Meet Product Hunt, a small experiment that is increasingly becoming the center of the conversations of product-oriented people working in tech. You can call it the Reddit of tech products, the Hacker News of product launches, but none of these descriptions really capture what Product Hunt is.
“It initially started with friends of mine and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley,” Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover told me in a phone interview. “We often talked about new products, usually saying ‘have you seen that new product that just launched?’ It’s water cooler topics in the Valley, but I couldn’t find a place online to discuss new products.”
Product Hunt started off as a Linky Dink email list in November 2013. Hoover invited his friends to curate links to new products with him. Every day, you would get an email with the links of the day. It was a sort of MVP to see if people would like to receive this kind of email. It’s a perfect example of something that doesn’t scale.
“I created that in 20 minutes, emailed a couple of investors, friends of mine and people I knew that were into products. And I said, if you find a cool product, submit it,” Hoover said.
Yesterday, a bunch of people from Andreessen Horowitz signed up
The list only got around 200 subscribers, but the feedback was very positive. Hoover then teamed up with Nathan Bashaw over Thanksgiving to build a v1. Bashaw put everything together in just five days. Hoover invited a small group of early adopters, asked for feedback to tweak the platform. A week later, Product Hunt became a public website.
Then, the service slowly but surely gained active users and faithful readers. Hoover’s main goal remains the same — Product Hunt is a community of people interested in learning about cool products before anyone else. Daily by Buffer, BarkBuddy or Notifyr all appeared on Product Hunt before tech blogs — it’s still too early to tell whether the next Snapchat or Airbnb will appear on the crowdsourced site first.
Product Hunt looks and acts a lot like Reddit, Hacker News or the old Digg. People can submit links, upvote and comment. It has a clean design, infinite scrolling and a real time search engine powered by Algolia. But there is a twist.
Each day is segmented and creates a sort of leaderboard effect. For example, you can easily find the top product of the day from May 2 (it was PredictionIO). This way, you can skim through products, and you have an incentive to come back every day. It’s much easier to read than the ever changing lists of links on Hacker News and Reddit. And influential people, who are often busier, can follow along much more easily.
Hundreds of VC partners signed up to the site. Most of the time, they don’t comment or upvote to prevent signalling issues. Partners from Greylock Partners, SV Angel, Redpoint Ventures and Betaworks regularly read Product Hunt. People working for Y Combinator and 500 Startups look at Product Hunt. I’ve heard that well-known business angels signed up. A few other TechCrunch writers also follow the site very closely.
“Yesterday, a bunch of people from Andreessen Horowitz signed up,” Hoover told me.
Product Hunt now has a new email list as well with tens of thousands of subscribers. Overall, the community of hunters is still pretty small, but it’s a very active community. When I wrote about Notifyr, most of the comments were about Product Hunt and not the cool little app developed by Joost van Dijk that sends your iPhone notifications to your Mac.
Now, Hoover is working on Product Hunt full time. He has three part-time developers and a part-time designer helping him. He’s still very passionate about his little project that is slowly becoming an actual company. Many entrepreneurs have told me that very active users signed up to their products following a post on Product Hunt.
“It levels the playing field a bit,” Hoover said. “A kid from the Netherlands developing Notifyr can receive 220 upvotes from the community. These days, many developers pay to move up the App Store ranks. Others get noticed because of their network. You don’t need that on Product Hunt.”