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4 Startups That Rocketed To 1 Million Users (and How They Did It)

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One Million Users.


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It’s that magic number us marketers covet. But how do you get there?


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If we look at some of the biggest apps out there, most of them were pretty scrappy and innovative with their growth strategies. They jumped at every chance they got, didn’t always go down the obvious route and it paid off big time!


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At SparkPage we specialize in helping apps and online services reach one million users. We’ve found 4 amazing growth hack stories that we think will inspire you on your journey to one million users.


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Airbnb are masters of growth hacking. From political cereal boxes to word of mouth campaigns, they have taken a lot of different and innovative approaches to growth.


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Founded in 2008, the idea for Airbnb came from the founders wanting to rent their loft space to help paying their expensive San Francisco rent.


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Craigslist was the platform of choice for renters at the time, but as co-founder Joe Gebbia stated: “We didn’t want to post on Craigslist because we felt it was too impersonal. Our entrepreneurial instinct said ‘build your own site.’ So we did.”


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Although their goal was to build a better alternative, ironically it was Craigslist that got them their initial traction.


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Cleverly, Airbnb realised their target audience was on Craigslist. So they built an integration to take advantage of that.


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Because users could easily post on both sites, Airbnb had the best of both worlds. Soon, customers began skipping Craigslist all together and the number of listings and bookings began to rise.


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However, Airbnb still had some issues. Many of the hosts were taking their own pictures of their spaces. And let’s just say some weren’t the most professional photographers.


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Co-founder Brian Chesky divulged: “The photos were really bad. People were using camera phones and taking Craigslist-quality pictures. Surprise! No one was booking because you couldn’t see what you were paying for.” It was time for another ingenious hack!


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They rented a $5,000 camera and went from door to door taking professional quality pictures of New York listings. And it worked!


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Over the course of a month, listings in New York were seeing double the revenue. The results were so impressive, Airbnb decided to launch their Photography Program in 2010. They hired 20 photographers and allowed hosts to book them to photograph their listings.


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Users scrambled to get their places photographed. And the ones that did were twice as likely to be booked! Within the space of two years, Airbnb had over 2,000 freelance photographers working with them.


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Airbnb success began to skyrocket after this.


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It put them over the one million mark. Within 2014 alone, they had over 10 million guests and 550,000 properties listed. And are set to have a valuation of $20 billion. Impressive numbers, huh?


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Airbnb succeeded because they observed their potential users behavior and used it to their advantage. And you should too! Like with user onboarding...


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At SparkPage we always recommend analyzing your users behavior. It enables you to create effective, personalized trigger messages that will actually interest your users. And increase their likelihood to convert!


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Evernote launched at both the best and worst time for a tech startup.


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In 2008, the mobile app market was just taking off, but it was also the peak of the financial crisis. Evernote made it because they found some astute growth techniques that got them a stable, invested user base.


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Wanting to get some initial traction (and get some testing done), but also remain on a small scale, Evernote launched in closed Beta.


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To get test users, they went to where their audience were– TechCrunch. And readers were invited to sign up and try before Evernote’s official release.


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The plan worked. They got their first 100 users and a lot more! As founder Phil Libin explained: “We launched closed beta on TechCrunch, we were lucky enough that TechCrunch wrote about us right as we were starting the closed beta and we gave away 100 invites, that was the first spark. We had a couple thousand people within the first few days just because of that really early spark and it just grew from there.”


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Within the first four months, while still in closed Beta, Evernote found themselves with 125,000 signups. With so much demand, they decided to officially launch in July 2008.


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For the official launch, one of the key choices they made was to go with the freemium model. The basic product was free, but users had to pay to use any extras. This was a genius tactic for Evernote.


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They knew their product wasn’t something that most users would want to straight up pay for. Libin explained it best: “We don’t care if you pay, we just want you to stay around and keep using it and get all your friends to use it. Because Evernote’s numbers show that the longer you use the product, the more likely you are to fall in love with it, and sooner or later you’ll be happy to pay for it.


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And he was right. Just look at their growth numbers!


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With this marketing mix, Evernote managed to reach one million users within 446 days of launch. And in 2014 they reached over 100 million users, further cementing their status as an essential tool for so many people.


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Evernote worked because they were clever with how they tested their product. And every business can learn from this.


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At SparkPage, we believe every marketing strategy should be tested including welcome messages and onboarding. That’s why we offer simple onboarding A/B testing. That way you can find the right messages to send to your users and get them to convert - just like Evernote!


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In 2010, when Pinterest was launched it grew quietly, but very quickly.


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Users clamoured to be part of the social network because it was user friendly, straightforward and offered something no other social network had.


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But a great product is only one piece of the pie. They got that initial traction and interest by using a great growth hack – Exclusivity.


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When a new user arrived at the site, they weren’t allowed to make an account straight away. Instead they had to request an invite.


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After a few days, they then received an email inviting the user to “join our little community”.


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This email also implored users to sign-up using their Facebook account. Not only was this a quick way to set up a profile, but it also made friends of users aware of the site and want to join.


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Exclusivity fuelled so much of Pinterest’s early growth. And 20 months after their launch they reached over 1 million users.


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And after removing exclusivity their numbers have continued to climb. The site now has over 70 million users becoming one of the strongest social networks around today.


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Exclusivity works because it makes the user feel special. And luckily every app or online service can use some crafty hacks to make users feel special.


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By using push, SMS and email, you can strategically send your users messages with rewards and gifts that give them a feeling of being special. And with the help of SparkPage, you can setup automated messages that can be sent at opportune times to make your users feel unique and part of an exclusive club.


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Hitting 1.5 million users in the space of two weeks... most of us can only dream of that kind of growth. But that’s exactly what happened to QuizUp in 2013.


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The trivia game did a few expert hacks that enabled it to spread like wildfire. Social invites, simple sign-up were included, but one proved to be the most successful. And it was all about letting people show off...


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Ingeniously, QuizUp recognised a curious aspect of human behaviour. – People like to show off. So they decided to make this a central part of the app.


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After winning, players were allowed to post their results on social media. It was just a simple image of the players, the result and the app logo.


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As suspected users weren’t shy about sharing. Millions of results were splayed everywhere for friends and followers to see. And people took notice!


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It became the apps main source of customer acquisition as the CEO Thor Fridrikkson said: “We found that people are not using the in-game invite system, Most of the new players are coming through Facebook and Twitter shares. They’re proud of being No. 1 in their state in botany, or something.”


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Of course, this lead to the famous 1.5 million downloads in two weeks. It became the fastest growing iPhone app in history and now has over 20 million downloads. Amazing results for such a simple hack!


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Every app and online service can take QuizUp’s amazing lead. By using SparkPage’s push and email features, you can send clever messages that encourages a user to share.


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You can set triggered messages up and send them to users when they are most engaged. And encourage them to share their user experience. It’s the perfect way to spread the word about your business and get potential customers attention.


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We loved each of these companies growth strategies. They were clever, inventive, innovative and most importantly attracted the right users to their product.


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And that is the key to growth hacks. It’s not about copying these, but being creative and finding the ones that will work for your business.


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With SparkPage, you can incorporate growth hacks into your onboarding strategy. By creating an effective onboarding flow with clever messages, you can reach the right users and growth hack your way to 1 million users!


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Sources: http://www.sparkpage.com/4-growth-strategies-for-1-million-users/ https://allentrepreneur.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/travel-like-a-human-with-joe-gebbia-co-founder-of-airbnb/ https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/airbnb https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/airbnb http://techcrunch.com/2015/02/27/airbnb-2/ https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/evernote https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2014/05/13/evernote-reaches-100-million-users/ http://growthdevil.com/pinterest-get-so-big/ http://www.businessinsider.com/the-secret-to-pinterests-astounding-success-a-brilliant-sign-up-process-you-should-copy-2012-1?op=1&IR=T http://www.businessinsider.com/one-million-users-startups-2012-1?op=1&IR=T http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/12/quizups-growth-secrets.html http://www.appvirality.com/blog/quizup-growth-story/ http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/20/quizup/


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