October 3, 2021
14
 min read
Founder Playbook

How June went from an Idea to a $2 million Seed Round

Authors

Avatar icon
Ferruccio Balestreri
Co-Founder and CTO
,
June
The post originally appeared on MikeWilner.com. It was republished with permission.

Authors

Avatar icon
Ferruccio Balestreri
Co-Founder and CTO
,
June
Avatar icon
Ferruccio Balestreri
Co-Founder and CTO
,
June

Investors

Almost a year after the first line of code was written, hundreds of companies now use June to track, monitor and report their data. June recently raised $2 million in seed funding led by Point Nine and with participation from Y Combinator, Speedinvest, Kima Ventures, eFounders and Base Case.

Investor's note

Before we became co-founders, Enzo Avigo and I were co-workers at Intercom, where we noticed that the analytics tool that the company endorsed was difficult to navigate and hard to understand. Because of this friction, everyone routinely opted for alternate measures. The use of qualitative data through surveys, user interviews and gut feeling, was often preferred to data analytics when making educated decisions such as product feature changes, and distribution strategy. 

We co-founded June in 2020. The goal was to build the Airtable of analytics: June is a no-code tool which allows users to use templates and a graphical interface to engage with data and create analytics dashboards and reports. We aim to make it easier to manage, understand, and utilize analytics for everyone—even people without a background in product analytics.

Almost a year after the first line of code was written, hundreds of companies now use June to track, monitor and report their data. June recently raised $2 million in seed funding led by Point Nine and with participation from Y Combinator, Speedinvest, Kima Ventures, eFounders and Base Case. 

Now I want to share June’s playbook going from 0 to 1 as a B2B SaaS startup, including: 

  • How we got our first user
  • Why you should understand your customer before you building a landing page
  • How to implement your user-research findings 
  • How to launch on Product Hunt and Hacker News 

June’s First User 


I joined On Deck in September 2020. Enzo and I had just quit our jobs at Intercom, and had spent most of the year conducting over 100 user interviews for June. I knew that the process of starting a company would be daunting and lonely with just two co-founders. We needed On Deck both to inspire us to continue to iterate but also to have a support system. At this time our product was extremely bare bones—almost unusable, even. Just three weeks of code duct-taped together.

But four weeks into the ODF fellowship, I had a serendipitous introductory call with Ali, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Rally. I had shipped an integration between June and Segment 15 minutes earlier and mentioned it in the conversation. Ali’s eyes lit up, and proceeded to tell me that he was struggling to find a product analytics tool for Rally. He wanted to give June a try. By the end of the call he had onboarded as the first user. I was ecstatic.

With users providing us with new feature requests and bug reports, June was no longer just words and bullet points on a Google doc or a static prototype anymore. We had found a real need that we were solving for people.

We want June to be the Airtable for analytics. Templates were a key feature for us to allow users to onboard quickly and easily create reports and dashboards on the platform.


Don’t Jump the Gun on a Landing Page 

We had our first user, but could not let ourselves get carried away. We needed 9 more before we would start building our landing page. 

We didn’t want to jump the gun and build a landing page without first understanding who our users were, and what problems they had. Instead, we would condense all the insights that we had gleaned from the over 100 user interviews and first 10 onboardings to address our core value proposition in the language of our users. 


Implementing your Findings 


From the 100 user interviews, we learned that our users: 

  • Didn’t want to write more code to adopt a new tool
  • All spent hours setting up dashboards to measure the same things (retention, active users, and the conversion rate of their funnels)
  • Didn’t want to spend time building expertise in product analytics to get some insights
We gathered learnings from 100 calls with different product teams, who were all proactive in sharing their problems with their analytics setup.

From these insights, we generated requirements that our product had to fall within. We spent days drawing the common themes of our user interviews on a whiteboard, grouping each insight by theme. From thousands of different responses and phrases, we found a common language. We discovered three key themes underlying the asks of every interviewee: 

  • Easy to adopt 
  • Transparent with data 
  • Friendly and approachable even with no training (non-technical people have to be able to gain meaningful insights) 

While we were building June these thematic assumptions were always there to anchor our product ; they helped distill who we would eventually market to, our ideal customer profile (ICP). Our path forward cleared. For June to be the simplest product analytics solution in the market, we had to serve non-technical product managers. 

June, we decided, would offer answers in a clear way to the most common questions that product teams ask: 

  • Do we have product/market fit?
  • How is the latest feature launch going?
  • Is the increased discoverability of this feature increasing adoption?
  • Who are our most successful users?

We sourced our initial users by doing things that didn’t scale: first, we put together a list of companies that we intuited would need June. Then, we individually went into each of our potential customer’s Chrome console  to identify if they were Segment users or not. 

From that point forward, it was a process of cold outreach and personalized onboarding. Of the first 10 users, 9 of them were sourced using this method. We quickly found that reducing the scope of potential users early — in our case requiring them to be a B2B SaaS that used Segment,— meant that we perfected our pitch and understood all the follow-up questions that would come from that audience. 


Once we got to 10 users we created a landing page to collect emails. Our landing page was laser-focused on our value proposition: quick, easy-to-understand analytics that did not require any coding experience. 

A majority of our first 10 users asked if June was “light-weight” in their onboarding call — so we turned that into a core tagline of the product, “Lightweight analytics for B2B SaaS.” On the page, we highlighted testimonials from people with non-technical backgrounds about how the product was incredibly friendly and powerful without coding experience. 

Using Wayback machine, this is a look at June’s landing page in January, after it had reached its first 10 customers.


We connected our email form to Close CRM to manage all incoming leads. The key to managing your CRM is understanding that there is no shame in following up and following up aggressively; the people we were reaching out to were often operating at a B2B SaaS, we knew that they were probably quite busy wearing multiple hats and that it would be difficult to earn their attention.

Once we had a landing page set up, and had started collecting leads, it was time to start transforming those leads into June users, onboarding them into the platform, and getting new users—all while attempting to navigate the Hype Cycle.

Navigating the Hype Cycle and Leveraging Growth Levers 


Startups all follow the Hype Cycle. Media appearances, Product Hunt launches and presenting at different Demo Days will all cause spikes in interest. June was no exception. In February, after we had a fully self-serve product onboarding process, we did a Product Hunt launch campaign and a Hacker news launch campaign. Here’s how we went about it: 

Product Hunt Launch

We launched on Product Hunt once we reached the 100 users mark, knowing  that it’s crucial to engage key growth levers (like a landing page, Product Hunt, Hacker News etc.) only when truly confident in your product and your market.

In other words, to gain significant traction on Product Hunt, you need to have a pre-existing user base: 

  1. To confirm that your product is hitting a need and you can market it accordingly through your copy. 
  2. To leverage their experience with the Product in the comments as social proof for your product. 

You have to approach Product Hunt with the mindset that you are not going to get a lot of paid/quality users. Many are just early adopters, there to test out the product. Most of them will churn. So spend time on singling out the few users that do stick around and work with them to engage them even more. Double down on what’s working and don’t try too hard to push your product if it’s not a fit.

With that in mind, there are four steps you should take:


1. Find an active PH user to hunt your product

Even though Product Hunt no longer sends an email to a hunter’s followers, your product can still receive a solid boost when hunted by popular hunters. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of products submitted everyday, but only products that are featured on the homepage matter. 

How can you maximize your chances of hitting the homepage? Make sure your hunter truly believes in your product and can offer social proof. Our hunter had already previewed the project at its inception and we gave him updates throughout the process. 


2. Prepare launch materials using Preview Hunt 

There are many moving pieces to a Product Hunt launch. If this is your first rodeo, make sure you use Preview Hunt so that everything is prepared. One missing element can immediately turn people off from your page and lose you users. 

Here’s a checklist of what to prepare: 

  • Title, One-liner and Description
  • 240 x 240 Thumbnail Product (Animated GIF’s perform best) 
  • 635 x 380 Gallery images (Product walkthrough of maker or video demonstrations are strong)
  • Maker Comment (Highlight your value proposition but be sure to add a human touch, this should be coming from you. Don’t view as an opportunity to sell your product but rather your journey) 
Here's a look at how we set up June's Product Hunt launch page, we had 5 different graphics in the gallery (including a GIF displaying the example workflow)

3. Start a warm-up campaign through e-mail and DMs

Product Hunt actively works against marketers trying to game their system. Their algorithm recognizes when someone is fishing for upvotes, such as when a product receives votes from inactive/new accounts. 

You want to prepare an existing seed audience in advance; we included our friends, people we had reached out during the interview and onboarding process, and people building in the data analytics space. Start reaching out to them a couple of days before the launch; if a stranger reaches out over email or Twitter DM to upvote a product I have never seen, I simply don’t have the time in that one moment to browse their project and decide whether or not to upvote it. 

4. Time your final announcement 

Batch your initial outreach. Start with most of your list in the morning so that you reach the home page, but spread out other contacts throughout the day to maintain your “vote velocity,” to keep your product ranked highly. 

When crafting the email, be sure to ask your list for feedback, not upvotes. Requests for upvotes can lead to the demotion of your product. You want people to provide genuine responses on what they did and did not like about the post. 

"The Product Hunt homepage is based on a 24-hour cycle. New posts hit the homepage at 12am PST each night, and more are added throughout the day. When scheduling your post, set the time zone to PST (and not your own). Product Hunt does not adjust for different time zones."

Product Hunt launch

  • 993 Upvotes
  • 165 Sign ups
  • 54 Connected segment (within 24hr)
  • 32.7% signup conversion rate

To launch on Hacker News, we followed a very similar process. The main thing we did differently was to tweak our messaging to "Two-click analytics reports on top of Segment data", and tried to keep things as short as possible. In other words, we had a simple value proposition and a call to action to go with it: "Connect your segment account, get reports."

Hacker News launch

  • 125 Points
  • 116 Sign ups
  • 61 Connected segment (within 24hr)
  • 52.5% signup conversion rate

We’re happy to say our Product Hunt and Hacker News launches were a success. We attracted tons of eyeballs to June, and even a few customers. But that left us with a question: How could we best maximize capturing this attention? Luckily, we figured it out, so you don’t have to. Here’s what you should do:

If you’re successful, great news! You’ve got loads of interest in your product. But now you’ve got a problem. You need to capture that attention and turn eyeballs into users. For a B2B SaaS product this often means you have to change your onboarding flow from manual to self-serve. There are outsized benefits to manual onboarding: building personal relationships with users, for example, and filling in feature gaps with manual work. We tried to maintain our manual onboarding for as long as possible, but after we got to around 100 users it began to be unsustainable as we had to build out other features, address bugs and more. So we gave self-serve onboarding a try. 

It did not work. 

We struggled to retain a good level of contact in our onboarding process. We realized that user retention spiked for June.so when users set up their North Star Metric on our platform. When we introduced fully self-serve onboarding we saw a significant drop off in people that reached this stage, and our retention halved!

Luckily, we came up with a solution: we adopted a hybrid onboarding where users connect their data via Segment independently but do a manual call to start using the product with one of our specialists. By doing this our retention doubled again.

"Making a one time upfront investment to get people set up in the best way possible really pays off in the long run. Our prioritization of measures that truly position our users to approach June with the correct expectations actually keeps them committed to our product.."

Where is June now? New Growth Mechanisms


The traction received from all our marketing efforts (Product Hunt, Hacker News and cold outreach) helped us build up our traction for the raise. To summarize, June scaled through: 

  • Conducting user interviews of your target audience to determine product boundaries. 
  • Conducting manual outreach of an even more niche target audience (B2B SaaS using Segment) to onboard first 10 customers. 
  • Building a landing page using the language of your users 
  • Launching on Product Hunt and Hacker News after build up traction and refining your product 

But that was just the beginning. Growth, after all, is about continuous iteration and experimentation. We’ve finally reached product market fit and onboarded our first few hundred users. Ever since we raised our seed round, we’ve been trying to accelerate growing our user base.

How? 

Our approach to it is to try hundreds of different ideas and double down on the things that work the best. There are no rules and no experts, it’s just about trying things and moving fast! 

I’ll leave you with some of our experiments:

  1. Startup guide to analytics
We created an interactive, multi-step guide that helps people learn the basics of startup analytics, helping people learn how to understand their startup’s growth user engagement.


As we increase the number of people that learn of the importance of startup analytics, they will see June as a key part of their analytics strategy. 

Results: This experiment resulted in over 133 upvotes on Product Hunt and 67 email signups. 

  1. Weekly changelog
Every week, we share how we have improved and iterated via June. This allows us to keep appearing on our audience’s feed and forces me and Enzo to continue to iterate on the product so we have something to share with our users each week. 

Results: This experiment works for us as a re-engagement loop. Users might connect Segment and not get what they were looking for. Over time though as we ship more features we saw old “dead” workspaces re-activate.

  1. Daily youtube videos

This is a new experiment. I’m recording daily videos on Youtube talking about products, engineering or just telling stories. Over time the goal is to see if videos have a better organic reach than blog posts.

  1. Twitter and linkedin vlogs

Just before YC demo day Enzo started recording some daily vlogs. These videos are particularly successful on Linkedin, getting thousands of views.

  1. Blog posts on product

I like writing blog posts and Enzo too. All the best candidates and everyone we recruited mentions one of our blog posts as a reason for wanting to join June.

  1. Guest posts on blogs (here’s one on Segment’s blog)

Enzo wrote a guest post on the Segment blog. It didn’t bring many sign ups, but I think it’s been great for us to build a better relationship with the folks at Segment.


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