1000 Users

The myth of “we had 25,000 users sign up on our first day” or the line “we told our friends and they told their friends,” are both likely to have been backed up by a smart strategy. I am still figuring out the plan with www.fabsie.com and researching other playbooks for inspiration. All of the startups below have a great product which is central to their success, but beyond that are some very important findings that led to their growth.

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  1. The founders weren’t scared of letting people try it before launch. They just kept showing it to people and taking feedback.
  2. They got everyone they talked to be a brand ambassador.
  3. Early adopters used the product extensively.
  4. Users posted their photos to twitter attracting new users, (many early adopters had ‘000’s of followers.)
  5. Early users became huge advocates and pushed it on blogs and in reviews on app store.
  6. Showed it to influencers. (Robert Scoble, Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte and MG Siegler)


  1. Reid Hoffman seeded the product with successful friends and connections. (The company would have been doomed if there had been massive adoption of have-nots, instead of people who were hiring, recruiting etc.)
  2. He refused to meet with potential investors until they adopted LinkedIn.  Entrepreneurs and aspiring executives would follow their lead.
  3. Deployed an Outlook contact uploader (very painful to build/support) to allow viral spread among professionals.
  4. Deferred any features related to revenue or engagement until after the growth path was established, which took nearly 1.5 years.
  5. Invitation reminders that expired after two weeks were another key feature.


  1. The original founders built forums and started reading through the conversations people were having. The overwhelming topic was, “I wish there was a place I could sell my crafts! Ebay sucks – it’s hard to use, doesn’t care about us, and charges high fees.”
  2. Craftspeople buy crafts in other sectors than their own trade. Sellers were also buyers and brand advocates.
  3. They told their friends at even larger crafting community forums about Etsy, which brought even more sellers.
  4. Sellers previously had no e-commerce presence, so for them to accept any online transactions at all, they had to send customers to Etsy.


  1. Mentored by Justin.tv
  2. Found spikes in demand and tried to cover those events (from SXSW to London Olympics.)
  3. Went to bloggers with CNN keywords, then local news with CNN keywords. CNN searching their keywords covered them.
  4. Spammed Craigslist. (See Blogpost by Dave Gooden)
  5. Went door-to-door.
  6. David (Barry Manilow’s drummer) rented out his full apartment, as opposed to just bedrooms which they met in person.
  7. Video by Brian Chesky


  1. Email Marketing: “I think I personally wrote to the first 5,000 users.” Silbermann
  2. Psychology of the invite-only beta.
  3. Engaging and frequent notifications.
  4. Design demographic = design blogs coverage.


  1. Emailed friends and sent emails to several mailing lists.
  2. College Newspaper
  3. Cross-school friends connections and artificial scarcity.
  4. At a time when camera phones were just taking off.
  5. Hub strategy, take on strongest competitors first (startup at Columbia), then expand to where no competition exists.
  6. Aggressive use of email notifications to acquire, engage, and retain users. Defaulting users to receive comment updates was especially clever.


  1. Posting demo video to Digg.com that moved from 5,000 to 75,000 signups.
  2. Many failed experiments.
  3. Word of mouth / Social worked for Dropbox much more so than search.

Warby Parker

  1. Hired a Fashion PR agency (Bradbury Lewis) that landed them in GQ, hit their annual sales target in three weeks.
  2. Made the office into a store.
  3. Co-branded with other stores – the readery.
  4. Took the store on the road – the schoolbus.
  5. Held a bazaar.

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