How We Made a Slack App in 11 Days | Hacker Noon

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@sergeoneSerge Gusev

Co-founder of Approveit Today

Hey, everyone! We, the Indie Hackers SPB Community, organized a one-week Bootcamp: in our free time, we built a product from scratch and launched it on Product Hunt. We got the #3 Product of the Day badge and over 30 installs of our app in the Slack Workspaces. Now, I want to share our experience. At the end of this article, I will share our Notion checklist, that we found extremely helpful for the launch preparation 🙂

The Final Result:

We’ve created an App for Slack to get faster approvals on documents, time offs, expenses, and more.

We made it to the #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.

Our app received 600 site visits and 30 installs in the workspaces.

Here is how we made it:

Day 0, Start:

Several people responded to the Bootcamp idea in the community chat, and only 4 made it to the first call. Later, we got one more teammate, so there were 5 of us. We discussed the goals, format, and limitations of the Bootcamp.

The main goal was gaining the experience — to go through the entire process from idea to launch. The limitation was the speed of implementation. I also wanted to get organic traffic from the marketplace. Therefore, we decided to make an App for Slack.

Day 1, Brainstorming:

We choose the following tools: Telegram — for quick communication, Notion — for knowledge accumulation.

We agreed to document our ideas independently and to put each idea into a table with fields:

  • Title
  • Target audience
  • Problem
  • Audience volume (scale from 0 to 10)
  • Complexity of implementation (scale from 0 to 10)
  • Competitors
  • Contacts of potential users

Day 2, Idea Prioritization:

We came up with more than 15 ideas. We prioritized them in terms of ease of implementation and audience size. We voted and chose two: a Slack App for invoices generation and a Slack app for conducting team polls on team mood.

Day 3, Customer Development:

We found 3 potential and interviewed 3 potential users for each idea to validate the need.

Invoices: We discovered a more defined need than just generating invoices. Respondents noted that generating an invoice itself is not as difficult as getting the approval on the discount or extra documents. We decided to validate this in a follow-up survey.

Team Mood Analysis: There is interest in the topic among HR and C-level managers, but, in most cases, such surveys carried out quite rarely (once every half a year — a year), which became a red flag for us, as it threatened to get a low retention rate in the short run.

Day 4, Findings Validation:

We prepared a survey to validate our findings and shared it with the large communities of Founders and Sales / Operations Experts: RevGenius, Indie Hackers, et.c.

As a result, we received 12 answers and confirmation of the problem of approvals: it turned out that it takes the most time to get approvals on documents from lawyers (up to several days). Also, difficulties arise with the approvals of time-offs and expenses.

Since there is a risk of being left without an answer to the approval request, respondents quite often had to spend time writing follow-ups to their managers.

Day 5, Analytics:

Based on the survey results, we concluded that the most significant problem that we can solve on this Bootcamp is to cut the waiting time on the approval requests.

We chose Paddle to process the subscription payments.

We did a competitive analysis, found only two relevant solutions in the Slack App Directory.

One is tailored solely for the expenses coordination (ControlHub), and the second one — for the document approvals (Coment).

Coment even launched on PH but did not make it to the top, and it is limited to only document approvals within a channel. That seemed inconvenient and not covering the most common use case — writing a direct message asking for approval. So we decided to focus on the approvals of text and documents with a specified teammate.

Day 6, Development:

For the first time, we got together offline in a cafe.

On the development side, we created a linear workflow for the app and worked on the connection of the app to the external workspaces.

We bought a domain and made the first version of the landing page on http://unicornplatform.com/ (thanks to Alexander Isora for this amazing platform and the support of our initiative).

We designed the logo and illustrations for the site.

We have started working on materials required for moderation in the Slack App Directory.

Next, we prepared all text materials for publication on Product Hunt. Last but not least, we started the registration process on Paddle.

Day 7, The Finish Line:

It was supposed to be the final day of preparation. We planned to launch on the 8th day.

We decided to give all new users a 30-day free trial (a standard practice for such apps). During this period, we could finalize the product and add the payment processing so that users can pay for access from the card.

We added the analytics (GA + HotJar) to the landing page.

While we were testing the app, several bugs came out, and we decided to visualize the use cases to simplify the testing process of the core functionality. We used Figma for this task.

Due to the instability of the app, we decided to postpone the launch until we fix all critical bugs of the MVP.

The next 3 days… 

…we spent testing, fixing bugs, and finalizing the materials for publication (edited the text and prepared screenshots)

The Final Product:

Our app lets teams to cut the waiting time and to eliminate lost approval requests.

With APPROVEIT TODAY, office and remote team members can:

  • Ask specified teammates to approve quotes, docs, time-off requests, expenses, and more in Slack.
  • Be sure that nothing will be missed out thanks to automatic followups
  • Get instant notification when your request got approved or rejected with comments
  • View the history of all your requests without a time-wasting search in the Email and DMs

Managers can:

  • Accept or reject incoming approval requests in one click right from Slack
  • Never forget about the request with automatic reminders
  • Easily track your approval decisions without a time-wasting search trough DMs and Emai

Day 11, The Launch:

The launch happened spontaneously: we didn’t want any more delay, as in that case, that might turn into a second job, which was not the purpose of the Bootcamp.

Instead of the recommended 12 a.m. PST, we launched at 6 a.m.

We hunted our product, although there was an option to get hunted by a guy with a large number of subscribers — this could give a significant boost at the start, but we did not have time to arrange that in advance.

In the first hour, we received around 30 votes, mostly from friends.

Our product was in the Newest section, but it did not appear in the Popular section on the homepage. At this point, we were a little nervous since we already have more upvotes than half of the launched projects and was supposed to be on the main page.

We contacted the support but never received a response. It’s worth noting that the average response time displayed is one day, so it’s better not to rely on prompt assistance right after the launch 🙂

Suddenly — our project appeared on the main page — immediately on the 4th place.

We asked to support us on a few Telegram and Facebook groups and Slack channels.

It helped — in 4 hours after the launch, we got to 3rd place, getting close to the first hundred upvotes.

Before we appeared on the main page, most upvotes came from the people from chats. Now, there were many more active PH users. Also, there were many new comments with questions and suggestions.

We hit 100 upvotes and was confidently moving to 150. For a few minutes, we even were in 2nd place.

A few hours later we ended up being #3 Product of the Day. Having received a well-deserved badge, we decided to take a short break and, after that, to look at the final results and to make a retrospective. We also had to make an important decision — whether we want to continue our work on the product?

Final thoughts:

It was an amazing experience! We made a product from scratch that became #3 Product of the Day and got our first 30 users, including well-known companies.

I think if we spent more time preparing for the launch, the result could have been even better. But the main goal of the Bootcamp was to gain experience in a very tight timeframe, and I think we did a great job.

As promised, I’m giving a link to the Notion template we created, which we used while we were preparing for the launch. If you also dare to make and launch the product in a week, you can take advantage of our template — I hope it will save you time.

We decided to keep going, and now we are working on improving our app: getting feedback, refining the UX, and working out new use cases.

If your team uses Slack and you have to manage approvals with your colleagues from time to time, we’d love to hear from you.

Our app is already running, and you can add it to your team’s workspece here. We are always open to discussion and ready to help here in the comments, on Telegram, or by Email.

Also published at https://medium.com/approveit-today/how-we-made-a-product-from-scratch-in-11-days-that-became-3-product-of-the-day-on-product-hunt-318f1c3570f5

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