You’ll never keep up with all the hot new apps flowing like an unstoppable river out of Silicon Valley. It’s impossible, and not just because you can’t remember a bunch of company names and services that lack vowels or seem disconnected from their functions. Discovery is not a problem, figuring out if something is worth discovering is.
Which is why a site you may not have heard of, Product Hunt, is so helpful: at any given moment a select group of technology thinkers, creators and funders are submitting new apps, services and even gear that they think could be the next big thing. Then they vote each other’s submissions up and down a leaderboard, and founders will often show up in the comment thread to explain the service more, or answer tough questions. The central mechanic is a lot like Reddit, but without the bizarre self-defeating cult behaviour (Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is an adviser to Product Hunt).
The reason this needs to exist is clear: The startup ecosystem is better funded than ever, the cost of creating interesting services is lower than ever, the engineering and marketing skills of the entrepreneurs are widespread and it’s all happening on top of the greatest explosion of social connectedness since the telephone was invented.
Product Hunt is itself a creation of the same feverish startup environment it covers, founder Ryan Hoover wrote a column for Fast Company in which he described the site’s creation as “The 20 minute MVP” (which means “minimum viable product). Started in November of 2013, it was a go-to site for an increasing number of venture capital professionals, engineers and journalists. It went from an e-mail list to a member of the latest Y Combinator cohort. Funnily enough, I'd say Y Combinator’s Hacker News (with emphasis on Show) is a direct competitor to Product Hunt, though Mr. Hoover disagrees.
Product Hunt drives hundreds of thousands of clicks to profiled sites, but awareness of the service reached a fever pitch of attention in recent weeks thanks in part to its role in discovering the ridiculous-cum-revolutionary single-function notification service, Yo (my thoughts on Yo are, um, not subtle).
What I like most about Product Hunt, other than its ability to act as a story generator, is that it gives you a peek in to the minds of Silicon Valley folk. What do they want? What do they need? How are they working?
Take this last weekend: on Sunday the top listing was Resumonk, a site for making resumés. There were two 3D printing services, as well as one service suggesting date locations and another designed to document your child’s life.
On Saturday the top hit was the Nostalgia Machine, a simple site that loads up the chart-topping hits (as found on YouTube) from any (between 1960 and 2013). There was also posts on workout gear, a “Tinder for Jewish people” dating site, and an apartment hunting service.
During the workweek, things tend toward more serious services like Focus@Will (online radio designed for productivity), A/B testing headlines on your WordPress blog, startup landing page designers as well as neat stuff like the GoTenna (hardware that beams connectivity when you’re out of range of Wi-Fi or cellular service). If you’re obsessed with the latest, strangest or possibly most useful new thing Product Hunt is a useful resource, and Mr. Hoover also does podcast of sorts, too, Product Hunt Radio.
And according to Techcrunch, an iOS app is coming soon too. Don’t worry about when, the announcement will probably lead Product Hunt’s site.