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HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes discusses product validation platform Kernal

Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes is eager to empower creators by helping them easily validate ideas with Kern.al.

After hiring a CEO to manage the day-to-day of Hootsuite, Holmes launched a studio that's tinkering on ideas he devised over his 12 years leading the social media management platform. The first in his notebook was Kernal, a platform that allows users to share, browse, upvote, and comment on business ideas as well as socialize with fellow creators.

Despite commonly held fears that someone may steal a valuable idea, not a single Kernal user has complained about others co-opting their ideas. Why? Because the community knows that ideas are only a morsel of what determines success, Holmes said.

Popular ideas on Kernal range from “Tinder for books” to “Pitch deck analytics” for investors and posts on the platform frequently spur conversations yielding feedback and ideas. A few ideas on Kernal are already being built, including a newsletter digest service and a platform that aggregates news on small and medium-business acquisitions.

After a few months in beta, Kernal has garnered 1,800+ users, 400 pre-seed ideas, and several prominent entrepreneurs, including Sam Parr of The Hustle, Shaan Puri of the My First Million Podcast, and Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler.

I connected with Holmes and studio team members Joel Hansen and Paul Donnelly to discuss the platform and how they’re attracting people to share their product ideas despite fear of theft.

Kernal's elevator pitch

We realized that there are platforms for products (like Product Hunt), questions (like Quora), and fundraising (like AngelList), but there isn't a platform for people to share and validate startup ideas to see if they’re worth building. We built a consolidated space for entrepreneurial creatives to find, share and grow startup ideas.

How the idea for Kernal came about

During my time building Hootsuite, I built up 12 years of business ideas in my notebook that I’ve been waiting to toy with. After looking around, I’ve realized there isn't a good platform to share startup ideas to get the validation you need to chase down an idea. As a result, I called together a small team to develop this platform with a goal of making more startup ideas see the light of day.

Empowering creators

Starting my first business as a high schooler, I was a sponge to any advice I could get when chewing on one of my ideas. When I think of the future of entrepreneurship on a global scale, I think a platform like Kernal can only further democratize the access to ideas and empower creatives from any age, background, or ethnicity to come together for impact. And that point really excites me.

In my time as an entrepreneur, I’ve found a recurring theme that the best ideas don’t always come from the best entrepreneurs or CEOs. So I thought if we could create a space to be the platform of ideas, it takes the pressure off of everyone to be a perfect ideator, entrepreneur, and CEO. If you’re great at one, you can stick to that and partner with others on the platform to lift your idea off the ground.

Why launch Kernal?

We noticed too many great startup conversations happening on subreddits, Twitter threads, and podcasts. We wanted to launch Kernal to provide these creative people with the ability to post their startup idea onto a landing page so that they can validate the idea, get early adopters and see if it’s worth bringing to life.

Too many ideas die in notebooks or google docs without people knowing if they’ve got momentum. We want to arm the ideators and creatives of the world to get the feedback they need to know their idea is ripe for impact.


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Kernal’s plans to monetize

We’re currently pre-revenue. We plan to monetize through creative ad space, affiliate marketing with startup brands that’d provide valuable offers to Kernal users, and possibly tiering different features for paid monthly users.

What’s Kernal’s biggest challenge?

The fear around people stealing ideas. The biggest question we’ve been asked is “How do I know my idea is safe when I post it up on Kernal. How do I know someone isn’t going to steal my idea.”

Wanna know the truth? We’re building for the startup community that believes a good idea is only 5% of the success metric. The other 95% is the team, distribution channel, and execution plan after you’ve got the idea.

Building in public

We believe Kernal can be an amazing spot for those “build in public” creators that are looking for good feedback on their idea to see if it’s worth spending time on.

For anyone that’s worried about their idea getting stolen, keep working on it in your basement for 10 years until you pitch it to the world. We don’t want to take it. Kernal is for the people that come up with a new idea a day and just need a public space to post it up to see if it’s got any legs.

In all the beta users we’ve brought on (1,800+) not one user has emailed us complaining about the stealing of an idea. They know anything is technically fair game on the site but they believe that the community of ideators and builders far supersedes that option of one of their random ideas getting stolen.

Anything else you'd like to add for readers?

We’d love to invite all of the indie hackers to come test out Kern.al to see what we’re building! Also, if you have a startup idea you’d like to share that we can feature, we’d be happy to mention it in our weekly newsletter. You can get an invite here.

  1. 3

    Used this previously and really loved the experience of simply learning more about the different ideas out there! + got to talk and think more about my own ideas!

    1. 1

      super cool to hear!

  2. 2

    Super excited and happy Joel reached out to me via Twitter to tell me about Kernal. I signed up and really love the spirit & active community there where people are willing to openly share their ideas and give feedback. I’ve been thinking about a couple of new ideas recently and actually sat down over the last week to build a MVP version (7-day startup approach). Happy to also share it over the weekend & get the some initial thoughts!

    1. 1

      Hey Mareike, great to hear from you on here! So glad to hear that you're liking Kern.al. If you have any questions or ideas, let me know how I can help. Would love to feature your idea in our next newsletter round up!

  3. 2

    Great article & love kern.al, just spent a few hours digging through different ideas.

    Posted my idea here: https://kern.al/idea/hybrid-remote-optimizer -- would love feedback & suggestions! (And just one more vote from anyone here would push me onto the front page, where I can keep getting feedback!)

    1. 1

      Happy to give you an upvote to get it to the front page!

  4. 2

    Looks interesting, the idea of a platform is not necessarily new I think there was something similar that had to shut down because they couldn't monetize so interested to see where it goes.

    We're in the process of rethinking our validation pipeline so this is good timing and will def give this a try :)

    1. 1

      Awesome to hear! Let me know if you've got any questions when you start testing it out.

  5. 2

    Great article and thanks for the invite code.

    Posted my idea here: https://kern.al/idea/video-that-edits-itself

    Would love your feedback!

    1. 1

      Just checked it out and left a comment! Tagged another creator you should link up with. Twitter handle is @HarryRemler

  6. 2

    Looking forward to seeing this concept grow. thanks for the invite

  7. 2

    I just registered for this site and shared my idea on the page! I need at least three votes to get my idea up on the front page! Will you help me, my fellow indie hackers? https://kern.al/idea/rss-key-influencers-social-content-in-your-own-language
    Thanks a lot and welcome any constructive feedback!

    1. 1

      Just upvoted! Love the idea!

  8. 1

    Great read, Bobby! Thanks for putting this together!

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