How to fail on Product Hunt (despite doing everything right)

Tamas Szikszai
Mar 16, 2018 · 5 min read

Disclaimer: This post is not a rant. We are not delusional, PH is a business and as such it needs to cater for their community as well as their business logic. This post is merely an outline of our failed product launch.

As you probably don’t know we officially launched our design focused cryptocurrency portfolio application, this Wednesday. Not necessarily a life altering product, but it ticks all the boxes that we know Product Hunters would love. It has a very unusual UX and crypto is all the rage these days.

We did a ton of preparation before the launch. Read all the “How to make it on Product Hunt” articles available, and trust me there are a lot of articles. We also spent the month before the launch to build a small, but loyal following of early beta power users.

We have altered our website to offer a little bonus for our visitors that came from Product Hunt. We were a bit hesitant about the wording so we explicitly asked PH’s support team if it is all right and they gave us the green light.

We of course also prepared eye catching graphics and text for our listing

The night before the release I was confident our listing will reach at least the top 10. We had a solid launch plan, detailed down to the minute, and here it is:

  • 7:00 GMT (00:00 PST): It’s time to post. PH’s server time is PST and day light savings started on the 11th of March, so 7am was the optimal time. We hesitated here for a couple of minutes, because Fitbit launched two new products that day and we were afraid that they can steal our thunder. In hind sight this might have been a mistake. This little hesitation resulted in us posting our listing to the #8 spot. Not on the “Popular” feed, but on the top of the “Newest” feed.

It was a well thought out plan, following the rules to the dot and we executed it well. By 11am GMT our listing had around 50 upvotes. Amercia is still sleeping and we had 50. In fact it had the 5th most upvotes from all listings across the board. Yet we were still in the “Newest” section, which I found really weird.

Since we did our research on the topic we knew very well that the PH algorithm works in mysterious ways and it is heavily biased towards PH’s power users, but we never thought it is this much biased. We had a good amount of upvotes from relatively new members and a handful from mid level members, but it wasn’t enough.

Of course if you are not on the main page, you lose out on the casual users of Product Hunt, therefore you lose out on lots of eyeballs and lots of further upvotes. It is a self generating process.

It was really frustrating to see that there were products in the “Popular” category with 1–2 upvotes, while our app was actually going further and further down in the “Newest” category (which is ordered by the time of submission)

To channel my frustration I was looking to find some explanation. After reading the seemingly same articles over and over again I came across this one that was eye opening. Full disclosure: I have no way of verifying if this is still true but from what I’ve seen it is quite likely. TL;DR for the article (and some of our own observations):

  • There are only a handful of PH users who have the power to move products from Newest to Popular b̶y̶ ̶u̶p̶v̶o̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶t̶
    EDIT: we received a reply from the PH team:

This isn’t quite true: we (the PH team) look at every product that’s hunted and curate the homefeed. Upvotes from certain users is not part of the process. Certain community members can hunt directly to the homepage, but we look at every post. No magic “upvote” is part of it.

  • Products submitted by these users are on the front page automatically when submitted, and they stay there no matter what

Moral of the story

Product Hunt is anything but an equal playing field. When you are launching your product try to find a well respected member of community who is willing to “hunt” the product for you. Keep in mind that these members are being pitched constantly so make sure you have a unique selling point.

Failing this your only hope is luck. Cross your fingers and hope that your product catches the eyes of one of these power users. My advice is if you don’t have a power user to support you, aim your launch to around 13:00 GMT. This way you will be on top of the “Newest” feed when the US wakes up and also for Europe’s lunch break.

Fun (is it tho) side note

The last upvote on our listing (the day after) was in fact from a power user. He actually reached out on Telegram saying he can’t believe this product didn’t make it to the top.

Oh well, we failed. At the end of the day our grand total was 83. I had way better result with my previous product without any marketing preparation. I guess I was lucky that time.

We of course going to continue iterating over our product. The amount of positive feedback and encouragement we received is more than enough to continue working on this.

If you are into crypto please consider downloading it our joining our Telegram group to chat with like minded people

f0lio — Cryptocurrency Portfolio

I’m a beautiful, user friendly cryptocurrency portfolio app