3 Start-ups That Created Hype
Studies suggest that the average person in the US will spend between 30-40 years of their life in front of a screen.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lot of time spent ignoring your significant other (or your mother).
Nevertheless, as the digital age continues to steamroll forward it becomes apparent that the fight amongst companies to win over our screen time has turned into a virtual Hunger Games.
So how do we decide which platforms to keep, and which to throw away?
People tend to want quick results. And there’s no faster path to success than to see what others are doing. So when a rather mundane decision to choose between two payroll systems is placed before us; we tend to make our choice based on what our (more successful) peers are using.
But how do platforms become the magnet which attracts all others to it? A great product is a good start, however it’s not always enough.
So this is where our keyword comes in:
Hype: “Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion”
Before its days as a full-time defendant in court, Robinhood was a pioneer in the millennial stock-trading industry. With a unique promise to allow traders access to $0 commission investments, the platform quickly became a hotspot for teens to gamble their life savings and student loans.
But before that, Robinhood managed to create an impressive formula to generate hype for its brand. Their central idea was simple: build a waiting list for the version’s private beta, then leverage that exclusivity to create FOMO.
Once in the queue, participants had the opportunity to propel themselves up the list by referring others to the app. With the gamified experience of seeing your referral efforts rewarded by jumping ahead of others in the line, Robinhood successfully generated enough demand to build momentum for their launch.
To ensure the ongoing referral traffic translated into more sign-ups, Robinhood focused on making the sign-up process as simple as possible. Much like Slack made setting up an account possible in 3 clicks, Robinhood made signing up for its private beta as easy as putting in your email. That’s it.
The level of simplicity in this process doesn’t go unnoticed, and the steps to refer friends and family was much the same, adding to the frictionless experience that the platform seeks to deliver.
So what happens once you’ve built a waiting list with up to 1 million eager-to-spend amateur traders? Hype, and high levels of user anticipation for an app that looks very promising.
Fast-forward a few years, and the trading platform has managed to generate over $960 million in revenue in 2020 alone, and received mentions (both positive and negative, but mainly negative) in just about every notable newspaper in the world.
In a similar fashion to Robinhood, newly released audio communication platform Clubhouse managed to develop hype through generating a level of exclusivity towards its app, aka giving people FOMO.
Sometimes described as a ‘podcast on steroids’, Clubhouse allows users to create and join live chat rooms to discuss anything from astrophysics to what Harry Styles’ eats for breakfast.
This, as well as the ability to join and speak in the same rooms as celebrities (such as Musk and Zuckerberg) gave the platform increased credibility and popularity.
The app's exclusiveness was achieved through using a predominantly invitation-only structure, in which you had to be invited by a friend to be able to join the Clubhouse community.
This, on top of the fact that only iOS users could access the app up until May of this year, sent people crazy. Invites were being sold across the internet on eBay, Facebook and Twitter; propelling Clubhouse to the #1 spot on the app store.
Having only been founded in 2020 and valued at $4 billion in April of this year (after Series C funding), it would be safe to assume that Clubhouse managed to create a decent amount of hype in a short space of time.
Adding to the platform's sense of novelty and exclusivity, users also had to be invited before joining certain clubs found in the app. For instance, I had to be invited before I could join a club for Australians in London; even though I was already an Australian, in London.
Nevertheless, as Newton discovered, what goes up must come down. And Clubhouse did come spiralling down. John Brandon, a social media contributor at Forbes put it best:
“As the app becomes more popular, your followers suddenly have more options for chat — many of which relate to becoming a millionaire, it seems. The catch is that some of those chats are not that enthralling, and by the way — they are not run by actual millionaires.”
Regardless, something does need to be said for the Clubhouse teams ability to create hype, and fast. It’s invitation-only structure did give it this aura of exclusivity and rarity. It also meant that it was mentioned in every news outlet at the time, and garnered recognition from celebrities and politicians alike.
Another platform that has generated substantial amounts of hype recently is Notion. As a jack of all trades, Notion is a productivity software that provides tools for virtually anything you can create. Such tools include note-taking software, calendars, reminders, databases, etc.
Where Notion excels is its ability to create a community of users that can both interact and develop new tools and templates within the platform. These customisable elements allow users to develop methods for best practices, which are then validated by those within the Notion community.
Call these enthusiastic users Notion Ambassadors (or, Notioners).
These Notioners converge on reddit under the name r/notion which acts as a community news board. Within this group, Notion users are able to post their own templates that they created using the platform’s tools.
They’re also able to discuss possible improvements to the site, including any suggestions or general comments they have towards it.
These discussions from the platform's most devoted users are invaluable to the company. It’s essentially a giant and continuous customer feedback channel for Notion, without having to expend any time or resources.
With over 126k active members on this subreddit, the Notion hype managed to spread through the exact tech-savvy communities that the company hoped to target; all without spending a cent.
With a valuation of over $2 billion, 20 million monthly site visits and over 4 million users, it’s safe to say that Notion has successfully capitalised on its start-up hype and converted it into full-time Notioners.
There are countless ways to create hype for your start-up. And these days, it’s become paramount to make sure that your platform stands out from the rest; that you deserve someone’s screen time more than the next guy.
And as we’ve seen, some of the ways to create hype can be through establishing an aura of exclusivity and rarity via invitation-only systems and waiting lists, as well as allowing your platform to be an interactive tool for your users' imaginations.
Pardeep overlooks growth at Upscope and loves writing about SaaS companies, customer success and customer experience.