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20VC: Scaling Wait But Why to 600,000 Subs; Behind the Scenes on The Research Process, How to Learn Entirely New Topics Fast, The Writing Process and Building Good Habits & The Distribution Process and the Business Behind the Blog with Tim Urban

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Posted on 14th August 2023 by Harry

Tim Urban is the writer/illustrator and co-founder of Wait But Why, a long-form, stick-figure-illustrated website with over 600,000 subscribers and a monthly average of half a million visitors. He has produced dozens of viral articles on a wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence to social anxiety to humans becoming a multi-planetary species. Tim’s 2016 TED main stage talk is the third most-watched TED talk in history with 66 million views. In 2023, Tim published his bestselling book What’s Our Problem? A Self Help Book for Societies. Huge thanks to Tobi @ Shopify for the intro today.

In Today’s Episode with Tim Urban We Discuss:

1. The Founding of Wait by Why:

  • What was the a-ha moment for Tim that Wait but Why should be his life’s work and sole focus?
  • What does Tim know now that he wishes he had known when he started?
  • What does Tim believe he is running away from? Why is he so fearful of constraints?

2. Wait But Why: The Scaling Journey to 600,000 Subs:

  • What was the first piece to really go viral? How did that change the trajectory?
  • What single piece is Tim most proud of? What piece is he least proud of?
  • What has been the hardest element of scaling Wait But Why?
  • What was the most surprising and unexpected elements of Wait But Why’s scaling?

3. Topic Selection: Choosing What To Write:

  • What does the process look like for Tim when deciding what topic to write about?
  • How does Tim know what his audience will want to hear about vs what they will not?
  • What topics has Tim thought would be interesting but post initial research, are not?

4. The Writing Process:

  • How does Tim approach the writing process? How has his changed over time?
  • What mechanisms does Tim put in place to avoid writers block?
  • What are some of Tim’s biggest tips to aspiring writers and authors?

5. The Distribution Process:

  • How does Tim approach distributing the content once produced? What works? What does not?
  • Why did Tim choose newsletter, Twitter and Instagram as his channels of choice?
  • How important has the newsletter been to the growth of the business?

6. AI: Super-Intelligence and The Future:

  • On reviewing his pieces on AI back in 2015, what does he believe he got right? What would he change with the benefit of hindsight?
  • Is Tim more or less positive looking forward at AI proliferating through all of society?
  • What is Tim most concerned about in the world right now?

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