I'm a serial entrepreneur and the #1 ranked hunter (and moderator) on Product Hunt. I'm currently writing a book called The Product Hunt Effect: How community driven startups are changing the way products are built, launched, and distributed. You can see that here on Product Hunt:The Product Hunt Effect

It's on Kickstarter now:My Book Support the project if you can!

I've been building tech products for nearly 16 years and his projects have been featured in Mashable, The Next Web, TechCrunch, Pando Daily, and several other publications. I've traveled to 30+ countries to inspect startup scenes and also work with founders (as an advisor) on building new web/mobile applications.

I've interviewed 100s of makers, I run Maker Hunt, and also keep track of Product Hunt success stories at Maker Sucess

We can discuss anything you would like to know about Product Hunt, building products (and teams), market trends, and anything else related to startups/products. Or we can talk about travel too since I've lived in several different countries.

I've read 100s of business books, launched several startups, worked with a plethora of different startups teams, helped VCs procure greats startups to add to their portfolios, and launched maybe 100 side projects dating back to the late 90s.

So ask me anything!

My Proof:

I'll be in and out of here all day. If I don't respond immediately, it's likely because I'm interviewing a maker on Skype :)

Comments: 74 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

oelmekki2 karma

Is there any unexpected knowledge you acquired building slack communities?

erictwillis2 karma

Hello,

Well, I think that no matter how often you communicate with someone in Slack, it does not replace other forms of more "intimate" communication. We've been testing an app called Blab. It's essentially a well-made type of google hangouts. Think of a Meerkat-type app (but where 4 people that talk simultaneously) but it leverages Slack. I love it and it's been great to talk (and see people) that I've been chatting with in Slack for months. I feel like I know them much better. I don't know if that's "unexpected" knowledge as that should be a bit obvious but the difference it has had in building community has been striking.

oelmekki1 karma

Thanks!

erictwillis2 karma

No problem. I'll be here all day if you have more questions

maximepico2 karma

Hey Eric,

I have another question: after interviewing more than a 100 successful makers, did you recognise any consitent pattern in their personality? Or in the way they approach their projects?

Thanks again!

erictwillis2 karma

I think the consistent pattern is that successful people become very comfortable with failure in that they've recognized from experience that everything is not going to work. However, one failure might just get them closer to their ultimate success. It's an ideological mindset. When someone asked Thomas Edison about "failing" so many times before inventing the light bulb, he replied "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.". It's a subtle but powerful difference in perspective.

embee692 karma

Hello Eric

The book sounds really interesting, and I'm sure many founders or would-be start-up people will read it.

How reserved are you finding the targets for interviews? Are they willing to openly discuss strategies for getting great promotion or do you find that many are reserved, and want to hide their 'secrets'?

Also, do you think the popularity of PH means that people are starting to put a lot more thought into being 'found'; are they creating a strategy around it?

Thanks!

Miles

erictwillis2 karma

Hey Miles,

I have a decent network to reach out to so that part has been easy. However, when I've reached out to people that I don't have a direct connection to, they've been fairly open for the most part. I've found that people are willing to openly discuss their successes. I've never felt a lot of reservation about sharing "ideas". I think most people want to share their successful ideas/concepts because it's a way to build their own brand. So there is a direct payback from sharing success stories.

I think a lot makers use Product Hunt as a way to get instant validation/feedback. Instead of spending months building out a solution that maybe no one wants, they can get it front of a very engaged community that loves testing early-stage products. That's powerful in that is has a real cost/time savings benefit.

bentossell1 karma

Hi Eric, Can't wait for the book - already backed it on Kickstarter!! I can see that tech in the kids scene seems to be on the rise but sites like Product Hunt aren't totally optimised for this audience - top kid-focused products only get a couple hundred upvotes. What do you think can be done to improve the tech scene for kids, with sites like product hunt as a model/discovery platform?

erictwillis1 karma

Do you mean products build for kids (as in toddlers, etc) or products like Younow where they've built a massive audience around younger teens and below? I like to engage with this audience as often they quickly pick up on new stuff. I first heard about snapchat from a 12 year old that was obsessed with it and I think that was before I had heard about it on the major blogs.

I think it would be interested to see a vertical approach to that market that was curated by this younger crowd.

bentossell1 karma

Yeah I think its best thinking about the 13-18 year group. I was thinking of something similar to PH but run by the younger audience and it would be so different to PH I imagine too.

erictwillis1 karma

I think that would be awesome.

erictwillis1 karma

I would love to see something like that.

Ryeskernatorr1 karma

Hi Eric!

What do you think the best way for a recent college graduate is to get involved with an established startup?

erictwillis2 karma

Hello,

If it's a community-based product, get heavily involved in the community. I think it's much easier for smaller startups who are always looking for people to help out and you can get visibility because the organization would still be rather small. For an "established" startup... that can mean a lot of different things. I'll take it as you mean a fast growing startup that has raised a lot of money like Uber. Do exceptional work and get this work in front of someone who can either refer you to someone at that startup for find a direct line to someone who can make a decision or get you to a hiring manager and illustrate that you have what it takes to work for the company. Of you can get creative. I remember a designer who created a game to represent his resume (it was really cool btw). It was very beautifully done and bloggers picked up the story and wrote about it. Obviously, he received several job offers.

ahsolimanbe1 karma

Hello Eric. What's your advice for someone who's starting out and building his personal brand but is having difficulties being found on the internet?

erictwillis1 karma

Find something that you can focus is on and become very good at it. Even it's a niche within a niche. Just become very good or knowledgeable about something so that you can begin sharing that knowledge with others. And share. share. share.

skoocda1 karma

Hey Eric, I'm a backer and totally stoked on the book. What aspect of the Product Hunt community do you think stands out against all other communities? And how do you think reddit compares as a content aggregator?

erictwillis3 karma

It's the positive nature of the community. Hacker News can be very toxic, for instance. There are extremely smart people there, but sometimes the attitudes don't make for a very positive, open community. The thing that separates PH the community is that everyone on PH is usually very good-spirited. I think it starts with Ryan Hoover. People will give constructive feedback, but it's done in a respectful manner. I've generally had good experiences on reddit but there are some toxic channels here as well. So you need to be very careful about how you interact in various subreddits.

erictwillis2 karma

And thanks for supporting the Kickstarter campaign.

skoocda1 karma

Hey no problem, it's a small contribution compared to your efforts!

I definitely agree on HN and reddit, in my experience PH just doesn't have the same level of engagement that you see in those two communities. What do you think encourages engagement? Is PH working on anything to increase that?

erictwillis1 karma

PH only allows a very small percentage of people to comment so that's why you don't see as much engagement in the comment section.

dexigo1 karma

  1. what would you tell you 21 year old self?
  2. thoughts on the australian startup scene?
  3. what do you wish someone would ask you in this ama?

erictwillis2 karma

Hello

  1. To think more about solving real problems and not about launching "ideas". I spent a lot of time building solutions and then trying to find a problem for them.

  2. I'm really impressed by the larger startups that are producing real revenue...like Atlassian. I think people focus too much on consumer-facing products that have very little revenue and ignore the success stories where startups have built massive business. It's great that Australia has produced some real big "winners". I also don't think the distance from the rest of the world is the biggest problem Australia faces... the startup scene is likely crippled by the horrible tax policy in 2009 that makes it difficult to acquire top talent (w/ shares).

  3. How could they help me with my kickstarter campaign :)

maximepico1 karma

And how could we help you? :D

erictwillis2 karma

Haha. Pledge and share in your social networks!

Shryem1 karma

Hi, I am doing a career exploration project at school and am exploring the career of writing.

I would like to know: - In your opinion, what are positive aspects of this career? - In your opinion, what are negative aspects of this career? - What personal traits/characteristics are ideal for this career?

Thanks in advance :)

erictwillis1 karma

Hi,

I might not be best person to ask this question as I'm primarily and entrepreneur. However, I can share some of the insight I've received from people that I know who are primarily writers (bloggers, book authors, etc).

The positive aspect is that you can build a strong name for yourself and a following from writing. If you look at some twitter, for instance, you'll notice some of the most heavily followed people in tech are journalists. They've been able to build their personal brands by blogging for tech blogs like Techcrunch and it's done a lot to build their "authority" on startups. Some have used this following to then launch their own media companies or startup. Often, the most difficult thing is not building a products, it's having people there to engage with the first iteration so that you can build something great. They've already built the audience.

I think you need to be inquisitive, patient, and thorough. I think the best writers have a true thirst for knowledge and the subjects they are researching. I think they have the patience to do deep and really do their homework. Being thorough means you're going to cover all the major points and really provide enough substance for your reader to have a real understanding of the topic.

I think this is a great blog post from someone who exibits those traits: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/

If you want to talk directly to great authors. You should signup for [The Product Hunt Book Club) (www.TheProductHuntBookClub.com) and attend our AMAs.

Negative. I think if you don't truly like writing it's going to be torture. Writing is hard.

maximepico1 karma

Hi Eric!

I'd like to organise my own AMAs in France with the french startup community. Do you have any piece of advice on how to start and scale? Or how to approach founders to get them to do AMAs?

Maxime

erictwillis1 karma

Hello Maxime,

I think it's important to be very aggressive at the start. So get a group of potential startup founders together and try to get as many in as possible early so that you get some type of critical mass. You just need a minimum amount so that there is constant engagement and people see the value in participating in the nework. Then, you can scale (even slowly) as you'll always need to replace above the rate of churn so that you get fresh opinions/personalities into the network.

In terms of getting founders to do AMAs: Try to get the most recognizable one that you know would commit to go first and publicly display that somewhere for others to see. Then reach out to others and reference that person. You'll need someone to "validate" your network and then others will likely join in as well. Just contact them on twitter or by email.

maximepico1 karma

Awesome, thank you! I hope I can reach that critical mass with the french ecosystem

erictwillis1 karma

Just find the a small niche first and only thinking about expanding out from that once you've really gotten some significant traction within that niche.

Marwannas1 karma

Hi Eric,

  • Which example do you think is the most successful in terms of startup culture (besides Product Hunt) ?
  • Are you planning on creating your own community-based startup ?

erictwillis1 karma

Hello,

Startup culture overall? I think there are a lot of great companies with a strong startup "culture" (like FB, Slack, 37 Signals). I'm not sure if that's what you meant though so maybe you can rephrase that question.

I don't have any immediate plans to launched a community-based startup, but I would certainly leverage communities like Product Hunt heavily when launching a startup.

HAL300001 karma

Hey Eric, I'm a big fan of what you're doing and absolutely snagged your book on Kickstarter.

Given that you have experience working with communities and building audiences: What do you see is the biggest difference between being a community builder vs a standard business-oriented team member for a startup? What skills or routines are unique to working with communities?

erictwillis3 karma

Thanks for supporting the Kickstarter campaign!

There is a lot of overlap, but I think there are some traits that are especially important for building communities. I won't touch on them all, but I will give some examples.

Community managers are constantly in touch with people in an individual-level or group setting... constantly communicating ideas or replying to people in the community. It's something that's required to do for hours daily. So it's important to have very strong communicate skills. You need to be able to communicate complex ideas in simple way but also in a way that is "clear" to a wide range of people that may participate in your community. That can sometimes be very tricky. You also think it's important to show consistent empathy. Being consistent, fair, and kind are major qualities that one needs to do well at building community. You'll be dealing with the extreme nature of personality-types and it's important to bury your ego and just always try to give people what that ultimately need from you.

hitaskcom1 karma

How can we get our product listed on product hunt, are there any rules for a submission? We submitted our product couple of times, but there was no response, or even acknowledgement. Our product, Online Team Task management tool http://hitask.com is used by thousands and surely would be relevant and interesting to be listed on product hunt. But there seem to be some unpublished set of rules or some trick to get your submission listed.

erictwillis1 karma

Hello,

Here is the FAQ page that might be helfpul: http://www.producthunt.com/faq

Product Hunt gets 100s of daily submissions so only a small percentage makes it to the featured viewed. Now there is an upcoming view where you can see a feed of the submissions.

One of the best ways is just contacting a power user who hunts a lot of products (that go straight to the home page) and kindly ask them to take a look at your product.

greigcranfield1 karma

Hi Eric, thanks for doing this. Do you think Product hunt is suffering from it's own success? What started off as a smaller community for finding cool products has now become a huge platform with people trying to hunt 100's of products a day. How do you guys combat it all becoming too diluted and what's the long term plan for product hunt?

erictwillis1 karma

Hello Greig,

Well, I do think it's an interesting challenge to find out the best way to surface 100s of products. Ryan said that people questioned (before launching) if there would be enough products to support a site like this. We know that's not an issue and I think they've made some great strides with features like collections and with the upcoming feed. So coming up with solutions to that problem is something they're actively dealing with and I think they'll solve it.

I think you'll see the team go into more verticals and offer ways to categorize products. I can't offer the long-term plan as I'm not on the official team, but I imagine they'll want to help you discover ANY type of new, interesting product.

raydawg881 karma

Q. What ways do you find are the best to validate a product idea? Seems like you've seen so many products, there has to be a way to make sure you're on the right track before you get to deep into it.

erictwillis2 karma

Hello Ray,

Ultimately you need to talk to as many people as possible to see if you're solving a problem that many people have or if you're building something that will bring some type of delight to someone's life. Sometimes you can do that by talking to enough people (without even building anything). Sometimes, you need toput something (MVP) in front of some potential users to not only get feedback to pay attention to how they actively use the proposed product. Most people don't add new behaviors. You're going to competing with other solutions and services so ultimately you want to see if you've built something good enough that is replacing other solutions they may have already been using that didn't fully solve the issue or didn't solve it in an easy to use manner. The key is just getting feedback (as much as possible) and iterating. Then just repeating that process into you've created something of real value. You'll know it from how people use your product, how often they use it, and what they say about using your product.

greigcranfield1 karma

Q: what processes and approach do you take to designing/making products? Lean was obviously a game changer but the likes of Google Ventures' design sprints for validating a product or feature are now widely being used too, has their been a pattern of successful products on PH attributing their success to any of them?

erictwillis1 karma

Greig,

You see a bit of everything. You see some makers who've spent months thinking about the problem, creating a solution, iterating carefully with a small set of users....and getting it just right and launching. Some of those launches have been very successful. There is one guy who went from an idea to being up on Product Hunt in 8 hours and had revenue right away. It just shows that there are no "rules" to this.

greigcranfield1 karma

Great answer :) Is this your approach or do you have a process?

erictwillis2 karma

I think it really depends on the product you're building and what your goals are. Sometimes it's best to just get it out there and get feedback with a very raw early version. However, if you were building a product in the security space, you would take your time and building something solid before releasing it as a major issue with a security-based product could kill your brand before you even get started. So I'm a bit more fluid. It just depends on the product.

greigcranfield1 karma

Last question dude: Of all the makers you've met and visionary startup founders out there, who's the most inspiring to you? Who have you interviewed and come away from the meeting buzzing and inspired to start something? And who's brain do you want to pick that you've not had a chance to yet?

erictwillis1 karma

It seems like Intercom.io has a monopoly on awesome, passionate, and knowledgeable people. We did an AMA with their VP of Marketing and he just completely knocked it out of the Park. It was so good: https://medium.com/@MakerHunt/maker-hunt-s-ama-with-matt-hodges-from-intercom-2b99addfc64

I would love to sit down for a few hours with Warren Buff. I've been a fan since I was a small child.

greigcranfield1 karma

Mate intercom are so good. I've chatted with Des a bit and saw his talk at Collision. They have a good bunch ay. I'll read through that ama.

erictwillis1 karma

You've talked with Des? Sweet..really man..everyone there is just so awesome. I know that word gets used a lot, but seriously they are really really good

tp19941 karma

Which is your most favourite Country/City/Bar/Restaurant?

The first that pops into your mind and why?

erictwillis2 karma

Favorite City: Amsterdam. Just love that it's not too big that you get lost..not too small that you get bored. It has a vibrant nightlife, beautiful city, and people are relatively friends

Favorite Country: Brazil. I feel in love with Brazil 15 years. I would need to do a separate post just for that. The people are amazing.

Restaurant: La Cabrera in Buenos Aries... the beef is just so so good!

Bar: The Ice Bar in Prague.. just had never been in a bar like that (everything made of ice)..was really cool

MCKALISTAIR1 karma

Whats the stupidest product you've ever had to test?

erictwillis1 karma

A mobile app that made a bumping sound with you shook the phone...it was really bad.

icenfiredragon1 karma

what was your favorite product to test?

erictwillis2 karma

Hello,

My favorite product on Product Hunt was Be My Eyes. You can see it here on PH Be My Eyes. It solved a real problem (helping blind people navigate their way around) and it was done in an elegant manner. It just seemed like a solution that should have long existed. The product was so well designed. At Maker Hunt, we actually did an AMA with one of the designers for the app. You can read that here if you want https://medium.com/@MakerHunt/today-we-have-michael-flurap-who-is-an-awesome-designer-and-helped-design-be-my-eyes-e2596addb8f2

Hungryone1 karma

signed up for it but haven't been needed yet :(

erictwillis1 karma

For Product Hunt?

fittrkiki1 karma

What startup idea do you see fail over and over?

erictwillis1 karma

That's an interesting one. Maybe a couple of years ago I would have said using the web to do delivery-only startups. We have seen massive flameouts like Kozmo from the late 90s and many have tried since and failed. Now, you're seeing companies like Shyp and Instacart that seem to have a model that works. We don't know how profitable they'll be but smartphone tech certainly makes it much easier to execute on delivery with leveraging location-based services to streamline operations and squeeze every dollar out of transport.

oelmekki1 karma

Having seen so many startups during your career and your product hunt activity, what do you think will be the next big trend in products?

erictwillis2 karma

I think live streaming video is the next big trend. Obviously, live streaming video apps have been around for a long time. However, we've reached the point where billions of people have smartphones and bandwidth is available to stream at scale are relatively good quality. So I think we've hit the point where we'll see more niche, but still massive hits like Twitch and we'll see large consumer-based plays like Meerkat and Periscope get to 100M+ users. However, I think the interesting thing will be in the applications built off the APIs. You'll see startups handling customer service with live-streaming, you'll see startups using live streaming apps to get immediately feedback from users, I think you'll see dedicated studios for creating high-quality live streaming content. I think the applications are endless.

oelmekki1 karma

Oh wow, didn't thought of the api thing, even after seeing meerkat release its one :)

Indeed, with the raise of support widgets all over the place, adding video stream to that would be a killer feature.

So I guess the next next next big thing could have to do with proper recognition in video material :)

Thanks!

erictwillis1 karma

No problem. Thanks for the question.

Dexosaurus0 karma

  1. How many hours a night do you sleep? I feel sometimes like sleep is time I could be spending hustling.
  2. What is your main source of income? You seem to have a lot on the go - how do you fund it all?
  3. How did you first get involved with Product Hunt?

erictwillis1 karma

  1. I get about 6 hours per sleep. Sometimes a bit more.

  2. Most of the things I'm doing now have a "time" cost and aren't really expensive to "build". So, at this point, the real issue isn't about funding it. It's about the best way to use my available time. At some point, I'll build another startup again that will likely require a bit more resources. I just need to find the right problems (that I'm uniquely qualified to solve)

  3. I discovered Product Hunt in my feedreader and checked it out. I thought it was cool, but I had seen other sites for discovering new products and I didn't think that much of it at first. I came back later and noticed how much the community had grown. I think that was the key....seeing all the great people in the community. I starting submitting products and becoming more and more "hooked" over time.