Our 36 Hours on Show HN

This November we started working on a software project that we hoped would turn into a startup: RowStack

In February we applied to Y-Combinator office hours and got in. We met with Michael Seibel. He’s got some awesome advice (check out his how to pitch video).

Two main things stuck with us from our conversation:

  1. Describe your product in terms of what real problem you are solving NOT your features and
  2. Launch! Really, launch now!

So we sped up our timeline and focused on getting our product to the a very minimal state we felt we could launch with, and we posted it to Show HN.

Thursday Morning, March 10th, 8am

Post to Show HN:

We knew that we needed a few initial votes to make it to the main Show page, so we each up voted it from home (he had heard multiple votes from the same IP counts as only 1 vote).

I left a comment:

9am

We are at #5 on Show HN, 6 votes. But…

Very little traffic, no up-votes besides our own and a couple friends we asked to up-vote us.

Starting to feel a bit crushed. Wondering if our headline was the wrong messaging. And thinking maybe this whole idea was a waste of 3 months of hard work.

10am

Still not much traffic. 1 or 2 visitors at a time. But then my co-founder decides to post to the AppAcademy mailing list (a dev bootcamp he went to, highly recommended). He mentions we are on Show HN currently.

10:30am

Up-vote AppAcademy. We reach about 20 up votes. We are #3 on Show HN and we make it to the HN front page (about #27).

11:00am

Feeling a bit of relief. We have some more organic up votes and some people are actually commenting. Nothing earth shattering, not a run-away success. But at least we are getting some feedback and momentum.

Marketing Site Traffic During Show HN

The bounce rate is misleading in that many visitors clicked on our Try It link which took them to our web app (different domain).

Here’s some stats from within our app itself, tracking signups after users have tried our product using an anonymous session:

In App Sign Ups During Show HN

1pm

We go get some lunch (tacos, in case you were wondering) and are now on the second page of HN.

10pm

We spent the day following up with every user that emailed, chatted, or commented. And fixing bugs. I also posted to the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list, which I’ve been a member of for many years.

Friday, March 11th, 9am

We met at our co-working space and discussed the previous day and what to do next. We decided that we got enough interest that we’ll push forward with the momentum we’ve gained.

Our main goal right now is to get some dedicated users, listen to their feedback, and improve the product to meet their needs as quickly as possible.

We’re giving ourselves 2 weeks to see how much traction we can get with this iteration of the product.

We’ll re-evaluate after the 2 weeks are up, and see where we are. If we don’t have a core group of dedicated users then we will try some other angle on our core product idea which we like all startup founders think is the most awesome thing ever.

Lessons Learned

  • Launching was a good idea. It gave us focus, and now we are concentrated on getting real people to use our product to solve real problems. Not imaginary people solving imaginary problems in our heads.
  • We had a lot of bugs because we were rushing to launch early. This is ok because “if you aren’t embarrassed you’ve waited too long to launch” but it does make it harder to tell if the reason users aren’t sticking around is due to the bugs or that they just didn’t like the idea. Needs further investigation.
  • We should have tested our Show HN headline some how. I don’t think our positioning was great and I think it hindered us getting click throughs and up votes. I’m guessing it was a little too generic. This is good information about our product in general though.
  • Using our communities (Facebook, AppAcademy, Seattle Tech Startups) was vital for us to get enough votes to make it to the front page.
  • The front page drove most of the traffic. Way more people read the front page than the Show page.
  • Our launch was mediocre. We probably have not found the right product-market fit yet. This should not be surprising since this was our first launch.

Here’s our Show HN today: 
Show HN: RowStack — Streamline your team task management

Here’s our Show HN as it stands at the time of writing this (we’re still at #13 on Show HN):

Full Show HN Post