I’ve always thought about my career and my business in 2-3 year “eras.”
The first era of Forte Labs was from 2013 to 2015, which I call “The Research Era.” I entered the wild world of self-employment and began to share my ideas publicly through my blog for the first time. I had no idea what I wanted to do long term and spent this period experimenting with many different kinds of projects, from online courses to corporate training to consulting to live workshops.
Our second era was from 2016 to 2018, and I think of it as “The Cohort Era.” I chose productivity generally and digital notetaking in particular as my central focus, and poured all my time and energy into developing the Building a Second Brain course and getting it off the ground. I finally felt that I had found my calling, and I dedicated every resource I had to improving that course and making it grow.
The third era of Forte Labs was from 2019 to 2022, and I call it “The Book Era.” I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Mexico City with my wife for a fresh start, and decided to pursue a publishing deal for my first book based on the course material. I continued blogging and the online course grew faster than ever, but the focus of my attention was on developing the skills I would need to bring a book to completion.
With the publication of that book in June 2022, the third era of the company has officially come to a close. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing everything in my power to promote it – the trajectory of the book has only just begun, and will play out for many years to come. And I will continue publishing my writing on the blog and teaching the course as well.
But one thing I’ve always believed is that we have a unique advantage as a small startup: we can “bet the company” on a singular, bold new direction. Unlike a huge corporation that can never fully commit itself to any one path, we can. And because we have this unique option open to us, we have to take it or risk giving away our one exclusive advantage.
As the book has been released to the world, I’ve started to think hard about what our fourth era should be about.
For the first time, we have many choices and many paths we could take. We could lean into online courses and build an entire curriculum of different programs. We could take a turn into ecommerce and develop a new line of physical products. We could build a B2B business and offer corporate trainings or executive coaching. We now have the privilege of being able to choose our own adventure, and I don’t take that privilege lightly.
But I’m not interested in taking just any path. I don’t want to commit to creating new products just because that seems like the next thing to do, or just because we could make some extra money. We are a profitable, self-funded business and I always try to remind our team that we don’t have to do anything new if we don’t want to.
In light of that, what do we want to do? Life is short, and the prime years of our careers even shorter. I want to spend our precious time working on singular outcomes that no one else in the world could achieve.
My question to the team over the last couple months has been, “What is a goal that is worth the next 2-3 years of our careers?”
This opportunity would need to fulfill the following criteria:
- It is urgently needed by people that only we are equipped to serve
- It is something we want to build because it would be fun and exciting
- It is extremely leveraged, allowing us to have a greater and greater impact with less and less effort over time
- It would allow us to learn and grow in new ways, as professionals and as humans
Taking all that into account, I’ve come to the conclusion that the next era of Forte Labs will be about YouTube.
After 6 months of initial experiments on the platform, I’ve become convinced that YouTube’s potential as the world’s most important educational platform is only beginning to be unlocked.
17 years into its existence, YouTube has grown and matured into a classroom that can (and does) teach the entire world almost every subject under the sun. It is vastly more accessible to international audiences, young people and the elderly, and the disadvantaged and underprivileged than any other form of media. If our mission is to enable anyone in the world to build a Second Brain for themselves, then YouTube is our single biggest opportunity to accomplish that.
I asked Marc Koenig, who leads our YouTube efforts, to summarize the first 6 months of our experiments on the platform and to lay out a vision for where we want to go as a company. I’m on board with everything described below and over the next year plan on investing major resources into growing the best collection of educational videos on personal knowledge management on YouTube.
Entering the YouTube Era
Hi, I’m Marc Koenig. I’m the GM & Creative Director of Forte Labs’ YouTube channel.
Until February this year, YouTube was just another marketing channel for us. Most of the time, it was a place to throw up video content that we’d recorded anyway – guest webinars, Tiago’s video demos, speaking engagements – any video that needed a home.
That approach got us our first 19,000 subscribers. This February, we shifted gears. And since then, we’ve seen incredible results:
- The channel has grown to >55,000 subscribers after publishing 14 new videos (1 video every ~1.5 weeks over 5 months)
- Our growth rate has gone from 194 to 3,227 new subscribers per week. We now gain 3x more subscribers each week than we gained in an entire month at the start of the year (projected to reach 86,000 subscribers by end of 2022)
- 10% of students from our most recent Building a Second Brain cohort indicated they found us from “Tiago’s YouTube Channel” (nearly 6-figures in course revenues)
This algorithm-driven growth is staggering – and will likely soon eclipse the combined attention generated by all our other channels.
But that’s not what excites us most about YouTube.
Our 5-Year Vision
Our goal for YouTube is to build an Open Source Library of Alexandria for the PKM world.
We genuinely believe that every person in the world should have the chance to create a Second Brain – a personal system of knowledge management – of their own.
We live in a golden age of information. There are almost unlimited free learning resources available online, but not everyone is equally prepared for that reality. Without the knowledge of how to organize those inputs in a way that moves you towards the things you care about, information is more likely to feel like an enemy than an ally.
YouTube is the strongest driver I know of to bring knowledge management to more people who need it. And Forte Labs has some unique capabilities and timing to maximize its impact:
- Few people have done what Tiago has – spending the last decade distilling a universal PKM framework for capturing information and turning it into meaningful work
- Few people have my skill stack – spending the last decade developing my skills as a creator, video producer, and business builder – and an obsession for what makes YouTube work for any subject
- Our business is funded by a thriving, high-margin product – so we can pursue a long-term strategy on YouTube, without needing it to immediately pay for itself or produce a return
- Our community is already full of the next generation of Second Brain creators, professionals, and coaches who are digging deep on their favorite tools and practices – and can easily be amplified through our channel to accelerate their growth trajectories
- Our YouTube growth is timed perfectly to the launch of the Building a Second Brain book, which is drawing in a mainstream audience that’s only just beginning to recognize the value of capturing their best ideas digitally
Our conviction in our unique YouTube advantages has led us to invest dramatically in YouTube even before it bore visible fruit. We built out a $100K studio, have flown around the world to collaborate with top creators, and created a new business unit dedicated completely to growing YouTube as Forte Labs’ strategic focus for the coming years.
Speaking of which…
Meet Our Creative Team
We’ve slowly been assembling a team of creative professionals to help us bring our YouTube vision to life.
This team shares a deep passion for quality in our respective domains, a growth mindset, and a commitment to building the Second Brain movement.
This group is the key to our continued growth on YouTube, and I’m excited to see how they challenge Forte Labs to push the boundaries of digital notetaking far beyond what anyone expects.
Along those lines, we plan to continue to expand our existing pipeline as we tackle new frontiers. In the next 6-12 months we plan to add even more roles:
- Animation Specialist
- Graphic Designer
- Notes App Experts (Screen Recording + Demos)
- Content Writers / Content Strategists
- Video Editor / Assistant Editor
- Live Production Specialists (Creative Producer, Production Assistants, Audio Specialists)
If you’re obsessed with high-quality creative work and passionate about Second Brains and their reach on YouTube, get in touch with us.
Become a Second Brain Collaborator
Much of our initial growth has come from entering the collaborative orbit of some of the world’s most talented creators (both on YouTube and off).
We’ve had the chance to create videos with some of the world’s smartest PKM practitioners:
But I’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our most important future collaborator:
The Library of Alexandria didn’t feature the works of ONE prolific author.
It was a grand collection: thousands of unique perspectives – people digging deep into their obsessions, distilling their insights for the rest of the world.
If you are:
- A creator with a significant audience on YouTube or another platform (Let’s collaborate on a video! We’ll come to you – or invite you to our Los Angeles studio!)
- A PKM expert who regularly shares your expertise in a specific notetaking app, framework, or productivity philosophy – in public, OR as a coach or consultant (Let’s feature you in a video or a video series on our channel!)
- A creative, professional, or any individual who has used your Second Brain in a creative way to enhance your life in a unique or interesting way (Let’s find a way to share your story on our channel or blog!)
- Someone with insight or access to the productivity or notetaking routines of famous creators, professionals, or public figures (Let’s create a video sharing those insights broadly!)
- A creative (editor, animator, designer, writer) who wants to help us build one of the largest and best free resources for notetaking and digital productivity in the coming years (Let’s make amazing videos!)
We want to hear from you. Let’s make this happen!
Welcome to the Second Brain Movement (YouTube Edition)
If you want to join us in building a modern Library of Alexandria – one that enables anyone in the world to build their own trusted source of knowledge, to live with greater peace and meaning – here’s what you can do:
- Subscribe to our YouTube channel. We’re already 83% to our annual subscriber goal of 60,000 subscribers – can we make it to 100K?
- Join our creative team. We’re looking for writers and content strategists right away – and almost every creative role long-term.
- Reach out to collaborate on a video. Let’s create something remarkable together.
(P.S. To get in touch with me directly (or for detailed YouTube updates), follow @MarcKoenig_ on Twitter.)
Thanks for being a part of the Second Brain movement!
Follow us for the latest updates and insights around productivity and Building a Second Brain on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And if you’re ready to start building your Second Brain, get the book and learn the proven method to organize your digital life and unlock your creative potential.