10% Entrepreneur Profile: Nick Martell and Jack Kramer of MarketSnacks

MarketSnacks

Nick and Jack are the writers and co-CEOs of MarketSnacks, a daily newsletter that distills the Wall Street headlines you need to know in one bite-sized email snack – quick, clear, and tasty.

Since launching in 2011, the company has seen year-over-year subscriber growth in excess of 100%. The company has launched partnerships with Betterment and Motley Fool and has been referenced by Fortune, Forbes, US News & World Report, Millennial Magazine, and Yahoo Finance.

Nick and Jack are 10% Entrepreneurs, having launched the company while working at banks in New York. Five years later, they continue to run the company on the side while holding down day jobs.

Note: I met Nick on the top of an open air bus in Mexico City (don’t ask) in late 2015. We were both in Mexico for an Endeavor Global International Selection Panel. Nick is a rising star at Endeavor and I was honored to sit on one of their selection panels. We struck up a conversation and he told me about his 10% endeavor. Since that day, I’ve been a MarketSnacks subscriber. Their often-hilarious emails get me ready for the day and manage to make me laugh while I’m still struggling to open my eyes.

What are your day jobs? 

Nick: When we launched MarketSnacks, I was an analyst at UBS in Manhattan after graduating from Brown in 2011, working on a small securities-backed lending team in Asset Management. Three years ago I left to join Endeavor Global, a non-profit mentoring, scaling, and investing in “high-impact” entrepreneurs in developing countries worldwide – I’m based in the Flatiron District in New York, but work directly with our entrepreneurs in Latin America. I’ve been scaling MarketSnacks as a 10% entrepreneur with Jack through both full-time jobs.

Jack: I’ve been at Commerzbank since graduating from Middlebury College in 2011. I’m now an Assistant Vice President in the investment banking division where I focus on our industrials and manufacturing clients from New York’s financial district. I cover German-owned automotive and industrial companies that are active in North America.

What was your inspiration for launching your company?

We met when we were randomly assigned to be roommates during our first year at Middlebury. Although Nick transferred to Brown, we remained best friends and ended up rooming together with two other buddies following graduation. A series of events in late 2011 lead to the creation of MarketSnacks.

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First, living with four guys who worked on Wall Street, we all lamented the lack of engaging financial news sources for young people – the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg were necessary reading, but they were not exactly enjoyable morning reads on the subway to work.

Second, we were motivated by creativity. At our day jobs we were developing analytical and modeling skills but we missed writing and expressing creatively.

Most of all, as recent college grads, we remembered how we felt just a year prior as seniors, struggling to connect with Wall Street from our college campuses and feeling that no one wanted to communicate the daily financial news to young people like us. We thought of the college senior interviewing for a job in finance and we imagined what resource he or she would want.

What convinced you that you could succeed – why were you the right people to start and manage this business? What gave you the confidence to actually try and go for it?  

We felt we had a perfectly complementary team. Jack was an economics major so his strength was the finance side. Nick was a history major, so he had the writing background. We both worked at large global banks, so we understood the world of Wall Street and could grasp financial concepts. And as Millennials, we understood the type of voice, style, humor, and branding our peers and buddies wanted. That team harmony, along with a couple beers one night at Old Town Bar off Union Square, gave us the confidence to commit to writing MarketSnacks the very next day in November 2011 – and we haven’t missed a day of market action ever since.

What resources have you invested in your company?

We mainly invest time because this is a venture that requires few cash outlays. Our primary costs are website maintenance, newsletter platforms, protecting IP, etc. Of course, time is valuable and we commit a significant amount energy on a daily basis. On average, we each spend at least 1-2 hours each day on MarketSnacks before or after work, making sure it doesn’t detract from our full-time jobs.

Given the time commitment and that we scale MarketSnacks together but remotely (we’re no longer roommates), we’ve developed a very efficient system for writing, editing, posting, and managing partnerships, so we can be successful 10% entrepreneurs.

How have the people at your day job been helpful (if they have) or encouraged you?

Becoming a 10% entrepreneur can often hinge on your day job – will your employer care, support, or even prevent you from trying it? Finance is a traditional industry, so we started MarketSnacks anonymously to craft and test out our new shared writing voice.

When we had our first opportunity for a monetized partnership, Jack asked permission from Commerzbank to continue the venture and the bank was very supportive. Meanwhile, since Endeavor Global is an organization focused on entrepreneurship worldwide, Nick was encouraged by his managers to continue to scale MarketSnacks.

Both of us enjoy the fact that many of our colleagues read MarketSnacks. Their support is powerfully enthusiastic. They share and promote MarketSnacks with their networks and they give us feedback all the time. We like to throw in inside jokes to all our readers with whom we’re close, so they love catching the subtle references. Most importantly though, we’ve committed to not letting it interfere with our day jobs.

What has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is bandwidth – having the time to maintain friendships, do our work at our day jobs, and still build the business. That’s required incredible efficiency and a daily routine to make sure MarketSnacks arrives in thousands of email inboxes every weekday morning at 6:30am EST. We’re committed to not letting our 10% entrepreneurship venture become a drain, so we’ve focused balance despite how busy we are juggling both jobs.

What are your top tips for managing time?

First, we separate roles based on our strengths. Jack enjoys writing about economic policy, data, and blue chip stocks, while Nick prefers covering consumer-oriented and branded companies. We also divide up the responsibility of managing our partnerships, so we each deal with one client in order to maximize our outreach.

Second, we completely trust each other. Second-guessing, questioning, or criticizing each other would be a waste of time and could endanger our relationship. For example, when we edit the writing, our rule is that if one of us wants to change the other person’s writing, that’s it. It changes and we move on. Committing to that rule keeps us moving ahead quickly and positively.

What do you see happening in the future?

The best part about being a 10% entrepreneur is that we’re willing to take it anywhere and we also are fortunate to have supportive full-time jobs that we love. This has been an incredible learning experience, from negotiating contracts (both successful and failed ones) to becoming authorities on Millennial content to developing our own growth strategy. It has allowed us to test the waters of entrepreneurship without taking on the associated risks. We’ve now found an exciting niche in B2B syndication of our content which we’re developing further this year – and that wasn’t even on our radar two years ago.

What books and blogs have you read and that have been helpful to you (if any)?

The 10% Entrepreneur (great to see the examples), The Hard Thing About Hard Things (a go-to for entrepreneurs interested in developing management skills), Bitter Brew (on the rise and fall of the family behind Budweiser), Crazy is a Compliment (Endeavor founder Linda Rottenberg’s book about entrepreneurial profile types).

Anything funny, crazy, particularly memorable that you haven’t mentioned?  

After securing our first monetizing partnership, we threw a MarketSnacks-sponsored party for all our friends and any subscriber on the Lower East Side. Nick’s girlfriend, Molly, surprised us by hiring a costumed party entertainer in a bull outfit who walked around the event taking photos with everyone. It was a hilarious addition.

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