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Goes into good details about the tactics used to come up with an idea and then recruit the first few customers. After signing up $5k/month revenue it meant he needed to generate 5,000 leads per month for those customers. That is the hard bit, how did he do that on a side project? He says that the income was passive, so how did he generate 5,000 targeted leads passively? That is the magic, not the ability to recruit some customers.

Based on when this product was created, I can almost guarantee they are just manually scraping LinkedIn (plus a few other places - Facebook, twitter, Bloomberg, maybe even Pitchbook). There are custom Google search portals you can use to search LinkedIn via keyword that not everyone knows about. From there one can use a bunch of services that will provide you (mostly)valid emails at various companies.

I imagine he made a quick set of tutorials for his outsourced contractors and had his virtual assistant he found on oDesk do the hiring and setting up of those contractors.

This quote from the article is wild: "Customers have to train their team and the billing is variable so your cost per lead ranges from $.50 to $5" You can beat that number paying people $20/hr to do this stuff, let alone exploiting people out in the Philippines on I'm sure the not livable wages he's paying them(Aka the fallacy of low rent/cost of living in developing economies).

Sigh... you know we're at the end of the cycle when it's just a bunch of outsourcers with marketing backgrounds.

This is the problem with articles like this, they never really go into specifics. Generally fluff. Look at me I did this, but I won't give any specifics how except for vague self-help pamphlet jargon like "Monetize your brain".

I just skip over them unless they provided proof of their xK/month revenue. There are so many people willing to lie to sell you something or just to get e-rep.

I don't think that's fair, there's detail in there. For example, his approach to sales calls.

> the fallacy of low rent/cost of living in developing economies

Let's say a knowledge worker in a developing country could survive on $1 USD a day, adjusting food and rent to local cost.

If a local white collar job paid them $5 a day, and a remote "exploiting" job paid them $15 a day, but an American could earn $50 a day for the same task, is this really a moral hazard?

No, ya see, it's wrong to pay people in poorer countries less because now you're talking to a poor person. If you hire an American, you never even spoke to a poor person, so it isn't your fault.

If that sounds like a fever dream, you aren't alone, but it's my best guess at understanding what's happening. Obviously, my complete lack of employing people in central Africa is why they are all middle class Americans now, so I'm doing my part.

Or, maybe pay people a living wage no matter what country they are from? Doesn't seem that unreasonable.

It seems reasonable until you realize you could completely wreck their local economy.

If you start paying people to compile lists for you at a higher rate than they are paid performing important local services, then they will stop performing important local services and start compiling lists for you.

What needs to happen is slower growth.

So foreign businesses outsource to the Philippines, paying them low wages. Then other businesses see this as a good way to save and do the same, and then more businesses and so on. Soon the people in the Philippines have options, and their market starts to become competitive, and they start demanding more pay (which is good). During this whole process they are spending that foreign money into their local economy, allowing it to grow and keep up.

China is a good example.

That last part of "demanding more pay" almost never happens. The reality is, service economies start a race to the bottom by taking advantage of the lower starting cost of living and then the economy doesn't really improve. People just live with lower starting costs of living and lower quality of life in many cases.

Note that I use the term lower starting costs of living. There's a reason a lot of people migrate if they can. It's because these countries (like Sri Lanka which is where I live) have costs that suddenly spike the moment you aspire to a better quality of life and the salaries don't keep up.

But I digress. The evidence of the local economies not necessarily improving is there in many outsourced service economy based countries. India is a prime example. And when outsourced jobs started moving away, there were articles describing India's IT industry as a bloodbath (or something similar).

So no. Paying people better actually improves the economy of the country. Especially if it's non local currency. Most countries benefit from inflows of strong foreign currency. People start having less incentive to leave the country so brain drain is less. People can reach higher quality life goals, so purchasing and usage of local services increase (think food and beverage, local tourism, clothing, and even other simple services like laundry).

The idea that US companies paying higher rates is going to wreck an economy of a lower performing country is very unlikely. The reality is that if it somehow became a norm, (unlikely since if rates are high globally, you'd keep the jobs local as much as possible), people would just form new companies to service that market.

Which is technically what is already happening in countries like India and Sri Lanka.

So no. Please pay people better. It'll most likely help that country's economy.

As a business, paying more for something that you can have (exactly the same) for less is totally unreasonable.

Well, if a person is producing below a living wage, then it's difficult to pay that person a living wage.

You realize, that the business we are talking about is performing arbitrage on labor. That the very definition of this business is that the workers are receiving less than the full amount of the value they are creating.

Its literally how the business makes money. Paying them less than their output.

This business cannot exist and at the same time not have more money to pay the people doing the work.

> That the very definition of this business is that the workers are receiving less than the full amount of the value they are creating.

Of any businesses, its necessary to also maintain the capital that gives them the productivity to generate all that value. Even under a marxist theory you cant pay someone what they produce exactly, cuz then they wouldnt be your employee.

That is a living wage in their country.


Because he should be employing Americans, or because he should be paying the developing-country worker $50/day? If the latter, how do you think that workers in developing countries are going to go from making $5/day to $50/day if they never make anything in between? Surely a 200% pay increase given immediately is better than a 900% pay increase that’s purely hypothetical?

Because he should be paying human beings a living wage no matter where they are. Pretending that living costs in a developing nation is somehow magically non existent is immoral.

Pay people a reasonable wage to live their lives and provide for their families. Just because someone lives in another country does not give a person the moral authority to pay them an amount that does not allow them to properly feed and care for themselves and their family.

This point of view compares a marginal improvement with a massive improvement and concludes that bringing about a marginal improvement when you could cause a massive improvement is wrong.

This is a false comparison because there's a third option, which is doing nothing. Doing nothing is worse than causing any size of improvement, and almost all of us are doing nothing. If we are to accept that paying Filipino workers slightly more than the local economy is offering is wrong, then we must also accept that not paying them anything is wrong, in which case we should be going after the hordes of people who aren't doing anything instead of the people who are only doing a tiny little bit.

That’s not the only possible ethical judgment. You’re assuming a kind of utilitarian perspective, but I think most people have at least an implicit virtue ethical perspective, which might come into play when evaluating the morality of a person who lives a life of leisure and freedom funded by maximizing the arbitrage from a third world labor force employed for repetitive and alienated tasks. Especially when the thesis that minimal wages now inexorably increase later seems on the surface like a neoliberal just-so story.

I think the developing world considers bosses that provide them with comfortable middle class incomes by local standards doing work which is far more attractive than alternative employment opportunities to be a tad more virtuous than the equally wealthy Westerners clamouring for the elimination of their jobs though...

Nothing could really be more damaging to the development of poorer countries than condemning them to subsistence incomes because we've decided it's only ethical for businesses to employ their workers if they're productive enough after all other hurdles are considered to earn Western wages.

I sounded more judging than I really am. The contrast between virtue as perceived by one’s peers and global utility is a fascinating problem. Few people appreciate the virtue of someone like Norman Borlaug, but if you personally abstain from eating meat you can score pretty highly.

You can’t put people who are paying nothing in the same table because they aren’t receiving any work in compensation. If they were, that would be slavery and obviously more morally wrong.

A "living wage" depends on where you live.

It's pretty common to see articles about people moving from SF to the Mid-West, taking a pay cut but being happy because they improve their standard of living.

We also see articles about people moving from the mid-Est to Thailand, taking a pay cut but being happy because they improve their standard of living.

Going by the BigMac index for example[1], it is perfectly reasonable to think that developers in the Philippines, Vietnam or India would be happy on roughly 50% of a US salary (presumably a non-SF salary too). Obviously this is very much a rough guide, but it's something to start from.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/274326/big-mac-index-glo...

Isn't the point of this kind of labour arbitrage that a living wage is still less in some countries? You seem to be conflating two points in this thread - that the should pay a living wage and that they should pay in line with the value they generate. The whole point of labour arbitrage is that there is a large(r) gap between those amounts no?

True, but I'm pretty sure he's not going to tell us about the "secret sauce," especially since he's sold the company.

Replying for mike2477 who wrote the article and responded to this post, but his comments are dead.

Mike - it looks like you got shadow banned, but it’s not clear why?

Maybe dang can help.

Maybe shadow banned because the story is 4 years old, and has been repeated word for word already?




Great story, but may be one reason.

I vouched for the dead comments.

The story might need to have a missing date on it (4 years old?), but the two comments that the author of the post made don’t seem to violate the terms or spirit of HN rules.

If someone can show me how the rules were broken in his comments, I will gladly unvouch.

Maybe shadowbanned because he's the Mike of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13339723 fame?

That was an interesting thread of rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.

Thanks for linking to it!

So he wrote an article that misquoted someone, and they didn't like it. Is that against HN rules?

Maybe because it’s advertising, wrapped in an old article.

Sure. The post could probably be legitimately downvoted. The comments from the author, however, just don’t seem problematic.

How does one see shadow banned posts?

In your profile there is a "showdead" option

It was a lead gen tool. He could have used the tool to generate leads for the tool.

He said that as a salesperson himself, he outsourced this work to VAs. I assume he continued to do so for this side project.

Aha, so he is performing arbitrage. Charge customers a $1 for something he can buy for much less than a $1. I wonder if the recursion works, use the virtual assistants to bring in leads to also get his own customers.

To be fair, it sounds like he put in work up front vetting and training the VAs.

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