Our first year in business as Parentool – part 1

Hello there,

Last week, on the 12th of April, it was Parentool’s 1st anniversary since its public launch.

I’m always curious to see how things REALLY happen in business. What is behind the curtains of a well-thought marketing campaign?

So I want to give you a sneak peek behind Parentool’s first year in business. It will probably be a 3 part series since there are a couple of things to cover.

I will also include what went well and what we should have done differently.


Let’s start with the launch and what were the dynamics.

As you might already know, we started working on Parentool officially in March 2019. It is a whole story before that date and a full story after it (maybe I will cover more in the next editions of this online diary). Nevertheless, I’m sharing this date to be aware that reaching that so-wanted live moment takes time if you have a similar context (no experience, no money, no industry knowledge).

Coming back to the launch phase.

Phase 1: Pre-launch

Before announcing that everyone can download Parentool from Google or App Store, we did a pre-launch. We had 500 people subscribing to the waiting list and sent them a testing link. We did this pre-launch one month before the live one.

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Here is a screenshot from our Slack channel where Dragos, our CTO, announced that we had our first transaction in the app during the pre-launch phase.

What went well with the pre-launch

  1. The best thing we did during our product development phases was to keep people from our network updated with our story. Sharing our participation in startup programs, the failures, and the celebrations. This made them feel like they could trust us, and they became invested in the story – this also helped us a lot during the official launch.
  2. Early on in the process, once we knew our name, logo, and what kind of solution we wanted to offer, we created a landing page with some details and a Waiting list – this helped us capture emails early on and create a database of testers.
  3. Doing the pre-launch was a great idea since it helped us validate if the product works if there are any bugs, and what people are actually using.

What could we have done better for pre-launch

  1. Taking more time to set up analytics – we are now using Mixpanel
  2. Expand the database – 500 isn’t a small number. Still, after the live launch, we realized that you need volumes to identify patterns. Also, another thing that slipped our mind was that not all 500 would convert to actual users. So, yeah, you need bigger numbers!

Phase 2: Official launch

After we had the pre-launch and analyzed the feedback, we took a deeeep breath and decided to put it out there for everybody to download.

Although it might not look like it, this is the type of action that makes your stomach shrink. As a team, you are deeply connected with your product, so making your product available often translates into making yourself be seen by people. And this is a scary sh*t.

What went well

  1. Remember point 1 from above with making people part of our story? Although this wasn’t intentional- it came more from my natural inclination to share raw moments as they are- it was the best ‘‘strategy’’ ever. Once we announced the launch, everything that we got from that point on was organic. People were sharing our launch and encouraging other people to download the app. This is how we ended up having over 1000 downloads on the first day and reached #3 in App Store Romania.
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  1. Being open to people’s feedback – our phones, emails, slack, and Firebase notifications were ON FREAKING FIRE. Everybody was tagging, sending feedback, reporting bugs, or saying congrats. What helped was that we were there to listen to them.
  2. We took the learning from pre-launch and set up a complete dashboard on Mixpanel that helped us track our users.
  3. We created a set of emails in Sendgrid to help us automate sending our users’ onboarding materials. This allowed us to identify the open rates and unsubscribe numbers.
  4. We started having daily meetings to review the feedback, progress, and what needed improvement.
  5. We used Trello as a tracking system for bugs reports
  6. We launched with a monetization model. This helped us validate traction and clarify the profile of people paying for the product.
  7. We celebrated the launch with a sangria night. REMINDER to enjoy this journey as well!

This launch showed me that our business model is people. By forming close relationships, listening to their feedback, and having a human touch and a transparent approach, they helped us with 0 marketing budget reach the initial user base.

What could we have done better

  1. Messaging – I think we kind of screwed up the promo message when we announced the launch. Looking back now, we tried to talk about ALL THE FEATURES simultaneously. BIG MISTAKE! It was a broad message with no specific age definition. The silver lining was that it helped us identify new target audiences interested in this solution.
  2. Product usability – although we did all the tests, prototyping and so on, we missed an important step – explaining to users HOW a conversation actually works. Dooah! This proves that you need to put the product in front of as many users as possible because nothing compares to feedback from when they use it for the problem you built for.
  3. Onboarding – another thing that we should have done better was the onboarding. Our product concept is to personalize the user experience based on a psychological scale. Now, scales have many questions, and we decided to keep them at the beginning of the onboarding process. This led to a drop in the conversion from downloads to account creation. The biggest learning point is that users don’t want you to gatekeep your product. They need a quick preview of what they will find and then create a full profile account.
  4. Another thing that we didn’t do was ask from the beginning that so-needed and useful question: Where did you hear about us? We saw that people were coming organically, but we needed a list of sources. We later implemented it.

Next week I will return with the numbers, conversion rates, and a mistake we made in the monetization process.

Let me know if you have any curiosities that I should include in the next edition!


Petruta 🧡

P.S: If you have a tech startup or want to build one and need some guidance, drop me a line at hello@petrutatuliga.com, and let’s talk!

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