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How Product Hunt Rose to the Top

This story appears in the May 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Imagine a place where you can find the next cutting-edge soft-ware tool or business app that will streamline your operations, enable you to enter a new market or give your business a competitive edge. That place already exists. It's a year-old website called Product Hunt, and according to its 28-year-old founder, Ryan Hoover, its purpose is to serve as a launch pad for new, mostly untested ideas.

Eva Kolenko
Seek and he shall find: Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt.

In 2013 Hoover was working as a product manager at Playhaven, a mobile gaming company, when he launched Product Hunt as an informal e-newsletter for friends to find and share shortcuts to tech-development issues.

"Whenever I faced a problem, I always thought, There must be something out there that already does what I need to do," he recalls. And for the most part there was—he just needed to find it.

By early 2014, Hoover had quit his programming gig to go full time with Product Hunt, aided by a $1 million seed round through Y Combinator in San Francisco. At around the same time, Hoover's earliest partner, product designer Nathan Bashaw, suggested that the site host reddit-style rankings, with Product Hunt's community of users voting the best ideas to the top. The result is that the less tech-savvy are spared the hassle of differentiating between a smart solution and a waste of time.

The site's simple design shows readers the top new products of the day and also archives collections of products put together by its user base. These can include such categories as email or travel apps, social media management tools, all things Mac, VC companies, bookkeeping tools or a soup-to-nuts listing of the best free software for startups.

More than 8,000 vetted users, from a predicable mix of Silicon Valley developers and business leaders to celebrities such as rapper Nas and NBA star Carmelo Anthony, have the power to vote on Product Hunt and put together collections to share with the site's several hundred thousand monthly readers.

Hoover says he's constantly amazed at the smart solutions that appear on the site and by what apps generate the most interest. He cites a nonprofit project called BeMyEyes, the creation of Danish software firm Robocat, which helps a blind person "see" by linking their smartphone's camera to the phone of another person who can act as their eyes. BeMyEyes became the third-highest-ranked product in the site's history, and Robocat is now considering developing additional functions to the app based on recommendations found in the Product Hunt comment thread.

Despite the lack of a monetization plan, Product Hunt raised $6.1 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz last October. Hoover claims that the site's rise in influence is more important than revenue right now.

"If you're at a typical consumer site, they want to hold your eyeballs on the site as long as possible," he says. "At Product Hunt, we want you to click on a link and leave. That's how we measure success." Those referrals are up tenfold in the past year, currently at 3 million uniques per month and growing.

Steven Sinofsky, a partner with Andreesen Horowitz and member of Hoover's board, confirms that there's no rush for money.

"That referral metric is one way they could monetize the site in the future, or they could start charging for listing, or they could become a sort of Kickstarter hybrid, where you launch your idea on Product Hunt," he says. "Revenue is just a matter of figuring out how to do it right, not whether it's going to happen."

So the next time you think, There has to be a better way, check out Product Hunt. You might find a solution that saves you the hassle of doing it yourself—and boosts your bottom line.

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