Startups

Behind the Scenes of a $2500 Side Product Launch

By 2016-02-29 No Comments

In 2013, Mailbox was set to revolutionise productivity by giving us all new superpowers to blast through our endless email. If regular email was a Swiss army knife, Mailbox was the Uzi that’d take you from inbox zillion to inbox zero. And for a while, that’s exactly what happened. In fact, the product was so good you had to queue up for it. Not a camp-outside-the-apple-store-for-3-days queue, but an online waiting list.

With a twist.

With a virtual waiting list, you can do some weird things with game mechanics, like let people jump ahead when they invite more people to join the queue.

It was a nice little thank you in exchange for hacking into your cred. A clever way of borrowing your social equity and leverage the crowd to spread their message.

And it worked.

The waiting list started before Mailbox was even ready and by the time the product launched, there were 800,000 users ready to install the app and fall in love with their inbox again. It’s hard to visualise 800,000 people, but if it was a real line of humans, it’d be 300 miles long.

Seems they’d hit a nerve with the inbox problem.

It wasn’t the first time either. In 2004, Gmail used the invite-only model to launch their beta platform.

And just to prove that Mailbox wasn’t a fluke, Robinhood used the queue-jumper model to launch their simplified, fee-free trading desk to create a waiting list of 700,000 in 2015.

 

Turns out those “powered by” links are still effective.

Maître was killing it and had already joined the 1000+ club on Product Hunt. So I interviewed the Founder Manuel Frigerio to uncover the inspiration and the mechanics behind launching a successful viral app.

Where did you get the idea? Why are you building Maître?

I took the lead to build Maître after an event organiser from my other business (EventNinja) suggested the idea for a better way to sell tickets for his event late November 2015. I discovered it would be relatively easy to implement and built the site over the Christmas holidays. I put my head down and after 5 days Maître was born. I soon realised it had many more real life applications than just events. I offered the beta product to a couple of startup friends and their response was enthusiastic to say the least.

What stage are you at? MVP? Validation?

I would say Maître is at MVP stage. We have validated our initial assumptions, primarily the price point and the basic set of features. Now we need to understand the direction we want to take. Everything happened so quickly! We officially launched on the 10th of January and after one week we were already profitable and with thousands of users! Now users are asking for lots of features but my goal is to keep Maître very simple and focus more on integrations. I love products like Buffer: be great at one thing and integrate with other services.

What feedback do you have so far?

People really like the idea behind Maître and the simplicity of the product. They usually ask for more integrations, which is the area I’m going to focus on in the next few weeks. On the negative side, many people complained about having our branding (“Powered by Maître”) on their widget and I decided to remove it.

How do you decide what user feedback is important and which is just a vocal minority?

I think it’s fairly acceptable to use “powered by” for freemium products these days.

Thing is, Maître is not a freemium product. One of the most frequent critics was our branding on a paid (and relatively expensive) product.

Regarding user feedback and how I prioritise them: I tend to think on a strategic level. I’ve got a vision of what I think Maître will be in 3/6 months and I try to execute on that. However, every product usually has a core of users who actually LOVE it and that seems to be the case with Maître. I try to focus on their feedback and make the product better and better for them rather than everyone. I think this is especially important for startups with limited time and resources: making a product that some people love rather than something everyone likes is a better recipe for success.

Did removing the link impact referrals?

To be honest I haven’t really tested the click-through-rate before and after. However, my impression is that Maître’s biggest source of referrals is still word of mouth.

Tell me about your team

Besides myself, there are two other people involved in the project. They are Anthony Francis, my business partner in my other business, and George Johnston, founder of Incubus London and incidentally the event organiser who suggested the idea in the first place 🙂 Anthony and George take care of sales, marketing & partnerships while I focus on the product.

Any big wins so far? I guess product hunt worked well for you

Product Hunt was a massive success for us. We had over 2,500 people signing up that day alone, 40 of which converted to paid users, for a total of $1,000+ earned on our launch day. Besides Product Hunt, hundreds of people have emailed us for partnerships, collaborations and general feedback. Some big companies started using Maître for their launches, including Trussle and Coeio, plus others in the pipeline… but I can’t say more for now 🙂

OK – you nailed it on PH and have tons of feedback in the comments – tell me what you got from that.

I’m not sure, but I think we are the most commented product on Product Hunt of 2016 so far with 150 comments and for this I feel extremely thankful and lucky. The Product Hunt Community has been incredibly supportive. I’ve received feedback about pretty much everything: design, user experience, integrations, business ideas. We have actually implemented some of the feedback the same day and have deployed 7 changes live on that day alone!

How many users do you have so far?

We have got over 9,000 people in our waiting list with 85 people who have purchased the waiting list so far. Currently, we are growing 60% month-over-month and doubling sales every week.

What about revenue?

We have made roughly $2,500 so far and have been profitable from day one. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting such a big success in the early days, but coming from previous startup experiences I know how important it is to start thinking about how to make money from the beginning. I guess this is also part of the European mentality, which focus more on early profitability.

How well is the viral loop working out for you?

The viral loop is working out tremendously well for us. Almost 1 person out of 4 has been referred by a friend. Some people have referred more than 15 friends. But I don’t want to say it’s just the merit of Maître. Like I said many times on Product Hunt, the first step is to create something people really want. Maître is a tool that increases the appetite, but the person must be already hungry. The people who want to use Maître need to understand what their target really wants, whether is early access, freebies, etc. and leverage that to create exclusivity and increase competition. We offer Maître for free, every week, to the top 200 people in our waiting list. This is a huge incentive for people to sign up their friends 😉

 

What does Maître work, exactly? Does it integrate with any site?

Maître is a viral waiting list that allows people to get ahead in the queue by signing up their friends. In a nutshell,  it’s like a booster for your product launch.

On a practical level, it’s a copy & paste widget that can be used on any webpage.

Everything can be customised from the dashboard, we even have 6 pre-made templates to choose from to match your website’s look & feel. It syncs with your MailChimp list and if you use WordPress we have created a WP plugin. No coding skills required, it just works.

If you are a developer and feel particularly adventurous, you can check the documentation and customise Maître even further, using callbacks and webhooks.

I’m curious how this fits in with your strategy for EventNinja. Isn’t Maître a distraction from your main business?

Or is it a useful side-product that gets attention for EventNinja?

In the beginning Maître was meant to be a side-project but eventually it turned into something bigger. But even now that is growing strong, I still consider it a side-business. EventNinja remains my primary business and to be honest with you I’m quite lucky because Maître requires very little maintenance. I’d say I currently dedicate Maître 20% of my time. I do also have a plan to integrate Maître into EventNinja natively at some point.

What’s next for Maître? This could be a great company. It reminds me of other single-function apps like Buffer.

This is a good question! And honestly I don’t want to pretend I’ve got an answer for it. Like I said, everything has happened so quickly I’m still trying to understand what is best for Maître going forward. One thing for sure is that I’m going to invest more and more time and resources in it. I really like Buffer’s example and I wouldn’t mind following the same path: from side project to $8M/year company.. 😉

If have something that you want to launch and want to try adding some game mechanics and social proof to kickstart your launch, Manuel gave us an exclusive 30% discount to share with the Hackerpreneur community.