How Online Course Creator Ashley Massengill made $1 Million in 40 Minutes

Creator economy is eating the world

This was an interesting week for us - we partnered with Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, published an article on the history of the internet on Observer Research Foundation and delivered a masterclass at the world’s largest content summit organized by Pepper (the founder is an early subscriber of Network Capital)

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Now let us get started with the newsletter written by Utkarsh. There are two incredible people we will explore - Paul Saffo and Ashley Massengill, the teacher who made $1 Million in 40 minutes.


Paul Saffo made way into my life when I was writing my first book “The Seductive Illusion of Hard Work”. In one of the chapters, I was trying to understand whether rethinking was a sign of strength or weakness and Saffo’s framework helped me formulate my argument.

In a way his “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held” mental model has become the operating principle of my life. Paul suggests that despite lack of available information, we should develop a strong, fact-based hypothesis. Conviction is an important decision-making tool, but it shouldn’t blind us. We should continually gather information that either supports or refutes our hypothesis. If we uncover information unfriendly to our belief, we should abandon our belief. That doesn’t make us flaky. If anything, it shows maturity. Clinging to our idea in the face of contradictory information is the origin of most bad decisions.

Recently I discovered that Paul Saffo also came up the concept of creator economy way before it became the talk of the town. In a presentation at the Singularity University more than a decade ago, Saffo talked about the shift from the producer economy to the creator economy.

Producer Economy

At the onset of the 20th century, the widespread scarcity to goods and services led to the systematization of the means of production. Henry Ford painted his famous Model T black because that color dried fast thereby offering enhanced productivity. This production efficiency had massive implications for the second World War. By World War II, the US production ecosystem could turn out weapons at a rate unheard of anywhere else. In 1944 they were producing 8 aircraft carriers a month, a plane every five minutes, and 50 merchant ships a day.

Consumer Economy

“Every new abundance creates an adjacent scarcity.“

In a world with hyper production efficiency, the new scarcity was demand and the CEOs of leading companies shifted from heads of production to heads of marketing in the late fifties. Basically the key question had to shift from how to produce more to how to augment demand.

"I know the month the consumer economy ended," Saffo says: November 2008, when the financial markets headed into a tailspin from which they show little sign of recovering. "It was more than an economic downturn, it was an inflection between two economies: Consumer and creator."

Creator Economy

In 1971 Herbert Simon predicted, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.” The new scarcity following the consumer economy era turned out to be engagement.

In a new report published by Stripe titled “Indexing the Creator Economy”, Edwin Wee says, “The earliest creators occupied their own weird corner of the internet—uploading Flash animations to DeviantArt or scanned manga illustrations to Xanga. But they didn’t have the tools to sell their content to earn a living as a creator online.

That all changed with the advent of new internet tools to produce and market content.”

The report goes on to say

Substack enables writers to start paid newsletters. Twitter lets creators share premium content for their Super Followers. Buy Me A Coffee helps creators receive support from their fans. To assess their impact, we (Stripe) indexed the creator economy by measuring the growth of 50 of these popular platforms. This is the first time data like this has been shared—it’s a fraction of creator activity, but we believe the trends are representative of the creator economy as a whole.

In aggregating monetization across these 50 platforms, we’ve found that creators will soon pass more than $10 billion in aggregate earnings. While 2020 saw a jump in new creators, it wasn’t a one-time spike. A year later, creators are still coming online at a record clip: the number of creators is up a whopping 48% year-over-year. In total, these platforms have onboarded 668,000 creators.”

Education and the Creator Economy

Education is the biggest revenue generating segment in the creator economy. Turns out that teaching online with the right tools was a low hanging fruit. The pandemic accelerated growth and adoption of online learning in way never done before. Live cohort-based courses, community led learning, hybrid models of schooling emerged.

Ashley Massengill, an online course creator said, “My life changed when I launched my online business and course.” In 40 minutes of launching her course, she earned $1 Million Dollars.

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