On July 6 2020 I believed that Validat.r (our service to help entrepreneurs bootstrap their startup) was ready for the big launch. The product wasn’t ready yet, but the value proposition was ready to receive feedback. Even with an incomplete offer, I knew from previous startup failures that early feedback is more important than a polished product. I prepared all the social media messages, unique UTM parameter links, a post on IndieHackers and on HackerNews. I also created a little campaign tracker in Matomo (a Google Analytics alternative) to see how my conversions to the sign up form were going.
The goal of this first launch? To get some initial feedback from passerby’s and understand if the value proposition of the website made sense. I didn’t expect any actual conversions or any customers to sign up; but like many of us, the rush of visitor-adrenaline does make you hope secretly that you hit a gold vein.
And then reality kicked in…
Stream of visitors
On launch day, I made sure to free up time so that I could reply to any interested customers without delay. I wasn’t expecting thousands of visitors so I was happy to see that the evening of the launch brought 60 visitors to my landing page. After 4 days, 350 visitors paid a visit to my landing page, but now new traffic was reducing rapidly.
Startup launch failure
The big spike during launch, returned back to its resting state: around 1-2 visits per day. What’s worse, not a single of these visitors decided to get in touch. Such a failure.
… or was it? While digging around on the internet, I found out that many startup launches showed a similar evolution. The novelty and temporary front-page exposure make people click. But rarely do these people convert into customers – if they do, you’re one of the lucky 1% who got the market right. So rather than being sad about this experiment that didn’t have a particular goal to start with, it is actually a great opportunity to learn about your customers.
From the initial launch, I learned that the Hacker News community is much more engaged than the Indie Hacker one and that some sections of the value proposition weren’t entirely clear. I even got the feedback that the offer doesn’t seem trustworthy. Even though all of this feedback seems relatively small, there are a ton of pointers to further develop the offer. It’s much better that people complain, than that they buy your offer, don’t use it and disappear again. Any kind of feedback from your customers is great and will help you further improve your offer.
It became obvious that Validat.r wasn’t like your next iPhone release. The audience is different and would require a different approach. I’ve now switched to reaching out to individual Indie Hackers who have shared their side hustles on Indie Hackers. I then take the time to really understand what they are trying to accomplish and provide some honest feedback together with an invitation to alpha test Validat.r. This approach is very time consuming, but has gotten me a couple of alpha testers. Have a look at my post history.
If you’re going to launch your startup, then by all means, try a release to a bigger audience (like Product Hunt). You might get lucky. But more importantly, you’re exposing your offer to potential customers so that they can give feedback. And this is always a great thing to do. If at all possible, try to limit the time you spent on polishing your landing page and just get it out there! If the content sucks, the looks won’t matter anyway.
Now that you understand that failures are an opportunity for learning and a great source to keep building your startup, you should check out our other article: