NPLG 8.4.22: How to Launch a PLG Startup
The best PLG founders, startups, strategies, metrics and community. Every week.
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🎉📈 Exciting news: today we are launching updated branding for Notorious PLG (thanks @theclairbyrd). I would love your feedback and I continue to be immensely grateful for your support and input.
Notorious PLG Startup of the Week: Switchboard
I am excited about the future of remote collaboration. One of the breakout startups building a modern collaboration experience is Switchboard. Switchboard was building, testing and iterating in stealth for 2 years and launched this May. One month after launching, Switchboard raised a monster $25M Series A led by Icon with participation from Sequoia, who led the seed round, and Spark and XYZ. Clearly, Switchboard is doing something right. For this edition of NPLG, Switchboard CEO Amir Ashkenazi and VP of Marketing Deborah Kelson share their playbook for launching a PLG startup:
Start capturing demand by building a waitlist
Whether you’re flying under the radar or just aren’t ready to give ungated access to your product, putting up a waitlist can collect early interest. When you’re pre-launch, it’s extremely valuable to have users to reach out to for research and to try the product (and they can help on launch day!).
Talk to friendlies to get feedback
In addition to doing quantitative survey research, recruiting friends and former coworkers to try your product can help you gather more qualitative feedback. It’s so easy to get caught up in building your product and your own internal narrative. Ask questions to better understand your future customers’ core pain points and unmet needs. It’s eye opening to hear how they describe their problems and how your product could potentially solve them. Their natural language can help avoid falling into internal “blah-blah” traps.
Get your analytics in order
Make sure you can measure behavior and events within your product and website. You may not know your exact KPIs yet, but it’s important to know whether the data you want to capture is flowing in and out of the appropriate tools. Knowledge is power and the last thing you want to do is launch and have no idea what your users are doing. We implemented a lot of the usual suspects: Amplitude for product data, Google Analytics for the website and marketing campaign tracking, Segment as our CDP, Zendesk for support as well as Snowflake and Metabase for ad-hoc reporting. We’ve also been using Linear for our roadmap planning and tracking engineering work. Shortly after launching, we added Vitally to give customer success better insights to support our users.
Test marketing messaging
Running ads is one fantastic way to test messaging in the wild. But it can be expensive, especially if you’re not ready/able to convert the traffic. Since you likely won’t have a sales team to close customers, your website and your product are going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Before we started message testing, our head of marketing had the team try to match website headlines to the right company. There were 10 headlines and 10 companies and all of the headlines sounded pretty much the same! Our goal with messaging was to strike the delicate balance between differentiation and comprehension. When you’re an early stage company in a new category, you can’t be too clever. Your messaging needs to explain what your product is and why your customer should care. For example, we tested the headline, “Videoconferencing is so 2020” and got slammed for sounding like marketing jargon and not explaining what problem the product solved. Testing your marketing assets with a tool like Wynter will give you confidence that messaging is clear and resonates with your ICP. You can test your entire website homepage, run preference testing, and even conduct buyer intelligence surveys. Plus it’s super fast and only costs a few hundred dollars per test. (Yes, this sounds like an ad for Wynter – we love it that much.)
Plan your launch campaign carefully because you can only be new once
Crafting your launch campaign could be a post in itself! The most important thing to remember is that your product/company can only be new once and you don’t want to lose your moment. Be very clear on the goals (and the timing!) for your launch and keep the rest of your company up-to-date. Once you’ve sorted out your strategy and key tactics, you’ll want your existing users / investors / friends to help you amplify the news. But wait until launch day is rock solid – moving targets don’t build confidence. It’s better to spend more time getting everything lined up than jumping the gun.
Launch with a friendly audience
Securing press coverage for your launch is far from a guarantee and you don’t always have control of the timing nor the message. If you have a specific date in mind for your launch and your audience is early adopters / tech enthusiasts, Product Hunt is one of the happiest corners of the internet. Similar to your launch campaign, it’s going to take some elbow grease to get it right, but it’s a potentially powerful tactic to consider.
Make it easy for people to share your product
If all goes well, you’ll be welcoming new customers with your launch. Think about what growth loops you have in place to encourage them to spread the word. Have your social media accounts set up, create shareable moments within the products, but most importantly provide a really excellent experience for your first users.
Keep the feedback loop open
Once you’ve launched, the fun is just beginning. Make sure there are lots of ways to gather feedback from engaged users: add a contact form or email address on your website, ask for feedback in nurture emails, or set up a Slack community or Discord server to keep your ears open to your users’ wants and needs.
I would love feedback. Please hit me up on twitter @zacharydewitt or email me at email@example.com. If you were forwarded this email and are interested in getting a weekly update on the best PLG companies (private & public), please join our growing community by subscriving:
PLG Tweet(s) of the Week:
Recent PLG Financings (Private Companies):
Baselime, a developer of observability as a coding platform designed to eliminate chaos from serverless applications, has raised $1.8M. The round was led by Forward Partners, Octopus Ventures and Antler, with participation from Sequoia Capital.
Center, a developer of a non-fungible token repository platform intended to organize and index NFTs, has raised $11M. The round was funded by Thrive Capital and Founders Fund.
Chiselstrike, a developer of serverless backends designed to empower frontend developers, has raised $7M. The round was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Blumberg Capital, Innovation Fund, Essence VC, First Star Ventures and Mango Capital.
Humanloop, a data labeling and model training platform intended to help deploy machine learning in business activities easily, has raised $2.6M. The round was led by Index Ventures, with AlbionVC, Phoenix Court and Y Combinator also participating in the round.
Impart, an API security collaboration platform intended to eliminate last-minute security patches and the lack of collaboration between developers and security teams, has raised $7.75M. The round was led by CRV, with participation from 8-Bit Capital, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Haystack Ventures.
Kona, a developer of enterprise SaaS software designed to provide human capital management services, has raised $4M. The round was led by Unusual Ventures, with participation from 2.12 Angels and Evolutionary Ventures.
PixieBrix, a developer of a browser extension intended to customize websites for adding functionality, integrating systems and automation workflows, has raised $5.4M at a $30.4M valuation. The round was led by NEA.
Neon, a company that is building a scalable cloud service for Postgres databases, has raised $30M. The round was led by GGV, with participation from Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst and Founders Fund.
Switchboard, a shared workspace platform designed to make teams more productive, organized, and collaborative instantly, has raised $25M. The round was led by Icon Ventures, with participation from Spark Capital, Sequoia Capital and XYZ-Ventures.
Aptos Labs, a company building a blockchain that is supposed to make transactions faster and cheaper, has raised $150M. FTX Ventures and Jump Crypto led the round, which also included Andreessen Horowitz, Apollo, Franklin Templeton, Griffin Gaming Partners and Circle Ventures.
Unstoppable Domains, a Web3 domain name provider, has raised $65M at a $1B valuation. The round was led by Pantera Capital, with Mayfield, OKG Investments, Polygon, Boost VC and Draper Associates joining.
Balance, an Israeli B2B and e-commerce payments company, has raised $56M at a $356M valuation. The round was led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Lightspeed Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Hubspot Ventures, Lyra Ventures and Gramercy Ventures.
Fly.io, a Chicago-based cloud infrastructure startup, has raised $25M. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Dell Technologies Capital and Initialized Capital also participating.
Frontegg, a user management service for developers who build B2B SaaS apps, has raised $40M. The round was led by Stripes and Insight Partners, with participation from Pitango First, Global Founders Capital and i3 Equity.
Retool, a San Francisco-based software developer tools startup, has raised $45M at a $3.2B valuation. The round was financed by Sequoia Capital.
Recent PLG Performance (Public Companies):
Financial data as of previous business day market close.
Best-in-Class PLG Benchmarking:
15 Highest EV / NTM Multiples:
15 Biggest Stock Gainers (1 month):
Complete Notorious PLG Dataset (click to zoom):
Note: TTM = Trailing Twelve Months; NTM = Next Twelve Months. Rule of 40 = TTM Revenue Growth % + FCF Margin %. GM-Adjusted CAC Payback = Change in Quarterly Revenue / (Gross Margin % * Prior Quarter Sales & Marketing Expense) * 12. Recent IPOs will have temporary “N/A”s as Wall Street Research has to wait to initiate converge.