No Plan? No Problem! How We Launched Our App LIKE A HIPSTER on Product Hunt (And What Happened Next)
It’s been one week since our mobile app LIKE A HIPSTER hit the app store. LIKE A HIPSTER is a hyperlocal discovery app, that helps users find businesses with a hipster vibe in their vicinity. We pretty much went:
- From idea to prototype in 3 hours
- From prototype to launch in 24 hours
- From launch to world domination (pretty much) in 7 days
As you can imagine, it’s been quite a ride and today I’d like to share some insights and learnings with you, hoping that you’ll find them useful or at least get a bit of a laugh out of reading this! So here we go!
What’s Your Niche?
Have you ever watched Big Bang Theory? If yes, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what my life looks like at the moment. I (the Leonhard) have a roommate. Her name is Barbara and she’s a software engineer, the Sheldon (Don’t tell her I said that!). Last week we went to have lunch at a local ramen restaurant together. We talked about an app she was working on as a side project called “Hungry?”, which is an Android app, you can use to discover new restaurants nearby, that have high ratings on Foursquare and Yelp. Barbara is a freelancer and works from home every once in a while. She built the app, because she was sick of going to the same lunch spots near her apartment again and again. It’s still in the app store, so you can check it out, if you like.
As we were sitting at the restaurant, Barbara asked me for advice on marketing (I’m a freelance marketing consultant.) and whether I would help her. I told her, that I would, because she’s my friend, but that I personally wouldn’t use the app, as I’m already using Foursquare and Yelp as a solution for the problem she’s trying to solve. I told her that I thought “restaurants” was too broad of a category to focus on and that, if I were her, I’d pick a much narrower niche, as it would be easier to find a target audience and community to address, that would get excited about the project. I’ve been quite influenced by the idea, that any product can be a success as long as you find 1000 enthusiasts, who will support your mission, help spread the word and eventually even become engaged co-creators. At that point I looked up from my Flying Noodles bowl, spotted some guy with a beard, pale-red skinny jeans, a beanie and jokingly said: “You should make one for hipsters! Help them find flat whites, pulled pork burgers and places that serve beer in jars or something.” Barbara looked at me, I looked at Barbara and we immediately knew: This was gonna be big. The idea for LIKE A HIPSTER was born.
Let’s do this!
We returned to her apartment after lunch and since we still liked the idea 20 minutes after inception, we decided to run with it and were determined to make it happen. Not only were we we determined to make it happen though, we were determined to make it happen in the next 3 hours. Why? Simple. Because Barbara had a date.
The distribution of work was pretty straight forward: She’d adjust the existing “Hungry?” app to display locations tagged as “hipster” on Foursquare and Yelp instead of simply using the respective restaurant categories. I’d take care of the website, copy and marketing.
Some “early stage marketing” insights and highlights:
- I almost couldn’t believe that the likeahipster.com domain was still available. You can imagine how excited I was considering the fact, that I have a bit of a domain buying addiction. Yep. I’m also the proud owner of catcontentaward.com and sextechtalk.com. But that’s a different story…
- Interestingly enough although the domain was still available, likeahipster was pretty much taken on all major social media sites, so we decided to stay consistent and claimed likeahipsterapp, wherever we could.
- I wanted the LIKE A HIPSTER brand to reflect us, to be fun, quirky and just borderline insane. I think the copy on our website speaks to that.
- As we were both doing things besides CTO and CMO stuff, we decided to go with C*O titles. Because cool.
- We decided to make Barbara’s cat Mica our Head of Communications (HoC). Because diversity. Or something.
- Since we were launching an Android app targeted at hipsters (in general heavy iOS and Windows users), we had to come up with an idea to turn this weakness in our business plan into a strength. I’d spent quite some time with affiliate marketers, when I was living as a digital nomad in South-East Asia and knew, that we could turn this around and actually make this problem work for us, monetize the traffic. We went ahead and put an iOS download button on the website. To test demand, but also to work a bit of our brand personality (fun. quirky. insane.) into the site. If a user clicked on the iOS download button, an affiliate link would redirect them to a site on Amazon, where they had the opportunity to actually purchase an Android device. After that, if the user purchased anything on Amazon in the following 24 hours, Amazon would pay the referrer (us) a referral bonus of 4-6%.
- Besides this, we’d planned to monetize the app with AdSense, which was unfortunately causing some issues as one of our co-founders had decided to… well… extensively test the ad integration on the “Hungry?” app and had her account blocked. Oh well. Shit happens.
- The next day was Barbara’s birthday and I told her, that I’d get the app onto Product Hunt for her birthday. She didn’t believe me, but I told her, that I knew people. ^^ And know people I did. There’s been quite some discussion recently, whether it makes more sense to launch on Product Hunt or TechCrunch. I generally think this is the wrong discussion to have, as it totally depends on the product, but since I wouldn’t have time for proper research of journalists due to the spontaneity of our launch, the decision was pretty straight forward. We’d also go for Product Hunt. I contacted Thomas Schranz of blossom, who I knew, could post directly to the Product Hunt homepage. He agreed to help me out and get our app the nerd… eh… maker attention it deserved. No. I don’t think the Product Hunt audience is necessarily the right one, when launching a consumer product like ours, but you know what: Done is better than perfect.
- Since we couldn’t agree, whether there should be a cat or a unicorn in our logo, the compromise ended up being a #unicat/#caticorn, that was built using photoshop icons. Pretty cool, huh?!
Oh. And in case you’re wondering now. Barbara’s date was shit. Quote: “Went to a date. Showered for nothing.”
Happy Birthday! Happy Launch Day!
As mentioned before, it was Barbara’s birthday last Friday on our launch day. I was so excited, that I woke up at 6am. Thomas had told me, that a good time to post on Product Hunt would be around 9am CET. And from that moment on, I was sitting there waiting for him to post, hitting the refresh button. Again. And again. And again. And then again. Nothing happened. Well. Almost nothing. Barbara woke up in the meanwhile and I sang “Happy Birthday!” for her. I also invented #crowdrefresh, a fun new activity you can try with your friends.
This was also my first encounter with Ben Tossell, one Product Hunt’s community managers. What I didn’t know at that point though, was, that it also wouldn’t be my last encounter with him. Oh. And as a side note: Tom Peham, who is also part of the Twitter conversation, is CMO at Usersnap. They’re cool. You should check them out. #bugtracking #visualfeedback
Another 2 hours later (!) things finally started to get moving. Thomas actually posted our app on Product Hunt. Learning: No, it’s not the greatest idea to ask someone to post to Product Hunt, who’s attending a local incubator’s house warming party the night before. But it didn’t matter anymore. We were on Product Hunt and on the way to world domination. It didn’t take long until the first upvotes were in. The traffic to our site started to pick up and we were ecstatic. This Product Hunt-thing was actually working. Both Barbara and I posted the link to our app’s Product Hunt page on social media and also shared with all our 4 fans on Facebook and Twitter. Only seconds after that, I started to receive distressed messages from some of my friends, that we were probably gonna be taken off Product Hunt, as we’d asked people to upvote us. What was news to me: You’re allowed to post the link, but not allowed to ask for upvotes. Makes a lot of sense, if you ask me. Not. Oh well. We deleted our status updates again and re-posted the links without that specific call to action.
Think “Upvote us on Product Hunt!” vs. “Check us out on Product Hunt!”.
Only minutes later panic mode was on again though. Ben Tossel had sent me a cryptic tweet:
I still don’t understand, what the initial problem might have been here, but I can assure you that the 30 minutes, waiting for his response felt like an eternity.
What we’re especially proud of? That we did not mass-e-mail all our contacts about our feature on Product Hunt and most of the upvotes and comments actually came from people, we’d never heard of or met. During the discussion with some of the makers on Product Hunt, we stayed true to ourselves and our cynicism. I do believe this is the main reason, why we made it to the Top 10 in the end. “WTF” was probably the most common reason for upvoting us on Product Hunt. Well. I can live with that. :D
The Results Are In!
When we started this project, Barbara and I agreed, that we’d be ruthlessly transparent about the results — the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s been one week now since our launch on Product Hunt, which is why I’d like to share some actual feedback and numbers with you.
We received quite a bit of feedback, which pretty much fell into one of two categories: “overwhelmingly positive” or “wtf?!”
Some of our favorite reactions on Twitter:
Our rating on Google Play is currently pretty good (4–5 stars) and we’ve received some great feedback through that channel already. My personal favorites:
Again, those are from people, we actually don’t know. And we don’t quite agree: Our app is a total magical wonderland! Pfft!
Regarding press: Some of the highlights included press inquiries from CityLab by The Atlantic, Design Taxi and recently also Singapore Airlines magazine Silverkris, who want to feature us in their Christmas edition. We’re pretty excited about that! None of the local media outlets in Austria, where we’re based, picked up on the story. I was initially trying to avoid having to write a press release, but since demand was there, I did it in the end. You can check it out here. No, our Head of Communication, Barbara’s cat, did not help. I think she should be fired.
Over the course of 7 days, we had 4000 visitors on likeahipster.com; our page on the Google Play store was visited around 7600 times in the same timeframe. Only around 500 people were referred to the app store from the website. Around 700 people also clicked on the iOS Download button on the website and got re-directed to Amazon, where they could shop for an Android device. Most of them didn’t though. More about that a little later.
Most of our visitors are actually US based, which is pretty exciting, as it shows, that we’re even now at this early stage not dependent on friends, fools and family to generate traction.
Our download numbers are satisfying. We’ve had a little more than 400 downloads until now and average around 75 daily active users. The ads (AdSense) currently bring in around 0.30$ in revenue a day. We’re gonna be RICH! Not. We have, however, been more successful with our “redirect iOS traffic to Amazon” hack. We’ve made around 70$ in commission from our Amazon Affiliates link. Some of the things people have bought have included cat food, underwear, printer cartridges, an Android phone and protein powder supplements for fast muscle growth. Iron man, here we come! Going forward, I believe, that our monetization strategy will focus on B2B revenue though (e.g. offering Premium listings or featuring events).
Besides those plans on the monetization side, there’s also other things we’ll be working on. While the development of an iOS app is obviously a priority, here’s a sneak peak at out current Github Issues List, which we’re using to stay on track:
New features, that are currently being planned/have already been implemented:
- Choose your starting location (DONE)
- Suggest a location, that should be added (DONE)
- Re-work UX
On the marketing side, focus is on keeping up communication and documentation of our project. We’re also running some ads and are improving our app store presence. We’re using Fiverr to have a review video and a logo animation done. With regards to background music for the video, I came across Matt Luedke, who provides suitable music under CC BY 4.0 license. Some of our friends are also helping us out with photography, that journalists can use to illustrate their articles. I’ve also started to submit the app to review sites and found this Quora thread useful.
So what did we learn?
Well. The short answer would be: A lot.
The long answer: A lot about how Product Hunt works, how app marketing & monetization work and how fun it can be to work on something with a friend, just for fun!
Things I learned:
- Barbara’s cat, our Head of Comms, is a lazy ass.
Things Barbara learned:
- The meaning of bootstrapping, performance marketing, #SoLoMo and hyperlocal
Things we couldn’t/can’t agree on:
- Scrum or Kanban? GitHub Issues won.
- Oxford comma, yes or no? No compromise reached.
- Her music or my music? Some compromise reached. Garbage.
Oh. And before I forget! Pro Tip: Don’t launch on your co-founders birthday. You don’t wanna be that dork, that sits at a house party with her computer checking Product Hunt. Believe me…
If you have any questions, have found this article somewhat useful or want to let us know, that you think about LIKE A HIPSTER, we’d love to hear from you!
Until then: Be awesome. LIKE A HIPSTER.
xoxo, Kathrin (Founder & C*O)