Product Hunt, the leaderboard for community-submitted tech products, has been getting all sorts of attention in the last few months. What started as an email-based experiment has become a thriving community of tech-lovers huddling around products.
So it’s no surprise that 500 Startups, a startup accelerator, used it to try to find a company to admit into its next batch of startups. Yesterday, 500 Startups partner Sean Percival interviewed a group of pre-vetted startups identified through Product Hunt.
The two previously collaborated for 500 Startups’ last demo day. Product Hunt hosted a special page listing all of the presenting companies, offering a chance for the community to interact with them in real-time.
As for today’s experiment, Product Hunt opened up applications for startups earlier this week, and after reviewing 160 of them, chose 16 to participate in yesterday’s interviews for a chance to be accepted into 500 Startup’s program. Percival is also including some companies that applied the traditional way that he’s been on the fence about, to see if their performance helps him make a decision.
Percival told me earlier this week that he’d be asking them the same questions he asks during the normal interviews, they’ll just be done publicly today for a chance to reveal what a 500 Startups interview is really like.
Because accelerators like Y Combinator and 500 Startups are so selective and admission is so coveted, entrepreneurs have often written about their experience going through the interview, or about “how to ace it” in the hopes of helping others win a rare spot. Product Hunt’s own founder, Ryan Hoover, has also shared his experience applying for Y Combinator.
Beyond the obvious publicity of it all, this is also a scouting play for 500 Startups. Since joining the accelerator, Percival has been traveling, going to all kinds of events, and really looking for impressive startups to invite to apply to the program. Y Combinator also does that, with its partners often encouraging young startups they meet to apply. Product Hunt ended up there in this very way, after partner Garry Tan encouraged Hoover to take the chance.
Is Product Hunt really the new “tech press?”
“Both Product Hunt and traditional tech press cover product launches. There’s obvious overlap in that area, but the two are largely complimentary the same way Twitter helps amplify the news and facilitate conversation. Founders are increasingly adding Product Hunt to their launch strategy in addition to traditional PR, social media outreach, blogging, etc.” wrote Hoover in an email to VentureBeat.
And why wouldn’t they? Product Hunt has a large audience of techies, entrepreneurs, investors, reporters, all browsing in the hopes of finding the next hot product.
Product Hunt has already yielded one known investment (SV Angel’s Abram Dawson found TapTalk on there), and every now and then, and some products have even been introduced to the world through the site instead of through the traditional tech press route.
“The audience is a lot more captive and captivated by what’s on there,” said Percival when I asked about Product Hunt and how it compares to traditional tech press.
“It’s smaller but it’s so much more qualified,” he said. He added that the focus and filtering of noise also make Product Hunt an excellent source of information.
While I’m not convinced Product Hunt will entirely replace the tech press as some have suggested in the past, it could potentially shape the way companies run their product launch PR. And I might support that, actually.
It’s no secret that companies, especially startups, look to the tech press as a potential golden ticket to riches and fame. Well, users and funding, to be accurate.
If you get written up in one of the tech blogs, tons of people will sign up for, buy, order, your product. If you get two blogs to do it, you will get even more of that. Investors might read about you too and then promptly write you an email offering to fund you immediately. Alternatively, you can grab all of your press clips, and tote them to their office (or email inbox) and they’ll be so impressed by all the “organic” buzz about you that they’ll just have to give you money.
Or at least, this is the thinking I can promise you far too many startups have, and if Product Hunt can help alleviate this commodification of the tech press, maybe it’s a good thing.
Product Hunt offers a captive and well-vetted audience. It offers investor, potential user, and influencer eyeballs. It offers a way for the community to discuss each product and interact with their makers. Isn’t that what product launch paradise looks like?