March 2, 2023

How Bigger Pockets Grew to 2M+ Members

How Bigger Pockets Grew to 2M+ Members

Today Greg is joined by Josh Dorkin, the founder of Bigger Pockets, a community helping millions of members learn how to invest in real estate. In this episode, Greg and Josh talk about Josh's (sometimes) cautionary tale about the grind of building a community out of nothing.

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Production Team:
Josh Dorkin:

0:00 - Intro
1:00 - The story behind Bigger Pockets
12:40 - Building an audience vs. Building a community
15:45 - Biggest challenges of running a community
18:18 - Protecting your brand
23:00 - Responsible monetization
28:44 - Creating products
32:57 - You don't need to be an expert
41:32 - Stop comparing 
47:47 - Josh's cautionary tale


Greg: All right, Josh welcome. Welcome. I'm, I'm so excited to, to speak

to you.

Josh: Yeah. Yeah. It's a pleasure, man.

Greg: you know, I've been watching Consuming Bigger Pockets for years, and you're the founder of that. Um, so it feels good to, to get to know


Josh: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, that's, that's great to hear. I, I love when I run across people who I never in a million years would've thought were, uh, were fans of our product. And, and, uh, so, I'm very appreciative to be.

Greg: One of the reasons why I really like bigger pockets and why I wanted to bring you on the show. And I, and I'm also just curious what, what you're up to these days, um, is bigger pockets is kind of like the OG community based product. Um, it's now like a very in style to wrap community around your product.

And we talk a lot about it on this podcast, but, um, for folks who don't know what bigger pockets is and why it's a community-based product, can you just explain what

it is?

Josh: So bigger pockets. I founded 18, 18 or so years ago. I was a new real estate investor trying to, be successful. Um, just, you know, looking for ways to make money on the side while working a full-time job. and, I, I ran into all these problems. Um, you know, when you, when you buy a property as a landlord, you, you have no idea what you're gonna face.

You, you just, you don't have a clue and the books don't really tell you what you're gonna run across. And, and so 18 years ago I went out and said, Hey, you know, I'm smart enough. I have, you know, I've graduated from college, pretty reasonably intelligent human being. Let me go buy some rental property.

You know, it seems like it's, it's pretty basic. and so I did that. I bought some property in the Midwest and the numbers seem to be very good, and I thought I was going to make a lot of money and provide a service at the same time and, and help people out and give 'em a nice, clean, um, comfortable place to live.

Um, but. , unfortunately, like I said, things happen, right? And, what do you do when, um, you have a vacancy and somebody moves in and starts ripping all the copper outta the walls like They don't have a book for that , you know, they, they don't answer that question. What do you do when, you know, the, the air conditioning, uh, compressors keep getting stolen?

How do you handle that situation? What do you do when tenants, you know, are leaving piles and piles of trash in the back room? Again, more questions. And, and the only way I thought to get answers to those questions was to talk to other people. And so back in college, I started building websites and I, I had this epiphany, Hey, what if there was a community around real estate investing?

So I went and I looked, and there were actually communities, but the issue I had with those communities was, Th I believed that they were all built around the upsell. The community I, I felt wasn't pure. I felt like, you know, if I asked a question, maybe I'd get an answer, but the, the answer was always gonna be a lead in to some kind of sales pitch.

Um, not only from the people who were running the communities, but also from the participants of the communities. And so for me, I didn't feel like they offered the purity that I expected in a community. So I set out to build my own, um, started putting together, uh, resources that I thought would be helpful, uh, just tools and resources that I could find, collate the information.

And then, um, I started to build a forum. Um, fast forward, eight years later, I decided I was on total burnout from doing this completely by myself. In addition, with an outsource, uh, developer hired my first employee, year eight. uh, by year 14, um, I had an exit to private equity and I've been on the board, for the last, you know, four plus years now, uh, helping our current c e o who was my number two, uh, when I stepped down.

And so we built a community, um, today, I think it's two and a half, 3 million members. We built, the most popular real estate podcast, um, on iTunes, still a top 10 business show on iTunes. Uh, and then we built out multiple, uh, other podcasts and other categories related. we built up a book business.

So bigger pockets is all things, for folks who are looking to build wealth, specifically through real estate. And, and whether, you know, whether you've been doing it for 30 years or you've been doing it, you know, just thinking about doing it.

Um, there's something there, there is a community of people, uh, to help you and, be there to, hold your hand.

Greg: And was that your vision from day one? Like from day one, did you envision books, podcasts, forums, or like what was your vision when you started this quote unquote, pure


Josh: the vision was, I'm failing , I'm die. You know, like I am failing. Yeah. I, I walked into one of my units and there was, there was a hole in the kitchen floor, like, you know, not, not like a mouse hole, like a hole that a human could fall through . And so, like, like, it's absurd, absurd stuff that, like, what do you do?

So I, I needed help and I figured there had to be a way to bring everybody together. So, so that was the first vision, was like, let me bring people together, um, to help me. It was totally selfish from day one. Um, but what happened was, over time, little by little, very, very little by very, very little, People were actually answering questions, people were helping one another out.

And I was like, oh wait, this isn't just about me getting help. People are helping one another. Wow, this is, this is cool. So, you know when, when I had that realization, I said, well, we've got a craft guidelines. We've gotta craft rules around how this community's gonna operate. Because if we don't, we will become.

That which, you know, I built this to, to be different from. Right. And, um, you know, almost instantly when, when people see an opportunity to do bad, they're gonna do bad, unfortunately. Right? And, and bad is not necessarily bad, bad is just being opportunistic, right? So, you know, very quickly we had people shilling and soliciting on, on the community and, you know, bam, we had to create a rule for that.

You can't do that. You know, we had people doing all sorts of things. Um, so, you know, as we went along and as we learned, we, we crafted guidelines to help make the community safe. Um, really starting from, you know, treat each other well. Don't be, don't be an asshole. You know, we had a no asshole rule. be because when you run a, uh, to, to pretty much any community, you'll see like, The experience guy always like, there'll be like a new question that comes out and they'll be like, well, have you gone and read, you know, all the other forum questions?

Have you searched, you know, don't be lazy, you know, and sorry, but it's kind of a dick move in my, in, in my view. Like maybe they did, maybe they missed it. Maybe it didn't come through on search or whatever. It was like, just answer the question. Just be helpful. Right? Or gently or kindly point somebody in the right direction instead of being snarky, right?

So I wanted a place that felt good for me to be, I wanted a place that felt good for people to hang out on. And we got that and we built that. And, you know, it took a very long time. Um, and I had lots and lots of other, uh, people in the space who as they saw our success, would try and replicate it. but you know, ultimately enforcing those rules, Is really hard and you get a lot of people who, um, push back against them

Greg: Yeah. And I think, you know, a lot of people have ideas for products or communities they want to build. They get caught up with, okay, I need to have this feature and that feature, and I need this, and, you know, I need all the rules and, what you're saying, which I think is really important, the insight, one of the insights I'm getting from you is you don't need to have all the answers on day one, as long as you're open to, you know, iterating, adding, changing, moving as you


Josh: absolutely. And, and look, I mean, I started with like a, I'm gonna get a little nerdy here. A P H P B B, you know, open source forum, um, built in P H P, um, and was modifying. To kind of have the design and features that I wanted un until I got to a point where I was like, oh, there's this really cool site called MySpace.

Um, and they built these profiles. Wow. Imagine having profiles in a forum. Community. Wait, let's do that. Right, . And so, um, what I did was I went from very narrow and then I said, I'm gonna try and kind of replicate all the features of, of what they've got. Hired a team out of India. And, um, you know, I didn't know how to code.

I was a hack, right? I didn't know how to code very well. And so I hired these guys and they did what I told them and nothing more and nothing less. And that left me with a, a product that, you know, had a lot, lot, a lot of problems. They, they delivered it to me and it didn't work. And I could have just said, all right, well, I'm outta business.

I spent all my money. And instead I said, well, let me go back to step one and let me, you know, let me start iterating. What's the next thing I want beyond, um, just the, the community, the forum. Oh, profiles. Cool. So let's just create a basic profile, you know, and then we added blog software, and then we added, you know, all these other features to it.

Um, so to, to go back to two questions, um, I did not have this vision of like this big thing that, that came with time as I realized what was possible. And, and what's interesting about that is this, you know, probably year three, maybe three or four, um, I went, went and talked to a couple venture capitalists, um, in Denver where I was living And, You know, asked them, Hey, what do you think about this? You know, what, what can we do with this? Or, you know, is this something that is fundable? And they both told me to just shut it down. , they, you know, they said there's no, this has no legs, you know, there's, there's no need for something like this.

And, I was like, thank you very much. Went home, thought about it. I was like, these guys are wrong. They're completely wrong. you know, cuz I saw it, I saw the need, I saw the community, I saw the, um, and what they had done was they looked, they probably looked at like, Hey, what is the current market of users for communities that are in real estate?

And they're like, well that's a small pile. Um, whereas I looked at it as, what is the market for people who wanna grow their wealth? What is the market for people who don't love their job or would like some financial freedom? Wait, that's a huge market. We could target those people, we can market to those people and we can really become something special and, and that's what happened.

Greg: I also think, you know, with community-based products like bigger pockets, it's not uncommon to sell those businesses for eight or nine figures, which. is incredible and life changing for those teams. But to venture capitalists who look at it and like, okay, I'm gonna invest in like, you know, I'm looking for billion

dollar exits. I'm looking for

billion dollar exists. And it's kind of like, you know, if you're getting, if you're listening to this and you're getting nos from VCs, A lot of people assume you're getting a no from a VC means you don't have a viable business. And I think that's completely incorrect.

you potentially don't have a viable venture, scalable business, but maybe you don't even want a venture scalable business.

Josh: Correct. Yeah. And I, I never, I never took a penny from anyone. Um, you know, I started with my $4 a month hosting, and that was the only money I ever applied into that business, was the first four bucks, and then the next four bucks and the next four bucks. But like beyond that, I, I bootstrapped the entire thing and it took a very, which is why it took eight years to hire my first employee.

Um, and, You know, I, I struggled and suffered through a lot. I mean, building a community is very, it's very hard. Getting adoption is really, really hard. And, you know, one, one of the things I, tend to rant about is everybody today has their own community. Hey, I've got my community.

Join our community. Like, you know, having a Facebook page is not a community, it's a Facebook page. Like, it's a social media profile. Like to me, and again, I'm, I'm, I'm a bit of a purist on this stuff, like a community isn't a community. Even when you're interacting with your fans, that's not a community either.

A community becomes a community, I believe, when you're, you're interacting with your fans and they're inter interacting amongst themselves, unguided. They're starting, uh, conversations, they're, they're talking about things between one another. I think that's the point at which you've got a community, and if we're gonna go and look at how many communities actually exist out there, it's a very small number.

Greg: Yeah. I think it's, it's one of the biggest mistakes a lot of people make is the difference between an audience and a community. And it, it really. Grinds. My gears, honestly, is when I see people using the word community instead of

audience, it grinds

my gears so much that like, we developed a framework for like a test, basically for testing.

What is a community? We call it the the tribe test. So

you basically need five things. Uh, is there Togetherness? Are there rituals? Is there a member identity? Is there belonging? And to your point, do they engage with each other? le you know, you have a team working on bigger pockets, but assuming even the team left right, like people would still be posting about it.

Asking questions, answering questions like the momentum is, is hard to, to

stop with a


Josh: Yeah. I, and I, I think a good judge, and by the way, I love those. I wish I knew those five rules back in the day. Um, but, I realized that I had a community when I was able to, um, bring on my first volunteer moderator. and then the, the next time that I realized that I had a community was when I didn't have to seat the questions, right?

Like, yay, you know, people are just asking their own questions. I think those were the two of the biggest. Moments for me, um, when I was like, whoa, this thing's got legs. Like this could be unstoppable if, if we water the seeds a little bit.

Greg: was there ever a point when you know, you were managing the community and you're like, ah, this isn't worth it? Because you did mention how hard it is to actually build it. were you ever on the edge

and, and thinking about,


Josh: 14 years until I, until I left it, I, here look, I, I, I'll say the stuff for me that put me on the edge, um, I hated. People were fighting. I didn't like that. Especially when like, there's good members of the community, both of which you like, who are kind of at each other, and you're like, you guys, like, I want you to stick around, but if you keep doing this, you, you're gone.

You know, it's when they continue and you have to get rid of them. you know, when you kick off your top poster and your next top poster and your next, you know, when you throw those guys out of the community because suddenly their ego becomes so big that they think that they own the place. That's really stressful.

When you get threats from people, that's really stressful. When you kick people out just for being, you know, jerks, you know, newbies and you know, you, you get nasty grams, that's stressful. So, people don't give enough credit to community. Leadership to community moderators and outside of communities.

Let's, let's, let's, uh, jump one level up to, large scale social media. I mean, it is a, uh, unrelenting, unforgiving job to deal with people's bullshit. and people treat these people terribly. And the things that these people see who moderate, you know, Facebook or Twitter or this other stuff, I mean, they're awful jobs, absolutely awful jobs.

Um, you know, people do it for the love. A lot of people do it for the love. but You have to have a certain kind of constitution to be able to deal with that. I'm too emotional, personally. I recognize it. Like those things impact me. They hurt me, they affect me. Um, but we built a team eventually, you know, once we started to hire, we built a team of people who were absolute pros who love doing that stuff, who don't let that stuff get to them.

Um, but again, for me, it, you know, it was, it was, you know, probably nine, 10 years of being, the first line of defense against it. And it, it was brutal for me.

Greg: how important was the name, bigger pockets to the success of, of the business?

Josh: I think it was an obstacle.

Greg: Interesting.

Josh: I think it was. I think it was, I, I think today it's synonymous. People get it. But I I, it took a long time, there were other sites whose names were directly related to, uh, real estate investing. Right. And, and I think that's easier and more obvious, you know, from many standpoints of like search engine optimization or, or, or whatever else it is. Um, I think in terms of building a brand, I didn't want a brand that was, Unique to just real estate investing.

I wanted something that said, Hey, wait, bigger pie. We all need bigger pockets, right? Everybody wants more money. Cool. So this could be appealing. So I mean, the brand kicks ass today. It was always a great name, but it was just difficult for me to build the momentum behind it.

But once people saw it and heard about it, you know, it caught on.

Greg: Here's, here's why I like the brand name. uh, there's a few reasons actually. The first is when you say bigger pockets, you just envision a bigger, like bigger pockets with more money in, in it. Like you can see it, you can literally

see it in your brain,

Josh: Oh.

Greg: you can see it. And I think you talked about like the lifestyle and the questions and stuff that you wanted, you know, answered.

And, a big reasons why you created this product in this whole world was because you did want bigger pockets. So it makes sense to call it bigger pockets. That's, that's one


Josh: Sure.

Greg: second is, to your point, it's niche in the sense that like it's grow wealth, but it's not, the real estate, you know, optimization,

you know what I mean?

Josh: It's less obvious.

Greg: it's

which is cool,

Josh: Yeah.

Greg: A less obvious name has challenges. So when you're less obvious, like people are kind of like, okay, why am I

here? But if you beat the activation energy of that, then you kind of win a lot of the time because you create that affinity and trust with the brand and they're, and so that's kind of, I feel like the hurdle that you.

Josh: Yeah. it doesn't matter what your name is, um, I mean, there's some bad ones, but mostly it's an uphill climb, right? I mean, brand building is not easy. It takes a lot of work. Uh, a lot of, dare I say grind, but like, grind, hustle. I mean, it's, it's, you know, it's continuous and constant outreach.

It's protection at any cost. You know, for me, the brand bigger pockets was, it was my baby. I, my number one job was to. It wasn't to grow the brand, it wasn't to grow the business, it wasn't to make money. It was to build and grow the brand and protect that brand. Um, and protecting it meant, again, kicking off the jerks.

It, it meant making sure we represented something good, something that people can look up to. I didn't wanna be associated, like, for example, if we had advertisers, we, we had tons of advertisers, uh, outreach to us, who were more than willing to give me money, lots of money.

And I turned many, many, many of them down because I felt like their product, um, ran against the grain of, of what we were trying to do. Um, I, um, would not allow the kind of, you know, get rich quick guys to, to advertise. I wouldn't, Put up with them, you know, I wouldn't even partner with, with companies who I thought might potentially damage the brand.

So I sacrificed a lot of revenue short term. Um, at one point, I remember I had an ad contract, uh, that somebody wanted and It was early, you know, probably year two or three, but it would've represented like probably 40 to 60% of our total revenues. And I said, I can't do it.

which, you know, again, seems kind of insane. But for me, you know, at that point I had this vision of like, Hey, this brand, you know, if we start associating, you are who you associate with, you are who you work with.

so I refused to do it, you know, it took a little bit longer to get where I needed to get to, but when we got there, we, we, we had done, done it our way.

We had done it without sacrifice, um, without sacrificing, you know, Who we were

Greg: Right. there's a trend happening right now where. creators are moving away from advertising. So Anthony Pompano, who's a popular Bitcoin crypto guy, he's got like 1.7 million Twitter followers, a really popular podcast. He, I think he took advertising money from FTX and obviously, you know, where that ended up.

Um, so he came out a few weeks ago and he basically was like, Hey, I'm no longer doing any advertising on any of my channels. you know, he's gonna monetize other ways. I saw recently he just announced he's doing an event and he charges tickets to go to the event. Right. And he'll make money that way.

Right. So I think you're starting to see, , craters, , look at advertising and be like, it's short term. but I'd rather, a lot of them, especially with big audiences, are like, I'd rather just like build my own products

and sell them.

Cause I can, I know what I'm selling.

Josh: this is not a new thing. You know, we dealt with it back, you know, 15, 18 years ago. with the podcast, when we launched the podcast, you know, we certainly screened the advertisers on the podcast, but there was a difference between an advertiser and an endorsement, right?

Like, in hundreds and hundreds of episodes that, that I hosted the Bigger Pockets podcast. I don't think I ever did a single endorsement. and it wasn't because there weren't companies I was willing to endorse. It was, there weren't companies that I was willing to endorse who at the time wanted to advertise with us.

Um, and so I, you know, we were more than happy to allow somebody to put an ad up, but I wasn't gonna read it. I wasn't gonna say, oh, and by the way, I love that product, blah, blah. You know, like, there is so much selling out, being done across the board in media and social media, in magazines, and I, I mean, you name it, listen.

We, we had, when we put out, you know, one of our first books, we reached out to a very big name In real estate and their response was, yeah, I'll endorse it. Just tell me what to say. And I'll say it like, are you not gonna read it? Are you not gonna look at it? No. Okay. Um, so I'm getting a BS endorsement from you just because you want your name associated with our brand.

No, I'm not gonna do it. So again, we turned this name down, which I think would've potentially been helpful to our, our selling, but it didn't feel right to me. You know, over the years I've, I mean magazines, man, pay for Play is present. Yeah. Magazines are all dying now. But Pay for Play Man was a big, big thing in paper magazines for a long time.

I'm sure it is in a lot of other spaces now still. But this stuff has been going on for a very long time. and I think it's wise of, of, of him and anyone else to, secure their brand a little bit better. Yeah. The ftx blowback on on a lot of celebrities. I mean, it's, it's big. It's, it's nasty. So like, you know, I, I think I used to say like, if Dunking Donuts is looking to advertise, like come on in, I will endorse the, the shit out of that Dunking Donut , you, you know, you get me some products that I like, that I use, I will endorse 'em all day. You know, I know the brand, I understand their brand and I'm not willing, um, I know they're not gonna do anything that could jeopardize my name, my brand.

And, and so people should definitely be careful and building their own products and, and other means for monetization is, is smart. I mean, we, um, we did it to Google proof ourself. because in the early days, the first ads that I was able to get on the platform were these text link ads.

Um, you know, they don't even exist today because, Google thinks they're manipulative and, and they are, to be fair . but like, you know, back then that was like how we made money. We didn't know how to, I couldn't make money any other way. That was the first way of doing it. Um, and they said, all right, anybody who's got text link ads, we're gonna smack 'em down in the, in search results.

And they did. Um, I chose the money because I needed it to survive . And I was like, oh my God, this big company Google owns me. That's, that's not good. I can't be owned by anybody. I've gotta figure out another way. And, and so that's why we launched a podcast. That's why we built out a book business. That's why I lo I did a conference in 2014, you know, by myself.

And the team now does one annually, but. , you know, and that's why we built memberships and, and, and things like that. Um, ultimately it was to protect us against one stream of revenue to protect us in case Google or Bang or whomever else smacks us down from search engines. Whatever. Um, I, I think early on it's harder to do, but as you grow, you know, you have to think about those


Greg: the other thing that's changed is it's now so much cheaper to build stuff digitally, right?


Josh: Oh, yeah.

Greg: you know, if you're creating a platform, either a community platform or you're a creator, building an audience and you're thinking about advertising, it's like, what if you put your energy in actually building a digital product, um, which you probably can launch in a day or two days, or three days. and then the other thing is there's global talent to help fulfill and support it, right? Like you know, you don't need your customer support agents in New York City.

like they could be in Iowa,

for example.

Um, and you can go find

Josh: Or the Philippines or

Greg: yeah,

exactly. So I think that's a huge trend that's only gonna accelerate.

and what you're gonna see is the speed of people creating. Mostly, I think, digital products you said something in the beginning of this pod that I really connected with, which is if you don't have a book for that, there's an opportunity, um, like you said, you created bigger pockets because there was no book on. Answering X, Y, Z questions. you know, if you're in a space where there's no book for X, Y, z, you're, you're onto something.

I had someone on the pod recently, two, two people actually. These, these guys, Nicholas Cole and Dickie Bush, and they're making seven figures from their community and online course business, which focuses on teaching people how to write. he was like, yeah, I could have created a, you know, a community or a course on writing, but then I would've competed with everyone else. So we only focus on start writing you. It's for people who don't write, who wanna start, and then, and we create products, services, community for that.

That's it.

Josh: Think about how, how hyper niche it is. But here, here's how that's gonna play out. By the way, I don't know those guys, but I, I follow them on Twitter at least. How I see it play out, they're gonna start to become successful. They are already, it looks like, you know, successful in what they're doing.

Ultimately, as they grow their community, they'll have the opportunity to expand. Um, from now they may choose not to, but they have that opportunity to expand. Oh, okay, now you're started. Cool. Now we can do intermediate writing and then we can do advanced writing. But like, if you go too broad, I I, I made the mistake of at one point going too broad.

and year eight I discovered it, because I said, Hey, bigger pockets is gonna be everything for everyone, real estate. and suddenly, like I stopped focusing specifically on investors and started focusing on, you know, consumers, you know, mom and pop buyers, and, and the product kind of lost its ability to be differentiated.

And so went back to the roots and said, all right, this is. Really gonna be hyper focused on, on investors and, and those people within the community. Right? So that's agents, lenders, contractors, you name it. All those folks are part of that world. and regained what little momentum we had lost from kind of losing our way a little

Greg: how did you know that you lost momentum? Was it a feeling that you had or were people. shouting and screaming, Hey, like, what's going on?

Josh: 10,000 hour rule.

you can't point to what it was exactly, but you know, you've put enough reps in that, you can spot it.

Greg: for people who don't know, 10,000 hour rule is basically you become an expert who is a Malcolm Gladwell.

You said it.

Josh: I think I was Gladwell.

Greg: Yeah. Malcolm Gladwell said that if you put your attention to something for 10,000 hours or more, you become an expert. And I'll challenge Malcolm Gladwell and

I'll say,

Josh: Ooh. C

Greg: challenge.

Exactly. I'm gonna say that if you put 10,000 hours or more, you build intuition.

Josh: I love that. Yeah. I, I, I remember hearing, uh, you know, a few months ago somebody was telling a story about police, uh, they, they were looking at the difference between like, uh, you know, bomb squad guys who were new and bomb squad guys who'd been doing it forever. I, I think it was bomb squad guys, and, you know, the guys who had been doing it forever couldn't point out.

What it was about, potential perps, um, when they put them through this test to see like, could they, ID identify who the bad guys were. but they, they just knew when they watched these guys who was gonna be a troublemaker, um, you know, may not be the best example here, but, but you know, ultimately, that intuition guides you.

I, I think over time, and, and for me, I'd spent so much time in the community building this forum, building the social network, it, it just felt like something had changed, something had shifted and I couldn't put my finger on it. and so we went back to our core,

Greg: The cool thing about you in bigger pockets is you weren't like a real estate expert when you started this,


Josh: no.

Greg: Like,

Josh: and, I, I always felt like an imposter syndrome. And I had a lot of people challenge me. They're like, who the hell are you to be talking about real estate? And I was like, I'm not the expert.

I'm the guy who brings everybody together. I'm the community, uh, the guy who, who, who builds the community. And I would always use Cuban as my example. Um, I'd say like, mark Cuban was never an N B A player, but he can own an N B A team and, and, and successfully run that business. I got my hands dirty in real estate investing and I, you know, realized there was a need for this community.

I was simultaneously running the community and invest. and I realized that I could not do both successfully. For me to be successful at something, I have to give a hundred percent, a thousand percent. And so I couldn't give a thousand percent to bigger our pockets and real estate investing. And I chose, I picked, I picked the, uh, the online platform because frankly, I thought it was more fun and more of a challenge.

I think, you know, I mean, like how many, you know, there's, there's millions of real estate investors. How many people are building like really cool communities? Not a lot,

Greg: Yeah,

Josh: at least back

Greg: No, and, and, and now you know, cool communities really just means like a community where people can nerd out and get a lot of value. And

If you're listening to this, you want to create a community, like you don't need to be an expert.

Like, I'll, I'll give you an example. So, you know, I have a lot of people on my team who are AI experts. I wouldn't consider myself an ai. I'm a product expert, but I'm an AI expert, so I tweeted out, Hey, is anyone interested in joining a free community for people who want to use AI to boost productivity? Frankly, selfishly, because I wanna boost productivity and I want to do it with other people, and I, you know, set this, this, you know, community up tweeted it, basically went to sleep, woke up the next day, and all of a sudden there's like almost 10,000 people who wanna join.

Josh: Wow,

Greg: there's no book for AI and productivity, let's put it that way.

So, came up with a name on the spot, you probably need a

Josh: I like

Greg: now it's starting

and it's, and you know,

people are talking in the community and I'm learning and I, and I'm putting in my reps and I. I'm researching and I'm, I'm sharing what I'm learning and I don't have it all figured out with this community cuz I'm still learning. but yeah, my point is, you know, you don't need to be an expert and you just gotta get started.

Josh: and that was one of the cool things about our, our show, our podcast, um, is still right. But you know, back when we started, I, I. I wasn't this guy who had done hundreds of deals, dozens of deals, you know, like I, I had very small, uh, number of deals under my belt. but I was really inquisitive and I was able to ask questions and, I later started my own podcast call, undeniably Curious.

So, you know, like I am undeniably curious, right? So, I'm good at asking people questions, and, and channeling the, these answers and really taking the conversation to a place where, other people can learn from it.

And there's a need for that right there. There's a demand for that. And, and that comes in the form of whether it's hosting a pod or, or running a community. and again, what happened over time is when I, you know, after dozens and dozens or hundreds of, of shows, I knew the answers cuz I had talked to the experts.

I had one-on-one , you know, experience with all these experts and academically, at least I was, I was one of the top guys out there right now in practicality. Was I? No, but academically, absolutely. You know, and you could have put me up against anyone and I would've been able to, go head to.

Greg: Well, I think it's also of the reasons why you are probably confident. Then is because if you're building a community, it's really hand-to-hand combat of like convincing people and speaking to people and it's like a one by one game basically. and through that it's really the best way to learn.

Like, if you wanna learn any topic, like start a community about said topic.

Josh: over the 14 years that I, I was, you know, actively running bigger pockets. I talked to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, about real estate, you know, either directly in person at events, um, either out on the street and about, by email, uh, by social media on our platform. , um, like you said, it e every single eyeball counted, you know, whether it was guest posting on somebody else's site, whether it was going in other communities ancillary.

I, I, I thought there was kind of a gentleman's agreement. At least I, I had my own gentleman's agreement where I would never go onto competitive platform and shill for our platform. I thought it was just bad taste, bad form. Um, but I would go in like a personal finance site and, and certainly talk about who we were and what we were doing.

But it was, yeah, it's one by one, you know, especially in the early days. 10 K members is, is no joke you know, I don't think I had 10,000 members for.

Maybe eight, two years, three years.

Greg: I think the other difference between now and then is with social, you know, how big Instagram,

Twitter, TikTok,

Josh: Oh yeah.

Greg: you can really get to scale quickly. Like there's people on, you know, TikTok, uh, you know, I've been doing some research cuz of the, you probably need a robot community.

Like there's these AI influencers. on TikTok that have 120,000 followers, 150,000 followers is this guy. Like I was just looking at Justin Feinberg

and he just talks about chat, G p t prompts, and he just like, that's what he does. And he got to 150,000 followers chat. G P T is like, what, two months?

You know, a couple months

old, right? Like

Josh: A hundred million.

Greg: crazy. It's crazy.

So the scale, that's another cool, you know, we talked about like no code and, and the ability to build quickly, but also the social platforms, being able to distribute quickly is, is huge.

Josh: what's crazy is, we, we had talked about, the pure form, the pure name of community, right? Like, you know, is me having a social profile on Instagram, a community, or me having a social profile on, on Twitter community. Eh, you, you know, I think there's some semblance of, of it.

You know, I, I think I still, I have somewhat of a community still on Twitter, um, where people know each other, they're interacting. I interact with, you know, in, in various communities on Twitter and other places. But like I mean, take beast, right? I mean, that dude is arguably one of the most powerful people on planet earth.

Like, seriously, this guy can do anything because his audience is so big you know, he's pretty cool about it. You know, he, he's not, Abusing it. There are other people whose names I won't mention, who have massive, massive audiences, who have completely let that go to their heads and think they're untouchable, infallible and, you know, do a lot of dumb things all the time.

but that power in audience allows you to, take that community and, and use it for good or for evil.

Um, especially today, I mean it's, it's, it's a trip man. Just looking at how people can kind of set their army of followers to do all kinds of things again, good.


Greg: Yeah. I mean, on the Mr. Beast thing, Mr. Beast regularly gets more Twitter likes than the president of the United States

Josh: That's crazy.

Greg: I think if you build a lot of affinity and trust with your audience, then to your point, like you can get them to do


there's that famous picture now of all the people who went to Mr.

Beast Grand opening of Beast Burger in this mall. Like it, the reason you can get thousands of people to show up, I don't know where it was in like

North Carolina

Is like, because of all the goodwill that he's built over the last eight years or


Josh: Right. . Yeah. It's, it's wild. So there is something though, like, the people who are listening right now, there's probably people who, who have a community of one, right? Their mom or or their girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever, right? Um, and, I guess what, what I want to say to those people is like, it's really easy to look at a, like Mr.

Beast and say, oh, well I'll never do that. I shouldn't even start, right? I've spoken to, you know, lots of people who, who would be startup, uh, founders and what I, what I always found interesting was like to a large portion of them, they would not be successful if they did not have a billion dollar business.

Right? And if you look at the numbers, you're like, there's a reason they call that a unicorn, right? Very few people get there. If you have a business that's a $5 million business, you know, with, 20% margins and you own a hundred percent, you're making a billion million bucks a year, you don't need a 10 million, a 20, a 50, a hundred, a 500 mil billion.

You don't need that. and we get so caught up in this fomo, and this comparison, world that we're in, thanks to social, that, you know, we've lost our minds when it comes to what is actual success. Like most people would be really happy, you know, making a million bucks a year and. Having a pretty good life, you know, like, that's not bad.

That's a really good way to raise your family and go about living. I, I mean, a million bucks is a hell of a lot of money to spend every year, but if you're comparing yourself to the billion dollar business, the 500, like suddenly, you're like, oh, this sucks. But if you take a second and pause, wait, that's not bad.

So to be able to, like, if you're a founder and think about starting a business, like get some perspective stop competing with the guys at the, the elite. Stop competing with the 1%. it's just gonna drive you crazy. And the same with lifestyle. Lifestyle bloat and, and community. Like I, , I encourage everyone to have some perspective because we, we are way too busy these days comparing ourselves to the biggest and the best, so to speak. Um, and it's really easy to think that you're a failure when you're competing against these just enormous odds. You know, beast, you know, I mean, it's an anomaly.

unicorns are anomalies. You know, these, these massive followings, they're anomalies. The average people don't have those numbers, so stop competing with, with these anomalies.

Greg: I was talking with one of the top YouTubers in the world, and he also manage. Other YouTubers, and he told me, Mr. Beast is such an anomaly. If I saw him, let's say in 2008 or 2009 when he started, and you would've told me that this was his genre of, you know, videos that he was gonna create, I would've told you with a hundred percent certainty that he, this would not work.

And I think the other thing about communities and audiences is that you never know if it's gonna work or not really. I might think like, you probably need a robot might work. but you know, you never know. You, you literally never know. And so I think like, to, to, your point, it's kind of just like, get, get going,

Josh: Get started. Yeah. Well, your product guy, I mean, like, I think about some of the, the ideas that I tried as a part of bigger pockets over the

Greg: Yeah.

Josh: Uh, some of the products I tried to launch and, there were things where I, my audience literally straight up told me like, oh yeah, we will pay for this. We'd love this.

This is amazing. And they didn't, and they wouldn't, you know, that was a huge lesson for me was, audience testing is to be taken with a grain of salt, you know, until, until somebody gives you a money, you can't count on what they say, what people say and what they actually do aren't always gonna be the same thing.

that's where that intuition also comes in, right? You, you've gotta kind of go with your gut. on a lot of

Greg: A lot of people say, I'm data driven. I'm data driven. And what I say to them is, you don't want to be data driven. You actually want to be you know, data informed.

you don't want the data to dictate you, because if you look at the data, I might say like, Hey, go build this thing. And then you go build it. And it's, yeah. Like 1% of people actually buy it, let the data inform you. Let the intuition drive


Josh: But the problem, the problem with that though, goes back to what we talked about earlier, which is like, you don't have intuition if you haven't been doing it for a while. So how do you know where Greg, how do you know where to start? Like how do I, I can't use data, I can't do this. So like

Greg: be a curious idiot is the answer,

why? Be a curious idiot. Be an idiot, because don't know the answers. Be the person who's wants answers, and be curious. Meaning, you're not gonna be able to fall asleep tonight unless you find that answer.

Josh: And stop being worried about failing. I mean, like, we all fail. It's,

it's one of the questions I asked my kids tonight. I forget where I heard it from, but like, we, we do it almost every night as like, all right, you know, how was this, how was that? And cool. What'd you, what'd you fail at today? Oh, you failed it That cool.

What'd you learn from it? Cool. Like, we have to fail. You have to fail to, to be successful. you know, you have to be willing to take chances in order to get anywhere in life. at least I, I believe so. I, you, you really have to take those risks. If you avoid risks your whole life, you know, you're, you're just gonna follow the pre-described idea of, of what everyone does.

get up, go to go to a job that you hate, come home, go back to work, spend Sundays, you know, uh, Friday is T G I f because you know, you hate your job. You don't want to go, you know, you can't wait for the weekend and then Sunday sucks cuz you're thinking about Monday, a lot of people live their life exactly like that.

And I believe a lot of that comes from fear of taking chances,

Greg: When you started bigger pockets, were you working another full-time job?

Josh: when I started Bigger Pockets, I was teaching special ed in Los Angeles as a full-time job. At first it was, you know, I was kind of, little bit of time here and there, and then I became obsessed. And every single break I was, I was doing bigger pockets, nights, weekends.

I was doing bigger pockets. I'm a cautionary tale I think as well, because I believe I, did too much. Um, to be honest, I was working a hundred hour weeks, for eight years. Um, there was a eight year period where I never did not work on my company. When I went on vacation, I actually didn't go on vacation.

I traveled. When I traveled, I had my computer, you know, and everyone, my friends and family all gave me crap about it. They're like, dude, you need to not work. And I'm like, well, I have to work. I ha you know, this is, It wasn't true , it wasn't true. I, I, you know, I was a victim to my own kind of hustle, grind kind of idea of like, if I'm not working harder than everyone else, I'm gonna fail.

I would've been fine if I had worked a little less hard, to be honest. But you, you do have to put the time in.

Greg: what do you do now? Bigger pockets your, you know, is, is sort of in the past, like what do you, how do you spend your time now?

Josh: I'm still working on that. , uh, no. So, I, I'm on the board of bigger pockets. I'm, um, I'm an advisor to a couple other startups I invest in, tech startups. I invest in, uh, real estate, uh, opportunities. I'm always looking for like investment opportunities, small businesses, things like that.

That sound interesting. I love the advisory. I really love helping people. where I can, um, because I've put in the 10,000 hours in so many different verticals in order to build a successful startup that, that went to exit that, you know, whether it's, whether it's community content, initial scale, uh, product, um, these are things I'm, I'm really good at.

So, I'm toying with, with writing a book, kind of on my life. Um, just cuz I've had a. Really interesting life. I've been focused, uh, the last few years on health, uh, spending a lot of time and energy on, on my health, and, and studying of that, that, that's been really fascinating fun to learn about just longevity and, biohacking stuff.

I'm not one of the extreme guys, but, you know, I, I think each step is, is a step in the right direction. I love surfing. I love playing tennis. Um, I love just kind of getting out. We live in Maui, so, just exploring and, and, and having fun and, and really my primary focus is my family. I've got three kids, three little, three girls and, and, an amazing wife.

And, you know, my job is to. Make sure that they have the best lives that they can have for themselves. Um, because, you know, in that period I talked about the a hundred hour weeks, I had babies back then, you know, I was around, but I wasn't around. Right. You know, I, I wasn't working in an office when I was doing that.

I was working out of the bedroom or whatever it was, but like, I was in the room, but I wasn't present for my kids. And I regret that. Um, for me, you know, I've, I've had this epiphany, life is, life is short. anything can happen tomorrow. And, and so I wanna make sure I, I live my life with no regrets, uh, for my family specifically.

Greg: I think a lot of people are gonna like this episode because how you build bigger pockets is a, you know, could be applied to a million verticals. And so I think a lot of the lessons you learned along the way, people could apply that. you had a period of your life where you were grinding, grinding, grinding, and now you have a period of life, which sounds like you're a lot more balanced in terms of work and family and friends. So I think that always puts things into perspective for people. A lot of people listening to this podcast are more, I think, on the work really hard cuz they're trying to, you know, make something. That's why you're listening here. but I'm, I'm also a big believer in like, balance is is really important.

So, I like that you, you bring that up.

Josh: I, I will tell you the reason I ultimately had my exit. Um, we, we had this, this trauma happen to one of my kids. And, I mean, it, it hit me like Mike Ty, uh, Mike Tyson shot might, might have felt to somebody. I mean, it was, it was a wake up call. You know, and, and also I, in, in the year prior, I'd had multiple panic attacks.

And the panic attacks were like, I had to grow this company. I gotta grow this company. I got, it's gotta be more successful. I, like, I was, I had a really successful business at that point, but like I was doing exactly what I told you guys not to do, uh, because I learned it through , through taking the blows, right?

I mean, it was, um, it was brutal, like panic attack. I had a panic attack about this job at this company that I love. That's crazy,

right? Like, what, what is that? So, like, I don't wish that on anyone. It's, it's terrifying to go through. I, I had this realization that I love my company, but you know, I didn't any longer need to keep being the guy running it.

I didn't need to deal with the stresses that kind of came with that. And at that point I had had enough, right? Like I had an, we, we were doing well. Like we, as long as we aren't stupid, we'll we'll be okay. And, and so like, you know what, let me step down. I don't, I don't need a billion dollar business, 10 bill a trillion.

You know, like, who who, again, who needs that? I want to be with my family. I want to be with my friends, and I want to be happy

Greg: you know, Naval Rav Khan from from Angels Talks a lot about leverage and how you can use media for leverage, connections for leverage, capital for leverage. So I think it's about building leverage in your life. And once you have that leverage, you don't need to work a hundred hours, uh, a week. Um, where could people follow you on the internet if they want to get more of you?

Josh: Twitter's really the only place that I actively really participate, but, uh, LinkedIn, I'm, I'm, I'm out there. But, uh, yeah man. Hey, listen, thank you for having me.

I really appreciate the opportunity and hopefully the listeners found, found all this stuff


Greg: They will. A hundred percent. Thanks.