In April, one of the founders – Michael Trounce – of Melbourne startup Milanote, the notes app for creative work, let us in on a few secrets of their success.
Meetup by @product_anon at @elabor8 tonight! Great turnout! pic.twitter.com/L13PEpR7EF
— Dipanjali (@dipanjali) April 20, 2017
First of all, it’s been 3 years in the making. The 4 founders already have their own UX consulting business, Navy Design, and always had the ambition to start their own product business so back in 2014 they dedicated a week to working through potential product ideas. Ideas like a weather app and a hydration coaster were investigated then ditched (the coaster was referred to as a gimmicky Xmas present…).
They started working on a product which would solve a need their team had. Previously they had used post-its, a wiki, and other note keeping software but they all lacked a way to make connections and share.
During 2015, they began doing research with designers & other digital creatives and found there was a gap in the market for the product they had in mind. They build a (crappy) prototype & started using it in-house. They knew they were onto something when they found it worked better than any of their previous tools – whiteboards, Evernote, Trello, etc.
It later clicked that what they’d built wasn’t just a tool that could be applied to the UX design process, it was a tool that could be applied to any creative process. This insight broadened their market significantly and gave them the confidence to then break out the product from an internal project within the consultancy, to a product business in its own right.
It wasn’t until 2016 the focus changed to execution and as a result the hours of effort went up! They hired a small full-time team and ran a closed beta program for 6 months. Until then they were seeing where it would take them but those days were over.
They began granting early access when you referred friends and adding people to the waitlist by writing articles on Medium like ‘Why Using Evernote is Making You Less Creative‘ to get the word out (that article drove a lot of signups!)
When they did launch in Feb (2017), there was a flurry of press including reaching #1 on Product Hunt, the front page of Hacker News and #1 for the week on Designer News. It’s also been written up on Lifehacker and The Next Web covered it while it was in beta.
Milanote can’t see your content due to privacy reasons. They have no idea what you are doing with their product or how you are using it which makes deciding on what features to build and understanding customers somewhat difficult.
To overcome this challenge, the Milanote team are using a mix of quantitative & qualitative methods to draw out data and feedback from their users along the different points in their product journey. The most obvious tactic is talking to its customers.
They are continuing to evolve their thinking on pricing & looking at different models to help align the value of the product with the price.
The articles at launch including Product Hunt, #1 for the week on Designer News and word of mouth helped greatly with new customers. They need to experiment with other methods now to find scalable and repeatable ways of driving acquisition long-term.
Milanote are currently looking for both developers & marketers. Check out their jobs.
AND the most shocking news of the evening!!! The Milanote team do NOT use post-its anymore! They have bare walls!
Thanks @milanoteapp for sharing your #prodmgmt challenges and @product_anon & @elabor8 for organizing this event ! pic.twitter.com/RHFPpDL19j
— Laurens Ditchfield (@laurensditch) April 21, 2017
Thank you Michael for a great talk & elabor8 for hosting the evening!