August 9th — It was a cool afternoon in Menlo Park, and we had just met with venture capital firm for an on-site discovery meeting. They wanted to see if we’d be a good fit for investment and to talk about the possibility of them leading our seed round (which is now open as of this writing).
Immediately after leaving their office, I looked at my co-founder, Jordan Walker, and said, “Wow that was amazing. I wish we recorded that.” He said, “I was thinking the same thing” and so I took out my camera to try and document the discussion as best I could because their GP had asked just some amazing questions that really got to the core of our product; questions worth saving.
As we were boarding our plane hours later, we were still pouring over the meeting and reflecting on the questions they’d asked; that’s when it hit me. “What if we built an app that lets you rewind audio? Just click and select a time from a dropdown and it saves immediately to your desktop?”
Justin, our CEO, immediately jumped in, “We can make that work. I saw this interaction once that lets you drag down down from the menu bar. I think that would work better than a menu with buttons.”
Our five-hour flight just got more interesting. We bought the plane wifi ($25 each, ugh), selected a name & domain, mocked up a website & logo, and assigned tasks to the team all before we even took off. By the time we landed, our website was (mostly) finished and UI was well underway.
This is the story of how we came up with an idea from a single meeting with a VC, built the mockups on the plane ride home, and launched to the Mac App Store in less than 16 days. One week and 500+ downloads later Backtrack hit #2 Product of the Day on Product Hunt and #5 for the week. Now with over 2,500+ downloads organically, we’ve shown how easy it is to execute on an idea all while working remote and even dodging a hurricane!
Creating the initial designs
August 10th — Justin buckled his seatbelt, bought the over-priced Wi-Fi, and immediately created a Slack Channel in order to immediately spin up some designers and developers. I got to work on wireframing the initial website designs thanks for the crude wireframing ability Instagram Stories. I even managed to mock up initial stab at a logo. Again, designed with Instagram stories.
As I was doodling, Justin started working on the website which got me immediately gassed up. I whipped out my camera and took a quick video of the progress we had made. The product was coming together quite nicely, even before the beverage cart had time to come by.
By the end of the plane ride, we had finished the initial website design. Which you’ll notice has not changed much at all. Sometimes you nail it on your first try. Our designer, Reyna, recycled our Yac UI in order to have designs ready for the devs by morning.
August 11th — Simon took our primitive initial logo design and whipped up a mock for the final Backtrack logo, borrowing the purple coloring from Yac. However, it became immediately obvious to us that an app with only one feature, needed to be minimal in everything – design, features, and even color. We swapped the temporary Yac branded Backtrack logo for the final, simplistic Backtrack logo with mono color styling.
The App Store button was swapped out for an email sign up since we wanted to capture emails ahead of launch. Finally, we added a gif at the top of the screen to show how to use the app. The entire website was one single page and cut off at the fold.
Development begins and gathering feedback
August 13th — After selecting a developer, they messaged Justin with some great news. Our developer said he could finish the app in just 15 hours!
While the devs started working on the app itself, I started working on getting our site ready for traffic. Step one: Google Tag Manager. Once that was done, all we needed to do was select a domain. We selected a domain and within a few minutes the website was live. Shout out to Webflow for integrating with Godaddy so with a single button press we can sign in and automagically configure our DNS.
Next, we needed feedback on the product and copy to prepare for launch.
August 15th — At Yac, it has always been important for us to never build in a vacuum. So, Justin asked around for feedback by simply dropping the link in various Slack groups.
We found out very early on that people were immediately concerned with privacy. This visceral reaction to the product caused us to reconsider plans to go to cloud and pivot 100% to local storage for 100% privacy; copy changes to the site soon reflected the feedback.
We then toyed with the idea of charging for the app and ultimately sacrificed the short term profit for brand awareness and long term upsells into other Yac products.
Once we solved the product issues, we had an education issue since most people indicated our app was so revolutionary, it made zero sense how it even worked. For an app with 1 feature and only one section on the home page, we had to nail the copy in two lines.
I tried getting creative and copy Paste’s title — “Cloud clipboard time machine” — since they have a similar product for clipboard management. Unfortunately, people didn’t understand “time machine” or how you could record backwards; back to the drawing board again. There were so many options, it was tough to nail it down to just two lines.
August 19th — We got a taste of our first build and the team went wild. I was so excited, I made a video showing it off. After using the app for some time, we discussed if we should display in seconds versus minutes.
Within an hour and 3 minutes, Justin used the app in the wild and we knew we were on to something! Once we used the app and felt how it worked, we went back to the copy changes. This time, we were deciding for the Mac App Store though.
There were so many cop changes. We needed the name and subtitle to both make our app searchable in the Mac App Store with keywords (Audio, Backtrack, Record) and describe what the app does simply with as little words as possible. This was easier said than done.
Meanwhile, our developer was pumping out bug fixes. We were getting close to being able to launch and we knew the App Store could take up to several days to approve your app.
Justin got back to grabbing as much feedback as possible for the app. The feedback came in droves. We needed to be more clear what the value proposition was, differentiate between our core product, Yac. The worst case scenario was cannibalizing the Yac brand that we worked so hard to build. Based on their feedback, we finally agreed on the final copy.
Backtrack was going to be free and we weren’t collecting emails anymore so the least we could do was build in virality to get people to share and spread the word organically. We liked how Ryan Hoover’s startup, YourStacks, had a link to create a tweet and wanted the same functionality for people to share the app.
Backtrack needed some flare and our early iteration of the thank you page showed a bit too much flare.
There were too many emojis and the tweet button wasn’t big enough for people to click on. We changed the button size and toned down the emojis so the attention ratio was more aligned with what we needed people to do – Tweet.
August 21st — We launched the website with an email signup form as the main CTA and I immediately checked on the Hotjar heatmaps.
People were clicking on the menu bar gif at the top of the page which was okay in this case but not ideal. We never attempted to solve this problem since the gif was the only way people could get a clear understanding of how our app worked. Next time we launch a product, we will think more about putting actual elements of our demo on the website without making it look like you can interact with it like a demo.
August 22nd — We had several small wins early on that let us know we were on to something: 10 signups out of the 40-something people on the site. Vanity metrics are not something we usually care about but we were only 12 days into an idea!
We got to work on the screenshots for the App Store. Many folks try to just drop the screenshots into the App Store but you should always put your screenshots in a device. The fonts and colors didn’t show the app off well enough in this case so we massaged this design out a bit.
Playing with our Yac colors, designers came up with a unique design that was a bit too busy for Backtrack. Backtrack needed to be simple, clean, and elegant. This was a bit too much for the branding we were going after.
When someone looks at your screenshot on the App Store, placing text above the graphic can show what the benefits are, without requiring the user to look at the UI itself to understand the app. However, after the designer had added the background, the UI and the text, the app itself looked way too small to even see. The always talented, Heather Hunsigner, stepped in to help.
Pre-launching on Beta List
August 20th — To get our first few users, we usually start by submitting to BetaList. This lets us test everything before the Product Hunt tsunami hits.
August 21st — Enough people clicked, favorited, and commented for us to trend on Betalist for the week!
This gave us some small and steady growth with ~200 visits to the site. While we were balling out on Backtrack, Yac was also popping off from the referral traffic. I got confident and replied to a Silicon Valley legend to see what would happen. I got a response almost immediately and team morale soared.
The AB Testing phase
August 21st — Conversion rates were insanely high to begin with but I knew that having a contrasting color would outperform the grayscale theme we had going.
My hypothesis was that purple would be the only color on our website and would attract the eye. We create two versions, one with a purple button, and one with a black button.
The sample size was not big enough to be conclusive (n=345) but the test showed that the purple button was beating the black button pretty badly (+50% higher conversions). Unfortunately we launched to the App Store 2 days later so we were not able to carry this learning over but it was a good test to run before heavy traffic hit the site.
Submitting to the App Store
August 23rd — We submitted to the App store for the first time knowing there would be issues that would need to be fixed as quickly as possible.
It did not take long at all for Apple to reject the app.
We got rejected for several reasons:
• There was no indicator that the app was recording. It was fair feedback, so we just added a red circle over the icon in the menu bar to indicate recording.
• There was no way to turn off recording. The simplest fix was just to add a “pause recording” button. Easy peasy.
Before resubmitting, we toyed with the idea of just launching the app on our website and going around the App Store. My Twitter poll didn’t make the decision any easier.
Warming the audience and Hurrican Dorian
August 26th — Apple finally approved our app! Now we just needed some traction. The majority of distributed teams work from home or work from a coffee shop. Of those that work at home, many of them live off of coffee like us so it made sense to try and warm up our audience for the launch with a Yac Coffee Review.
The response was good enough to warrant a second coffee review which released day of the Backtrack launch on Product Hunt.
August 29th — Launch day was coming soon and Hurricane Dorian threatened Central Florida with loss of power and food supplies, which forced everyone to rush to grocery stores, including our team.
Definitely not the ideal thing to be worrying about just days before a new product launch. This could have been bad news bears since we were launching Monday morning, when the storm was supposed to hit. Thankfully the storm skirted the coast and we didn’t lose power.
Product Hunt launch day
September 2nd — We asked ex co-founder of Product Hunt, Ben Tossell, to Hunt us in hopes his notoriety would propel us to the top of the list for the day. He recently made the switch to working full time on his startup, Makerpad, which is now making a splash of its own in the no-code space. We were fortunate to have him Hunt us because he is not only one of our investors, but also a Hunter that not just everyone has the ability to work with.
We always recommend that people looking to launch on Product Hunt try to make genuine connections with top Hunters beforehand as you do not want to hunt your own product.
We knew that Product Hunt is all about traction and that the team that gets in first place within the first few hours typically stays there all day. That remained true for us as you’ll read later on.
Here’s a few things we did right (and wrong):
• I Tweeted our pre-launch announcement 4 hours ahead of launch. I attempted to get some buzz going before we actually launched on Product Hunt. It was 12am EST and we launched 3am EST. Not only did I get the time wrong but it was a holiday. Already not off to a great start ??♂️
• We announced the launch itself. This one is obvious but worth showing the copy since I intentionally mentioned the keywords “Product Hunt”, asked for an upvote explicitly, tagged Backtrack’s Twitter (Which of course had the Product Hunt URL as the website in its profile), and then commented right away thanking Ben for Hunting us. This gave him an incentive to share and get both Backtrack and Yac a chance to see traffic and awareness.
• We kept our audience updated to let them know they were appreciated and the momentum was growing. I always love seeing a good story unfold before me so I figured other people should see that their votes are being counted and appreciated. Not enough founders take the time to thank their users. Probably because they call them users… hmmm…
• We sent an email to our existing Product Hunt audience.
Initially the email didn’t do that well, but then it picked up steam later on with a 33% open rate, and we hit the magical 100 upvote milestone. When your product hits 100 upvotes, you trigger several platforms to send out automated Tweets, Facebook posts, and Pinterest pins via IFTT & Zapier. This means all focus has to be on getting 100 upvotes as fast as possible. Before this moment, we were messaging friends, family, etc. to all upvote and comment.
We made a promo video from our coffee review and told people about Backtrack to get extra attention. This caused many conversations offline about the coffee reviews, Backtrack, AND Yac. Family members enjoyed brainstorming with me all the ways they could get involved and review coffee and told all their friends. Free press is free press right?
We also made an actual promo video of the app itself with no distractions. This was largely based off of a previous ad I did with my chatbot agency, Bot Sauce. The idea was to keep it super clean and snappy with minimal editing. Lining up the music with the video itself, kinda like how a good movie trailer uses music, is an easy way to get people to pay attention.
Finally, we thanked our audience for their help when the day was over. We placed second for the day with 700+ visitors to the site with 300+ upvotes which gave us a nice badge for our site. Just for fun, I cold emailed Jason Calacanis off the back of the response to my tweet about Yac.
Backtrack seemed to be done and over with but the next day, we got a surprise.
September 3rd — Product Hunt put out a newsletter about us, titled “An App for Time Traveling” which prominently featured Backtrack in the introduction. The email spurred a whole new day of activity that was even bigger than the day we launched with 1.4K additional users. It didn’t hurt that the CEO, Ryan, commented on the project loving the UX.
This made us jump to the top spot for that day, giving us a chance at becoming a top product of the week, unfortunately it was the day after so we weren’t able to snag the top spot.
Then, Jason responded to my email to introduce us to the managing director of LAUNCH Accelerator. And then he signed up.
Meanwhile our App Store rankings started to soar at #104, jumping 70 spots in an hour.
September 4th — Since the App Store doesn’t let you see how many downloads you have live, we waited until the 4th to find out. 542 downloads in two days. Some apps don’t even see 10 downloads and we had over 500 in a few days!
In a few weeks we had over a thousand downloads.
Snazzy YouTube magic
September 17th — I was finishing this article, which took an enormous amount of time, when suddenly a Youtube juggernaut, Snazzy Labs, featured Backtrack as #7 on their list of Underrated Free Mac Apps. The video has amassed over 130k views on Youtube and gave a 1K spike to our download count in one single day.
First, happy fans. Jason Calacanis watched our video and said, “seems like a good idea… watched the video” and then introduced us to his team. Ryan Hoover, CEO of Product Hunt, commented, “Love the drag to set the time UX. Creative.”
A developer loved the menu bar UX so much he tried copying it. “I really like the drag menu bar interaction. I would love to see this open-sourced because I’ve seen it in another app and spent a couple of weeks trying to reproduce it with no luck.“
“What a great idea! I always love to see fellow independent desktop developers with great products. Good luck!”
“Very impressive and great idea. can totally see this as the first step to creating an alternative for chorus / gong less targeted at sales!”
“That’s an awesome hack. So many times I wish I had recorded ideas etc that came to me on the spur of the moment.”
“Yes would use it! To be able to capture those aha moments you really only experience through spontaneous conversation? Brilliant.”
“One of the smartest and functional app that I discovered last 3 months…”
“Really a great idea. I don’t see a reason why this shouldn’t be on anyone’s Mac right now 🙂 Very well implemented, and thanks for giving it away for free, to you and your team.”
Second, great numbers.
+4k total website visitors
+135k total video views
1 newsletter by PH
1 Investor introduced
1 Featured Youtube video
We may implement some Backtrack features into Yac at some point but for now, we are raising our seed round and enjoying our in person brainstorming sessions that can now be shared with our remote team members!