I am sure many people have heard about the site ProductHunt.com but for me it is new. I found it randomly searching and ended up browsing the site for several hours. If you have any interest in new products, learning about hot new trends, or even just product research check the site out! Product Hunt is a gold mine of information in the right hands.
Below is an interview with the CEO of ProductHunt.com
Today my guest is Ryan Hoover.
Ryan is the founder and CEO of Product Hunt.
And Ryan, I’m super excited to have you on today.
Ryan: Hey Michael.
Glad to be here, man.
Michael: We’ll talk about Product Hunt in a minute.
I first wanted to talk about games though, because I read online that your dad was quote a “hustler” who sold video games out of the back of his car in the late 80’s, which just sounds like my personal hero.
I don’t know if you know this, but my very first company was called Video Game Central and it was back when AOL screen names were a big deal in ’95, ’96.
Ryan: What was your AOL screen name? Can you share? Michael: Used game.
Ryan: Used game.
Mine was more embarrassing.
I won’t share it.
Michael: Now you have to.
Ryan: Okay, now I will.
it was Phatiyo.
I don’t know why, but it was back when.
Michael: Like Fabio? Ish? Where were you going with that? Ryan: ‘Cuz phat was cool, phat was like.
Pretty hot and tempting, remember that? That slang? Michael: Yes.
Ryan: I don’t know where it came from.
Michael: And so you got into games though,right? You worked at Play Haven, you worked at Instant Action,and I think I read that you made homemade game walk through handbooks, which by the way, I was a super nerdy kid, and I made.
I was determined to defeat the Nintendo game Solstice, which if you’ve ever played it, is basically impossible.
And I created cheat guides for many Nintendo games.
So I totally love that world.
I’m curious if you have a favorite video game,and what you see the future of gaming being, including VR? Like in 20 years, are our kids just gonna know VR? Are they still gonna have some sort of console and screen? Ryan: Yeah.
So yeah, I grew up as.
I would set up my beanbag on like a Saturday morning and just like go to town on Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger and all of these RPGs that I loved back in the day.
Got into Starcraft, TFC.
And then I was fortunate to have my dad and parents own this video game store, so I got to play all these things for free.
And nowadays I don’t play as much video games,but you know, some of my favorites.
The Metal Gear Solid series is, I think, fantastic,it’s just so ridiculous.
Have you played that series? Michael: I haven’t.
Ryan: It’s so ridiculous.
It is over the top and there’s tons of surprises, and the game play is also just fantastic.
So that’s one of my favorites.
There’s so many.
I mentioned Chrono Trigger is one of my childhood favorites.
That title, it’s an old RPG on the Super NES.
Great title, great game.
TFC, Team Fortress Classic, killed.
You know, spent several hours playing that game and was a part of a clan at one point.
So, love video games, but I don’t play as much of them now.
I think it’s partly because I’m just busier, but also.
I don’t know, it’s hard to dedicate– sit down for an hour and just like dedicate focus and time on them.
That said, VR is super fascinating, to see how that’s going to change gaming.
And I can see VR pulling me back into that world of playing video games, for better or worse.
And you know, it’s.
it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the next three to four years, because these other VR headsets,like Oculus and everything, it’s gonna take a little while to get to a mainstream audience.
But when it does and there’s actual, you know,platforms and brands and titles on this.
on these new platforms, that’s when you’ll start seeing a lot of iteration and new ideas come up.
Michael: So in your house growing up, was there ever a “Ryan, stop playing a video game, come to dinner,” or was that sort of an accepted thing in your house? To just play video games all the time? Ryan: Uh, my parents were.
they moderated my game play.
They gave me, at one point, I had a certain number of hours to play, either each week or each day, I can’t remember.
And so they would turn off the console, sometimes.
But they weren’t too strict about it, so.
Michael: Got it.
So your dad made a living with a video game store? Ryan: Yeah, yeah it was in the late 90’s when he had his game stores, and this was back when.
let’s see, it was around like PS1? And that console was just coming out.
Michael: Was that N64 days? Ryan: Yeah, PS1, N64, those are the primary consoles.
And then he ended up selling it in, I think it was 1999.
And what he realized is like.
it was a great time, at one point, to have a physical store and buy and sell video games, but it was very clear that eventually it was gonna be online distribution.
And it was also increasingly difficult fora mom and pop shop to compete in that type of market when you had Walmart and others,you know, capturing the market.
He opened up these stores before video games were at Walmart’s and accessible like they are now today.
Michael: Totally, I lost many hours of my life playing Goldeneye on the N64.
Ryan: That too.
Michael: I remember those days as well.
And Mario Kart.
So you were a product manager at Play Haven and I read that you think being a product manager is one of the best roles you can have if you wanna be a CEO, to kinda prepare you to be a CEO.
I’m curious why you think that and do you think that people should work and have a job before founding their own company or should they just go for it and start something? Ryan: I think you have to be.
There’s never like a universal truth for any kind of answer like that, but I learned so much over the past six years professionally working in startups before starting Product Hunt, and I know for a fact that I couldn’t have built Product Hunt with any success if I tried doing it five years ago or before I had that experience.
I believe product management is one of those.
It’s one of those unique roles where you get to communicate and work with so many different functions in the business, so as a product manager, you are essentially leading indirectly engineering, you’re communicating with design,you’re speaking with your sales people, customer support, you’re both messaging up, like to the CEO, but also down in some ways.
And so, the communication skills that you learn and how you navigate different aspects of the business as a product manager is super applicable to being a CEO where you do that but on increasing scale.
Ryan: So I learned a ton as a product manager.
I actually sort of accidentally fell into the role, in my first startup, and then loved it and had an opportunity to join Play Haven in 2010 as their first product manager.
Michael: You also build people skills, right? You learn how to talk to people and get things done and motivate people, and I think that is one of the most important skills a CEO could possibly have.
cuz it applies to sales if you’re,you know, selling your product, it applies to recruiting, like what people are- when you recruit people, what you’re really doing is asking them to like quit their existing job and trust you and your company for their livelihood in some ways, so it’s a big big step to get people to commit to actually working with you.
Ryan: And of course then, you know, leading teams in engineering and design and everything, it’s super important.
So tell me the Product Hunt story.
I think, my understanding is it started assort of a side hustle.
What was the point when you realized, “Shit,I’m onto something,” and this could be huge, and I’m just gonna roll with it? Ryan: Yeah, so this was late 2013, I was transitioning out of Play Haven.
I had been there for a while and wanted to do something different.
And the idea was really simple.
It was just me and my friends are always sharing new products we find, new apps, new sites, and we were doing so in messaging apps and on Twitter and so on, but there was no single place for me, and even the startup community at large to have a list of here’s what’s new and cool today.
And so the initial idea was an email list.
I was forced to, not being an engineer myself,I was forced to think.
Okay, how can I build an MVP very quickly to see if people actually care about this like I do? So, started off as an email list, publish edit out, and got several hundred subscribers in the first week or so.
So that was good validation.
Like okay, people cared enough about this idea to sign up.
Now let’s see, do people actually keep opening up the emails, do they engage with it? Fast forward a couple weeks, more and more people subscribed and it just started getting more and more traction that way.
Michael: I love that your MVP was an email list.
Michael: I mean, it’s so simple, it takes zero engineering, you can do it in an hour or half an hour.
I feel like, today it’s better, but I’ve been in the tech game for 15 years and people would work for a year, myself included.
I made this mistake building an MVP, and that’s not an MVP.
An MVP is a.
what is it? You should be embarrassed about it.
It should be barely functional, but should be enough to validate the idea, right? Ryan: Yeah, and I love email as a medium.
In fact, six months before that, I wrote this blog post called, “Email for Startups.
” Just because I was writing a bunch and I was sharing basically observations, things I’ve learned.
And I wrote this post called “Email for Startups” just highlighting various products and startups that started off as an email.
Like Angel List is one of them, Sunrise the calendar app, that was first an email in the very beginning.
Timehop, that was an email.
So there are a lot of different examples of successful startups and companies that were really founded upon a very simple idea, just like an email list.
Michael: That’s great, that’s awesome.
So the email list kept growing in traction and what was the tipping point for you? Ryan: There was kind of a series of tipping points in some ways, there wasn’t one magical moment where it was like, “Wow.
This is like a thing.
” But it was several data points and pieces of feedback from people, whether it was just more people subscribing, people would email me, go out of their way and say, “Hey, Ryan, I like this email.
It’s really useful.
It’s really cool.
” When we launched the website, we just started seeing more and more people signing up and subscribing and just its natural kind of gravitational pull for people in the startup ecosystem.
And so it was over the course of like four or five months that it was really a side project and then we get to the point where it’s like okay, what do we do now? It’s kind of this crossroads.
Michael: So that was mid 2014? Ryan: Uh, yeah, early to mid 2014.
Michael: Okay, so this is all super fast,right? Like we’re only talking two years ago, ish? What was that like, you had a product, you didn’t have monetization, I think you guys still aren’t monetizing yet, right? Ryan: Not for the most part, no.
Michael: So you didn’t have monetization.
Was it easy to raise money for that idea in the beginning? Ryan: So in the beginning, in early 2014,it started getting more and more traction, more people were signing up, we started seeing more founders and startups participating and launching on Product Hunt, and so it immediately got a lot of traction.
And it was then, at that point, where I was evaluating, okay, what do we do? Do we continue as a side project and, at the time, we were actually making $4,000 a month in job postings, which is pretty good, like that paid my rent, and that could turn into 10K, 20K, fairly easily, I believed.
And then the other approach is okay, do we build a team and do we build this out to become something much bigger? So I ended up speaking to.
I ended up speaking with Gary Tan, actually, pretty early on, from Y Combinator and just getting some of his advice and feedback, and then he introduced me to Kevin Hill and Kat and Alexis Ohanian, so I met four partners from YC, just getting feedback, and evaluating should we go into YC, is that the right path for the company? And then when I made the decision, figured out, okay I see a path for this to become a big and important thing, and I also see this being a fun thing to work on fora decade, when I could answer those questions and I realized, okay, YC is the best path for us to purse and go forward.
So went to YC, raised a round, like leading into YC, and then went from there.
Michael: That’s awesome.
You guys also did something interesting, which is, you didn’t let everybody hunt stuff, right? You had to be anointed or an influencer or know you or what was the criteria? And is that still in effect today? Ryan: Yeah, in the very beginning, we knew that if we opened up this platform, this website, to everyone, especially when we first had like.
Our first press announcement, a bunch of people that we didn’t know would sign up.
We knew that it would be overwhelmed with people marketing and pushing their own stuff.
So especially in a time where we had very little sophistication around detecting fraudulent activity or the feed itself can only contain so many things, we knew it would just be overwhelming if it was completely open.
And so in the beginning, we.
it was just like, some friends, and we started emailing before we had an invite system.
I would email people who were really engaged and say, “Hey, do you know a couple people that would be into and interested in contributing to Product Hunt?” and it was completely manual.
I would email them, ask them to like CC that person on an email, and then I would just manually onboard them.
So it was very, very manual, but that’s what.
Michael: And were you looking for people over a certain number of Twitter followers, or people that you thought were influential, or what was sort of the bar that you set? Ryan: The goal was really just people that would genuinely want to participate.
And since these people were friends of other friends, friends of other people, there was some.
Like when building a community in the very beginning, you want some sort of common bond to some extent.
Doesn’t mean everyone has to be friends, actually it’s the exact opposite, but you don’t want.
You want to create a platform that has some sort of like, okay, all my friends and this is like a cool house party, you know? Not just a random mix of people all over the place that don’t know each other, and so it was less about if they’re influential or that wasn’t even part of the criteria.
It was like do you know someone that would be, you know, interested in this and want to participate? And when we did that in the beginning, then we productized that and built an invite system so people could invite other friends and other people, and so it wasn’t me emailing other people and manually updating our database, but it was the community doing it themselves.
So that’s how the community has grown, still through invites, in the combination of like, if a person makes a product, then it’s on Product Hunt, then they get access too because they need to, you know, answer questions and converse and everything.
So it’s largely been growing that way.
We’ll be opening to more and more people overtime, but we have some product things to do before it’s ready to open up the flood gates, if that makes sense.
So you’ve done a lot as a solo founder, which is pretty rare, I think, for a first time founder to also be a solo founder.
Any regrets? Are there days you wish you had a cofounder to cry on their shoulder or support you through the hard times, or would you recommend that other people not have a cofounder just to have that extra support? Ryan: Yeah, I mean it’s.
I’ve had a ton of support in different ways from all the teammates, so you know, I always feel.
I always wanna make sure it’s very clear that I’m just a piece of Product Hunt, I’m just a part of it, ‘cuz there’s a lot of people on the team today and in the past that have really gotten us to the point where we are.
And for me personally, it’s– I don’t think there’s any magical formula, like solo founder is the best or two founders is the best or three founders is the best.
In many cases, you do need a partner when you’re launching and building something.
The way Product Hunt launched and began was very different, I think.
Everyone has their own unique story, but it was very different in that it was a side project in the beginning.
It wasn’t supposed to be a startup in the very beginning.
And through the support of some friends, they helped kinda bootstrap it and getting it going in the beginning, to give us enough data to prove that this is something that people want.
So no regrets about not having a cofounder and in the future, you may, it’s just this is the way this one evolved.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly.
I don’t have like a, who knows what’s after Product Hunt? But may have a cofounder, may not, I have friends to cry on their- that will lend me their shoulder too, so I’m not completely lonely.
Michael: Okay, good.
What’s the coolest success story that you’ve seen come out of Product Hunt? And what’s the most absurd product that you’ve seen come out of Product Hunt? Ryan: Oooh, let’s see.
I’ll answer the absurd one first because there’s one that comes to mind.
There’s this product called Ship Your Enemies Glitter.
Do you remember that or does that ring a bell? Michael: No, but I get it.
(Laughs) Ryan: Yeah, it.
The name kinda describes exactly what it is.
You go to a website, you enter like a credit card and you enter the address of a friend, and they’ll ship this envelope, this package that will explode glitter all over them when they open it, which is like, hilarious but also terrible.
Michael: How much is it? Ryan: It wasn’t very much.
It was maybe under twenty bucks? I think? I’m not sure the exact price? Michael: And did this start trending? Get into your top 30? Ryan: It was.
It was up there in the top, might have been the top for that day.
Anyway, it got a lot of attention, and the press picked it up.
A lot of press, you know, uses Product Hunt too, and sometimes they write about things they find on there, so it got some additional press outside of Product Hunt and went super viral.
And this guy, you know, he’s.
I think he ended up getting so many orders that he couldn’t fill them ‘cuz he was, in the beginning, just manually putting these things together, these packages, so.
Michael: This is way more of a reflection, by the way, on the decay of Western society than it is a story about Product Hunt, in my opinion.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s kind of hilarious, but yeah, maybe not the nicest thing to do.
And I did get glitter bombed once, but I didn’t-I was very careful.
Michael: You got glitter bombed? Ryan: A little bit, yeah.
I knew that someone might send me some glitter just ‘cuz they were like, “Oh this thing that was popular on Product Hunt, I know Ryan, his address is pretty easy to find.
” And someone shipped me a package, and I opened it very carefully, because I had some suspicions, and a little bit of glitter fell out, but it didn’t explode all over me, so that was fortunate.
Michael: You got glittered.
Michael: That’s amazing.
Any other, like.
That is obviously an interesting story.
Are there any, I guess, more substantial techstories that you’ve seen that before, they weren’t that, they were hardly anything and then they came on Product Hunt and they just exploded? Ryan: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of examples where companies have seen sometimes unexpected success in some ways, whether it’s you know, just in terms of traffic and downloads or sign ups or sales.
In other cases, sometimes, it’s like additional press, sometimes it’s funding.
We’ve seen many different cases where companies were discovered through Product Hunt and then someone invested in them ‘cuz they start that relationship and dialogue.
There’s one product that’s more recent that I like to highlight that I haven’t talked about really maybe as much publicly, is this product called Reset Plug, which.
Have you heard of it? Michael: No.
Ryan: Okay, so this product’s cool.
So it was posted two or three months ago by Matt, someone in the community, he posted this thing he found and it got a bunch of upvotes, got a bunch of attention, and the way it works is you plug it into your router or your wall, and then you plug your router into it, and you know when your router just turns off and you have to go reset it? Michael: Yes.
Ryan: So this detects when that happens and resets it for you so you don’t have to get up.
So genius idea, it’s a problem that everyone- Michael: What a smart, simple idea.
Ryan: Smart, simple idea.
It’s posted on Product Hunt and then two days later I get an email from the founder who, at the time, he wasn’t involved in posting,so it was like completely a surprise to him, and he emails me and says like, “Hey Ryan,we’ve sold 500 of these in the past couple days, and before that I was getting like novisitors to my website.
” Michael: Oh wow! Ryan: And so what I love about that is, he’s not a millionaire, of course, but what it demonstrates is, you know, when you introduce ea product like this to a community, people convert, people buy, and it’s also a productthat you would never search for.
Like you had this problem, we’ve all had this problem, but it’s not a product you would know to search for ‘cuz you don’t know it exists.
Michael: Hell, I think the cable companies would subsidize that product ‘cuz it would probably reduce half their tech support calls.
Ryan: That’s actually a good point, yeah.
I hadn’t thought about that.
Michael: It’s always turn off your routerand turn it back on.
Before you even talk to somebody.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
They should just build that into the routerstoo.
Michael: They should.
That’s an awesome story.
So the fact that you got glittered leads meto my next question, which is.
you lead a mysterious life when it comes to packages.
It seems like you are surprised every timeyou get a FedEx or UPS.
I’m curious about these mystery boxes.
Are they real mysteries? Do you shop in your sleep and forget you orderedthem? Where did that come from, that whole thing? And do you have a preferred mystery packageprovider, UPS or FedEx? Ryan: I actually do not stick to providers,as long as the box arrives not damaged, I’m cool with it.
Yeah we just started getting more, increasinglyso, getting more random packages from people.
Sometimes it is companies that are sendingus their stuff and they want us to Tweet it out or share it or something.
Sometimes it’s just fans.
We’ve actually had Rami, who is the CEO ofa company called SAMAI.
They were on Product Hunt, and a couple weekslater they shipped us this giant package.
And Rami’s based in Canada.
They shipped us this giant package, and Iopened it up, and it’s a bunch of, like twenty different Canadian foods, from chips to candyand all kinds of stuff.
So we’ll get random gifts and things likethat.
Before, when we were at our other office,we actually had a wall of handwritten notes from people, dozens of them, maybe even ahundred, over the past few years.
Of people just saying thanks and kind of appreciativeand sometimes just sending stickers and other pieces of swag.
Michael: That’s really rare.
It’s rare I guess for a two year old company.
What do you attribute that to? Why do people feel so passionately that they’resending you all this stuff all the time? Ryan: It’s the kitty, man.
It’s the kitty mascot.
Maybe a tiny bit of the kitty.
I think part of it is the, I mean we’ve beenso focused on building a community and building a community of people who love technologyand products and sharing, and every single day, people are launching things on ProductHunt, and as you know and I know, it’s one of your most stressful and exciting timeswhen you’re launching a product or a service, and anything that helps you in your business,whether it’s getting distribution or feedback or whatever it is, it’s super meaningful topeople.
And so I think it’s just the dynamic of thecommunity and the aspect that we’re, in some cases, largely helping startups indirectlylaunch their babies, kind of, is where this kinda comes from.
Michael: Yeah, well I think you’re helpingthem at the moment where they need the most help, and I’ll go on record by saying we wereon Product Hunt when we launched our first app, back in December.
And our friend Erik Torenberg was helpfulto give me a few tips on what I should and shouldn’t do, and it was incredible.
You know, we’ve had some of our very besttraffic days from the traffic from Product Hunt, so shit works.
And you didn’t tell me to say this, but Iused Service for an issue with 24 Hour Fitness, and it saved me like a bunch of hassle andphone calls and all that stuff, so.
Michael: That was actually one of my questionsbecause before you used Service, you were Tweeting over and over at them, angry, angry,and it seems like you took a week in between the angry tweets, but then you’d send anotherone, so I was gonna talk about customer service at the end, but we can talk about it now.
I”m curious, is Twitter the best way to getcustomer service? Is that the thing that’s most respectful ofyour time? You belong to a generation, I sort of belongto the same generation, that hates picking up the phone for things, so do you think Twitteris the customer service channel today? Do you think Facebook Messenger is gonna becomethat? Like what do you see for the future of customerservice? Ryan: Yeah, good question, um, yeah I don’toften go to Twitter, but sometimes I do go to Twitter, and I don’t, I’d be careful, Idon’t want to be a jerk and publicly tweet it out to my followers, but I’ll tweet atthem, and I find that Twitter is far more responsive and faster than the general supportemail.
And they also.
it feels like it is morehuman than an anonymous support email too in some cases.
So the other day, actually, I tweeted a suggestionto Uber, for instance; it wasn’t really a complaint, it was more, “I wish I didn’t getcharged five dollars to cancel this ride when the driver’s been sitting there for ten minutes,not moving.
” So it was like a very clear just problem,it wasn’t necessarily a complaint, just more like an FYI.
And they responded to me, and we moved itto a DM, and they gave ten dollars in credit for the next Uber ride, just because of course,I spend so much money in Uber that they want to keep me happy, and everyone else happy.
So I find Twitter just a great platform forthat, and Twitter’s.
they do have like their new, as a Twitter account you can actuallyadd a button that says, “Message me.
” Like it’s actually more clearly a channelfor customer support.
And then, yeah, in terms of Facebook, I thinkthat’s an interesting point as Facebook has been rolling out their messaging platformand bots and other ways to communicate directly with consumers through brands and companies.
I can see and imagine more and more of thathappening on Facebook over time.
Michael: So you said it’s the quickest wayto get to a human, it feels more human.
My business, of course, is sort of going theother direction, which is can we use bots to solve at least the low-hanging fruit ofcustomer service? Get the customer a better experience, savethe company money.
Where do you see chatbots in general goingto help in different areas of life, and with customer service, do you think they’re goingto play a role or do you think it’s going to be something else? Do you think it’s a fad? Ryan: Well, so there’s kind of like.
Sometimes you want to talk to a human becauseyou can trust them and they can understand anything you say, for the most part.
In many other cases though, you don’t wantto talk to a human, and you want to just get the answer and just get it done as quicklyas possible.
Going back to your comment about phone calls,I despise phone calls and I avoid them at all costs.
And I rarely ever call a business, even whenI need support, I won’t call them because I’m just like.
it’s just not worth it, I’mbusy.
And I would much rather chat with them ora find a way to solve this problem without picking up the phone itself.
So I think finding the balance in how do youautomate a lot of the obvious things, like questions like how late are you open today,that’s a question that a human should not have to answer.
There’s a number of other questions that itdoesn’t make sense for a human to answer because it’s very obvious what the answer is or itis very limited in scope, but there probably are use cases where, depending on the issue,it’s like a banking issue, you might of course want to speak with a human because it’s abig deal for you or like a very complicated subject.
Michael: What’s customer service like at ProductHunt, and I guess, who is even the customer? Is it the community, is it the people hunting,do you guys, I’m assuming you don’t have a phone number, but how do you view customerservice in your business? Ryan: Yeah, we.
I like to think we have great customer service! I guess that we’ll let other people judgethat though.
We have a team of people in the communitythat are fantastic, like Ben, and Kate, and Jake, and Niv to some extent does some ofthat as well, but he’s busy more on making Twitter awesome and Facebook awesome.
They’re all very.
they take pride in howfast we are to respond and to hopefully just surprise and delight people.
The best thing is when you come in with aproblem and then you leave with, oh wow, I actually like learned something.
Or I discovered something that I didn’t know,it’s like now I’m like the exact opposite of where I was, not disappointed but actuallyvery happy.
So there are many cases where I’ll see tweetsalso from like people saying, “Hey, thanks so much to Kate, the intern at Product Hunt,for the quick customer support,” and I love seeing those tweets like randomly show up.
And so it’s super important, especially whenyou’re building a community, for us to build a great support system.
Michael: So you and I share something in common,which is both of the partners we are with are also in the tech space.
And I’m curious, what’s that like for youin terms of being with somebody that’s also in the same world you’re in? Are your pillow talks as sexy as mine aboutterm sheets and cap tables or like do you guys take a break and not talk about techfor a minute? What’s that like? Ryan: Yeah, it’s funny ‘cuz we will talk aboutthat stuff when I’m like sleeping in bed.
So yeah, we.
some people like leaving workat work, and you know, they avoid talking about work at home.
For me, I like talking about this stuff.
I like being able to speak with Suzy about things that I’m into and things that she also understands.
She’s also like the best unpaid employee in some ways, like she’s been very helpful from thinking through ideas to even making connectionsand that kind of thing.
So for us, it’s very helpful, and I think we both like talking about this kind of stuff anyways.
If anything, we sometimes need to force ourselves to leave work at the door.
But for us it works out.
So you’re incredibly active on social media.
You’re posting your mystery package videos,you’re posting stuff all the time with Twitter and Facebook and other channels.
Is that intentional, like are you trying tobuild up your personal brand, or create noise for Product Hunt, or is that just who youare and you love posting.
How important do you think it is for CEOsto be active on social media? Ryan: For me, it’s I’ve been doing it wellbefore Product Hunt.
In fact, the writing that I did and sort of the connections I made through Twitter, to some extent, that was really the MVP for ProductHunt, like building up that audience and that trust and that brand to some extent was important to build the first beginnings of the community, and for me, part of it’s professional.
Mostly it’s just personally I like doing thisstuff.
Like I stream my own Facebook live, a bunch of unboxing things that I got the other day just ‘cuz it was fun.
That’s when I found Mary’s shoes that shegave me, these kitty shoes, they’re so ridiculous.
So for me, it’s largely just fun, but alsofor our brand and for our company, it’s super important that it feels authentic and it feelslike we have this human connection.
And that’s just part of like the way thatwe built the company and the brand itself.
So I’ll continue doing that, and I’ll continue playing on Snapchat, I’ll move to the next social app and play with that as well.
It’s also very much if anyone’s playing with new apps and using them and engaging with a community, it should be us ultimately.
Michael: By the way, Snapchat versus Instagram stories? Any comment? Ryan: I like Snapchat, Snapchat opens up to the camera by default so it’s faster, and I have a number of people that follow me there,so I’ll continue using Snapchat.
I throw things in Instagram stories every now and then, but I’m not gonna put it in both places at the same time, so I think Instagram stories is a very interesting play.
You know, they’re.
they obviously copied Snapchat and they’re not denying it at all, but what’s true is that in some ways this is like a new design format.
And it’s not that because Snapchat looks like this, you have to build something that looks totally different.
You know what I mean? So it’s a very bold, bold move, and we’ll see if it plays out over the next six to twelve months.
So you tweet a lot about La Croix, a certain sparkling water.
What’s interesting to me is that this brandhas been around for what, 30 years? 40 years? And it seems like in the last couple years,people have discovered it and they’re sharing it, their favorite flavor.
Why do you think that is? I mean, were they on Product Hunt? What changed the trajectory of that company,and what is your favorite flavor? Ryan: I am team coconut, and it’s probablythe most polarizing of the flavors.
Some people hate it, some people love it,I don’t know.
And it’s by the way.
surprise to many people, it’s actually pronouncedLacroix, and you would think it’s pronounced La Croix, but if you go to their website,they say it’s pronounced Lacroix like enjoy.
Michael: Just for the record, that’s not theofficial– that would not be how the French would say it, I think.
Ryan: I know! No, you’re right.
I used to call it La Croix too and now I feelstupid if I call it Lacroix but officially that’s how they pronounce it.
Michael: So I practiced saying that aboutfive times before we started recording based on a French person’s recording of the word,and it’s completely wrong.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah exactly.
I know; it’s so ridiculous.
So Lacroix is very interesting.
Coralee bought it for our office like a yearand a half, maybe almost two years ago and just started buying it.
Like I don’t drink soda, I don’t want to drinkcalories, so I’m like oh zero calories, it’s refreshing, it’s super cheap.
Like four dollars for a twelve pack.
And so we started buying it and getting moreof it, and then just also started seeing it become, like explode in popularity, the parentcompany stock prices I think doubled in the past twelve months too.
So it’s like also financially becoming a success.
Michael: Did you play a hand in that? Ryan: No, I don’t, no I mean, I don’t thinkso.
I think it’s just a combination of luck, butwhat I will say is that there’s a couple subtle things that LaCroix really figured out, andI don’t know, frankly, if it was intentional, I don’t if it was a genius scheme, but partof it is just having multiple flavors like this- it creates, kinda like Philz in someways, everyone has their own favorite Philz blend, people also have their favorite LaCroix flavor.
And it creates one, an element of personalization,like this is my flavor, and also a competitiveness.
I’ve tweeted out before where I’m like I’m team coconut, and people are like, no I’m pamplemousse, coconut’s terrible.
And it inspires this word of mouth and this like brand affinity.
And then the other thing is just like almost like the normcore, retro aspect of LaCroix, is kind of trendy, like it’s a combination of that with also just being more health conscious and all that.
It’s a number of things, I don’t know, I don’t think they even know what exactly tipped LaCroix to be super popular.
Michael: Is this like Democrat versus Republican,like could you ever be with somebody that wasn’t on team coconut or is it not to thatlevel yet? Ryan: Yeah, it’s the first date question.
Michael: Alright, so the last thing I wantedto talk about was Planet of the Apps.
You’re super involved in this, you tweet alot about it.
What is it? What’s so exciting about this show? I mean, is Apple gonna go Netflix on us andstart creating their own original content or is this kinda a one off? Ryan: Yeah, so I got approached- not approachedbut Gary Vaynerchuk emailed me, three, four months ago now, and he’s like, “Hey Ryan,you should speak with Ling.
They’re looking for someone to help out on this new show.
” And hopped on the phone with her, she works with Howard Owens and Ben Silverman at Propagate, the COOs of Propagate Content.
They’ve done films, not films, but shows likethe Biggest Loser, the Office, and some other great, great, fantastic properties.
And got on the phone with her, learned more about the show and the series, and saw it as a good opportunity for me, behind the scenes in the beginning, for me to learn about the entertainment industry and kinda get to know how that operates.
So like more from a selfish perspective.
But two, something that I see a huge opportunity and also this mainstream interest in technology.
And essentially the show is a place where they’re gonna highlight different apps and people are gonna come on and show what they’rebuilding and speak with different mentors on the show.
They announced recently that Gwyneth Paltrow and will.
Am and Gary Vaynerchuk would be the core mentors on the show, and then they’ll be looking for certain founders and apps to feature and have on the show itself.
So it’s, they’re still a little bit hesitant to share all the details on how it’s gonna be distributed and how the show mechanics will work, and now they’re just more focused on finding amazing startups, amazing products.
And for me personally, it’s just a really cool opportunity to highlight these stories.
And for some people, potentially a huge distribution opportunity.
Cuz in a world where, you know, how do you break out, how do you get attention, it’s like increasingly difficult.
This show could be substantial for those people.
Michael: Do you think this is potentially an ongoing thing, because getting.
everyone knows that getting featured on the App Store is a game changing thing for an app developer.
And yet it’s really hard to get featured,and if you don’t know someone at Apple, it’s almost impossible.
Does this change that, and are they trying to open that up a bit more and kind of shine the spotlight on many more developers to hopefully help them? Ryan: I don’t know if they’ll change their featuring process, per se.
What they have shared is that the apps and startups that are on the show will be featured in some capacity, so there’ll be some distribution and intention through that.
But yeah, I don’t know how exactly it will play into their overall App Store strategy, which they have been- they’ve been making some modifications and changing the way the App Store is functioning as of late, but super curious to see how this plays into that over time.
Cool, well that’s the end of my questions.
I want to thank you so much for being on.
I am Michael Schneider, founder and CEO of Service, we’ve been chatting with Ryan, the founder and CEO of Product Hunt, so Ryan,thank you so much.
Ryan: Yeah, thanks, Michael.
Take care, dude.