Communicate with Users, Build Something They Want - Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Communicate with Users, Build Something They Want - Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt".



Intro (00:00)

All right, so maybe we could start with this question from Stuart Powell, and his question is, what's your advice for non-technical founders? As you are a non-technical founder and a solo founder or a co-founder? A solo founder, but had a founding team, so can do without them, of course. Okay, so yeah, maybe the best way to go about this is you explain how you made product on, and then share some advice for Stuart. Yeah, so I remember applying to YC and historically, I always realized or thought that YC one didn't like solo founders, and two always preferred technical founders to begin with. So I was like, I don't know if YC is going to like me. So ended applying anyway after speaking with Gary and Alexis and Cat and some others and Kevin Hale, getting their support. And when I went into YC, when we applied to YC, we already had some traction, we already had some proof that people wanted this thing. So what does that actually mean? Like some meaning roughly what number? I don't remember the exact numbers. It was obviously still very small because it was pretty early days, but we were seeing about 50% month over month growth in total like top line user visits. And that was consistent for the first, I don't know, two, three, four months. And so that really demonstrated that, oh, wow, this person, he's single founder and he's non-technical, but somehow this thing is growing, and people seem to want it. And whether you're non-technical or technical, or whatever it may be, if you can demonstrate data like that, it's hard to argue. It's hard to say that, oh, actually, no, this isn't useful. If you're demonstrating that people are using your product, then that's ultimate proof. And so when people who are non-technical founders come to you now, what do you advise them? Like, how do you figure out how to make prototypes and get something out the door? There's a lot of ways that you can validate ideas or build products without really coding anything. Product on it was an email list in the beginning. So really, I was forced not being an engineer to not spend weeks and weeks building something that maybe something that people didn't want. Instead, I was like, okay, well, what can I build? And then what experience could I provide that would maybe validate or test whether people wanted this? So built this email list, sent it out, got a few hundred subscribers initially, and it took me 20 minutes to set up. So it was like the ultimate MVP. From a product standpoint, I was like, email is actually a great place to put content, to reengage people because they, our audience, people in technology, they use email every single day. So for technical or non-technical people, things like email or hacking things together with type form actually is a really good tool to almost create a product essentially.

Discussion On Startup Journey And Growth

Ship (02:38)

You can put type form and stripe together and actually collect money. That's the ultimate test. You can get people to pay you money for something. Then you're like, well, wow, they clearly want this. So I think there's a lot of things you can do without doing any coding. And even if you are technical, it's actually in many cases wise to start testing with those types of non-technical tools so that you can put something out there sooner and earlier. Yeah. And do you find that, well, you just launched ship like this new product or new feature, I guess. Are people using that to beta test stuff or are these like fully functioning products? Yeah, it's a combination of everything really. So we built ship in many ways. It's basically a toolkit for makers and startups to one, announce new products that they're creating, collect emails for those products, and then get feedback and communicate with those users. So a lot of these things we were actually doing at product hunt for several years through various tools like Mailchimp using type form, just basically sending out screenshots and using actually envision as a great tool to get people to annotate screenshots and get feedback. So you're sort of hacking all these tools together and we're like, okay, well, people on products are continually asking us, like, how can I use product hunt to start getting initial users or feedback from my product before I'm ready to launch. So we built ship and we're seeing people use it for everything we were just talking earlier about like Casey and Iston and his new app. They used it to start capturing interest for beam panels or new apps that's coming out. Soon them and other similar people are using it then seed it with beta users to get actual feedback on the product. So long story short, our goal is like create something that people could use to start generating demand and communicating with their audience. And ultimately what I believe is like the more you can communicate with your audience, make them feel involved in the process and get feedback from them, the higher chance you are in building some that people want or good products ultimately. And I think this also relates to another question which was a little blunt but Diego asked, is there a business model in product hunt? So yeah, I was like, okay man, are you trying to go in that direction with the ship product or yeah, what's the plan? Yeah, so historically we've never really charged for anything. Outside of long, long time ago, once upon a time, we did post for charged people for job postings but then we stopped that to focus entirely on building the committee in the audience. Now we're shifting some of our focus towards monetization and ship is actually the first thing that we've directly charged for outside of those initial tests. And the fun part is yesterday we launched, we set up of course a slack bot to notify whenever someone gives us money. And so those are like the best notifications we're getting. It's like, wow, this person just subscribed for like $249 a month. This thing that we go, it's like, that's awesome. And woke up this morning to a bunch more notifications. I was like, this is amazing. So our strategy going forward here, especially in Q4 is to think more about what are the things that we can build and provide that people like so much that they're willing to pay for. And ship is showing a lot of promise and helping startups with communicating and marketing and so on. Another piece that we are working on that hasn't really shown that you'll start to see soon is also leveraging the community and the platform we've built to connect companies with talent. So now that we're inside of AngelList, there's this whole A-list talent platform. It's a great place to recruit great talent.

Email (06:02)

And we also in product and have a lot of talented engineers, designers, marketers, and so on that might want to join companies that we're launching in product and so it's a nice opportunity to make those connections. And as a result, generate some revenue out of that without being super heavy handed and showing pop-ups and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I'll see that from product. Maybe audio playing videos with sound and everything about we'll see. Well, you guys do email well, but you could like push it even further. Have you always, so you like it was first email list, have you always believed that email was going to be the most effective way for you to stay in touch with people? Yeah, it's always been, you know, a lot of people say emails, dad emails, dumb, I don't like email. People use email all the time though. And it's a great plant channel for re-engagement. Back in 2013 or 12, I can't remember. I wrote a, I used to write a lot and blog a lot and wrote about an article called email first startups. Actually, it was one of the early articles that I had on Hacker News that got on the home page. And I was like, well, this is cool. People are reading my thing. And it was basically just outlining various startups that started off as emails to begin with. AngelList ironically was one of those like AngelList MVP essentially was an email digest. But yeah, it was an email list in the beginning. And it's a very simple way to MVP something and see if people actually open it and click on it. It's also very malleable. So every single morning or every day when you send that email, you can change the copy.

YC Application Hacking (07:30)

You can try different things. Whereas when you put something in code, it's a lot harder to change in most cases. It's fairly stagnant. So when you're sort of testing ideas, email is a great channel for that. That's awesome. We had a bunch of questions around the YC application. It's like application season right now. Oh, yes. That's right. Yeah. A few of those actually, David, I might be mispronouncing his last name. Tell us about a time you successfully hacked a non computer system to your advantage. This is a YC application question. I forgot what a, okay, I can't remember if this was my answer in the YC application or not. It may have been. So as a kid, I was always interested in working on different projects and trying to turn something into money. I hated working for money for time. I hated getting paid hourly because if I did a terrible job or an awesome job, I got paid the same $6 or $7 an hour. So I was always trying to find entrepreneurial ways to make money. And one of those was actually selling things on eBay when I was a kid. So I would browse fat wallet and slick deals, which are these like communities and forms of people would post different deals that you can get on, usually electronics. And it would usually involve things with rebates, price matching, and all these hacks that you'd have to like work around. Some of them slightly gray hat, it's like a little bit shady. In any case, what I would do is browse those websites daily and then find opportunities to buy things that were maybe 30 or 40% off MSRP and then buy them and then sell them on eBay. And I think I sold, it wasn't a lot, like it was $150,000, maybe $200,000 and like merchandise. But I really wasn't, it was almost like it enjoyable for me to find and hunt for these things and then make money on it. It didn't even matter how much money I made for me. It was more like, oh, I could turn this thing into like this idea into money. And so I did that through, I don't know, high school and some in college. That's great. So that was fun. There was a whole Planet Money episode about that. Yeah, people going to, it was a year or two ago, Toys R Us and reselling on Amazon. Oh, yeah. There's this whole culture of like that little arbitrage, but just getting enough volume. Here's another one. What were the main points you were trying to get across in your YC application and interview?

What were the main points you were trying to get across (09:51)

This is from Phil. Yeah, I think looking back on it, I believe, you know, part of it was I was going in there again as single founder, non-technical. So I had that concern. And so my approach really was to communicate and sort of sell them on this vision and idea that we need a place in the internet, a place to discover all these products being built. I think the audience, the YC partners, they understood the pain point that makers and startups are seeing when it comes to discovery. So I felt that that was a strong thing to capture and to kind of double down on. But really it was just about selling the vision of like, how do we create a place where in a world where we have all these products, people can discover the best ones ultimately. Other than that, it was also just like communicating confidence in some ways. I think you go into that interview, people are nervous, I was nervous. You have these, I think it was freaking out. Yeah. In my case, it's like three to four people in front of you drilling you with questions. I remember Sam, Sam all of them was one of them and it's just like, he cut me off a couple times and I came prepared knowing that. So I was like, okay, if they cut me off, I'm just going to move on and, you know, try to be succinct and clear. Yeah, I think that's psychologically very difficult for people. And at that point is one of my main points of advice when they're asking like pre-interview. You can't let that ruin your flow, ruin your energy. A lot of people start to get defensive when they're interrupted and then it just spirals out of control. Oh yeah. It's like a weird psychological tactic. Yeah. Especially if you have more multiple founders too. It's the dynamic of who speaks when and how do you make sure that you don't look like you're fighting? The last thing you want is two founders to look like they already have founder problems. Yeah. Ten minute interview. Yep. Which can be challenging. Yep.

Will podcast discovery ever come back? (11:40)

All right. Oh yeah, I did have a question about podcast discovery. So where do you see that going right now? Like obviously you guys have a podcast section. Yes and no. We actually kind of quietly killed podcasts. Oh, been nice. Yeah. So this is some of the history and product and is early on we, of course, have been targeting the tech community and we made some mistakes admittedly on some of the execution of some kind of category expansions. We went into like games and books and podcasts was like the sort of fourth category that we introduced. And in hindsight, it was very clear why podcasts didn't belong in our current product and ecosystem. One podcast, you know, discovery in the way you consume podcasts is wildly different than you discover an app or a product. It's also very frequent. Like there's a new podcast every week or more than that. So like the dynamics didn't really work with just shoving it into the product and community. However, the direction and the opportunity that we were tackling with podcasts specifically, I think is still something I would love to see. And there's a YC company called Breaker, which you probably know of, which in many ways is executing on the way that we would have or wanted to execute on podcasts. If we focused on podcasts, ultimately we decided podcast is not our business. Like we're focused on product discovery primarily. And we're going to stop doing that. Breaker is approaching it in a similar way where they're leveraging community and enabling, you know, people to discover podcasts in a new and different way through other people and friends. So I think, I mean, from a market perspective, I don't see a world where we don't have something like that in podcasts, like a place where people can discover and engage and almost geek out about podcasts together. To date, those exist in like on Reddit to some extent, and various places on the internet. But there's no, there's no leader in that space right now. No. Well, I think about it in the context of YouTube and you mostly rely on the algorithm, and then like the old school methods of, you know, basically a guest post. So like, you're on my vlog, I'm on your vlog. Like, that's how it works. Podcasting it is pretty difficult. But I agree. I really love the search on Breaker. That's one thing that all the other apps haven't done that.

YCombinator (13:55)

Yeah. Yeah. Download Breaker. All right. Next question. What were your biggest takeaways from YC? I think part of it is one of the great things about being in YC is you are held accountable in your, it's almost like, to some extent, school. Like your professor is going to be like, did you read the homework? Your test results are going to show like, whether you learn the thing or not. At YC during that three month process, I'm losing track even. You know, you have this accountability on a week over a week basis, and you go into these group office hours where you're sharing your updates. And at the time, CASR and Kevin Hale were our group partners. And they would ask questions like, all right, did you do that thing we talked about last week? And so it was a forcing function to just get shit done because you don't have much time. And there's, I think that mentality is very healthy. And while it is uncomfortable and stressful in many cases, it's the best way to especially get off the ground because you just need to do a lot of work and hold yourself accountable.

Process Change Post YCombinator (14:51)

I am always curious how the behavior changes after YC because there's like, there's this period of, I guess you product hunt wasn't around all that long before you did YC, right? Yeah, it was about five, six months before we actually entered. Right. So you didn't have that many defined habits. Yeah. But do you find yourself adapting like new styles of running the team after YC? Or is it pretty similar to the way you were going about it before? It's hard to say. YC was so focused in that initial phase. And then once we, we raise a series A basically right after YC and then hired. And so our process changed. And as it does, when you hire another five or 10 people. And so in many ways, we continued to have to change thing the way that we're doing things. In fact, we're still doing that now, like this next quarter, like we might make some changes in our process again, partly just because it's, you see what didn't go well last quarter. And so you want to change it. So I don't know, in some ways, I think a lot of it is YC instills a data driven and like very deliberate, like talk to your customers type of culture, which I think is something that I believe we had prior to YC. So for us, maybe it didn't dramatically change our culture the way that operating so much. But it certainly changed thing, us in ways that I couldn't probably realize just because, you know, it's hard to know what we would be without YC.

The mission (16:20)

So, okay, cool. And so are you guys all, there were a couple questions for you about remote teams. Yeah. What does your distribution look like? Are you mostly in the bay? How does it work? Yeah. So we're about two thirds outside of, outside of SF. Okay. So we have headquarters in SF. And but from the beginning, we've been a distributed team. In fact, the first person that ended up while paying out of pocket initially was Ricardo in Italy. And so he was a developer that came on board and, you know, awesome guy. And so like from the very beginning, we had sort of a distributed team. Andreas came on our CTO shortly after that. And he was at the time in Vienna, now he's here in San Francisco. But we now have 17 people across, I think it's eight or nine time zones from Bulgaria, London, Denver, like all over the board. Yeah. And not just like community moderation. These people are developed by a designer. Yeah. Yeah. It's a combination of community and engineering. Actually, Julie's in Paris. She joined a month or two ago. Cool. So, we need to hit Asia. We don't have anyone in Asia yet. That's next on the list, maybe. So yeah, if you're looking for a job. Okay. And so what are the learnings? I mean, did you set out to build a distributed team? Or was it just by happenstance that you knew someone in Italy and they could help? You know, it wasn't intentional in the beginning. It was almost a necessity. And frankly, because at the time, one, not being an engineer, I need to find engineers. And then Andreas and I naturally came together and we both had this passion for building this community. He then recruited a lot of the early engineers who were based in Europe because that's where a lot of his network at the time was. Okay. And so it sort of organically formed that way. And then in hindsight, we realized there's a couple huge advantages to distributed teams. Like one, you can hire anyone in the world. You don't need to hire people just in San Francisco or people who want to move here. Two, it's very expensive to hire in San Francisco, of course. Like the cost of living here is dramatically higher than it is in Bulgaria. And the third piece too is it's also very competitive when it comes to hiring, especially for an early stage startup, when you're trying to take someone from Google or Facebook, they're getting paid, I don't know, $200,000 with beautiful cafeteria lunches. You as a C-stage or pre-funded company, it's hard to convince them to come on board. So I think there's a lot of benefits in building remote distributed teams. The other kind of fourth piece is also we get this global perspective to some extent, where more than half the product and community is actually outside the US. And I don't know for certain, but I think part of that is because our team itself is distributed across the world. And so maybe there's this level of empathy or understanding of those communities. So I think we'll see, I believe we'll see more and more distributed teams, more remote workers. It's sort of this movement towards that direction. And I think more people will be willing to build teams like that because it's easier to work remotely with Slack and various video chat apps like Zoom, which we use and love. So I'm happy that we're distributed. It does come with challenges, but overall it's a lot of benefits to it. But nothing like outside of the normal complaints and workflow. Yeah, communication and sometimes it's difficult when you have overlap of maybe four hours working together instead of a full day. But those are workable. Okay, cool.

Creating a community (19:55)

A few people asked about community. I think they were particularly excited like, you know, figuring out how you just got started. You know, one person asked, had he's you asked, how did you acquire your first 1000 users? Sebastian Masada asked, how do you create a community so quickly? Basically the same question. Yeah, how did you get started? What was your, so you started this email list, but did you have a following before online? How did it go? Yeah, so it started, product in some ways started years before product hadn't started in some some ways. You know, it's before product and I mentioned earlier, I was writing a lot and I would love to play with products and explore products and write about I was writing my like Snapchat and all these other new apps and new behaviors. And I was just super curious about, you know, why are people engaged with these things? I helped near with his book Hooked and did more writing there. And so I was building a tiny bit of an audience, not massive, not Casey's at all, like he's ridiculous, but a big enough audience within this centered kind of tech community to the point where when I did launch product hunt, when I announced the email, I had enough people following me to say, Oh, I know Ryan, this looks cool.

How to grow (21:10)

I'm going to try it out. And so it was a combination of having this first like few hundred people to sign up, which was super important. And then also building relationships with other founders and investors and people that had known me for a long time, that made it exciting and allow them to be comfortable joining and participating in the community. So the initial kind of few first few hundred, let's say, are just people that I'd build an audience or a following with for like years prior. And then after that, when it launched, it was okay, how do we grow this community? There's a couple of things tactics that we did. Like one was press was actually a great growth driver in the beginning. And so we worked on getting press or doing guest publishing. Actually wrote, ironically, I wrote in Fast Company something titled like how we got our first 2000 users. We can do it. Yeah. And this was like way back when, and it's ironic that I was writing about that because my entire goal of writing about that was to get, you know, another 1000 users. And that worked in the beginning because, you know, probably it was new to the tech industry at that time. And so people would sign up and be like, what is this thing? So we did things like that. We also realized that when makers and founders saw their product on product, and naturally wanted to join the conversation, they wanted to share it. And so when we realized that I would every morning go on Twitter and like search for their Twitter username and say, hey, Jill, your product is over here. People are talking about it. Do you want to join and answer questions? And like 80% of the time they'd say, yes, of course, I'd love to. So we did more of that. I just would spend first hour or so of my day finding those makers online and getting them involved. And that led to more and more growth. So it had a natural kind of growth effect in the beginning. And those two tactics alone were like what led us to, I don't know, several thousand people in the very beginning. And are the bots effective still? Like, you know, the congratulations. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So for those that don't know, we have these Twitter bots that we've set up. One of them is to so going back to what I said before, first I would look for the makers and invite them and it was all manual. So we're like, all right, this is not scalable. Let's productize this. Let's make this scalable. So then we allowed the community to tag the makers and be like, here's a product I found. Here's Jack, the person that made it or whatever. And we'd ask like, what's Jack's username? And they would add it. And then we'd have a bot that would say, Hey, Jack, your product was or you've been added as a maker to this product. Here's the link. And so that would allow us to scalably sort of recruit makers. And that's been still effective to this day. In fact, makers get upset if they are posted and they don't realize it because they're like, Oh, I couldn't answer questions or I didn't have a chance to share it. Yeah. So we do make it like an effort to make sure they're notified. That's cool. Yeah, it feels like a missed opportunity. I mean, I love getting into the comments like on hn product on all that stuff. So your growth now, is it coming more from the US or is it going international as you find these other types of people? Yeah, it's it's pretty even. There's no we're not seeing necessarily growth in a particular pocket. It's it's maybe unusual. Most startups you see very that start in the US are very US centric in it.

Noble pursuits: quality vs. speed (24:29)

You'll see 80% of their traffic or more will be the US from pretty early on. We've had a fairly international audience and I think it's it's largely related to where you see different startup hubs around the world. Of course, San Francisco being a major one in New York and some other cities in the US, but there's also, you know, places like like Paris and Berlin and other places around the world that have these communities of people who love startups and are building products. And so if you look at our like Google analytics, like a heat map of where people are, a lot of it centers around those startup tech hubs actually, and those are everywhere. So yeah, for us, it's it's still quite international and it always kind of has been when it comes to the growth. Are there particular types of products that come from particular areas that you can kind of like group automatically or distributed? It's pretty distributed. Yeah, although there's some trends we'll see. I think for what a reason Paris is very design centric in general. So you'll see a lot of design related or like beautiful looking products coming from Paris or France in general. But I would love to do like an analysis or something. We do have an API if anybody wants to hack like something together, use our API to like come up with cool visualizations. Okay. That'd be cool. Have you have you looked back at the products that you've loved over the past couple years to figure out if there are like through lines for you in particular? Like this is what you're attracted to. Like is a what I like your favorite kinds of products. It was like by far the most common question. Really? What are your favorite things? What apps are you using? Everything of that ilk. Yeah. Well, it's interesting if you look at product in some cases is like a representation of the theme at the time or the trends. So if you look back a couple years ago, let's say back when secret was blowing up, there were a ton of apps building anonymous social experiences. There were every single almost day or week, there was like multiple different apps that were like in that space because it was a time when everyone was like, this is working and maybe there's an opportunity to build new experiences around this theme. Now today fast forward, like things that are built on blockchain and crypto, of course, are super popular. Every single day, there's at least two or three things related to that. And it's quite interesting to see these trends happen. And like AI is kind of another one, like people using machine learning and AI in part because there's a lot of opportunity there, but also like the there's open source code and things that you can use, like introduce that to your product. So I don't know, it's interesting to see these trends over time. Me personally, I like all kinds of things in terms of, I like to explore new ideas and especially if people are using new platforms and new interactions in different ways, take voice, for example. I'm pretty interested in voice based applications. Like Lylebird is one that comes to mind, which I think it was in the last YC batch, which it's kind of crazy, but you watch the demo and it takes a sample of someone's voice and then is able to recreate it to create basically make it sound like Obama is saying something he never said. So some like crazy applications for that. And those are the types of products I get really excited about because it's a lot of what product is about is really like seeing what could be made in the future, what might change the world or at least maybe a tiny part of your life. Yeah, it's a that was one of my favorite companies in the batch. It's amazing. Emulates your voice with like 20 minutes, it can do like perfect accuracy or it goes insane. Yeah, it's kind of fine. They opened up the beta and I was going to record my voice and then I got nervous. I was like, uh oh, I mean, we're recording a podcast. So you sort of have my voice already, but I was like, you can use this against me. Yeah, no fake news is going to be terrifying. Have you seen the video emulation stuff? Yes. Yeah, that with video emulation is frightening. So when you see that, then you also think, okay, what's how do we prevent against that? How do we create technology or products to help people not, you know, fall into this, this like hyper realistic fake news future? Yeah, has anyone launched anything on product hunt that addresses like watermarks or security checks, anything like that? Nothing that I can think of right now. That would be interesting though. Yeah, I'm sure there's somebody out there doing it. Yeah, well, I mean, it's tricky because you want like people believe what they want to believe. So like, if you did any amount of research now with a photo, I used to do Photoshop with the onion. So like I did that, I like made fake news professionally. Nice. And yeah, you know, you see like the article just gets picked up in China and people just want to believe it.

Fromecasting, Bun regarding, Octroll voting, other crazy stuff (29:06)

Yeah, that's just how it goes. So yeah, we're, yeah, we're headed toward a world that's kind of scary. It's going to be, it's going to be weird. Have there been any products that launched on product hunt that didn't do well and then proceeded to do very well in the real world? Oh, I mean, I'm sure tons. Like what I tell people is like the number of efforts you get on product hunt honestly doesn't mean whether it'll be successful or not. Yeah, I mean, that should be obvious to people, but some people they're really disappointed. Like I got 20 upvotes and, you know, people don't like it. Well, the reality is launching is like a one time thing. And whether you're launched successful or not, it's really like startups is like a multi year journey. Some of the most successful startups really are like until year five, six, seven is when they really are taking off. It takes a long time. You don't hear about those because you don't hear the first four years, usually. Nope. So I'm sure there's tons, tons of them. And the other pieces like product hunt doesn't today isn't encompassing everyone in the world either. So like if you're building a product for a particular type of audience that doesn't use product hunt today, then like it's probably not a surprise that you didn't get a ton of outvotes or attention or whatever. But yeah, yeah, totally. It happens in YCL the time. What are your pro tips for launching on product hunt? Yeah, so part of it goes not to sound too promotional, but part of it is the reason why we built ship. So what we've, what we realize is a lot of people get into, you know, a box and they build a product that they think they love, that the world will love, and maybe they will, maybe they won't, but they don't really interact or get feedback from a community. Nor do they actually build an audience and get people following them in advance, not to, we keep talking about Casey, or I do. But Casey's a good example. Like he, he has initially, before they built the product, he built an audience and that audience has grown more and more and more. Now, no matter what he puts out, he's at least guaranteed to get people to care or try it out. And that's hugely valuable. You don't need Casey's level of audience, but going back to my sort of product hunt, if I didn't have, you know, this first few hundred people willing to sign up that I had built, that audience for over several years, I don't think probably that would exist today. So I think it's a combination of like, my pro tips is like, one, be okay with building an audience in the sense that an audience of people you're actually targeting, and also engage with those people, get them involved, and get feedback from those people early on. And ship is designed in our hope is it will help people do exactly those two things. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I would say that I'm engaging with the audience is something you guys do super well. It's like customer service is highly high up there.

Insights On Building Products And Future Of Technology

Consuming the firehose. (31:54)

And your priorities. Yeah. Customer service is seen as like a cost center in many cases, but it's actually a great opportunity to engage an audience. Like, what they're doing is they're coming to you and saying like, I have a problem where I need to help. And many people, many people are like, Oh, no, they're coming to us. But like in reality, it's like a great thing. People care enough to talk to you. Yeah. So we use Twitter heavily to interact with people. I have a use tweet deck and I command tab to it way too much. And I have a column for every single product I mentioned. And I see almost every single one. So I can see what people are talking about what they're sharing. If there's issues that come up, make sure that I respond to them. It's a small things that make the community feel personal and approachable. Is it ever overwhelming with the amount of new stuff? Like I'm constantly overwhelmed by the amount of like cool things that come through YC. And that's just like a tiny fraction of the world. Yeah. Do you ever have you built up like an intense stamina for like consuming new products? Or are there ever points where you're just like, I don't need a new app today? I mean, I'm a weirdo and then I just love doing this stuff, like exploring every single morning, waking up and seeing what people are making. So I'm unusual in that sense. I also don't try to see everything, obviously. It's kind of like some people with their email, they're like, I got to get to inbox zero. The reality is I don't try to get an inbox zero. It's just fine if it's not totally taken care of. So for me, I don't mind it. Like our hope with products and some things we're exploring is how do we, there's certain people weirdos like me who love to consume the firehose. And then there's some people who just tell me like the cool one or two things this week that I should know. And so we're exploring how do we appeal to both user types, making sure they don't feel overwhelmed, but making sure this audience gets all the information they need. Okay. And is there an offering for the one or two a week yet? The closest thing in, we've offered this for a while is our weekly digest.

What is the most counterintuitive thing you have learned while building and watching a product (33:51)

So we have a newsletter that goes out either just on Mondays if you want or Monday through Friday. So the people who are maybe less actively engaged but still want to know like what happened this week, the weekly digest and that'll include like the most upvoted products that week. So pretty easy, takes 10 seconds to consume and a lot more consume more than like our feed of firehose. It's crazy to see it grow, man. It's amazing. Bunch of random questions. So Akshara, I'm going to mispronounce this. Akshara Bonu asked, what is the most counterintuitive thing you learned building product on and then watching it grow and be used? I don't know if I have a great answer for that one to be honest. There's things that internally from a process and like leadership standpoint that I don't know if I'd say they're counterintuitive, but it's challenging to one thing I learned early on as a product manager was I thought it was being helpful in doing more of the work. So to put it and make it more tangible, there's a time where I made a massive mistake of like basically changing one of the UX designers work. So I was like, oh, this isn't quite exactly right to spec. Let me just like spend the weekend fix it and we'll save everyone time and like I'll do him a favor. I did the exact opposite. What it did was cause frustration and ultimately I'm not a UX designer anyway. So like I shouldn't be doing network. And I think that's that lesson early on is something that I think a lot of product managers or CEOs or founders need to realize is that you're used to doing all the work in the beginning, but as you grow a team, you ultimately have to give up work and it might feel like you're being less productive and less effective, but and maybe you are technically in the short term, but long term, you need to want to hire the right people and then give them autonomy to like build and do what they're good at. So that's like a challenging almost counter to in the thing. I think for a lot of people who are used to just doing all the work. Yeah, I think that's an important learning and it's one that I'm still kind of like grappling with on side projects. It's just managing people well is insanely high leverage, like way higher leverage than even if I was the best programmer in the world.

grow. (36:01)

But it's hard when you get satisfaction for making. Yeah. Yeah. So there are a couple angel list questions. So as now you're part of angel list and potentially related to the fund. So Amir asks, as part of angel list has product hunt considered investing through a syndicate or other form in the top featured products or even just the top makers on product hunt. Yeah, you know, early on, I think the first like months of product hunt, some of our investors actually were like, Ryan, you guys should start a product and syndicate or fund of some sort. And at the time, and even to this day that was not important, what I realized is if we went down that route, what we would do is prioritize building like a platform for investors. And that's ultimately not what we're set out to do. That doesn't mean we're not going to build features for investors and make those connections. But that's a very different community and a very different product than a product discovery platform for the world. And so it's funny, it's always been kind of a theme or an opportunity that said, we may do things with the angelist fundraising team. Right now, we're not actively doing anything on the product side. But what we have been doing is bringing the communities together and hosting dinners and smaller meetups with founders and investors. So nothing too crazy, really, pretty lightweight, but it's been a cool way to bring these two communities together who have a lot of overlap and similarities. And there is talk though that you are now investing in startups.

Weekend Fun is Named. (37:45)

This is true. Yeah. Yeah. So the day before I left for Burning Man, Axios spread some news about it, which is fine. I wasn't meaning to announce anything publicly, but news got out there. And basically, I raised a small fund using the angelist angel fund platform, which they announced it two or three months ago. It's sort of in beta, sort of quietly out there. But basically, people are familiar with angelist syndicates for the most part, which are ways for people to raise money for a particular deal or particular company. They're great for people who are just getting into investing, or they're great for people who doing giant SPVs for very specific investments. But they're not as good for people doing ongoing investments. So they realize this, they've been working on it for several months, and they release angel funds, which is essentially, this is a cheesy way of saying it, but it's like a VC in a box in the sense that they do all the work for you in setting up an actual VC fund. Oh, cool. They do the legal paperwork. They set up the banks. They even saw it on the team is super helpful in talking to LPs on the telephone, like old school style. It's like get them comfortable with some like the side letters and things like that. They do all of this work that would normally cost maybe $100,000 to set up, all for like $12,000, and they take a piece of the carry. And as a result, you have a fund just like you normally would and can invest in a startup just as a regular VC. So it's not deal by deal basis, but you have committed capital from LPs that you then invest. So I raised a fund after talking to Navalle and a bunch of other people, $3 million fund, and just investing in, of course, early stage companies, everything from $50,000 to $200,000. And yeah, it's been fun. I called it weekend fun, which has a couple different meanings for me. Well, one, I had a spreadsheet of tons of different names. I was like, what do I want to call this thing? It took me forever to come up with a name that I liked. But I really like weekend fun because it has a few different meanings. One, it's, you know, product 10 is my full time thing. I'm super super pumped, still loving what I'm doing. And many ways weekend fun is like my weekend side project in some ways. Weekend is also something like you see a lot of founders starting products in the like product in itself that was like a weekend nights and weekend project.

Remote working and voice-based tech investment goals (39:57)

A lot of those things start off as like really humble and small and then grow into something big. So those two meanings mean a lot to me. And it's, it's also more friendly than like Hoover capital or something. Yeah. I don't know if there's a Hoover capital out there, but probably. Probably. They're amazing people. Do you have a particular thesis that you're going for? I imagine there are tons of learnings from product time. What's your goal? You know, it's intentionally fairly open in that I'm not strictly defining or looking at a like e-commerce or biotech space. In fact, I'm excited to invest in areas that I could be helpful in first. Like actually, biotech is a place where I'm probably not going to be as helpful as I would with maybe a community based product as an example. So a lot of it is trying to invest in companies. I think I'd give me helpful with there are some areas that I'm particularly interested in. Like we talked about remote and distributed teams. I'm very interested in people building products and tools and things for this new future where we're seeing more distributed teams and people working remotely. I also see voices are really interesting space. It's hard to know exactly what voice will play in people's lives, but inevitably voice will change the way people interact with technology in different ways. Like my Google home right now is my audio player. It's just easier than opening my iPhone to like play roof is the soul or whatever. So those are two areas I'm like particularly interested in, but you know, the investments I've done now to date have ironically been a little bit community focus, which is something I have experience in ironic. I guess it's not ironic. But those are things that I get excited about and want to support. So we have another interview coming up actually later today with Cortland from indie hackers. Oh cool. And you asked him a question, but I'm going to ask it back to you. And that is. I forgot it. It is what do you believe that most others do not? Oh no. In that smiley face. A smiley face. Of course I added a smiley face. Oh man, I asked this question. I don't have a good answer for myself. You know, I think this, I think 50% of the people in technology will agree on me. 50% won't. I think that this technology is makes the world ultimately better. And there's certainly some downsides that you see and negative things that happen in startups and technology, but ultimately like technology is like this this water is here because I can drink this because of technology. And I always believe that progressing in more startups and founders and people succeeding is ultimately good for the world. But more specifically, I think the extreme future that you read about in sci-fi books and see in movies, I think the world where we live in VR is actually a good thing.

The future of technology: being in virtual reality (42:43)

And I know a lot of people get really scared and nervous about like a future where we all live in like a ready player one, or at least like some sort of virtual world like that. I actually think it's an awesome thing. And the reason for that is ultimately if you can recreate and build relationships and live a life that's in a better world than your own, like we live in a great place and we're very fortunate, but a lot of people are not and they live in, you know, dirt, jacks and if they could escape and go to a different world and live there, that seems like a great thing. So I know there's a lot of negative things that can come from a world where people live in virtual reality. But I also almost don't see a future where at some point that's where a majority of people spend their lives. Because we're already pretty close, like this phone in my pocket and my computer screen, I already live inside of that most of the day. And I think most people do or they watch TV like the average American, it's, I forget if it's four hours at eight hours a day, but it's something crazy. They watch a lot of TV. And you can kind of imagine that extending into that screen and that technology extending into their everyday life through VR and AR and other things like that. So I think it's a good thing. I think we should embrace it and be responsible with it, but also I don't think it's a bad thing that people live inside of technology. How much time do you spend in VR on an average day? I actually don't spend any time. I don't have any VR equipment. Maybe I have a Samsung headset somewhere, a Gear VR, but I don't right now. It's too, I haven't found an application that I really enjoy and it's too cumbersome, too heavy. But eventually it's going to be, you know, a glass is going to be comfortable. Eventually it'll be in my context. I feel like anything you can imagine almost will happen at some point, it's just a matter of time. And so, I just don't see a world where we don't have that. It's almost like, will it, will it happen in my lifetime? I'm not sure. I bet it will. Yeah. I also completely agree with you that the fact that like, just because your life in San Francisco is great, doesn't mean that other people wouldn't want to be LeBron James for four hours a day. Yeah. Yeah. If you could, you could fly. I mean, there's like so many cool things that I wish I could do and I already live a very fortunate awesome life here. And the other piece to that too is like, of course, VR is not accessible to the people and the dirt shacks right now today. But technology, it innovates and it becomes accessible to, let's say, the 1% and then it becomes more accessible to more and more people. And then the price is lower and lower and lower. So, it's, I guess I want to mention that point because I don't want to say like, oh, how is, is someone like that who makes, you know, 20 bucks a month going to Ford Oculus? Well, just imagine a future where inevitably it becomes almost free. And I think, I think that's an inevitability. I mean, if you just like look at the graph of smartphone distribution. Yeah. Yeah. Same. Yeah. And the prices are going up too. You can buy a $5,000 iPhone now. I know that's for like the 64 gigabyte, I think one mistake. Yeah, other ones more. Yeah, like 256. I don't know what the price is, but you can expect 13, 4,000 probably.

Cryptocurrency Investment Opportunities

The rise of cryptocurrency investment opportunities (45:55)

All right. So, yeah, I guess this is probably the last question. So, Soren asks, what does Ryan think of the rise in crypto assets and their implementation and products? So, it's something I've been, I've been following this space, of course, but I've not dug in nearly as much as some other people. I actually don't, well, I own a little bit of file coin, but I don't own any other cryptocurrency. So, I haven't actually taken the plunge. Maybe I should, well, I certainly should have. But, but I think it's a, what I will say is that, one, it's really interesting when you see these, these almost like green field opportunities. And new platform shifts. Like we talked about voice a little bit and how that has a potential to change behavior and create new experiences. Same thing with blockchain and crypto and other things like that. It has an opportunity to open up new pathways, open up new doors for makers and founders and companies to create new experiences that may actually change people's behavior dramatically. I mean, we're already seeing this to some extent with fundraising. People are launching an ICO instead of going to VCs. And, you know, the deals that they're getting, it's like, it's unheard of. Like, you basically are getting way more money and you don't have investors to pay back. Like, you own everything. And I mean, there's just a lot of like crazy things that flips everything on its head. And so, there's a lot of interesting things happening there. Angelus has been, you know, working with coin list and, and trying to legitimize and bring some trust to the platform and the ecosystem. But honestly, I think even the people who are deep into it are still like, I'm not sure where this is going to go yet. It's hard to predict. It's the same somebody I forgot who it was. I wish I could credit them is it's hard to predict, you know, early in the worldwide web days, like, that that Facebook would be, I think like it's hard to like, extrapolate and go that far because you just don't have the mental model or infrastructure built yet to imagine what's going to be created with this in two to three four years. Yeah, great. Actually, last question. How do you spend your spare time? What do you do for fun? I love maybe in the past two to three years, I've enjoyed going to concerts and seeing live music more and more. I went to Coachella back in 2015. And that was one of those aha moments where I was like, this is so fun. This is great. Like, go there with some great fans go dancing, listen to good music. And so love, love doing that. I also just love, I love my alone time and going, I go to fills all the time. That's where product started and actually was, you know, fills coffee shop. And I enjoy on the weekend, especially like going there and catching up on work. I know it's a weird thing, but I'll get get up at 6 a.m. Probably tomorrow and just work and hang out and drink coffee. So, I don't know, normal stuff, I guess.

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