Landing Your Startup’s First Users
I think I may have discovered a growth hack for landing your startup’s very first users: Build Something You Want. Now this is a play on words from Y Combinator’s famous mantra, Build Something People Want, but the subtle difference may be an important discovery. How do you know whether or not what you’re building is something people want? It’s easy to tell after you’ve built something and spent some money on marketing to tell whether or not what you’ve launched a dud, but is there a way to figure out if something is worth building before actually building it?
According to the lean startup methodology, one tactic is to build a landing page and try to gain signups before actually launching. But I’ve always thought this was sort of lame. Did any of the really successful tech startups begin with a landing page? No.
So I think I might be on to something: Build Something You Want. And just to clarify, I don’t mean build something that you think should exist but doesn’t. This can lead to some traps, such as building things that will only have value if other people use them. I’ve fallen into this trap several times now, building something that I thought should exist but wasn’t actually something that I personally used everyday, or was something that would only have value if I could convince other people to use it. This new idea is different, build something that you personally will use every day and will have value regardless of whether or not anyone else uses it.
I had this moment of clarity the other day when I realized, I’ve spent a lot of time writing code and working on various projects, but I don’t seem to actually use anything that I’ve built. So I decided to make a small list of things that I personally wanted, regardless of whether the things I wanted were potentially lucrative, and then go build them. My list consisted of three or four little projects that I set off to build: an improved bookmarking extension for Google Chrome, a webapp for sending self-destructing tweets that delete themselves, and another Chrome extension that saves all of the webpages that I visit on the Wayback Machine from archive.org. The bookmarking extension isn’t finished yet, the webapp for sending self-destructing tweets didn’t work due to some limitations of the Twitter API, but my extension for saving pages on the Wayback Machine while browsing the web works great! So that’s what I decided to launch, running a $200 Reddit ad campaign in my quest to land my very first user. And you know what? It was a success! So far I’ve run $55.17 worth of ads on Reddit for Desktop, served 75,700 impressions, received at least 103 clicks, and landed at least 4 users. Not too bad if you ask me! Now the question is — will any of my users stick around?
P.S. If you’re interested, check out my new extension, The Internet Archivist’s Intrepid Browser Extension, available now only on the Chrome Web Store.