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Hack To Start
Episode 14

John O'Nolan

Founder at @TryGhost. Open source, startup life, non-profits, and publishing.

Listen to this episode on iTunes, Stitcher, & Google Music

Episode Overview

John O'Nolan is the co-founder of, a simple, powerful publishing platform that allows you to share your stories with the world. He shares his insights on how to create an open-source startup, a successful crowdfunding campaign, and the future of publishing.

John is an interactive designer specializing in digital publishing. He was formally the Deputy Head of The WordPress UI Group, where he helped to design and develop the WordPress user interface - and spoke at conferences all over the world about designing WordPress. He also designed and built blogs for people like Microsoft, Nokia, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Ubisoft and many others.

Some Of The Questions We Ask

Where are you from, what did you study and how did your passion for entrepreneurship start?

How challenging was it to leave to work on your own thing?

You’re the founder of, a simple, powerful publishing platform that allows you to share your stories with the world. Why did you decide to start

What are some of the biggest challenges involved in creating an open-sourced based startup?

So not only is an open-source project, but on April 29th, 2013, it launched as a crowdfunded project as well. Why did you decide to go this route (you mentioned that it took over 6 months of preparation)?

How did you hack your way to almost 8x your original goal of 25,000 pounds?

How did a team of 5 (now bigger) build a community that was able to achieve these staggering numbers?

What’s next for Ghost as a publishing platform and community?

Besides Ghost, what are some of your favorite app, tools, or books right now?

What You Learn In This Episode

  • Why the simplest idea is sometimes the best to pursue and how John came up with the idea for Ghost.
  • How challenging it is to create a non-profit startup, but why it's important.
  • Why testing your assumptions is critical for starups.
  • Why A/B testing should always include a third, completely different, option.
  • Why partners are critical to a new product launch on Kickstarter to instill confidence.
  • And more!

Here are some of the most important links and resources mentioned throughout the show.

Twitter Handles & Websites

John on Twitter
Ghost on the Twitter
Ghost on the Web
Ghost's crazy growth number post
John's post on how they achieve 1,000% onboarding growth Tyler Copeland on Twitter
Franco Varriano on Twitter

Books & Apps


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