The innovative launch techniques of Superhuman

Business | Review
This email productivity app has not only creatively reworked email, but how to launch a product 

Founders, Superhuman may be on to something.

While still pre-launch, this email productivity application has been slowly and steadily gaining buzz. Tweets and favorable blog posts have been circulating, creating a sort of virtual word of mouth effect. A Tweet was, in fact, how we were alerted to the product. 

*Not a real Tweet

In order to get access to the beta version of Superhuman, you have to sign up on their website. A referral by an existing user can speed up this process.

But get this–beta users have to be accepted to participate. Superhuman sends along a detailed application form to make sure that its testers have circumstances that match the functionalities of the software. If not, they get a polite note saying that their use case isn’t a good fit.

Crazier still, before a user can download the beta version they have agree to a half-hour, one-on-one onboarding session with a Superhuman rep, and hand over $30 for the first month’s subscription fee. For anyone who can’t pull the trigger on the purchase or make the meeting, they lose their spot in line.

While this may all seem like barriers to entry, it has created some interesting results that we feel are worth examining.

Creating product devotees

We know a particular manager who went through the Superhuman onboarding process. He was walked through the program, which relies heavily on shortcuts and organizational tactics, based on his workflow. Later after spending an hour or so on his own implementing these strategies, he was able to show off his email inbox, which was enviably pristine. Even more interesting was the certain gleam of the converted that was in his eye.

Superhuman had won themselves not just a passive user, but a fan of the product. In this case, the tester was a good “use case” for the product: a busy manager that is always in the middle of a flurry of emails; reasonably tech savvy enough to navigate the keyboard shortcuts; and to whom paying 30 dollars extra a month to save valuable time was worth it.

Such fans tend to tell their friends about their experience and post about it on blogs and social media. This kind of publicity is pure gold for a product.


Deconstructing product/market fit
In an interview with Superhuman’s founder, Rahul Vohra, it’s clear this effect was intentional. It was the result of a kind of “reverse engineering” on the concept of product/market fit.

Vohra’s previous startup, gmail plugin Rapportive, was acquired by Linkedin in 2012, so this time around money wasn’t an issue. However, he was well aware that success doesn’t depend on funding, but on having a product that users genuinely need.

Most of the ways to determine whether a product has found its appropriate market niche are all after launch, Vohra found, and thus unactionable for those in the pre-launch stage. As his team had already invested more than two years in development, he wasn’t interested in tossing a mismatched product into the market and losing all of their hard work.

So what Vohra did was focus on the core potential users of the software. What features they could or could not live without. This is why beta testers were screened carefully, to find Superhuman’s market segment and potential fans.

The onboarding process is particularly genius, providing users with a human connection to the software while generating feedback for the development team.


Predicting the success of a product launch is nearly impossible. In spite of diligent research and testing there’s always the real possibility that customers won’t be willing to pay for even the most genius solution to their problems. Whether Superhuman will stick around after launch remains to be seen, but their creative testing tactics can be replicated by many types of startups.

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