A social listening tool, it monitors social media for mentions of your keywords
Batch: 2021 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful


A social listening tool, it monitors social media for mentions of your keywords
Batch: 2021 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful


PMAlerts is a keyword monitoring tool that businesses use to find customers online.

PMAlerts monitors social media for the things you care about - including (but not limited to) existing and prospective customers who are talking about your problem space.

For example: if you're running YCombinator's Startup School, you might create an alert for "Startup School" to find and engage with people who are talking about the program on LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, HackerNews, ProductHunt etc.

Here's an example alert:

Use-cases include lead generation, topic monitoring, reputation management, community cultivation, customer service, and competitive analysis. Over 1,300 people have created alerts on PMAlerts, including employees of Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, and Pinterest. I have eight paying customers generating a total of $175/mo revenue as of 5/16/21.


I [redacted], was pulled into foster care, got caught counterfeiting money while in foster care, [redacted], and then made my way back to public high school before being accepted into the UMass Amherst engineering program.

This gives me the "superpowers" of emotional resilience, empathy towards those in need of support, a wicked disdain for unjustified authority, and motivation to gain the influence that I need to help people-in-need at scale.


PMAlerts is in public beta:
- 1,300 people have created alerts
- 975 people have registered
- 240 people click on their results on at least a weekly basis
- 8 people are paying a total of $175/mo

I built the first version of PMAlerts as a console app in Q1 2020. I started taking it seriously in Q4 2020. This has been part-time, as I'm currently employed by Microsoft.

I'm measuring retention by counting the number of users who click on their alert results on at least a weekly basis. That number is ~225 this week, or about 22% of registered users. Employees of Twitter, Microsoft, and Apple are using PMAlerts.

Using PMAlerts to drive growth for PMAlerts is working! But the tech itself is unstable, and some platforms aren't working very well (Facebook is good at detecting bots). My priority is stabilization right now. I want to improve the experience for existing customers so much that they share PMAlerts with their network over and over again.

Product changes:
- I'm now exposing the "Listeners" construct publicly. Listeners are the little pieces of code that query (via APIs, crawling, scraping) the supported platforms. In the future, I'd like for any developer to be able to easily build a listener of their own for niche sites/forums. Listeners are listed here:
- I'm also exposing PMAlerts Internals now. This lets anyone track PMAlerts KPIs, and helps keep me accountable to effective prioritization / growth / improvement:
- Many of my existing users reported receiving noisy results. I've since implemented thumb ratings on results so you can grade your results as either good or bad. This helps "train" PMAlerts to improve relevance over time (right now it's just me manually tweaking things on my end, but this seems like a categorization problem that ML could help with).
- One paying customer asked for a listener, which I was able to spin up quickly because of the generalized "listeners" construct:

Perspective/priority changes:
- In the short term, I think PMAlerts can make money by giving PMs an easy way to get closer to their customers, and by giving B2B sales professionals an easy way to "social sell". One long-term possibility is that PMAlerts becomes a thin layer on top of all social media sites that lets people build their own social media feeds (or maybe subscribe to others'). Another long-term possibility is that PMAlerts becomes the go-to social selling tool, and then works its way down the funnel for businesses of all kinds, tracking conversion from initial engagement all the way down to retained, paying customer - "salesforce for everyone" / "sales as a service".


Why: I've wasted a LOT of time building things that nobody wants to pay for. I applied to YC with one of those things in 2016:

This has been a huge opportunity cost that could have been avoided if I had an easy way to connect with customers before spending too much time building the wrong product.

I'm also unhappy with the way that big tech is using their power, and I'd like to do something about it. Using their data to pull people together actually helps their MAU targets (increased relevance for consumers => increased MAU, I'd imagine). But my long-term mission is to reduce the value of their adtech by giving businesses a more cost-effective, personal way to reach their target audience via targeted selling (vs targeted advertising).

My expertise: I deeply enjoy breaking silly rules and restrictions, like anti-scraping measures that Facebook and LinkedIn use to wall their gardens. I have a decade's worth of engineering experience, PMing, and failed startups that help me empathize with folks who are trying to build things that people want. I've also had the privilege of leisure, which I've used to learn about the root causes of structural injustice, which has motivated me to work hard (on the right things).

Value confirmation: I'm seeing a strong positive emotional response from people as soon as they "get" that PMAlerts isn't just for brand monitoring or vanity searching - it's a super cost-effective way to develop new customer relationships.

Using social media monitoring to generate leads is new, as far as I know. Founders currently resort to their network, cold-calling, cold-emailing, paid ads, launches, and PR to gain traction. PMAlerts gives folks a new way to get closer to a large sample size of prospects.

Social media monitoring competitors include Brand24, Mention, Sprout, Awario, HubSpot, Google Alerts, and Google Trends. These solutions don't seem to be leaning into the leadgen aspect of their business, but if they do, I could lose an opportunity to become the go-to customer development solution.

PMAlerts would be competing with / complementing Salesforce in the CRM space. It would be competing with Google + Facebook ads in the targeted advertising space. And LinkedIn Sales Navigator in the targeted selling space.

In all cases, social media platforms could limit my access to their data. That's what I fear most.

1) Social listening so much bigger than vanity searching. It's a means to a more actionable end - social listening should help users build relationships and sell solutions. We can use social listening data to build databases of qualified leads for any type of business. We can then learn how to most effectively sell against particular categories of pain / user.

2) It's hard to make the most of social listening. The most effective queries aren't usually obvious. Folks create alerts and then are immediately conditioned to ignore them because first attempts tend to generate noisy results.

For example: I want to find people who need social listening tools. At first, I created an alert for "social listening tool", but I found that an alert for "mrr $" gives me a far higher signal:noise ratio. This can be solved with improved UX and a services component - onboard new users for $x.

3) Customer obsession can be quantified. Big tech's enterprise culture is embracing OKRs like "customer obsession", and PMAlerts could be used to quantify customer obsession. Product teams need an easily measurable (and gamifiable) way to engage with customers / improve product - beyond lagging indicators like MAU / revenue.

4) Consumer-first can be a winning long-term strategy. My competitors are focused primarily on B2B enterprise contracts because that's where the money is. But social listening can be a consumer product. It just needs to be packaged up in a brutally simple way that feels familiar. This is why I'm mimicking the UX of Twitter - I want users to feel like they could visit PMAlerts just as often as they visit other social media sites. Not only for work, but for pleasure too. This way, users pollinate the tool across orgs/employers.

5) Social listening can be a marketplace / platform. My competitors are focused on listening to mainstream social media because they seem to care mostly about macro trend analysis. But social listening can be actionable and tactical. In my opinion, effective use of social listening has you engaging with the results you capture, not just passively reviewing them. And this engagement can be improved by reducing the cost of developing special-purpose niche listeners. A "listener store" could give devs across the globe a way to monetize their scraping skills for a wide variety of use-cases.

6) Social listening can lead us to a healthier form of social media. It can wrap around all social media / niche communities and deliver a simple, ad-free experience on top of a subscription model. The algorithms that power news feeds could focus entirely on user delight, without having to compromise the user experience for advertisers. This would also prevent things like Cambridge Analytica from happening.

A monthly subscription fee that users pay to keep their alerts listening.

Paths to $100M ARR:

- 17,000 users paying $500/mo
- 42,000 users paying $200/mo
- 83,000 users paying $100/mo
- 300,000 users paying $30/mo

There are:

- 21M software engineers who want to get closer to their customers
- 10M big tech workers who want to get closer to their customers
- 1M PMs who want to get closer to their customers
- 150,000 SalesForce customers who pay for enterprise CRM
- 2.5M active Etsy shops who would benefit from social selling
- 150,000 users paying for LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Gumroad creators, crowdfunding efforts - anyone with a business or value to provide - could accelerate their revenue growth / PMF with PMAlerts. TAM seems at least as big as Slack + Salesforce.

If PMAlerts becomes a thin layer on top of all social media that delivers a composible social media experience - circumventing ad-driven social media feeds - I see $10/mo * 10% of say 1B social media users = $1B ARR.

100,000 people paying $100/mo to generate leads = $120M ARR

- Push alert notifications into Teams, Slack, Discord so one person's engagement turns into an entire team's engagement.
- Integrate into ecommerce platforms to help sellers "social sell".
- Use PMAlerts to find and engage with people who talk about revenue, selling, SaaS, etc.
- Act as the "salesforce" for small startups - manually creating alerts and personally pushing users to product.
- Apply to SMM / PR / PM positions specifically to demo PMAlerts to hiring managers / teams that budget for social media tools.
- Create shareable "topic pages" with PMAlerts (a topic page for a YCombinator startup, for example) that gives folks a single place to see what people are saying about the startup across the whole web.
- Create educational materials (video, blogs, books, a podcast, etc).
- Sell consulting services to businesses who are new to social media monitoring / social selling.
- Produce sketch comedy routines where the PMAlerts "bot" (a human with a big robot helmet) sneaks into meetings / eavesdrops on customer conversations and then runs like mad across various scenes (subway, city, park, etc) to to share the latest details with you, the user.
- Produce a video series where early-stage startups are brought from 0 to 100 paying customers by using PMAlerts to find + talk to customers.
- Offer an API that devs can use to build on top of social listening capabilities
- Cold-call PR / marketing agencies to sell them a whitelabeled PMAlerts subscription (that they can offer to their customers)
- Expose the PMAlerts API to developers who want to build on top of social listening capabilities (doing to social media what Stripe did for transactions - ditch the linkedin and twitter api keys, use PMAlerts for everything).

Others connected models to photographers, but if I had to try again, I'd make it the easiest way for businesses to get creative work done. "Project management for creative teams". MVP done, 50k+ users from my original attempt in 2016. I applied to YC twice with this idea. is a SaaS home security solution built on WebRTC that lets people recycle old devices into motion-detecting security cameras that record media into their cloud storage accounts / local device storage. The MVP for this was finished in 2017, but I never brought it to market because I didn't know how. My mission with this was to give lower-income folks a free way to recycle their old tech into a "better than nothing" security solution.

Karma is a public notebook / collaborative self-education platform (like Roam, but social). I'm using this to internalize a lot of YC / Startup School lectures, eg

CondoGrades is meant to give power to residents/owners who have fallen victim to incompetent HOAs / property management companies / abusive landlords. It would begin as Yelp for condos - "get paid to grade your HOA". Renters and homeowners would get paid to provide data that CondoGrades sells to home buyers / real estate agents. Landlords would pay for the ability to respond to public renter feedback. is a voice-based twitter alternative built on subscriptions (no ads).

Rolo is an omnichannel CRM solution - connect your Rolo account to all social media + email channels, and have one place to communicate with customers on whatever channel they prefer (Twitter DMs, emails, Facebook messages, etc).

Kanban is like a public Trello that allows people to contribute to projects via small tasks, and get paid for closing out those tasks. "Public project management" positioned to support the growing needs of decentralized projects. (PG's talk on "solving email" by treating it like a TODO list is what inspired this - step 1: forward emails into a spam-detecting Trello-like interface so you never have to visit an inbox again, step 2: evolve from private, personal task management to collaborative project management). is a simple docs-tracking utility that automatically reminds product teams to review / QA / sign off on their technical documentation. This is a huge problem for product teams - technical docs tend to go stale because our systems don't make it easy for PMs / EMs / SWEs to form a healthy documentation habit. is the habit-forming solution.

Unionite is a universal unionization platform / "nonviolent resistance as a service".

BitSpend is a simple tax calculator for crypto holders who spend their holdings and need an easy way to calculate their cost basis / tax liability. It just needs your public wallet address(es) and your income bracket. Then, you tell it when you spend, and it spits out the lowest possible tax liability based on when your crypto was purchased (first in, last out to minimize tax). All in a format that's easily attachable to your state/federal tax returns.

Alerts for "app sucks", "app blows", "shitty app", etc is a fun way to find problems that need solutions.


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