VladimirPolo

@VladimirPolo

What happens when your Medium post makes it to the front page of Hacker News?

I like to summarize things. For example, at the end of each month I create a Google Doc and write a report for myself where I track wins and failures and write about what I achieved and what I still need to work on.

At the end of each year I also create a separate document where I summarize the past twelve months. This “annual report” covers both personal and professional accomplishments.

In addition, on New Year’s Eve I send my team at AcademyOcean all the group photos we took during the year. It’s nice to look back on the special moments we shared (our first demo request, our first paying customer, or a Friday evening spent playing board games).

After graduating from YC Startup School, I decided to write a story summarizing the ten weeks.

I spent two evenings writing this short story: Ten Weeks with Y Combinator’s Startup School: An Insider’s View

There are two reasons why I use Medium:

  • It’s very easy to make nice-looking posts with their interface.
  • It provides brief but descriptive statistics.

The stats for my small blog look like this:

There are five columns:

  1. Story name
  2. Views
  3. Number of unique visitors that have read your story from beginning to end
  4. A ratio of the two previous metrics. (As you can see, for my stories this ratio falls between 31% and 65%.)
  5. Number of recommends. This metric is halfway between likes and shares on Facebook. When somebody recommends your story (by clicking on a small heart icon), a link to it appears on their profile.

As you may have noticed, the average post on my blog gets 50–100 reads. The post at the bottom of the table above, an interesting personal story, has more reads than average because I wrote it over a year ago.

When my new story about YC Startup School was ready, I sent it to my YC group and to my friends. The mentor for my YC group recommended I post a link to the post on Hacker News. I also shared it via Facebook and Twitter. Within two hours, extraordinary things started happening. Every 5 minutes brought 50 new reads to my post. As a result, there was a huge (for my blog) burst of reads.

If you look closely at the chart leading up to June 20, you can see some nearly microscopic green columns, which represent visitor counts on a usual day. : )

As I discovered later, the reason for the burst of visitors on June 20 was that my story appeared on the front page of Hacker News (only some posts make it there). My story didn’t even get higher than the eleventh line of the front page, but this alone brought 142 “points” and a huge spike in traffic.

During the first day, my story was viewed by more than 3,000 people. More than half of them read the story all the way through.

Over the course of three days, the story got 8,000 views.

It is hard to say at this point if the traffic from Hacker News will convert into customers, but the impact was pretty interesting to me, and I’m happy to be sharing my observations with you.

Conclusions:

1. If you are building a startup (or plan to do so), take advantage of accelerators. Both their offline events and online courses can be useful. YC Startup School is a good choice, and I think other big accelerators will also be launching their own online schools over time.

2. After participating in an accelerator’s event, write a blog post with a report or review of it. This will be helpful both for you (you will remember more from the experience), and your readers (especially those who have not participated in such events). Your story and feedback might even be interesting to managers of the event you participated in.

3. If you think you have an interesting story to share, please share it! Maybe next time YOU will be lucky with Hacker News. : ) Also, please feel free to share your stories in the comments. I’d love to read about the events you participated in!

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