Large Success Stories from Small Ideas
By Shawn Richards on Oct 14, 2015
People like to look at some of the larger companies like Microsoft and Apple and admire how people with the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created the multi-million dollar corporations from their own garage. Even today, people love to watch how startups go from the smallest projects to large companies.
For the uninitiated, Dropbox is a cloud storage service for many different platforms. The founders were Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, who were students at MIT when they started Dropbox. However, at first, the company was not being profitable. In fact, for every client that bought the service for $99, they were spending about $300 on the company.
They even tried an Adsense campaign to raise money, but that proved to be unsuccessful.
After running out of traditional advertising, the team looked to another source for potential customers: their existing clientele. They offered a simple incentive in the form of extra storage space for sharing their services on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
This resulted in the company getting 2.8 million shares total in the span of a month.
The advertising didn’t stop there. By using the new aggregate Digg, Houston made a video specifically made for the site, using inside jokes and memes to appeal to that crowd. Because the video was made by a fan of the site, it soared to the top of the news page. While the video only had four minutes of content, it was simple and explained the features of Dropbox to the audience.
Within one day, the applicants for the beta went from 5,000 to 75,000, increasing by a staggering 15-fold.
From there, the word of mouth only served to spread the word even more. Since the video was released in late 2008, the userbase rose to over 50 million users in three years. Today, more than 300 million people use Dropbox worldwide, and it all started with a small video on Digg and a word of mouth campaign.
Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai are two people who had experience when it came to apps that use location services. In fact, Crowley’s thesis in graduate school was Dodgeball, a social networking services where users sent their location to the service, where Dodgeball would then reply with others what also decided to use the service. It continued until Google bought it in 2005 and ending it in 2009.
After selling the services, Crowley moved on to making a new app. Around a kitchen table, the co-founders discussed how they could take the idea of Dodgeball and make features that would cause the app to be successful.
One idea was to use a system that has been around for years: video games.
In the modern video game world, even mobile games use an achievement or trophy system the provides rewards to players for accomplishing certain tasks like gathering enough points or getting to a certain level. Foursquare decided to use the addictive nature of these achievements and move them into the app in a metagame
, where people could become the “mayor” of a place they visit frequently, like a coffeeshop or a technology vendor. Also, based on where people check in, they could earn achievements like Gym Rat, where people check in to a gym ten times within a month, Photogenic, where you find three places with photo booths, and I’m on a Boat, where someone simply checks into a place labeled as a boat.
Not only can people play this metagame with other people in an attempt to play mayor of a place, but these establishments that people check into can also see what people are visiting on a regular basis. From there, they can then provide incentives to people to keep visiting their place and checking in via Foursquare, allowing for essentially free advertising.
For example, if a person is a mayor of a local coffeeshop, the shop might give him or her a free scone with the purchase of a coffee or even a free coffee. By providing ways to get people to check in with Foursquare, more people will advertise the place by checking in, giving the company more business.
With these features combined, with the understanding that the company will grow to include more cities as it grows, the co-founders advertised the product at South by Southwest, a creative expo in Texas where people showcase both products and art. By showing off the benefits of this app, the app saw 4,000 users after the expo, growing to include about 3 million check-ins a day, with users including the likes of Barack Obama.
With the President of the United States as a featured user, the company shows that by marketing the right features that other companies can utilize, the app can excel.
From checking into places to checking out members of the opposite sex, dating sites are a dime a dozen on the internet, with sites ranging from cheaters to farmers to those with food allergies.
A team of four people consisting of Sean Rad, Justin Marteen, Jonathan Bardeen and Christopher Gulczynski came up with an idea of Tinder, focusing on simplicity.
Tinder is an app where users sign in with Facebook, importing interests and mutual friends into the app. Then users are presented with pictures and bios of potential mates, where users either swipe left to reject them or swipe right to accept them. If people on both ends swipe right, they are presented with a match, where they can then start a conversation.
The simplicity of the app is something that should be admired.
Starting off is the idea that selections only from a certain radius from a person’s location is shown. Matches from 500 miles are not really possible unless people are willing to choose that option. The distance between the potential matches are shown before swiping, so that people can see how far away they are for a potential date.
Also, since the user isn’t bogged down with complicated choices, they can use the app almost immediately.
Signing into Facebook, choosing a radius that the app can pull from and possibly making a bio is all that is required for a Tinder profile, which means people can get swiping right away. Because of this, word of mouth spread quite rapidly about the product, allowing the user base to grow tremendously.
Also, in an odd marketing campaign, the founders of Tinder would go around to college campuses with Greek life and visit and advertise the app to sororities and fraternities. By having the girls sign up and showing the boys the opportunities that the app could unlock, the college clientele almost instantly grew to outside campuses and into the common world.
Today, 10 million people use the app regularly, which shows the power of simplicity.
When people don’t have to so much in order to get results, then people are more likely to check it out and potentially use it.
These three companies are great to show how small ideas can grow into large, expansive successes. Cirrus Insight
is also another success story that you can be a part of. With the ability to take sales information from your inbox and put them directly into Salesforce from Gmail, Office 365 and Outlook, focusing on integration is a thing of the past. With Cirrus Insight, you can look into your own ventures and ideas to help grow your product from a small garage idea into the next Microsoft.