Startups worldwide want to launch on well known platforms like Product Hunt. But is it really wise for startups to do this?
Product Hunt’s value proposition is pretty attractive; you sign up, you get “hunted” and suddenly you have a few hundred users in your app! What more could you want as an early stage founder? You get users, you get feedback, you get exposure to the public. Sometimes people will even reach out to you to interview you or write posts about your cool startup. This all sounds amazing, right?
Unfortunately, the reality is that most products on Product Hunt will only be a hit for a short period of time. They are often products that never grow beyond the initial few founders operating the launched product. But, why does this happen?
I’ve been on the receiving end of these types of launches several times. When you are a later stage company these launches simply act as an additional marketing push. Oftentimes you just email your existing contact database to upvote your Product Hunt post (yay free marketing for Product Hunt!).
For early stage companies Product Hunt launch is seen as the a way to propel the company forward. To get the first growth of the business started. Early stage launches involve entire teams, their extended network and a lot of WhatsApp messages to get people to upvote your post.
If successful, an early stage company gets a large influx of new users. These users typically do not want to pay. The type of users is all over the place, but typically they don’t have any clear business case problems. They are often from smaller companies, people not managing a budget or just tech geeks. One thing they typically have in common is that they consider themselves “early adopters” of new products. But they also have a short attention span and will “early adopt” over and over again.
If you think about it rationally, Product Hunt users are pretty low value users.
But each of these users also happens to be very good at giving you data and feedback to work with. So they give a lot of feedback. In some cases, these users will write multi-page essays about feedback for your product. I’ve received some of these. One time I received a full roadmap for the next year of development from a beta user. Because they are technically savvy, they often will explore every little detail of your product. They’ll try out everything and provide you with a lot of user analytics, website visitor data and more. They will keep your tab open for days and revisit it repeatedly throughout that period. They may even share it with all of your friends.
This sounds pretty good, right?
No, it is absolutely horrible for early stage startups.
Let’s analyze these users. You now have around 500 users. These are likely not your normal target audience. They are using your app, navigating your website and sending you emails with feedback. Out of those 500 users, probably approximately 5 are your “Ideal Customers.” You now have no way of identifying those 5 ideal customers. You’ve introduced tens of thousands of data points, each functioning as static. You are no longer able to draw clear conclusions from your insights.
This kills the startup.
If you’ve seen many startups come and go. You’ll usually notice that decisions are made in an early stage have an outsized impact as time goes by. For example, having users sign up directly to a product in year one will completely change the way a business works by year 2. When you introduce all this static, you make it impossible for the founders to deeply understand and identify their ideal customer profile. And that makes it impossible to find product market fit.
Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not a Product Hunt hater at all. If anything, I visit it regularly! There are plenty of moments where Product Hunt can be an incredible value add to a business. If you need beta testers for a product, these are free testers that will discover bugs! Or, when you are in a business that does not target anyone specifically. Like a general ‘to do’ app that addresses everyone. If you are part of a mature company and Product Hunt also works as a great additional channel.
If you are an early stage company that is still trying to figure out it’s ideal customer? Don’t. Do. It.