PostHog launched on Hacker News. We were pleased with the reception. The reason we launched wasn’t trying to get the world’s attention – we wanted to find a group of people who loved it, as quickly as possible.
We said we’d be happy with 500 stars, pleased with 700 and delighted with 1,000. Five days later, we’re over 800 (1 week after publishing the repo). More importantly, we had generally very positive feedback, well over 200 sign ups, and several businesses that are heavily integrating us into how they work every day.
We spent $1K on marketing the repo early on, which got the first few stars and helped to populate it. Later on, Hacker News going well meant we got onto the GitHub trending main page, which got us more users. Pro-tip for next time, make sure you have tagged your repo appropriately – we had niche tags, and it was only once we changed them that we got discovered. We think the main list is manually curated.
Our current focus is to make sure that we retain these users. Any publicity leads to an initial rise in traction, but the key factor is if people stick around once they’ve signed up. That way, every piece of marketing we do adds permanent value.
We fully expect, as a newer company, that most of them will churn. But we’ll learn from as many of them as possible. If we do a good job of being friendly, we believe we’ll end up being able to retain people because they buy into us in the short run, as we work on the product itself with them.
There are two key things we do with customers to try to make sure we earn their trust. The first, is that we go to as many meetings as possible in person. It’s a lot easier to understand how someone feels when you can see their body language. Showing up is a good way to demonstrate that you care. We try only to take whoever is strictly necessary to meetings, so that’s usually just one of us.
We write down everything we learn internally on the same doc we started with in August last year. It’s now around 100 pages long.
The second thing we try to do well is to set up informal communication with the customer – we often us Slack or WhatsApp groups. They let people feel safer just sending a couple of sentences because they lose the formality of email. And, they can just be quite good fun.
Throughout YC, we’ve split our roles pretty clearly. As my former boss used to say “don’t be like 5 year olds playing football”.
Even when there were just two of us, Tim and I quickly saw how important it was to write tickets for features and issues. This meant that Tim could code uninterrupted, with notifications disabled. I would do everything else. We tend to work with our headphones on almost all day to help stay focussed. Occasionally we take them off, and one day we may treat ourselves to a new lightbulb for the office (updated - we never did):
Since Aaron joined, he has focussed on getting feedback from users, Tim has kept working on the product, and I’ve focussed on product, marketing and anything else. Aaron and I share the QA for features and we try to get them done immediately, so it doesn’t cause Tim to have to multitask.
Every Monday, we do a short post mortem of the week before, and set new weekly goals, then we do a 5 minute standup 2 to 3 times a week to keep us on track. We write all of this down too, and have been doing so since August. It’s really simple, but when we don’t do this, we tend to lose days to random tasks that don’t actually help us.
This week, our focus is to build the open source community. That’s where all our business will eventually come from. To start getting pull requests and issues, we need people to be using the product. For that to happen, we need to focus on getting their feedback and incorporating it into what we build as fast as possible – hence doing as much of this as possible is our current goal.