“How are we going to launch our product?”
That’s a pretty typical startup question, one we debated for a while in early June. Our product, Openfolio, was live (we had recently lifted the “coming soon” screen) but we hadn’t yet attempted to attract any press coverage. We wanted to get it into the real world, and in front of real people.
Product Hunt, a leaderboard of new products, was a community I discovered late last year from the blog posts of its founder, Ryan Hoover. Like many others, I have been impressed with how Ryan built the PH community—the collaborative nature of his platform was something we wanted to emulate with Openfolio. So, on June 11th my friend @Josh_Goldstein posted Openfolio on ProductHunt.
The results were impressive
Openfolio isn’t an easy concept to message. We are trying to reinvent personal investing for the Millennial generation. It’s a big vision. Our belief is that a culture of sharing — where investors share their portfolios and ideas, but not dollar amounts — will help make our community of users smarter and more confident investors. Our tagline on our PH post reflected this “Openfolio: Sharing economy comes to personal investing”.
The PH community seemed to understand our vision. We were voted to the top that day, receiving 175 votes in 12 hours, and ended the week just shy of 200 votes, making us the 3rd highest voted product ever at the time. The traffic we received was impressive: 1554 new unique visitors, of which 239 signed up (15.4% conversion ratio). This was just day one — one week later we broke 1000 new signups.
The feedback was what was really valuable
The user growth wasn’t what got us most excited — it was the dialogue we were able to engage in with the PH community. The comments on our posts were insightful, supportive and inspiring. We started over 25 email dialogues, we received a bunch of warm VC introductions (even though we weren’t raising money), and we got highly actionable product feedback from talented product managers, engineers and technologists.
The feedback wasn’t just warm and fuzzy stuff. We didn’t have a support system in place (stupidly) — users told us and we fixed it. We didn’t explain some of the terms on our site clearly enough — so my co-founder Yinon pulled an all-nighter and built an FAQ database / education center in response.
Its not just us
Our experience isn’t unique to us either. My friend @troyd had his awesome product Taco posted by @helencrozier on July 14th. The PH community has grown dramatically (Ryan tells me they’ve been growing 75% month-over-month) and his response was even more powerful. In Troy’s words: “I’ve been Slashdotted and at the top of HN… and never seen anything like ~20 hours at the top of PH.”
Taco grew by 1700 users in the 36hrs following its PH debut. Troy’s response: “No idea wtf!”
What we learned from Product Hunt
Our experience suggests that launching your product to a supportive community like PH produces all sorts of intangible benefits compared to traditional press/media launches. Because the PH platform is a community, the signup barriers are lowered and the feedback is purer and more accessible. PH users seem to just be generally helpful people.
Getting in front of real, friendly, users (the “get outside the building” concept) was refreshing and clarifying. We had long expected our early adopters to be financial “geeks” — or at least people with a high degree of financial literacy. But the response from PH challenged us to reassess our target market. Our emails and dialogue over the last few weeks helped define an archetypal user that wasn’t a financial geek but was better described by a desire to become a more confident investor. This sort of qualitative feedback pushed us to refocus our product roadmap. I doubt we would have made the same realizations with a traditional PR launch in the business/financial press.
There are downsides. The Product Hunt platform is a specific — and potentially limited — demographic. Some may worry about obvious Silicon Valley echo chamber effects. This is a community of early adopters who want to use products to solves their own needs—so companies building products for the young or the old, for those in emerging markets or those in other languages/cultures may feel limited. But for Openfolio the fit was really natural and the experience exceptional.