Discovery and Journey of YRL
The journey of our product discovery, development and launch.
Background: Challenge to Ideas
The biggest challenge to most products, startups and businesses today is not the technical feasibility or operational execution. These challenges are deterministic in nature, in the sense that they can be overcome with good amount of work, research and intelligence.
The biggest challenge is growth. It’s adoption. It’s how the offering is distributed to large number of users in a short amount of time.
It’s how they can go viral in their target user demography.
Biggest challenge for startups, products and ideas is Growth and Marketing.
Our startup suffered with this problem for our consumer apps, which while everyone who understood loved the concept, the only way they would consistently use is if there were more users on the app. We wished, only if… we could explain our product to large number of users and onboard them at the same time.
To fix this, Content marketing seemed like the right answer. To begin, I made a job post to hire a freelance “Content Creator” role. Within a few days, we had hundreds of applications, and that’s when our pay was not the most competitive in the market.
My first thought when I saw so many applications was: how can I hire all of them? Well, that was impractical, so the other thought came to mind. What if I could pay each of them a fixed amount for making a post explaining our product? That would be great, however it would still not go viral, because they would be posting on “our channel”.
DISCOVERY: What does going Viral mean anyways?
How do things go viral?
Things go viral when lot of people talk about them in their own way addressing their own networks. So what if, these Creators could make posts on their own channel/account in whatever way they wanted to describe the product? That sounded great, but there were unanswered questions:
- what if Creators deleted the post after getting the payment?
- how do we find the creators who would be interested to do it?
not all creators would put in same amount of effort. How can the incentive be proportional to the creativity or reach of the content?
Idea for a new Platform
After a few thousand thought iterations the idea came: what if we could pay Creators not just for the post, but on the basis of how many users they brought us. This is how most digital Ads work, as businesses only pay for the Ads when users click on it (unless it’s based on impressions).
Why can’t we do the same for the content creators as well? If we could, it would be a great way for Businesses to partner with Creators in distributing the products and ideas to larger user base.
This would, however, mean creating a new platform similar to Ads, that so far only big tech had done (with an army of engineers). Well, we set ourselves to this challenge.
We went onto solve this not as a Marketing or Social Media company, but as a Tech company. We made going Viral an engineering problem.
What about other solutions?
We researched every solution available
To look at the situation objectively, I looked at all the solutions in the market. From Ad Platforms, to Networks, from Affiliate Marketing to Influencer Platforms, all of them require lot of inputs from the users, and have an immense learning curve.
While Ad Platforms are super expensive, they are also hard to get right (not to mention my personal bias against Ads). There are way too many platforms, and they would still be limited to my own creativity of getting the message across.
Affiliate marketing can only work for products that can be sold in one go, but what if the product is not a sell-able item, or requires multi fold channels? Not only that, the entire process of becoming an affiliate is cumbersome.
Influencer marketing platforms are as manual and time intensive as they can be. Businesses message each of them, get responses from some, negotiate a deal and then get a post. It’s a lot of work, and money spent without knowing the performance of the post.
Viral + URL == YRL
To test the hypothesis, without giving away complete details, I talked to dozens of creators from various categories, and also businesses. There was definitely a huge demand from other Businesses, and each of the Creators who so far didn’t know that they could monetize their channels said YES.
We called our product YRL, a misnomer for Viral and URL.
While building YRL, there were few things we had to get right:
- Claiming and sharing YRL links should be super easy (3 clicks).
- Payouts should be super easy, and Earnings should update in realtime.
- There should be enough metrics to build trust, and transparency.
- Redirects from Yrl links should take <200 milliseconds.
- Creating a YRL campaign should take less than a minute.
- YRL clicks should not be abuse and tamper proof.
- We should never require Ads. Instead ask Businesses to spend all their time on improving their product.
- There should be enough metrics that can be validated with third party tool like Google Analytics.
All the above features sort of meant making a simpler version of three massive products: Google Adwords, Adsense and Analytics.
It would take 2 months of coding, product development and design to get our MVP out.
We were stable in the end of June, which is when we started reaching out to Businesses, and Creators. It would take us 2 weeks to get the first paying business. In the first month, we got 10 paying campaigns on YRL, and dozens of Creators onboard.
The most important feedback we received was ability to add conversions, which is what we built and added to the platform next.
We also added Private Campaign feature for businesses who are already working with
We are targeting August to be the month of onboarding and publicly releasing our product. Fingers crossed!