Growth October 28, 2020

Acquisition Channel of the Week: BetaList

Darko @zerotousers

I've analyzed all 486 Indie Hackers interviews and identified 34 acquisition channels that work consistently for founders (see Zero to Users for more details). Today, I'll be reviewing an acquisition channel that was mentioned across 15 interviews: BetaList.

Like the name says, BetaList is a directory focusing on businesses that are about to launch a private beta. This can be great if you only have a landing page and want to validate demand, like NoCode ($400/mo):

Initially, as I was creating NoCode I built a quick landing page with an email capture form and a mocked up screenshot of the homepage using Canva.

I then managed to get featured on BetaList where I got about 35 signups. I later used those interested early adopters to test my initial prototypes of the site and get feedback on some of my ideas. This approach proved incredibly valuable information and helped validate some of my early assumptions.

This was my butt ugly landing page in 2016:

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BetaList can be also useful if you have an initial MVP. This was the case for Standuply ($25k/mo), a Slack bot for team standup meetings:

It took us a couple months to build the first MVP which we launched on BetaList. In a few days, we got 300 teams signed up, having a landing page only.

BetaList (along with Product Hunt) are the "big two" product launch websites and founders often use them in tandem when launching. One of those people is Ross Rejek, the founder of AppToolkit.io ($1k/mo), a set of tools for mobile app creators. When asked which strategies he used to attract users and grow, here's what he said:

We also submitted to BetaList and a few other product sites, looking for early users of the SDK before releasing it to everyone else. But Product Hunt and BetaList are the two big ones in the early adopter field.

Setting up a simple "waiting list" page and getting to a 6-figure MRR? Sounds too good to be true? Not for Everhour (making $120,000/mo), which got started this way:

Taking the easy route, we created a very simple "coming soon" page. When the page was ready, we submitted it to Beta List and a couple more directories. This gave us roughly 1,500-2000 early adopters right after launch.

Do not underestimate the power of a simple "coming soon" page. Talk to you next week!

  1. 5

    Hey Darko thank you so much for this great write up. I personally know the power of BetaList having helped literally tens of thousands of startups get their first customers, but it’s always better when it comes from someone who didn’t build BetaList 😄

    I hope to see more indie products on BetaList so IH’rs please submit at BetaList.com/submit – if you’re strapped for cash just skip the payment options and get free publicity.

    1. 1

      Hi @marckohlbrugge! I was just wondering, what does it mean if the startup was not selected? It will not be included in the directory of BetaList?

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        That's correct. Anyone can submit their startup for consideration, but we handpick which startups to showcase to our audience. We look for a couple of things, but mostly we just try and select the startups that we think our audience would be most interested in.

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          I see... Sadly we got "Your startup was not selected to be featured" but we were able to meet all criteria 😢

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            That probably we didn't think it would be a good fit for our audience. We're generally not able to provide in depth explanations as we get too many submissions every day.

            However, if you can me your website URL here I'll have a look personally and let you know our team's reasoning. Perhaps that's useful feedback for you.

            1. 1

              Oh, I guess it was a submission for Natasha?

              I think the reason it got rejected is because of the nature of the product. We're not a fan of tools that automate social media in a way that is against their policies. For example fake likes, replies, etc.

              Automation has a place, but when it comes to tricking people into believing your bot is a real human that's something we choose not to promote.

              Your other products Boris and Cassie would be a better fit and I recommend submitting those for review instead.

              1. 1

                Thanks for taking a look into it @marckohlbrugge! I really appreciate it. 💯

                Btw, Natasha provides recommendations on what posts to engage with (based on your past social media behaviors) and the user confirms the recommendations + Natasha's composed messages through email collaboration. So it doesn't violate the rules from that perspective. 😅

                Thanks for recommending Boris and Cassie! Yes, I will submit those for review once we finalize their landing pages.

    2. 1

      Thanks :) It would be nice if there was an article covering the cases/niches for which BetaList could be useful. For example, many B2C startups doubt they'll get any (valuable) users if they post to BetaList, and it would be great if there was something that tells them the circumstances under which BetaList could/couldn't be useful for them.

      1. 2

        Ah yes, that's a really interesting idea. We have a lot of data we can look at to see which kind of startups perform the best.

        Those aimed at other startups obviously do well, but we've also got a lot of "regular people" in our audience too. For example we featured Pinterest way back in the day which did well. And more recently we featured https://www.ios14icons.com/ which got 25,000+ visits through BetaList.

        So basically anything that appeals to early adopters and/or online businesses tends to do really well. Products that don't perform as well are those for very specific niche (e.g. doctors in England).

        1. 1

          That's really interesting. I'm reading e-commerce founder interviews these days and many seem to have success with shows like Shark Tank, guess that's the e-commerce alternative to BetaList/PH :)

    3. 1

      Wow Marc - keeping a close eye on IndieHackers :P

  2. 2

    Thanks for sharing @zerotousers 🙏🏼 I'll try it out for tally.so

  3. 2

    BetaList charges $199 to get featured if you don't want to wait a month. Does anyone have any experience with this? I'm trying to figure out if it is worth it.

    1. 2

      Hey Joe. We’ve got a very flexible refund policy so if you decide it wasn’t worth the $199 we will give you your money back.

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        We got "Your startup was not selected to be featured" despite reviewing & believing we met all the criteria.

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          Sorry to hear that. The selection criteria are somewhat subjective. We get dozens of submissions a day so our team has to pick the ones we feel resonate the best with our audience.

      2. 1

        That's good to know, thanks Marc. Do you have any estimates on expected page views or click throughs? Even what past submissions saw would be helpful.

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          As @zerotousers suggests it does indeed vary wildly. Probable a couple dozen clicks at a minimum to hundreds or thousands for some of the more popular startups. (With the occasional outlier that's far above it).

        2. 1

          Would be curious about this as well, although I think it varies wildly.

    2. 1

      I think it really depends on your audience. BetaList (like Product Hunt) works mostly for small business B2B SaaS/service providers. What do you want to promote there? I see 3 products on your bio, so not sure :)

      1. 1

        Hmm, that might work. I was thinking of promoting Mugshot Bot.

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            Sure, why not? Just submitted!

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          Have you though about just cold emailing the last 5 founders with (somewhat) similar products that were recently featured on BetaList and asking them if it was worth it?

          1. 1

            I just sent out a few - let's see if I get any responses!

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              I submitted Hyperjump and did the free option. Waited less than 3 weeks. Got some good traffic and quite a few invitation requests. Happy with the results.

              Alternatively, you could do the paid option and launch on PH the same day. So, the BetaPage traffic feeds into PH. You can't choose the day with the free option.

              Here is the post https://betalist.com/startups/hyperjump. Would be great to get a Like, if you have a second.

              Let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. 2

    So many successful products started with a simple "coming soon" page. Yet, there's a lack of distribution platforms where you can promote those "coming soon" products. Product Hunt released "Upcoming Products" some time ago, and that's a good start.

    1. 1

      Yeah, there should be definitely more popular "coming soon" platforms.

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        Yeah I started BetaList (almost 10 years ago now!) because I saw so many coming soon pages but not one place that listed them all.

        Nowadays a lot of makers skip the coming soon page just ship a simple MVP instead. So that’s why you’re seeing those on BetaList too. The last few years coming soon pages have become less popular.

        1. 1

          Have you noticed a particular type of startups for which "coming soon" pages are/aren't that valuable?

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            People used to be more excited to join a waiting list. Nowadays there are so many new products being launched every day, it's not as special anymore. And people don't sign up as much out of curiosity anymore.

            A coming soon page might work if you already have an audience that trusts you, or if you can very clearly describe an acute problem people have and how you'll solve it.

            I think it's also still worth creating a coming soon page if you estimate building you v0.1 will take a while. Because then at least you have at least something to point people to. But yeah ideally you'll launch your v0.1 as fast possible,.

      2. 1

        Agreed, the challenge is how do you make them attractive to the consumers. Kickstarter seems to have solved this with videos.

        1. 1

          Many angles. But wonder how hard it is to get traction with KickStarter, haven't seen much examples of people succeeding with it & telling their story. Any links/resources would be welcomed!

  5. 1

    More and more I think BetaList is becoming like PH.

    From the 3 products trending today, 2 were no betas or MVPs. They had already launched at PH, they had 3+ people teams behind it, one was even hiring (its blog section had already 30+ entries).

    If I could do a do-over, I would probably not launch my product there until after I have a more polished version and more PMF evidence (meaning, I would have to get beta users somewhere else for that). Maybe a BetaBetaList?

    Despite that, I enjoy their curated newsletter.

  6. 1

    Interesting take Darko.
    What would be an alternative to betalist for a scaleup?

  7. 1

    Interesting channel! A B2B coming soon platform. Thnx for sharing.

  8. 1

    Betalist sent $209 in revenue to Divjoy back when it was featured (and probably some extra traffic/awareness). Nothing crazy, but it was worth getting listed.

  9. 1

    Invaluable! thank you for sharing @zerotousers

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