Bryan Helmig

Co-founder of Zapier, speaker, musician and builder of things.

I see soft-launches all the time on Hacker News and Reddit’s programming/startup communities and the feedback seems to follow a pattern. Some feedback is just plain negative (Why would anyone use this?), some feedback is strictly positive (This looks awesome!) and then, of course, some feedback meant to be encouraging masks defiance or dissappointment: This looks great, but I use X — this last feedback is the most telling.


All newly launched products have deficiencies. Sometimes feedback pointing out deficiencies contains valuable infomation and can be helpful, but most of the time it just points out the obvious.

Yes, there are competitors.

Yes, it is missing that feature.

Yes, that was a bug.

Assuming you are aware of the deficiencies and plan to address them (or not), disregard such pithy feedback and carry on.


It is rare that purely positive feedback contains valuable information. Usually it is just lip service. While it can be a sign that you are going in the right direction, it’s best to just regard this type of feedback as an ego boost. The real signs of success will come soon enough: customers willing to pay you.

This looks great, but I use X.

This type of feedback is the real gold because you’ve just:

  1. Identified a potential (and possibly impressionable) user.
  2. Discovered which product is blocking your adoption.
  3. Started a conversation about your product with that user.

Now you can leap into action and exhaustively extract even more value out of the conversation about your product. Would you switch? Why not? How did you settle on the other product? Is the other product missing a feature you’d like? (Because you can probably add it, right?)

The idea is to exhaust their knowledge and make it your own. Then, repeat with another user and create a model of what kind of product you need to build. Go build it and come back to the same users and guage reactions. Use a CRM to track them.

After you griled the users on the forums you regularly haunt you maybe got a handful of comments like those described above. That’s a good start. Now you need to find out where your users hang out regularly in higher densities. That might be a vaguely related forum about pet care or knitting, only experimentation will tell.

Posted March 23, 2013 @ 4:45 pm under Startups.