Entrepreneurs spend an enormous amount of time trying to get publicity. The perception here is that more media attention from popular blogs, websites, and print magazines will result in more eyes on your product, which will turn into more users, which will turn into more money.
One of the most popular ways to get covered these key outlets is to take part in a some kind of marquee startup contest. For Candid, it was LAUNCH Festival. For me, it was a a great experience that paid off in many ways beyond eyeballs on the product. But for this post I want to highlight something I think was arguably even more beneficial and a whole lot less ‘expensive’ than any startup pitch competitions. Not expensive in terms of cash (many of these events are free), but in terms of time it takes to prepare, to apply, to be coached, and the real opportunity cost of taking your eyes off the product.
That is getting real engaged, educated, and opinionated feedback on the product early. I was able to do this via a thread on HackerNews.
I decided to post Candid to HackerNews the day after LAUNCH was over. I did it while sitting on my sofa. I didn’t have to fill out an application, pitch to someone online, or go to any training sessions. I simple sat with a glass a bourbon, typed in the words “My Side Project: Rank Your Tech Company Based On Culture” and clicked “Submit.”
I went about my evening.
But then, I noticed something remarkable. I noticed 50-80 users on the site every minute for the next 3 hours. But more importantly than traffic was the feedback. Users started leaving comments. I replied. I got more comments. Some comments hurt. Some were nice. But ALL of the comments helped shape the product.
This was free. It was easy. It actually made Candid better.
The team took the comments and went to work that weekend. We added more information on privacy and we added a way to browse companies already on Candid.
Here is how the HackerNews spike compared to LAUNCH festival. Pretty incredible? But again, it wasn’t just the traffic – it was the feedback loop.
I think this is a great lesson for many startups who dump so much time and energy into getting blog posts and media attention as opposed to going out and asking for real feedback on the product….how would you rather spend your time?