Insights from Audience Builders with Nick Huber
Plenty of college kids sit in their entrepreneurship classes daydreaming about becoming the next Evan Spiegel or Katrina Lake.
Few fantasize about acquiring and managing self-storage facilities. But that may be starting to change, thanks to the tweets of Nick Huber.
Nick, known in the Twitterverse as @sweatystartup, joined me for last week's Audience Builders session. He shared his journey from Cornell undergrad to self-storage entrepreneur to amassing a huge online audience.
On Twitter, Nick's bread and butter are threads. He shares a mix of in-the-weeds real estate knowledge and high-level life advice from the trenches of building unsexy startups. His acerbic style and no-nonsense approach have vaulted him to over 125k followers.
But why would a self-storage tycoon care about building a Twitter following?
It all started back in his college entrepreneurship class.
Choosing the right game
While Nick's classmates set their sights on the high stakes game of tech startups, he decided to focus on a playing field with less competition and a more level pitch.
Nick's chosen game? Self-storage. He and a classmate started with one facility near their alma mater in Ithaca, NY.
By capitalizing on an overlooked opportunity in an uncrowded space, Nick put the "Bubba Gump strategy" into action.
Bolt Storage, Nick and his partner's business, started to grow and add new facilities. But as they sought investors to finance their expansion, they soon tapped out their personal networks.
Nick needed to expand his circle of influence. So he sat down at his computer one day and registered the domain name sweatystartup.com.
And thus began a journey that would change the trajectory of his business and life.
The inverted curiosity pyramid
With his new website, Nick launched a podcast called, naturally, The Sweaty Startup.
The pod featured a mix of Nick's business learnings, plus interviews of experts and entrepreneurs from the world of real estate and unsexy small businesses. Nick's show became the anchor content that spawned material for his blog and, later, his Twitter threads.
In other words, perfect execution of the Inverted Curiosity Pyramid content strategy.
Early on, he posted every podcast to the real estate community on Reddit. This was enough to get him to his first 1,000 listeners per episode.
But a much greater opportunity awaited him.
Redditors have a well-earned reputation for rejecting anything that reeks of too much self-promotion. The Sweaty Startup podcast soon met this resistance.
After hitting a wall, Nick needed a new platform. So he moved over to Twitter on the recommendation of a friend. The fit was instant.
Nick's friend, Moses Kagan, described real estate Twitter as an online country club. Membership is free and open to anyone. Best of all, you can source deal flow from investors all over the world with the tap of the tweet button.
As I've written, audience is leverage.
Nick learned that well. Since joining Twitter, he's raised over $7 million to finance a $30 million self-storage portfolio.
And 100% of that came from Twitter.
Learn strategies and tactics from the world's most prolific creators, founders, and operators.
The power of threads
When describing his Twitter philosophy, Nick shared this simple but profound shorthand:
If you want impressions, write tweets.
If you want followers, write threads.
Threads are controversial. They can be overindulgent. They clog up many a Twitter feed. But they've become so pervasive because they work.
As Nick describes it, people go to Twitter to learn. They come to soak up knowledge about topics like real estate, small businesses, audience building, or entrepreneurship.
And the best way to learn on Twitter is from well-written threads.
Nick spends up to four hours writing his most successful threads.
According to his back-of-the-envelope math, 0.5% of thread impressions convert into followers. So a big thread that gets 500k impressions will result in up to 2,500 new followers.
After six months of writing threads on Twitter, Nick had one break through into the stratosphere.
Like a lot of Nick's content, the thread draws on his very specific experience building his business. But then it connects that to universal themes that hit home for anyone trying to make it in today's world.
Last week, I asked Nick to walk me through the play-by-play of where he was when he wrote it:
So will Nick's success unleash a new generation of college grads looking to follow him into the self-storage world?
But Nick is now playing an entirely different game.
And there may only be room on Twitter for one massively followed account focusing on that specific type of sweaty startup.
Or who knows, Nick could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Nick's story illustrates a universal truth that many overlook. There are near infinite niches in both the online world and IRL.
Find and own a niche. No matter how obscure it is, executing well can make you real money. Ready to add more leverage? Build an audience around your expertise.
Your goal shouldn't be to replicate someone else's journey. But to learn from the strategies of others.
And then forge your own path.