Back in 2015, we were lucky to choose Slack as the platform for our startup — Standuply. Now two years later, we’re running a fast-growing business

This week Airbnb announced that it will be opening up its API for 3rd party developers. I believe it brings great opportunities for building businesses up to $100M in the next 3–5 years

Below I’m sharing my experience of building a business on Slack. I believe the similar principles could be applied when building apps for Airbnb.

Getting new users

One of the biggest challenges for a startup is acquiring users. It boils down to two fundamental things:

  • making something people want
  • finding cost-effective marketing channels

When you build a product on a platform, you have better chances to achieve that. First, you’re limited to choosing a product. Thus it’s less likely you end up building something people don’t want. Second, a platform will help you, directly and indirectly, getting new users.

A platform, like an icebreaker, solves the main issue — getting people to trust and remember your product. It works amazingly for us when I pitch Standuply as “a Slack bot for daily standup meetings”. People are like: “Yeah, we love Slack and use it in our team. I will check it out”.

A big credit goes to Slack App Store. The DevRel team at Slack is doing a great job at building developers community and providing value to them. See posts featuring Slack apps at Slack’s blog.

For example, we at Standuply are getting dozens of new teams daily just from Slack App Store.

A tip for Airbnb team
Drive traffic to 3rd party apps. It will help developers get going and bring others to build more businesses on the Platform.

Being the first

Being the first is like going all-in. You can lose, but if you win — it will be the jackpot. Our team was among the first who took on the opportunity to build chatbots for Telegram. Oh, boy — that was a mistake.

Luckily we understood it quickly and switched to Slack, but we were not among the first. Those developers on Slack who pushed their products just after its opening got enormous momentum and thousands of signups.

It’s easier to get to know people while a platform is just getting started. It may help you a lot and make your company successful. Show your execution level and interest to the right people, and it will pay you back.

Can you imagine being in touch with the team behind Apple Store or Google Play if you don’t have shared connections?

A tip for newcomers
Be the first to get the maximum. If you feel it wasn’t a right move, find another niche.

Looking long-term

One might say that building for Slack, Airbnb, whatever is a small market. Yes, that’s true, but it has advantages:

  • competition is not that strong
  • if you pick wisely, the market will grow

We are excited by Slack and witness its growth every month. Airbnb is the example of another great product with more growth potential. When it grows, it means growth for your company. We see Standuply and other bots growing just because Slack grows.

To build a $100M business, you need to become a 0,1% of Airbnb size and wait until it grows by ~3 times (assuming its $31 valuation).

Keep in mind that it will be harder to jump in as the platform grows with many apps created. It’s another argument to be the first and don’t wait until the market is large enough.

Patience brings its benefits – everything great takes at least three years to build. Be ready to make it through.

People with shared interests

There is one more factor that makes a lot of sense but doesn’t influence the success of your app. If you a regular user of the platform’s product then it’s likely you will find many others like you. They might become your customers.

When we started talking to users of our Slack bot, we found common things between us. We use the same products, talk the same language and have the same challenges. We enjoy building a product for likeminded people, and also we use it for ourselves.

I love traveling. If you do so, then you’ll probably find much in common with Airbnb users. It will drive your passions and help in building a great product.

I wouldn’t miss that opportunity if I wasn’t working full-time on Standuply, so go for it! Let me know in the comments below what are your ideas to build on Airbnb.

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Do you want to ask for my advice? Here’s my profile at Standuply Mentors, reach out directly to me for any help you may need.

Alex Kistenev

Alex is CEO and co-founder of Standuply where he's in charge of strategy and marketing. Alex is a snowboard fan and travel addicted. Contact him via Twitter or email.

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