How to Get Access to The Rich, Powerful, and Twitter-Famous
A playbook for über-ambitious creators
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18 months ago, I was an English Literature student at Rutgers University. I dropped out last September and now I ghostwrite for founders and venture capitalists.
How the hell did I get access to the startup world?
I've been rejected from every LinkedIn job I've ever applied to. I knew absolutely no one in startups or venture capital. And until July, I was in New Brunswick, NJ — home to four ramen noodle restaurants per square mile and zero venture funds.
I was forced to take the 3rd door.
Think of the startup world as an NYC nightclub. There's the 1st door where 99% of the people wait in line. There's the backdoor where the celebrities and supermodels go in. Then, there's the 3rd door. You've got to find the hidden door and barge in.
For me, the third door was growing a Twitter profile and then becoming a tech journalist. As a journalist, I met a bunch of founders and VCs via Twitter. From there, it was pretty easy to turn those connections into jobs.
The 3rd door looks different depending on your goals.
When I was in Rome in 2017, I tried buying tickets at the front door to a psychedelic music festival. But, they were sold out. So I walked around the side, jumped on the roof, and sneaked into the music festival. I ended up hanging out with the musicians and having a great night.
My friend Jack Raines tried applying for financial writing jobs, but was rejected. So he started a blog called Young Money. A year later, he has 20,000+ subscribers. Now, e tweets back and forth with best-selling author Morgan Housel and his work has been shared by Tim Ferriss and Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Devin Lewtan started a show on Clubhouse called NYU Girls Roasting Tech Guys with her friends at college. They grew an audience and she pivoted. Now, she's the founder of VC-backed media company Mad Realities.
The Problem with The 1st and 2nd Door
The 1st door takes too long and you have no guarantee to get in.
You can be waiting in a freezing cold line getting degree after degree and still end up broke and denied. All that time waiting in line, you're wasting time and money you could be spending building something cool.
Then the 2nd door is too exclusive.
Unless you're born into massive wealth and connections or have prestigious degrees, it's impossible to find this door. Most people don't even realize it exists. I have a few friends who were born mega-wealthy so I knew this door existed, but I couldn't access it. That pissed me off. I wanted in.
Below, I'll go over four types of strategies. But before you reach out to the rich, powerful, and Twitter-famous, you need to prepare.
Descriptive bio: You need a 1-sentence bio showing what you’ve done and what you do. This can be in your outreach message or in your Twitter bio.
Portfolio of content: If you're a writer, you need a blog. If you're a YouTuber, you need a channel full of videos. Bonus points if you're front page of Google.
Know what you want: You need a simple goal. Have Tim Ferriss on my podcast. Have a 20-minute call with comedian Sarah Silverman. If you’re reaching out to someone successful, don’t say “how can I help?” That creates work for them. Do the work for them and make a reply as easy as possible. More on this in Cold DMs below.
Know how you can add value: If you’re asking to chat for 30 min, you're fucked. You really just don't get it. These people's hourly rates are $1,000/hour and you're asking them to give up time for nothing. They've got enough friends. You need to be able to add financial value. Podcasts and interviews add distribution. Your creative services can improve their businesses. Really depends who you’re reaching out to. Figure out what you can offer to them before you reach out.
Ok enough preparation. Don't get too lost on the prep otherwise you won't get started with outreach.
Reaching Out to The Rich, Powerful, and Twitter-Famous
1. Cold DMs & Emails:
I failed at cold DMing/emailing from ages 15-22. No one ever responded to my long-winded 3-paragraph messages. I wonder why.
In 2021, I read a blog post about sending cold DMs and how you need to keep it as short as possible. It shows respect for people’s time. I immediately tried this and sent 1-2 sentence emails/DMs to CEOs.
Suddenly, I started getting replies. My first reply was from Morning Brew co-founder Alex Lieberman after I hit him up about his podcast. The second was from Derek Sivers, author and founder of CDBaby. They both sold companies for $10M+ and they were responding to me. Wtf?!
Since then, I’ve DMed/emailed back and forth with Paul Graham, Mike Solana, Antonio Garcia Martinez, and a bunch other tech celebs. I’ve made tens of thousands of dollars from my Twitter DMs. Twitter is my Salesforce.
What you need to understand is that the most successful people are the most responsive. Even though they're supposedly the busiest, they respond ASAP because they're always hungry for new opportunities to make some money or continue growing.
Through trial and error, I’ve cracked a code on what works in DMs/emails. I’ve also realized that no matter the email quality, you’ll never get 100% response rate.
The rules are simple:
Keep it as short as possible. No extra words.
Clear Call-to-Action (CTA). Make an offer they can’t refuse.
If possible, make it funny and memorable.
Here’s a few examples of emails I sent and got replies.
To Mike Solana, VP of Founder's Fund and Writer of Pirate Wires
Solana tweeted that he needed a podcast co-host and managing editor. I knew I wouldn't be good as an editor so I wrote this. We've been emailing back and forth for 6 months and I think there's finally a collab coming very soon.
To Greg Isenberg, Founder of Late Checkout and Advisor to Reddit
Greg said he was looking for writers for his product studio and venture firm Late Checkout. I set him a very short DM, followed up immediately with an email, and then we jumped on a call the next morning. My work with Greg inspired my post Digital Apprenticeships.
Sub-Strategy: Invite Them on a Podcast
As I mentioned in I'm Investing in a Podcast, podcasts are distribution for guests. Don't worry about if your podcast is big or not. Even if your podcast is small, that means:
They'll be getting practice
They'll have an interesting conversation
A few people will learn about your guest
"I sold them basements out, let's do arenas'," raps Jack Harlow. Rappers get this. You're not doing arenas your first show. Most people appearing on podcasts are humble enough to understand this as well. You need to do a lot of Cyber Patterns podcasts before you do The Tim Ferriss Show. 😂
Here's an example of a podcast request email I sent out.
To Derek Sivers, Author and Founder of CDBaby
I've been a fan of Derek's for a while and read his work Anything You Want. I knew he'd vibe with my work, so I shot him a message. Nothing crazy. Short, simple, with a clear CTA. He followed and DMed me on Twitter and said when he's done writing his book then he's down. Dope.
2. Comment on Their Work
This is a great strategy to build long-term connections. With the long-term in mind, you can't be commenting some dumb shit like "Great post!" or "🔥". All that says is that you're an idiot and yes-man. The rich, powerful, and Twitter-famous are surrounded by idiots and yes-men already. Be thoughtful and original.
Comment on The Pull Request by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Antonio Garcia Martinez aka AGM wrote a post comparing crypto airdrops to web2 advertising. Funnily enough, I was in the middle of writing an article called Advertising to Airdrops, so I was already thinking about the topic. I dropped this comment and he subscribed to Cyber Patterns and followed me on Twitter. We've since been DMing back and forth, and I'm hoping I get to help out his new company Spindl at some point.
3. Write about them
Write threads or articles about them → tag them → hope they see it
This is a low-risk, high-reward way to meet powerful Twitter people. You'll usually get a comment or follow just for writing a few tweets or an article. A lot of the time, they'll end up retweeting your thread: which is great for distribution.
It doesn't even have to be a thread or article. You can just quote them.
In my post I'm a Cyborg — And So Are You, I quoted and tagged Balaji Srinivasan. He ended up DMing me that he enjoyed the article. We've since DMed back and forth and I'm hoping to have him on my podcast eventually.
Last week, I posted The Dark Magic of Marketing, basically a book review about Rory Sutherland’s book Alchemy. I tagged Sutherland (who has 109,000+ followers) in the tweet, hoping he might notice. He liked it and followed me. We're doing a podcast soon.
I did the impossible.
(s/o @rorysutherland + @BoredElonMusk)
— Jason Levin (@iamjasonlevin)
Nov 6, 2022
How do you get an introduction? Be someone worth introducing.
If you're creating interesting content and have built yourself a good reputation, then it's a no-brainer for someone to introduce you to your friends.
But if you don't do anything interesting with your life or you're terrible at responding to messages, then no one will introduce you to people because they'll be risking looking like an idiot. If you have ~100% response rate and always do what you're gonna say you'll do, then people will feel comfortable introducing you to others.
This is what I like to call The Cool Shit Law. As you do more cool shit, you will meet exponentially more people doing cool shit.
I've gotten introduced to:
Multiple VCs and founders who were looking for ghostwriters
A guy dropped out of high school to join the Ethereum Foundation pre-ICO
Two investors who took me and a friend to Fogo de Chão in Denver
The head YouTube guy for Noah Kagan
Not only do intros follow the Cool Shit Law, but they also follow the golden rule. If you want intros from other people, you have to give intros out.
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