Yesterday marked a very important milestone in auToDo’s journey. The app was made available to the public for the first time! It was released only for Android and as a beta release, so it isn’t quite a fully public app yet. This is still a big step up from the 3 users the app had before yesterday (including me) though!
This is the first side-project that I have launched as a public product. Launching a product and trying to recruit beta testers is very new to me. Overall I was happy with how the launch turned out, but I definitely learned a lot through the process that will help with future launches of auToDo features.
Prep for Launch
I put together a set of material that, to me, seemed like a good bit of content for promoting auToDo. I had not done nearly enough research on other products on Product Hunt in particular though, as my post was lacking the fun gifs and other animations that the other products had. I put together a YouTube video promoting auToDo, but that was not able to make it into the post. Lesson learned there – if you don’t get the YouTube link correct or forget it when posting, you won’t be able to go back and edit it later. Overall I would say that I spent way more time on the YouTube promo video than it was worth.
The positive feedback that I received the most on the app’s launch was that the screenshots were clean looking and indicated a good UI. A lot of the additional material surrounding a launch like the branding and background story are nice to have, but it seemed like people ultimately cared most about the content of the app. That was a great sign for me; I much prefer making a great product than trying to market it with smoke and mirrors.
Launching on Product Hunt generated a lot of traffic to my app compared to other sources. I promoted the post in group chats with my friends and colleagues and in Slack channels for other startup founders, but the majority of my app’s downloads were from individuals that I did not know. I’m tentatively thinking that this will be a good thing for the development of my app because it will be good to get feedback from people who do not know me personally and want to try to avoid hurting my feelings with negative feedback.
While the majority of people that I knew did not personally sign up as beta testers, they did help tremendously in giving my post visibility on Product Hunt. I was able to hold the last spot on the front page of Product Hunt for the duration of my launch day, and I couldn’t have done it without the upvotes before the official launch and during launch day from my friends.
Getting user feedback
For better or worse, I made sure that there were a lot of different channels for giving feedback on auToDo’s beta. I’ve gotten a lot of very helpful feedback so far, but keeping track of the Play Store feedback and emails and Slack messages and in-person reviews and… has been a bit tough. Some channels have given me more in-depth feedback than others but I am thankful for the variety of responses.
Moving forward, I believe that it will be necessary to proactively reach out to auToDo’s users for feedback on updates. It is very convenient that Play Store updates are seamless but this means that there will not be the noticeable event like a launch that prompts feedback.
In the rush to get auToDo launched I have not written a post about weeks 2 and 3 of the Startup School program. I think this is fitting with the intent of the program though, getting a product in front of users is the most important priority.
I got some very good support and feedback from the other companies in week 3’s group session. The other founders were also software developers so we were able to bond over that foundation. The other founders were congratulatory of my launch, which I appreciated, and gave me feedback that I needed to take that momentum and run with it to maintain relationships between the users and auToDo rather than trying to get traction exclusively through one-time promos like a launch. That was a perspective that I had not focused on enough, especially with launch so near, so it was a much needed piece of advice.
This week I started in on Y Combinator’s Startup School program with the intention of launching auToDo soon. I have the knowledge and experience to write the app for auToDo, but that is definitely not the case for the other aspects of turning it into a successful business. Startup School’s goal is to make it easier for people like myself to navigate the confusing time of starting and running a startup, and I fully intend to make the most of it.
Startup School is designed to encourage founders to set one or two metrics and do everything they can to improve them. Since auToDo is not yet launched, my one and only metric to track is the time left to launch. As a result, everything I have worked on this week for auToDo has been intended to speed up the timeline to making the app public. auToDo should be going public on the Google Play Store some time in the next couple days; I’ll add the release notes here per usual when the public version is out!
A highlight of the week was the Startup School Group Session, where I got a chance to speak with other founders in the program. I got helpful feedback on my website and got to extend feedback to the other companies as well. The other founders were non-technical founders, meaning that they did not create their products directly but acted in a more traditional CEO role. Their knowledge and experience was a good complement to my strictly technical experience. One major takeaway from the conversation is that I ought to move up my timeline on establishing auToDo as a corporation. Earning significant revenue and adding additional co-founders is nearly impossible otherwise, and those are two things I’d like to see happen in the future.