Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: What successful startups started as "Show HN"?
158 points by sbisker on Jan 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments
I thought pulling together a list of startups who've done this would be interesting, to explore and perhaps better document the influence of HN on the startup community. We'll count both stand-alone startups who used Show HN in their launch / iterating strategy and side projects that have evolved into stand-alone startups, for the sake of discussion.

Also, if your startup has gone through this: how do you feel using Show HN as a means of launching / gathering feedback my have helped or hurt your product?

This is the best part of that whole link:


A good lesson that though someone could build it, most can't and if they could they'd rather not.

There's a really easy mental shortcut engineers or engineers who are aspiring entrepreneurs can make.

It starts with a thought like: "Oh, I can do that by gluing together X, Y, and Z and configuring the foobaz widget to sync via the 802.11q network."

Your second thought should be: "No normal person could do that, and even those who could probably wouldn't want to."

I remember that after "Find His Porn" website was featured on HN (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3301137) someone here presented an application that does the opposite - provides hidden, secure, encrypted drive - and that basically is TrueCrypt + some magic scripts that make it normal-user-friendly. Can't Google the link though.


Heh, sbisker, don't you remember? We launched Tinfoil Security as a Show HN before we'd actually built anything and got great feedback. I'm not posting this as a measure of 'success' as much as a measure of a product that still exists, has raised venture funding, and is still trying to become a huge business. :)



...ok, I think I just got told. I actually had forgotten we did that. :P

Ha, didn't mean for it to come off as snarky, though I suppose I'm okay with that tone too. :)

Oh the memories. I'm not going to put my startup in the Dropbox 'successful' bucket quite yet, but our multiple 'Ask HN' posts helped mold IActionable into what it is today.

Its really interesting to look back and see how our company was formed by the feedback we received. Early on we had one idea which we called 'KaBadge' and we asked what everyone thought here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=795952

This made us discover an even bigger need. Before people were going to think about karma/badge/point portability they were going to need systems to help award them. We switched gears really quick and went to work. It look a bit of time to convince ourselves that it would be possible. This was way before someone tossed out the term 'gamification' so it was really hard to do any research on this new market.

Then we came back to the community with IActionable: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1126780

Unfortunately at that time there was no way we could have moved to California to be part of YC. (families, babies, mortgages, etc) But, we were lucky enough to discover a local (Utah) incubator back in 2010. Eventually my friend and I convinced ourselves to quit our jobs: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1347464

We quickly raised a seed round after the program and haven't looked back. Things are definitely still evolving but its been an awesome roller-coaster ride so far.

Visual Website Optimizer - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=876141

Great idea to compile such a list.

I also recently talked on Mixergy on how much "Show HN" helped me (special mention to @patio11) http://mixergy.com/chopra-visual-website-optimizer-interview...


What is the definition of "successful" for the purposes of this thread? I hear wildly differing accounts of whether Quora is successful or not, and I'm curious to hear from other HN participants whether or not they think Quora is a successful startup as they define success.

"What is the definition of "successful" for the purposes of this thread?"

My thought would be "validated by attracting reasonable investment money by angels or VC's". In other words the idea would be good enough for someone to believe in it that wasn't friends or family or someone's own money. Of course that's only a starting definition. Someone who did "show hn" and then used their own money but gained either customer revenue or a significant user base would also be a success. (And what is "significant" or "reasonable" is also open to interpretation.)

By almost any measure other than revenue, Quora has been extremely successful.

Since it's YC, we can start with "building something people want".

re "count both": It seems that many many YC startups have shown their work here, and they will swamp any others.

From the title, I thought this would be about projects that began as "Show HN" (not began as YC startups, and then showed HN), and I find that idea, of sideprojects that became something greater, intriguing.

LayerVault comes to mind. Depends on your definition of success, but last I heard they're doing well.


While it's no Dropbox, TinyLetter's launch was a Show HN. MailChimp bought it a few months ago.


RightSignature: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=510656

It was great feedback--comment #1 (1055 days ago) is in our app and boosted our conversion into solid double-digits: "You need a sample document, so people can test out the 'using your mouse to sign' part without signing up."

Nobody cared about my Show HN, so I'd say it's lukewarm.

And I'm pretty proud of my website, too.


The idea is really nice! Maybe i would work a bit on the design, also maybe try not to focus on the same genres. This is something that is bugging me a lot with all these website like your, consle.fm etc... i really like theme but they focus on music kinds i am not interested in. I mean on your top bar there are at least 6 musics for "disco" and 1 pop/rock... this demotivates me because maybe i would love to see a "classical music" and "metal" etc... i think that if you expand your music horizonts you might expand your target audience and really stand out of the crawd of similar websites.

hey, I really appreciate the feedback and I'll see if I can add some more genres :)

Nice! I'm working on something similar. Mail me if you're interested in joining forces

This community seems to need constant validation that it's worth doing start-ups and that some are, in fact, successful. I have to feel like if this were true, there wouldn't be this gaping insecurity.

I think it's more that it's the people who are on the fence about doing a startup that are likely to be on a startup-focused forum talking about it. The ones who know it's a good idea are out there founding companies. And the ones who know it's a bad idea are at their 9-5 jobs and don't pay any attention to the startup scene.

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by math.

(Edit: BTW, Drew & Aston used to be regular posters on Hacker News, as did drusenko of Weebly, coffeemug of RethinkDB, lacker of Parse, danielha of Disqus, aaroniba of Etherpad, and a bunch of other YC founders I've forgotten. When they realized it was a good idea to start a company, they quit posting, got into YC, and started building their companies.)

> The ones who know it's a good idea are out there founding companies.

This is really really really true.

What about people who are actively founding a company, work a 9-5 job, and still post on HN? Are we just nuts, or what? :-)

I would say yes and no. Bootstrapping in itself is not a bad thing I don't think, but at the same time, if you want to succeed with your venture, you have to fully commit at some stage.

Actually, I asked more to learn about which Show HNs became successful. I was curious if I could detect any common differences the startups themselves that posted on HN in their infancy, as opposed to the total pool of startups or the total pool of Show HNs overall. (Of course, as someone pointed out, there's also the fact that startups who posted Show HNs are going to be much more likely to have gone through an incubator like Y Combinator. That may be a distinct enough difference that it washes out anything else about their initial product or submission. Still, I can't imagine EVERY success from Show HN was a result of subsequently doing Y Combinator...)

On a more selfish note, I also figured that people discussing this would cause me to learn about more interesting companies with ties to HN that I hadn't heard of before.

There are likely many successful startups which did a Show HN, but the cause of their successes have nothing to do with HN feedback, while highly valuable from a peer-to-peer perspective. They went on to find thousands of customers on their own. How they did this, and who championed them, is a different story.

I am interested in seeing the early stage. Just look at the Dropbox post and comments, it is incredible!

I probably would have dismissed Dropbox if I had seen that, and look at them now.

I hope this becomes a big list so I can read them all.

Isn't the lottery the same way? The odds of a doorbusting success are rather low, so even though success does happen, you don't always see it often.

Pretty much. For every project that makes it, thousands die off in the new section mostly unnoticed, let alone on the homepage. Probably have a better chance getting struck by lightning.

You have reminded me of the guy in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, who got struck by lightning for 7 times. Pessimism never helps.

which is why incubators lower the odds of failure and have mobs of people trying to get in. another validation of the lottery scenario is that even smart people keep launching companies, trying to find the one which catches the invisible wave. invisible wave = launching at the right time + getting lots of enduring love.

Just FYI (and for anyone else): The canonical URL is news.ycombinator.com and not hackerne.ws

so: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2901156

pen.io started here. Was noticed by the press and investors here.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact