Product Hunt is an upvote-based site, similar to Reddit, where community members submit and vote for their favorite new or unknown products, primarily focused on the tech app space. The list is recreated each day, generating a live-stream of the most popular and top-of-mind products in the community at the moment. The quality of the Product Hunt community has created a great deal of value for product “hunters,” product makers, and others in the tech space, including journalists and investors. Among the next steps for Product Hunt is figuring out how to grow responsibly and monetize their platform to capture some value for themselves.
Anyone can sign up for Product Hunt. You can receive the daily email, vote on products, and add a collection of products as a new user. However, you have to be invited by a current community member in order to submit or comment on products. Getting an invitation requires that you either know someone already in the community or that you’ve demonstrated participation on the site through voting on products and creating product collections. Additionally, you can demonstrate participation through “thoughtful discussion on Twitter.” The ending result of this limitation is that the ability to comment and post products is reserved for the top 1-2% of members and is seen as a badge of honor. New members are incentivized to participate in order to reach that status. Additionally, the content generation on the site is limited to the most well-respected and active community members who are often journalists, entrepreneurs, or VC investors.
While these limitations have likely limited the acquisition of users, resulting in only a few hundred thousand unique monthly visitors, those users are a highly dense core of influencers whose thoughts and opinions are well respected. While the opinions generated from the site are not sourced from the widest user base, they are generally considered to be good indicators of a product’s likely success or failure. As a result, the tech community, especially, has come to rely on the site for forecasting what the “next big thing” will be. Given the positive impact being listed on Product Hunt has had on products, Product Hunt has recently added new functionality to allow select journalists to message product makers directly and offline. They are also considering opening the direct communication channel up to key investors in the community who might be interested in funding certain products.
In addition to new functionality, Product Hunt has also started to move into adjacent spaces. Following its completion of the Y Combinator program, Product Hunt raised a $6.1M Series A round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, in October of 2014. Some of that funding has gone toward expanding their coverage into games, books, and podcasts. While expanding into new verticals makes sense, Product Hunt should be sure to maintain the same selectivity in the choice of content generators to ensure that the quality of submissions is equally strong across the site.
Product Hunt has also been thinking about ways to capture some value through monetizing the community. As Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, mentioned in a recent Business Week article, the key to maintaining the quality of the community while beginning to capture value is to ensure that whatever monetization moves they make do not disrupt the community. Affiliate revenue would likely be the least disruptive model where they simply setup a referral fee or revenue share for users successfully directed to a product through the site. However, given that the object of the site is to post a new list of, often, very new products every day, it may be difficult to get enough of these products signed up for such a program to generate much revenue without limiting the submission pool to products that have already signed up, which would likely be very disruptive to the community. One interesting suggestion from the article was to allow products that were previously submitted to pay for promotion on the homepage. Limiting the pool of promotable products to those that have already been vetted by the community seems very much in line with the objectives and values for the site in general. As the community grows, it would also give users who have joined more recently the ability to see some of the favorites and success stories from past lists.
Whatever path they choose, it is clear that they have secured a spot as a key player within the tech community.