Ryan Hoover, co-founder of Product Hunt

10 Lessons from Product Hunt’s Success

I’m really addicted to discovering new products daily on Product Hunt, and I’m not the only one. Try it if you don’t know the site and the mobile app. The community is very active, suggests many products and the best ones get voted up to the top.

Product Hunt’s success is obvious and many app developers report great download volume increase when they get featured. What’s really amazing is the community that the site has managed to gather. People fight to be the first one to discover a new product. They get the credit and the visibility that results from that and Product Hunt does a great job at featuring everyone that contributed.

Getting an active community that contributes constantly to any website is extremely difficult. Imagine the team that would be required if employees were hired to find those products instead of the enthusiast contributors. It would cost a fortune.

The community was there even before Product Hunt was started, it started just as a daily mailing list where a small number of people were sharing new products. They have in common the passion (or the need, if you’re an investor and want to follow what’s new) to find those new products. They want to talk about them. They’re really interested in what’s new.

Ryan shared very early what he was doing and with everyone. He shared who were the first users and that attracted new ones. It was an Open Startup. They got their first 2,000 users by doing things that do not scale.

Here are the lessons I see from their success:

  1. Focus on quality rather than quantity.
    Not everyone can submit products on Product Hunt. Not everyone can vote or comment. They filter and monitor who can post to keep the quality standards really high
  2. Build slow and only focus on a few users at a beginning.
    The founders called and emailed the first users one by one. They were friends. They felt special to be invited to the site and saw that it was only a select group that was able to publish. A small exclusive feeling. If they had opened too fast to everyone (they still haven’t) quality would have been low
  3. Spot the most influential users
    They were tracking every single new user and checked their influence on Twitter. If they had a big following or were important people in SV, they would immediately contact them to welcome them. Then give them posting rights
  4. Make the first addicted users feel great and special. Meet them.
    They made t-shirts and sent them to the most addicted or influential users. Stickers in the mail. Community dinners. Meetups.
  5. Build with an API from the beginning
    You can then open it quickly so some developers can build cool apps or services on it.
  6. Share your own users success
    Featured makers saw spikes in downloads of their products or significant sales. Product Hunt team featured those early successes on the platform to inspire others
  7. Answer anyone talking to you on Twitter
    See how the founders and the Product Hunt team are on top of their Twitter mentions. Anyone who posts about them gets an answer or a retweet. They are never un noticed.
  8. Feature and link to all your contributors
    See how “makers”, people who contribute new products, votes or comments are featured on the site. Contributing means visibility.
  9. Keep it simple
    Product Hunt is clean and simple. It loads fast. The design is minimalist but works. Nothing fancy gets in between the information and what users want to find: new products.
  10. The team is cool and nice
    It’s obvious if you read their posts and tweets. It’s even more obvious if you pay them a visit which I did. Being nice and friendly is key to succeed. People notice it and want to help friendly startups.

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