Subsection is an app that helps create support docs, such as user guides, knowledge bases, documentation, and changelogs. 

Below I describe the launch of Subsection of Hacker News.

This article is a part of the Financial Freedom series.

Since launching Subsection last week, I have been struggling to get potential customers to try it out.

I realized there was a ton of friction for someone to take it for a spin and see if it was a good solution.

The signup process at the time of launch was as follows:

  1. User visits the website
  2. User clicks the "Request an Invite" button
  3. User enters their Email
  4. User receives an Email confirming that their Invite is being considered
  5. I receive an Email with their request
  6. I click "Approve Invite"
  7. User receives an Email with the "Accept Invite" button
  8. Clicking on the "Accept Invite" button, their account is created instantly

This would have been fine if Subsection had some build-up hype before launch. Say, like DALL•E 2, where everyone asks for an invite.

For Subsection, I did not do much marketing before launch. I announced I was building it and just slid it through the Twitter feed one day.

I had to do something. Anything!

Nick Swan to the indirect rescue

I was listening to the "Startups for the Rest of Us" Episode 626, where Rob Walling was interviewing Nick Swan of SEO Testing.

I highly recommend the episode, btw.

Amidst their great discussion about working on various products, pivoting, etc. Nick mentioned that when SEO Testing launched, it was offered as a free tool and made clear that, eventually, it will be a paid product. The main goal was to get feedback and improve the product.

This inspired me to go down a similar path and take it further by offering 1-click demos. I wanted as little friction as possible for someone to go in and give it a try to see what Subsection does.

Listing Subsection in various directories

One way to get easy clicks is to list the product in various industry directories, such as BetaList, BetaPage, Capterra, G2, etc.

And, the almighty Y Combinator's Hacker News!

I wanted to post Subsection on Hacker News before deciding on the 1-click Demos and Free Beta usage. Still, with the new idea on hand, it felt like a great opportunity to grab a few 1-click Demos and maybe a conversation or two about what Subsection is and what it does.

Testing before posting

Being a part of an amazing network of makers on Twitter is priceless.

It's probably the most supportive and encouraging group of people I have been a part of. And I've been a part of many various groups.

Before posting on Hacker News, I wanted to ensure everything worked correctly, so I asked Twitter if they could give the 1-click Demo a try. 

After a few fixes, I was ready and wanted to post on HN right away because it was getting a bit late in the day, and I wanted to capture the AM US Easter Time readers.

Posting on Hacker News

The Hacker News crowd can be daunting, and if your skin is not thick enough, they can easily shred you to pieces. And rightly so, they are a picky crowd and not necessarily our friends who approve of everything we do, even when we deserve the opposite.

Again, posting Subsection on Hacker News was to tick off a box on my task list and move on to other marketing efforts.

Historically, my posts haven't performed well on HN, and based on that, my expectations were extremely low.

Getting up to 10 1-click demo trials would have been a success. Getting a single comment from a complete stranger? The cherry on the cake!

The Top of Show HN

Maybe a minute after posting, Subsection received 3 upvotes right away. Which was very odd because no one from my network had the slightest idea that I posted it on HN.

The votes kept coming in, and Subsection remained on top of Show HN's first page and growing in upvotes and comments.

The front page of ShowHN on Hacker News depicting Subsection on the top of the list
Top of the list on Show HN on Hacker News

Right after the votes, the first comments from strangers rolled in.

Fernanda Graciolli tweeting 'Hope the HN crowd goes easy on you. Upvoted!'
Fernanda Graciolli

Staying true to their reputation, Hacker News commenters did not disappoint. However, with every harsh comment, there were nuggets of suggestions and lessons on how to better improve the app.

Yaro Bagriy commenting 'Good luck I know they can be brutal' referring to the HN crowd.
Yaro Bagriy

There might have been one or two dismissive short replies, but most of them were right on the money.

Marc LG tweeting 'Upvoted! I wish I could downvote some of those negative comments. : )'
Marc LG

Front page of Hacker News

For some reason, the Subsection post on HN wasn't showing on my end.

However, a few Twitter friends noticed it and shared their screenshots.

Steffen Shneider sharing his view of Hacker News with Subsection landing on the first page
Steffen Schneider

Checked with a few other friends. And theirs looked just the same.

Wilbert Liu congratulating Subsection on making it to the first page of Hacker News
Wilbert Liu

And eventually, it showed on my end as well.

Me confirming Subsection showing on the first page of Hacker News
Val Sopi

Subsection kept staying on #1 of Show HN and the front page of Hacker News for quite a few hours.

You can view the post on Hacker News.

Justin's Video

Justin is an online friend from way back.

I first ran across Justin's work via his This is a Web Page post.

I'm also a part of his MegaMaker Slack community.

The video below was created in the middle of everyone commenting on the Hacker News post. Justin decided to reply with a video. 

I can never get used to seeing a video of users using my app. It's nerve-racking because I freeze as I anticipate some bug sneaking midway.

A few lessons

Subsection making it to the top of Hacker News allowed me to learn a ton. Not just about "the next time around" OR "XYZ things to do when posting on HN", but generally about product making and what people expect from a product.

Here are some of the lessons I could think of in no particular order:

  • Quickly reply to all commenters and show that I stand behind the product by listening to what they say.
  • Trying to stay positive against the harshest of comments without getting defensive, even when the commenter has clearly not seen what he's complaining about.
  • People want polished products!
  • Having the language on the website be more professional by showcasing correct grammar.
  • I need more strangers who actually need the product to look at it. They have the most brutal and honest feedback.

One thing I've learned on how to stay positive is when someone criticizes something I've poured my heart and soul into, to act "as if" someone has hired me to promote and support the product.

In other words, the product is "not mine," and late on, I am "reporting" to someone higher up what customers have to say.

This has helped me to look at things objectively and learn what people actually want from the product.

People want a polished product!

I am a big believer in moving fast and launching early. However, the bar is much higher with so many products in the market looking and working great already.

Nowadays, launching a product means that the website and the app itself must work and look as good as possible.

The product doesn't need to have every planned feature on launch day, but those existing features need to look and work perfectly.


Eventually, I want to launch on ProductHunt at some point, but before that can happen, I have to improve the content on the website and the app itself — so it does more of what it's promising it will do.

And here are the stats from the HN launch

Google Analytics was not connected because a week before the launch, I had consolidated my Google Workspace accounts into one and forgot to replace the code on the site.

However, here are some other numbers:

  • 307 one-click Demo accounts
  • 5 claimed accounts (demos can be claimed by Email)
  • 63 upvotes on HN
  • 35 valuable comments (some are my replies)
  • 2 invite requests (some users managed to find this page)

An odd thing

One thing that is a bit baffling with HN is that Subsection is now removed from Show HN, and it's #708 on "new", sitting among posts with fewer votes and comments.

Subsection the next day on Hacker News

Did it get flagged? 

I'm not very familiar with the intricacies of how the HN algorithm works, but it feels as if, for some reason, it got demoted down the list and removed from Show HN (?).

First, I thought a post would be removed from Show HN after a day.

However, there are posts on there older than 3 days.

If anyone knows why this is, I would love to know.

Please, DM me if you have the answer.


My twitter friend, Marc, noticed that I was looking at the "new" page on HN which is in chronological order, hence on #708 since yesterday.

When looking at the homepage of HN, it's now sitting at #125.

Subsection on the homepage of Hacker News
Hacker News homepage

The odd thing #2 is that Hacker News editors have removed "Show HN:" from the title, which I have no idea what it means.

This actually explains why the post is no longer showing on Show HN.

However, if anyone has any clue as to why the "Show HN" was removed from the title, I would love to know out of curiosity.

What is next

The number of Demos and some of the comments on Hacker News are making me consider that there is something to Subsection that resonated with potential users.

With that idea in mind, and based on comments on HN — I will try and clear out as many objections as I can, as fast as I can.

I feel it is crucial to move fast while staying on top of both departments: product and marketing.

Specifically speaking:

  • Improve the content on the website
  • Improve the app
  • Start with SEO content

And, as mentioned above, think about launching on Product Hunt at some point shortly.

Twitter friends

And here are a few more congratulatory tweets from friends. Posting them on here so as not to lose them in the Twitter abyss.

Justin Jackson's tweet 'It was cool to try it!'...
Justin Jackson
Ahmed Elfadel tweeting about testing out Subsection to see if everything works...
Ahmed Elfadel
Andew tweets about Subsection still being #1 on HN