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MarketSnacks delivers daily business news in way that is “fun, easy and digestible.” The company started as a daily e-mail newsletter in 2012 and just launched a daily podcast this year. I had the chance to catch up with Nick Martell, a second year MBA at The Wharton School, to talk about the evolution of MarketSnacks and how he and co-founder, Jack Kramer, second year MBA at Michigan Ross, are envisioning a bold future for their digital media brand, online and beyond.

Business stories millennials care about

It can be daunting to keep up with the markets on a daily basis, especially for a college student trying to land a job in finance. Even young professionals are often remiss in finding the time to watch CNBC or read the newspaper before getting to the office each day, and traditional publications like The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times can seem cumbersome to read, especially for someone new to the world of finance.

MarketSnacks produces a daily e-mail newsletter and podcast catered to millennials, covering the stories they care about in a way that’s fun. Co-founders, Nick Martell and Jack Kramer, have spent years honing a certain unified voice that feels much more like chatting about the news with your best buddies, than reading it off a screen. Their content is insightful and humorous in a way that is distinctly millennial. For example, a recent story in the newsletter about Facebook’s decision to launch a video camera/tablet in the home, called Portal, was titled, “Facebook’s new ‘Portal’ video camera is tonedeaf AF” and accompanied by this gif of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise:

Facebook’s new “Portal”

Across the newsletter, podcast and third-party syndication deals, MarketSnacks reaches an audience in the six figures. The newsletter has strong user engagement with a 40% open rate, compared to an industry average of 22%, according to MailChimp. Their podcast, since launching this past May, hit #2 on Apple business news podcasts and has accumulated a 5.0-star rating (out of 5.0) across more than 900 reviews.

“The podcast has really taken off for us and enabled us to connect with our audience in a much more intimate way than ever before.”

– Nick Martell, Co-Founder of MarketSnacks

The company has mainly bootstrapped itself to profitability thus far, generating revenues through sponsored e-mail content, mid-podcast product endorsements and content licensing deals. They have their sights set on expansion as they took their first investment this past summer in the form of a safe with Rough Draft Ventures and mentioned plans for another round of fundraising in the near future.

The big picture is shifting

It is no secret that media consumption habits have shifted away from traditional channels, like television, print and radio, toward digital media, with the increase of internet and mobile penetration. In 2017, digital advertising spend hit a record $88 billion, surpassing all of broadcast and cable TV combined for the first time. And mobile now accounts for more than half of that online ad spend. In short, people, and more specifically millennials, are spending more time online and less time on television. The podcast market alone reached a record $314 million in revenues in 2017, and is expected to more than double to $659 million by 2020. MarketSnacks is well-positioned to take advantage of these trends with its digital-first approach.

At the same time, the e-mail newsletter vertical in particular is a crowded one, while consumers only have so much time in their daily morning routine to squeeze in a read. There are a number of daily e-mails also covering business news, including Morning Brew, Finimize and Axios. Morning Brew produces a daily roundup of key market-moving news for the busy young professional, but their style is more of a summary with less humor and insight. Finimize, on a mission to empower millennials to manage their own money, filters each story down with questions like “What does this mean?” and “Why should I care?” Axios, with 15 newsletters ranging from world news to tech and media, is the only other that has also launched a daily podcast. The Daily Skimm is often considered the darling of the newsletter space, but it’s more of a complimentary read, as it covers mostly political news and caters particularly to female millennials.

It’s a competitive landscape with low barriers to entry, but MarketSnacks does a good job of differentiating itself from the rest. I think their biggest defining strength is how entertaining and engaging their content is. They are deliberate in not just putting out a news summary, but insightful and funny news commentary. Operating across media platforms also gives them a real competitive advantage. They have a first-mover advantage with their daily podcast, and the audio format allows them to reinforce their brand and really strengthen their connection with fans.

Yet, the company could face challenges as it looks to scale. With an ad-driven business model, growing eyeballs and engagement will be key. Right now, the duo is focused on strengthening the MarketSnacks brand by putting out killer content each day, but it will be interesting to see how the company grows from here. They will likely have to raise more capital, hire some more employees and perhaps spend money on marketing to grow their user base. At the same time, as they grow their team and expand into new verticals, it could be challenging to simultaneously stay true to their unique style and voice that makes the MarketSnacks brand what it is today.

MarketSnacks Co-Founders Jack Kramer and Nick Martell (left to right)

Did we just become best friends?

Nick Martell and Jack Kramer met as freshman year roommates at Middlebury College. Nick played lacrosse, while Jack was on the football team, but they bonded instantly over a shared preference for protein shakes and their respective Seinfeld DVD collections. Though Nick ultimately transferred to Brown University, the two stayed in touch, eventually becoming roommates again as investment bankers in New York City, Nick at UBS and Jack at Commerzbank AG. Nick recalls that while the two followed quite traditional career paths into banking, they had always shared a tendency to do things a bit differently. Nick was a history major at Brown and often sought out more creative classes, such as writing, as an undergrad. It is no wonder that they would soon shake up the world of business news.

In 2012, in the wake of the recession and the European debt crisis, Nick and Jack saw first-hand the way financial markets impacted our lives, as many of their peers struggled to secure jobs. At the same time, they felt a disconnect between existing business news and their generation. Companies like recently-IPOed Lululemon, were beloved by their friends, but were not being covered in a way that resonated with millennials. They looked at the existing landscape, from the likes of CNBC to the Wall Street Journal, and saw mostly long stories filled with jargon. At the same time, bogged down by the daily grind of multi-tab spreadsheets and midnight orders on SeamlessWeb, they felt a burning desire to tap into their own creativity. They wanted to make business news more fun and accessible. MarketSnacks was born.

Nick and Jack started MarketSnacks anonymously at first, so they could keep their day jobs. They came up with a company name, a logo and got started by writing a daily email newsletter. Launching in a newsletter format enabled the company to grow its user base with zero marketing spend. They achieved profitability early on, syndicating content out to The Motley Fool and Yahoo! Finance, who could not create content on their own that connected so well with millennials. In 2016, they were taking a tour of the new Cheddar TV studio with founder, Jon Steinberg, when he spontaneously put them in front of a camera to tape a live segment on what was happening in the markets. This went so well it soon led to a weekly spot on Cheddar, which then led to regular guest spots on CBS business news. This unexpected foray into television made them realize that MarketSnacks could become much more than just a newsletter.

“That’s when we realized that we could do digestible business news in our style, MarketSnacks…across different forms of media, and that there could be huge value there.”

– Nick Martell, Co-Founder of MarketSnacks

What will they serve up next?

With flags planted in e-mail, TV and podcasting, MarketSnacks is now looking offline for their next leg of expansion, into live events. Nick spoke about starting with a live podcast recording for starters, with plans to grow from there. Many media companies are in fact looking to live events as a way to both reinforce their brands by connecting with their fans “IRL”, or in real life, and to drive revenues. The Infatuation, a media platform for restaurant discovery, just launched EEEEEATSCON, a large-scale food festival, in New York and LA. At the same time, dating app, Bumble, just launched the Bumble Hive, which is a physical space where its female users can connect.

“MarketSnacks is building this exciting community of young professionals, who want to connect with each other, not just to talk about business news, but to network and learn from each other.”

– Nick Martell, Co-Founder of MarketSnacks

Nick and Jack each enrolled in MBA programs last year to put what initially started as a side hustle on a pedestal. Nick is spending this semester on Wharton’s San Francisco campus, where he is able to take classes geared towards running a startup, meet with potential VC investors and really take the time to think through each upcoming strategic decision. Nick and Jack are thinking big about the future of MarketSnacks. They have established a brand that resonates with the highly-coveted millennial demographic, and they are focused on building it out into a cross-platform media company. I’m excited to see where they take it from here.

Check out their newsletter & podcast below:

Podcast: MarketSnacks Daily

Newsletter: MarketSnacks

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