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How we got to #1 on Product Hunt and doubled our userbase

In case you missed it, Simpla was featured on Product Hunt.

For one crazy day we were #1 on Product Hunt’s home page, #1 in Tech, and #1 in Developer Tools. We’re one of the most upvoted Australian startups ever. We doubled our userbase virtually overnight. This is a post about how it happened.

The false start

This wasn’t the first time Simpla had been on Product Hunt. During our Kickstarter campaign last year one of our awesome backers hunted us.

Unfortunately we had no idea. We didn’t realise we’d been listed until too late, and didn’t get a chance to contribute as makers or promote the post. On top of that Simpla was still just a glint in our eye, all people could do was join our waiting list or back our Kickstarter.

...crickets chirping (... crickets chirping)

In the end we capped out at a handful of upvotes and an empty post. Not exactly the grand launch we hoped for.

The (re)hunt

Fast forward almost a year, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, acceptance into muru-D (an Australian startup accelerator), and an intro to Chris Messina from one of our advisors.

We didn’t realise at the time, but Chris, known to most as the inventor of the hashtag, is an epic Producthunter. He’s listed over 800 products, with the likes of Nylas Pro, Postman for mac, Alfred 3, and Draft.js. He asked us if we’d like to be hunted.

After a couple more months of fevered development the timing was right and we bit the bullet. Almost immediately things started going wrong.

We were hunted at 9am PST, which is 2am local time for us. Our whole local network was cozy in bed while we pulled an all nighter trying to get that crucial first bit of interest. I built a lovely welcome banner for Producthunters arriving on our site, but the outbound Product Hunt link somehow got mangled and we couldn’t track referrals. We tweeted and facebooked and slacked but by the end of the night only had a few upvotes and no comments.

Again!

It was looking like a repeat of our first time round, and we called it a night feeling pretty disheartened.

The home page

I woke up a few hours later and noticed this tweet from one of our advisors

Tweet from Mick Liubinskas

… and the favourite from Ryan Hoover.

An hour or two later Simpla was promoted to the home page of Product Hunt.

Almost immediately comments and upvotes started flowing in and we were back in action. I sent out an email to our users mentioning the post, and things just sort of escalated from there.

We pretty quickly reached a few hundred upvotes and the #1 spot in Developer Tools, then Tech, then the home page.

Simpla at #1 on ProductHunt

At the same time our logging system was spewing errors as Simpla started popping at the seams with the huge usage spike.

Our error logs during ProductHunt

The aftermath

In the end Simpla got 870 upvotes, 65+ comments, and we doubled our userbase from 700 developers to over 1500.

Sessions for simpla.io

But the biggest win for us was the awesome discussions we had. We got tonnes of feedback, chatted with others trying to solve the same problems, found crucial issues we need to fix, and learnt a lot about our customers.

Product Hunt is an unparalleled megaphone for your product, but it won’t magically fix your problems. If your onboarding sucks before being featured it will still suck afterwards (something we’re grappling with now). If your product has holes, a Product Hunt launch won’t patch them.

And getting that homepage feature is mostly a matter of luck. There are a lot of guides telling you how to win at Product Hunt - share links to the search page rather than your product page, post at 12:01am on a Wednesday, use Thunderclap to accelerate attention, get influencers to comment on your post, offer discount coupons. At the end of the day though it’s an arbitrary process that can’t really be gamed, and that’s a good thing.