From Zero to a Million Users - Dropbox and Xobni lessons learned
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From Zero to a Million Users - Dropbox and Xobni lessons learned



Presented by Adam Smith (@asmith) and Drew Houston (@drewhouston)

Presented by Adam Smith (@asmith) and Drew Houston (@drewhouston)



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  • Xobni analytics -> prototype stage.Segway example -> millions spent on launch; best investors in the worldCould have realized much earlier that the problem wasn’t the technology, it’s that you look like a douche while ridingGoal is not to never fail, it’s to fail as early as possible
  • So shipping code was out of the question – bad experience  tell all friendsYC app – ship in 8 wks vs 18 mosPrototype worked; video could show product in best light; get much of the same feedback as if we shipped working code
  • Video created fans; capture that interestEarly adopters more forgiving
  • Building product for ourselves; where would we look for something like Dropbox?
  • Google Wave
  • AardvarkexmapleReddit users faking comments to avoid ghost town feeling
  • Always lose feature comparisons
  • One invariant of our installer
  • One invariant of our installer
  • “I don’t mean to imply that you want to gamble your VC dollars..”
  • Engagement: email people who haven’t used certain features, etc. Active user versus registered user.
  • What kind of markets tend to be dominated by DIDO marketing?
  • Virality can e.g. double TLV.
  • Virality can e.g. double TLV.

From Zero to a Million Users - Dropbox and Xobni lessons learned From Zero to a Million Users - Dropbox and Xobni lessons learned Presentation Transcript

  • Zero to a Million Users
    @drewhouston, @asmith
  • @drewhouston
  • Summer 2006: Humble beginnings
  • Xobni, Dropbox – VC-backed startups in SF
    Both reached 2 million users in 2 years
    2 ,000,000
  • Biggest risk: making something nobody wants
  • Weak product-market fit cannot be
    fixed by good marketing
    Good marketing will not fix a bad product
  • But good product will be wind at your back
  • Xobni Analytics: Solved problem no one had
  • Goal: product-market fit ASAP
  • learn early, learn often
  • Cost of change at each stage
  • Learning on a $0 budget: Talk to people!
  • Learn without launching
    AdWords tests
    Hacks: Fake landing pages, screenshots, etc.
  • Dropbox’s minimum viable product:
    3 min screencast on Hacker News (Apr 07)
  • Simple landing page: capture interest/email address
  • starting from zero
  • Go where your early adopters hang out
  • Private beta launch video  12,000 diggs; beta waiting list jumps from 5,000 to 75,000 in one day (Mar 2008)
  • Avoid ghost towns: bootstrapping to critical mass
  • Niche first, world later
  • Fake it till you make it: Aardvark & simulating features that weren’t ready
  • marketing: building buzz
  • Tie yourself to a bigger trend
  • Adam
    Meet journalists in person. All the time.
  • Journalists are really busy – come up with the angle for them.
  • Media resources page on web site
  • Word of mouth rule #1: have a great product
  • Generate word of mouth with scarcity
  • Help users generate tell their friends
  • Invite screen
    • Facebook pictures
    • Auto-ranked
    • Outlook detection via looking at mail headers
    = FUN!
  • Sex it up! Have fun!
  • Inbound marketing / “social media”
  • how do you get people to use your product?
  • Focus: do a few things really well instead of a lot of things poorly
  • Every 10% easier  50% larger audience
  • Don’t make me think: No decisions  nothing to screw up
  • Don’t make me read, either:Designing landing pages & signup flows
    early beta
    • concise beats comprehensive
    • call out the next step
    • simple converts better
    late beta
  • Hook the user first, educate over time(tours, tip emails, etc.)
  • You do not see the same product your users do! (craigslist,
  • Make feedback painless – then iterate!
  • how do you make a product that spreads itself?
  • The best products turn users into evangelists
  • Encouraging word-of-mouth: Referral program increased signups by 60%
  • Tricks of the trade: FB & Twitter feed, emails, contact list importers
    Trailing 30 days: 3 million invites sent
  • metrics: know thy funnel
  • Users
    Basic funnel
  • Startup Metrics for Pirates. Live it.
  • Output I: know where to invest marketing $$
  • Xobni finding: AdWords users don’t convert to paid BUT they refer others who do!
  • Output II: allocate engineering resources between usability, engagement, & virality
  • Example: user education around people search
  • scaling without virality:“dollar in, dollar out” marketing
  • Some markets don’t elicit virality or buzz
  • Netflix example
    (numbers not exact)
    ($16 rev - $10 svc cost) per month  $6/mo
    x 22 mo lifetime= $132
    $40 advertising, affiliates, etc.
    $92 lifetime gross margin/user
  • a quick taste…
  • example user acquisition costs
  • example monthly rev per user
  • example monthly churns
  • example freemium conv. rates
  • Thank you!
    Feel free to reach out!
    @drewhouston -
    @asmith -