Ryan Hoover

Founder of Product Hunt ☕️💃🎶

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 06, 2015


Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Honored to be invited to Product Hunt LIVE. 🙏 A few years ago, I decided to leave a startup to pursue something new. In short, I wanted to (1) build something for myself, (2) learn to become a better product/business person, and (3) challenge myself. I transitioned to a part-time role and started exploring other opportunities in startups. I interviewed at Medium and Monkey Inferno but neither gave me an offer. During that time I took 20 minutes one early morning while sipping a cup of Philz coffee and started a simple email list named Product Hunt. Fast forward nearly two years and we're here. 😊
Chandra Kalle@chandrakalle · Maker @orangecaffeine.com
Building a community is hard. You’ve built a very powerful one. But unlike Facebook which runs by itself, a lot of ProductHunt depends on you constantly keeping the community engaged. How do you sustain it? How does PH get into auto-pilot mode? Or is my assumption wrong?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@chandrakalle agreed, communities are hard to build. 😀 We did a ton of manual things to get PH off the ground. Since then, some efforts have been distributed across the team and community or productized (e.g. we launched Collections to enable anyone to curate and share their own lists of products, games, books, etc.). In reality, the community fuels almost everything. You all post products, upvote, comment, create collections, etc. and while we do some of that too, it’s a small portion of the overall activity. We’re working opening access to more people and creating stronger social connections within the community.
Dan Fennessy@dan_fennessy · Founder at Party with a Local
@rrhoover @chandrakalle I agree that doing 'things that don't scale' is especially true when trying to build an online community. @rrhoover before you grew to the team and funding PH has today, would you say more importance was given to community over product? Also with your founding team and first hires - were community builders more important to you than people who could code?
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
Are you really 1,000 years old and must feast on the young every Halloween to maintain your appearance?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@russfrushtick who gave you access to comment? 😉
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
@rrhoover @russfrushtick Ryan giveth, Ryan can taketh away ;)
Zach Kahn@zkahn94 · Lead Podcast Marketing @ Vox Media
Hey Ryan, will Product Hunt ever get a buy button?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@zkahn94 maybe 😉
Nathan Bashaw@nbashaw · Head of Product at Gimlet Media
I haven't been involved building Product Hunt for almost 2 years now. Things have changed a lot! I'm curious - what fact about Product Hunt do you think would most surprise / amuse me? EDIT: also I realize this question seems completely self-centered, but I bet lots of people here, especially early users, would find random facts about Product Hunt's internal operations fascinating! haha
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@nbashaw haha, I can't believe it's been nearly 2 years since we started working on that little ruby app. 😄 You'd probably be surprised by the amount of La Croix we consume. I'm responsible for at least 12 cans/day. @corleyh added a separate line item in our financials to account for the addiction.
Nathan Bashaw@nbashaw · Head of Product at Gimlet Media
@rrhoover holy shit 12 cans a day?! I thought I had a problem at 12 cans a week hahahaha
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@nbashaw Still waiting for that day with the news report that La Croix has some evil chemical in it that we didn't know about 💀
Suzy Ryoo@suzywillow · Atom Factory & Cross Culture Ventures
@lukasfittl @nbashaw 🙀 i hope not!!!!! 🙀 because health... 😿
Pieter Levels@levelsio · 🌏 Serial maker 🏝Nomad List + et al
@rrhoover What are you most scared off with regards to Product Hunt? Your biggest fear?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Who do you think is the best dressed man on the Product Hunt team?
Riccardo Arvizzigno@riccardoar · ex Product Hunt team
Ben Rubin@benrbn · Co-founder, Life On Air Inc
@eriktorenberg @corleyh is the best dressed PERSON @producthunt 😉
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@eriktorenberg we should probably crowdsource this answer because: community.
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@rrhoover @eriktorenberg We all certainly know who has the best flow....
Wilbert Liu@wilbertliu · I ❤️ building products & telling 📃.
Were you starting PH "accidentally"? Or you have prepared in mind that you wanna start a company one day?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@wilbertliu sort of. 😄 I’ve always wanted to start a company. As a kid I started side projects and pursued money-making ideas (I shared some here). Product Hunt wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t naturally curious. That said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to “whiteboard your way” into a startup. Founding a company is sexy for some and many do it for the wrong reasons, imho. PH started as an experiment (an email list), graduated to a side project, and only after careful thought months later, did I decide to build a team and raise money. I asked myself several questions before making that decision, most notably: “Do I see myself working on this for a decade.” It’s an important question to ask.
Stefano Bernardi@stefanobernardi · Investor
Jonathan Howard@staringispolite · Growth engineer & founder
How did it feel in the moment when you were navigating unclear choices for your future two years ago? (Interviewing at Medium and Monkey Inferno, blogging, the occasional small talk like the Dojo where we met, and experiments like Product Hunt's chat-group version) I think there's a "crux" there of sorts that all makers navigate and I'd imagine a lot of ProductHunters are going through that right now. What advice would you give them? (Or the "you" from that time)?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@staringispolite after 3 years at a previous startup, I started itching for something new. I think everyone faces something similar in their career at some point. I started to think hard about what I wanted to do and settled on these two goals: 1) Learn - I felt stagnant in my current role at the time and had a hunger to grow. These words from my friend @nbashaw, stuck with me: "When you look back at yourself six months from today and don’t feel embarrassed by your naiveté, there’s a problem. That means you’re not learning, growing." 2) Build Something For Myself - Building something you want to use yourself is incredibly motivating and easier* than building products for someone else. PlayHaven was amazing but I started to lose passion for what I was doing day-to-day and my desire to build a consumer product grew. I wrote more about this topic here. *But you also have to be cognizant that not everyone is like you. There's a good chance you're the most "hardcore" user of your product if you're building for yourself.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@rrhoover one of the many things I've come to appreciate about you is your deep curiosity and empathy - how do you think those characteristics have helped you as an entrepreneur and leader?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@corleyh it's impossible to build a team and (largely successful) product without empathy. I'm not the most empathetic person all the time and that's why it's incredibly important to also be self-aware when leading a team, project, etc.
Wilbert Liu@wilbertliu · I ❤️ building products & telling 📃.
Have you ever been in a situation where you don't know what to do for the next step? How did you overcome it?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@wilbertliu yes. Startups are a guessing game. As confident as you might be, you never really know if it's going to work out but you can de-risk by getting more data, soliciting advice, and eliminating assumptions. One of the things I need to get better at is asking for help. Fortunately, startup culture is very giving and we're fortunate to have amazing investors, a kickass community, and good friends eager to assist.
Daniel Landy@danolandy · 📚Babson Student
You once wrote about being rejected by YC in 2011. What was it you were trying to build back then and how, if at all, did it help you get to where you are now?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@danoliverlandy haha, #nostalgia. Back in 2011, I very briefly worked on a social music discovery app that looked a lot like the now closed This Is My Jam. We had a working prototype but in hindsight the idea was flawed. Music discovery is super tough, especially when going in cold without an "unfair advantage". Completing the Y Combinator application was extremely valuable and a great learning experience. They ask all the right questions. If you're starting a company, I recommend filling out the YC app even if you aren't applying.
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@rrhoover 2 Questions: 1) What's your favorite color? 2) If you could (A) have a new pair of socks everyday or (B) have a magic pair of socks that never wears out and goes with all outfits... which would you choose?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Mr. Needles! 1) I actually don't have one. Is that weird? 2) Definitely B. A doesn't sound eco-friendly.
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@rrhoover 1) So weid. 2) Hmm, but what about when you lose one of those magical socks?
Isaac Rosenberg@irosenb · Building MapHunt
@rrhoover @jsneedles I'm still looking for socks that I can wear every day and not smell terrible / rip / etc. Seriously 😑
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@jsneedles oh snap! I didn't think about that. 😞
Dan Flanegan@dflanegan · Co-Founder, Butter
@rrhoover Do you have any team members that are remote and has that been a challenge? Do your investors have a preference for hiring locally vs. having a distributed team?
Jack Dweck@jackdweck · Product Manager at Unroll.Me
When Product Hunt first began, you were running the show. What's been the hardest part about finding the right people to hire yourself out of your many jobs? Important Bonus Question: If you had to choose between Philz and La Croix, which would you choose? ☕️ 👯
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@jackdweck building a team is super hard but to succeed I need to hire myself out of a job. Fortunately, I have teammates that are better at nearly everything I do (or did) 😄 but it's especially hard to give up ownership over things I'm "best" at. For example, I'm not an engineer and I'll happily rely on our engineering team to make the right decisions and execute. On the other hand, I think I'm pretty good at product so depending on someone else on something I have a strong opinion about is very hard. Re: Philz vs. La Croix. I hope @jacobjaber and co partner with La Croix so I don't have to make that decision. 😄
Yoav Anaki@yoavanaki
The obvious ones: what are the next PH verticals? Are you planning PH movies? And one that you can actually answer: How do you intend to create traction for different verticals with different target audiences, seeing as now the new verticals are in sub-pages and don't get as much daylight as the tech products?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@yoavanaki we launched beta channels for Games, Books, and most recently, Podcasts. We saw the games, books, and podcasts getting traction within the community from the beginning and many were asking for a place dedicated to those categories. We have a list of many others that we could (and will) pursue but I’m more curious to hear what you’d like to see next and why. Help us decide. 😉 P.S. We’re working on a new frontage for Product Hunt. Here’s a sneak peek at an early version.
Berenika Alexandre@berealexandre · Founder @plants_app
@rrhoover I've got one if you're interested to chat. it's definitely missing in the SF community
Sahil Kinha@jaatscanfly · fanboy
India is your 2nd largest audience already (18%, after 23% USA)- any special plans for India? Any plans to hire in/for India? Hire me!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@jaatscanfly actually, India is the the 4th largest in terms of unique visitors (~4%). We don't have any immediate plans to build anything for India (or any specific region) but see an opportunity to localize and expand to different regions longer term. We aren't actively hiring but always looking to connect with amazing people. Please email me an email at ryan@producthunt.com and let me know what you'd like to do here. 😄
Sahil Kinha@jaatscanfly · fanboy
@rrhoover @jaatscanfly Oops, Alexa said #2 was India so I'd assumed that to be accurate. Thank you so much for answering, Ryan- you're my hero!
Tyler Swartz@tylerswartz · maker of things
You are a big user of Twitter. Is there a moment when you were developing your network and personal brand that it clicked for you and you saw how important Twitter would be for you?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@tylerswartz I love love love Twitter. I was telling @jess the other day, Twitter has had more impact on my life than any other product. I don't think there was a specific moment when I realized how valuable Twitter was (and is) but there were specific things I did to build loose ties and relationships with people in the startup ecosystem... I used to read a ton of blogs, sharing them on Twitter via Buffer. I would always add a personal comment within the tweet and @mention the writer to give them recognition and open the door for conversation. Consistency (and never changing my avatar), increase my profile and helped plant seeds for the relationships I have now.
Karan@iamkaransetiya · Founder, Veduo
@rrhoover @tylerswartz Definitely agree that Twitter is very valuable (and awesome). Do you think that PH may be too dependent on Twitter though? Any company (in this hi-tech industry especially) can lose its edge overnight. Twitter is no exception.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@iamkaransetiya @tylerswartz Twitter is an important part of Product Hunt. We use it for authentication and to keep the community up-to-date but eventually we will support Facebook login and other forms of registration. Additionally, Twitter itself accounts for <15% of our traffic today.
Karan@iamkaransetiya · Founder, Veduo
@rrhoover that makes sense. Can't wait to see the redesign btw! :)
Florent Ferere@florentferere · Co-Founder, Welkio
@rrhoover Can you please give us a few tips for a successful product launch? How and When should PH be integrated into our product launch strategy?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@florentferere founders/makers often have a hard time describing what their product does. They're too close to the product and feel compelled to ramble about their big vision. I also see many rely on cliches and nondescript phrases like "something something on steroids". In general, speak in plain english like a human. 😄
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hi Ryan! Awesome to see you do a Live chat finally!! What does your day look like as CEO of ProductHunt?