Eric Decker, also known as “Airrack,” has gained nearly 7 million subscribers on his YouTube channel faster than most creators in the platform’s 17 year history. His videos range from cycling 38 miles on ice to helping his subscribers start a 5-star restaurant.
Some say he’s the next Mr.Beast. Others say he’s a modern Nathan For You. But after interviewing him and his team, his journey as a creator is surprisingly reminiscent of Elon Musk’s journey as an entrepreneur.
Below, I’ll dive deeper into that theory along with four other lessons from how Airrack built one of today’s strongest communities (affectionately known as “The Airrack Mafia”) and how he teamed up with his managers Zack Honarvar & Kate Ward to start a series of business ventures — including Creator Now and Pizzafy — in the process.
1) “Throw Your Backpack Over The Fence”
“That one moment right there was like the flint and steel that started the whole freakin’ fire that’s been the last year and a half of my life,” Airrack told me.
The moment Airrack was referring to came when he only had 1,500 subscribers on YouTube. In January 2020, Logan Paul was in Miami for his brother Jake’s boxing match against AnEsonGib. Airrack flew in and posed as a fake reporter to pitch Logan to collaborate with him.
To get there, Airrack spent thousands of dollars to fly to Miami and get a hotel with no guarantee he’d actually meet Logan. His strategy mirrored what another top YouTube creator — Ammar Kandil from Yes Theory – used on his rise to success. As he once said on Logan’s very own podcast, Impaulsive:
“If you want to go [forward], but there’s a big fence in front of you, throw your backpack over because now your only option is to get to the other side,” Kandil explained.
Airrack didn’t just throw his backpack over the fence; he threw it all the way to Miami. And when you’re spending that much money, you’re gonna be more motivated to get the job done. That’s exactly what Airrack did by finding Logan and approaching him and he did not as a fan, but as an equal. During that interaction with Logan, Airrack said this:
“Think of me as two or three years ago you. Full of ambition,” Airrack confidently told Paul back then. “I’m going to make it regardless of what happens but doing that alongside you would be unreal.”
In hindsight, Airrack was both right and wrong. He was right that he was “going to make it” but he was wrong that it would take two or three years. A huge part of this quick growth can be attributed to Airrack and his team’s work ethic.
“Every day we wake up, we meet at 9 AM to discuss the tasks at hand, and we get them done at all costs necessary,” Airrack’s editor and co-pilot Mack Hopkins explained. “No weekends, No breaks. Most YouTube channels would look at that and think we are strange for working that hard, but the truth is, every member of the team breathes this mission, we want to make the biggest YouTube channel to ever exist.”
As their channel continued to grow, Airrack learned to refine his approach when it came to meeting and collaborating with other creators.
2) Create “Zero Effort” Collabs
While Airrack basically ambushed Logan, he got more strategic about collaborating with big YouTubers. His video with David Dobrik is a great example: Airrack hired a bunch of Dobrik lookalikes to surprise him at his house.
This video now has 1.7 million views on YouTube, and counting. While this was a great win for Airrack, he also gave Dobrik free, zero-effort content for his vlogs.
“I’m going to make it a lay-up for him. I’m gonna pay for his content for the day, bring one hundred people to his house, make it easy for him,” Airrack explained. “He gets a video out of it, I get a video out of it, and we’re better friends because of it. That’s the way to think about [collaborations].”
Airrack used this approach again with Logan. When Logan posted about trying to get rid of his couches, Airrack took out a loan and bought them for $17,000. This not only gave him the chance to meet Logan again, but he was also able to make Logan’s life easier as he wouldn’t have to make his own content for the day. Again, “zero effort.”
“Everybody knows about these couches that he spent all this money on, he’s trying to get rid of them, so I’m going to be the guy that [buys them],” Airrack explained to me. “I literally just had the idea to go to California and buy the couches and just get a relationship. That was my goal.”
After buying the couches from Logan, he began editing his video so it would go out at the same time.
“If you would have seen the behind the scenes of what it took to get that video out at the same time as Logan who has an entire team dedicated to getting videos out like that, and then me filming it, and then on a plane back to Atlanta, staying up for 3 days straight editing this video, only to barely hit upload at the same time as them.” Airrack said.
And it worked. “I gained like a quarter-million subs in a month, and then my life changed.” Airrack recalled.
To put that in context, according to TubeBuddy the average creator uploads 3,873 videos to hit 1 million subscribers. Airrack had only uploaded 58 videos at that point.
Simply put: the bigger the star you’re working with, the bigger your ideas have to be, and the more work you should put in on their content as well as your own.
3) Create “Series” Content
Of Airrack’s 128 YouTube videos (as of April 29, 2022), 40 of them or 31% are part of a series.
“Series” entails videos that build on each other like part one, two and three of Airrack’s Couch Series or Yacht Series. Or doubling down on a format like spending $10K and $100K on Facebook Marketplace.
From a story perspective, we’re hooked to hear what happens in part two and three, especially after you watch part one. YouTube’s algorithm is also more likely to recommend these videos to increase your watch time because there’s a higher chance you’ll binge on part one, two and three in a series.
It sounds simple to extend a storyline across multiple videos or re-use your top formats, but most creators don’t make “series content.” That would be like if J.K Rowling stopped writing Harry Potter even after the success of The Sorcerer’s Stone.
But instead, she created one of the most beloved series of all time with seven books and eight movies which gave fans time to see stories develop and fall in love with a cast of characters. As bizarre as it may sound, Airrack’s series-style content creates a similar effect especially as he’s now surrounding himself with his own cast of characters.
4) Be The Planet, Not The Moon
Airrack has collaborated with huge stars like Dobrik and the Pauls, but he didn’t get sucked into their ‘orbit’.
Nowadays so many creators have their version of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad. They want their cast of creators around them just like Dobrik has Jonah, Zane, Jason, and Natalie or MrBeast has Chandler, Chris, Karl and more.
Most people don’t realize but Airrack could have easily been “the third Paul brother” in Jake and Logan’s circles – which would’ve been nice, but nowhere near who Airrack is today. Jake even asked Airrack to move into the Team 10 house, but Airrack rejected the offer.
“It’s an interesting thing when you start [hanging] around bigger creators and people that have created massive multi-media companies on the platform. It’s like planets. I’m like a little pea orbiting around Jake Paul, and if I’m not careful, I’ll get absorbed into his gravitational pull, which stifles [my] ability to become my own planet.” Airrack explained.
Think about that. How many aspiring YouTubers would reject living with one of the biggest YouTubers? As a result of saying no, Airrack is now building his own “gravitational pull” instead of being a side character. Look no further than Fidias who flew all the way from Cyprus just to meet Airrack and join his crew. By having these “characters” in his videos — like Fidias and his editor Mack — Airrack is better able to weave together Harry Potter-like storylines.
Off camera, Airrack approaches collaboration differently than most creators too.
During our interview, he talked about a group called “The Creative Allegiance” who pitch him ideas for videos. If Airrack produces them, he gives them part of the video’s AdSense using a platform called Stir — specifically their Splits product — which helps creators run their businesses. By getting ideas from multiple sources, Airrack is crowdsourcing creativity in a way that makes it easier to have a longer career on YouTube.
Airrack’s editor Linus Lundqvist also experienced this collaboration first hand: “I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of YouTube channels in the past [as an editor] but my experience with Airrack has been unique. The dedication towards building the channel like a well-oiled machine is unmatched. There’s a really special system behind the scenes that brings these videos to life.”
5) Think Like Elon Musk
Before Tesla, Musk started and sold the payment app, PayPal. After making hundreds of millions from the sale, he invested the money and experience he gained from his last business in order to bankroll his next one: Tesla. In doing so, Musk admitted he “invested his last cent in his business,” according to an excerpt from 2010.
Airrack’s story is similar. Before YouTube, Airrack had a successful wedding video business that gave him the experience and funds to start his channel. Just like how Musk spent his last cents from PayPal to start Tesla, Airrack spent his last cents from his wedding business to start his YouTube channel.
“I basically flew to Miami with the last money in my bank account, I think I probably spent like $1,500 dollars, I maxed out my credit card, all to get that shot right there,” Airrack explained.
Moreover, Musk didn’t just focus on one venture at once. While running Tesla, Musk also started SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company. Musk even has some employees who work at multiple of his companies.
Once again, Airrack takes a similar approach to Musk. Funneling his finances from the wedding video business into his YouTube channel was just the beginning. More recently, Airrack created a pizza sauce called “Pizzafy,” started a merch line, hosted a YouTuber ping-pong tournament and is now co-founding Creator Now with his managers Zack Honarvar & Kate Ward, where they’re helping to grow the next generation of creators.
“Eric is a rocket ship with endless amounts of fuel and power,” Honarvar said. “As a manager, it’s a dream situation because my job is to just point him in the right direction and get out of the way.”
With all his success on and off the platform, it’s no surprise that Airrack has gotten the attention of other top YouTubers like Jimmy Donaldson also known as Mr.Beast. During a phone call, Mr.Beast said:
“I think you’re gonna be a big YouTuber, it’s obvious you understand the game, you’re driven and dedicated so there’s no doubt in my mind within a few years you’ll have 10 million subscribers.”
But at this rate, with Airrack nearly at seven million subscribers he may even beat MrBeast’s expectations and reach ten million subscribers by the end of 2022 instead of over the next few years.
Watch the video interview with Airrack here: