How to Grow A Newsletter from Zero to 10K Subscribers [Mental Models, Experiments & Stories]

Podcast Details

Ali Abouelatta loves early-stage start-up scenes, so he thought about starting a newsletter – First1000

He shared his exact tactics to grow his newsletter in this article and we dived deeper into it.

Listen On: Spotify I Apple Podcast I Google Podcast

We discussed:

1:36 – Story in the startup scene and how he started the newsletter.

9:35 – How to improve writing in general if you?

12:30 – How he got his first 10 subscribers

16:10 – His tactics on promoting the newsletter on Twitter & Slack

18:09 – From 1000 to 2000 subscribers, how referral marketing helped him?

21:04 – From 1000 to 10,000 subscribers, what worked and what didn’t?

26:00 – People who are starting today, how should they think about starting a newsletter?

28:17 – What does “value” mean in terms of creating content?

30:54 – Rapid fire round

33:45 – My summary and 5 mental models from the conversation with him about newsletter writing and promotion

Key links


The summary


Writing a newsletter as a non-native English speaker is truly difficult.

I share this sentiment because I struggle with this too.

But Ali Abouelatta, the writer of the first1000 newsletter, was able to figure it out (btw, he is a CS student at Cornell University).

He rapidly grew his newsletter from zero to 10K, and now recently, he updated me with 26K subscribers.

Here’s what I’ve learned from him:

1/ To grow a newsletter, you need a newsletter “worth subscribing for” – What does it mean?

There has to be a good reason to subscribe to a newsletter.

Ali was passionate about startups. He was part of many startup communities, and he found out that many people are looking for tactics on how other startups grew their first 1000 users or subscribers.

He was naturally doing this research, so he started sharing the knowledge through the substack newsletter platform.

People were looking and asking for such information already.

So, there was already demand for such kind of content.

Indeed, it is easy to subscribe – I subscribed to his newsletter for the same reasons.

It’s your premise, your offer, and the value you give in your newsletter.

Consider your newsletter a product and really ask 5 times why. Why should someone subscribe to your newsletter?

2/ Let’s say you were able to figure out the “worthiness” of your newsletter. How do you drive a subscriber base?

You can read his journey here or listen to this podcast.

But here’s a short version for you:

  • 0-100 — Friends & network, sharing on Hacker news
  • 100-1000 – Getting featured on Hacker News, promoting on Twitter, slack, and existing founders retweeting his tweets/content. He also built adjacent products to grow as well.
  • 1000-2000 – This was the hardest, but his content was shared by different Product Management resources (I found it through Lenny’s newsletter too). He also created a referral program but that he discarded just now.
  • 2000-10,000 – He got popular through product hunt (he failed the PH launch the first time). He made it work the second time.

Now, he recently at 26K subscribers, his newsletter went viral on Tiktok.


And, lately, this Tweet worked out well for him to get more subscribers.


So, I asked him some questions to know for folks just starting what advice he’d give to himself (the mental model time).

I would say spend a lot more time just understanding where your value is. And how much value you’re giving your people. The thing about writing a newsletter is it that takes a lot of pushing out at the beginning, you know, to get to your first, then hundred, thousand, and then a couple of thousand people, but then you hit a certain point when you have that kind of where it just works on it.

So, you don’t need to put in any growth through our electronic growth hacker because you have, you know, just people who’ve read your work 5, 10, 15 times, and they trust you. And every time you write something that adds value to them.

So easy for them to share it. So I would focus a lot on being what value are you actually providing people and trying to develop a cadence to do it consistently and power through. It might take you a year. It might take you. A month. It might take you two years to get tobacco, to call mass, and just trying to brute force your way into it.

But once you’re there, it’s absolutely worth it. The opportunities you get from writing a newsletter are crazy. And yeah, just if you write good stuff, right. People would find it. It’s not the same with products, but actually with the newsletter, like if you write a really good one, like people will find it.

I hope this helps you to grow your newsletter.

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