Tips for Releasing New Features from AwayFind’s Jared Goralnick

November 20, 2012

10:00 am

AwayFind, the email overload wrangler that helps you spend less time in your inbox, launched updates today to manage your alerts.

The San Francisco startup has been improving on its core product since it began in 2010. AwayFind works by alerting you when you have important mail, whether that’s based on the sender, the subject, or even some keywords. Today’s updates make sure that those alerts aren’t a nuisance. They include a fine-grained “do not disturb” function – so alerts won’t come on weekends, for example – and exceptions to alerts, so you aren’t bombarded right before every weekly meeting.

We caught up with Goralnick to hear his advice for startups releasing their own new features.

Don’t always listen to your users. It’s become a mantra in startups to listen to your users. But you should actually be thinking about attracting new users, says Goralnick, not just pleasing every desire of the current ones. Because they are current users – they’ve already decided that your product is good enough to use, as is. Spend some time figuring out what the rest of your target market wants: what things are making them click off your signup page or let their account stagnate.

“With individual customers, you have to learn to say no and just accept the fact that they won’t be mad at you and they may still pay,” says Goralnick.

Think further ahead. When you do listen to your users, remember that they often think small: they want to tweak this feature, or change this design, or simplify this process. Sometimes that’s the right change to make, but sometimes you have to consider your bigger vision, think more broadly, and make more sweeping changes.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. But you don’t want to make changes that will scare off, annoy, or infuriate your current users en masse. For Goralnick, the most touchy aspect to change is the pricing plan. When AwayFind went from charging for certain features to charging for a certain level of usage, people noticed. So he wrote a lot of “heartfelt” emails and was there to answer questions. “You have to overcommunicate that kind of stuff,” he says.

While it might seem less exciting to work on adding features here and there, compared to the groundbreaking early days of a startup, Goralnick does enjoy the positive side. He can say without arrogance that his product outpaces Apple’s VIP for Mail in iOS 6. And instead of experimenting, testing new ideas, then chucking them in the garbage, the work he’s doing now is more likely to stick around.

“It’s kind of cool to be blue sky, but at the same time, a lot of the work that you do in those stages gets thrown away,” says Goralnick. “So it does feel good knowing that 100 percent of what you’re doing is going to be embraced.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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