The Founder Hotline

The story of how a $100 advertising budget led to $25,000 in revenue

Quick pitch:

“Having early stage founder struggles? Call 1-888-890-2656 toll-free to talk about anything — that’s right — anything, with experienced builders and founders who were in your exact shoes just a few years ago. Feel free to stay anonymous if that makes it easy. We’re here to help!“

Website & mock up

Website: https://thefounderhotline.com/ (click below to see the mock up as the site expired now)



When I was at Day One, our CMO Jake came to me with a unique challenge. He wanted to brainstorm ideas on how best to create marketing without spending <$100 in ad budget.

First-time founders were one of the main customer personas at Day One. Yet this is a highly contested space to acquire customers from given how many programs and brands target this persona. So we decided to create a project that added tremendous value to this specific persona in a novel way without spending more than $100 and yet create a ton of positive word of mouth and buzz in the industry. Value + novelty. That was our goal.

What is the big idea?

We bought a 1-888 toll free number (1-888-890-2656) and created the first ever founder hotline on the Internet. We called it .. well “The Founder Hotline” — a retro radio-style live call-in show.

Season 1 opened up access twice a week for an hour with me as the host. We were inspired by Frasier, the TV show and various dating advice hotlines.

In that hour, founders from anywhere in the world can call in (anonymously or with their real names) to share what they are struggling with in a safe and empathetic environment. Founders are encouraged to call in to ask questions "on air" that they would never ask in a fancy Fireside chat or surface the topics and personal struggles that they would never bring up in a video AMA.

The conversation was raw, real and relatable and many others tuned in just to listen and feel ‘seen’.

Why now?

In 2022, many founders were under tremendous stress (due to the markets, layoffs or general challenges of being an entrepreneur) This is an ecosystem-wide problem that we believed was worth giving a shit about.

Guest List:

I was the main host but I also hustled to invite a hand-picked roster of founders and leaders who’ve seen difficult circumstances and were willing to help share lessons from their past:

We sent tons of cold email pitches to all sorts of interesting top 1% guests who we believed would make the show great for founders. We pitched folks like Mark Cuban, Alexis Ohanian & Gary Vee. While many politely passed, Gary said yes :)

Key Wins:

  • 1,200 people tuned in to listen to the 1st episode that also went live on Twitter Spaces
  • Launch tweet received a ton of positive reception
  • 149 upvotes and lots of positive replies on Product Hunt launch
  • 15,200 people tuned into Gary Vee’s episode
  • Helped us make ~$25k in sales through this project
  • Helped us sign a partnership with OPENPHONE
  • Strengthened Day One’s brand internally within our community of Fellows and externally across the startup industry