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Ask HN: How long after launch did you get your first customer?
32 points by hajrice on Dec 28, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments
How long after launching did you get your first customer?

What was your plan on acquiring the customers?

I'm going to be launching my SaaS soon and would love to hear your experiences ;)

For our first product, we used eBay, starting an auction at $0.01/free shipping and letting it go for a week to see where it ended up. We got lots of bidders and a better price than we expected, and most importantly lots of interest.

After that, we did several more eBay runs to test different copy / pricing, and then with that information, launched our own web store (normal fixed-price checkout, non-eBay) about 8 weeks after that first auction.

Now with 2nd product, we've already got an established reputation and traffic in our niche, and developed the 2nd product specifically around the feedback we were getting from customers.

This is for a consumer product, hybrid of physical parts + content. Not sure that you can apply the eBay concept to a SaaS, but depending on what you're doing, it may actually be possible (i.e. if people would be naturally searching on eBay for software to fill that need, then put up a 12-month subscription as an auction!).

Interesting. With all due respect, I think you should redesign your site www.nerdkits.com

Very tactful -- I'd be very happy to hear specific thoughts on this from you or the rest of the HN community! Send me an e-mail, or post it here.

Here are two points that I've realized. I think that the ThinkGeek website is pretty well-done, I mean they're in a relevant market as you guys, so you should definitely look into their website at: http://www.thinkgeek.com/

The elements are really aligned in a logical fashion. It's pretty aggressive on the eyes when you see huge yellow boxes with the prices on the right.

The stuff that's supposed to grab my attention, doesn't. "Invest in yourself: learn by doing. Read on to learn how the NerdKits philosophy is implemented in our kits, and why other electronics kits will leave you intellectually unsatisfied." is DISTRACTED by the "Updated Thursday, December 17th, 2009:" div.

sparkfun.com is more in line with what they do, also a very good site.

Your page seems very 1990s or early 2000s in its design. Either that or a manufacturer's B2B website, not a B2C like you seem to be marketing at.

I would highly recommend outsourcing your design to some place (even some place that could do it on the cheap).

The product looks amazing though!

I think your first step would be to get a designer to make it more visually pleasing, and then maybe consult with him or her about the layout of content.

Before I launched each app, I had my first customers lined up. I think it's a mistake to spend time developing something first and then hope there are customers somewhere.

To be more specific, while developing a big product I spent time each week contacting people in my network until I found customers that were ready to pay as soon as I went live. It worked well.

In one case, I found a company that allowed me to offer 4, 2-hour classes with 15 people per class for 1 day after launch just to introduce them to the app, answer questions, and get everyone signed up.

I got about 40 paying customers that day, and it was the best launch ever for my small business as all those people told more people and we were growing from day 1.

I second that. I have a policy to have customers lined up before launch. For my current product, I have a contract signed by a client based on a very rough beta. Now I get to develop the actual product knowing a customer's waiting.

That's a great story. Thanks for sharing it. Can I ask what market segment you're in?

I had my first customer two weeks after launching. (He actually got a refund -- but I learned two things to incorporate into version 1.02.)

My main plan when starting the business was acquiring customers through SEO, with the possibility of eventually "cracking the AdWords code" and figuring out how to acquire them profitably through there. That is pretty much still the plan.

Thanks Patrick, glad to see BingoCardCreator doing well.

The last startup I was involved in had two customers lined up before launch. We (well the two founders, I was technically the first employee) started by pitching their product to their contacts in the relevant industry and didn't actually launch until they had a couple of at least potential customers lined up.

The product was quite niche and quite expensive so we didn't really need many customers. So the plan was to grow largely by word of mouth and by using our network of contacts to get future leads.

For most of my products, I've had customers before launch. Then again, I guess that depends on what you mean by "launch". I've never been big on showy launches. I usually put something up right away, and then get to work refining and finding more customers. Based on my last couple endeavers, I no longer even begin work on any new products until I already have a customer for it. (and by "work" I mean actual coding/design/development, because of course the process of finding a customer for a new idea is still technically work of the non-technical variety)

First day (hour?).


Consumer product if anyone wants to know.

I had a demo built which I then presented to a small group of potential clients (which included my partners contacts in Commercial Real Estate and Oil field services - there were probably 15 people at the demo). After the demo I had two clients and things got going from there.

From idea to demo: ~4 months

We build custom geospatial apps. for our clients.

1) same day

2) mailing list that I'd built up over years

I had one customer within the first week or so of going live, but unfortunately that's still my only paying customer to date.

I'm still struggling with the freemium business model and how to weight things to get people to upgrade to the pricier versions.

30 minutes. Customer #2 was at 60 minutes. But I had been hyping up the specific launch date and time for a while. But it snowballed pretty quickly. Haven't had a day without a sale since launch.

-2 months. (yes thats a negative)

I built a dummy signup site before I started developing the real app. Launched with a few hundred users.

That said, my app is consumer-facing, and I sign up customers with ads (it's a dating site).

I think it was two or three months (http://www.checkoutapp.com).

Same day. Had customers lines up before launching.

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