The Day the Hunter got Hunted: Our Journey to Success on Product Hunt

By: Steve McKean, CEO, Billshark

As serial technology entrepreneurs, my team and I know the importance of creating a great product and executing a successful launch. After many years of working with the companies with whom we now negotiate, we realized that consumers were spending more money and getting less customer service every month. Our latest venture, Billshark  a mobile-enabled bill negotiating service works to save consumers time and money in less than two minutes. Customers who signed up loved the service, but we needed more exposure. With a very advanced technological platform, the company’s debut required the right venue: Product Hunt, an online community of early adopters, investors and tech enthusiasts. And most importantly, it’s a kingmaker for start-ups like ours.

For a Fintech company like Billshark, getting hunted on Product Hunt is the ultimate milestone. The experience itself was incredible but the outcome was even more so. When you realize you are just a small fish in a big pond of start-up giants, getting 438 votes, 54 comments and trending 3rd in your product category is pretty much a career highlight. In the first 24 hours, we had thousands of app downloads, hundreds of new customers, several prospective investors and a few opportunities to collaborate with other businesses. Here’s how we did it.

Pre-Launch: The Plan

When you start a company, you can’t leave much to chance. Our preparation was thorough, from beginning to end. We read through Product Hunt’s site for information and we researched additional resources online for more advice. The Internet is a treasure trove of articles and posts by other entrepreneurs who share their own experiences on Product Hunt and offer insight about launching on the site.

Create and Grow Your Network

First, we found our “fish in the sea.” Signing into Product Hunt via Facebook or Twitter allows one to know which “friends” are already hunters. This was our core group of supporters who were already familiar with the hunt and were able to ask questions and comment throughout the day. This was the starting point of our Product Hunt “network.”  The second step was sharing the news of our launch with all our friends and colleagues. If you read carefully, you will note that Product Hunt does not want you to campaign for votes. Understandably, they want the “hunt” for new products to be as authentic and organic as possible. Our goal was not to ask people to upvote us, but to simply announce the news of our launch to our own network of tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. We joined slack groups, we tweeted, we Facebooked and we connected on LinkedIn. In fact, we became the most social people on earth, expanding our friend lists everywhere we could so that once we were live, we could share our progress.

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Connecting with a friend who happened to be an existing product hunter brought us to our next step: an introduction to Hiten Shah, a start-up consultant and an extremely respected hunter. He liked our company and agreed to “sponsor” us on the site. In case you don’t know how critical this is for a launch, this is akin to Ernest Hemingway writing the foreward to your first book. Undoubtedly, it helped us get attention on the day of the launch.

Ask for Help

Every founder of a start-up knows that you can’t do it alone. After reading a great Product Hunt guide by hunter Ovi Negrean, we reached out to him.  An entrepreneur and start-up advisor, he very generously spent time on the phone sharing insight on planning a seamless Product Hunt launch. Having the support of others in the community gave us not only inside knowledge into the platform, but the confidence to know that we had influencers on our side.

Get the Word Out

Since Billshark had only recently launched its service, we used our Product Hunt launch as an opportunity to introduce the company to our own friends and colleagues. A short email providing details about our company went out a couple of days before the launch. The support was extraordinary and many even thanked us later for introducing them to the incredible platform.

Day of the Hunt

This is the day you pretty much sit and “prey.” We didn’t know the exact time that we would get hunted, but it happened around 10:30 am, which experts say is the ideal time. From the moment  we were hunted, we were ready to respond to every single question and comment that was posted about Billshark. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Having founders who are knowledgeable and responsive goes a long way to creating trust between your company and your future customers.

As the day progressed and we started trending, we shared our milestones with our network both via email and on all our social platforms. This, of course, added more interest and engagement.

Post-Launch: Where’s the coffee?

It’s lucky we are sharks and don’t need to come up for air because the post-launch attention blew us away. Thankfully, being prepared for a major surge in customers and some new business opportunities helped us keep our heads above water. We absorbed the new business fairly seamlessly (though not effortlessly). We communicated with our new customers right away and followed up on every new business relationship that was forged along the way.

What We Learned

  1. Be strategic. Be prepared. Be as strategic about Product Hunt as you are about your start-up. Prepare, prepare and then prepare some more.
  2. Product Hunt is not elitist. Don’t worry about being “someone” in the online tech world. Anyonecan have a successful launch. You don’t have to be well-known or well-connected to get discovered on Product Hunt. You just need a great product and the right strategy to get hunted.
  3. It takes a village. The amount of help we received from friends and strangers who were genuinely excited about our product was humbling. People want to help and their generosity will go a long way to helping a company launch successfully. To that end, we want to give a special thank you to:
  • Hiten Shah, start-up guru and hunter with a very loyal following on Product Hunt who generously offered to hunt Billshark.
  • Ovi Negrean, entrepreneur and start-up advisor for providing excellent advice along the way.
  • Ryan Hoover, Founder of Product Hunt for creating truly extraordinary platform where tech innovators and early adopters can come together and geek out.

Good luck, and happy hunting!

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