How we grew our startup from 0 to 250 customers in 6 months, by not building table stakes features

Jens Schumacher

Mar 26, 2024


minutes read


In January 2023 we had a crazy idea. To build yet another changelog tool. In a super crowded market dominated by Canny, Beamer and a dozen other companies. And yet, we managed to grow Released to 250 customers in 6 months.

Here is how we did it.

Identify a problem

A year before we decided to build Released, I evaluated every changelog tool on the market. Not a single one made it easier to write a changelog. They made it easy to publish, but not to write.

I was planning and tracking our work in Jira. All improvements we shipped had a ticket in Jira. Yet, none of the changelog tools integrated well with Jira.

Aim to be different

When we started to think about Released, we knew we couldn't be like everyone else. We had to start with a strong opinion.

We had to be different.

Most competitors are trying to own the entire planning process. From gathering feedback to prioritizing work.

Our belief is that most team plan and prioritize work in Jira. Our mission is to augment the planning process. With better tools for customer and stakeholder communication.

To truly stand out, we focused on a deep integration with Jira. Instead of a standalone product, we built an app in the Atlassian marketplace.

Double down on your differentiators

By building on top of Jira, we can integrate smoothly into people's workflow. Within the same interface. Without creating another account in another app. It's just there.

Generating a changelog for a new version released in Jira only takes a couple of minutes. To create this almost magical experience, we doubled down on our key differentiator.

We built a feature that allows users to customize AI prompts. Allowing them to tailor the prompt to their unique issue descriptions and formatting. But we went one step further. Enabling users to customize prompts for each issue type. That way, the generated changelog descriptions for stories can be "inspirational". The ones for security bugs can be "technical".

Then we added templates. Again leveraging the tight integration with Jira to pull in all issues for a release. Then once again, we leverage AI blocks and custom prompts to do the hard work. Generate a list of bug-fix descriptions, descriptions for major stories and epics. And even generate an intro and a title matching the complete changelog.

These are features unique to Released. Features that set the product apart from all our competitors.

Deprioritize table stakes

To double down on our differentiators, we said no to a few table stakes features. The two most notable ones are:

  • Email notifications

  • Portal pages

Both of those features enable users to share updates. Both are great features to have. But with limited time and resources, we prioritized embeddable UI components instead. Components that can seamlessly integrate into a company's website or app.

We did get a few requests for email notifications. But the lack of email hasn't been a blocker for most, especially knowing that we will add the feature in the future.

By building on top of the Atlassian platform we also got a whole bunch of table stakes features for free.

  • Authentication

  • User management

  • Permissions

  • Billing

Not building those features helped us focus on our main value proposition. Making it easy to write release notes. It allowed us to ship our first version in 3 instead of 6 months.

Invest in the "must haves"

In any product category, there are table stakes you must deliver. Without those, customers won't even consider your product. No matter how delightful your differences are. In the case of Released, those most certainly included:

  • Creating, editing and deleting a post

  • A modern rich-text editor

  • Ability to publish a post publicly

  • ...

But the bar might not be as high as it appears, if you manage to solve a significant pain point with your differentiators.

Finding the right balance

Only building differentiators without delivering expected core features isn't a great strategy either.

There is a certain bar you have to meet. What that bar is depends on your product category and target audience. If your business targets enterprise customers, features like SSO and SOC2 compliance become essential. They move from the "nice to have" into the "must have" bucket.

A number of prioritization frameworks can help getting this balance right. Kano, story mapping, opportunity scoring... to name a few.

But, they all rely on surveys and judgment calls. They judge the importance of a feature and how well the need is met.

Ultimately it comes down to a product teams judgement. And it's completely ok if it feels more like an art than a science.

Focus on your differentiators from day one

If you take one thing away from this post, it's that you should be focusing on your key differentiator from day one.

That differentiation let's you to market your product with a different angle. It is important not to sound like everyone else. And finally, the more foundational the difference, the harder it will be to copy.

When building your next product, think about how you are different and what you can say no to.


Share product

Share product

Share product

plans and updates

plans and updates

straight from Jira

straight from Jira

Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.

Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.

Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.