I studied how 100 startups got their first users - and these are some lessons

I studied how 100 startups got their first users. It's interesting how so many startups take entirely different paths, and yet manage to be equally successful.

Communities/social platforms
Reddit's story is quite popular - they faked users and activity on the site for quite sometime till organic traction caught on. Quora on the other hand grew primarily through the high level connections that the founders built.

Even between communities of similar audiences, ProductHunt took the organic route of building a collaborative newsletter till it became big enough. Indiehackers, you can say, was from influencers. They interviewed people who the target group finds inspirational. Growth came from organic shares on HN and Twitter.

B2B products

Customer support platforms - Some used outbound campaigns while the others were inbound.

  • Freshdesk started with advertising a landing page. $450 of advertising got them 150 signups.
  • HelpScout, on the other hand, took the inbound marketing route. Content marketing got them hundreds of customers and 30K email subscribers.
  • Jitbit used a much clever strategy - they created viral tools that spread the word and got users.

Website Builders - Another interesting comparison is between Shopify and PageCloud - two website builders albeit different TG.

  • Shopify founders built the product first which they shared with people in the Rails community who all wanted in, and thus began their journey.
  • PageCloud netted a million dollars in pre-orders - mainly through their launch at TechCrunch Disrupt.

Content websites

  • The success of BuzzFeed came directly from prior experience both with virality and content creation.
  • UpWorthy, on the other hand, had to experiment with the right kind of content every step of the way till they mastered the right technique over time.
  • Brutal hard work pays too. Jon Morrow kept working 15 hour days every day for three months. When his first blog launched, it started making 2000 visitors a month in just a couple of months.

Dating's next

  • For Tinder, they built a polished app and went college to college signing up sorority girls - the frat boys soon followed.
  • PlentyOfFish's the opposite. It was built by an introvert who did all the work from behind the screens. He got users by offering something for free when competitors charged hefty money for it.

There are businesses that gained from similar strategies despite being completely different from one another.

  • DropBox and the Dollar Shave Club both made viral videos that got them hundreds of thousands of viewers and customers.

What I learned is that there is no one way to grow a product. Enjoy each of these stories and pick something interesting from everything to build a growth plan for your own business

You can check the individual stories of all these startups here: https://bridgeurl.com/first-users

If you are on Twitter, please check out my tweet thread on this topic : https://twitter.com/anand_sriniv/status/1278641048106029057

  1. 2

    Nice post @hubbion. Thanks for sharing these insights!

    1. 1

      Thanks @gordon. I'm glad you liked it.

  2. 2

    Great read! I also read your post from a few days back with the 100 startup links that you shared :)

    1. 1

      Ah you remember! Thanks Rasmus.

  3. 2

    This was a great resource! Thank you so much

    1. 1

      I'm glad you liked it, Bree.

  4. 1

    This is awesome!, I've read a similar one https://www.lennyrachitsky.com/p/how-the-biggest-consumer-apps-got

    Some of them are very funny too.

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