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How Superhuman monetized time! The world's rarest resource
A deep dive into the three-pronged strategy that raised Superhuman to product-market fit!
An average human today has a life expectancy of 70-80 years
Of this, we roughly spend a third sleeping, 20% working, 10% watching TV, 6% driving, and 5% eating. That leaves us with approximately 18-20 years to "Live our lives!". Spending quality time with family, reading, traveling the world, listening to music, learning something new, you name it.
Now, what if I made you a seemingly clickbaity offer. A chance to buy back 1.5-2 yrs of your life for just $360 per year? Sound too good to be true?
Today, we discuss Superhuman - the fastest email experience ever made. In a world where more than a billion people spend three hours a day reading and writing emails, Superhuman enables them to fly through their inbox twice as fast as before. What's most interesting is the unique product and GTM flywheel the business operates on. The company has perfected a three-pronged approach to building products and honing its GTM:
Game design based product development 🕹
A scientific PMF engine - no throwing darts at a board! 🔬
A world-class onboarding experience 🥇
And the results speak for themselves! Today, Superhuman enjoys a waitlist of over half a million users and was recently valued at $825M! 🚀 Here's how they did it...
🎮 Game on!
For the uninitiated, the Superhuman email platform can be a fun but challenging puzzle to solve. One can draw parallels for this experience with their favorite games. The intrinsic motivation and the sheer satisfaction that you get after beating the final boss or saving the princess is exactly what superhuman tries to emulate for their users hitting zero unread inboxes!
"Today, our business software feels like work. You have to do your email. You have to submit your expense reports. You have to enter data in your CRM. But what if we could make it less like work and more like play? With game design, we can." - Rahul Vohra, CEO & Co-founder, Superhuman
Every aspect of the user journey at Superhuman is based on game design principles - goals, onboarding experience, feature selection, UI/UX, etc. Hear it straight from Rahul's mind 👇🏻
🛠 Engineering product-market fit
While the underlying principle of solving for email vis-a-vis game design was promising, Rahul and co had to engineer their way to product-market fit (PMF).
That's when Superhuman adopted Sean Ellis's PMF formula!
A product achieves PMF when over 40% of users respond to to the question "how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?" with a "Very disappointed"
Early results on a broad user base prompted the team to segment the sample set to include only founders, managers, executives, and business development professionals (ICP's)
Qualitative feedback was collected from the high expectation customers and adjacent segments using the following questions:
"What type of people do you think would most benefit from Superhuman?"
"What is the main benefit you receive from Superhuman?"
"How can we improve Superhuman for you?"
The responses were used to pinpoint features of the highest value and also to identify new releases that could push users on the fence to 'fanatics'. The following were identified as priorities to reach product-market fit:
More speed 🚅
More shortcuts 🔢
More automation 🤖
and more design flourishes 🎨
Did it work? Oh yes, it did!
"Superhuman is the fastest email app I've ever seen. It's about time" - Jager McConnell, CEO of CrunchBase
Today, Superhuman is the fastest email experience ever made, offering an almost instant 100ms speed! ⚡️ The designed to perfection UI is complemented by an array of functionalities deriving from the user's need for more automation and shortcuts. The email client prioritizes emails, allows for easy undo's, enriches user profiles with information from their respective social handles, hosts gaming level keyboard shortcuts, snoozing emails 😴 and more - to equip the user on their mission to inbox zero!
👋🏻 Welcome to Superhuman - Onboarding and customer delight
The onboarding process behind Superhuman obsesses on customer delight! For a growing product disrupting the conventional workflows associated with emails, integrations are very important for Superhuman. The right customer for Superhuman is also one for whom the existing integrations and systems are sufficient to make a leap of faith from their existing email clients (E.g., a client whose workflows are completely tied to office 365 is less likely to replace Outlook).
Onboarding is hence not just servicing all demand. It is also finding just the right customers and building precisely for them when launching in a crowded market.
Request access & the onboarding survey ✍🏻
The Superhuman waitlist is notoriously renowned to be a growth hack engineered to create hype around the product. This is however far from the truth. By setting up an onboarding flow that starts with a user requesting access and later filling up a detailed survey, Superhuman is able to identify users who can be serviced immediately and hold off on customers whose experience will be suboptimal with the current system.
“Typeform is a production-grade system for our entire growth funnel.” - Gaurav Vohra, Former Head of Growth and the mastermind behind the onboarding experience
This is enabled by a completely automated workflow that begins with a Typeform which is linked to Zapier via webhooks. The Zapier further triggers emails and Calendly invitations for the next onboarding step...
The human connection 🤝
Remember how we mentioned that the product could be a challenge for the uninitiated? Superhuman ensure that their users have the right tutorial before embarking on the intentionally tougher but consequently more fulfilling email experience.
Every customer who has qualified for the first checks is assigned a personal 30 minute 1-1 with a Superhuman onboarding specialist.
A hands-on training session where the customer is engaged to explore the product in a supervised ecosystem helps cross the early thresholds. The onboarding specialist (OS) is a critical part of Superhuman's GTM motion. With a total headcount of 25, OS's comprise 30% of the workforce at the company.
These are professionals who have previous experience in either customer-facing roles or teaching and training roles - including former school teachers! 🎓
⏩ Next steps - Building a B2B GTM and the hunt for ARR 🧑🏼💼
The very encouraging product-market fit sets up Superhuman for the next phase of growth - The hunt for ARR! With Dan Mclennan (Ex-Head of North America Sales @ LinkedIn) and Johnny Jiang (Ex Acquisition Marketing SVP @ Peloton) taking over Customer & Revenue and Marketing respectively, the company is doubling down on talent and GTM infrastructure. We did some research and the Superhuman's sales motion is investing heavily on:
Hiring a Director Sales
Hiring an account growth team
Account consolidation and targeting
All-in deals and Multi-year deals
GTM training and infrastructure - CRM workflows, reporting, and dashboards
With the growth engine targeting revenue expansion, and user footprint across B2C and B2B, the product roadmap targets the move from email client to an all-in-one productivity platform. Calendars, tasks, notes, and contacts are adjacent offerings that we expect from the company. We are confident that Superhuman's focus on game design and customer delight will be a serious competitor for incumbents in the productivity space. One thing's for sure, we are in for some real speed!
Edit 1: Gaurav Vohra, Head of Strategy @ Superhuman was kind enough to connect with us after this blog post 😊 Gaurav set up a lot of the key functions at the company (onboarding, success, delight, growth…), scaled them from 0 to 1, built repeatability, and moved on to build the next function. We asked him what enabled him to succeed at what most struggle with… His response was insightful and a reminder as to the strength of core values in driving outcomes!
Gaurav Vohra: “I think there’s some table stakes qualities and skills you need to bring such as identifying the customer need, problem solving, being able to hire, being able to manage a team. But I’d say the guiding light at least for me was sticking to our core values as a company (delight, quality, intentionality) so that even if the problems were new there was consistency in how to approach them. Having clear company values is a critical step towards helping the team identify whether a solution is going to be any good.”
Originally published on the Toplyne Blog: The science of product-led growth