Interview: Ben Tossell, community lead of Product Hunt

As a keen techie, you’ve no doubt come across Product Hunt. It’s a website where you can discover the latest technology products, mobile apps and websites.

The San Francisco-based company has a large online following, and last month, it was acquired by start-up and investment website AngelList for $20 million.

Ben Tossell, a tech professional and entrepreneur from Cardiff, plays a big role in managing the website and its social media feeds in his role as community lead. We recently caught up with him.

TD: Who are you, and what do you do?

BT: I’m Ben Tossell, Cardiff born and bred. I am community lead at Product Hunt, the place to discover your next favourite products, every day.

TD: Why did you join Product Hunt? 

BT: I was a user for a while and loved PH. I had the opportunity to do what I was doing in my spare time, as my job – and much more. The chance to see all the newest, weirdest and best things in tech. What tech start-up lover would pass that up?

TD: What have been the most innovative products posted on PH?

BT: Some of the best tech products are in our Golden Kitty Awards. This is an award we started last year, and it was a great community success! It’s essentially the best stuff of 2016 that is showcased here. The winner gets a Kitty trophy (not real gold).

TD: What’s it like managing the PH community?

BT: I’m thankful to have a very supportive team that help with ‘managing’ the community. The community or site wouldn’t be what it is today without them.

TD: How have your own tech projects been going?

BT: Marketing Stack was my first launch. I no longer update it, but it still gets steady traffic every day and month. Botlist was my second one. It one went a bit crazy! It’s at about 2M+ pageviews right now, and I launched on April 11th.

I launched the day before the Facebook Messenger platform announcement, and then the press started linking to Botlist as the place to see all these bots. So I started it with Mubashar Iqbal (who built Marketing Stack) and Seth Louey, and I no longer have any involvement with it.

I just wanted to be the person who launched this thing. I knew it needed to be built. I launched it but I’ve certainly not got any spare time to run a side project that does as well as Botlist does. So Seth and Mubs run it as their side project, and they are doing awesome things with it!

I’ve also built a few Facebook Messenger Bots. A good example is Casey Neistat Bot, which resulted in Casey and I connecting and discussing an official one. I still need to follow up but we have had a lot of things going on.

Oh! And I also built a personal Facebook Messenger bot of myself, and I hacked the ‘Save to Pocket’ chrome extension so that it would auto-populate content without me doing anything different in my day to day.

TD: What area of technology excites you the most, and why?

BT: Chatbots are a hot topic I’m interested in. But ultimately, I think it’s too early right now. I think the use case for a vlogger makes sense and is interesting to explore. But the big issue I have is that people try typing questions and chatting, but AI isn’t there yet and it takes a lot to get that to a good experience for users.

If Google and other big people can’t nail it, then I can’t deliver a sub-par experience to my users. So I just build bots more as lightweight apps, using the buttons to navigate for the best exp. I’ll keep my eye on the bot-space, although it’s got a long way to go.

One area I am really intrigued is the ‘on-demand workers’ sector. I think there will be a time when we work on a project-based model, and I’m interested to see how these platforms will work. My favourite company in this space is Design Inc.

TD: What do you think of Welsh tech?

BT: I have seen some awesome potential, and I worked with Steve Dimmick on the launch of Doopoll and Neil Cocker on Ramp Tshirts. With the intro of Tramshed co-working space (among others), I hope to see it grow, and grow fast! I’m always up for coming in to chat with Welsh tech companies about anything if they want me to!

TD: Where next for you?

BT: We have just been acquired by AngelList, which is a very exciting move for the company! I think some awesome things are going to surface from this. My interests and strengths are in building the community.

I’d like that to focus into more longer term relationships with companies and teams (not just up to their launch) in the future. And I think having a platform like Angel List connected with PH could be a great environment for that to flourish.