Why Product Hunt Feels Like A Really Awesome High School Dance

My first high school dance went something like this:

I walked through the door, shook the principals hand, and sprinted for the nearest soda machine.

I poured a glass of Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sunkist (mixed together, of course) and started chugging.

Staring at the dance floor, I realized that I wasn’t the only nervous kid in the room. There were 8–10 people dancing. Everyone else was watching.

When I signed up for Product Hunt, I felt like I was back at that soda machine — I wasn’t dancing and I was nervous to show everyone my moves.

I think many other people on Product Hunt felt the same way, as there were a select group of contributors, and everyone else was just watching.

In early 2014, Ryan Hoover made me a contributor, and this actually changed my life quite a bit.

Every night, I began scouting AngelList, Hacker News, and Kickstarter — trying to find the next cool startup to submit.

I started to evaluate startups in entirely new ways, and I began to appreciate the noise that VC’s deal with to find hidden gems.

The process of identifying startups and waiting for upvotes was exciting, but I became a bit self-conscious — because I hadn’t built anything on PH yet.

I needed to become a maker.

I’ve read every lean startup book that Jeff Bezos sells, but the idea of releasing a product before it’s “ready for showtime” has always scared me.

That said, I think of multiple startup ideas every day and I’m capable of launching products.

I have a Google Doc that I update almost every day called “Things That Suck In The World” — which contains a list of startups I want to build.

I’ve also worked at several startups and was one of the early employees at Zaarly, which gave me exposure to building products and releasing them.

But I’ve never released MVP products to a large audience, and I was embarrassed to do so before Product Hunt.

I got over myself. I built Pretty Shots.

In early October, I grabbed coffee with one of my childhood friends, Thomas Foley.

We talked about startup ideas and I told him about a concept that I wanted to test called Pretty Shots.

The concept was “Uber for video editors” — and we wanted to target GoPro customers like ourselves.

We gave ourselves a $200 budget and launched a site in less than 48 hours.

It had very basic functionality and wasn’t fancy, but the Product Hunt community embraced the product, knowing it was only an MVP.

The best part? Customers paid for our product.

Within 24 hours, we had 5 customers take out their credit cards and place orders, without any marketing.

This might seem trivial, but it was pretty fucking cool that people were willing to pay us for a site that we built in less than 48 hours.

Our margins were amazing. We were earning $150+ per video after paying our editors — and several customers wanted to set up recurring deals.

We had no intention of making this a real company, but people loved the concept. A few amazing things happened along the way:

  1. Several employers reached out to me for job opportunities, even though I’m not currently looking. I received emails like this.

2. I submitted the project to Assembly, a website my friend Matthew Smith (former Creative Director at Zaarly) helped launch.

On Assembly, groups of developers, designers, and entrepreneurs build companies together and reward each other with ownership stakes based on their contributions.

Within days, 3 developers joined the project and offered to work on the project in their free time. Our team members are from Menlo Park, Taiwan, London, and Serbia.

The product is getting better every day — here are a few examples of things we are building together. Pretty amazing, right?

3. I received multiple Facebook messages from fans of the project. One person even asked me if I was considering a career in Hollywood ☺

This only happened because I joined the dance floor.

When I joined the Product Hunt “dance floor” and submitted my own creation, some amazing things happened for me.

While I do not intend to pursue Pretty Shots full-time, I met some amazing people along the way, and I learned how to release a true MVP.

If you ever feel like the kid who is standing next to the soda machine, I recommend getting over your fears and building something yourself.

You will be happier on the dance floor. I know I am.