Update 2: Accelerate!

By Steven Hylands on January 19, 2020

It’s been one week since our first update and we started the Propel Pre-accelerator. This week I’d like to focus on our experience with Propel so far.


The first day was an unusual experience not dissimilar to starting a new job or school with 21 hungry teams moving into their new home the Ormeau Baths. Upon arrival, I found my new desk and immediately got chatting to my new neighbour Chris from FreePeriod. I love learning about other peoples products. It was great to hear his story and to offer initial perspectives on each other’s work. As much as everyone is focused on their own business they are more than happy to offer their time to help each other – a great sign.

Once we’d had time to mingle we were thrown right into the action with our first experience of the dreaded pitch. That’s at least dreaded for me… speaking in front of a group has never been something I’m comfortable with. I stumbled through trying my best to fight the anxiety and pass the words in my brain to my mouth. I think I managed to get about 60% right, but never worry, I’d have plenty of opportunities to correct this over the week. It turned out pitching was a consistent theme, with two more pitch sessions where we delivered versions revised based on feedback.

Propel Teams

We’re not a business with plans to seek investment. It would be easy for us to think of pitching as a waste of time, but being forced to explain your product to people who have zero previous knowledge turned out to be a fantastic learning experience on how to communicate your product. Here’s what we pitched on day one compared to day five:

First pitch

“Over the last few years, online communities have sprung up around the web in chat apps like Slack. But most of the people who join a community, tend not to engage, and eventually forget it exists. Lowdown was made to help community organisers get these members to become engaged and keep returning to their community. It does this by taking the best content shared within the community, and delivering it directly to members inboxes as a newsletter - so they know what they’re missing out on and can come back to get involved.”

Last Pitch

“Chat has exploded. Every week over a billion messages are sent in Slack groups. But chat is disposable. Valuable content is being lost. We created Lowdown to help companies and communities unleash the value locked within Slack and deliver it to their audiences in a focused newsletter.”

Quite the difference. I don’t think it’s quite nailed yet but we’re getting there.

Deep Dive

Mid-week we had a deep dive session with Chris and Ian who run the programme. In the session, we explained where we’re at with the product and business so far. Since Lowdown is live and ready to accept paying customers their main question was “What is stopping you from getting it out there now?” Specifically in a big way like a Product Hunt launch. We made various excuses like “We’d love to add this one feature first” but the reality was we were overthinking it and hesitating. Thankfully Chris and Ian were able to cut through our excuses and focus on what’s most important. At this point, we just need to accelerate, get it out there and learn what we need to do next from people using the product rather than guesswork.

F**k it lets launch

We plan to launch on Product Hunt next week. Follow us on Twitter for updates!

Propel Desks

Speaking of setbacks…

I’d like to touch on what didn’t go well this week.

We didn’t make enough time to focus on outreach

With all the Propel activities it was hard to focus and get much meaningful work done. The thing that got sacrificed most was the thing we needed to focus on — sharing our product with potential users. We plan to rectify this next week by reaching out to 50 Slack communities.

No paying customers

No one is paying for Lowdown yet. I’m not overly concerned about this right now as Lowdown lets all users send their first newsletter for free so they can experience the product before deciding if they want to keep using it. If they choose not to pay to send the second newsletter that’s when we should be concerned. We did have 4 new accounts created this week so our next update will be more interesting on this front.

Lowdown didn’t work for a new user

We asked the Propel team to test Lowdown by creating a newsletter from the #Propel-2020 Slack channel. However, when they tried to view options for acquiring newsletter subscribers they were confronted with a blank page. An issue we had yet to encounter and were fairly stumped by. The next day I investigated in person. It took a while but I eventually discovered the issue was a browser AdBlocker extension which had flagged a class name on the page and blocked it. This highlights the grave importance of real-life user testing. Without the opportunity to watch Kate from Propel use our product we most likely would have wasted countless more hours figuring this out.

What went well

People are excited about Lowdown

Despite the lack of paying customers, we’re hearing more and more that we have something very close to solving a real problem for Slack communities. Here are some of the things people are saying:

“The Lowdown premise hits on exactly what I was planning to do manually.”

“Trying out lowdown. Love how fast it showed me a sample newsletter.”

“Some people struggle to cope with the fast pace of conversations and this tool is awesome to get everyone up to speed”

So what is stopping them from paying?

One of these reasons is that most communities already have a newsletter and don’t want to manage subscribers and send another newsletter from a different platform.

Another is it’s not currently possible to bulk import all your existing subscribers to Lowdown.

It can be very tempting to just build a feature when a potential customer says “You just need to do X and I’ll pay”, but it’s important we keep focused and only build the features that will be of benefit to as many users as possible.

Saying that we’re at a point where there are a few obvious quick wins we can implement in order to increase the attractiveness of Lowdown. A simple bulk import is something we’ve always planned to add, and it feels like a good first step that could start to address both of these problems.

The week ahead:

Our focus for the coming week is to get as many potential customers as possible using Lowdown, so we can talk to them and gain confidence in where we need to develop the product.

The programme so far is helping us see the potential in our business, to feel accountable to achieve our goals and even stretch beyond them. It’s been a great way to stay motivated. Let’s hope that continues over the next 24 weeks!

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Steven Hylands

Steven is a co-founder and CEO here at Lowdown. He's obsessed with finding signal amongst the noise of real-time chat.