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Thank HN: My startup was born here and is now 10 years old
937 points by paraschopra 27 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments
Hello HN,

I'm Paras Chopra, founder of VWO. We're an A/B testing platform that was born here as a Show HN in 2009.

As a 22 year old fresh out of college, I had launched an early prototype of a marketing platform in 2009 here, got initial users from HN (including patio11) who gave their feedback that my product was trying to do too many things. Their inputs are what that led me to focusing on one thing (A/B testing) and that's how I built and launched "Visual Website Optimizer"(now called VWO). Here's that Show HN thread from 2009: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=876141

I can't thank this community enough - without Hacker News, VWO wouldn't have existed. Today, we're a team of 250+ people and seen that initial "Show HN" grow into a $20mn+ bootstrapped business (no VC funding). If anyone's interested in reading more, I've blogged this journey (from launch to now) on our website: https://vwo.com/blog/vwo-evolution-10-years/

For any early stage entrepreneurs / indie hackers reading this, I'm sharing my story to let you know that you don't need connections, funding or breakthroughs to build a successful business. All you need is a hunger to make it happen and a community (like this one) to give you honest feedback for iterating on your product. If you are what Paul Graham calls as relentless resourceful, you will build a successful business.

So, thank you HN! Thanks @patio11 for your feedback and initial shoutouts in 2009. And thanks Paul. Beyond YC funding, you've impacted lives of many other folks (like me) through your essays and by making Hn happen.

PS: I don't know if this post will get any attention on HN today, but I felt like I had to do this :)




First of all congratulations. A lot of Show HN start enthusiastically and then a year later the domain name doesn't resolve anymore. I'm glad you kept jabbing.

In 2011, we were knee deep in google products. We used Google Analytics and the now defunct Google Web Optimizer (no not the one in GA). Our business team wasn't too happy about using GWO. There was something in the script triggered bounce rates in Google Analytics.

Our first solution was to build a script to manage which script to load first. But, we saw that if you don't load GA right away, the metrics were somehow off. But loading GA first sometimes double counts page views.

So as a result, I build an internal A/B testing tool that worked seamlessly. Since it was controlled in the back-end, I could decide when to load the script without causing the double page views. After months of testing, the business team decided to use Visual Web Optimizer. I was pretty pissed.

But, vwo solved the issues of double counting, and redirect. Not sure how it worked but everyone was happy about it. I started working exclusively with this tool and implemented it in a dozen teams. It was a great tool.

But then, a new manager was hired, he said he knew a better tool, and moved our team to optimizely. There was no reason whatsoever. Until I left, I kept recommending and implementing vwo in other teams for a/b testing.


Thanks for recommending VWO. And sorry about replacing your internally built a/b testing tool :)


Well done Paras!

You have come a long way since you asked me questions about http://elem.com/~btilly/effective-ab-testing/. I'm glad that it was part of your journey!


Ben, your thought process on A/B testing has been a big influence. The deck of yours on effective A/B testing (above) is pure gold.


Somewhat meta, but great to see that most of the accounts on the original thread are still active.

I haven't got a successful startup to show for it, but I have been on HN for more than 10 years, and feel like it has played a significant role in forming my worldview.

I hope we'll still be here in another 10 (or 30) years, nitpicking each other's ideas!


Yes, let's all keep up the kind nitpicking and teaching.

Dear Newcomers to HN, Welcome! Every time you write a comment, please aim for quality over quantity. Explain why. I look forward to reading your comments like this one in 2030.


I feel the same. For me it was 10 years on May 2nd and if it wasn't for HN, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Not only did I learn ton of things here, being part of the community here shifted my outlook on some things significantly and in a good way.

"A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points"

-- Alan Kay

Guess where I learned about that quote;-)


When I first read the comment I was like 'Look at these guys showing off 10+ years' only to realize I actually started lurking on hn back in 2012 so I'm already at 8 years. Time flies by but it feels like I just discovered HN community yesterday. Im still a noob and reading hn gives me a reality check that there is so much more to learn in life. Thanks HN.


I'm with you; 13 years(ish) now and I'm still trying to make something.


Wow, until this moment I hadn't really thought about how I've been using HN for over 13 years, and reddit for almost 15 years.

There are people who are using the internet who have never known the world without those things.

I feel older now.


This thread is something that I really want to hear it right now. Thanks for the positivity!


Yes, this is one community I've been checking every single day for the last 10 years. I wish it remains the same for the years ahead.

I love that now there's a dedicated "Show HN" page on the top!


My HN account only goes back 7 years, but I've now been trying to start something for more than half of my life - over 18 years now and counting. HN has gradually (because I'm too stubborn, see above) shaped my views. I feel good about my latest attempt in progress.


Oh wow, fellow 2010'r here as well. Agreed with everything you just said.


Hope I’m not too late for some one to see my post. This is a huge inspiration and an amazing story.

I’m genuinely curious - not being a smart ass. Isn’t 250 employees a lot for the number listed ($20M+)? $2M of rev a month divided by 250+ people is only 7-8K a month. I guess if the majority are overseas that can work?


Yes, we're comfortably profitable as we're based out of India.

Having a big team is the reason our customer support [1] is best in industry. We have a large team of dedicated and passionate people ready to guide customers for all their problems.

[1] https://vwo.com/why-us/customer-success/


Nice. Love a business that makes customer support a top priority.

How has the covid situation impacted it? What few changes made significant difference in how you coped with it?

Also what is the customer service software do you use?


Yes, covid has impacted us like most SaaS businesses. We released a free product VWO Deploy for helping our customers update their websites with notices and updates quickly without IT: vwo.com/deploy

We use Zendesk.


It’s a great revenue given that they’re based in India and more so because they are self-funded.


VWO is based in India.


I think it's awesome that HackerNews exists. Sadly, every other platform on the internet seems to criticize and discourage new products (except product hunt).


I spent >1 year building a new dating app. Somebody posted a dating app idea on reddit that closely matches what I built. I messaged the author asking for feedback on my design. They didn't reply and even downvoted my comment on their thread.

https://www.reddit.com/r/dating/comments/exzcsm/dating_app_i...

There are all kinds of people in the world. I'm glad HN exists.

HN mods: Thanks for your hard work.

HN commenters: Thanks for being kind.


Not too derail this thread too much but I like the idea for your app, I made something similar for platonic friendships a while back and still am a big believer in the idea! How much traction have you gotten with your app?


Cool. Can you share a link?

I haven't launched my app anywhere yet. I struggled with devops tooling, started to get burned out, and now lockdown.


Congrats paras. I've been a big fan of your original work but I was rather disappointed to see your recent work like https://pushcrew.com which is everything that is wrong with the internet today.

So many Indian sites are using your technology to make web browsing a nightmare for visitors and spam unsuspecting readers with web notifications.

I hate such popups and modals created by pushcrew like the fact it forces users to optin to these notifications on articles. It was not what the web notification api was designed for.


Username inspired from Nawazuddin Siddiqui? I am also a fan of Paras. The way he started a profitable bootstrap startup is mind blowing. Been learning from his journey a lot.


I understand why push notifications could be annoying, but the intent was to see if they could replace emails with bite-sized ephemeral information. Guess that's not happening.

There are many clones of PushCrew now and I suspect you may be seeing those. We're evolving the product towards being a thoughtful part of website experience. I hate unsuspecting popups too.


I am using nextdns with several block lists, both pushcrew and vwo are blocked for me.


Not surprising given the product... Almost all analytical tracking/telemertry will be blocked, Google Analytics etc.


Congratulations! It's a big milestone and growing a company to 250+ people is no small feat. That you did this without major institutional funding is awesome!

And thanks for writing up your story. I bet there's another 22-year old kid lurking in here somewhere and getting inspired to start something.


Wow, small world. I had a brief exchange with you when you were an intern at IISc in the summer of 2006 and came to a talk of mine.

At that time you were interested in the cognitive abilities of bacteria, but looks like you took a different but equally successful path.

Congratulations!


I remember! That internship stint at IISc ended up with this paper on modeling a gene network in E. coli: https://bit.ly/3flh6nh


Congrats. Really inspiring. I would like to know how many old SHOW HN posts turned out to be that successful.


Hey Paras, This is very encouraging and exciting. Congratulations. Would you please share with us your user acquisition journey and also how you determined pricing and the various pricing tiers.

Any other stories in your journey would be appreciated e.g Growing your team, sales and marketing

* Edit - Added more areas I would need your input from


There are a few podcasts and interviews about the initial days of VWO. You may find the following resources helpful:

[1] My very first interview in 2012: https://mixergy.com/interviews/chopra-visual-website-optimiz...

[2] A relatively recent one: https://inc42.com/startups/wingify-paras-chopra-saas-startup...

[3] I've been blogging about many lessons I've learned on my blog https://invertedpassion.com


This is the sort of post I come to HN for. Fantastic work, and congratulations on your success.


Congrats on your hard work Paras! As someone whose company/employer has used VWO for years now, it's by far the best A/B testing solution on the market, and a seriously powerful piece of kit that a lot of companies have really overlooked the potential in.

Interesting to hear that it was first posted on Hacker News as well.


Thank you for your kind words!


Congratulations! Such an inspirational success story. I still remember that icon set from your 2009 UI screenshot :)


I'm giddy with happiness that you remember the 2009 screenshot :)


Congrats Paras, it's great seeing far VWO has come!


Thanks Kalid. I remember exchanging messages with you.

Also, love BetterExplained.com - without it, I would have never developed an intuition of exponential and logarithm functions. You do a great job at that.


Appreciate it Paras! I remember our exchanges fondly as well :).


Congratulations, Paras! I was one of the very early customers and am so glad you came this far.


Thank you for giving us revenue in those early days. As a bootstrapped company, that was the only source of funding that helped us sustain and grow.


Congrats, Paras. I've been a huge fan of VWO and fairly recently built somewhat of a competitor - evolv.ai. I've referenced your sales assets, training videos, and I have sent people your direction when they weren't a fit for our offering.


Thank you! We're also inspired by evolv.ai's unique take on website optimization.


Congratulations! As a new member, I am happy to see how this community can help others.


It's insane how I was thinking of doing this exact same thing this same week and how similar our stories are! Though we're much earlier in our journey :)

I launched ipdata here 3 yrs ago, at 21 while still in college and now 3yrs later we're a profitable bootstrapped company.

Congratulations on your incredible success!

Here is our thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15879115

Thank you HN!


I'm not much involved with web dev so my knowledge of A/B testing tooling isn't great. However,I went on to your website to check the product, clicked around for a bit and I was like: 'ok,this is good,yes,this one's nice too. What about x,y,z..Oh, they've got these too'. And suddenly there's a shower of ideas for A/B testing for any future project. Looks like a good product,well done!


Cool. I have seen VWO before while looking for a tool, more than once. This history is one more proof that big things can start small.


Congrats! It always amazes me that there are still big/old players in a field that I thought I was familiar with.. I have seen many A/B testing tools but somehow never yours, I must be living in a different Google bubble. Guess that shows that there is always room for more players.


Yep, and that's a great learning for us. For us, it's easy to assume that we've saturated our potential after being around ten years into the market but that's not true at all.

Your comment is a great reminder towards that.


VWO and Optimizely are still incredibly expensive for basic A/B testing. I feel like this could disrupted pretty easily with a $29/mo offer. If you know any service like this, feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to connect you with many startups.


Your profile has no email id. Is there another way to reach you?


Congratulations on the feat attained despite taking a decade. It still shows one should not relent as success is within, above all, HN community is a very supportive one, in which the OP can benefit from the diverse wealth of knowledge in here, be it criticism or good feedback


Congratulations on the milestone, and thanks for sharing your story in the blog post. It's great to see a product's evolution over a decade.

I want to highlight that it's not as clear-cut as this: "If you are what Paul Graham calls as relentless resourceful, you will build a successful business."

I know there are people reading who consider themselves relentless and resourceful, yet are not successful after perhaps a decade or more of trying. The mental health impact of long-term failure can be crushing (I've been there).

They should understand that there is an element of luck involved, and if they didn't make it to $20MM straight from college, that doesn't mean they're worthless or can't make it anymore. The experiences of dead-ends and failures can be channeled into something that will set them apart, but it takes honesty. Luck is not a one-way thing: you need to be in a position to take advantage of the luck that comes your way, and mentally ready to jump on it.


Absolutely! The OP certainly deserves much due respect, especially for taking the time to share and document his business efforts.

However there are tons of people who likely "made the right moves" but were simply not as lucky or lacked resources to make success happen. If anything, this recent pandemic should shed light on how certain events are beyond any one individual's control.


You're not necessarily wrong, but you have to be careful with this kind of thinking as it can easily be interpreted as fatalism.

The reality is that yes, luck plays a role, but success isn't a coin-flip. It's more like poker, where luck dominates individual hands, but good decisions dominate the long-game.


Thank you.

I didn't mean it that way. Luck plays a huge role in success. But a back story will help explain why I said what I said.

Even in 2009, VWO wasn't my first attempt at a startup. Eve since I read Founders at Work in high school, I was inspired to do a startup of my own. So when I entered college in 2004, I immediately went about trying to do startups. Over the four years, I did 3 different startups (Kroomsa, MyJugaad.in, Precimark) and all of them failed. Then I launched Wingify (precursor to VWO) and that also didn't fly. Finally, my fifth attempt was VWO which led to this.

So, from my own experience, it seems luck is a function of how many shots you take and how much you learn from those failures.

I absolutely believe that the asymptotic result of being relentlessly resourceful is success (of some reasonable degree).


Thanks for sharing this! I’ve followed you since that show HN post (tried the product back in the day but never stuck) and am happy you have achieved success!! Nice work!


Congrats on your success!

May I ask how you ended up with a three letter dot com?


We paid $30k for it (but I guess that was a steal, so we lucked out on this one).


Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story. For someone starting to get into the entrepreneur world your story is inspiring. Wish you all the best for future.


Congratulations Paras. Good to see your post. I live down the road from NSP. I find it remarkable that you built a deep tech company in that part of the world.


Congratulations Paras!! Wish you continued success. It would be awesome to hear from you what specific things and people helped you to be successful in HN.


So cool to see more bootstrapped successes! Congrats :)


Congrats! Would love to hear more about how you acquired your earliest customers and what growth channels have worked best for you.


Congrats and thanks for sharing your story. It's just amazing how many startups this community has helped built.


I used this product in the early days and it was great! Glad to see you guys have been so successful since.


Congrats Paras! 10 years is no small feat. Thanks for sharing, and hope to see this again in another decade!


Congrats Paras! couldn't be more proud! Know a lot of the extremely hard work put in via Sparsh!


Yes, Sparsh has put a lot of hard work and I'm lucky to have him as a co-founder.


Congratulations! And thank you for posting this. These kind of stories are inspiring and feed motivation.


Great being here on your original post and this one. Time does fly. Congrats!


What was year one like?



Congrats. Amazing story


congrats paras really inspiring, one word that I will remember and keep it as inspiration is: "All you need is a hunger to make it happen", thanks.


Congratulations. Your journey is inspiring!


you should have pricing upfront without any forms to request it - I hate that approach


He probably A/B tested it :)


We have, multiple times.


Seems like you’re not their target customer ;)


I'm glad they made the shift.

They used to be too cheap. Like uncomfortably low-priced while their people weren't easy enough to access.


Why? There’s a reason why companies don’t show pricing, and they happily turn over anything from few million a year, to a half a billion and more and keep growing.

Especially when you get to enterprise $50k - $1m+ annual contracts and 12-18 months sale life cycles, pricing gets complex.

edit: there's pricing on the home page, but the point still stands


Maybe they've A/B tested this?


So cool! All the best for your future.


Congrats!


Bootstrapped! Amazing!


Cheers! Well done!


Congrats Paras!


Congratulations!


Congratulations!


Congrats Paras !


Congratulations!


this is really cool. congratulations.


Mad respect.


Congrats!


Congrats!


Congrats


Congrats


so sick man.


What's going on here exactly? Why does this post have an insane amount of upvotes and like 50 posts only with text like "Congratz my man!" or other people who seem to know this dude and contribute with nothing?


It looks legit to me. Keep in mind that the earliest comments to appear in a thread are often the reflexive ones, because they take the least effort (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...). In this case there isn't much to reflexively react negatively to, so there are a lot of congratulations.

I think this post is doing well because it combines two things that HN readers like a lot: (1) business success stories, as long as the succeeder is someone the reader identifies with; (2) all things meta. Meta is the crack of internet forums. Oh, and a runner-up: (3) references to old things. The passage of time is what confers internet legitimacy on things. So here we have a trifecta.

There isn't massive overlap between the congratulatory commenters and the users who upvoted the submission, and among those who did both, plenty are long-established HN users. This is not what manipulation tends to look like.


Those are some good points. As i said in another post, i have probably become a little too cynical after working in the field for so long - so congratulations to these dudes.


Because there isn't much to say other than congratulations and at the same time it's nice to upvote such a post for feel good reasons and to showcase things that have been born out of this community.


It's pretty cool to see something get launched here and have the founder come back TEN YEARS LATER to talk about it. That's crazy rare. HN was a little smaller then, so it's fun to see names you haven't seen in awhile talking about the same stuff as before.


From the guidelines -

Please don't post insinuations about astroturfing, shilling, brigading, foreign agents and the like. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about abuse, email us and we'll look at the data.

nus07 27 days ago [flagged]

No offense but your account was created 18 days ago. Something seems very weird about this post.


Please don't do this here. Plenty of new accounts are old users.


Yet your was only created 64 and has less post activity than the account you're responding to. Should we read too much into that?


HN don't let majority of the users downvote, that's what's going on.


There's nothing wrong with empty comments saying positive things like congratulations. See https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html, which was written well over 10 years ago.

It's not as if stories like this come up very often.


This whole thread is a little bonkers. A dude posts what seems to be essentially a commercial for his company, extremely short and light on details and it gets 500+ upvotes in a couple of hours. But yeah maybe i have just become to cynical and my bullshit metre is off - and if that's the case i apologise and congratulate these dudes.


For what it's worth, I tend to upvote most "Show HN" threads, because I want to encourage new things. I've never seen a "Thank HN" post before, and thought that it was worth upvoting because it's nice to see success stories, especially when it's due in large part (according to the OP) on the advice given by this community when the product was in its infancy. I thought that was pretty cool.


Love this guy's story. Wouldn't downvote it for anything. Let's all be nice and say "you're welcome - keep kicking ass".


I'd have agreed until I inspected the guy's business and it looks very established. 10 years old. 1 million visits in the last 3 months according to similarweb and nothing really suspicious if you look up his company in hn.algolia.com. Your comment is kinda paranoid but I understand it. Just try to look up the algolia website if you're suspicious of any company's activity.


youre new, this is a YC classic


[flagged]


That's not accurate, and this comment breaks the site guidelines against making accusations of astroturfing and manipulation without evidence. Please stick to the rules when commenting here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

It's not ok to impugn someone's integrity just because of how something happens to look to you. The overwhelming majority of the time, these conclusions are wrong, it's the internet's fault for jumping to them, and they poison the community.

Real abuse exists, we do a lot to try to counteract it, and we crack down pretty hard when we find it. But there needs to be something objective to go on.


LOL whatever you say dude just flag me but don't insult my intelligence xD


I've spent countless hours poring over data and working on HN's anti-abuse systems—easily an order of magnitude more than everybody else put together who's worked on those things at HN. I've also banned many accounts for doing astroturfing and related abuses on HN. I can tell you that the only insult to intelligence here is when people imagine sinister scenarios out of a few data points and rush to comment threads to complain darkly and accuse others. Randomness plus cognitive bias equals narrative, and when that combines with internet memes like astroturfers-under-every-bed, the result is equal parts poisonous and stupid, which is why we don't allow it here. The overwhelming majority of these insinuations are pure projection. People simply make this shit up when they see something they don't like. It seems related to something hard-wired.

Edit: by the way, it occurs to me that one of the things you said ought to be publicly verifiable: "just look at the comment history on those accounts -- all inactive/active at around the same time". If so—which accounts? If you didn't simply make this up, it should be easy enough to point to which comments and accounts match this claim, from around the time you posted it. If I'm wrong, I'd be happy to admit the mistake and correct it.


Just to be clear, no one is denigrating your good work holding this community together, it's not an easy job, granted, and we appreciate the time it takes to do so.

There are also no "dark thoughts" or sinister plots at play here. I was simply replying to OP who posed the curious question about how this thread evolved so quickly, and I as the cat, got killed.

However, we should both know by now that "anti-abuse" and AI/Algos only get you so far, we still need human moderation, and that was what I was doing -- using my brain to see patterns xD

I don't know what you want me to prove here, I don't have the data, I don't have timeseries metadata of posts or IPs etc. -- but it shouldn't take a genius to pick out at least a dozen early comments that had no comment history for >30 days and then all decided to comment at the same time on the same thread. Couple that with a thread subject that didn't really have anything of value (read: promotional) and it's quick rise to the #2 spot -- the conclusion I came to was that it was being brigaded/spammed/seeded/call-it-what-you-want.

This was all that I was trying pointing out, sorry if wasn't appropriate.


> just look at the comment history on those accounts -- all inactive/active at around the same time.

What are you talking about? I just went through about half the accounts that have commented on here, and while a small handful do look suspicious, most are normal-looking accounts with over 100 rep. Maybe people are genuinely happy for the OP? Is that so hard to comprehend?


> and while a small handful do look suspicious

Isn't that not what we're talking about? Maybe you weren't around to see all the "Congrats" comments and now the thread looks more legit -- I believe we call that "seeding", what do you call it?


Since there are 250 people at the company, maybe they all wanted to congratulate their CEO and some didn't have accounts yet.


That fits a few of the data points but not the majority, who are established users coming from lots of different parts of the world.


HN mods. This looks very sketchy. I looked at a some of the Congrats messages and the accounts were 3-20 days old. Why is this on the front page of HN to merit a discussion?




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