How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley | Corey Pein

The long read: Corey Pein took his half-baked startup idea to Americas hottest billionaire factory and found a wasteland of techie hustlers and con men

The most desirable career of the 21st century, with numerous advantages over other fast-growing occupations such as hospice carer and rickshaw driver, is being a billionaire. Prior to the incorporation of US Steel in 1901, the world didnt have a single billion-dollar company, much less a billion-dollar individual. Today, more people than ever are becoming billionaires 2,000 and counting have made the great leap upward, according to the global wealth team at Forbes. And the USs hottest billionaire factory is located in the most hyped yet least understood swath of suburban sprawl in the world: Silicon Valley.

Despite what you may have heard, hard work in your chosen trade is absolutely the stupidest way to join the billionaires club. In Silicon Valley, the worlds most brilliant MBAs and IT professionals discovered a shortcutto fabulous riches. Ambitious Ivy Leaguers who once flocked to Wall Street are now packing up and heading west. The Valleys startup founders, investors, equity-holding executives and fee-taking middlemen have thrived above all. Inspired by their success, my idea was to move to Silicon Valley, pitch a startup and become obscenely rich. I left home with some homemade business cards showing my new emailaddress,, and a bunchof half-baked ideas.

The first thing I needed was a place to stay. The best deal I could find on short notice was a place I called Hacker Condo. Like most Bay Area newcomers, I was relying on the short-term apartment rental app Airbnb. At $85 (59) per night, the place cost less than the marketaverage, but was still more than I could afford.On the upside, it was in what the real estate hucksters called SoMa a trendy San Francisco neighbourhood well suited to my journalistic and entrepreneurial purposes. Once a low-rent manufacturing district, the south of Market Street area had become the go-to place for startups seeking industrial-chic open-plan offices, although the poor and homeless had not yet been fully purged.

The ad for Hacker Condo stated an express preferencefor techies: We would like to welcome motivated and serious entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their network, it said. Perfect. The best part: No bunk beds. I told the hosts that I was an embryo-stage startup founder and author. The hosts didnt own the place. I looked it up: the mortgage was held by some European guy who seemed to spend most of his time surfing at a resort and dabbled in the tech business as a hobby. The legal status of this rental arrangement was, lets say, unclear.

I rang the buzzer for a unit labelled TENANT. A man answered right away. He had been waiting. After a moment, the door opened, and I met my new roommate, a gangly Kiwi. We took the elevator three floors up and entered a silent, beige-carpeted hallway. Our unit was No 16. The first thing I noticed inside was a small mountain of mens shoes. Hacker Condo was modern and more spacious than seemed possible from the outside. The unit was spread over three floors. The furniture consisted of a picnic bench and a sectional sofa spanning the width of the living room. I counted five other short-term tenants. The Kiwi told me that soon, some Norwegian guys a whole startup team would be moving in. We calculated that Hacker Condo would soon have three more guests than it had beds.

Whats the key situation? I asked.

Theres one key, the Kiwi said.

One key? I said. For everybody?

There were more tricks to learn, as a consequence of the possibly illicit nature of this type of rental arrangement and the evident stinginess of our Airbnb hosts. The Condo Hackers never came in through the front door. It was too conspicuous. I followed the Kiwi down to the ground-floor garage, then outside to the rear of the building. He showed me how to slide my hand along a grate to locate the tiny combination safe that contained the exterior door key. It was best to do this when no one was looking.

I knew not to spend too much time getting to know my flatmates, for we were all rootless high-tech transients, our relationships temporary, our status revocable.

The room I had booked was available for only two weeks. As soon as I connected to the wifi network, Iwould need to start looking for another place. My room had five beds in it. Ithought I had paid for a private space. I double-checked. The listing clearly stated no bunk beds, but down in the fine print I finally found the words shared room.

Two weeks was not enough time to find an apartment in San Francisco. Not on my budget. Rents were higher than in New York or London. One-beds were running at about $3,000 per month; studios, about $2,500; shares, $1,500; and illegal crap shares, $1,000. It was the same deal across the bay to the east in Oakland and Berkeley, as well as to the south in the Silicon suburbs of Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View. Whatever I might save in rent by living on the periphery I would lose in transportation costs and time.

These hacker houses were the products of disruptive innovation in the urban property market. The city was once riddled with small apartments and single-family homes that sheltered trifling handfuls of obsolete labourers and their unproductive children, often for decades at a stretch. But the tech boom let such so-called family homes reach their full potential as investment properties. Some hacker houses were attached to startup investment incubators or shared workspaces. Others amounted to little more than flimsy bunks in a windowless room. A number of trend-savvy investors purchased or leased dozens of residential properties around the Bay Area to rent out in this fashion.

Although I envied them from my dark and squalid quarters, the San Francisco long-timers who lived in rent-controlled apartments were in situations nearly asprecarious as my own. I met a musician who lived in a$600 rent-controlled apartment in the Mission. WhenImet her, she was terrified that her landlord would evict her and sell the building so that it could be rented out at six times the price to white techie colonisers such as myself.

With landlords eager to cash in, formal evictions had increased 55% in five years. More often, though, landlords simply bullied their tenants into packing up. Tenants are getting evicted for having cups in their cupboards. The landlords say its clutter. Theyll say anything. Eventually the tenants just give up, a lawyer for a tenants rights organisation told me. His employer, the Eviction Defense Collaborative, was itself getting evicted from its offices so that the landlord could rent the space to a tech startup.

My earnings potential had plummeted when I stopped writing software and started writing for newspapers. I now looked with envy at the techies, the winners, the pioneers. They had ideas. They had momentum. Most important, they had money. Why not me?

I wasnt just changing careers and jumping on the learn to code bandwagon. I was being steadily indoctrinated in a specious ideology. As proud as I was of having learned new skills, I didnt understand that the only way to turn those skills into a livelihood was to embrace the economy of the digital world, where giant corporations wrote the rules.

My idea was to pitch a tech startup and get obscenely rich while writing a book about how to pitch a tech startup and get obscenely rich the Silicon Valley way.

To save money, I took to cooking my own meals most of the time. This was when I discovered that it was much easier to launch a tech startup if you could afford to always have food delivered and never had to deal with mundane chores such as doing laundry, washing dishes or buying groceries. As one Twitter wag observed, San Franciscos tech culture is focused on solving one problem: what is my mother no longer doing for me?

I never felt older nor crankier than when watching these digital natives stumble through the daily rituals of adulthood. One of the kids, an overachieving Ivy Leaguer whose Google internship demanded an advanced understanding of high-level mathematics, was completely baffled when it came to using a simple rice cooker. I explained the process: put in rice, add water, press the button labelled cook. He grew increasingly flustered, and I suspected he wanted me to make the rice for him. He managed to saut a boneless, skinless chicken breast, but only by following the instructions on the package to the letter.

How did it turn out? I asked.

Its terrible. Bland, he said. Im full, thats allthatmatters. I dont care how it tastes.

When I first heard about Soylent, the startup selling a gooey meal replacement beverage powder with a determinedly neutral flavour, I wondered what sort of miserable insensates would choose to subsist on such glop. Now I knew.

It may have been better for everyone when the overpaid nerds stayed home. Theyre importing children to destroy the culture, one bar owner told me.

Airbnb employees at work in San Francisco. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: Whats your space? Not Hows it going? Not Where are you from? But: Whats your space?

This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. Whats your space? meant What does your company do? This was not quite the same as asking: What do you do for a living? because ones company may well produce no living at all. A space had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say Im a writer. You would say Im in the content space, or, if you were more ambitious, Im in the media space. But if you were really ambitious you would know that media was out and platforms were in, and that the measure excuse me, the metric that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked Whats your space? and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja.

In my former life I would have sooner gouged out my own eyeballs than describe myself in such a way, but in post-recession, post-boom, post-work, post-shame San Francisco, we all did what we had to do to survive.

I was beginning to become acquainted with the infinite solipsism of my new milieu. We were grown men who lived like captive gerbils, pressing one lever to make food appear and another for some fleeting entertainment everything on demand. Airbnb and Foodpanda served the flesh, Netflix and Lifehacker nourished the soul.

I relied on sites such as EventBrite and Meetup to keep my social calendar full and my expenses down. I went to a party at the Yelp office like most of the freebies around town, it was advertised online. The venue was a forbidding art deco tower the old PacBell building, constructed for the California branch of the national telephone monopoly in its heyday. Now the towers largest tenant was a website that allows anonymous semi-literates to post critiques of local establishments. Most of the crowd seemed to work at Yelp, and felt obliged to stick around for the event. But there was something else keeping these people here an overriding anxiety about unfamiliar spaces.

Life outside the startup bubble was frightening and unpredictable. Inside, it was safe. Fun was mandatory in the Bay Area tech world, and inebriation strongly encouraged. The bar at Yelp, for instance, featured three kegs of high-end craft beer and an array of wines and spirits. This was not a temporary selection for the benefit of us honoured guests, but a permanent fixture of the commissary. Normally open only to employees, the Yelp Cafe had a perfect five-star rating … on Yelp. Well, looks like Im never leaving my office compound! one reviewer wrote.

A corporate recruiter explained to me the forces driving the perks war, an escalating tit-for-tat of such freebies as steak dinners delivered to employees desks, free laundry service, free bikes and bike repair, free concierge service and, of course, free drinks.

They might get a $20 steak, but with the extra time theyve stayed at work, theyve provided an extra $200 in value to their employer, the recruiter said. Thus the seemingly lavish enticements were a way to attract profit-producing programmers, who were in exceedingly high demand, without offering higher salaries. The perks also provided effective cover for the companies slave-driving work schedules.

My flatmates seemed happy with the arrangement, at least at first. Everything they say about Google is true, one intern told me after his orientation at the Googleplex. There are 20 cafeterias, a gym everything. Early each weekday morning, he and the other Googlers in his neighbourhood swiped their ID cards to board a chartered bus parked near the Bart station, then rode 35 miles to Mountain View. They started working onboard the bus, which was equipped with wifi, and didnt leave the campus until about 8pm, when another bus ferried them home after they ate at the company cafeteria. This was a pretty standard deal at the big Silicon Valley companies. Even rinky-dink startups in SoMa warehouses offered free catering. The perks, man! another roommate, a non-Googler, raved after arriving home at 10pm from his first day on the job.

I worked until 9pm because dinner is free if you work that late … And theyll pay for your cab home, he went on. That became his routine, and he never questioned it. Come to think of it, like a lot of his contemporaries, he never questioned anything.

In this milieu, a certain tolerance for phoniness was prerequisite. It was not enough to have the right skills, put in your time and get the job done you had to be fucking pumped about your job. Certain specialities were in more demand than others. Any chump with a humanities degree could talk his or her way into a marketing job, but programmers were harder to come by. One sunny day, I followed the waterfront to the event center at Pier 27 and signed in to the DeveloperWeek conference.

DevWeek, as everyone called it, was basically a week-long recruitment fair sprinkled with slideshows and panel talks. It was jarring to see employers desperate to hire, not the other way around. In 2010s America, the only place that was always hiring, apart from Silicon Valley, was the local US army recruiting centre. Hundreds upon hundreds of people had flocked here to look for a better job and still there were not enough applicants to fill all the openings for Java Legends, Python Badasses, Hadoop Heroes, and other gratingly childish classifications describing various programming specialities. Techies would call themselves just about anything to avoid the stigmatising label of worker. They could only face themselves in the mirror if their business card proved that they were rock stars or ninjas or something romantic and brave and individualistic anything but the truth, anything but a drone.

I had an important realisation at DevWeek: I wasnt the only one bluffing my way through the tech scene. Everyone was doing it, even the much-sought-after engineering talent. I was struck by how many developers were, like myself, not really programmers, but rather this, that and the other. A great number of tech ninjas were not exactly black belts when it came to the actual onerous work of computer programming. So many of the complex, discrete tasks involved in the creation of a website or an app had been automated that it was no longer necessary to possess knowledge of software mechanics. The coders work was rarely a craft. The apps ran on an assembly line, built with open-source, off-the-shelf components. The most important computer commands for the ninja to master were copy and paste.

Employees at the Square Inc headquarters in San Francisco. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Barack Obamas White House had endorsed Silicon Valleys learn to code campaign it was an official government job-creation programme. With the traditional US job market still a smouldering charcoal pitafter the 2008 crash, computer programming skills were promoted as one sure way to attain the sort of prosperity and stability Americans had over many decades come to expect.

And yet, many programmers who had made it in Silicon Valley were scrambling to promote themselves from coder to founder. There wasnt necessarily more money to be had running a startup, and the increase in status was marginal unless ones startup attracted major investment and the right kind of press coverage. Its because the programmers knew that their own ladder to prosperity was on fire and disintegrating fast. They knew that well-paid programming jobs would also soon turn to smoke and ash, as the proliferation of learn-to-code courses around the world lowered the market value of their skills, and as advances in artificial intelligence allowed for computers to take over more of the mundane work of producing software. The programmers also knewthat the fastest way to win that promotion to founder was to find some new domain that hadnt yet been automated. Every tech industry campaign designedto spur investment in the Next Big Thing at that time, it was the sharing economy concealed a larger programme for the transformation of society, always in a direction that favoured the investor and executive classes.

In the first seven years after the 2008 crash, 16 million people left the US labour force. And in that same period, thanks to Silicon Valleys timely opportunism, the country gained an endless bounty of gigs. Tech startups, backed by Wall Street, swept in to offer displaced workers countless push-button moneymaking schemes what Bloomberg News called entrepreneurialism-in-a-box. Need fast cash? Take out a peer-to-peer loan, or start a crowdfunding campaign. Need a career? Take on odd jobs as a TaskRabbit or pitch corporate swag as a YouTube vlogger. Nine-to-five jobs with benefits and overtime may be in the process of getting disrupted out of existence, but in their place we have the internet, with endless gigs and freelance opportunities, where survival becomes something like a video game a matter of pressing the right buttons to attain instant gratification and meagre rewards.

More than a third of American workers now qualify as freelancers or contingent workers that is, their livelihoods are contingent upon the whims of their managers. Thats because the choice to become entrepreneurs has been made for them. The destruction of social welfare, public education and organised labour has created what might be called the 50 Cent economy, a system structured to offer only two options: Get rich or die trying. George W Bush called it the ownership society. Obama, smitten with his Silicon Valley donors, gave us Startup America. And Donald Trump, historys luckiest winner, reigned over a nation of losers. Under the latest iteration of the American Dream, if you arent a billionaire yet, you havent tried hard enough.

The contemporary equivalent of an entry-level job in the corporate mailroom was a work-from-home service called Mechanical Turk, operated by Amazon, the $136bn online retailer controlled by Jeff Bezos. The idea with Mechanical Turk was to create a digitised assembly line featuring thousands of separate human intelligence tasks, designed to be completed within seconds and paying pennies. Academic surveys found that many Turkers worked more than 30 hours per week for average wages of under $2 per hour. Yet these workers were considered self-employed small business owners. Their work was commissioned by social scientists seeking to cut costs on large-sample surveys, but also by profit-minded companies that hired hundreds of Turkers as needed, instead of a full- or part-time employee.

Another sharing economy upstart called Fiverr was a catalogue of freelance gigs, from illustration to translation, all sold at a fixed cost of $5. Launched in 2010 by two Israelis, Fiverr raised more than $50m in investment within five years, on annual revenue of $15m. Silicon Valley investors praised the founders incredible vision and swooned over the liquidity, velocity and engagement the company brought to the global marketplace.

It was remarkable what people were willing to do for $5, or more like $3.92 after service fees. A lot of ads promised custom website development. Others offered quick-and-dirty logos, proofreading, or rsum writing. I hoped to forge my place in the strange niche of bargain basement flat-fee consulting. Thousands of people were paying $5 to strangers for direction on matters they found too difficult, too stressful or too trivial to face alone. Fiverrs terms of service forbade nonsense and uncool stuff but the service seemed to tolerate ads like one for an Amazon Kindle ghostwriting machine; or another for tools designed to cheat likes on social networks; and still another for a profitable forex cheating strategy an obvious scam that Fiverr marked for a while as recommended. I had entered a murky ethical realm. I scanned gigs methodically. I learned that it paid to over-promise. No matter was too momentous:

I will teach you to make Life and Death Decisions for $5.

This gig was listed by a Fiverr-certified top-rated seller who claimed experience as a broker of precious metals.

I will help you Survive the Fatal Ebola Virus Epidemic for $5.

As far as I knew, there was no cure for Ebola. But who was I to argue with a five-star-rated seller? Could 2,679 customers be wrong?

On the sites discussion boards, sellers swapped stories of unfair competition from scammers, insufficient payments from Fiverr, capricious rules, meagre sales and endless hours. Some sounded genuinely desperate. Fiverr even sent its workers emails about increasing productivity by avoiding depression. Full-time Fiverring took a physical toll, as well, with many slavish gig-peddlers reporting rapid weight gain. I know what you mean! I bought some jeggings this weekend, one woman wrote. Another commenter saw opportunity. If anyone is interested, he wrote, Im putting together a Fiverr gig where I will be offering online fitness coaching.

Fiverr offered a glimpse at the new model worker: a fat, depressed con artist forever scheming against his comrades, egged on by the distant architects of the virtual marketplace the only real winners. The company eventually embraced this image and celebrated it with a subway ad campaign featuring a fatigued-looking model with frizzy hair and circles under her eyes. You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice, the ad said. You might be a doer, it concluded. When busy-ness became a status symbol, the glamorisation of exhaustion was inevitable.

A sign supporting Proposition F to restrict short-term rentals via companies such as Airbnb in San Francisco. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

I found Corey Ferreira through his website,, which was a marketing vehicle for his ebook, Fiverr Success: $4,000 a Month. 8 Hours of Work a Week. Having made a decent amount on Fiverr, Ferreira had found rates of pay had halved. Faced with slowing business, he had adopted a new approach: he could sell the method. He got the idea from a book called The Laptop Millionaire, which describes a guys journey from being basically homeless to making money online. One of the things he talks about is making information products. Hence Fiverr Success by Corey Ferreira was born, selling hundreds of copies at $17.

The book marked a transition for Ferreira, as he spent less time doing labour-intensive web design and more time searching for the cold fusion of internet marketing: passive income. I remember when eBay started, he told me. I was kinda young. Everybody wastalking about how to make money on eBay. I remember somebody telling me, During a gold rush, you should sell shovels.

I felt he had let me in on some oracular wisdom. Dontdig for gold: sell shovels to all the suckers who think theyll get rich digging for gold. To post an ad on Fiverr was to announce ones status as an easy mark. Tohawk get-rich-quick manuals to all those eager Fiverrers, however, was to join the exalted ranks of the shovel merchants.

My Airbnb landlord, I realised, was a shovel merchant. As was the company that rented me server space for website hosting. As were the startup community organisers selling tickets to conferences and networking parties. As were the startup awards shows and Hacker News and the whole Silicon Valley economic apparatus promoting the ideal of individual achievement. We startup wannabes were not entrepreneurs. We were suckers for the shovel merchants, who were much cleverer than the thick-skulled innovators who did all the work while trading away the rewards.

For a business incompetent such as myself, this concept of selling a method, rather than a straightforward product or service, was revelatory. I understood this lesson as an extension of that old saying about teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him a fish. Now the idea was: you made him pay for fishing lessons, offering student loans if necessary, and failed to mention that you had already depleted the pool. In a late capitalist society with dwindling opportunities for cash-poor workers and few checks on entrepreneurial conduct, what could be better to sell than false hope? This was a smart business.

Unfortunately, the techie hustlers can be a little too clever for their own good and ours. With decades of unwavering support from the military-industrial complex, Congress and Wall Street, the pallid princelings of Silicon Valley rewrote the rules of the global economy in their favour. The public, fooled as it was by the tech industrys slick marketing and lulled by the novelty and convenience of its gadgetry, might be forgiven for missing some early warning signs. (Remember when the Google guys used to rhapsodise about beaming the internet with the attendant targeted advertising directly into peoples brains? It doesnt sound so far-fetched and quirky now, does it?)

If we are feeling generous, the same retrospective clemency could even be shown to politicians who mistook Silicon Valley for just another well-heeled lobby looking for favours, and to the reporters who were suckered by the rapid rise of revolutionary companies such as Theranos and Uber. But the builders of our digital dystopia the tech titans themselves, and their armies of engineers have no such excuses. They will talk about the mistakes they have made. They will express regret for their oversights and make a show of contrition. Dont be fooled.

The dark side of Big Tech, which many consumers are only beginning to come to grips with, is not some byproduct of California-style conscious capitalism an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise heroic effort to change the world. Profit-hunger, philistinism and misanthropy are and always have been at the core of the enterprise. The new breed of Silicon Valley billionaires knew exactly what they were doing. The plan was to take all the money and run to Mars, if necessary.

Adapted from Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley, published by Metropolitan Books in the US, and forthcoming from Scribe in the UK

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Read more:

Data experts on Facebooks GDPR changes: Expect lawsuits

Make no mistake: Fresh battle lines are being drawn in the clash between data-mining tech giants and Internet users over people’s right to control their personal information and protect their privacy.

An update to European Union data protection rules next month — called the General Data Protection Regulation — is the catalyst for this next chapter in the global story of tech vs privacy.

A fairytale ending would remove that ugly ‘vs’ and replace it with an enlightened ‘+’. But there’s no doubt it will be a battle to get there — requiring legal challenges and fresh case law to be set down — as an old guard of dominant tech platforms marshal their extensive resources to try to hold onto the power and wealth gained through years of riding roughshod over data protection law.

Payback is coming though. Balance is being reset. And the implications of not regulating what tech giants can do with people’s data has arguably never been clearer.

The exciting opportunity for startups is to skate to where the puck is going — by thinking beyond exploitative legacy business models that amount to embarrassing blackboxes whose CEOs dare not publicly admit what the systems really do — and come up with new ways of operating and monetizing services that don’t rely on selling the lie that people don’t care about privacy.

More than just small print

Right now the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation can take credit for a whole lot of spilt ink as tech industry small print is reworded en masse. Did you just receive a T&C update notification about a company’s digital service? Chances are it’s related to the incoming standard.

The regulation is generally intended to strengthen Internet users’ control over their personal information, as we’ve explained before. But its focus on transparency — making sure people know how and why data will flow if they choose to click ‘I agree’ — combined with supersized fines for major data violations represents something of an existential threat to ad tech processes that rely on pervasive background harvesting of users’ personal data to be siphoned biofuel for their vast, proprietary microtargeting engines.

This is why Facebook is not going gentle into a data processing goodnight.

Indeed, it’s seizing on GDPR as a PR opportunity — shamelessly stamping its brand on the regulatory changes it lobbied so hard against, including by taking out full page print ads in newspapers…

Cratejoy has 24 subscription boxes on sale today, so you better get on that

There are boxes on sale for *every* hobby. We're not kidding.

Image: cratejoy/mashable photo composite

Tax Day is finally here, and we hope that you all got your shit together and did your tax returns, you know, before today.

If you were on top of your tax game and haven't blown your entire check (yet), we just wanted to let you know that Cratejoy is having a huge Tax Day sale. Two dozen of their best subscription boxes are 25% off today, and all you need to do is use the coupon code TAXDAY to save on a monthly subscription. 

This sale selection is seriously unreal: There are boxes to teach you how to mix cocktails, help you get your side hustle off the ground, learn a new language or how to code, plus boxes for coffee lovers, dog parents, people obsessed with fitness, and even Harry Potter fans — and that's just naming a few. There's no way you won't find something you love.

We've listed a few of our favorite sale boxes below, but you can scope out the full sale list here. Hurry — the sale is only for today.

American Cocktail Club

Image: american cocktail club

Raise your hand if you would say “no” to having alcohol delivered to your doorstep every month. (That's what we thought.) Whether mixology is a hobby of yours or if you'd like to make drinks fancier than a vodka soda, the American Cocktail Club subscription box can help. 

Each month, receive all of the ingredients you'll need to make four servings of the month's themed cocktail (or pay a little less and get the ingredients, minus the alcohol.) Reviews claim that the recipes are amazing, and have you feeling fancy even when drinking out of a red solo cup.

Sign up for the Everything Box (alcohol included) for $44.99/month or the Everything but the Booze box for $34.99/month here, and take 25% off with code TAXDAY.


Image: singlesswag

All the single ladies: The SinglesSwag box is here to tell you that self love is best kind of love there is — and if you're single, you have more money to spend on yourself anyway. 

Each month, receive a handful of things like fashion accessories, organic bath and beauty products, makeup bags, fancy artisan-crafted foods, best selling books, and even some surprises. This box has one of the best ratings we've seen on Cratejoy ever, with 4.5 out of 5 stars and reviewed by nearly 300 women. You go, girls.

Get three to four items for $24.99/month, or five to seven items for $39.99/month here. Plus, take 25% off with code TAXDAY.

The Dapper Dog Box

Image: dapper dog box

Dog moms and dads, you'll want to hear this: Not only is the Dapper Dog Box the cutest (and classiest) subscription box for fur babies to ever exist, but a portion of proceeds go toward feeding recuse dogs or supporting an animal shelter. We're not crying, you're crying. 

Each month, receive five to eight items that your very good doggo will wag uncontrollably over, like toys, natural treats, bow ties, bandanas, and more accessories. The box has 4.9/5 stars and was reviewed by 80 people, so there's no way it's not paws-itively awesome. Sorry. 

Sign up for $29.99/month here, and take 25% off with code TAXDAY. If for nothing else, just click the link to see 12 pictures of cute dogs posing with their boxes. You will not regret it.


Image: geekgear

Harry Potter isn't just a book series or a movie series, it's a way of life. GeekGear is a subscription box for the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fanatics out there, sending you exclusive, officially licensed Warner Bros merchandise that you can't get anywhere else. 

Each month, receive up to 10 items like collectibles and action figures (ahem, wands), wall art, postcards, and apparel including an exclusively designed monthly t-shirt. You even get to choose the color of your house. We solemnly swear that we are about to drop all of our money on this.

Sign up for $28.56/month here, and take 25% off with code TAXDAY.


Image: coregains

Whether you're a wellness junkie or could use a little boost, a subscription to the CoreGains box has got your back. Each month, you'll receive a bunch of plant-based supplements, protein bars, and healthy snacks that are actually good. Plus, you'll get introduced to new brands that are hard to get anywhere else, and you won't have to deal with the lines at Whole Foods.

Sign up for $19.99/month here, and take 25% off with code TAXDAY.

SHEclub Monthly

Image: sheclub monthly

Attention, boss ladies trying to get into the side hustle game: SHEclub monthly is a box curated specifically for female entrepreneurs trying to get a side business off the ground — because trying to get a blog or online store running outside of a 9-5 job can be a struggle. 

Each month, receive a box of four to seven items like office supplies, motivational books, and planner accessories, as well as access to digital training to help you grow your online business.

Sign up for $39.95/month here, and get 25% off with code TAXDAY.


Read more:

Teachable raises $4M to create a tool to turn any online class into a true business

Online coursework is exploding across all kinds of verticals and fields of expertise — but those courses inevitably end up on platforms like Udemy, and for Ankur Nagpal, that’s really not a way to build a true business.

That’s why Nagpal started Teachable, a platform for experts that want to create a business around their coursework that helps them build an entire online education suite beyond just platforms like Coursera or Udemy. Niche expertise can be way too valuable for just a simple marketplace like Coursera, Nagpal says, and experts in those areas — even seminars on mindfulness or Feng Shui — should be able to make more than just a few thousand dollars a year off that coursework. Nagpal said the company has raised an additional $4 million in equity from existing investors Accomplice Ventures and AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant.

“In the past, if you wanted to teach courses, you could either put it in the marketplace or have it on your own website — with your brand and domain name and full control of everything — but there’s no easy way to do it,” Nagpal said. “It’s the difference between listing a physical good on Amazon and having your own storefront. While you could make a few thousand dollars on Udemy, you couldn’t build a sustainable business selling courses for $10 to $15.”

That fundraise, however, comes with a whopping $134 million valuation in the end as the company expects to be profitable by the end of Q4 this year. Teachable has around 10 million students across 125,000 courses, with 12,000 paying customers on the platform. Nagpal says it is aiming for a business that will generate more than $200 million in sales this year, which might not be so far off given the speed at which it has ramped up from just $5 million in 2015 to around $90 million in 2017.

In Teachable’s earliest days, instructors focused on marketing or programming, which is where a lot of online coursework got its start when the value of knowledge skills like Ruby or Python skyrocketed. But since then, Teachable has grown into a platform where users with niche skill sets can create robust coursework, and if they already have content ready to go like videos, can get their domain up and running in just a few hours. Teachable has a multi-tier pricing structure ranging from taking small transaction fees to a paid subscription of nearly $299 a month in order to manage its online domains, which is designed to appeal to a wide variety of potential instructors looking to get their start.

“If you look at our top 10 or 20 instructors, there’s virtually no pattern of verticals that are successful,” Nagpal said. “[The popular courses are based on] professional skills, or learning to play a musical instrument, or fly a drone, or even financial empowerment. There’s almost an anti-pattern.”

And again, these aren’t supposed to be courses that get wrapped up into a $49 per-month subscription. Courses in highly specific verticals — like something like Feng shui — can cost up to a hundred dollars or more. But the idea is that these seminars have so much value that students who are looking to dive deep into them are willing to go beyond the cost of just a Udemy in order to get the most valuable content. Teachable aims to make it easy to port the kind of content instructors might post on one of those marketplaces to quickly get them up and running with their own independent online course.

That free plan with a transaction fee is ultimately what at least piques the interest of potential instructors, and Teachable also hosts workshops to try to get them more excited about the opportunity — and then get them to start paying as they look to attract more and more students and need a more robust toolkit, like advanced reporting. or priority product support. The company doesn’t really focus on paid marketing because Nagpal says it’s “not very good at it,” as it primarily leans on word of mouth and affiliates.

“Courses on marketplaces are effectively commoditized,” he said. “I would buy the top-rated courses, but the first course is as valuable as the second or third. On our platform, if people are buying the Ruby on Rails course, it’s probably because they’ve followed an expert on that for a year. What I’m buying is not commoditized, I have a relationship with that person. Their content is much more valuable. All the sales are generated through an instructor.”

Nagpal said he got his start building a bunch of, well, bad Facebook apps like personality quizzes and really simple flash games in the early days of the Facebook Platform. Getting such an early glimpse at that behavior on the Facebook Platform is pretty controversial today with the massive privacy scandal Facebook faces after Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm, ended up with personal data of up to 87 million people through a simple app on the Facebook Platform. Nagpal, however, said what now seems like a treasure trove of data was at the time not really all that useful for that business.

“We got some of that data, but to us it was junk and we never stored it,” he said. “It just seemed like noise.”

The biggest challenge for Teachable, Nagpal says, is making sure instructors actually want to remain instructors. The free tier might attract them to getting started, but instructors might just get burnt out from being instructors in general — whether that’s on Teachable or a marketplace like Udemy. The real competition, he says, are platforms like YouTube and other time sinks for content creators. To keep them on board, Teachable hopes to expand to other verticals of content like coaching and services. That, too, might keep it ahead of marketplaces like Coursera and eventually woo instructors with the opportunity to build an entire online business on Teachable.

“Every month we have 50 people getting more [than the top paid instructor on a platform like Skillshare],” he said. “The sustainability of the business is very different. It’s really hard to make a living selling $10 courses. On our platform, the average price point is closer to $100, which in turn gets reinvested to create actually good content. We’re finding most of the instructors don’t just sell courses, and they have multiple income streams. We’re trying to see if we can get our checkout product powering all that. That creates network lock-in.”

Teachable also took on a few smaller investors including Shopify founder Tobias Lutke, Weebly founder Chris Fanini, CEO Eric Robison, and Getty Images founder Jonathan Klein.

Read more: