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My impression is that every SaaS that is successful on ProductHunt (PH) or HN gets copied dozens of times within a few months. That's especially true for technically simple products. A good example is maybe privacy-friendly web analytics: I think products like Fathom and Simple Analytics were the first to really go after this angle (undoubedtly there were others before them though), and in less than 6 months dozens (hundreds?) of copycats turned up with exactly the same USP and the exact same look & feel. And interestingly it isn't the first mover who seems to win that market but rather the company with the most agressive (and sometimes outright misleading) marketing. So being the first doesn't guarantee your success anymore, at least if you don't have enough time to grow undisturbed.

Personally I'd avoid posting products on PH or HN for that reason and instead focus on growing organically in a niche market where you're not immediately discoverable by copycat founders. In general PH feels more and more phony to me and I think there's a lot of astroturfing going on.

I believe that only a small fraction of SAAS ever makes it to HN and ProductHunt.

HN and PH audience is 99% of Marketing and / or Tech people.

Coincidentally, those people make product for Marketing and Tech people, and of course promote on website visited by Marketing and Tech people.

But basically anything outside of those two realms feels completely under-addressed by SAAS:

- industry - public services - waste management - etc

mostly "unsexy things".

>HN and PH audience is 99% of Marketing and / or Tech people.

That's why you should probably avoid posting here if you don't want copycats.

Serve a totally different market, and make it to the front page of that market's HN. Then you're in business.

You can post to HN as a victory lap/vanity metric when you've got a moat of traction. :)

The availability of SaaS is also a product the values of the various industries. There are lots of marketing-oriented SaaS because it's an easy market to sell to: they are very open to experimenting and taking risks, make decisions very quickly and have near limitless budgets. In industries where decisions happen slowly and budgets are limited it's harder to get a foothold, harder to grow, and if you do succeed you're less likely to be a fast-growing exciting startup that a venture-oriented place like HN talks about.

> But basically anything outside of those two realms feels completely under-addressed by SAAS: > - industry - public services - waste management - etc

I hear this a lot. Couldn't be that everyone (makers/founders) addresses these PH/PH spaces because they are packed with early adopters instead of the other industries where every new innovation will be taken with FUD?

And that's the cause that it's under-addressed. It's hard to convince "classic" industries to adopt new SW stuff and new paradigms.

This! The biggest opportunity is in SaaS for industries where techies don't see problems or were not really digitized yet. The setback is that they are pretty boring and you have to many times deal with different people in terms of sales. But thats where the gold is.

Agreed. I built an app that was in the Top 5 to Top 10 paid business apps on the Apple App Store for about a year. It causes so much drama with copy cat developers from the the south east pacific. I had people steal my name on the App Store and other victims of these copy cats start to turn on each other because they all think they are stealing ideas from one another. It is absolutely bonkers.

Could you please detail more? Heavily interested

When you reach the top of the App Store you develop a new set of problems. One of those problems is copy cat developers who basically just copy app ideas in the hopes of stealing some of your users. It started with my users reporting about bugs that didn’t make any sense with odd screenshots and non-existent features. I look into it and the fake version of my app with almost an identical app icon, app name and with my name as the author. Apple was basically useless when trying to help me resolve this issue as it was a violation of my trademark. The only thing Apple can do is put you in contact with the email addresses registered to the other developers account. One day, my wife received a threatening phone call. How they got my wife’s number I have no clue. The other person on the phone call said I stole their Minecraft skin app. I told them it wasn’t me and that the same people stole my app, my name and about 30 other apps including theirs. Well these other developers didn’t believe me so they copied my app and tried to steal my users. How do I know this? Well they setup a new LLC to steal my app idea. I wouldn’t have found this out if they had not forgotten to change the name of the business in the privacy policy they copied from their original business name they contacted me at. Their new business that stole my app had some guy who pretended to be a lawyer but when I googled his name and saw his LinkedIn account he also worked at the original company that contacted my wife. That’s the short of it. Basically I caught them red handed, presented all my evidence to Apple and they were handled and pulled down the copy of my app. All the while, the people that stole both of our apps operated unhindered. Apple did nothing with that particular case that I could remember. I wish I was making this all up but it pushed me into some deep suicidal ideation because at the time I was dealing with PTSD from military service and my father passing away. 2017 was rough.

I think it was Justin Kan who tweeted something like:

"if someone else could copy your product, and they have more customers/grow better, then you aren't the right fit for it"

Also, nowadays, product is a small part of your company. Can you remember the last time you saw someone having an initial traction just because they have a great product?

You can copy Airtable/Notion as long as you want, adding some more features to it. But it's not how it works, I believe.

One of the trends I have been seeing, especially in devtool space is there products built by agencies and there are products built by companies where it is their flagship product. When you have a situation like this, then it dilutes the value proposition of your product. Even though, agency driven product might be serious or might not be seriously pursued, it definitely make the space red ocean.

I wonder how people generally combat this kind of scenarios.

One of the weaknesses of agency-driven products is the lack of market understanding and ongoing connection. It's frequently a sweep up of anecdotes from their developers, clients, and perhaps some other research. Sometimes it's a vanity project for someone who ultimately knows that they won't turn the agency into a product company and they ultimately move once the product gets attention. You have to wait them out by being selective in how you burn your resources while developing a "brand" that's different from an agency.

Be genuinely interested in solving the problems that your users have. Devtools have always been attractive as products to developers, but they are notoriously difficult to be successful with. You need to find all of the workflows that your users have and optimize them effectively. Sometimes the things that are needed are dull and boring, but if they visibly take someone's time then there is long-term value. Be careful about supporting esoteric approaches that will disappear, but also be aware that this can help with locking in some customers at the right point.

Agencies tend to be bad at support. They are optimized for making new things and moving on. You have an opportunity to provide a strong support experience which is coupled with intelligence gathering on developer needs.

I'd pay decent money for a Notion competitor that doesn't take 10+ seconds to load.

Try getoutline.com. it's open source too.

It might be a way to alleviate some regret after the fact, but that type of thinking seems like a great way to induce paralysis.

True but this is valid only for the established companies. A solo dev or bunch of people with a small seed round don't have any of that moat.

AFAIK it's a common practice to copy up and coming indie games from the app store top charts because an established team would have the muscle to catch up and surpass the new ones. I don't see why wouldn't be possible to do it to any other product that is not an overnight success but shows healthy organic growth. I think this was also the idea behind huge early funding rounds, that is to create a large early success so that it's not copied right away.

Indie game is where product = "company".

Organic grows != "we just launch and see how users come to us"

Huge early funding rounds = outstanding team + understanding of market + previous successful exits + 10B TAM

A healthy organic early growth implies product market fit, or at least some promising alignment. Unless it's technologically hard service, there's no moat that a well funded team can't replicate and surpass.

Until they have sizeable operations, all startups are "company == product". They are pretty vulnerable of being copied.

The company is more than “techology”. It also marketing, sales, regional, leadership, market size, etc. That can be (and it is) a big moat preventing a well founded startup to replicate.

In short one needs to have something is hard to replicate - but that does not need to be technology.

I know, the point is that at early stages there’s little of it. That’s when they copy you, just like that unless you have something else that’s hard to replicate.

That could work in my favour though. I've got a couple of things I've wanted for a while, that existing projects don't quite work like but I have no time to make myself. Maybe if I publish an MVD (minimum viable demo!) making it look like an attempt at an MVP, people will copy the idea and do it well enough I'll be able to use it…

The main argument against that working is that I'd prefer OSS self-hosted options — no one chasing the quick buck is going to go that way!

Is PH really still relevant these days? Based on the comments it feels more like a circle jerk of a dozen die-hard users and the rest being semi-automated spam mostly from India. No tough questions, just self-congratulating Emojis.

Luck is also part of the equation, perhaps more than people want to acknowledge.

To take Hacker News as an example, there are many excellent projects posted in the 'Show HN' section that get no traction at all. And then there a few lucky ones that suddenly take-off. There's no "wisdom of the crowds" moment that propels one project to success over another because it's more worthy or excellent - it really is random in so many cases.

We think success = product excellence: how else could a product rise to a leading position in the market or to such pre-eminence unless it was better than the alternatives? But the mountain of successful products ranging from mediocre to terrible quality shows that product excellence isn't always the key ingredient to a product's success.

Lest this all sounds too negative, I would never discourage anyone to pursue their product idea. But when it comes to promoting a product, developers should be cautious about relying on just one source for promoting their product (Hacker News, Product Hunt etc).

People tend to think startup or new product when they hear SaaS, and forget that many mature businesses are turning their domain software into a SaaS. This is currently huge. Internal software that was previously only used inside the company. Now they get to recoup on developer cost by opening it up to the market as a subscription service. At least that's the idea.

I still don't understand the purpose of Product Hunt - and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. I'm hoping someone can tell me where it fits into the ecosystem vs. what I think my role is.

I buy software, as a customer, both in my personal life as a consumer and also in my role at a tech company where I'd buy more B2B software. I don't use PH as a resource, but I hear about it a lot. What's it's role in the startup ecosystem / what am I missing out on?

It's like Show HN and Reddit combined. Comments and upvotes on brand new products and services.

For founders/makers, it's obviously a great source of traffic, leads, and exposure for your product.

For users, it's more about being in on the ground floor with a hot new product. Sometimes that means getting an exclusive deal or free features. Other times it's just the exclusivity of being one of the first customers for something that may be very big one day (think lower user IDs on Twitter or GitHub, for instance).

I think a lot of people like playing with new toys, and PH is a good way to do that without having to spend actual money buying something new to play with. I think it fits in the same niche as those that watch unboxing videos. It's fun to play with new stuff.

This comment made me realise how little software I actually buy. My most recent software purchase was a password manager subscription, a year ago. Otherwise I use the free version of tools and the G Suite. Whenever I go to a site like product hunt, I always wonder who buys it. I have to guess its mostly a b2b market.

I guess I'll just have to concede not "getting it" - as a B2B buyer anyway.

PH gives you a score, something #1 product of the day. It can be used as a benchmark or reference to investors and customers that this is product has a market need. It is kickstarter for software except the money part. It is also gives you some kind product and market validation. But like any other system, you can game it.

> It can be used as a benchmark or reference to investors and customers that this is product has a market need.

Is this actually true? The thing I'm trying to figure out is who is sitting in the audience at PH. Is it really potential customers, or networks of folks somehow connected to the poster that are there just to upvote? Am I atypical in not looking at PH when I'm interested in a solution to a problem I have? (I suspect I'm the norm)

For me, PH is reduced to alternative.to these days. I only use it to research alternative products for ones that I know

You are absolutely right. Sometimes, it is not about technically simple things. It can be complex but hot on trends. For instance, I have been tracking PaaS like platforms for past 2 years on hacker news. Every month, you have atleast one PaaS or on-prem heroku deployment platform on Show HN. Similarly, I see lot of airtable clones once in a while.

Personally, if something is easy to copy, I wouldn't want to work on it.

Years ago I got an email from a budding competitor. They wanted to create a similar product to mine but couldn't figure out how. Would I help them?

What are you working on?

For a laugh, go and search for product feedback board (upvote/downvote feature requests) tools on Product Hunt.

I swear there is an exact, cheaper replica of tools like Canny every day (which itself was a clone of UserVoice before they went enterprise).

Staking your big launch of something truly novel on Product Hunt is just asking for clones with 2-3 months.

I know this thread is over a day old now, but the very next day yet another of these feedback board tools launched - and is currently #1:


I don’t understand how the Product Hunt community keeps upvoting the same product idea, cloned 100x. It feels like it is being gamed somehow, because I can’t be the only one that sees this happening…

Funny, because I've started a privacy-friendly analytics tool [0]. It really happened by "accident", as I initially tried to solve my own problem (analytics for my website without an ugly cookie-banner) and only later discovered there were many existing solutions.

Now that I went all-in on it, I think there is much more to it than what you can see at a first glance. There are a lot of dividing factors, like support, features, ... or in our case a unique design and good support for resellers (agencies) and technical people (server-side integration). We have been called copy-cats, but that doesn't mean different people won't find similar solutions for the same issue like it happens with us or in science from time to time.

[0] https://pirsch.io/

There have always been copycats. It’s better to worry about usability and business model.

Before Google became a monopoly, it was just one of many search vendors. Google’s advantage was that they made search easy and simple enough for grandma to understand and use it.

Google is not a technically simple product though, and not something a competitor could have copied in a matter of months.

How many months did it take Brin and Page to launch?

Google's advantage initially was speed. The other search engines were slower on dialup and riddled with advertisements.

Seems like this might be the driver behind longer timelines. Lean approaches work if you don’t expect others to clone you and catch up. If you expect to have copy cats it’s better to be 2 years ahead.

I usually think if the business cannot sustain once the idea is copied, it's not a good business idea.

Maybe it's fine to continue as a hobby project, but for business, if it cannot sustain without a significantly large market share, or have too competitive environment, better to work on other problems.

You don't compete on just the product though. I've had companies with plenty of VC money outbid me on Adwords and employ lots of cheap labour on SEO. Often their product offering looks quite weak.

You are right though, if that's the environment you face you just need to move on.

Every product is a copy of something .. You have a platform and build something new thats it ..

I know right, show me an application that hasn't already been made before? This is nothing new, been going on for the last 30-40 years.

I agree

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