The story of Thicket

thicket (noun) — a dense group of bushes or trees (website) — a cluster of digital branches for communication and collaboration within communities
Thicket on Product Hunt

My name is Gyan, and I’m a senior at Cleveland High School in Reseda, CA. I’m in the humanities magnet (called “CORE”), a program which emphasizes interdisciplinary learning and critical thinking. Since 9th grade, we’ve had dozens of collaborative projects, as well as assignments which require constant communication between students and teachers. Over the years, I’ve found that countless email threads and scattered documents on Google Drive can become disorganized and cumbersome. While my school had efficiently run classrooms with members (my classmates) and an administrator (the teacher), there wasn’t a comparable system of community organization in the online world. I wanted to create a platform where classroom discussion could continue into the digital realm, and so I created Thicket.

Just as Reddit has subreddits and Github has repositories, I decided on the “branch” for Thicket. If a thicket is a dense group of branches, then each /branch on Thicket holds a community with unique content, members, and personality. I originally planned Thicket as an educational tool, but soon realized that it could be used by companies and organizations as well. I talked to the magnet coordinator at my school, who is open to the idea of using Thicket in CORE.

Thanks David! I wish I had it when I was in elementary school ;)

Thicket really came into being about two months ago, when I actually started building the product. I coded the back-end in PHP, which I learned from an internship at a healthcare startup ( the year before, and the front-end with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (my brother helped with the logo). I took the plunge and bought ($2 on Namecheap), configured a server on Digital Ocean (which cost $10), and installed Vesta CP (thanks to Chris Cates for teaching me some server basics). Charles Jo and TProphet from the Slack community #startupstudygroup were the founding members, finding bugs and providing invaluable feedback.

Thanks TProphet for these kinds words! I wasn’t originally going to mention my age, because I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously if they knew I was a high schooler. Thankfully, people have been really supportive and encouraging!

Since its beginning, Product Hunt has become increasingly selective, making it more difficult for products to reach the front page. I was wary of this fact, but decided that there was nothing to lose by submitting Thicket, and so I messaged Hussein Yahfoufi on Slack, asking if he’d hunt it. He agreed, and the post didn’t make it to the front page but received 20 upvotes (mostly from #startupstudygroup).

Motivated by this small success, I contacted Ben Tossell, a community manager at PH. To my utter surprise, he decided to feature Thicket and it went on the front page at midnight. I was jumping up and down the next morning when I found out!

On the day (November 4, 2015) that Thicket was featured, Google Analytics recorded 1,735 unique visitors to the site, of whom 17% signed up. In the week since, Thicket has grown from 140 users to 456 users, with the overwhelming majority coming from Product Hunt.

The Thicket logo

Product Hunt attracted hundreds of engaged and passionate early adopters to Thicket.

The majority of new users created their own branches and many users invited others to join their new communities. People began posting (links, videos, text snippets, files, documents, and more) and sending chat messages! It was a tremendous relief to see the hard work pay off as people engaged with the product and enjoyed doing so.

The comments on Product Hunt were really helpful in thinking about next steps for Thicket. sam zakaria’s interest in educational applications was especially validating, since that was my underlying idea for Thicket in the first place. Because Ernst commented about adding an API, I decided to build one. Now applications can integrate with Thicket to post links, text, and videos directly to branches from the URL scheme (and chat messages — watch out Slack!).

Thicket’s journey has just begun, and I’m excited to build the features and functionality that users want next. If you’re looking to launch your own product, I encourage you to consider posting on Product Hunt, because its an incredible source of passionate users and insightful feedback. Other people have created really helpful guides, but here are some brief tips:

  • find an online community (Slack works great) who will beta test and provide brutally honest feedback about your product
  • try to get your product posted on a weekday, and reach out to a community manager when you think it’s solid
  • most importantly, don’t think that you aren’t important enough for Product Hunt — I have 9 followers on Twitter and no reputation in online tech circles but made it to the front page with over 200 upvotes!

I hope you enjoyed reading my story! Check out Thicket or follow along at @thicketHQ.