Startup School Reference Guide for Lecture #8— How to Launch (Again and Again) with Kat Mañalac
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While working to create the Snapchat for voice — wavechat.me — and attending Startup School 2019, I was inspired to create these “Cliffs Notes” for all the valuable content that YC provides to their attendees.
I want to destroy the idea that launching is just this one moment in time. Because assuming you do well and assuming you ship new products and new features, you are never going to be not launching.
Table of Contents:
0. Why Launch Continuously?
1. The 9 types of Launches
Why Launch Continuously?
**1. A/B test your short pitch. **Before you even have a fully-functioning product, you get a chance to practice your pitch and refine it! You can A/B test the pitch and see how people actually respond to the idea.
2. See how users respond to your product once you have an early version/MVP. “Launching” through different channels will give you an opportunity to see how people will respond to that early version of the product.
3. Launching to different audiences: Are you even talking to the right users? You might launch on one channel and get no response, but launch on another channel and get a huge response! Launching to different channels will help you identify whether you’re targeting the right user for what you’re building.
A Silent Launch is a launch to strangers with no actual product to test — just a landing page with a description of your idea.
What you need for a silent launch:
- Landing page with your domain name
- Your company name
- Short description of your company
- Contact info
- A call to action! (Like “enter your email address to learn more”)
Recommended product: **Ship, by Product Hunt. **This is a no-code way to get a Landing Page set up!
Friends and Family Launch
You can do this type of a launch both before you have a product to test and after you have an MVP!
Before you have a Product: Test out your short pitch. Even if they are not your target market, some feedback is more useful than zero!
After you have an MVP: Sit down, have them use the product, and ask them for feedback! But don’t stay in this space for too long — friends and family tend to not be the most truthful critics 😉
Launching to strangers can be scary, but it gives you really valuable signal that what you’re building is something that people will:
- Actually have a problem with
- Actually use
- Actually download/pay for!
Anecdote from Lugg:
“Before Lugg had built a fully-functioning app or product, they would rent a truck, go to Ikea and sit outside. They would watch shoppers, and look for people who were having a particularly difficult time tying stuff to the top of their cars. They’d run up to those customers, and they’d say, “Hey — instead of trying to tie this mattress on top of your car, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just push a button and someone with a truck would come and help do this for you?” The customers would be like sweating, and they’d be like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need at this moment!” They would immediately download the app, click the Lugg button, and then the founder would run back to the parking lot, drive up in his truck, and then the customer would be like, “Oh my God, it’s you.”
Online Communities Launch
Online communities are incredibly leveraged, powerful ways to spread awareness of your product to the right audience.
Not all online communities should be treated the same. Each “space” has a different set of rules. Learn them before posting!
Don’t talk like a marketer. No jargon! Talk like a normal person.
Include key info in your post:
- Company intro
- What you are building
- Who you are building it for
- Why you are building it
- Any interesting insights you’ve picked up along the way
Recommended online communities:
- Startup School Forum
- Product Hunt
- Hacker News
- Facebook groups
- Alumni groups
Request for Access Launch
This is where you create an aura of exclusivity — and virality — by only allowing certain people access to your product.
Some Examples of a Request for Access Launch:
Superhuman (email client).
You can only use their product if you are referred by a current user. 😎Additionally, each email sent from the Superhuman app has a signature at the bottom stating “Sent from Superhuman.”
Magic is an app that gives you access to a set of human assistants. Their initial launch went viral with 40,000 sign ups, so they created a queue. They leveraged this by creating a way to skip the queue — by tweeting about Magic or sharing the link!
Social Media/Bloggers Launch
This is a hugely leveraged channel, and multitudes have been written about it. That said, below are a couple of the most valuable tactics.
Reach out to bloggers in your space. The wedding website builder Joy reached out to 50 of the top wedding bloggers (according to Google Search rankings) and asked to be included on their websites. Only 4 responded, but those 4 made a huge impact to their growth!
Don’t pay to play early on. This creates unhealthy growth patterns and drains your pool of cash. Find another route to gain exposure!
Pre-Order (Hardware or Physical Product)
This has particularities that warrant a separate presentation, but there are lessons to be drawn from the successful pre-order of Sheertex.
Hardware/physical product pre-orders can see success from seemingly uninterested communities (and spark sales!) Sheertex makes unbreakable pantyhose. The founder, Katherine, launched on Hacker News, which is a very male community. She wasn’t sure how the audience at HN would respond to something like sheer unbreakable pantyhose, but they loved it! They thought it was very clever, and thought that the technical piece behind it was really interesting.
New Product or Feature Launch
“Launching” doesn’t just mean launching your entire product. You can do all of the above tactics for a new product or new feature!
Two great examples of companies that do this are Stripe and Glossier.
When they launched Stripe Atlas, they did all of the following:
- Launched on Hacker News. The founders were in the thread talking to all potential users, talking about the product, why they were launching it, and the problems that they felt it was solving.
- Blogged about it.
- Spread the word on social media.
- Pitched press.
And this is something that they do over and over again.
The way that Glossier launches new product is very scientific:
- They release products on a very specific cadence, at very specific intervals.
- For every product, they essentially hit every single launch button again and again. Community, social media, press, advertising.
- Each time a new product launches - which is basically like every six to eight weeks — they have the cycle going. There’s a constant drum beat about Glossier out in the world.
Generating your own community — through pre-launch updates
Just because a VC doesn’t invest or a person doesn’t join company doesn’t mean they don’t want you to be successful or are interested in your progress. Send updates on your product to everyone you’ve talked to — you’d be surprised at how valuable it can be for them to share launches with their network!
The story of Symmetria and building your own community:
Gadi Evron — founder of Symmetria — had a really successful TechCrunch launch. Ton of shares, ton of engagement. So I asked them to share, “How did you set this up?” He accomplished this because, over the years, even before launching the product, he started to build his own email list. Every person he met that he discussed his startup with, even very loosely, he would add them an email list. They would get email updates about what he was working on, at semi-regular intervals. So when the TechCrunch article came out, he said he sent that email to the list full of all the people that he ever talked to — founders, investors, friends, family, and asked for their help in spreading the news. He said, “The response was significant.” Even saw VCs who hadn’t invested in them sharing the story from their own personal Twitter accounts!