What this Golden Kitty winner learned from a bad first launch

Published on
August 23rd, 2021
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It was Jim Raptis' 8th product launch that took off and cemented his decision to become a full-time indie maker. He's sharing his advice for new makers.
Jim Raptis has launched 15 products since he joined Product Hunt in 2018 👏. Last year, his pattern design generator, MagicPattern, earned him a Golden Kitty award in the Side Project category. His latest product, BrandBird, was also acknowledged with a $5,000 Maker Grant in May.

I spoke to Jim about misconceptions around your first launch and some of the secret sauce that sent his two best performing side-projects cum businesses to the top of the Product Hunt launch board.

On failure to launch

It’s easy to take someone’s best launch and judge yourself against it. MagicPattern has gained over 700 upvotes, but as Jim pointed out while talking through his journey with Product Hunt, that was his eighth launch.

“My first launch went terribly,” he joked, “but it was my first one. That’s a very important moment in a maker’s journey because you realize it’s not all about the product. You might have the most amazing product but if you don’t do proper marketing and build up excitement, it doesn’t matter how good it is. It’s 50% product, 50% marketing it properly.”

When his first launch was disappointing, Jim responded by building relationships and getting to know other makers in his communities. They became an invaluable resource.

“I learned about Product Hunt, the community, launching products, and building on my own. I launched more products that got featured. It gave me a lot of confidence and gained me a lot of support from the community. It’s a give and take. I gain a lot of feedback and I support others in return.”

On Bootstrapping vs VC

Before MagicPattern’s launch, Jim was grinding on a startup that was in its second round of fundraising. Then Covid hit. With the company out of money, Jim and his fellow makers decided to put fundraising on hold and pursue side projects.

It was MagicPatterns’ launch that empowered him to become a full-time indie maker. The process in whole revealed that the VC startup world wasn’t the best fit for him.

“It’s a very risky journey for founders. It was a lot of pressure — you have to hit KPIs and drive growth in a very small amount of time. I’m more in love with the process of building a product. The VC world just wasn’t the perfect fit for me for fulfillment and enjoyment.”

Hindsight is 20:20. Jim told me he wouldn’t have known fundraising wasn’t for him if he hadn’t tried it. His best advice to others is to understand the commitment of a fundraising round — at least 2 years of very stressful work with tunnel vision on your product. If you’re really passionate that such an environment will work for you, go for it. If you have any doubts, stay small and bootstrap for a couple of years until you’re more confident that raising money is the best decision for you.

On pricing strategies for launch

Even though Jim had strong launches prior to MagicPattern, he considers it to be his first real product in that it was his first product with pricing.

Jim told me he was close to abandoning the product not long before he launched it. He considered open sourcing it until ultimately deciding to just launch and validate his idea. With a goal of determining whether or not people would pay for the product, he created a lifetime deal. It worked and gained Jim his first paying customers.

His most recent launch, BrandBird, applies a concept that’s similar to MagicPattern — unique branded content in seconds — but for your Twitter feed. Jim built it in a single day.
With the creator economy in high gear, high-performing Twitter content is more important than ever. Feedback from the Product Hunt community revealed just that. People began using BrandBird on day one of launch.

“Great tool, Jim! As someone posting a lot on Twitter, it's super annoying when the images are cut off. Well done 🙌” - Felix Scholz
“Damn this is such a useful tool, thank you for building it Jim! And congrats on shipping it so quickly too!! 🤩🤯” - Steven Tey
“The most important thing on twitter it's what you write, the second one is how you show it... Thanks Jim for this new tool.” Marco Gurnari
Raptis’ primary strategy for now is taking advantage the buzz and word of mouth. His free plan uses watermarked images to drive new users to the tool — a strategy he picked up from companies like TikTok.

On what’s next

Jim is splitting his time between MagicPattern and BrandBird now. For the former, he’s continuing to build out a suite of products that make it easy for anyone to create beautiful visual assets instantly.
“BrandBird has turned into something much bigger than I imagined,” he told me. He’s considering how to provide more value to users, perhaps expanding the tool to other social networks.
His structured framework for building will help determine what’s next. For his short-term vision, Jim uses 1-week sprints that start by selecting 2-3 features that can be explored within that time frame, and defining what days he’ll work on them. For his long term vision, he sets a promising goal every one to two months (like hitting $5K MRR, for example) and breaks that down into smaller milestones.
Jim is building in public so to get more insight, share feedback, or support his builds, you can follow him on Twitter.
Comments (6)
Csaba Kissi
Congrats Jim! I'm proud of you buddy!
Jamshid Tashpulatov
Yes, there is great motivation here. People should avoid hiding their feelings and always make the right decision when filtering them. Jim, thank you for sharing a great life lesson!
Ivanna Wendel
This is very inspiring, Jim! 🤩
Anastasia Zaichko
That's a good example on how you can achieve success when you're constantly trying. Very inspirational!