How to Launch Your Next Project with Product Hunts with Ryan Hoover
Hey everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase, welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis LIVE Show here on CreativeLive. You guys know this show. This is where I sit down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders, and do everything I can in a short sit down conversation to unpack their brains to help you live your dreams in career, in hobby, and in life. My guest today is a writer whom you know. He's an angel investor, and you will definitely know him as the creator of Product Hunt, the place on the Internet where I go to find out about new things that happen every day in the world of physical products, digital products. I've been tracking and Ryan for a very long time, very happy have him on the show, Ryan Hoover.
In the house. (lively instrumental music) (audience applauds)
They love you!
How's it going Chase?
Super good. We've been trying to make this happen for a long time.
I know, I know. Been a while since I saw you, Amsterdam.
Yeah, that was a fun trip.
Yeah, it sounds like, I'm not a fancy person, it sounds fancy, though, when we say the last time we saw each other was... (laughs)
I know, I know. It was my first time, actually, I'm rarely leaving.
Amsterdam. Yes, very sophisticated.
So I went to a museum.
At the Banksy exhibit, yes.
The Banksy Museum. (laughs)
I mean, how many trendy things can we say in two sentences? (laughs)
The reality is, you know, it was a free trip for us because it was a conference, it was a tech thing.
(laughs) Exactly. I have about about 10 different things that I want to try and cover in the next hour. I'm struggling, honestly, to just, like, I really wanna go right after one, but for the folks, the few folks who don't know who you are, or about your background, give me like the overview. And I know you consider yourself some product guy, I first knew of you as a writer. Also, you'd been a contributing writer to a book that I love by Nir, we'll talk about that in a little bit. But give us a little shape on who you are, and how you got to where you are right now.
Yeah, so let's see, once upon a time, I grew up in Oregon originally, and I was there for-
Oregon. Very green over there, very cold. I've grown very soft now living in San Francisco. But grew up in Oregon, went to school there, was there for about 21 years then moved to Portland, Oregon. Long story short, ended up stumbling into a startup, a video game startup, which was my first career in the world of tech, as an intern.
Unpaid intern, which was great. I learned so much, it was, you know, without that I don't know where I'd be, honestly. That ultimately didn't workout, ended up leaving that company, moving to San Francisco to join another company, also in gaming, as a Product Manager. So my sort of professional career was marketing into product management. And learned a lot there at that company for about three and a half years. We went from 10 people, downsized to six I think at one point. And then went to about 100 or so before left. So a wild ride.
Wow. The company's still around, and still really good friends with the CEO. Then three and a half years into that company, I realized, well, you know, I'm on kind of sick of building things for other people. I got tired of building for mobile game developers, was our audience. And while I love the vision and what we were building, I just wanted to build something for myself, at the end of the day. So I realized, okay, now is a good time, maybe, for me to move on, transition, and do something new. I gave notice to the company, and said, "Hey, here's what I'm thinking. "Don't know what I'm gonna do yet, "but I want to do something different. "So I'll give you two months to transition out." That turned into part-time role, which actually was great. Like it was, I'm super fortunate to have that opportunity where they just cut my salary in half, said work 20 hours a week, and then go figure out what you want to do. And between that time is when I was doing a lot of writing. Then, ultimately, started Product Hunt around that time.
Okay, so there's so many gems in there that I'm gonna quickly unpack. One is that you didn't actually set out to create the destination on the Internet where people discover new products every day, that you were just sort of following one step at a time. I think a lot of people who are paying attention to this show are people who want to do a lot of the same things that you just talked about, but don't know where to start. And they think that they have to sit back and plan their life. So I loved that, we'll touch base on that in just a second. And the fact that you had this transition period. I think everyone else out there at home that's like, "Okay, bet it all. "Quit everything and go all in."
And to me it's one of the biggest, sort of, misunderstandings about the life of an entrepreneur, or a creator, is that you have to, you know, to say that you're going all in, that's more of an emotional, spiritual journey because there's things like food and rent.
Yeah, or families, that actually get in the way. So let's go to Product Hunt. How do you describe because for those of you who don't know, it's a very popular site, so there's probably not that many on the Internet who don't know about it, but how do you describe it? I talk about, like, that's where I go to get new products everyday.
Yeah, people use it for a lot of different reasons. At its core, it's a community of people launching and sharing new products. So these are physical products. One you were just showing right before we hit the record button here.
That's not out yet, but it's coming. (laughs)
Which isn't out yet, but coming soon.
It's right over there, and you can-
That's the type of thing, I have to, I guess, be vague about it, that's the type of thing you'd see on Product Hunt. You'll also see apps and a lot of trends kind of emerging. You see these waves of new technology trends surfacing. Whether it's drones back in the day when they were brand new, a lot of people were experimenting with not only software, but hardware around drones.
Today, we're seeing a lot of Blockchain, and crypto-related products, and things emerge.
What is it, CryptoKitties? I saw that today.
Yeah, CryptoKitties is the latest and coolest thing. It's essentially like a Pokemon or a Beanie Babies built on a Blockchain. A lot of people, over three million dollars, today, in the past week, has been spent in US dollars on this crypto collectible, they're calling it. It's just a really interesting example of how you see these kind of trends emerge, and these people using new technologies in creative ways.
Yeah, so I think that's a really, it's a very nice package to put Product Hunt in. I think that's a really good descriptor. I feel like I use it for, not just launching products, because we've launched podcasts on there, this broadcast was on that, on your platform. I think, to me, it's the trend part is really interesting because you start seeing a lot of volume about a particular thing. And it's sort of because it's for the people who are the builders of those products. And that passion is usually much earlier than mainstream or even early adoption. Like, these are for like the people who are actually creating the things, so it has helped me in the past get into that. But what part of you is reflected in Product Hunt? Like is it the curious part? Is it, like, are you a gadget, you know, are you a gadget geek? So many of the people who are watching here are camera freaks, design freaks, like the newest productivity hack, so they're entrepreneurs and creators. And I'm trying to map, like, what part of you said I wanna create this thing where we discover new products?
Yeah, so going back to what I said earlier, and that I wanted to build something for myself. And I was experimenting with a bunch of different ideas. But ultimately, I realized, me and my friends are always sharing new products, all the time. Whether they're apps, or new products that you read about in the tech press, but there wasn't a place for a community of people to kinda come around and share these cool things that we were finding in a structured way, nor was there a way to talk to the maker of this these products. So for me personally, I grew up as a kid just learning how to do like, basic HTML, CSS, just because I wanted to build a website. The goal was I want to build a website, not necessarily, I wanna make money or like do it for any other motive than just like I wanna create something.
Yeah. So I also used to hack Xboxes when I was a kid, so like playing with hardware, and learning, how do I like exploit this thing (laughs) for my own gain? Those are all things that I did as a kid, and some of it inspired by my entrepreneurial parents. But then Product Hunt itself, sort of manifested with all this interest in new technologies, and products. And even the way that we tried to build the community, we tried to make it playful. And kittenish is a word that we use.
Yeah, kittenish, which means playful. There's other words that we've kind of described, internally, to describe Product Hunt, which is like, curious, people go there because they're curious about new technologies and playing with new things. All of these traits, ultimately, are mapped back to my personal passions and interests. And it wasn't necessarily I'm gonna build a product that maps my own kind of inherent motivations, but it sort of organically happened that way as it started to grow and form.
Well, I guess one of the things that I find is when people scratch their own itch, those are the things that work because for every Ryan Hoover, there's probably, you know, I don't know how big your community is, but tens of millions of people who are curious about hardware, software, the new products coming out, want to be at the center of it. And the fact that you're able to make a living and a life, literally, discovering new products every day. It's almost like you're curating, and reviewing, and building community around that. If you had have said that five years ago, or 10 years ago that was possible, people would be like, "Wait a minute, so you're going "to create an entire career and a company "out of playing with shit on the internet?" (laughs)
Yeah, I know. It's the old joke. There are now infomercials on this where it's like, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to play video games," and it's like a QA job or something.
But the reality is a lot of these, especially early technologies, or movements ultimately start out by hobbyists, or people who are passionate to explore a certain technology. My brother, as I was telling you earlier, before this, my brother just finally got a job in videography. He's been doing jobs he hated for years, actually. Didn't go to college, but he found his passion in, you know, doing drone filming, editing videos, and doing all this. Now he is able to do that as a career, which is amazing. So, yeah, I think people who build things for themselves, that's not the only way to build a company by any means, however, it's incredibly motivating, and, one, you're probably more likely to stick with it when things get really hard because they do. And two, you know the user, you are the user, so it's a lot easier to empathize and build for that person if you are that person.
Yeah, that's spoken. Folks out there, if you're watching this, then I'm looking at you, and if you're listening to this, then you should know that I'm looking you. So there is another, I realize I'm bouncing around a little bit, I'm trying to set up the base of the triangle, and then we're gonna build up, but how did you create this thing? Because I think this is a group, and I talk about this lot on the show, the group that's trying to go, there are people who identify themselves as creators, or entrepreneurs, or makers, then there's a group that is, you know, I'll call it creator curious. And they've have got a safe job that provides for themselves, and their family, but there's also that lack of fulfillment, and they're trying to find a way to bridge from where they are to where they want to be. Tell me a little bit about your story, you were younger, but you still didn't just quit what you were doing and go all in. Go back to that, that point you made this little bit ago. How specifically, and as detailed as possible did you create Product Hunt?
Product Hunt in some way started years before Product Hunt began, which you know, it started off initially by a lot of the, you mention my writing, and I'm not a professional writer. I actually hated writing back in high school. I think it's because my teachers make me write book reports on books I barely read and didn't really like. But I loved writing about technology, and user psychology, and marketing, and all these things which were usually based on observations, or maybe conversations with people. So back in, maybe, I think it was 2013, I ended up at the end of the year marking down, like, how many essays did I write? It was 150 that year, some of them very short, so it wasn't super long, but still 150 is a lot.
And I was surprised by that. And a lot of that had, over time, over the prior two years, built, didn't have a massive audience, but at least enough of people following my writing, or following me on Twitter, subscribed to my email list, my personal newsletter, where it built up some tiny bit of reputation. Or at least an audience that when I did launch a product on, I launched it into an audience of people who would at least pay attention and check it out. Also, a community of people who clearly were into technology just as I was, because I was writing about tech. So Product Hunt in many ways was started well before Product Hunt was even an idea. And then, one morning, the actual idea for Product Hunt was just, it wasn't anything, I didn't write a business plan. I didn't forecast my five year financial projections. Initially, it was just an email list in the beginning. And I wanted to create something that I could build very easily. I'm not an engineer, one, so I was forced to get creative. And then, two, I just wanted something out there quickly. So I'm like, okay, how can I do that? Let me create an email list. Every day there'll be new products that are launching, and I'll see if people like this content. And that took about a half an hour or less to set up, send it to the people that were following me on Twitter, and other communities. And then, you know, that sort of organically started to grow from there.
Great. And then at some point you did Y Combinator?
Yeah, yeah. So this was we went from email newsletter for about two, three, four weeks, people kept signing up.
I thought you were gonna say years, and then you said weeks. (laughs)
Yeah, well, two, three, four weeks I was just having fun with this. And meanwhile, I'm again in a good position where I'm making at least enough money to float financially in San Francisco.
Yeah. I was working 20 hours at Play Haven, and then kind of experimenting with this in the side.
Take note folks at home, that's the way to do it. Wait tables, do something where you have more time, even if you have less money. Because at the beginning when you're experimenting you don't actually need money, you need time and space, mental freedom to pursue the thing, so I think that's key.
Yeah, I mean, and lot of people, some are fortunate, also, to work nights and weekends on their projects when they're employed somewhere.
You don't have to quit full-time and go all in sometimes. So ended up working on that on the side. And two, three, four weeks passes, and it starts to continue to grow. And I'm getting people emailing me saying, "Hey, I like that Product Hunt email. "That's really cool, I'm finding cool stuff on there." So it was a bunch of reinforcement saying, okay, people seem to like this. And I was having fun with it, so I'm like, all right, email's great. It's a great place to start, but we need to build this into a website, a community where people can interact. So I reached out to my buddy, Nathan Bashaw, who we'd known for a while. And over Thanksgiving break, this was almost exactly four years ago actually, he and I were hacking together, he was building it, and we are collaborating remotely because he was back at his parents place. And he had free time, so it was like Thanksgiving break, and we built the site, and launched it to some beta users. Got their feedback, sent them wireframes, getting them involved in the process. Then we eventually launched it shortly after that in December, the website itself.
So the total time from start to finish on the website was weeks?
It was about five full days, and it was just a Ruby on Rails app. Simple, like a website where you can post things, and then have a comment feed, basically. So not very difficult really, but yeah, about five days roughly. Then we had maybe 5 to 10 days of beta testing. This was about 100 people where we would, manually, I'd be emailing each one of them one-on-one. Getting feedback, and getting them, one, ultimately, bought in and excited about what we were building. You don't need thousands of people on day one, you just need 100 people who love what you're building. And a great way to do that is just being very community focused, and very personable with those people. So a combination of people I knew, or people who were using the email. Then we launched that, and then the website, kind of fast forward, over the course of like three or four months, it just kept growing and we kept working on it. Again, still a side project, not even incorporated or anything. And then it was a time where like, okay, well, it's been five months. The thing is growing, I could see where this could go. What do we do? So that's the big question, it's do you raise money? Do you build a team, do you keep it a the side project, and make money on, like, job postings or some other revenue stream? Then that's when it started talking to YC, around that time, Y Combinator.
Okay, what's that like?
My path towards Y Combinator, our path towards YC was unique in that, ironically, we're building a product that is for people in technology, and for startups. So in some ways we had an advantage in that they already knew about Product Hunt, and the YC companies in that prior batch were actually using it, they were using it to launch.
Yeah, a great little meta-reflexive thing there.
Yeah, yeah, so it started circulating inside of YC. Then I got a DM from one of the, Nicolas, CEO of Algolia, DMs me, and he's like, "Hey, have you thought about Y Combinator?" "Garry Tan would love to meet you if you're interested." And at the time it was like right at the moment where I'm like, what are we gonna do this thing? Do we raise money, do we build a team, do we not? I wanted to be very careful because once you raise money it's not like you can be like, "Actually, never mind, here's the money back. "I want to do this other thing." So you got to be confident.
So at first I was like, I would love to meet Garry. I want to get his thoughts and feedback on it. So I met with Garry, and then after that he connected me with Kevin Hale, and Kat, and Alexis Ohanian. So I spoke with all four of them before applying to YC. And the impetus was really I just want to get feedback, ultimately, and understand just their perspectives. They've built companies, like Alexis built Reddit, one of the largest websites in the world. Very community focused, obviously, property, so I'm like, if anyone's gonna know what to do, or have good advice it's gonna be Alexis. So spoke with them, and then decided, you know, YC be the best place for us to kind of kickoff, and make this real company, and build a team. And then just ended up applying, got an interview, and ultimately got in.
Yeah. There's an element of mentorship there that I love, which is you're finding people in the community who'd done something bigger, or first, or similar to the thing that you were aspiring to. And that's just a recurring theme that I can't, of the, you know, 150 people who have sat in the chair that you're sitting in there, there's like of them who said that same thing, that role that mentorship that I think maps to the story that you just told me. Do you feel like you have, outside of YC, do you still keep a mentor? How do you think about mentorship, and what role does that play for you?
Yeah. I think for me, mentorship's always been somewhat organic. I never said, "Hey", like emailed someone, "Do you want to be my mentor?"
(laughs) Because that's scary, right? It's like, hey, we're gonna date for the next X years.
So I don't have any official mentors, let's say, but I do have a lot of people who are older and more experience than I do who helped me in the beginning, and still help today. In fact, Nir Eyal, who I connected with, and admired his writing for years, I just had actually cold emailed him. Just told him, "Hey, I love your writing. "I'd love to meet sometime." And it was kind of that's how our relationship started, and that ultimately turned into helping him write his book. But yeah, in terms of mentorship, I think the way to approach it in my mind is always identify who can you learn from. And try to create value for them in some way, or just be casual about it. I've received emails where people are like, "Can you be my mentor?"
And this is the first contact I've had with them. It's like, I can't say yes to that.
I don't know you. And anyone who is probably being asked to be a mentor also has a lot of their commitments to their people, so it's a hard ask.
All that to say, like mentors and people who can teach you things, and help in different ways are super important. I actually met with a person I'd known for years, and he's thinking about starting a company now. And we met up, and I had flashbacks to four years ago when I met up with someone like Josh Elman who I had similar conversations with. I was like, "Hey, Josh, should I start this company? "Should I join a company, what should I do?" And he was helpful in thinking through that, and making connections to other people. Like lawyer Josh Cook at Gunderson, and others who helped along the way.
Josh Elman, for the record, early product at Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, right?
He's a partner at Greylock, which is they're an investor in CreativeLive. I've known Josh for a long time, amazing human.
It's like we set that up or something. (laughs)
Yeah. (mumbles) No, but I think that the concept of mentorship when you're creating something new, and ideally useful, is so critical.
I'm a huge fan of the casual, I think, use mastermind groups and other things where you can create more accountability for yourself, and the people who've actually done the thing. The reality is that they don't have formal mentorship programs as humans. You know what I mean, like, okay, I'm taking six mentors, and we're gonna march them through. But, you know, there are more structured things like Seth Godin's altMBA, or mastermind groups, what not. But it's interesting to hear how that's played a key role for you. Well, again, there's several things that was important for me to have you on the show to discuss. One of the most important, which I've admired you for a long time, and I think hearing how you think about this will really benefit the people on the other end of the show here, people who are listening in and watching. You watch how stuff is launched every day, and have for years and years. And presumably, you've seen it done really well, and you've seen it done poorly. And this community is a community of makers. So if you were to give, not just professional advice, life advice, or like conceptually tell us the best way to launch things, or a good way, and tell us some crappy ways. And what are some patterns that you've seen. Because you've had a front row to some of the biggest hits on the Internet. So what does it look like, and what does it not look like?
Yeah. I think one of the things that doesn't get as much attention, there's advice like make sure your tagline, or copier marketing landing page is clear and concise. And all of that's true, but the things that I think people don't talk as much about is more about how do you start building an audience, or a community, or people who are excited about this space that you're operating in before you actually build your product.
Think about what you said with Product Hunt just like several minutes ago.
You had a group of 100 people. It's not like you had 10 million followers, you had 100 people that you were designing for, right, is that what you mean?
Yeah, exactly. So Product Hunt wouldn't exist if I wasn't writing prior, and building this audience who was made up of people who love tech. And of course, I'm building a thing for people who love tech, so you know, I think that's something that people can take away even today. And say, you may not know what you're going to build. Even the product, or the startup, or whatnot, but you can, today, start building an audience. And I don't mean that in a transactional way, like I'm gonna be a self-promotional marketer, but more in the sense that, can you create something of value for a community of people? Whether it's a podcast, or a video show, or write, or host meetups. There's a bunch of different things that you can do to gain respect among a group of people. And if you start doing things that you're passionate about in that type of context, you'll find and attract people who are passionate about the same things as you.
And that will not only be your first people to talk to to get feedback, but they'll be your first users, first customers. You know, they might even be the people that you hire in the future. Some of the people who were early Product Hunt users, like Andreas, is our CTO. and he was initially a Product Hunt user to begin with. So I think building this kind of audience, and creating value for a certain group of people is super important. And something that we think a lot about at Product Hunt, how do we enable people who are building products to do so? Because most people end up working in like the older way of doing a thing is, like, I'm gonna go in the basement, or whatever metaphor you want to use, and build my product, and not talk to anyone. And then I'm gonna put it on the Internet, then people are gonna find it and love it. And the reality is you might have built an awesome product, but if no one finds out about it, it doesn't matter. And right now, distribution discovery is so difficult because it's easier to build things, and more people are building things as a result. So in some ways it's like flip it around. Think about how do you find an audience, and build an audience before you actually build a product is how we think about it.
And what a lot of folks don't know is that's why CreativeLive exists in large part. We facilitated, I was a photographer.
And had built, incidentally, an audience around photography just because talking about photography, and sharing trade secrets, and helping that community be more open. And incidentally, created a large social following. And that was on the backside of like, "Hey, and we built this other thing "for you because we heard that you guys want to learn. "So here's a bunch of photographers."
Yeah. And you built credibility. You also probably had a pretty good idea of what they needed and wanted.
Because you really had been talking to those people for years. (laughs)
And you're a part of that community. I think that's embedded in your advice there was these are your people. And this is a great thing, also, to do on the side. Like if your side hustle while you're employed full-time at fill in the blank, can be building community around the things that you care about. And building is both, it's creating something for that community, but it's also participate in it, right?
How did you get into products? Like, what did you do specifically, tactically to build that community. Where did you go, what did you do? Was it physical, digital, both, neither?
Actually, both. So, see, let me go through the list. I mean, there's writing itself, so writing about technology. And what I loved to write about was looking at new products like Tinder in the early days. And I'd just scratched my head, and be like, why is Tinder so compelling? What are the, if you were to break down the components from a psychological perspective, what about even the subtleties of the card swiping feature makes this engaging? Stuff like that. Some posts, no one really read. Some of them read by thousands of people. But when you keep doing it consistently, you start to build up some reputation and audience there. Also, did brunches and meetups. Like very small gatherings with other, mainly founders or other entrepreneurs.
How did you find them?
Mostly Twitter, in that I was also using, and still today for better or worse use Twitter all the time. It's the best place to get to know people because it's a very passive way to not only follow people you find interesting, or insightful, or whatnot, but then over time, you start engaging with them in the lightest touch ways. It's very different than trying to email someone, "Hey, do you want to be my mentor?" But for example, if I was to interact with someone for 12 months, and hopefully add value to a conversation on Twitter, and then email them, and say maybe not-
Hey, it's me from Twitter.
Yeah, it's me from Twitter. Do you want to meet? For example. That's one way to break the ice, and also get people comfortable with you. I would, of course, interact on Twitter. I would also read a lot, I was reading a lot of tech-related blogs. And one tactical thing was I would always mention the author. So it took an extra 5, 10 seconds to find the Twitter username, but I would always tag the author. That was another way of, one, giving them some credit, and being like, "Hey, I read your thing, awesome." Authors love that, every tweet is encouraging, especially if they don't already have a huge audience. Doing that for years also builds up some recognition, and eventually relationships where you start following each other, and then over the course of 12 more months you start to get to know each other more. So I don't know, it's Twitter, meetups, writing, what else did I do?
Was moving to San Francisco part of that? Because I think that's a question that I feel a lot, it's like if I want to be great, fill in the blank, do I need to move from, you know, Oklahoma to San Francisco, or to Seattle if it's music, or New York if it's fashion? So how much weight do you place on that yay, nay, impossible, possible, what's the spectrum?
Yeah. Product Hunt would not exist if I wasn't in San Francisco due to the nature of what Product Hunt is. It's a community of people who are excited about technology. And a lot of the kind of the serendipity that happens in the city led me to connect with people like Josh Elman, who I mentioned earlier, or other future investors in Product Hunt. Those connections probably wouldn't have ever happened if I wasn't in the city, so for Product Hunt it was very important. However, I also think increasingly more today you of course can build a product anywhere in the world, we see it happening all the time. On Product Hunt, more than half of the people are outside the US that are building these things. So it's quite a global community, but the world of tech is global. So in many ways I think it depends on what you're building and who you're building for. So building a product for tech people, being in San Francisco is obviously a huge benefit.
But I don't think there's like right way to build a startup, or a single way to build a startup for really anything.
Yeah. I want to pull on that thread a little bit. So you've seen it done lots of ways, right? So there's no one path, are their some preferred paths? Or is it, literally, you know, follow your intuition? What's your coaching there for people who are thinking about it? There's more ways to do it, people want a prescription, how do you reconcile those two things?
Yeah. I think one way to approach things is break down, well, one thing is you don't know exactly what this thing will become. Like with Product Hunt I didn't know it was gonna become a company in the very beginning when I first started it. So you have to take with what you know, what's the biggest obstacle to get over? In some cases, there's of course changes with different stages of the company, but in some cases it's I just need to hire, I need to recruit. So you have a couple paths. You can from a geographical perspective, you can build a distributor team. And Product Hunt is a distributor team, we have people in nine different timezones I think.
Nine different timezones, wow.
Yeah, so all over, that's one way of approaching it. But other people might prefer building locally. So if you're building locally, how do you, you know, if you're in San Francisco you have a lot of talent, a lot of amazing people to connect with. If you're in Eugene, Oregon, where I was born, not many people in technology there.
To build a local team would be very difficult. So I think in some ways you can just dissect what are the problems or challenges as I'm progressing. If the next challenge is fundraising, if that's a path you want to go down. Again, you don't have to be in San Francisco. You can travel and live remotely, but being in San Francisco makes it a lot easier to raise money in general as a technology company.
So it's you attack on sort of the biggest challenge, like what's your biggest challenge, and then attack on that.
Yeah. Or if you're a media company, you know, being in LA has a lot of advantages, too, because there's a lot of people who are experienced, and are capable in those cities. And there's a lot of serendipity that happens when you're in the hubs of the core market. So like in New York with finance, for example, and SF with tech, LA with media entertainment.
Yeah. And not required, but I think again, cultivating that serendipity. And again, it goes back to physical community, I talk about it as the other 50%. Like making stuff, and publishing it, and getting people in the Internet to know about it, but there's this other 50% of, like, what are you doing to participate in the community? Are you contributing to blogs as are you commenting, are you following people, and being a part of the physical and the digital? Like going to conferences, I think it's huge, like, faces, and names, and all that stuff. Even if that example that you gave earlier of communicating with somebody for 12 months on Twitter makes you infinitely more likely to help them if, you know, they make an ask 12 months from now. And you've seen their name in your feed every day for 12 months, that's a powerful, powerful tool.
Yeah, yeah. And I think the best way to get to know someone is in person, ultimately. And I try to avoid conferences, actually, in general just because I find it very costly from a time perspective.
And it's usually not as intimate of a connection. Not to say that they're not valuable sometimes. But in person, intimate conversations are the best. That said, you can also reach very few people at the end of the day. So I guess the majority of my emphasis has always been digital communication because you can write one blog post, send one tweet, and it can reach thousands of people. I'd err on the side of doing things that are a little bit more scalable in that sense, but then doubling down on the people you really want to get to know, get to know them in person.
Awesome. So what's an example of people at home in their basement, using your analogy earlier, creating things, and seeing them not succeed? What's the dominant pattern for people who are, and this goes, I want you to talk about the range from hardware to podcasts. You know, something that costs a lot and takes a long time, and something somebody made at their house in 45 minutes. Cover the range of people's ideas, and what bombs, what sucks? What is something that you see over and over that could be mitigated? What advice would you give?
Yeah. The most common thing, and we try to encourage people not to approach their launch this way, but one of the biggest issues or challenges is that people start to speak and talk in a markety kind of like language in the sense that they start to lose touch with the actual value proposition that they're presenting. Or they start to get ahead of themselves, and use buzzwords too much in their tagline or their messaging. So much so that, one, it feels disingenuous a little bit. And, two, it's confusing, people just literally don't know what you're building. (laughs) And it's a common challenge because founders, or people building things, they know it very intently, they know it the best, and they're super deep into it. They're also thinking in many cases what it could be in five years. So what they tend to do sometimes is they start to describe as if the people, their audience, knows what they're building already. And they also try to impress people by kind of touching on things that are five years in the future, instead of focusing on here's what I have today, and here's how you can find value in it.
So it just comes down to simple, clear language I think generally does best when it comes to communicating an idea. And I would also recommend just getting people who don't know you, or people who don't know what you're building. Like, just get their feedback on, whether it's the landing page, or onboarding, or the copy itself. A lot of that can fix a lot of issues because people who discover your thing, they're gonna take two seconds to judge it, ultimately, and say, is this for me, one, and then two, does it look useful or interesting? And if you can't hit both those two things, they're not gonna sign up, they're not gonna care.
So what's done on the flip side of that, what is exceptional? When have you seen things, assuming that they check the boxes that you just talked about. They do a good job of the things you just described people usually doing a poor job of. But what are some other attributes or patterns that you've seen?
Yeah. Actually, one comes to mind. Do you know Superhuman, the email client?
So it's sort of in private beta, and has been for a long time. Rahul, the CEO's the former founder of Rapportive, which some people may recognize. It was really popular, acquired by LinkedIn. And they're approaching in a really methodical way in that they're building an email client, which we've seen done a million times before. There's a graveyard of email startups that have failed because it's really hard to build a better email client that's 10X better than Gmail. But they're approaching it, and they're onboarding new people manually, like one by one, and getting a lot of feedback. First, they digest what are the things that you need as a email user. They have a survey about 20 or 30 questions. And some of those questions are things like, how important is speed? How important is email snippets? How important is read, reply, stuff like that. And they're making sure that their product today which is early will serve all those needs because if you as an email user are like, "I need labels, I can't use anything without labels," for example, and they don't have labels, you're not gonna find value in it. So where I'm getting at is they've done a lot of customer development and conversations, and they've narrowed in on not only a feature set for a particular audience, but also the way that they position email is really unique. They're actually focusing a lot on speed. And the value prop isn't better email client, the value prop is save you time, and give you superpowers in getting through your inbox, which resonates with people because you'll be like, "I hate email, I can't get to email inbox zero. "I'm spending all this time." So they're focused on building a product primarily for that. How do we help people save time? That's why people, you know, buy and use a lot of products. It's not necessarily, it's the underlying need which is saving time, or saving money, or solving loneliness. That's why people use Facebook and Twitter in many cases. They're really focusing on that core message, which resonates with their audience. So that's a really good, like, Harvard case study I think on how to think through positioning, and marketing, and onboarding for a company anyway.
To use your thread of simple language, let's pull on this a little bit more and say, so is it when people are creating things, whether it's a podcast, or an email client, do you see the most success in products that actually solve for the human need? The juxtaposition you said, don't aim to build a better email client. I also think about don't just aim for better, aim for different. But in different, you're trying to solve for a thing, and that is this value proposition. So keep talking about that for just a second, if you would.
Yeah. I think it varies because sometimes it might be as literal as help you save time, like positioned that way. Sometimes it's more implicit in how it's positioned. So it's not literally saying that, but it's through its copy in the way it's presented, it implies that we'll save you time. I mean, you could argue that things like Instacart, while they don't say that they're going to save you time, you as a consumer understand through its messaging, oh, it's a service where I don't have to go to the grocery store, and spend an hour, you know, picking out groceries.
That's one of the value props that it kind of positions. So, yeah, I think it depends on what you're building. I think, going back to CryptoKitties.
You know, that value proposition there was a couple of them. One of them is around just having fun. So it's basically almost like an old-school card game to some extent, where you collect these things, and you own them, and you can trade them, and breed them, and so on. So part of it is just the playful nature, and it's cartoon kitties, and that kind of thing is all about having fun. There's sort of a side piece, which is the economics which is doubling down on this cryptocurrency, and Blockchain kind of hype train that we're on right now, which is like a secondary value prop. Which is implied as well, just due to the fact that it's built on the Blockchain that uses Ether to purchase the kitties, and things like that.
You're investing, you're participating in that community while you're doing the CryptoKitties.
Yeah, you're putting two kitties together, breeding the kitties, trading kitties, it's a weird thing. But it's in the past week or so, I mean, millions of dollars have poured into this game because people are excited to have fun, but also potentially get on this new train, this new moneymaking opportunity, potentially.
Well, I've been focused for the last 15 or 20 minutes on helping people launch things, I'm probing you for what's good and what's bad. Any like hard and fast advice that's just like do this, do not do this.
Yeah. One thing that should be obvious, but it's really not is your launch is not a one time thing, you're always launching. So we launched the email list in the beginning, then we launched the beta, then we launched the website. Then we launched numerous different features in other initiatives.
I think that's how people should think about it. It's not like I'm gonna get a launch on Product Hunt, or get a TechCrunch article and then I'm done.
You're always building new things. And as a result of that you also should be always talking to people. So we at Product Hunt, we have feature flags, and we have beta users, and we're always experimenting with both the qualitative, but also quantitative side of things to get feedback on new things that we're building. In fact this weekend, I haven't pushed it out yet, but I'm MVPing a new idea that we're experimenting with. And I'm planning to use a typed form survey, and like Quip, just a document tool to identify behaviors, and see if people will use this MVP, which is not even using any software.
Just out of the box tools.
So by MVP, for those of you who don't know, minimum viable product is basically you're gonna launch something very simple, and do a little testing, and try and get some feedback over the weekend.
So you're still launching, still talking to people, paying attention. And I think, we're talking about this right now in terms of launching products because that's, I think, appropriately your bias. But the same is true for, like new series of photographs, new series of paintings. Or a mini documentary series. Or what's embedded in everything you've said it's, like, communication with other humans. This idea of going in a bunker and building something, and coming out and saying, ta-da, this is fiction, right?
And also, it's everything you create or are working on can be an opportunity to get feedback, but build respect, or some engagement with people. So going back to my brother, he's published dozens, maybe hundreds of videos on YouTube and Facebook, and Instagram. A lot of which is footage he's been playing with for fun and building on his own. And now he just got a job, and that's solely because one, he's built the experience and the talent to do so, but two, he has a portfolio that he's been showing. I've talked to some people in more of the creative fields who are really nervous to share their stuff. Like I talked to this one guy who has some pretty good music. I was bobbing my head to it, and I'm like, you should publish it, and he doesn't want to, he's too nervous to. I'm like, don't worry about it. I mean, worst case scenario no one will like read it, or even care, and they're not gonna say anything.
If they hate on you, it actually is probably a good sign. It means that they're paying attention. So I think that's a theme that I think people can take away is just be okay with sharing openly. Then, more on the technology product side, a lot of people are secretive. They're like, "Oh, I don't want someone to steal my idea." I think that's not your worst fear or concern. At the end of the day you have a lot more problems other than someone stealing your idea.
I think it's more advantageous to share, and get feedback, and talk to people rather than be secretive and stealthy.
Yeah, I've had people ask for, you know, lots of people, thousands probably, ask me to sign an NDA to send them feedback, and they're like, "Wait, you want me to do some work "for free to help you out?" Like, dude people don't care, okay? They're too busy, and as for the amount of passion that you have to actually stumble across the person who happens to be building the same thing is gonna take your idea and leverage it into theirs, it's somewhere around zero. And by contrast, what this trend that you've seen as somebody who's watched hundreds of thousands of products being launched, a theme is communication, sharing, getting it out there.
Yeah, again, there's no right way to start a startup. There's certain companies that should maybe be stealth, but the majority should not. And, you know, that person who's hearing about your idea, they probably don't care. Or two, maybe they're not the right founder or person to build it. So for me, I shouldn't be the one to build CreativeLive. Like, I'm not creative, I can press the button on my iPhone to take a photo, that's about it. (laughs)
But it's not in my DNA, whereas it's certainly in yours. And you had experience with videography, and working with brands in this community. So many times there's like this, I think it was Chris Dixon, has a really interesting blog post from way back around founder market fit. And there's product market fit, which is all about the product you're building has some sort of need in the market. Founder market fit is more about, are you the founder, or the person to build for this type of market? You're certainly built for this creative world. I'm certainly built for this tech kind of maker world. But yeah, we all have our own biases or, like, advantages in that way.
Yeah. All right, so I would get roasted if I didn't ask, but it's not why I wanted you on the show. All this stuff we've been talking about today is really, like, the community has always asked me, so I wanted to bring on someone who has seen more launches probably than anybody in the world. And I think, I mean first-hand, you get people sending you, how many things do you receive every day, new launches?
Let's see, on Product Hunt itself will have, maybe, a little bit over 100 a day.
Yeah, 100 new products a day.
It's been four years now.
And then you're looking at data of which ones are successful and why. And the ones that are successful you obviously go, you know, you double-click into that, and say, "Wow. What's making these people successful?" Oh, they have a community. Oh, they have a founder who's out there. Or this particular podcast, this person's been really thoughtful. And they're differentiated in there, so you've been watching that. But here's the reality, people want to know what's coming.
We open the show with you see trends, macro-trends. You've said Blockchain like 50 times already.
So obviously, that's one of the trends. But right now, there's somebody that's been wanting, they say, "Oh, my gosh, Ryan Hoover." They'll listen to the episode right now, and they're like, "I just want to know what's coming." "I don't want to build anything, "I just want to know, what are the hot trends?" And I try and avoid content that's not really evergreen. I think that evergreen content is what makes the world go round. But all right, here we are. It's, when is it, roughly?
It's early December, heading into the holidays here in 2017. What's happening, what do you see? Look at your crystal ball, and give us some guideposts of, you know, what's cool shit that's coming down the pipe.
I've been thinking more recently about trying to predict, and I'm certainly gonna be wrong, but at least trying to think through what themes might be telling in 2018 in the next year. And sometimes it's hard to know what's too early and whatnot. Like VR for example, four or five years ago. We all know that VR is gonna have a big impact on the world. Four or five years ago, some people were betting like it's gonna be this year, or it's gonna be next year.
But it still hasn't played out from a mainstream kind of adoption perspective. So it's always hard to know, it's more about timing than if in my view. I think there's a few interesting areas that I'm excited about, and one of them is voice. And looking at voice input and communication, you know, we're seeing Alexa and all these Echo devices infiltrating people's homes. I'm forgetting the exact numbers, but in the US this middle of this year, something around 11 million Alexa devices were in homes, I believe. I'm sure it probably can be three to four times that by now. Then you have Google Home, and you all have the iPhone in our pockets, and other things like that. I heard a study that teenagers, half of the searches are actually through voice by younger generations, versus just typing on the phone. So you're seeing a combination of, one, adoption of these devices and this hardware, but two, a behavior at least within a certain subset of the populous that's using voice to input data. And that's changing the way that people interact with technology. So I look at that, and I'm like, okay, well, what does that enable, and what can you as a maker or creator build for this future if you assume and place a bet that voice will actually eat into a lot of the tap-tap computing that we've historically been doing.
And it's just fascinating to think through that. Like, does the world need a new social network for this type of interface? Is there an opportunity to build a platform or a tool set for other people to build on top of voice technology. And there's a bunch of people who are doing all those types of things. So voice is super interesting. We're also seeing this, I don't know, I haven't solidified my thoughts on this quite yet, so it's a little bit raw, but there's a lot of interest, I think, around avatars. And we're seeing everything from Snapchat, of course, a few years ago introducing these face filters, and like the dog face, and all of these other things using sort of augmented reality, and Facebook, and Instagram, and a lot of others.
Animoji is a good one. Animoji's probably the most prominent example, at least for a week or so.
Feature for (mumbles)
Yeah. And thinking through, like, avatar communication is really fascinating. There's a couple reasons for that. One, we have the technology to create really emotionally driven lifelike avatars that actually express our facial recognition. Like our facial features, and expressions, and emotions. And two, it solves, actually, some interesting challenges and problems that I'm seeing more and more in social in particular in that I'm increasingly frustrated sometimes with all the hate and all the nasty that's coming through social networks today, and I think avatars create this veil of privacy to some extent, yet it doesn't avoid the intimacy of like a video, or a visual kind of expression. So again, really nascent, but I think there's something around there that we'll start seeing more avatars used in different forms. And maybe even new social forms of communication, or even networks built on top of something like that in the coming year or two. There's cryptocurrencies, Blockchains, all that stuff is obviously super nascent. People are excited about it, there's partly a lot of hype around that. There's a lot of ICOs that are very questionable at best on their legitimacy. But then there's also a lot of innovation, and really fascinating things that are really, we don't know how it's gonna change things. I think a lot of people that are comparing it are looking at it like, you know, the early days on the Internet in that, like, TCP/IP enabled a whole lot of things to happen.
That's the internet connectivity protocol, right?
Mh-hm(affirmative). Felt that we would have at least without that specifically, we would have up websites, and who would've known that TCP/IP would've enabled us to even communicate, like, through Twitter? That's several years in the future, but that protocol is what enabled these things to happen. So when you look at Blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, and how it's changing the incentives, and removing barriers that once existed before, it's super fascinating. So we'll see a lot of things in the next year on that.
Okay, so voice, characters or avatars, Blockchain, give me two others.
Two others, let's see, there's this theme that I am hesitant to talk about.
That's what I want to hear.
I'm hesitant to talk about it because it's a tricky one. So Silicon Valley is both loved and hated. And I'm afraid we'll see more of it hated in the future, particularly in the next two years. And the reason for that is, like, of course every industry, including Silicon Valley has a lot of problems. And we're seeing this past year, in particular, a lot of sexual harassment finally coming to light, which is a good thing. But we're also seeing a lot of distrust around traditional venture capital, and a lot of the ways that people build companies. And raising much money, never focusing revenue, and then like doing a fire sale. And there's a lot of themes, and that's of course a problem. And the big issue that, you know, is coming soon. And I don't know exactly where it's gonna play out, but it's automation. And thinking through Silicon Valley is both a location, but it's also an industry, or kind of like a brand in many ways. And Silicon Valley is seen as a place where automation is gonna destroy people's jobs. And there's a lot of different opinions around, one, that is a problem, and we need to have basic income and things like that to protect against that. Others are like "Don't worry about it. "We've had vehicles put horses out of work, and we're fine."
And other things like that. But the reality is no matter what, whichever direction it goes, there's gonna be a lot of distrust, and hate, and frustration placed on Silicon Valley for innovating in these technologies. So it worries me a little bit on what will happen in our ecosystem, and how the world will perceive Silicon Valley. And I haven't mentioned all the other problems it has because that's a longer discussion. But I'm generally an optimist, I'm always one that believes we should be responsible, but always push forward technology. And technology has also always been with us, like this jacket, this is technology to some extent. Like, we didn't have these types of ways to create stuff.
The elastic wrists are, yeah.
Shoes, we didn't used to have shoes, this is technology.
The world will always progress technologically speaking, and Silicon Valley has traditionally been the hub for that. And I'm afraid that the problems that do emerge from advancements in technology, Silicon Valley will be placed the blame.
Maybe disproportionately blamed for, is it justified? This is what you're wrestling with. (laughs)
Yeah. It's hard because a part of me, some of it's justified in terms of some of the specific things around, you know, the way that a lot of the culture-
The mechanisms of the culture.
Yeah, a lot of the culture around, like, okay, raise a bunch of money, raise, raise money, that's success. That's not success, that's actually a vehicle to do something meaningful, create value in the world. And there's this culture that sort of manifested in the past, I don't know, 5 to 10 years, around that. That's a problem that needs to be fixed. But then there's another side of Silicon Valley, which it is a place that's innovating, and solving a lot of problems in the world through technology. And we'll see more and more problems solves through Silicon Valley in particular. We'll also see Silicon Valley causing a lot of problems also.
So I don't think it's a black or white thing. But, yeah, I'm afraid that if we don't think through, how do we address these other issues that we're causing in Silicon Valley, we're gonna get placed a lot of the blame. Like there's even, it's being in a big city like this it's kind of in some ways fearful, you think about like even physical attacks and things like that. Not to go down that rabbit hole but terrorist attacks.
Anyway, it's something I think about a little bit, and don't know the answer, unfortunately.
No, that's good. I want things on the show that are raw and not fully baked yet, not fully processed. Along those same lines, what are some things that, you know, we're in the same community, we've known each other for a few years, and we've talked for the previous hour almost about sort of being open, and having community, and whatnot. So what are some things that people wouldn't know about you that would be surprised to find out in this episode?
Let's see, I'm trying to think of the most interesting thing here. People may know this because I think I've written about it, but I don't know, the first website I built was really awful.
As most are, again, I was just learning.
And it was actually, I was building, basically, a joke website. I called operationlaugh.com, the domain, it's probably still in the internet archive somewhere. The domain expired, I don't have it anymore.
But it was embarrassing in that not only was the design terrible, but I was building it with static HTML. Every single page was its own thing, there was no cascading universal style sheets, it was just terrible. So that's like one thing, but you know, that led me to learn more about technology, and get excited about it. Let's see, what else do people not know? I almost, first I didn't know what I wanted to do in school, in business school. I was thinking, oh, I'll just work for my dad's company, which is in the recycling waste management industry, which love what they're doing. They built an amazing business, but I mean, gosh, if I was doing that right now I'd hate myself. So there's always these moments where, you know, I think people can empathize where you don't know what you want to do, and maybe you tried to go for the least difficult path, which for me was like, oh, I'll work for my dad's company. My dad was smart to say, "No, you will work somewhere else for a year after college, "and then come back to me if you're still interested." Thankfully, I found something better. But I think that's something that I took away is like trying to play around, and be creative, and discover what you actually want to do, and not settle is an important piece.
All right, you have to keep going on that one because that's good. So not settling, do you see people settling? Do you see people making things that they don't really want to make? What made you say that, what made you realize that that was an important thing for you?
Yeah. I mean, there's the almost cliche thing where it's my parents wanted me to be a dentist or a doctor. So they go to the med school, and they spend all this money.
I was that cliche.
Oh, yeah. That's right.
Yeah, how far did you get into med school?
Way too far, no, I bailed before.
But the, whatever, three of my four years in college spent preparing for it.
Absolutely waste of time and money. I mean, I didn't lose a bunch of sleep over it, but those were the most sort of painful because I was doing something that just felt so counter to what I was supposed to do in the world.
And I think it's important, I'm glad that you said cliche because at the heart of every cliche is, not every cliche, but at the heart of a lot of cliches is there's some part of it that's like, I need to look at that.
And I'm glad you said that. Having personally felt like I was, you know, so lower middle class, not like dirt poor, but not well-off. The fact that I'm white, male, born in the United States. My mother and father are still together. The fact that all these things happened, and I still found that probably one of the biggest challenges of my life was breaking free of the thing that everybody else wanted me to be. The things, or the people, or the human that I was projecting, versus the one that I really was. To think that, A, I had all those advantages, and it was still arguably the hardest thing I've ever done. To think of people who don't have all of those advantages. Then you put that in the big pot, and I think that's why things like CreativeLive are so powerful. Product Hunt is powerful for people to be able to discover things out in the world that get them closer to themselves. So when you're saying it's cliche, that was so real for me, it clearly is a thing that manifests itself in you as well, talk to me about it.
Yeah, yeah. Because I mean, I've had friends that have gone to law school. Then they get their degree, and then they spend a year or two in law school, then then they drop out. And they realize, I never wanted to do this anyway.
And it's really hard to know what to do. Again, I didn't know until my senior year in college. I happened to get an internship at a video game company. I was always into technology, but I never saw a path to actually get into technology where I was located. Now we do live in a world where the Internet has everything from a learning opportunity, it's pretty much you can learn almost anything on the Internet almost for free, if not for free. And you can also connect with pretty much anyone on the Internet who has the same passion, whether it's through Twitter, or Reddit, or other communities online. So I think it's easier for people to avoid those mistakes because there are paths to figure out and explore things that you might be passionate about. Yet, still people fall into that trap because it's my parents, or everyone else is doing this. Or this is the easiest thing to do, but maybe not what I want to do.
Do you have an anecdote, like, what's the cure-all, how do you fix it?
Yeah. I think just recognizing that is the first step. Recognizing why am I doing this thing, or what do I want to pursue? And most people, I'm almost speaking more to college students because I know this is a very common problem. It's like, I don't know what I want to do. So I'd always recommend just explore, talk to different people, explore different industries. Like my brother just randomly picked up a camera two or three years ago, and just liked it. And now he's doing that for a career.
That's his thing, yeah.
Yeah and it only takes that one moment, or that one thing. You know, non-professionally, I went to Coachella, 2015 was my first year. And for whatever reason, Coachella was, I've always listened to music, but it was that weekend which made me really appreciate music, especially live music more. And now I love going to shows and going to festivals. And I listen to more music, and I appreciate it a lot more than I used to. It was that one weekend that changed my entire perspective.
Yeah, never forget you're one decision away from an entirely different life.
Yeah, that's a really good way of putting it.
Someone way smarter than me probably told me that.
It's a quote meme somewhere. But I think that's a really important, you know, a pin to stick in. There's so many people, you talked about college students, there's also so many people who got bamboozled to go down the wrong path, and they need to figure out, you know, they had a couple of kids, bought a house, got in over their head. And extracting from that, I think that's a huge, you know, challenge and opportunity. Again, that's one of the reasons that CreativeLive exists. I've said before, if our parents had one job, we're gonna have five. The next generation has five at the same time, yeah, it's fascinating. So what's next for you, where are you going, what are you building next? Where are you going at 11:35. (laughs)
Yeah, let's see. (laughs)
No, no. Like, give me the context. What are you thinking about? Where are you going, what's next?
Let's see, I can answer a few different ways. One, on the Product Hunt side we're thinking through next year's road kind of roadmap. And a lot of it's around two different themes, one of them is monetizing. So we've as of two months ago started selling our first thing, collecting money for the first time because historically we haven't. And we're having hundreds of makers and companies now paying us on a monthly basis, which is really exciting because it's new, and it's a different thing to explore. Then on the other side we're also experimenting and exploring, like, okay, Product Hunt is, you know, the best place to see what's new in technology. And every day you click on Product Hunt, and it shows you cool stuff. Things that you would've never searched for because they didn't exist yesterday. However, we now have this database, and this community of people who are curating, reviewing, recommending all these things. How do we make this a place where now people can come, and browse, and discover the things that they're looking for? So Christmas is coming up, if you're like, "Okay, well, what should I buy for my mom?" For example, for her home. You know, there should be a place where you can discover all the coolest smart gadgets, for example, for the home. If you just got a new Android phone, like what Android apps are the best for photography lovers, for example. There's a lot of that, which is changing, and actually building more for a mainstream, bigger audience to be honest. Like more people will have that problem than want to just discover what's new in technology.
So that's the Product Hunt side. And then, also been doing some investing as of six or seven months ago, raised a small fund, and investing in early stage companies.
Isn't it makes so much sense, like you see them first, why not be able to put a little bit of your own money behind them, or your money, plus some other folks? That seems radically intuitive.
Yeah. Actually, going back to your question, like, something that people may not know about me, during the whole transition from Play Haven into Product Hunt, around that same time I was looking at maybe entering VC because naturally I'm like, I love new products, I love technology, I like talking to founders. Maybe I would enjoy doing venture capital. I ultimately didn't do it at that time. Now I feel like I'm in a good position, and have more experience, and the credibility to invest in companies. So doing that which is really fun. My favorite part about it is it's an excuse to learn about different industries. One company I invested in is in the shipping space, which truthfully I don't much about shipping, and now it's basically a motivator to learn more about it, and understand the industry more.
Is it Ship? (laughs)
No, no. Ship is the product that we built. (laughs) Which is unrelated to shipping, but it's got a really cute sailor kitty mascot. But yeah, there's just these opportunities to talk to these founders who are building early nascent companies, some of them even prelaunch. So that's been really fun, and a learning experience for sure.
So we talked about a few things that people wouldn't know about you. There's a couple of things of what's next. It's my goal to have this be the definitive interview with you on the Internet.
The pressure's on. (laughs)
Yeah, I know, just like the Product Hunt community that, you know, you personally, like, there's been a lot of professional talk, what drives you personally, privately? Is it sort of recognition? Is it awareness, is it discovery, is it learning? Like, I'm trying to unpack some of the attributes of the people who are on the show. So what are some of your personal attributes that you think have created what people see on the Internet, and how you think of yourself?
Yeah. There's a lot of motivators I think in anyone's job or career. I think some of it's, frankly, some of it's proving and building credibility in something. So, you know, going back to the monetization piece, my goal is for our business unit at Product Hunt to break even to cover our costs next year. And it's both my goal and the teams goal, but it's partly my goal because I want to accomplish that. I want to check that off as a founder, it's like a milestone, now you're floating at least. Then the next goal is figuring out how to make more money. But that's partly it, I think also, the somewhat cheesy, but real answer too is that I also really enjoy those warm fuzzy feelings when you help someone. And to articulate that, I mentioned earlier I met up with a guy who I've known a while. A really young guy, 21 years old, thinking about starting a company, and he's been building products for a while. And he asked me, he's like, "Ryan," towards the end of our conversation he's like, "why are you helping me?" And I was like, that's interesting, let me think about that. (laughs) I hadn't thought about asking myself that. And a lot of it really was around, you know, I saw myself where you are four years ago, and I want to just genuinely help you and see you succeed because I feel like that's the way other people treated me. Going back to Josh Elman, and so many other people like Nir and others. They helped me when I was at that stage. So those feelings of having a small part in maybe someone's success, or helping them in some way, and it could be through meetings. It could be intros, it could be funding. That's why, like, funding and investing is such an exciting thing to do now to extend the ways that I can help people. So a little bit cheesy, but it's authentic in that I, hopefully, at the end of the day want to have a legacy of helping people do cool things, and build valuable products and companies.
Amazing. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks for having me. This is an amazing studio by the way. Most of the interviews I've done have been like some sort of omnidirectional mic in a conference room.
And you've got the tinny set, yeah, no.
Yeah, this is pro.
We do it right here, it's pro, it's pro. Thank you so much for doing what you do. I've gotten so much joy from Product Hunt. You know, discovered new things. Brought new products to you that the Product Hunt community has found joy in. We've learned a lot just throughout voting and down voting in the comments.
You were on Product Hunt LIVE a long time ago.
Way back in the day.
Way back, that was a long time ago. Well, congratulations on what you built, extraordinary. How do people follow you? You're RRHoover, right?
Yeah, @rrhoover, actually is my Twitter username. And also the same thing on Snapchat and everything else.
Awesome, thank you so much, Ryan. Really appreciate it.
Yeah, appreciate it.
See you tomorrow. (rhythmic house music)