The Impossible Startup Part 3: Validation

Farzad Khosravi
4 min readMay 29, 2021

We’ve launched our Newsletter. It’ll help us validate if our content is interesting and if we can help people discover new ideas, people, and topics.

This is Part 3 of a multipost series. Please read Part 1 first

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Carl Sagan

What is the Impossible Startup?

I want to bring you on a journey as I found my third company. It’s the most ambitious one yet. We are very much in the ideation stage, hence the title of this post. My goal for writing this post is twofold:

  • To show you how we got started and, maybe, inspire you to create your next startup
  • Get advice from you!


  • Signup for Cicero’s newsletter and get the latest and best podcasts, blogs, essays, analyses, interviews, and lectures from world-leading experts sent to you daily.
  • Interest, signups, and feedback are still strong. People want Cicero to excel at helping them discover amazing content. Everything else is the cherry on top.


At the heart of our mission is the stringent belief that we are all lifelong learners — that we are not inert beings incapable of growth or change. That we are all endowed with curiosity. But this doesn’t last for everyone. Something goes wrong for many of us at some point in our lives.

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”

Carl Sagan

We realized that at its core, people want Cicero to fulfill their desire for curiosity and learning. They want a different experience with the knowledge that they don’t get elsewhere. They want to be exposed to a variety of topics, a variety of perspectives, and a variety of ways of looking at the world from leading experts.

I truly believe most of us inherently want this. Sadly, it’s beaten out of us. So we live in a world where a minority seeks knowledge and wanders into the unknown. Perhaps, Cicero can make a dent in this. By making our access to knowledge easier and more sensible we can fight against this entropy.


Are we correct about our assumptions above? For Cicero to succeed it first needs to nail down content and discovery. We need to test that people do want to discover amazing content that’s out there and that we are finding the right content. So we decided to dedicate the entire month of May to create a newsletter and basic feed. The daily newsletter is filled with the latest and best podcasts, blogs, essays, analyses, interviews, and lectures from world-leading experts. The feed will have similar content but is updated more regularly. Sadly, we were not able to finish the feed this month.

  1. Signup for the Newsletter
  2. Share your feedback on

The Story So Far

  • Email signup rates are very high at 15%: I rounded down to 15% as some of those are friends and family. This is far above the average of the top 10% of websites that sit at 11.45%. Keep in mind Dropbox is 4% and Evernote 4.1% (both are freemium products that I am comparing ourselves to). It’s not the best comparison but it’s the best number I could find.
  • Conclusion: Seems like people are interested in our mission and our landing page is doing the job right

The top Four reasons people sign up for Cicero are:

  • “Follow topics I like” at 84%
  • “Discover new topics and experts” at 73%
  • “Filter out the bullshit” at 63%
  • “Follow experts I like” at 58%

Biggest things people want out of Cicero (besides the basics)

  • Ability to deep dive into a topic like “Biden’s infrastructure plan” and get a variety of perspectives on it from experts.
  • Ability to see dissenting views on the content you’re looking at already. Getting both sides of the story
  • Ability to debate content without it becoming toxic.

Interviewed 11 people in the last 30 days

  • The biggest point that kept coming up is that Cicero just needs to do a better job of helping people discover amazing content than existing platforms. Without the discovery aspect, all the other features seem meaningless.

What’s next?

  • Interview new people and see what people like, dislike, and want from our mission and newsletter
  • Get the MVP of our feed finished.
  • Start discussions around the content we share on



Farzad Khosravi

Founder of Humanist. Against all forms of tyranny. Entrepreneur. Maverick. And lover of science.