In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what it takes to launch a new product or company.
Launching a new company or product can be intense and stressful. However, when planned properly, you can reduce any launch headache and give your team a solid plan to help manage the intensity.
Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts on how to launch a product, lessons that can be learned from their experiences launching a product, tips and tricks on how to launch a product and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:43 Why this topic was chosen.
01:17 Hiten talks about his new product Usefyi.com.
02:26 Some interesting statistics about the launch.
05:20 What counts as a successful launch.
06:33 Typical launch goals for startups.
07:26 What people tend to focus on when they launch a product.
08:12 The biggest thing to think about when you launch a product.
09:50 How they were able to get a ton of feedback for FYI.
11:04 How Hiten created a lot of value on Product Hunt before launching his own product.
15:49 Things timeline of launching FYI.
3 Key Points:
- Anything you do before the launch is part of the launch.
- With FYI we had spent a lot of time learning about the problem and figuring out what the right solution for it.
- People tend to focus on the vanity of launching a product versus value created.
Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli: In today’s episode of the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about something I’ve been dying to talk to you about, which is let’s talk launching a new product, a new company. You had a really big launch going on recently. You’ve been building up your launch muscles like crazy over the last few years by launching multiple products, but the latest launch that you had, as far as I could tell, seemed to be the most successful one. You’re really onto something here with launching FYI, it’s a Chrome extension if you guys don’t have it yet make sure to go and search for FYI. A pretty dope product that I’m using. I wanted to just get the freshest, most up-to-date piece of advice from you in terms of how was the launch, lessons learned, things that you guys did really well, things that didn’t work anymore if there are any like that, just an updated here are the tips and tricks from a recent example on how to launch something.
Hiten: Absolutely. It’s usefyi.com. The reason I’m giving you that is our SEO is not as good as it should be, so if you search for it on Google you might not find it, it’s usefyi.com. You can always search for it on Product Hunt, you will find it. We launched this thing on May 22nd, so it was a little bit ago. I’ve had another launch that we launched on October 23rd, so that was what? Six, seven months before that, another product. Draftsend was the first product, and that was actually the number one product of the day, on October 23rd, it was the number three product of the week back then. It has, right now, 1700 plus uploads, almost 1800, I guess it was 8 months ago. Another interesting fact is that it had 34 reviews that were just ratings and it had seven in-depth reviews that people did. That’s the stats for that and I’m going to contrast that to FYI because you said some interesting stuff and I think this is something worthy of jumping into, I haven’t really talked about. Then, on FYI it was so far, obviously one’s eight months old, this is literally less than a month old right now as we’re recording this, is 1139 uploads and it was the number two product of the day, we didn’t get any weekly rankings on that one. Here’s the interesting thing it had 47 reviews, so it had more reviews, less uploads, but it had 25 detailed reviews, that’s 25 versus 7. Now, here’s the thing, I want to point this out in neither of them, and I do this on purpose and it probably hurts me, but in neither of them did we ask people to give in-depth reviews. As per Product Hunt’s rules we never asked anyone for an upload either, so what’s interesting is that with Draftsend it was a product where we actually did a lot more work in getting other people to create presentations, because it was a presentation tool where you can publicly have a link for it, create presentations, add their audio to it because that’s what the product did and then promote it on Twitter or wherever they wanted. That got us a lot more uploads by almost like 50% more uploads roughly speaking because obviously that was 8 months so there’s been uploads trickling in since then. You could argue when you look at some of those stats that oh, Draftsend was more successful. The thing is though we had like 4X the detailed reviews with FYI and we didn’t ask for any. We didn’t tell anyone, “Hey, go review us,” we didn’t do that on either product. One got more uploads than the other. Also when it comes to Product Hunt a lot of it does have to do with what day you launch on and what other things are out there on that day, and other factors that honestly are not under your control. You just control the things you can control. With FYI we had spent a lot more time learning about the problem and we spent a lot more time figuring out what the right solution to the problem was, and we did not launch it until we really hit the mark. You’re right, it is, for us and what we’re looking for to accomplish in the world, it was a much more successful launch than Draftsend even though if you look at the numbers and you’re just focused on the vanity of the number of uploads you would think Draftsend was more successful.
Steli: That’s so interesting. There’s two things you said that I want to dive into a little bit. First, is you can launch something, I don’t even know how to put this in words, but you can do something that seems exciting and will get a lot of people to give you a small token of support like a like or an upload, or I don’t know what, a retweet, or something, some form of yes, I approve of this, I also support this. That’s awesome and that’s the beginning or can be the beginning, but the question’s what is success in a launch? There’s a big difference between a lot of people uploaded us when we launched, they supported the product, they thought it was cool and exciting. In this case, potentially, a lot of people just on a theoretical level, on an intellectual level, versus here’s a product that got a little bit … Still a significant amount of support and uploads, and prominence, but obviously got a lot more usage and not just usage, created a lot more instant value so much so that a good amount of people in a very short period of time felt the urge to go and leave a detailed review. In your mind, obviously, that’s a lot more valuable, having people that are using the product and instantly see the value and feel so strongly about communicating or sharing that with the world that they’re going to leave a review versus people that saw the logo, a screenshot, whatever it is, maybe even just signed up but never used the product but just liked the idea of it so gave it a small token of support. There’s a really big difference between what to focus on. Mostly, when we think about launching, we’re thinking about the Big Bang, we’re thinking about uploads, we’re thinking about whatever, sign ups, we’re thinking about the top of the funnel numbers. We’re not like, “Oh, we’re going to launch this product and we really, really want to see 50 people use it for five years in a row for at least two hours a day and then give us a really positive review or positive MPS score.” That’s not typically the goal that companies and startups put on the white board when they’re thinking about their launch. It’s usually 1000 uploads, or get 10,000 unique clicks on this, or let’s get X amount of sign-up trials, or let’s get Y amount of people giving their email address or something like that. The very much top of funnel focus when it comes to launching versus more the middle or the end of the funnel like usage and satisfaction and value creation.
Hiten: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think that people tend to focus on the vanity of it. “Oh, we had a great launch, we had more uploads than this other person or had this many number of uploads.” You got something out in the world that’s already a really, really big accomplishment and I think it’s super fascinating how when you dig into some of these things you look at on Product Hunt and you’re like, “Oh, they were the number one of the day,” yeah sure, they were the number one of the day, that’s great, but what did it do for their business? How do you know it did something for their business? What’s the quality of that product? There’s products out there that launch on Product Hunt and they get no review. None. What does that mean?
Steli: What does that mean?
Hiten: What does that mean? I don’t know, it could be that they just launched and they didn’t let anyone use it beforehand. I think the biggest thing to think about when you launch a product and especially when you do it on Product Hunt because that is the spot, that is the place to launch almost any product just because it’s the new TechCrunch, and it’s a lot lower barrier to launching something, and it’s not to say that you can’t launch in other places it’s just an easy way to launch and get something out, and get a bunch of users that are very specific. These are users that will try any product is the way I like to say it and that’s good. It’s PR, it’s like PR 2.0 or whatever you want to call it, where you’re able to get some publicity just by posting on Product Hunt and doing some extra work there. We did spend a lot of time on the images, on the FYI page. We did spend time to make sure that we had early access users and used Product Hunt’s upcoming feature that enabled us to get a whole bunch of early access subscribers before we launched and we did work with them to, basically improve the product, and get their feedback early, and brought a lot of them into the product early so that they could check it out, and things like that. We did, if you want to call it this, play the game on the platform. Just like back in the day you would have to go make friends with a TechCrunch reporter or whoever you want to write your story, whether it’s TechCrunch or some other publication, in this case you actually have super direct access to the audience. You put an upcoming page, even if you have a few hundred people subscribed to it which everyone can basically get you could get feedback from them. We did that. You go to our upcoming page for FYI and you saw a little GIF because we like GIFs and then you saw this little copy talking about how we’re going to help you save time, and search through all your documents, find your documents. Then, we got about 2000 people subscribing there and we, basically, because we had a survey too asking them a few questions we were able to pick off people smartly that use certain apps that we integrate with, so we were able to pick them off smartly and were able to actually get them to use the product early, and we got a ton of feedback. That probably impacted the reviews we had because people were already actually using our product before we launched it, and so that’s basically a big deal and something that people don’t really think about when they’re doing this. They don’t really think about using the platform that you have out there in the best ways possible, that’s why I call this a new to do PR. I think those are aspects of a launch that I haven’t really spoke about, which is how literally you have a platform that give you direct access to the audience that’s essentially using, reading, whatever the service, and this being Product Hunt specifically.
Steli: I want to dive into the timeline for this, but doubling down on the play the game or understand the platform that you’re launching within the context that you’re launching within one thing that has to be brought up is that you’ve invested in Product Hunt being, and a participant, and being somebody that created value on the platform for a long time before launching your own products. You are one of the top product hunters out there in terms of sharing links, and sharing new products, and commenting, and supporting product launches, and participating in the community. You invested a lot of energy, and created a lot of good will and value, which now whenever you are launching a product you can benefit from and rightfully so. That’s also something people don’t see oftentimes, they just see the outcome. You launch something and boom it shoots up to the front page or it does really, really well, but they don’t see the years that you invested in being a “good citizen” of that platform, and a participant, and somebody who created value, and somebody that built a little following on it. Anything you do even before you launch is part of the launch Go ahead.
Hiten: I think that’s a really good point. The funny thing about me is I don’t actually use that as much as I probably could. I’m some level of top user somewhere on Product Hunt, somewhere in the top 50 at least, maybe top 100, maybe top 25 depending on what stat you’re looking at. I definitely invested in it, I was early on in it, and you’re correct about all that. I would say that, let’s say, I was able to get … According to up votes I am number 8, right now, I just looked at it. I have 90,000 votes, I’ve got 247 products featured. The thing is though yes, I’ve been a good citizen, I probably could’ve commented more to be honest, on Product Hunt, and that probably would’ve helped me even more. Here’s the thing about communities like Product Hunt and communities in general, if you’re an active participant, you’re not just uploading and doing things like that, you’re actually commenting and that takes work. Someone today who wants to build a reputation and knows they want to launch a product and it may be product people or the people that are on the site, or are more of your audience I would be commenting on a lot of different people’s stuff. I’d be trying products out, and I’d really make a name for myself that way. The reason I say that is because I don’t want people to think I’m actually using that access I have because I’ve built it up over the years in a way that I feel like I’m using it to my advantage. I actually feel like I could be doing a lot more. You could be doing a lot more if you really are newer to the game, so to speak, haven’t really went deep into it. You could just be engaging with the community and that just literally means commenting. Uploading stuff is great, but actually engaging, commenting, giving thoughtful feedback on people’s things you do that for like even a week or two and you’ll have more followers on Product Hunt and you’ll even build an audience that potentially is stronger than mine in some ways. That’s the brilliance of a product community or any community like Product Hunt, it was also the brilliance of TechCrunch back in the day. Even today, I bet if you’re an active commenter, and people see your comments regularly, and you’re being thoughtful you will probably build a name for yourself there, some of the writers might even start following you. In fact, now, it’s an opportunity because there’s not that many great comments on TechCrunch either and so I got emphasize that yeah, I’ve paid my dues, so to speak, I’ve spent time for years but I feel like I could do more, which is an opportunity for anyone listening if you really want to engage with something, you really want that audience to love you, you really are going to put your product out there or want to get writers to pay attention to you just be thoughtful and actually engage.
Steli: I love it.
Hiten: In whatever ways possible.
Steli: I love that, that could be a whole episode in itself is just talking about how to utilize these communities just by commenting and participating to really build a brand, and a build a reputation, and build a network. There are so many spaces, I’ve seen this within music, in sports, in many areas these obscure characters that are “nobodies” that start participating and commenting, giving so much value, and all of a sudden they become really prominent figures in a certain industry or space all through just participation and value creation through commenting, tweeting, or whatever, or writing, or sharing some kind of content within the context of that community. Putting that aside, let’s just briefly talk about the FYI launch, the things that you talked about that you did prior to launching. What was the timeline of that? When did you start doing that all the way up to the day that you officially launched?
Hiten: I believe right around April 17th is when we launched our upcoming page and that’s the early access page where you tell people, “Our stuff is coming. This is the product I’m building and it’s coming.” Then, we started promoting that. What we like is about a four week window between doing that, launching it on there on upcoming, actually putting it on upcoming, and then actually launching it officially on Product Hunt. I think you should have about a four week window I don’t think you should wait longer than that. You can wait less time if you want, but that really depends on where your product is at. The product we were basically ready to give people the day we put it on Product Hunt upcoming, maybe a few days after, so then we could let people into it pretty fast after we put it on upcoming and they started subscribing. I think that’s the key, if you want to launch something brand-new especially like a brand-new business, brand new product, put it on Product Hunt upcoming for about a week … I’m sorry, about a month before you actually plan on launching it publicly. Then, let people in as soon as you possibly can and actually ask them for their feedback as you let them into using your product. It is a classic, what I like to call, an early access period and we used to have to do this through a landing page and email on our own website and getting people to fill in their info there. Now, Product Hunt gives you that ability and an ability to tap into their community, which means that maybe you won’t get 2000 people subscribing before you launch, but you’ll definitely get at least 100, 200, 300 which is better than zero. That’ll lead to a more successful launch when you actually put it on Product Hunt especially if you’re engaging that audience and sending them messages and stuff. We probably sent them … Every week we had at least one email, I guess, it’s email, one message that we sent them. Then, we were privately letting in as well at the same time.
Steli: Beautiful. Two more things before we wrap this episode up. One, I’m curious, how did you choose the launch date and what flexibility did you have? Bringing it all the way to the beginning of the episode today where you said, some of this is luck. The day that you’re launching it’ll matter because you don’t know who else is launching, what other products are launching that will determine the success of the amount of ability that you’ll get. How did you choose the day, is there some strategy behind it? When you choose the day do you have any kind of flexibility of saying we’re going to, I don’t know, observe the first few hours of the day and see what else is happening before we pull the trigger? Or are you just like, you know what? It doesn’t matter, we put the date in and on that date we’re launching no matter what. You can’t control the world, you just have to rock and roll?
Hiten: I think the first launch date, obviously, don’t launch when Apple’s having a conference or anything like that. Actually, on the day we launched Slack was having a conference, so I’m sure we could have had some better stats if Slack wasn’t having their conference because some segment of our audience was sitting there at the Slack conference. We didn’t launch anything Slack related, so I think that would’ve been interesting. On a higher level, I would say that don’t launch when there’s a conference or something that you know is going to happen on that day, make it four weeks after the upcoming so work backwards from the launch day, and literally I’d like to set the date and then make sure it’s reasonable, check with everyone on the team that it’s okay, and then just set the date and a launch that day. Whatever’s going to happen happens especially when it comes to if you’re launching in a community like Product Hunt or even you’re trying to get PR someday. You can only be so smart, you can think yourself to death about a date. Generally, I like Tuesdays personally. Wednesdays are okay, Mondays sometimes are okay, but I really prefer Tuesdays personally. Do I have any evidence for that? No. Do I do any analysis? No. I just thought through it like Monday people are getting back to work usually, Tuesday’s they tend to have a little bit more time, but they’re still in work mode which is great for most products. If you’re launching a consumer product it might matter less what day it’s on, I might even consider doing something counterintuitive and launching it on a Saturday and being the number one just because you did it on a Saturday and most people aren’t online on a Saturday, so you could be number one just because that’s cool. I think that’s a big aspect of it in my mind and really the bigger problems with a launch date is organizing your team around it and making sure it happens and gets done because it can be a tough day. Not the day you launch, the day before. For us, it was a very tough day. I had a call at 11 PM, we had a call at 11 PM our time and 1 AM our head engineering’s time where he was like, “I’m not gonna make it.” “What do you mean you’re not gonna make it? You’re going to go to sleep? That’s okay, we’re launching.” He’s like, “No no, no we’re not launching.” I’m like, “No, we’re launching. We’re launching no matter what dude. Hell or high water this is happening, I don’t care.” Marie and I were on the call and we were just telling him, “We’re kinda tired too dude, but like this is happening. There’s no going back now.” Honestly, we told people we were launching that day. We told our whole email list that hey, we’re launching on this day. I think the bigger issue is just have conviction, set the date, and do whatever you need to get there.
Steli: I love it.
Hiten: Once you set that date everything changes after that day. Everything changed for us after that day.
Steli: I love it. So much value in this episode we’re going to wrap up at this point, but I promise all the listeners we’re going to do an episode, a full out one of what happens after the launch. I think that’s a really interesting topic for us to dive into.
Hiten: Sounds good.
Steli: What do you do the day after you’ve launched?
Hiten: Take a nap.
Steli: Take a nap for instance. For this episode, we’re going to say thank you for listening and we’ll hear you very soon.