October 28, 2019

Launch day: 250 trial users, first paying customer

Andrew Baker @AndrewTorkBaker

Last Wednesday Later was featured in the "New and noteworthy" section of the Slack App Directory. I took the morning off from my day job to try and capitalize on that placement and "launch" Later.

I knew that whether I got a pop on launch day or not, this is just the beginning of building the marketing machine for this app. But I was pleasantly surprised!

On Tuesday night Later was installed in 15 Slack teams, mostly from emails to friends and a little effort on Twitter. My goal for Wednesday was to reach 50 Slack teams - the thinking there being that if 2% of them converted at the end of their trial, I'd have one paying customer 😄

By that measure, launch day was great.

I ended the day with Later installed in over 100 Slack teams. It's now up to 150, with 250 individual users between them.

I was also shocked to get my first paying customer that day too, signing up for my $50 per month "Startup" plan. That was a real surprise because there's no restriction during the free trial and no serious nudge to upgrade until you're close to the end of the trial.

Reflecting a little bit on the day, here's how I'd sum it up:

What went well

  • Launching on Twitter with a tweet from my personal account: My personal following overlaps pretty well to the types of folks who might find this interesting. That's what got the whole ball rolling.
  • Endorsements from my early adopters and beta testers: I've been working on Later since April. There are a handful of people who have been happily using it weekly, and they showed up on Twitter to help spread the word. I'm extremely grateful.
  • I learned a ton about how people perceive this product: I'm still not exactly sure how I should position this tool (is it "the essential Slack app for remote teams" or just "intelligent scheduled send for Slack"?) but I've got a lot more data now than I did a week ago. There's a lot I can go on now for refining the next phase of my marketing.

What I'll do differently next time

  • Wasting time on some long shots: I posted on ProductHunt and Hacker News, even knowing it was a long shot, and got basically zero upvotes in each. I should have just skipped them and accepted that I wasn't ready for sites like that yet.
  • Pricing wasn't easy to find on my website: My hypothesis with Later is that it needs a lengthy, three-month free trial to prove its value to enough people in a Slack team. Because I don't require a credit card up front and because the first person to install Later in a Slack team might not be the person who sees the most value in it three months down the line, I didn't make pricing information easy to find on my site. That was a mistake: a few people explicitly asked about it, and implied they considered it reckless to trial Later without knowing how much they might have to pay eventually. I fixed that halfway through the day. Still, a good lesson learned.
  • A few small bugs: Overall the service has stood up really well this week, in part because I'm not skimping on Heroku resources. But launch day exposed a few bugs: Later broke when people would send messages to guest Slack users (I've never used this feature) or when testing Later in a DM with Slackbot (should have expected this one). More through testing might have helped me catch some of these.

Overall, though, I couldn't be happier with this week. After almost a decade of working as a professional software developer, I've never had a paying customer for a side project — and that feels pretty good. This business' greatest (and quite likely 😅) threat is that Slack realizes this is a missing feature and builds it in a sprint. But at least I'll always be able to say I got this far.

One last fun story: a few emails came in to the [email protected] address throughout the day. One was someone asking about how I keep messages secure (short answer: encrypt them as rest, erase them as soon as they're delivered). After exchanging a few emails he just said "Want to call me?" and gave his phone number. I gave him a call and we talked for 15 minutes. They're a remote startup in the healthcare space and they were excited about using Later but they're wary of Slack apps because of all the personal health information in their conversations. After talking him through how I store and erase messages, he said he was satisfied and decided to turn on Later for everyone at the company to use.

Didn't expect to take a sales call on day 1 😂

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