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Mar 14, 2019 11:55:13

IH Interview

by @hum | 865 words | 🐣 | 215💌

Sarah Hum

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Total posts: 215💌
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Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hello, I'm Sarah Hum and I'm one of the founders at Canny.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My professional background is in design. I studied graphic design in university and worked as a product designer at Facebook straight out of school. During that time, I met my co-founder Andrew, who was a software engineer at Facebook.

As a Canadian from a small-time design school, Facebook was a good way to get my foot in the door. Turns out, nothing can really prepare you for being a founder. A year and a half later, I quit to work on Canny. 

In March 2017, Andrew and I launched Canny on ProductHunt. Canny helps software teams make better product decisions. As software businesses grow and they get more customers, feedback becomes messy. There's so much valuable insight but it's hard to see through the noise. That's when teams hire Canny to help keep track of customer feedback in an organized, understandable way.

Canny is completely bootstrapped and we recently hit 35k MRR. With that money, we've been able to start growing our team. We're now a happy family of five.

What motivated you to get started with Canny?

Canny is a reincarnation of one of our past products called Product Pains. It was a community where anybody could give feedback about any product. It was largely focused on products that we used on a daily basis. Think Yelp, Uber, and the like. We started Product Pains to solve our user problem: companies were not good at listening to user feedback.

The concept was simple: you can post new feedback for a product or vote if the same feedback exists already. We thought if we could get enough people engaging, companies would notice and claim their company profile.

After growing Product Pains to thousands of users, we realized that we needed to go after the companies first. So we built a widget that they could embed into their website to collect feedback directly. We priced the widget at $19/mo and businesses started paying. This was when we knew we were onto something.

As product people, we understand why feedback is so important. We can also see how, at scale, it's so hard to organize feedback into actionable insights. Teams genuinely wanted to listen to their users, it's just a really hard problem. To tackle that problem, we flipped Product Pains, the community, into Canny, the SaaS tool.

What went into building the initial product?

Andrew and I started working on Product Pains while I was still in school. I actually proposed it as a final project and got credit for it. Since I was in design school, most of the work went into designing the product and branding it. The functionality was minimal.

When I started working at Facebook, Andrew quit to work on Product Pains full time. It would be a year-long grind before I'd join him. During that time he built out the product and grew the community. Meanwhile, he was burning through his savings.

Soon after I quit FB to join Andrew, we kicked off the transition to Canny. We were able to reuse a lot of the Product Pains code for Canny. Everything was thrown together in a couple months. All of our customers were smoothly transitioned over to a rebranded product with better UX.

Building Canny was super fun. We're a designer and an engineer, building was our happy place. It got harder soon after that. We had a functioning product but no experience with marketing. One regular day in March 2017, we decided we were going to launch the next day.

How have you attracted users and grown Canny?

We launched on Product Hunt and it went really well. Canny ended up 2nd for the day and 5th for the week. It gave us a big spike day-of and also the day after because we made it into the Product Hunt newsletter.

We never ran an official beta with Canny but we did have Product Pains. Several teams that used Product Pains chimed in and helped boost the launch.

On thing that really helped was plugging into the open source community. Andrew's old team at Facebook, React Native, started on Product Pains and continued using Canny. The public nature of Canny meant that we're exposed to many developers. Some of those developers started using Canny with their teams. 

We also started writing for our blog. A few of our posts made it on the front page of Hacker News. Those days created huge spikes of traffic. Those posts definitely scored us awareness and customers. However, they're very hit or miss and unpredictable. We've made it this far with that kind of content but we need to turn our focus now to evergreen content and SEO.

Our lowest efforts have gone into answering Quora questions and paid ads. They work but we haven't explored them to their full potential.

For a small team, it's important to focus on a small number of key channels and going deep on them. Trying too many things usually means you're not doing a thorough job at any.

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