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Is Hacker News A Good Platform To Launch Your Product?

Is Hacker News A Good Platform To Launch Your Product?

Two weeks ago we decided to “officially” launch our little new product, a Stripe add-on on steroids to generate invoices. About time!

After one month of night coding, pizza eating, surfing, and much more coding, we were looking forward getting the first reactions from outsiders.

Specially Hacker News, among other sites, was definitely one of the places where we wanted to showcase what we had been building. HN has been the virtual place where we have read great insights and shared feedback about others’ projects. Now it was our turn.

Good and Bad Experiences

“Why HN?”, you may be wondering. “Is not a place full of negative wannabes?”

So far, our experience has not been that bad. It’s true that when people can hide themselves behind a nickname, they tend to be more critic with your thing. But those are the less cases.

For a long time, HN has been the place to be, the place where all the startups want to make their mise en scène, with the hope of getting thousands of signups and paying customers.

I know. It’s so naïve… But people still think that way.

However, we have to asume the reality, a reality that can be cruel sometimes. The fact that HN audience might be interested in what you have built does not make intrinsically that they are ‘your targeted audience’. At least not in most of the cases. In fact, most of the showcased projects get almost nothing. Nada.

HN is a forum, a place to share and discuss links to content that may be interesting to the community, a developers/makers-community. Not a signups machine.

Basecamp received 105,000 visits from HN one month before launching their last version. They got 97 signups (0,09%) and 14 paying customers (0,01%). Yeah!

The guys from Groove stated they received 33,198 visits after one of their posts was published on HN. They got 96 signups (0,29%) and 12 paying customers (0,04%). We’re improving!

It’s not so bad to get 12 or 14 paying customers for free, but these conversion rates are not as high as you expected, right?

There’re also some counterexamples. Josh Pigford got $1,500 in MRR after one of his articles was posted on HN.

I like his explanation about it:

It’s not that Hacker News doesn’t have any legitimate business owners that can convert to paying customers, it’s that most of the content that gets posted there targets the wrong people…the “early stage startups” and “wantrepreneurs” with no money who argue about inconsequential things while the real business owners are out building real businesses. Josh Pigford.

“So, why did you want to appear on HN?”

Because we wanted to make a little market research. That’s all. We thought HN was a perfect place to pose this question:

Are people out there interested in an invoice generator for Stripe?

And HN is a good place to ask the community and get their feedback.

The Facts

On May 14th we posted the next post: "Show HN: - Billing for Stripe". The post was on the homepage for 8 hours, and received 69 votes and 42 comments.

These were our metrics two weeks later:

  • 410 visitors
  • 19 signups (5.26%)
  • 5 qualified leads (1.22%)
  • 2 customers (0.49%)
  • Invaluable feedback from our targeted potential users

FYI, for us a qualified lead is someone who has connected his Stripe account with

2 customers and $100 MRR. Not so bad for a free post. But the best part was the feedback we got. Definitely.

Those 42 comments were pure gold.

We exhibited our small project in front of people that we were looking for a solution like this. And in return we obtained feedback on:

Thank you to all the people whom gave us their feedback!

We are a 4-people startup with limited resources (development time, marketing budget) so it was a key element for us to know if we were building something that could solve a real pain. Initial traction proofed us that we were not wrong. We know there is still tons of work to do, but we took the decision to keep on working on it.

Submit your product to HN should not be the only core-step of your launch

Think about it. You have 1 or 2 opportunities to get the attention among 600/700 links submitted per day – you can see easily all the links submitted for the last day if you enter ‘*’ into the search box + ‘Last 24 hours’ in the UI. That’s a 0.25% probabilities of being upvoted!

I’m trying to help here, not being negative just a bit realistic. I just want to point out that HN should be more like ‘another speaker’ that can take your launch to more people. For sure, you should consider other ways of getting attention to your product besides HN.

With that being said, if your product or idea is tech-oriented and you are willing to discuss your ideas, and having 1-1 feedback that might be not always as positive as you though, I really encourage you to submit it to HackerNews.

Have you ever published a project on HN? I’d like to know your experience.

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