On The Hype Cycle and The Role of Product Hunt for Consumer Social Apps

Yesterday, I wrote about my affection for Meerkat and the live mobile video streaming space but cautioned that it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship. Today, I’ll discuss the latter half.

My burgeoning frustration that has peaked over the last several days has more to do with the tech hype cycle and less to do with Meerkat itself (except for that semi-spammy auto-Tweet issue I had mentioned). It just so happens that Meerkat is the latest Silicon Valley overnight darling to benefit from a rapid and somewhat spontaneous ascent.

I am a huge fan of Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt, and the community that he has built there (I was user #546), but I can’t help but find it fascinating how influential it was in accelerating Meerkat’s initial adoption.

My fascination is particularly acute given that Yevvo was already on Product Hunt, and I don’t necessarily think the changes to the product warrant the demonstrable uptick in traction.

A couple Tweets got the Valley buzzing, and the size of Product Hunt’s audience has likely grown tremendously over the last 9 months so that many more people are seeing the product and upvoting it. (As an aside, I’d be interested in seeing what the trend line looks like for upvotes that the top few products receive each day.)
Ultimately, I am most intrigued with the implications for Meerkat and other consumer social products that debut — not launch — on Product Hunt.

While tech is the new pop culture and the definition of an early adopter has changed dramatically, I still contend that as a founder, I’d rather start with the mainstream audience than the tech insider audience — the risk of a false positive is rather high with the latter group, and they churn through apps like crazy (and for people who have seen my phone, you know I’m as guilty as anyone).

Case in point is that YouNow is seeing 33,000 hours of live content streamed on a daily basis (thanks, Andy Weissman), but it’s been overlooked in this discussion because its core users are post-1990 Millennials rather than “stereotypical early adopters,” who have bolstered Meerkat’s initial traction.
In fact, I have spoken to multiple founders of social apps that are wary of being on Product Hunt prematurely for this very reason.

The Product Hunt community is tremendously valuable (civil and intelligent debate, high signal-to-noise ratio, democratizing product discovery, etc.) and is an ideal place to launch for numerous products (e.g. developer or designer tools), but too much attention too soon for the wrong product could lead to user base burnout, harm companies, and put them under unnecessarily excessive scrutiny too early in their lifecycle.

It’s an occasional unfortunate and unintended byproduct of rabid community that is constantly craving something new. A company that receives so much of this type of adulation too early may become the startup equivalent of a child star — too much hype, too much attention, and too much money.

It’s undoubtedly an exciting time to work in this industry, meet inspiring entrepreneurs, and use innovative products and services. I just hope that we don’t see an inordinate number of startups falling victim to the Hoover — née Gartner — Hype Cycle.