Product Hunt founder: we’ll start generating revenue in 2017

Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover. Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Product Hunt, a 3-year-old website that lets people share information about and volunteer to try the latest tech products, has a plan to start generating revenue next year.

The free site acts a like a Reddit for products. Founders and people interested in tech can post new products such as apps or podcasts and users can upvote, downvote, and chat about them. Each day, the Product Hunt leaderboard shows the most-upvoted products. On Thursday, for example, Snapbots — Snapchat’s vending machines that dispense its Spectacles wearable product — was voted to the top.

Speaking to Business Insider at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover admitted the company — which now has 14 full-time staff, most of whom work remotely — hadn’t made a conscious effort on revenue to date, but it is preparing to launch its first revenue-generating product in the first quarter of 2017.

Hoover said: “It’s a big shift in how we do some things. We have been thinking about [revenue] since the beginning but it’s really been in the last nine months we started making a plan on that.”

He declined to give details on exactly what Product Hunt is launching, but said the aim will be to provide value to its community, which is made up of entrepreneurs, VCs, journalists, and other early adopters. That audience is a big asset for Product Hunt if it wants to sell ads.

Hoover declined to reveal Product Hunt’s user numbers.

“People go to ProductHunt with the intent to download, purchase, and try. It’s different to Facebook and Twitter when you’re not in the mode of transactions. We think it’s an interesting opportunity because we are driving so much value, but we’ve not been extracting that,” Hoover said.

Pushed further on what the revenue product might look like, he said: “We are building on our foundation of startups and makers to drive value for them beyond what we are already providing for free. One of the things we help with is our native-to-platform distribution, and we want to start helping with other things startups have trouble with.”

As for the rest of 2016, Product Hunt is looking to expand the team and hire a product designer. Hoover admits the role has been difficult to hire for because “for better or for worse I have a lot of opinions about it.”

Despite the (modest) team expansion, Hoover said Product Hunt, which has raised $7.1 million in three funding rounds, isn’t looking to raise more capital.

“We can pay people really well — not as much as San Francisco salaries, but our burn is manageable,” Hoover said.

Asked whether further down the line, Hoover might entertain selling the company. He has a “never say never” approach.

Hoover said: “Founders will always say: ‘We will never sell’. But it’s a very contextual question. There’s a number of things to think about, like times when selling to a certain acquirer can accelerate or de-risk. It’s one of those things that any founder should evaluate but not get distracted by. Building a company with the intention to sell is often a bad idea.”

Hoover’s iPhone folder of dead apps

Hoover sits at the bleeding edge of new technology and right now he’s most excited by platforms that change the way people interact with tech — especially audio-based platforms like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Airpods that let users interact using audio commands rather than touching a screen.

But he admits that there have been times when he has been bullish about tech that ultimately failed to take off. Hoover whips out his iPhone to show Business Insider his “RIP” folder.

“I created a folder with apps that are no longer around. I don’t want to delete them — granted they don’t work. It’s like the attic that has all this trash with no use,” Hoover said.

He flicks through apps like Message Me — a messaging product similar to WhatsApp that was acquired by Yahoo in 2014 — and Mindie — a music video making app very similar to, but nowhere near as popular. Mindie was acquired by the Justin Bieber-back selfie app Shots in April this year.

“There are many [products] I’m excited about; let’s explore, let’s see what it’s like, but I don’t always believe they will be the next big thing. It’s how maths works: there can’t be 10 Facebooks launched a year, it doesn’t work like that,” Hoover said.

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