How We Developed A Release Notes Tool And Reached #1 Spot On Product Hunt

$100
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
product
Olvy
from Bangalore, Karnataka, India
started January 2020
$100
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
313K
alexa rank
225
followers
4
subs
market size
$4.03B
avg revenue (monthly)
$100
gross margin
90%
time to build
7 months
growth channels
Direct sales
best tools
Linear, Figma, MixPanel
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
1 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

We’re two people Nishant and Arnob who are friends from our school days (sat together on the same bench), and then ended up joining the same college (same bench again), where one became a designer, and the other, a developer.

We’ve just launched Olvy.

how-we-developed-a-release-notes-tool-and-reached-1-spot-on-product-hunt

Olvy allows you to build a beautiful release notes page and comes with easy-to-integrate widgets so you could add a “What’s New” to your product in just a few minutes. Our twist on the idea came by making feedback an important part of the process. We help you receive feedback on your release notes in the form of reactions and comments. We then help you convert that feedback into insights so that you can see which of your releases are loved by your customers, and which ones they would like to see improvements made on.

Here’s an intro video if that’s more your medium:

After the launch, we’ve made about $2,000 from our customers, and are currently looking at improving the product based on the feedback that we’ve received, and to add new features that our customers want.

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And above all of it, we’ve received a lot of love for what we’ve built.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

We’ve both worked at enterprise SaaS startups where we helped them build their products from scratch. While shipping products in our day jobs we realized that shipping a product to production is never just your one product. You have to have a support hub, a developer hub, a status page, a changelog, a knowledge base, and a blog. A great customer experience is built when this whole suite of tools comes together.

We initially started with solving all these problems with one product, and soon realized we had to solve them one by one. Release Notes were the first problem that we tackled and turns out, it’s a way bigger problem than what we initially thought of it. There’s no great default choice for it too. So our focus became release notes, and we’ve already told you about Olvy.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

In summary,

  1. Look at competitors in the space
  2. A vision doc and mockups in Figma
  3. Code a v1
  4. Demos. Got early users. “The Builders Program” for feedback
  5. Go through all feedback and implement what was needed
  6. Iterate with more demos, and you’re ready!

A slightly longer version with details,

We started with competitor analysis to understand how other companies were solving the problem, and then came up with “The Olvy Way” of doing it.

We built some core principles we wanted to build our product around:

  1. It has to look beautiful. Gone are the days you could ship a poorly designed product. The bar is very high these days. No great product will integrate a tool that looks like a low-effort game.
  2. It has to be fun to use. The product has to make the lives of its users easy. It should be one of the best parts of their days and not something they complain to their friends about over a round of beers.
  3. Products of today don’t work in isolation. They have to integrate with all the other tools a team uses to add value to the team.
  4. User interactions are subjective in nature, page-views and clicks don’t give you the full picture. The product has to take it into account.

With these principles in mind, we went to our design boards and code editors and hacked together the first version by working on it late nights and weekends, alongside our full-time jobs.

While building we knew that reaching our final vision would mean we would have to make a lot of changes to the product, and probably even pivot to something different. So we took some time to build an engineering and design foundation. The key here was leaving enough scope for future improvements with building for the present and near future. This is what took us a lot of time, and we’ll know in a few months if we were right or wrong here.

Once the first version was in a usable state, we went out approaching people running SaaS companies and got them on a Zoom/Meet call to onboard them onto Olvy.

Instead of doing a classic demo where we shared our screens and demoed the product, we asked them to share their screens and watched them set up the product. This hands-on walkthrough got them started on the product, and gave us a gold mine of things we had to improve on. Nothing beats seeing your users actually use your product!

These wonderful people who we onboarded and who tried Olvy in the early days gave us feedback on the product, helped us iron out the issues, and make something ready for the wider public to use. Everybody who helped us got lifetime access to the product for free on our launch.

We called this the “The Olvy Builders Program”, and is one of the reasons our first version was so loved.

how-we-developed-a-release-notes-tool-and-reached-1-spot-on-product-hunt

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Since we both have been makers, we had built an audience around us individually doing side projects / open source projects. We kept our own networks alive by engaging with them on our existing side projects and open source work. We were also a part of SaaS and maker communities where we could go for feedback and early adopters for Olvy. This was also where the Olvy Builders Program mentioned above got its first members. Those early users then started writing about their onboarding experience with us, here is one of the articles written by one of our users.

Products of today have to have a community at their core. Talk to your users, become their friends, email them back as soon as you can. Build a community around your product and make them a priority.

When we were partially ready and felt like we could get more people excited about our work we started posting regularly about our progress, our interaction with initial users, and each and everything about what we were building, reasons for building certain things with breakdowns in the form of Twitter threads. To get more beta users to get started with us we created a landing page for our waitlist, asking users to give us their emails and we would let them know before the world when Olvy was ready.

Now, this landing page was not a normal page with just an email box. We experimented with a technology called Lottie, which helps you to create an Adobe After Effects animation that turns into a web SVG animation. Our landing page told our story with multiple sentences joined together through threads and became very fun to play with due to the animation. We launched it on Twitter again, and a lot of people loved the design implementation, which also got us a lot of eyeballs. Here is the tweet.

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Looking at our implementation, the LottieFiles team actually featured us in one of their articles which in return got us a lot more traffic and emails. Also here is a detailed Twitter thread on the impact of our experimental landing page.

Then it was time to build again so we went back, and started working on stabilizing the product and continued to share and create a buzz on Twitter using the momentum of the soft launch that we did. This was when we started having calls with users acquired through the waiting list landing page. By January, we felt like we were ready and we should launch Olvy.

We always knew the power of a product demo video from our previous product launches and we knew that it had to be the best to show the quality and standard of work that we wanted to showcase to the world. We worked on our new landing page and a video for the launch. When we decided on the date of the launch, we started creating the buzz again for that week, and then we did a public launch and opened signups on 25th Feb with the video that we created which again helped us create the buzz of the final ProductHunt launch.

And then finally we did a Product Hunt launch on 26th Feb and secured #1 Product of the Day, which gave us the biggest kick-start of all the mediums and signaled the world that we’re open for business.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We started the launch with a good deal for our early users, so when some came to the site from ProductHunt they were much more likely to get a subscription. Post that, we had been in touch with some communities of SaaS founders, and makers, where we got our second set of customers.

We had also started collecting emails for our waitlist in August 2020 when we were still building the product so that email list came in with a lot of value.

However, not everybody ended up buying a pro subscription, a lot of people stayed on the free plan. So right now we are looking at our funnel of how many users of those that signed up actually ended up publishing their first release and got some feedback on it.

Our goal, for now, is to get our free users to complete the loop so they could see the value of the product. So we’re reaching out to those users via Email with tips and help content, and sharing success stories of our users from the Builders Program. This is still early, we will share more details on this once we have more data here.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We have the idea validated, we’ve built something that people really like and enjoy using. Our next phase is to double our focus on what’s working. Make sure users get the most value out of using Olvy.

Along with this, as per our original vision, the whole problem set of shipping software is huge. So we’re running a second cohort of the builders’ program, this time with our current paying subscribers, and with those set of users, we will be building the next iteration of Olvy which will take into account all the real-world feedback we’ve received since the launch.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One thing we’ve realized is the importance of getting early adopters. If your first user signs up with everybody else after launch, you’ve probably opened access late. Get those first set of users early, get them to try the product out while you’re still building, they can stop you from heading in the wrong direction before it even crosses your mind.

Another thing we deeply believe and have seen in the products that do well is to make sure your design is good. It doesn’t have to the perfect version of what’s on your mind, but it also shouldn’t be a crappy version of the solution. The competition in your industry defines how good your product has to be when you launch, you only get users if you launch something better than the alternatives in your industry. This is what gets users to try your product, then adding value to their lives is another ball-game altogether.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The application is hosted on AWS and Netlify. And we use Stripe for payment processing.

Other tools that we depend on are:

  • Zoom and Google Meet - for our demos and team video calls
  • GSuite - work emails
  • Notion - Documents / Internal knowledgebase
  • Ghost - Our documentation site and blog
  • Mailchimp - To maintain our email list
  • Letter - Creating an email template

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

In podcasts, we’re huge fans of the Indiehackers Podcast, How I built this, Acquired, and Full Stack Radio. Nothing beats listening to people who’ve done what you’re trying to do and are way further than you are in the journey, its value is part in teaching you about the things you should know, and a major part in inspiring you to reach that place they’re speaking from.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Greg Isenberg, who is currently running Late Checkout and has previously founded social media companies said that how every company today has an About tab, in the near future everybody will have a “Community” tab.

Products of today have to have a community at their core. Talk to your users, become their friends, email them back as soon as you can. Build a community around your product and make them a priority.

We did this early by setting up a discord server of our users, and it’s become our one place to get feedback, suggestions, bug reports, random chats, etc. It also helps to look at your users as humans instead of their company names or their work emails.

So, build a community.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re currently a team of 4, with each person owning multiple things and getting shit done. We plan to stay this way at least till the end of this year or until we feel the pain and the need to hire.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Arnob Mukherjee,   Founder of Olvy
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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