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Growth Talks: Outsmarting Holiday Stress with AI: The Outdone Journey with Co-Founder Jonathan Nass

Welcome to our latest founder interview – this time, we’re diving into the world of innovative gifting with Outdone. Co-founded by Jonathan Nass and Hugh Lagroterria, Outdone is the embodiment of a simple yet groundbreaking idea: making gift shopping smarter with AI.

Outdone was born amidst the universal chaos of holiday season shopping, and its conception was sparked by the shared frustration of two roommates. Hugh and Jon had experienced first-hand the stress of finding the perfect gifts for loved ones, and believed that there must be a better, smarter way to approach this age-old problem.


What is the backstory of Outdone? How did you get from an idea to a product?

Hugh and I were roommates at the time we came up with the idea for Outdone. We were both feeling the stress that comes with trying to find great gifts each holiday season, and we decided there had to be a smarter way. We understood that gift shopping is a very personal, nuanced experience, but it really felt like something that machine learning was capable of improving. So when the world went into lockdown in early 2020, we got to building.


How did you validate your idea?

We validated the idea through a series of increasingly robust tests. At first, we just ran some simple Facebook ads that drove to an extremely rough LP. The LP held a Google form for users to enter information about the person they were shopping for. And from there, we manually scoured the web and emailed the users some recommendations. No tech, no AI. However, our CTR and form conversion rate were well above our expectations (considering how rough everything looked), so that inspired us to build our first version of the product.

For the 2021 holiday season, we launched our MVP, which, for the first time, used an actual machine learning algorithm to recommend brands to our users. The engagement and feedback were super encouraging, so we’ve continued on the path to build an even more powerful product. Our site got over 10,000 visitors in the first couple of months, and conversion rates continued to be very strong.

We launched V2 this past fall to even better reception, and at each step of the way, we’ve felt more and more validation.

What marketing strategies have been successful for Outdone so far?

Our primary marketing strategy for our V2 launch was working with a TikTok influencer whose content focuses on helping people find great gifts. This strategy proved to be a worthwhile investment because, for just a couple hundred dollars, we were able to drive thousands of users to our site. In fact, one of the videos went so viral that it crashed our website!

You launched your product on Product Hunt and were featured because you finished in the top 5 products of the day. Can you tell us about the critical factors that contributed to your success on Product Hunt?

It seems like there are two factors for having a successful Product Hunt launch: building a solid product and corralling an audience of supporters prior to launch day. We tried our best to interact with everyone we could on Product Hunt in the weeks leading up to our launches and asked for their support come launch day.

How did you get your first 100 users?

We launched on social media (essentially just to our friends) and shortly thereafter on Product Hunt. This helped us get our first hundred and first thousand users in short order.

What acquisition channels worked for you to reach new users/customers?

Tiktok followed by PR/earned media. On the earned media front, we’ve been lucky enough to be named to Built In’s Future 5 of Boston Tech and mentioned in a New York Times article on gifting.

TikTok is one of the key channels you utilize for Outdone, and you mentioned that you were able to achieve viral growth via TikTok influencers; can you tell us more about how you were able to optimize your TikTok strategy?

We worked to find an influencer whose content aligned with Outdone’s value prop. And we did this fairly easily by searching relevant hashtags — things like #giftguides, #giftsforgirlfriends, #giftideas, etc.

Once we found an influencer that fit the mold, we worked with her to create content modeled after her best performing posts. 

And it’s tough to know if this next tactic had any measurable impact on our videos’ performance, but we also lined up roughly a dozen friends to interact with and share each video right as it dropped.

One cool thing about TikTok is its Spark Ads feature. This allows you to put advertising dollars behind a post that’s already live, and it pops up in users’ feeds looking like organic content.

What do you consider your biggest win so far with Outdone?

Ironically, having our site crash this holiday season felt like a huge accomplishment. The first TikTok we posted was spreading like wildfire, and our site couldn’t keep up. Sure, we would have preferred that our site handle the load, but it was super validating to know so many people were drawn to our value proposition! All together, our V2 launch has drawn over 25,000 visitors to our site.

What is your advice to founders who are just starting?

Just start chipping away at it! The product you have in mind might seem intimidatingly far off, but if you put in a bit of work every week, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish in no time. 

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From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 1
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 2
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 3
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 4
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 5

Stefan Despotovski

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