I just spent an hour on Product Hunt, looking back at February’s hunts. I really should be working but couldn’t help myself. There are so many creative, useful products being built and while many of them are clearly not for me (e.g. Bellabeat, a pregnancy tracking application), I enjoy learning about them and chatting with its founders.
Here are a few of my favorite Product Hunt finds, posted this February:
Quickly add events to your calendar from any email, added by Michael Galpert
I describe Super.cc as an “invisible” product. When coordinating a meeting over email, simply cc “email@example.com” to automagically create a calendar invite with the stated day and time mentioned in the email. Although it only takes a few seconds to open Google Calendar and create an invite, many people (myself included) do this frequently enough that this slight annoyance has a meaningful impact on productivity. Super.cc is early and I’m anxious to see how its founder/CEO Michael Galpert and team make scheduling less painful. Please, help us! :)
Reading reimagined. Technology for faster communication, added by me!
Last year I asked the question, “If you could make just ONE thing more efficient, what would it be?" My answer: make communication and knowledge-transfer more efficient. This isn’t far off from Spritz's mission to, “change the way people read and make communication faster, easier, and more effective.” The speed-reading tech empowers people to read at 500+ words per minute and its demo inspires me to brainstorm ways it could be applied to our everyday lives.
Whatsapp-esque messaging app but open, cloudbased, encrypted, added by Adam Kazwell
My buddy, Kevin Li, recently pulled me into Telegram Messenger. Damn, it’s fast. I especially appreciate the muting and notification settings it provides, giving users the ability to modify notifications for private vs. group chats.
Build Realtime Search, added by Romain Dardour
Ahh, Algolia. I love you so much. The team approached me a few months ago with a functional demo of Product Hunt real-time search. They didn’t ask me first. They just did it. And as Maxime Salomon, product marketer at Algolia, describes, it’s better to show than tell. With that, instead of describing how awesome it is, you can check it out yourself here.
Cool stuff, huh? Take a peak at Product Hunt and share your favorites with me on Twitter (@rrhoover).
I’m a loyal Instacart customer. Not just because of the time it saves me restocking my fridge, but also for its fantastic customer support and personability.
Last week I ordered groceries from Instacart unaware that the streets outside my apartment were closed off for an event. The deliverer, Fernando, parked two blocks away, wheeling the heavy order to my door. I greeted him thankfully and returned to my computer to submit a review on Instacart’s website:
Fernando walked 2 blocks to my apt due to a street close off. Awesome. :)
Five minutes later, an Instacart employee replied:
Thanks for using Instacart and for letting us know more about your order!
Fernando is a phenomenal shopper and always going the extra mile.
I’ll be sure to pass along your complements.
We look forward to shopping with you in the future!
Companies often never acknowledge customer reviews unless they’re extremely negative. It feels good to know my thanks will be forwarded to Fernando and it only took Sam a few seconds to let me know.
When a delivery is running late (sometimes due to unexpected traffic jams or weather issues), Instacart emails an apology with an updated delivery time. But it doesn’t come from an automated system as you might expect. An Instacart employee (in this case, again my buddy, Sam) personally sends the message, opening a dialog if there are any further questions:
I want to apologize and let you know that we are running a bit late on your order today. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to arrive by 7:00-8:00pm but should be able to arrive by 8:00-8:30pm. I am really sorry for the inconvenience, please
Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!
In moments like this, small human touch can relieve frustration.
Several months ago I congratulated Instacart on their expansion to Chicago. Apoorva, Instacart’s CEO, quickly sent his regards through email, not Twitter as one would expect:
Hey Ryan - Thank you for being such a big fan of Instacart.
We really do appreciate it.
He took the extra effort to reach out via email to open a private dialog. We later met up to chat about product and brainstorm marketing ideas for Instacart.
Instacart faces heavy competition from Google Shopping Express and Amazon Local Express (Amazon just announced Dash, a hardware device to help customers order everyday items). In comparison, these tech giants are impersonal and feel unreachable. And that’s one of the reasons why I’ll continue to support Instacart and one of the competitive advantages small startups have against large incumbents.
If you’re up for it, subscribe to my email list and don’t hesitate to say hello on Twitter (@rrhoover).
Photo credit: certified su
In the inaugural episode of Product Hunt Radio (PHR), Shaan Puri and Furqan Rydhan joined me to geek out about product. We chat about the Bebo reacquisition, the backstory behind Monkey Inferno’s new video walkie talkie app, Blab, share our favorite Product Hunt discoveries, and brainstorm epic product ideas.
Listen to the embedded episode below and subscribe on Soundcloud.
- 00:00 - Intro to Monkey Inferno, Shaan, and Furqan
- 1:34 - Blabbing about Blab and Bebo
- 23:00 - Favorite Product Hunt Finds
- 34:02 - Billion $ Product Brainstorm
Related links and products mentioned:
Intro/outro music by eldienneproductions
Thanks all 65 of you for joining me at the first Product Hunt Live Founder AMA last Friday at the majestic Monkey Inferno (thanks for hosting!).
Shaan Puri gave us the backstory on the Bebo reacquisition and shared the inspiration for Monkey Inferno’s new video walkie talkie app, Blab.
Michael Galpert used virtual assistants to “MVP” his initial product which led to the stupid simple calendar scheduling service, Super.cc.
Sandi MacPherson shared her early, “unscalable” tactics growing Quibb (ask her about cranks!).
Jonathan Howard gave us a look into his diverse background from politics to gaming to now healthcare as the co-founder of Emissary.
Zack Shapiro told us about Luna and his ridiculous/awesome idea to own every rooftop in San Francisco.
Sorry to those that couldn’t snag a ticket before they sold out but hopefully these pics will alleviate the FOMO ;).
via Joe Mahavuthivanij
via Ryan Hoover
via Brenden Mulligan
via Brandon Waselnuk
via Lyle McKeany
Have questions for the founders? Check out the original AMA discussions on Product Hunt:
The man across from me waved his hand. “Excuse me,” he said for a second time. I looked up, removing my headphones.
"Yes?" I replied.
Sitting behind his laptop, the man asked, “What’s the WiFi password?”
"Oh, yeah! It’s ‘@capitalone360sf’" I gladly responded.
After he thanked me, we briefly bantered about the cafe’s terrible but cheap coffee and then reaffixed our eyes to our laptops. I put my headphones back on.
That Warm Fuzzy Feeling
My brief exchange with the fellow coffee shop camper made me smile. We all know that feeling.
That moment when you pause a few more seconds to hold the door open for an elderly woman.
That moment when you recover a dropped notebook from the overwhelmed clutches of a passerby.
That moment when you point tourists in the right direction.
These small signs of respect and appreciation may not be significant on their own but compounded over time, they can make the world a better place.
So how can we encourage more of these empathetic world? Can technology help?
Empathy in Technology
Can technology elicit these feelings of connectedness same feelings as the human interactions described above? Technology may appear soulless and impersonal on its silicon exterior but it has remarkable ability to elicit empathy and bring people together.
HandUp puts a face behind homelessness and charitable giving. Donors give money to specific individuals in need. Aaron needs dentures. Beth needs a winter coat. Chester needs money for school.
Anonymous secret-sharing app, Secret, contains lewd, offensive, and hateful content. But so do Facebook, forums, websites, and middle school hallways. Anything that empowers ideas and thoughts to spread (which is generally a great thing), will contain both love and hate.
Secret is a vehicle for empathy, empowering people to share things they’re too scared to expose elsewhere (like the image shared above).
Even products like Snapchat encourage more frequent, intimate communication with remote friends and family. Its photo-centric focus embodies more emotion and context than traditional text messaging which fails to translate the subtleties of face-to-face communication.
The question-and-answer app, Jelly, set out to make the world more empathetic. In an interview Jelly co-founder Biz Stone, shared the motivation behind the new venture:
Beyond being a very useful search engine, like I said before, it creates this circle of empathy, where people realize that “Oh, there’s other people who need my help and I can actually help them and they’ll feel good about it and they’ll get trained to thinking about helping other people. And, maybe that’ll even jump outside of the app and just into the real world and they’ll start looking around and helping people and wouldn’t that be great?
I’m cheering for you, Biz, and other entrepreneurs that use technology to make the world more empathic.
Empathy as a Strategy
Jelly has a long way to go to achieve its altruistic vision. While skeptics may discount Biz’s motivations as just marketing (and good marketing it is), the empathy he hopes to encourage isn’t entirely selfless.
Studies have shown that people are happier when giving gifts to others than when they make a purchase for themselves. Answers on Jelly are gifts, a token of attention given to another individual that may actually benefit the answerer more than the questioner.
Empathy is a core part of what makes Jelly and other empathy-inducing products compelling. We have an inherent desire to feel socially accepted. Millions of people use photo-sharing apps, play games, tweet, and blog for this feeling. Although these products may appear like distractions, they bring us closer together.
If you’re building a product, consider how you can evoke empathy to build a more compelling experience and make a positive change in the world.
Thoughts? Share them with me on Twitter (@rrhoover) and subscribe to receive more of my essays.
The other day I received this email from Buffer:
It’s a receipt for my monthly subscription. Instinctively, I opened the email, quickly glanced at the charge to verify the dollar amount, and archived it.
Later that day I reflected on that moment and thought, “What a missed opportunity.”
Every month Buffer’s email receipt captures the attention of (arguably) its most valuable users: its paying customers. But it’s wasted with a message that goes unnoticed. For a company intently focused on wow’ing its users, I think they can do better.
The email copy is friendly but it’s the same each time. Furthermore, does anyone read their receipts? I didn’t until writing this post. The receipt should be an extension of the brand and opportunity to delight customers.
Perhaps its monthly email receipts could look like this:
Buffer is very transparent and its team is the face of the brand. In this example, recipients get a glimpse into the lives of these people, exemplifying their dedication and appreciation of support.
Buffer sends 16,401 receipts each month. That’s 16,401 opportunities to inspire 16,401 smiles.
If your business sends receipts, consider how you can:
- Delight your customers with something unexpected
- Add variability to capture attention
- Reenforce your brand and become memorable
What do you think? Have you seen good examples of creative, delightful email receipts? Share with me on Twitter (@rrhoover) and if you’re up for it, subscribe for more of my essays (I won’t send you a receipt, though).
Photo taken from Joel’s Instagram.
A few weeks ago Clément Vouillon from SaaS Club, sent me this heart-warming email:
I’m @clemnt on Twitter, you’ve kindly proposed to feature SaaS Club on Product Hunt this week end! Just wanted to write you a little email with the results;
In one word: amazing!
Basically I was featured by Maxime saturday morning and from saturday until yesterday night 1008 people registered. Which is huge for me!
However it’s hard to tell exactly how many of them came directly from Product Hunt since quickly after I got “Hunted” somebody from the community shared SaaS Club on HN where we got 150 upvotes and spent some time on the home.
I got at least +400 direct registrations from PH
The 600 after I cannot be sure what is the % between HN and PH but it’s still awesome
I still consider that the +1000 were generated by PH since the HN post came from here. So in my view PH accounts for 100% of them: direct and indirect subscribers
From a qualitative POV I’ve received only positive feedback
Thanks again Ryan and keep up the good work!
Smiling, I responded:
You’ve put the biggest smile on my face this morning.
Products are often an offline, water cooler topic but there was no online community to geek out about products with smart folks. I wanted Product Hunt to exist for myself and I think we’ve achieved that initial goal. But the site and community has surpassed my initial selfish motivations to help startups and people like yourself, get early, deserved attention. I love it.
Glad to hear the people liked it and thanks for jumping into the discussion. :)
This isn’t just a self-promotional piece for Product Hunt. I share this conversation to express two things:
It’s incredibly motivating to work on something that genuinely helps people in their personal or professional lives. Beyond altruism, it encourages founders to preserver when things get hard. Nir Eyal has a fantastic piece on the morality of manipulation that everyone should read before starting or joining their next venture.
Small acts of appreciation can make someone’s day. We all use products that improve our lives in small and significant ways. Why not express your appreciation? Consider emailing or tweeting to the founders with your thanks.
Let’s have some fun and make a few people smile. Take 60 seconds to do this now:
Look at your phone’s homescreen.
Choose an app you love.
Search for the founder on Twitter. If they’re not on Twitter or too difficult to find, search for the company.
Tweet your appreciation and love of the product. The more personal and specific the better.
Feel good — you just made someone smile. :)
Feel free to subscribe to my essays or say hi on Twitter (@rrhoover).
Twitter is confusing. Early on, skeptics questioned, “What problem does it solve?” Even its founders couldn’t quite describe it, let alone foresee what it would become.
It wasn’t clear what [Twitter] was. They called it a social network, they called it microblogging, but it was hard to define, because it didn’t replace anything. There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. - Ev Williams (source)
How can stupid sounding startups with untested ideas, become so successful?
"It sounded crazy. So we went with it."
Last month I met Abdur Chowdhury, ex-Summize/Twitter and now CEO of Pushd. He spent the last year and a half building a team and infrastructure for experimentation. They created three products and killed them all before launching publicly. With each one, they learn and invest in technology for their next idea. The small team of six are positioned to move quickly and accept that failure is progress as long as they learn.
Their latest product is an odd one. Abdur unabashedly admits it’s kind of crazy. They call it Gummy.
Gummy is a mobile app where users create Gummies, digital cards people pass to nearby friends. The app uses GPS and Bluetooth to deliver Gummies to friends only when they see each other.
Curiously, I asked where the idea came from. Abdur explained:
Me and the team sat in a room, brainstorming ideas. Then Ben [one of the mobile engineers on the team] suggested a concept around sticking pieces of media to friends and people in the real world. It was absurd. It sounded crazy. So we ran with it.
A week later, the team had the first version of the Gummy app.
They didn’t talk to people. They didn’t do market research. They didn’t create a landing page to see if people would enter their email. They just built it. For the past year, they invested in the team and technology to prioritize speed of iteration with disregard to traditional methods of customer development and company building.
Some Things Just Have to Exist First
As I’ve written about before, not all feedback is equal. Someone that proclaims interest in an imaginary product provides a far less reliable signal of true desire than a person that has attempted to build their own solution to the same problem. Furthermore, a paying customer is an even better indicator that they truly care. Feedback fidelity varies and matters a lot.
Lean methodology and the startup community at large, espouses customer interviews, landing page tests, concierge experiments, and other tactics for testing hypotheses and measuring demand before building a product. In many cases, this is good advice but sometimes it’s a waste of time or worse, directs entrepreneurs away from something truly great.
In Twitter’s case, no interview or experiment would have predicted its success, in fact it may have even deterred the founders from building it in the first place. Sometimes actual product usage is required for meaningful learning. This is often true of consumer products like Twitter, Snapchat, or Foursquare that introduce significant shifts in user behavior.
We like to think we act rationally, but we don’t, particularly when it comes to products driven by emotional needs. Like Twitter, Abdur and team can make intuitive assumptions but ultimately, actual user behavior will reveal if Gummy is a good or bad idea.
Unpredictability and Anti-Patterns
Late last year, Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures published a study on billion-dollar startups, partly in attempt to identify patterns in these wildly successful, “unicorns”. While some commonalities exist, their paths to success are diverse.
Humbly, the 14-year VC vet admitted the difficulty in picking winners. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Aileen. She shared Cowboy Ventures’ investment thesis and her approach to evaluating potential investments.
A few years ago, she met with the founding team of an early startup. The founders lacked the positive signals investors typically look for. Their pitch was unpolished, product vision unclear, they had little understanding of their metrics, and traction didn’t stand out from competitors. Aileen passed on the deal.
That startup is now valued at more than $4 billion.
Aileen and other wise investors rely on intuition and patterns when unicorn hunting, but at the end of the day, startups are by definition, unpredictable. If they weren’t, fewer startups would fail and investors would look like fortune tellers. While best practices exist, most startups fail and some of the most successful are outliers, built on anti-patterns.
WhatsApp, recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in cash and stock options, challenged traditional Silicon Valley logic. Semil Shah wisely articulated the risk of hive mind thinking in his recent piece about the wildly successful messaging app:
Silicon Valley and the tech world at large are filled with a variety of conventions. These conventions are now created, captured, and shared ad nauseam disguised as blog posts, tweets with links, and countless message boards. The benefit of such a canon is we all have access to a rich repository of knowledge — the cost, however, is we all, perhaps unwittingly, are exposed to the same suite of playbooks, which contain the same conventions, which could, if we’re not paying close attention, and especially when amplified in an echo chamber, trick us into believing a certain reality which, in turn, script our actions and lives down a path of predictability, or worse, mediocrity.
Abdur and the team are far from naive. They’re very aware that Gummy probably won’t work - at least not in its initial form.
Honestly and humbly, Abdur shared a number of reasons why Gummy is a bad idea but still worth doing:
Changing the way people think about their encounters and having forethought about someone is good. Technology that makes us see others and be more compassionate is really cool. While this product probably won’t work, creating things that are new, novel and make you think of others are worth trying out.
I respect that.
Abdur’s passion and belief in his team, coupled with an understanding that meaningful learning must come from actual user behavior, is what sets them apart.
Conventional “best practices” and ways of thinking may not be right for your startup. The most innovative entrepreneurs often go against traditional wisdom. Consider the input of experienced entrepreneurs, learn from their successes and failures, but realize there’s no right way to startup.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover) and if you’d like to receive more of my essays, subscribe.
Photo credit: Josh Elman’s “Three Growth Hacks” presentation
This essay first appeared on The Next Web.
Yesterday I watched the live stream of Y Combinator’s Female Founders Conference. 12 female CEO’s took the stage, sharing their story, learnings, and challenges building a tech company. Watching from afar, I appreciated the positivity and genuine support from the speakers and crowd.
I’m a white male living in Silicon Valley. For better or worse, my physicality doesn’t stand out in the tech industry. Hearing Jamie Wong, founder of Vayable, retell her story of being called “incredibly good looking” when first meeting an investor and being slapped in the ass by a VC, gave me perspective of the context and discomfort women in technology sometimes face. While she admits these were extreme, rare cases of mistreatment, it only takes one instance to cement distrust and skepticism in the heads of female founders.
Situations like this can cause emotional distress for female founders and turn women away from predominantly male, tech entrepreneurship. We need to encourage all types of people — women or otherwise — to pursue entrepreneurship if it’s their calling.
Furthermore, and independent of the gender gap, I can’t stress the importance of treating people with respect and kindness enough, especially in the startup community. Silicon Valley is driven by its pay-it-forward culture and relationships.
What you do and say, good and bad, will be known. Make it the former.
Last week someone asked me:
How do you build a community?
I paused. I hadn’t thought about it before. For the past three months, much of my time and focus has been on growing the Product Hunt community. I never considered myself a “community builder” but in retrospect, perhaps I am. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I answered:
To be honest, I wasn’t particularly calculated when building community. I simply treated others the way I would want to be treated.
Before Product Hunt, I’ve been fortunate to form relationships with several people in the startup community by actively blogging, engaging on Twitter, offering my help, participating in communities like Quibb, organizing Startup Edition, and hosting brunches and happy hours with entrepreneurs. I do so for fun and with a desire to learn from others.
Along with Nathan Bashaw’s help, this experience and network helped get Product Hunt off the ground, now reaching thousands of product-loving folks. It would have been far more difficult to attract a large and connected community nine months ago and frankly, I’m not sure it would still be around if attempted before building prior relationships because ultimately, the community IS Product Hunt.
I love you guys and gals
This is where I get sappy…
I’m proud of the Product Hunt community and its positive, constructive dialog. We’re all product enthusiasts, empathetic of the challenges in building and growing a company. This shared understanding is evident in the discussion as contributors provide thoughtful feedback, critique, and compliments to product builders.
But it’s more than that.
Several designers, coders, and marketers have reached out to offer help:
…and many others extended their hand to support (sorry, too many to name but you know who you are!).
What I learned: When you build something people love, they want to be a part of it.
How I think about community building
Ultimately, you can’t build community without authenticity. The best community builders exemplify a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy. While I don’t claim to be the most emotionally intelligent or empathetic person, I consider myself higher than average and recognize this as paramount to Product Hunt’s success so far.
Here are some of the things I’ve done to cultivate a strong community:
People want to be heard. I try to reply to every email and tweet, helping where I can, although more recently I’ve been overwhelmed (sorry!). Buffer does an amazing job of this — just look at their Twitter account and the support team’s absurdly fast response time.
2. Cognizant of Peoples’ Interest and Talents
Product Hunt is primarily made of entrepreneurs. The great thing about this is that we all have different talents and complimentary skills. When possible, I make light introductions to people that may be able to help one another. For example, Jonathan Howard, CEO of Emissary, came to mind in the discussion thread with Tyler Hayes, CEO of Prime. They are both awesome guys, in the early stages of their healthcare-related startups.
I also pull people with expertise on a particular topic, into the comments or highlight products relevant to others in the community.
3. Give Props
Many of the people on Product Hunt are doing awesome things. Occasionally I call out these contributions and achievements, whether it’s an insightful blog post on a relevant topic:
…or a new product launch:
They deserve the attention and doing so helps create a culture of reciprocation.
I also extend opportunities for the community to become a part of the story through a series of blog posts called “Product Hunt Favorite Finds,” highlighting their top product discoveries. Those featured appreciate the attention and the creators of products mentioned — many of whom are also product hunters — love the support.
4. Meet IRL
Although we’re more connected and communicate more personally online than ever before, it’s not a replacement for face-to-face interaction. We’ve hosted two Product Hunt happy hours in San Francisco, attracting over 60 attendees each time. It’s a great way to get to know people behind the screen and help others form real relationships with one another.
I’m proud of the product we’ve built with the help of the community. It’s come a long way since it began as a simple email list. I want to sincerely thank everyone for the support and if you have suggestions of how we can improve Product Hunt, don’t hesitate to reach out via email (ryan[at]ryanhoover.me) or on Twitter (@rrhoover).
P.S. Speaking of props, I have to give credit to Quibb’s Sandi MacPherson for some of the inspiration and indirect guidance she’s provided in community building. Thanks, Sandi!
P.P.S. I’m cognizant that some people may be frustrated that they do not yet have the ability to post and comment on Product Hunt. We will open it to a broader audience but not until the product is ready to scale. If you’re interested, add your name here and I will keep you in the loop.