Kevin Wong – SLOWLY Startup Diaries, post 2

How I found my first users

When deciding to start a startup, the first challenge is finding the first users. In the past, I did that while working for clients, usually with a good media advertising budget, plus some established brands. Compared to startups that have no money and start from scratch, there is a big difference; and the original knowledge and experience have become useless. Is this an attractive idea? Will the number of users reach a level sufficient to keep things running?

Start with concepts to reduce dependence

My previous startup attempt cost more money than expected when it closed. The remaining “re-start-up” capital budget went from being tight, to having little left to support living expenses. It also meant I couldn't rely on paid advertising or anything like to onboard my first users.

Based on these constraints, it was already necessary for me to take this into account from the time of conception. In other words, some ideas that rely more on the number of users to implement would be eliminated. One of the reasons for choosing Slowly in the end is that it has low demands in this area – making pen pals only requires one-on-one chat, and it takes a lot of time to write and read letters. So it is assumed that you can't communicate with too many people at the same time, and the demand for more current users is not so great.

Conversely, if it was like some applications that value real-time interaction (such as requiring a large number of likes, live broadcasts, multi-person chats, etc.), it would be easy to feel that the new app scene is 'cold', and leave it. This early user escape may also lead to preconceived ideas, and to them never returning.

Avoid the heavy and light

Sometimes when I use other apps, I have thoughts like “if I do this and that here, it will definitely be ten times better.” Every product isn't perfect, so patches are released continuously, which I prefer to describe as “constantly evolving” products.

The flaws we find in our accidental use may not be as devastating as we imagine. Moreover, the developers may have made similar observations and discoveries, and they have a lot of data to support each decision. And if they haven't done it, it's mostly just a matter of priority.

Coupled with the user's inertia and a certain degree of inclusiveness, it may be much more difficult than you think to mistakenly believe that “improvement” on these perceived defects is enough to push the competitor's larger project down.

Based on these considerations, I rationally choose not to bump into larger projects, and even avoid any slightly similar application. In addition to the lack of objective conditions to challenge the 'giants', another emotional reason is my dedication to originality as a designer.

There is nothing new under the sun, and it is indeed a bit difficult for the world to find new ideas that no one has done at all. This is very discouraging of being persistent (and not to care too much about other people's impressions).

But uniqueness, originality, these things can also create a sense of freshness and help you when starting.

Take advantage of the free springboard

There are many free channels on the Internet where your project can be promoted. These should be easy to find, I will not list them all.

It should be noted that you should not rush to submit articles.

You need to plan according to the characteristics of the product; for example, making pen pals will generally be associated with communicating with people from other countries, right? So I chose some more internationally oriented platforms to start, and deliberately avoided some channels that are too restricted in regional areas. And it is best to be English.

One of the most recommended is ProductHunt, a platform that has gathered a group of people who are interested in new ideas and new products. I submitted my proposal by self-nomination, and finally succeeded in bringing more than 10,000 new registrations, which were users in different corners of the world.

This greatly increased the user diversity in the early stage of the product. Later, I found out that there are also a few tricks in PH promotion, such as hearing that someone will first find some well-known users on Twitter to sell privately, and then they will recommend the release, which sounds more convincing than when I opened a new account, and then self-offered.

When it comes to free platforms, we have to mention the Apple App Store and Google Play itself. In addition to the seemingly unattainable leaderboards, they also have some automatic and non-automatic recommendation methods to let users around the world access your product, so when it is successfully on the shelf, there will be natural downloads, and it is worth the effort to design the app's storefront.

If you are lucky enough to be featured, it is a very effective way to promote it, remember that the first time it was featured in the App of the Day, it happened to be International Friendship Day, and Slowly was lucky to be found since it matched the theme. Thanks again to the Apple teams in Taiwan and Hong Kong, who have successfully translated and published articles in dozens of countries internally.

Thanks to the growth brought by this feature, the Slowly servers have been upgraded several times! Then the number of registrations finally exceeded one million after about a year of launch, and JoJo and I officially entered the full-time stage.

Cover photo source: Unsplash

🔔 The original text was published in, on March 8, 2021. Sadly, this URL is now gone, redirecting to the generic site. A backup of this site is on here.

It also appeared in the original Mandarin language on here

Translation Notes and rationale:

This translation was prepared by Yann2, a user, fan and supporter of the SLOWLY project. And it is in no way authorized or condoned by the original author. Any translation errors contained herein are my own, and subject to revisions – please send comments if necessary, thank you.

This translator's view is that the inner workings of Kevin's mind are of interest to the passionate fans of the app he has created from scratch. Hence, we bring here an English language version which can be more widely read. Thank you, Kevin!

Famous Last Words

Special Thank You to the folks behind this wonderful app — all the hard working people at Slowly Communications.

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