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How I launched FreePizza.io on the front page of Hacker News & got 10,000 visits

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019

Hacker News is one of the leading communities for entrepreneurs and developers and it's the first place I go to launch any new product. On Hacker News, anyone can submit their new product to "Show HN", but your submission must get to the front page to really get any significant traffic. Exactly how a post gets on to the front page seems to be some sort of arcane magic related to getting upvotes and comments.

I've built and launched alot of products on HN, but most of my product launches would get one or two upvotes, usually no comments at all, never hit the front page, and slide away down the rankings and within a few hours sink forever.

This time was different.

Late last year I wanted to find new clients and job seekers for my recruiting business and I thought, "I've got an idea, I'll sponsor some local usergroups and meetups so I can announce my company to the people there." I'd been to usergroups and meetups before and noticed they always have pizza and drinks there. Always pizza. And I wondered "Who pays for the pizza?"

I'm both a programmer and a recruiter, and I know that recruiting firms and other IT companies want to connect with the passionate and engaged people at those usergroups and meetups. So I thought "surely I'm not the only person who'd like to sponsor the pizza at these events - this must be a global need?".

So I whipped up a Google docs spreadsheet as quick market test, and submitted it as a "Show HN" on Hacker News. To my surprise it got 16 upvote points and 4 comments including one guy who emailed me directly from Africa to say he needed pizza for his local usergroup. "Hey, I might have something here!" I thought, and that was all the validation I needed, so I started coding and within a few months I had refined the concept into FreePizza.io and written the code ready for launch.

Time to launch.

I'm in Australia, so the best time to launch on Hacker News is about 8:30AM San Francisco time, so 13 November 2018 I set my alarm clock and got up at 4:00AM and submitted this Show HN: FreePizza.io – free pizza for usergroups, meetups, hackathons, talks. And I waited. And nothing happened. No upvotes. After a while I thought "Ah shit, it's happened again", and I prepared to return to bed. Still no upvotes. Then I remembered that dang from YCombinator had posted his tips for people launching a "Show HN". FreePizza.io is not a YCombinator startup, but dang says that the tips apply to everyone. Most importantly, dang says "Email us a link to your submission when it's up and we might be able to give you some help or make sure it doesn't get flagged.". So I emailed the following to hn@ycombinator.com:

Hi folks at HN,

I’ve justed posted a “Show HN” here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18434156

Anything you can do to help would be much appreciated.

thanks!

Andrew


I waited a little longer and got ready to return to bed, depressed, frustrated and tired.

But then, as I hit refresh over and over, the upvotes on my "Show HN" jumped up a point. Then another. Within a minute or so, the upvotes had jumped up from nothing to about 7 points. Then more. And I thought "It's on the front page - I think the site admins have bumped me onto the front page".

I clicked on the link to the HN front page and there my "Show HN" was.

The upvotes kept coming, and then the comments started appearing. People were saying good things! People liked the idea! The feeling was absolutely electrifying - after years and years of trying - I've made something that people are interested in!

I've had things hit the front page of Hacker News before. And if you're lucky, you'll get a few hours on the front page before sliding down to the second page and then third and then into oblivion. I would have been glad to get an hour of front page juice. But FreePizza.io stayed on the front page for about 24 HOURS! And it got 221 points, 112 comments and about 10,000 visitors to the site.

It was truly incredible - my dreams were coming true. And the traffic flowed and pumped in and just kept on coming.

I can tell you I felt absolutely elated - over the moon - to have hit the front page of HN, to have my product upvoted, and to be the subject of a lively discussion and lots of positive comments. Every business needs something - some sort of initial shove to get it launched off the boatramp, to get the word out, get the initial users and give it some momentum. I felt extremely grateful that Hacker News had given https://www.FreePizza.io that push.

So finally, a few days later, I sent an email to dang to say thanks for helping get FreePizza.io launched.

Of course, not everything went perfectly, but that's another blog post.

Andrew Stuart
Founder FreePizza.io
andrew.stuart@freepizza.io

Here's the screenshot from Google Analytics for that day: