I’ve shared a handful of posts on HN over the years and most of them are entirely ignored by the community; some times they get some attention like this. I’ve been on the “Front Page” a few times, it’s fun.
Here are some tips on how to launch on HN, from the horse’s mouth!
Launch HN is a way to launch your YC startup on Hacker News. Here’s the process:
- Read this whole page.
- Fill out the form.
- Wait two weeks to hear back from the HN team. We will let you know whether to post in a “Meet The Batch” thread or make a standalone launch post.
- If you haven’t heard back within two weeks, email email@example.com.
(Note: if you’re not a YC startup, the logistical parts of this don’t apply to you, but the communication parts do, especially if you’re hoping to get attention for your startup or project on HN. We’re happy to help at firstname.lastname@example.org – just please realize that we can’t always reply quickly, since the inbox gets brutal at times. So far, at least one startup that we’ve helped in this way has ended up getting into YC.)
What not to do
Don’t write in a marketing, sales, or PR style. On HN it will backfire.
As founders, you’re used to talking to users, customers, and investors. HN readers are not any of those—what they are is peers, and using any of those styles with peers feels clueless and entitled.
Therefore, be sure that your blurb doesn’t read like an ad. This is the biggest, most common mistake. If it sounds like your home page or your investor pitch, it’s not a good fit for HN.
If you try to sell this audience, they will flame you and close the tab. Instead you must interest them, then let them sell themselves.
What to do
To interest HN, write in a factual, personal, and modest way about what problem you solve, why it matters, how you solve it, and how you got there.
Tell your story personally. Write in your own voice, not a corporate one. If your username is your company name, email us to change it.
Don’t address readers as prospective customers or users—they will tune that out. Instead, speak to them as fellow builders and engineers. Imagine you’re having a drink with a friend you used to work with.
Don’t use superlatives. They make you sound weak. Modest language is stronger.
Talking to HN is the opposite of talking to investors. Don’t talk big (we’re going to be huge!), be relatable (we’re just like you!). When HN readers can identify with you, they become friendly.
Be humble. If you say nice things about yourselves or sound like insiders, you’ll lose the audience. Bridge the gap by saying nice things about the community and by being cheerfully self-critical.
Make sure there’s a way for HN readers to try out and poke around your product. It’s best to give them a direct link to jump straight into it. Try to eliminate signup barriers, at least for launch day—you’ll get more and better feedback. If this isn’t an option, you can fall back on either (a) a link to a demo, or (b) a video.
If your product isn’t publically available—for example, if you’re collecting email addresses or beta users—do not launch on HN yet. Wait until it’s public. HN readers are accustomed to seeing the actual product and will get ornery if they can’t.
Write a text blurb introducing yourselves, telling how you came to work on your startup and explaining what’s different about it.
Here’s one template you can follow:
- introduce yourselves
- say in one clear sentence what your company does
- explain the problem: what makes it hard? why does it matter?
- tell your backstory of how you came to work on this
- explain your solution, giving technical details
- explain what’s different about your solution, giving technical details
- invite the community to share their ideas, experiences, and feedback
Lead with a clear statement of what your company does. If you don’t, the discussion will consist of “I can’t tell what your company does”.
Don’t repeat your title in your opening paragraph—find a second way to say what you do. That way you get two shots at communicating the most important thing.
Explain the problem. Who has it? What is the pain? Why does it matter?
Tell your backstory. Where were you when you encountered this? What made you realize it should be a startup?
Supply technical details. Assume readers are smart enough to understand.
Don’t assume prior specialized knowledge, though. If you use jargon, explain it.
Avoid bullet lists and numbered lists. Tell your story in cohesive paragraphs. Do not list features; that’s a marketing trope. Work the details into your text.
Say how you make money or plan to. If you don’t know, say what you’re considering.
End with a warm, open-ended invitation to the community, saying you want to hear their ideas, experiences, and feedback.
Reply when comments start appearing. Stay engaged. Take breaks, but don’t leave the thread for long without answering. The hivemind gets cranky without attention, and your post will fall down the page faster.
Don’t ask friends or batchmates to vote, and make sure they don’t post booster comments in the thread. HN readers have a nose for those and will flame you when they sniff them out. This will damage your reputation and ours as well.
Be generous with details about your technology, problem, and market. The community is insatiably curious.
Don’t address other users by their usernames (“hi, foo123”). Answer straightforwardly.
Answer objections by first finding something to agree with, even if it’s just the positive intention behind the comment.
When criticized, act like the critics are doing you a favor. Who knows, maybe they are, and it will win you favor either way.
Avoid insider discussion, such as with friends or other founders. Even when it’s friendly, it can leave others feeling excluded.
Questions or concerns? Email email@example.com.
Your title should be 80 chars or less and follow this format:
Launch HN: <company name> (YC S21) - <your tag line here>
Make the tag line neutral and factual, not salesy.
Launch HN outs you as YC-funded, so be sure you want that to be public.
Do not try to coordinate your HN launch with other events, e.g. press articles. It doesn’t do any good and just creates headaches. Simply pick a day that you’ll be able to give your attention to the HN thread. If you’ve granted an exclusive, wait until you’re free and do HN then.
Use your YC founder account to submit your launch post here. Put your blurb in the text field and leave the url field blank.