Launch – The Week After

Hi there! Now the first storm of feedback has settled, we found some time to reflect and write up a “The Week After” story. But why make this public? Well, we’ve always been inspired and learned a lot reading about how fellow startuppers launched their companies, like Peldi from Balsamiq, who has been very transparent and covered every step of launching a cool app called Mockups. In that spirit we’d thought we share with you what our process has been so far.

In short: it’s been really busy and great! The launch went better than we expected, 7 minutes after going live we got our first customer! As with our beta launch we got a lot of nice reactions, thanks everyone! We got over 60 subscriptions in the first week (but more users, as some customers are a team), including families, hobbyists, independent contractors, companies, and other organizations such as charities.

So, let’s get to the numbers:

VAT not included

We had sales every single day, and that was a big relief. We knew big fluctuations between day to day sales numbers are to be expected, but we didn’t expect the first and last two days of the first week to bring in 80% of all sales.

Cannot resist temptation to extrapolate.

I wonder if the graph will look similar a few months down the road.

We’re really happy about this!

Road to the launch
To give some more insight into how we went from idea to launch, this is roughly what we’ve been through in the past year and a half.

Idea (Summer 2008)
Before Thymer we’ve been working on other projects, and it’s always been challenging to keep a good overview of our responsibilities and keep track of what’s going on, especially as we were usually working from different cities and countries. Of course we tried every product for task and project management we could find, but none of them felt right for us. So we developed our own ideas about what we really wanted the software to do and asked ourselves if maybe this would be a nice product for other people to use as well. We didn’t want to become too distracted though (eventually the other project didn’t really work out, but that’s a different story), but our hands were itching and it became a little side-project… So, during the summer we made a lot of sketches about what the system might look like. We still weren’t too convinced it was worth turning this into a product. Inspired by the Four Hour Work Week-approach (the first sketches and brainstorming happened somewhere on the beach), we decided we would only create a very limited prototype, launch a demo video, and see what happens.

Demo video / Splash page (October 2nd, 2008)
The prototype was ready (ready enough to make a video about it, not to use it :) and we made a demo video. We put up a splash page with a description about Thymer, the screencast and an input box for collecting email addresses for interested people. We were very happy about receiving the first 50 email addresses of interested people almost right away. We got some very nice feedback from the start, which encouraged us to develop it further. For months we spent days and nights working very hard to go from a prototype to a beta product we hoped people would love to use. At this point we thought we would be only a couple of months away from a commercial launch.

Sneak Preview (very limited beta) (March 2009)
In March our beta list (people who signed up for the beta) grew to thousands of addresses, and we decided to send out a first small batch, to see what the initial reactions would be and to see if any weird problems would arise (nope, none did). Again, lots of positive feedback and lots of suggestions for improvement. We decided to polish Thymer a bit more, before we would invite everybody on the list into our private beta. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression after all. Launch not too early, launch often; so to speak.

Private Beta (May 2009)
We launched our private beta and sent out emails to some blogs if they were interested in giving Thymer a try; we also included beta keys for their readers. We got quite some press and thousands of visitors, who all wanted to try the beta! We also got mentioned in a paper magazine (.net developers). For some reason seeing Thymer mentioned on a big blog and in a paper magazine made it feel so surreal.

Preparing for launch (Jul – Oct 2009)
With many beta users using Thymer, we got quite some feedback, thanks again everyone! More and more people found their way to our beta list, as we were mentioned more on other blogs and twitter. Now the crucial question: would enough people love Thymer enough to actually pay for it? So far the feedback was great, but of course we need paying customers to survive. During the months leading up to the launch we worked on adding many features (features we were missing ourselves and features that were requested often). Next to all the coding, we worked out pricing plans and our subscription backend. A phase with more questions than answers: “Is the price right?”, “Is it easy enough to change from a beta to a free or paid plan?”. We kept testing and refining, and finally decided it was really time to find out: launch! And that brings us to where we are right now.

Our goals
We’re ecstatic about our start, and the feedback and sales are really encouraging! In the next few months we hope to become ramen profitable (meaning we make just enough to cover basic living expenses and operating costs for Thymer). This would open up all kinds of new possibilities, like, maybe, an upgrade for our company transportation:

Vrrrroooooooooooommmmmm! F

Taken last year in front of my apartment. Winter is around the corner, so we better hurry :)

What’s Next
So what are we working on now? This week we’re launching a major new feature, making it easier to plan and manage longer task lists. And, we have some more news about the iPhone version. Other features are also in the pipeline, more about that soon!

8 thoughts on “Launch – The Week After

  1. Jay Goldman

    Thanks for sharing this publicly! The world could use more entrepreneurs who help everyone else understand how startups function in their real world natural environment.

    Good luck!

  2. Peter Cooper

    Congratulations – I had a very similar experience to you with a startup in 2005 (I sold it two years later for a nice sum). Good luck!

    One question though. Back when I did it, I had a free service that already had thousands of users I could promote to. You say you set up a splash page, etc, but how did you promote that splash page and get the thousands of e-mail addresses from people?

  3. wim

    Thanks everyone!

    After we put up the splash page, we posted about Thymer on a couple of forums. We mainly attracted the tech crowd with this, but it was a start, and it resulted in the first 50 email addresses or so. Apparently the first visitors liked the idea and the video enough to also result in some mentions on Twitter. Eventually, this is how we got roughly two hundred addresses.

    When we sent out the first small batch of beta invite emails, we put 3 invite codes in every email. This worked really well, and people started sharing those with friends and colleagues. This gave us another couple of hundred sign-ups. We then decided to release our private beta, and we sent out an announcement to some blogs, along with some beta invites for their readers. We got quite some coverage, and we made it very easy for people to invite people to Thymer after they signed up. All the social networks sites like Twitter and FriendFeed also made a big difference. After that the number of beta users grew with thousands.

  4. Paul Stamatiou

    Wow, grats on the fantastic launch guys! My startup never had a “launch”, we’ve always been open and available but we did not publicize anything while we were still in heavy development. Now we think we’re about ready to do a large marketing push so we’ll see how that goes!


  5. Fred

    Thanks for this and congrats!

    We’re going to be in a similar boat I hope when we release later this year.

    Did you get a lot of free signups relatively speaking?

    and are you concerned about maintaining the free accounts? Another thing we’re worried about is getting tons of phantom signups (they signup once but never use it again).. which could also cost us.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    Thanks again!

  6. wim

    Concerning free signups: yes, we have a relative high number of free signups, but in general these free users are not as active as the paying ones. So right now we’re not concerned about maintaining these. If – in the worst case, and I really don’t think this is going to happen – you get flooded by free accounts, it means there’s so much interest you’re probably able to do something with it. If it becomes a problem so big you can’t solve it in time, maybe there’s some last resort solutions, like make a waiting list for free accounts?

    “Phantom signups” is also something we get. People are sometimes curious to see what your product is like, even if they have no interest in using it. Or people can read about your product, without knowing what it is, sign up and then find out they can’t really use it. We don’t really mind about this, inactive accounts don’t cost us anything. If it does, try to find some way of doing a “live demo” without a real signup, or maybe explain more about your service so that signing up is not necessary to find questions to the answers some visitors of your site might have.

    I hope this helps.

    Thanks, and good luck to you as well!

  7. Stephen Morrison

    Congrats and thanks for this great app!
    What day this week are you expecting to launch the new features (approximately)? I am eagerly looking forward to the new features and all the features coming up!

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