October 19, 2015

From Rejection to Product Hunt

Today, we’re launching something new at Product Hunt, but first let me tell you a story… :)

In the middle of 2013, I started to look for a new job. After 3 years at PlayHaven, the startup that brought me to San Francisco, I was ready for a new challenge. I told my boss and team I was ready to move on and began my search. I knew I wanted to stay in startups but few companies stood out.

Around this time, Shaan Puri, CEO of Monkey Inferno, invited me to their swanky office for lunch.

We immediately connected and a few weeks later he invited me over a second time to get feedback on their new product. Toward the end of our brainstorm, he told me they were looking for an Entreprenuer-in-Residence to help develop and lead new product initiatives. I wasn’t surprised — he invited me to lunch for a reason — and I was secretly hoping he would give me an opportunity to join the team. Incubating new consumer products was my dream job.

So, he (wisely) gave me a “Trial by Fire” challenge, instructing me to develop a plan of what I would do as a product leader of the their new Q&A platform, Boya. Over the weekend, I did some research, created wireframes, and prepared a deck. Here’s the first slide:

If you know Shaan and team’s culture, you’ll understand why I chose this opening slide.

I visited their office for the third time, presented to the team, and left feeling confident.

Then I waited for Shaan’s email…

But when it arrived, I was disappointed. The beginning of the email read:

Hey Ryan,
Thanks for coming by yesterday. I know it’s not easy to do what we asked you to do, pitching us our own product, with no access to data and only a few days to work on it!
After quite a bit of back-and-forth with the team, I’m sorry to say that we will not be able to offer you Entrepreneur-in-Residence position.
Generally the email ends here, but I feel we have a common mindset on learning and self-improvement, so I’m going to take a leap of faith and provide as much detail as I can as to how we arrived at this decision. I always prefer transparency and constructive feedback, and my gut tells me you’re the same way. Hopefully, I’m not wrong, and this isn’t a rub-salt-in-the-wound situation…

He respectfully followed with their reasoning for the rejection. It was very thoughtful and well-justified. Most potential employers don’t follow-up with as much detail and transparency as Shaan did.

He ended the email with:

Personally — I hope that we can stay in touch, and perhaps have you involved with some of the interesting initiatives we have in the pipeline[…]

And we did. When I started Product Hunt, I reached out to Shaan (aka Product Hunt user #15) to get his feedback and he’s been supportive ever since.

Introducing Product Hunt LIVE VIDEO

In August, we launched Product Hunt LIVE, a place to chat with the world’s most interesting makers. Already, we’ve hosted Q&A’s with over 150 amazing guests, including Amanda Palmer, Aileen Lee, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Horowitz, and Tony Robbins. I also did one. ;) We started with text-based discussions with a desire to eventually expand PH LIVE into livestreaming video to make it even more intimate and fun.

(This is where Shaan comes in)

I received an email from Shaan a few days before we launched Product Hunt LIVE. It started with:

Hey Ryan,
Erik gave me a heads up about [Product Hunt LIVE] coming soon, and I wanted to see if we could help.

Product Hunt LIVE is about having real conversations directly with the people who made your favorite products. Shaan and the Monkey Inferno team were working on Blab, a platform for broadcasting live video conversations.

(you can see where this is going)

After the dust settled from our public launch, we met up to discuss how we could use their tech to make Product Hunt LIVE even more intimate and fun.

(fast forward)

Today, we’re hosting our first Blab-powered LIVE Chat with Matt Mazzeo and many others soon to come.

Product Hunt LIVE VIDEO is an extension of our mission to connect the community directly with their favorite makers in an authentic conversation. It’s the closest thing to meeting someone face-to-face. Video is incredibly personal, giving people an opportunity to “sit in the room” with inspiring founders, investors, artists, authors, game creators, entertainers, and makers.

Check out the full schedule of upcoming LIVE Chats here.

Rejection and relationships

As Shaan and I worked together on this partnership, we shared nostalgic banter about the time I applied to join his team. This is a great example of how important it is to never burn a bridge in Silicon Valley (or anywhere, really). Product Hunt LIVE VIDEO is happening because we stayed in touch and genuinely liked each other.

And for those who are also facing rejection, try to recognize that sometimes “no” is good. As Chris Dixon once said,

If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough

I was bummed when Shaan emailed me the rejection but things worked out for the better. Product Hunt wouldn’t exist if I got the job, so thanks Shaan for saying “no” (respectfully). :)

Join Matt Mazzeo and us at noon (PT) today and check out the full LIVE Chat lineup on Product Hunt.

More Writing by Ryan