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How Our Startup Got Featured on CNN (viniciusvacanti.com)
80 points by vacanti on Oct 11, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

A $10 gift card for 10 mins of phone feedback is probably the best investment of time/money that I have ever heard of, I will be shamelessly stealing this idea for years.

I've seen other companies do $10 iTunes gift cards too. I like Amazon over iTunes, though. :)

yeah really. great idea, and a particularly good example of how it can pay unexpected benefits!

Nice change seeing the Django settings.py file scrolling by rather than the typical 'C' or unix command line output. Hopefully, that isn't the real secret key on display though.

Yeah, noticed this too. http://www.whyprime.com/temp/yipit-key.png Whoops!

I like how it says "make this unique. don't share it with anybody" and we shared it with every CNN viewer several times.

That secret key is not the one in our production repository. We overwrite our development settings in other files.

Regardless, the Django secret_key isn't used to control systems or access data :-)

-Adam Nelson

No, but it's probably used to sign cookies and other requests, which means one could hijack someone else's session.

Can you paste the email you send to folks here? I'd be interested in seeing it.

Our virtual admin sends this email:


My name is [], and I'm part of the Yipit team. I want to confirm that you've been unsubscribed and will no longer receive emails from us.

However, as you may know, we're in the very early stages of our New York based start-up and feedback at this stage is extremely valuable. If you'd be willing to hop on a 10 minute call with one of our team members, we'd gladly offer you a free $10 Amazon.com Gift Card.

We're really just trying to learn what we may be doing wrong, and how we can improve our experience for users like you in the future.

We’d like to know if you’re available for a 10 minute call any time this week between 1pm – 2:30pm ET? If so, please respond with the best number to call.


Have you ever gotten a bad reaction from these emails? Presumably the user had just expressed that they don't want anymore emails and they're getting another one :)

Not really. Some people don't respond, others just respond to the email with the reason and the remaning take us up on the offer and give us great feedback.

When unsubscribing from an email service most people would expect to get an email saying that you have successfully unsubscribed.

I actually tend to mark that SPAM if I get an email after I've unsubscribed.

Hm... I wonder if this would work as well if someone unsubscribes from a paid service and you give them another month for free. Say $20 of value to them and $0 for you.

The only issue here is if the process of subscribing had them to delete their account, which it typically does. Then if you offer them a free month... it gets tricky, because they'd have to start with scratch. Therefore, you've got to catch/offer them something midway through the delete process.

We can actually revive a deleted account.

that's great stuff. quick suggestion: if you're collecting the first names of your users, you should make sure to include their name when addressing that email. it does wonders to make it seem more personalized.

smaller suggestion: considering the tone in the email, i think the ask could be a bit more informal than "please respond..." <-- sounds very robot-like. i would say "if so, let us know the best number to reach you :) "

hope that helps. thanks for sharing!


We don't grab the first names on signup, but sometimes it's readily apparent from the address. In those cases we try to personalize.

Agree about the 'please respond' totally robotic. Will fix.

Completely unrelated, but the rollover on the logo made me laugh.

Thanks! Though I suspect that almost everyone has been more confused than amused.

I couldn't help but notice Django's settings.py file. You should probably change your SECRET_KEY since the whole thing is clearly visible. From the looks of your blurry INSTALLED_APPS i'd say you are also using pinax.

We _were_ using pinax.

Congrats! Keep creating your luck by contacting other reporters/media outlets and mention that you were featured on CNN. That instantly legitimizes you. They might be missing something, you know?

Do they often stay on past 10 minutes?

Some of them stay on for 30 minutes. They really like that someone is listening to them and trying to solve their problems.

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