Pieter Levels, a Dutch entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed "serial maker," has mastered the art of launching products that get noticed by the press and used by thousands of users on launch day.
On launch day, Hoodmaps was used by over 100,000 people, and at peak had 795 people on the website at the same time. A week later, over 300,000 people have used the app and it's been covered by press worldwide. For someone with little-to-no marketing budget, this was a big launch.
However, this success didn't come as pure luck. I reached out to Levels and asked if he could share some knowledge. Here are five things he says you should do when bootstrapping your next product launch:
1. Solve a problem you have yourself.
Levels travels quite a bit, and says he always struggled to understand what the neighborhoods were like in new cities:
"I'm from Amsterdam. And when people visit my city, they mostly end up in the tourist areas, instead of the ones where actual locals hang out. Simply because they don't know which neighborhoods to go. And I'd have the same problem repeatedly when visiting cities while traveling. So I made Hoodmaps, which lets everyone contribute data visually about where to go in a city."
I've seen many entrepreneurs create products that they wouldn't use themselves and it's an early sign of failure.
No matter how great you think your product is, if no one has any use for it, it won't get press. It's that simple. Start with solving your problems.
2. Build fast and in public.
Many entrepreneurs wait until their product has all the kinks worked out and looked beautiful with finishing touches. Levels does the exact opposite. He live-streamed himself building the site on Twitch from day one, and it was live on day two. It got tweeted every part of the way.
From the creation of the first page to launch, he allowed the public to see what he was building. Not only is this a great way to get feedback from your audience, but it's also a great marketing tactic. Why wait until something is ready to launch when you can get an early group of people who felt like they were part of the creation of the product?
3. Make a press list with the help of your community.
Since the neighborhoods are 100 percent crowd sourced, he needed locals to create accurate representations of their city on the website. To get the attention of locals, he knew he needed local publications to cover him.
So, Levels did what you would expect him to do. He reached out to his community to create a crowd sourced press list for every major city in the world.
The result was the ability for him to understand local press outlets he wouldn't be familiar with.
4. It's okay to spend money on a great .com domain.
Once he settled on Hoodmaps, he did some research and found out that hoodmaps.com was already purchased, but it was up for sale.
A few days later, he bought Hoodmaps.com for $1,795.
"I already owned hoodmaps.io, .net, .org and to be honest it's not necessary to own .com. Especially since it was an unproven product and I didn't know it would be worth it. But it would instantly make the product more credible."
5. Build a community before launch.
It may seem on the surface that Levels is asking a lot of his followers to crowd source his PR list and then on top of that, fill out all the neighborhoods.
However, if you build a loyal audience, you can ask things from them and expect to get some great responses.