Startups: Host a Tumblelog on Tumblr

We host our blog on Tumblr, and it’s our third-largest source of social media traffic after Twitter and Facebook.  I asked my friends at Fitocracy for their stats (their blog is on Tumblr, too) and they reported that Tumblr was fourth after Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, and it’s high-volume traffic as Fitocracy is doing several million pageviews monthly. For both of us, it’s in the top 10 of all sources of referral traffic.

With Tumblr, we’re talking about an enormous community — one of the largest on the Internet (rank 24 in the US according to Alexa).  Using Tumblr, we not only get a publishing platform, with it comes a huge source of persistent, repeatable traffic and signups for free.  

That’s why Paul Stamatiou’s recent post, Startups: Don’t Host Your Blog on Tumblr, came off as missing the boat on what’s really important in a company blog.  It took a tech-centric approach (uptime, technical substitutes) to a question that’s really about user/customer acquisition and engagement.  Simply put, not hosting something, whether it be a company blog or a tumblelog, on Tumblr amounts to nothing more than a missed opportunity to reach internet scale.

Power Ranger to Beauty Entrepreneur: Our Interview with Jennifer Yen


We recently were lucky enough to Skype with Jennifer Yen, Founder of pūr~lisse, a line of skin products for sensitive skin. We love Jennifer for her feisty spirit. Not only is she a female entrepreneur, but she also used to be a Power Ranger! Check out our interview of her below as she shares her story and stress tips.

Jennifer, you have such an amazing story! You followed your heart to LA to be an actress for Power Rangers. Tell us how you went from Power Ranger to Entrepreneur.

It was a long time coming! My family moved to Alabama from Taiwan when I was five and opened a restaurant, so entrepreneurship and hard work was natural to me. I always wanted to be an actress, so when I moved to LA, my parents told me, “If you want something, you focus and you work for it.”

I loved acting — but it was not glamorous. Ultimately, the heavy makeup gave me terrible acne and tolled my self-confidence. Looking to fix my own problem, I turned to my grandmother’s time-tested skin remedies. This is how pūr~lisse came to be.

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Write Your Own Story

Every milestone is an opportunity to attract attention to your startup because you have a piece of “news” — a new piece of noteworthy information that no one else but you has.

When you have something to announce, conventional wisdom says to go to the press and blogs with your story because they (1) have distribution and (2) are expert in crafting a story.  In the past, we’ve offered nuggets of news to journalists as exclusives, and we’ve gotten written up by Betabeat and The Next Web this way.

However, we’ve recently experimented with writing our own story on our own blog, telling a narrative that’s personal and shows how we work behind the scenes, harnessing the power of social news for distribution — and that has resulted in our all-time one-day high for traffic and 1,000+ signups, more than double the signups resulting from our press coverage.  Through that experience, we’ve learned the importance of writing your own story and turning transparency and narrative into a competitive advantage.

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iDoneThis on Lifehacker!


We’re in Lifehacker today!

iDoneThis is a new webapp that takes your goals and habits you want to build, reminds you to work towards them daily or weekly (you can choose), and puts you on a virtual team of people with similar goals so you can work together, support each other, and know you’re not alone.

Ameliorating the Human Condition with iDoneThis Memory

A few months ago, we started to occasionally send your old daily dones to you as a reminder of just how much progress you’d made.  Some of you told us that you loved it. For you, we made iDoneThis Memory.

Every morning, we’ll email you and remind you what you did on that day either 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year ago.  To turn it on, just go your Email Settings and check the box which reads, “Send me memories”.

In the words of the 20th century Italian poet Cesare Pavese — “The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.”  Thanks to modern technology, we can shrug off some of the human condition’s more unfortunate features.  iDoneThis Memory brings life’s evanescence into your inbox every morning, turning email into an affirmation of immanent existence.

You should turn it on here.

A Stupid Idea, One Year Later

iDoneThis had the humblest of beginnings, and in a year’s time, we’ve gone from a stupid idea to having helped people get over 500,000 things done.  It’s been an incredible year.

On December 17, 2010, Rodrigo wrote me the following email.  The title of the email was “stupid idea”.

A daily “what did you achieve today?” email. We send the email and expect a response.

Y’know there is this:  (he gets a big calendar and marks an  X on every day that he’s written jokes, the long chains of Xs get him to write more jokes)

Based on the emails that people send, we’d have some kind of graph/calendar like Seinfeld’s.

When we don’t hear from people we send them an angry email and show them their calendar with their string of Xs broken the next day.

I can likely put some rudimentary version of this together in a couple of days.

We called it “Attain Chain”.  And then we changed it because that’s a horrible name. Here’s one of the lists we kicked around.

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Search Your Dones

iDoneThis: You do not yet realize your importance. You’ve only begun to discover your power! Join me, and I will complete your training! With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy.
You: I’ll never join you!
iDoneThis: If only you knew the power of the Daily Done. Dundee never told you what happened to your father.
You: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
iDoneThis: No, I am your father.
You: No. No! That’s not true! That’s impossible!
iDoneThis: Search your dones, you know it to be true!
You: Oh, huh, I didn’t know I could do that.
iDoneThis: Yeah, we just added that feature a few weeks ago. Just login and go to your calendar — there’s a search box up top.
You: Cool.
iDoneThis: Cool.

How We Got Our First 10,000 Users

Passing 10,000 users felt awesome and we did it with three dead simple techniques that anyone can execute.

1.  Custom narratives for influential communities.  I wrote in April how we made it to 5,000 users by constructing custom narratives for Hacker News, Reddit, and Lifehacker.  We described iDoneThis to a community as both (a) a solution to the problems specific to that community with (b) an emotional hook that the community could relate to while (c) giving signals that reflect that we’re members of the community.

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In choosing to do our startup in the San Francisco Bay Area, near the heart of the Valley — the world center for technology and innovation — and joining an incubator run by Xooglers, we didn’t expect our company’s most powerful and transformative lesson over the past 4 months to be that in the realm of the visceral, intangible, and emotional.  What we learned first and foremost was the importance of vision and its resonance as an organizing principle.

A company is a group of people making a series of decisions.  But what continues to bind individuals together in a common enterprise?  And how do individuals with wildly variant opinions and selves make shared decisions?  The lesson we learned is that vision, not profit motive or friendship, provides the emotional glue to stick together and the axioms upon which concrete decisions — resolving data and feedback — are made.

iDoneThis started out as a side project done over a weekend by Rodrigo and me with one simple mechanic in mind — a daily prompt to record what you did that day.  In years prior, Rodrigo had kept a calendar to track daily progress and we thought to make that process easy for everyone.  People liked it.

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Crowdsourcing Product Positioning

We have a broad-based, loosely constrained web application.  Our users engage with the site in a variety of different ways for a number of reasons.  That makes it difficult to take a bunch of usage information and turn it into actionable data about how to position our product.

In searching for data to form the basis for a concise statement on our site’s value proposition, we ended up in an unexpected place.  We had built an invite system which was super simplistic.  A user could type in an email address and include an optional message.  We would email that person with an invitation to sign up to use iDoneThis (no special referral URL, just a link to

It turns out that when a user invited her friend to use iDoneThis, she used the optional message, not merely to say hello, but as an opportunity to pitch her friend on using iDoneThis.  Our invite system ended up containing concise statements of how users use iDoneThis, how it works for that use case, and the value they derive from it — and gives us the language to express all of that.

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