From idea to featured on Product Hunt in 24hrs

On Sunday 7th February two-thirds of That Startup Company (Dave was tied up with Modhub) met to create what would be their most amusing (and some say annoying) product so far, KanyeText.com.

Update 20/2/16: We have now turned off KanyeText.com, It was fun, we learnt a lot. But That Startup Company has to make a new product for March.

Enter in a friend’s numbers, pay a couple of dollars (covers our costs, and cost of replies) and we will send them Kanye West quotes from an unknown number. It was a silly idea, a gimmick, but a bit of fun that we thought we could create in a single day, without coding.

Then Kanye Tweeted this..

What we didn’t expect was: (Update: 20/2/16)

  • 3,000+ Kanye quotes sent to ; (3600+)
  • 280+ different numbers in; (350+)
  • Australia, United States, and the United Kingdom with;
  • 440+ replies to the messages (most posted to Twitter) and; (550+ )
  • 120+ upvotes on Product Hunt with; (133 upvotes)
  • 3316 unique visitors, and ; (4200 unique visits)
  • I listened to more Kanye than I have in my entire life

The majority of this happened from Monday to Wednesday, as it slowed down on Thursday and Friday.

Product Hunt Home Page at some point before we got smashed by Swift / MusicForProgramming

We also got Tweets from people on twitter:

Steve Baxter (Shark Tank Australia) got in on the action.
The banter that follows is gold.
Kanye Memes were on order

Who are you?

We are from That Startup Company (Yes, it is our registered legal name — we won a startup weekend and company registration was included in the prize). We are a team of 3 with varied backgrounds: Matt Whiteoak (Marketing/Business/Trend Spotter ), David Hooper (Developer) and myself, Christopher Drake.

We have done a few things together over the last year including being on the receiving end of a few cease and desists. Among all of that we have become pretty good at building Minimum Viable Products in a weekend, with off the shelf products that anyone can use.

We wanted to set ourselves a bit of a bigger goal for 2016, and while we all have other things we do during the week — we wanted to build a new product every month.

For it to count it needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. Get Users / Signups who we don’t know personally
  2. Can’t be a front end change, i.e. releasing a Taylor Swift Text site identical to KanyeText.com will not count as a “new product”

Other goals over the year are: to be featured on Product Hunt, get mainstream press, be interviewed on radio and TV, and have at least one acquisition. If you can help with that Tweet us.

During January we created LisaEngine.com a personal assistant for your social media accounts. Lisa curates and posts relevant articles for Twitter and Facebook so you don’t have to. For Instagram, Lisagram creates branded content, and then shares it on your behalf to increase your followers.

We have a few ideas in the pipeline for March, April and May. Stay tuned.

Why KanyeText.com?

The plan for February was to have a bit of fun, and make something to send text messages without writing a single line of code as David was unavailable. Matt thought we could do Donald Trump, or even DJ Khaled. (See below for how we duplicated our operations to help someone from Product Hunt do one for DJ Khaled)

But there was only one person that Matt thought would have an endless supply of self indulgent quotes, that would hopefully confuse and amuse anyone who received them without prior warning. Kanye had a new album coming out so he was manipulating the media with his tweets, which helped us a lot. Kanye did exactly as Matt had expected he would.

Examples of the text messages

Replies to our messages were automatically sent to our twitter account,@aKanyeText We have had about 440 of them and they are still coming in, we do filter them occasionally as we do not want to be banned for spam/porn.

How does it work?

The short answer of how this is possible without any code is Zapier. Using it, and a bit of lateral thinking, you can as a non-tech founder create a minimum viable product with off the shelf products. You can duplicate the zaps like we did and make a Taylor Swift clone. NOTE: Please contact me if you want to do this, I am in.

You can as a non-tech founder create a minimum viable product with off the shelf products (and zapier)

We used: Stripe, Zapier, Google Sheets, Twilio and Twitter.

The Website and the Payment

Kanyetext.com front end is pretty easy to set up but you do need basic wordpress skills:

Domain/SSL/Hosting: All from NameCheap (with Cloudflare)

Front End: Wordpress + Theme

Payments: Stripe.com for all payments + WP Simple Pay Pro Plugin

How the messages were sent

We didn’t want to manually send out 3,000+ messages or copy and paste phone numbers. So we used a wonderful website called Zapier (use this referral link for 100 free tasks), that makes it easy to automate tasks between web apps. They recently released Multi Step Zaps which made this a lot easier.

Our Zapier Account

We love Zapier and have used it a lot in the past, see Build a Prototype Without Code; Rely on Apps, Integrations and APIs for other projects.

The main Zap is KanyeTextAUS (US, and UK are duplicates)

Our Main Multi Step Zap. There were 37 steps.
  1. Trigger: When a payment is received via Stripe our trigger starts.
  2. Filter: Filters the US, AU, UK (and make sure it’s actually a Kanye purchase, not another product we sell)
  3. Google Sheet: Then Zapier takes the information from Stripe and creates a Google Sheet with all the information including the mobile number and plan they purchased.
  4. Action 1: Twilio sends a text messages. The message content is written into the action, and it sends the message to the number that is listed in the google sheet.
  5. Delay 1: Delay for X Minutes (missing from the image)
  6. Action 2:We typed in the second message and then Zapier imports the phone number from Google Sheets for Twilio to send it.
  7. Delay 2: Delay for X Minutes

This was repeated until the first 5 messages were sent, and then we followed up with a call to action text that tried to get them to sign up a friend.

This worked really well. We saw groups of friends sending messages to each other and signing each other up.

Different Plans

Batch 1 — Text 2–5 + The CTA

We had 4 plans:

  • $2 / 5 Messages
  • $3 / 10 Messages
  • $5 / 15 Messages
  • $66 / 200 Messages

We used the same messages, in the same order so we had to have a filter after every 5 messages (step 14.) This would stop the next batch of 5 sending if they were not on that plan.

It was a quick and dirty way to do it but if we had a different Zap for every plan (and every location) we would have had 9 Zaps that we needed to check, rather than just 3. It may have allowed us to more easily change the quotes but to be honest people don’t care and that’s what important.

The dirty secret is that we never built the $66 plan. We really didn’t expect anyone to be evil enough to send 200 messages. If they had — we would have either sent the 15 and then done a full refund or set a final task to trigger another event which would let us know to build the rest of it out.

Everyone who signed up got the same messages, in the same order and the timings between messages was the same.

This product was fully automatic, without a single line of code and we didn’t have to do anything but make sure that people were using the correct phone number formatting (only happened 5 or 6 times).

How we tweeted the replies

Matt set this one up, without even telling me. Such a brilliant idea and got way more involvement from people

The replies were once again set up via a Zap in Zapier (use this referral link for 100 free tasks)

One connection from Twilio -> Google Sheet, and another Google Sheet -> Tweet.

Marketing

Reddit

As soon as it was live we posted it in a few Kanye subreddits, and Brisbane subreddits. It got down voted so quickly but did get a few sign ups straight away.

We are experimenting with Reddit Ads over the next few days, so stay tuned to find out how they work and more importantly if they work.

Product Hunt

Both Matt and I are able to hunt products but we didn’t want to hunt our own product. When Michael asked what I did over the weekend, as he has become use to me building stupid shit. He found it amusing and offered to put it up on Product Hunt.

This really got a lot of attention and we started to promote that we were on Product Hunt. We were lucky that it got enough upvotes to make it into the featured list, which meant we had fairly consistent growth over the next few days.

As soon as it went live, the orders came in and overnight it went crazy. We stayed on top of the messages on Product Hunt, and rolled out AU and UK. We also made a huge mistake by not having our form secure. The actual payments were secure as they were running through Stripe but the phone number wasn’t. But it was fixed up pretty quickly.

Last check it was at 121 upvotes! (134 as of 20 Feb 2016)

Tweet Matt or I if you want us to hunt your products, can’t guarantee that we will but feel free to ask.

Twitter

Because of LisaEngine we already had a few tools we could use to favourite, like, and follow people who were talking about Kanye and texting. We should have used it to post more content, but we didn’t want to spam the twitter account as most were following to see the comments.

This generated us a number of followers, but also got some engagement with a few clicks — however this could been due to the the fact we were posting the replies to the text messages.

We also used our own twitter followers by promoting it on our own accounts and re-tweeted a few of the funny replies.

Facebook Groups

Idea Network —Local student entrepreneurship group and also shared to the student developer group. They were really positive with their feedback which helped a lot, and let us fix up any bugs and improve it.

Startup groups — shared to the co-working space we are a part of and actually built the product in (River City Labs) and they promoted it for us.

PitchPigeon

A few months ago we found a service called Pitch Pigeon, for $50 USD they will send your pitch to 50 journalists. This seemed like a good opportunity to try it, and after paying $75 AUD, we didn’t get any replies.

But it could be because:

  1. Our pitch was terrible
  2. KanyeText.com is a gimmick (most likely)
  3. Journalists just ignore Pitch Pigeon.
  4. We didn’t include any screenshots, because pitch pigeon is broken.

Either way it was an experiment that was worth doing, and to be honest I don’t think we would do again. It also charged us twice because it’s pretty buggy.

Call to Action in the Texts

Since the messages were anonymous no one knew who signed them up. We thought that a great way to get more people to sign up was to tease them a little, hoping to try to get them to sign up their friend or another one as revenge. In an ideal world they would guess wrong and we would get an entire group of friends signing up each other.

We had a few different call to action texts, the first one they got was:

Yo, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but your friend had one of the best ideas of all time Kanyetext.com Who was it?

The second and third one were fairly similar, asking them to try to work out who it was who signed them up, by signing them up.

We did see this happen a few times, as we could see people in similar friendship circles (I stalked them on Facebook using their email account/phone number and saw they were friends). We could have done this a bit easier if we just asked them for their phone number and sent them a confirmation when the Kanye Quotes were sent.

Costs

Text messages are not free. We wish they were as we didn’t want to have to charge. In fact text messages in Australia are really expensive compared to the UK and US. With Twilio we also get charged for every reply to our text messages, and about 14% of messages got a reply.

We would have loved to do a free version but were too worried that people would sign up for a free message, over and over and over and no one would pay.

Then we would be stuck with a large bill for nothing. Then people would reply, and that would cost us again. We think we have worked out how to get around it, but Twilo if you are out there — can we chat to see what we can do next time?

Operational:

Stripe — Takes $0.30 + 2.9%

Zapier — We signed up and got a free pro plan for 14 days, but this usually would have cost us between $20 — $50 / month. However it is money well spent as their product is brilliant.

Google Sheets — Free to use

Hosting / SSL / Domain — NameCheap.com — and about $22 USD

Cost of Phone Numbers:

  • AU — $6 / month
  • US — $1/month
  • UK — $1/month

Text Message Cost

Outgoing — We sent approximately 3000 messages, but as mentioned before we sent more text messages per plan that we stated due to CTA (which was definitely worth it). The costs ranges from $0.0075 / message in the US and UK to $0.06/ message in Australia.

Incoming Texts — We are charged for incoming texts and we got 442 replies (not all were posted to twitter, as some we did filter), so on average one reply for every 7 messages was sent. There was no major difference between USA / AU customers — they both sent about the same replies.

Overall this means that for every 5 messages that we sent we actually sent 6 messages due to CTA text at the end. But as far as costs go, we had to keep in mind that we would also get a reply — which would cost us.

The Final Countdown

Despite this being a complete gimmick, we actually learnt a lot. We were really happy that it was fully automatic, so we could just throw traffic at it. We were ecstatic that we did it without writing a single line of code, and without needing to ask Dave for help. We learnt a lot about Zapier and their new multi-step function and now we can spin up similar products in about an hour. Did I tell you that I love Zapier?

Waking up every morning for a few days with what seemed to be an endless list of Slack Notifications for Payments was pretty wonderful, even if they were only for $2, or $3. But at the current USD To AUD exchange rate we were ..

The enjoyment of watching every reply to Kanye still hasn’t worn off, and being featured on Product Hunt was wonderful. The people who connected with us after were great, and it was kind of cool to see friends mess with each other using our product.

I got asked a lot “When will you use your skills for something good?” …… lets see what happens.

Improvements

Promote Product Hunt more: We didn’t really promote on kanyetext.com that we were on Product Hunt, we should have put a link at the bottom and it may have driven up our upvotes. It is there now.

Press: One big disappointment for us was that we didn’t get any major press coverage, we really wanted to but we are under no illusion how much of a gimmick this is. So really didn’t think it would happen, but we hoped! We should have tried a bit more newsjacking as Kanye was on topic, but we just got lost in the noise. We should have done a better job of that.

Twitter: We should have engaged with the audience more, we did some follows and retweets but we should have actually been trying to jump in on some conversations.

Had UK, US, AU, Canada support: We first started with just US, which was a good move but it meant that we lost a lot of customers in the UK and other parts. It was a bit complicated to have the different countries and we worked out that it took us about 1.5 hours to roll out each country. However doing this we were able to figure out how to do it better next time.

More sophisticated tracking: We were using Google Analytics so could see when people were visiting from. We should have included a tracking URL in the text message call to action. We also didn’t have conversion tracking on the site, as it was built so quickly — This was a huge mistake that won’t happen next time. However due to a unique page that loads after someone makes a purchase I think we could go back and actually set it up and look at the previous data. However we weren’t able to do it live and make adjustments on the fly to run any A/B Tests.

Product Improvements for next time

Lots of things occurred to us and we worked out how to do it while in the middle of it, however not wanting to break our Zaps we just left them out.

Here is a list of what we would do next time (in Tay Tay Texter of course):

  • Randomise quotes
  • Submit your own quote to be added — this is pretty easy using our second favourite tool Typeform
  • One form for all countries — but was difficult due to Stripe / Zapier and no development
  • Email the buyers — to follow the conversation on twitter
  • Ask for buyer’s mobile phone number — text them confirmation when we have finished the messages pack
  • Uniquely identify the respondents — so buyers can follow their friends replies on twitter
  • Email summary of the conversations

After we were Hunted someone else posted a similar product with DJ Khaled. After following the comments on PH we saw that he was struggling to send messages quick enough. We had a skype session and stepped him through the above process.

Team

Tweet us, let us know what you think we should do next, or just to stay in touch. If you liked this article please let us know, as it gives us the motivation to write them for every product we make through 2016.

Oh yeah, throw us a problem you want solved, we can see if we can build you a codeless solution as we like a challenge.

Matt is the genius behind this not me, we made it work but he saw what Kanye was going to do to play the media like he always does. He has some of the craziest marketing ideas, and can execute on them — Get in touch with him for some great marketing, he hates the word “Growth Hacker”.

Dave is the genius developer that we try to make redundant by using Zapier. We should probably start using him for more than just “Dave, how can I swipe right automatically?Check our his real startup ModHub

Chris If my twitter photos are anything to believe you would assume that all I do is talk and hold a microphone. Get in touch with me if you have an idea you want hacked together, or have a problem you want solved and would pay for (I am serious about the Tay Tay Texter though).

Thanks for reading, oh and head over to That Startup Company and submit a cease and desist— some fun things will happen plus you will sign up to our mailing list for when we release That Tay Tay Twitter Texter. I would love a cease and desist from Taylor Swift. We might need a better lawyer.

“Yo, I’m really happy for you and I’mma glad you finished reading, here is a free Kanye Text ”