1 million users! How did you do that?

It’s interesting to note the speed with which the hottest start-ups reach the 1 million user mark. Business Insider recently compiled a list of the 15 fastest companies to achieve this milestone. Presumably it’s not a definitive global list given the fact that all the companies are US-based. European start-ups which might have been included are: Busuu (Spain); Wrapp (Sweden); Deezer (France); Simfy (Germany) and Songkick (UK).

Putting that minor point to one side, the list includes Spotify at 5 months, Facebook at 10 months, Twitter at 24 months and Kickstarter at 30 months. The “winner”, at only 2 weeks, is the re-launched Path, the personal journal App (or FB for 150 friends).

As numerous start-ups gather on various launch runways, gazing at the vapour tail of such high achievers, are there any common or distinguishing characteristics that may be observed which might increase success for those approaching lift off speed?

It seems to me that the companies on the list:

  1. Are well funded, mainly via VC rounds
  2. Are focused on consumers. Dropbox alone has relevance to the business community
  3. Have highly social applications
  4. Are free to download and use. Spotify & Dropbox also offer a premium, paid version
  5. Are simple to adopt with a straight forward user interface
  6. Have a quick join/sign up process. Pinterest being “by invitation”
  7. Are innovative or perceived as being “awesome” by enough people! Some may even be disruptive to incumbents.
  8. Engage the user early
  9. Retain the user through reward mechanisms
  10. Provide some form of benefit such as deals, entertainment, discounts, information etc

There isn’t a standard manual for early stage businesses. You can’t simply copy what Path or Fab has done and expect the same results. Each business has to determine its own key variables, its operational limits and how best to set the controls and dials to optimise flight conditions. Fortunately much of this activity can be done in the relative safety of the test environment.

Have a good flight.

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About This Week in Business

I'm CEO @YesGrowth a leading AltFin company which provides syndicated, short term working capital to UK businesses in any sector. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Google+ and follow me on Twitter.
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