tasks ($10/hr work).

→ Hire and train: Filter out candidates through a test and pick the best person. Once hired, train them using the SOPs. Be clear with expectations around quality work, and what that looks like.

→ Avoid micromanagement: Trust the hiree to make decisions and do the job. Mistakes are inevitable, but use that as an opportunity to instill confidence, refine SOPs, and experiment.


🎧 Bonus: Learn more about how Yong-Soo is delegating for 100x efficiency in our recent chat →


#2 - Building in Public

Yong-Soo openly shares everything about his company and newsletter — how he’s growing, wins and losses, and tips/strategies other founders can use.

Marie Martens agrees. She (alongside her co-founder) scaled Tally, a no-code form-builder, to $60K MRR (or $7M+ ARR) through building in public.

🧐 Why it’s awesome

→ Connection: No one wants to follow a robotic brand account. People want to engage with and follow people.

Case in point: the recent Airbnb product release.

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→ Feedback loop: Building in public allows you to receive valuable insights, identify blind spots, and help you make informed decisions to improve your product.

→ Attract key people: By sharing about your product, milestones, and strategies, you can attract investors, quality candidates, and loyal supporters.

→ Accountability: Knowing others are following your journey helps you stay focused, consistent, and committed to achieving your goals.

🙋 How First Class Founders does it

Yong-Soo is doing a lot "in public". Here are a few ways we found him executing this strategy:

1) Yong-Soo shares the newsletter metrics with his subscribers.

2) He also shares how he’s growing his business and social media presence:

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3) Yong-Soo even posts newsletter milestones:

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4) Lastly, he even updates his followers about his lifestyle:

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✏️ Steal this for your newsletter

Building in public isn’t for everyone. And Yong-Soo even advises it can reach a point where you’re no longer relatable (the only downside to too much success, maybe?)..

But when properly executed—it works wonders 🙌

Review Yong-Soo’s approach to building in public, and marry them with the following steps:

→ Provide regular updates: Choose the social platform where those interested in your content hangout—and share how you’re growing your newsletter, increasing revenue/decreasing costs, lessons learned and challenges faced.

→ Focus on “you” v/s “I”: Building in public is about your newsletter, but center it around your audience: how your newsletter will help them, share reader reviews and feedback, and brainstorm content ideas with your audience. Like, literally ask them what they want to read about.

→ Be vulnerable: Trust is built on vulnerability. So share your personal stories and failures, highlight team members, and express emotions (for example, if you were frustrated with your recent lack of progress, share it. It will help your audience relate with you).

#3 - The 5 Growth Levers

Yong-Soo has identified 5 growth levers to grow from 0 to 12K+ subscribers.

0 to 1K+ subs = Organic content

1K+ to 5K+ = Partnership and Collaboration

5K+ to 10K+ = Virality

10K+ to 15K+ = Direct sales

15K+ = Paid ads

🧐 Why it’s awesome

→ Focus: A strategic playbook allows him to follow it without getting distracted.

→ Mix of organic and paid strategies for sustainable and fast growth: Organic content helps you get the initial traction without worrying about sudden investments. Once you’re getting traffic to you sign-up page, use SparkLoop’s Upscribe feature to get paid to recommend newsletters to your subscribers. And then use that revenue to invest in paid ads.

🙋 How First Class Founders does it

Here’s how Yong-Soo used the 5 growth levers:

Growth Lever 1 - Organic content: Yong-Soo wrote about business strategies on social platforms (LinkedIn and X) to build the initial subscriber base.

Growth Lever 2 - Partnership and Collaboration: He partnered with newsletters of a similar niche and audience size to cross-promote. He also joined newsletter communities on Discord and other platforms to find people willing to cross-promote.

Finally, he collaborated with newsletters (with high open rates) to have his newsletter included in their paid recommendations.

Here’s an example of this in practice: If you subscribe to SparkLoop’s newsletter, this Upscribe recommendation widget pops up:

Growth Lever 3 - Virality: Yong-Soo leveraged a referral program and a giveaway to scale subscriber growth. He recommends rewarding people for every 1, 3, 5, 10 referred subscribers. But most importantly, make the first reward something you get with ONE referral.

Growth Lever 4 - Direct sales: After reaching 5-7K+ subscribers, Yong-Soo contacted advertisers to sponsor his newsletter.

Growth Lever 5 - Paid ads: He’s using the sponsorship revenue to run paid growth campaigns via social ads.

Worth noting: just because he’s reached Level 5, Yong-Soo is still writing organic content, collaborating, and doing cross-promos.

✏️ Steal this for your newsletter

Copy Yong-Soo’s playbook to scale your newsletter. You don’t necessarily have to follow the exact order.

For example, if you have the budget, run paid ads right away alongside writing organic content and collaborating.

And/or...

→ use some paid growth budget to get high-quality, engaged subscribers with SparkLoop’s partner programand only pay for the ones that stick around.

Adding it up…

Yong-Soo has built an efficient content creation process along with a tried-and-tested strategy to build in public.

But he's not stopping there: he told us he plans to add YouTube videos to accompany his newsletter and podcast—which means we might have to have him back on the podcast 👀

Despite being still in the early stages of First Class Founders, Yong-Soo's built the foundation to create a major media brand.

Here are 3 things to do next:

  • Give us your take: what newsletter is doing something different and innovative we should feature next? Maybe it's yours... EMAIL US and let me know!

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