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Loic Le Meur
founder of LeWeb conference, Seesmic, marathon runner and kite-surfer
founder of LeWeb conference, Seesmic, marathon runner and kite-surfer


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I thought email was dead and I got 10,000 subscribers

I hated newsletters. Why? Because people keep adding me without my permission. I spent too much of my time trying to unsubscribe to crap I never asked to receive.
I thought blogs and social networks would kill email. They obviously didn’t. I still spend a huge amount of time in my emails.
I always liked sharing how I build things and get feedback, not sure why I decided to do it by email but on Nov 23, 2015 I decided to start a newslettersharing my progress on my new startup
I had two main motivations, make myself accountable by having to report weekly on my own progress and then create a community of friends who want to help me and would check out my app once I have it. I was inspired by Product Hunt and Ryan Hoover telling the story how he built it from an email experiment.
I did not manually add anyone to the list. I did not import my address book or LinkedIn contacts. I did not use any existing list. I just hate when people do that to me so why would I do it to them? I just posted about it on social networks. I also added at the end of each of my blog posts that readers could register if they found that post interesting.
About 3 months later I have about 10,000 subscribers from 100+ countries, I had no idea I would get so many so fast if at all. I actually wonder how that happened. I get between 50 and 60% open rate in average per newsletter (might not last!). More importantly I realize every day very good friends and/or important people in my life read it as they tell me about it.
I try to write honestly as if I were telling a friend about it. I try to not promote but tell things as they happen. I also share difficult things and questions I don’t have answers to. I ask regularly for feedback and get hundreds of emails back.
The benefits are incredible.
-constant flow of suggestions and feedback on everything I do or share
-investors contacted me reading my newsletters. Both business angels and top VC firms.
-many people offer their help or offer to join the company full-time
-some journalists read it and I already got a few stories I wasn’t expecting
-competition also contacted me, which I list as positive to know my space
A few negatives.
-some people add me to their own newsletter without asking and it’s sometimes very agressive marketing which I did not want, they don’t follow the double opt-in rule.
-a ton of email volume sometimes makes me miss important emails but that’s totally manageable
-many of my emails get into the spam folder of my friends even if they want opted-in and want to read it, difficult to improve that.
I am trying to learn to get better at it.
What are the best newsletters you read? Any tips in general about newsletters? Thanks!
If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy my weekly newsletterwhere I describe my journey building my new startup.
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My business plan is super secret :) I'm about to send it to anyone who registered to my email newsletter. Register if you want it
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10 Lessons from Product Hunt’s Success

I’m really addicted to discovering new products daily on Product Hunt, and I’m not the only one. Try it if you don’t know the site and the mobile app. The community is very active, suggests many products and the best ones get voted up to the top.

Product Hunt’s success is obvious and many app developers report great download volume increase when they get featured. What’s really amazing is the community that the site has managed to gather. People fight to be the first one to discover a new product. They get the credit and the visibility that results from that and Product Hunt does a great job at featuring everyone that contributed.

Getting an active community that contributes constantly to any website is extremely difficult. Imagine the team that would be required if employees were hired to find those products instead of the enthusiast contributors. It would cost a fortune.

The community was there even before Product Hunt was started, it started just as a daily mailing list where a small number of people were sharing new products. They have in common the passion (or the need, if you’re an investor and want to follow what’s new) to find those new products. They want to talk about them. They’re really interested in what’s new.

Ryan shared very early what he was doing and with everyone. He shared who were the first users and that attracted new ones. It was an Open Startup. They got their first 2,000 users by doing things that do not scale.

Here are the lessons I see from their success:

Focus on quality rather than quantity.
Not everyone can submit products on Product Hunt. Not everyone can vote or comment. They filter and monitor who can post to keep the quality standards really high

Build slow and only focus on a few users at a beginning.
The founders called and emailed the first users one by one. They were friends. They felt special to be invited to the site and saw that it was only a select group that was able to publish. A small exclusive feeling. If they had opened too fast to everyone (they still haven’t) quality would have been low

Spot the most influential users
They were tracking every single new user and checked their influence on Twitter. If they had a big following or were important people in SV, they would immediately contact them to welcome them. Then give them posting rights

Make the first addicted users feel great and special. Meet them.
They made t-shirts and sent them to the most addicted or influential users. Stickers in the mail. Community dinners. Meetups.
Build with an API from the beginning

You can then open it quickly so some developers can build cool apps or services on it.

Share your own users success
Featured makers saw spikes in downloads of their products or significant sales. Product Hunt team featured those early successes on the platform to inspire others

Answer anyone talking to you on Twitter
See how the founders and the Product Hunt team are on top of their Twitter mentions. Anyone who posts about them gets an answer or a retweet. They are never un noticed.

Feature and link to all your contributors
See how “makers”, people who contribute new products, votes or comments are featured on the site. Contributing means visibility.

Keep it simple
Product Hunt is clean and simple. It loads fast. The design is minimalist but works. Nothing fancy gets in between the information and what users want to find: new products.

The team is cool and nice
It’s obvious if you read their posts and tweets. It’s even more obvious if you pay them a visit which I did. Being nice and friendly is key to succeed. People notice it and want to help friendly startups.
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Why I decided to build a new startup

How do you go from 0 to 1? What happens before the startup even comes into the picture?

I have invested as an angel in about 50 startups. It’s been quite successful. I could just keep doing this. Oh and some paragliding and kite-surfing when I don’t meet great entrepreneurs. I could also become a full time VC or even join a large company. David Marcus went from startup entrepreneur to impacting billions of people with Messenger. Working for Facebook on projects that can reach such a large amount of people must be exciting.

I love the beginnings of a startup. I enjoy the process of finding an idea and creating something from scratch. I don’t care if it’s going to fail or not. It’s the adventure and the learnings that matter. The feeling of doing something new no-one else is doing yet.

I asked a similar question to Richard Branson this year. “Why do you keep starting new things, you don’t need to”. Richard answered “If we don’t start new things all the time, it’s a waste. We have to keep innovating. It’s a duty.”

I don’t know about duty. I certainly understand the waste of not using my experience to start something new. Paragliding is very cool though. The good news is I can go paraglide 20 minutes away from my place, fly for an hour and come back. A friend of mine even bought a small solar panels equiped RV that he parks at the paragliding spot. He works from there when conditions are good and alternates flying and working on his laptop.

In the decision to start, there was a lot of “f**k it I need to start something new, which has been growing on me for a while. I just love building something new, it’s so exciting. It’s the best feeling. It does not matter where it goes, it’s all about starting.
Finding the idea is the next challenge. I had 20 different real startup ideas in the last 12 months. Many friends shared their ideas with me too. It’s always the same. I get excited by an idea, I share it with a few friends, sometimes even start talking to people who could join me. I even talked to investors about some of them and they were ready to fund them.

Instead of raising some funding and running with it, I let the idea settle in my mind for a few weeks. Talking to friends about it can be good and bad. There is always many friends to tell you how bad your idea is and it’s so easy to stop right there. “Oh he’s right, that idea was lame”.

I’m aware to start something you should not listen too much to those who tell you you’re going to fail. I still did just that and killed those 20 ideas in 12 months and did not start anything.

Then there is the pressure of building something that can be huge. A unicorn. This is “so Silicon Valley”. It needs to have the potential to change the World, something we should Reconsider. Especially if you have started several startups already. Small is not an option. Got a few friends tell me this recently. You can’t do this it’s too small for you. One more killed.

Problem is Brian Chesky had no idea he was creating something huge with AirBNB. The investors he talked to did not think it could be big either. I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg had any idea Facebook would have so much potential. He was just creating profiles of his Harvard fellow students so they better connected. Uber was a luxury limo service that wasn’t going a priori to revolutionize transportation.

Back to the question, how did I finally decide to launch something? I decided to ignore everybody about the idea itself. I decided to particularly ignore the need for doing something big “because I had to”. I’m bootstrapping a small idea instead. I hired only one engineer as co-founder, and I’m funding it myself for now.

That’s how I went from 0 to 1.

Then I decided to build it in the open by sharing my progress in a weekly email. It forces me to deliver, among other benefits.

Sign-up to my weekly email if you like. It’s about building my startup if you would like to follow the small idea not changing the World I’m working on.

thanks, Arjun Juneja for asking this question.
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About to send my second newsletter update working on my new startup (I have a name!) to the 2,500 of you who registered, join here if you want it thanks!
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