January 30, 2018

How we made our first dollar at Product Hunt

Since Product Hunt’s beginning, people have asked, “How will you make money?”

Some startups choose to make money on day one while others choose to prioritize things differently. There’s no right way to startup but every team needs a focused goal, especially in the beginning. After all, everything on a startup’s to-do list ultimately takes the place of something else.

Our mission is to surface awesome products and help makers find an audience.

To do so, we’ve remained focused on growing the community, creating new ways for makers and consumers to share and discover awesome products. While some of our experiments failed completely, others had big impact in the community. At the end of 2017, we hit new milestones in user growth and the number of products discovered by the community. We also earned our first dollar[1]. Since then we’ve booked and collected over $250K in revenue. Half of our revenue came through in the past three weeks.

2018 is off to a good start as we aim to reach profitability, a milestone few startups achieve.

Our first dollar

On September 14 we introduced Ship, a toolkit to help makers build awesome products, inspired by the community’s feedback and learnings supporting thousands of products launch every year.

Ship operates on a SaaS model, offering free and paid versions of the product. While integrated into the core Product Hunt experience, Ship is essentially its own product with a small, dedicated team. Though early, we’re pumped by the response so far. Some stats:

  • 600,000+ email subscribers
  • 2,800+ upcoming product pages created
  • 100’s of paying startups

We have a big update coming in February. Our goal is to make Ship a core part of the product development process and the best tool to talk to users, build a community, and develop a real connection between the makers and users of a product.

Sneak peek at some new features we’re launching soon 🙈

Although Ship is growing nicely, we understand the importance of revenue diversification, so we expanded into a few other offerings.

Our community loves a good deal

Soon after Ship’s launch, we introduced our second revenue initiative: Product Hunt Deals.

Makers often introduce exclusive discounts for the Product Hunt community in the comments of their product launch. Welcomed by the community, these discounts often attract more interest and adoption of the product. We wanted to encourage this behavior and give the Product Hunt community access to discounted and exclusive deals, so we launched a paid offering to host and promote these deals directly on Product Hunt.

If you’re interested in offering a discount to the community, let us know.

Makers asked for it

For years, makers have asked how they can get more exposure for their products after they’ve already launched, inspiring our third revenue initiative: Promoted Products.

Promoted Products resurfaces popular products on the Product Hunt homepage and newsletter, annotated with a “PROMOTED” badge and is only available to makers already a part of the community. This feature is not available for brand new launches and is limited to popular products from the past, represented in the upvotes received from the community. All makers are welcome to post their new product launches as they normally would without charge. 🚀

We’ve been quietly beta testing[2] Promoted Products these past few weeks amidst overwhelming demand from makers. January and February are sold out but we’re taking reservations for March and continue to closely monitor feedback from the community, which remains supportive to date.

The year ahead

Of course, revenue isn’t our sole focus. We continue to work toward increasing product discoveries, driving maker engagement, and encouraging positive contributions from the community. All of these are important to achieving a growing, sustainable, and healthy platform. Here are a few non-revenue focused projects we’re working on:

  • Product Hunt Mobile App, simplified, super fast, and rebuilt from scratch.
  • Sip, a new experimental mobile app that delivers infrequent, delightful tech news updates.
  • Maker Goals, a new way to showcase what you’re working on, get support, and help other makers.
  • Team Profiles, surfacing the people behind your favorite products.
  • Golden Kitty Awards 2017, highlighting the best products from last year (winners just announced!)

(As you can see, we’re using Ship internally to announce and gather feedback from the community as we’re building these new projects.)

We’ve always had a culture of building in public at Product Hunt which is part of the motivation in writing about this topic and our profitability goals for 2018. We also want to bring more awareness to these paid initiatives. 😉

On a more personal note, Product Hunt is my baby; a community and platform that I hope will thrive for decades. It’s important that we’re thoughtful in what we charge for and ensure that Product Hunt continues to be valuable for makers of all kinds. If done right, generating revenue and achieving profitability will ensure that we can continue building forever and ultimately lead to a better product as we reinvest capital into the platform.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic, I’d love to hear them. 😊

[1] Technically we generated nominal revenue through job postings and t-shirt sales in 2014 to pay our Heroku bill for a short period of time.

[2] Shout out to our early beta partners: Pilot, 1–2–1 Meeting Assistant, Bynder, Vervoe, STAMP, Wix Code, Stockio, Gmass, Appcues, MealPrepPro, Landbot, Visor, Intelligent Syncing, Intercom, Zungle, Haven Life, Your Growth Hacks Aren’t Working, Draggable by Shopify, BrainFM, Zoho One, GitKraken, HubSpot for Startups, Poly Mailer by StickerMule, Product Discovery (Viral Launch), How To Acquire Users, InVision, Kabaq AR, Front Chat, Trips by Lonely Planet, Pure Chat, Voicera, Delta, Rally Rd, and Feather.

More Writing by Ryan