For some time now, I’ve been jotting down quick notes and ideas on getting attention for startups. This started out as a personal record, but now I’m publishing it in hopes that it might be of some use to others. Every time I’ve come across an interesting idea, I’ve added it to this list.
I started writing a collection of articles featuring the stories behind how startups acquired their first users about a month ago. While the research got tiresome at times, I enjoyed finding out about some of the lesser known strategies that they used- such as Airbnb’s spamming of Craigslist. Discovering a clever method like that is a lot of fun, and writing about it insures that I have a good resource to refer back to in the future.
Not really knowing what to do with them, I posted them on /r/Entrepreneur.
Airbnb, the massively popular website for renting out lodging, was last valued at about $10 billion. Not bad for a company that got started in 2008.
It really is a great service too. But that’s not what I’m interested about when it comes to Airbnb. No, it turns out that their customer acquisition methods were quite fascinating. Did they really building a significant portion of their userbase by spamming Craigslist? Let’s take a look.
With the wide selection of dating websites and applications that were available in late 2012, it would have been easy to brush off Tinder as just another useless application when first hearing about it.
That would have been a mistake. Today, Tinder is estimated to have over 10 million active daily users. It went from being a new player with lots of competition to one of the biggest in the field. It won TechCrunch’s “Best New Startup of 2013” award. Even if online dating isn’t for you, the methods that they used to accomplish this huge growth are worth looking at. Let’s see how they did it.
Groupon held its first holiday party in the apartment of Ken Pelletier, its CTO. He cooked for the whole company and their guests. The next year, this was slightly less feasable. The company had grown to over 300 employees. And the year after that? Over 5000.
How did Groupon, the deal-of-the-day website, grow so fast despite being based on such a simple concept? What allowed them to become ‘the fastest growing company ever’? What can we learn from Groupon?
It’s not surprising that ‘location based’ has inspired hundreds of apps over the past decade. Ever since smartphones begun to take shape, the competition in this field has been immense. It’s easy to see the appeal in developing these kinds of apps. The concept is straight forward, and there is no definite winner as of yet. There are, however, countless contenders- from Gowalla to Loopt to Google Places.
There is one service that sticks out. Foursquare, the check-in app launched in 2009, has been getting a lot of media attention. With 45 million users, they are definitely a big player.
Getting users contributing on an empty website is a bit of a problem. After all, if you don’t think you’ll get feedback or attention for whatever it is you’re submitting, why bother?
This is called the “chicken and egg problem.” It is a problem most communities face when first starting off. You can’t get users contributing without content, and you can’t get content without users contributing. Fortunately for us, there are solutions. One simple way is to branch out from an already existing community. A good example of this is Imgur (popular image sharing website), which built itself as a tool for redditors. Then there’s the method that reddit and Quora used: generating the content yourself.
Dropbox has seen some impressive growth- from 0 to 100 million users in five short years. But more impressive is how they managed this without a proper advertising budget, despite being a newcomer in a crowded field. Instead, they relied on getting their users to share the service, simplicity, and a four minute video (featured later in the article).