How to launch your startup without a product

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about how Freeletics launched the right way. What I found most fascinating is that they started without having a "real product"–they used the community to shape their product from a simple newsletter, to a PDF guide, to an app. I like the idea about validating a startup with an email-first product (term by Ryan Hoover, who later started Product Hunt as a simple newsletter). Others call it audience-first, movement-first, or community-first.

Here's an example:
When Facebook opened their Messenger platform for bots in April, many bot builder startups emerged that tried to become "Wordpress for Bots" or "Mailchimp for Bots." It's a cluttered space that makes it very difficult to market your platform right now.

Matt Schlicht chose a different approach. He started a Facebook group about Bots and a Medium publication called Chatbots Magazine. By just helping the community push the topic forward, he managed to grow the group to almost 18,000 members and the magazine to 150,000 readers. Without having to sell a product, he created a community and learned about potential customers' needs. Today, half a year after creating the group, he launched Octane. Months later after some other platforms, but with a community headstart of thousands of people.

How would you launch if you couldn't develop a product right away?
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This is part of my series "What I Learned Today", where I try to make reflecting a habit and share one short, personal learning a day. You can sign up here, or have a look at the archive.
Copyright © 2016 Jan König, All rights reserved.

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