4 Inspiring Startup Success Stories (And How They Did It)

In 2013, the Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” to refer to startups worth $1 billion or more, and the number of such companies is growing every year. For those who want to hear the most promising startups’ success stories, the Future Technologies accelerator has recently hosted a lecture by the marketing expert Dave Vasquez about the likes of Slack, Airbnb, Uber, and Stripe and the marketing strategies that fueled their growth.

Dave Vasquez

Uber’s wow factor

Established in: 2009
Market value: $72 billion
Number of staff: 63,112

A mere 15 years ago the only way to hail a taxi in St. Petersburg was to raise your arm and stand on the side of the road facing the oncoming traffic. But not anymore. With Uber, you can order a car and pay for your ride with just a few taps of your finger. Isn’t it amazing?

But the developers didn’t stop there. They tested their product on every stage of development and worked in close cooperation with their potential customers. Apart from that, they actively employed the idea of ‘try yourself and share with others’. They started with their own friends and acquaintances by offering them a free ride in exchange for feedback. Then they moved on to their friends’ friends and so on.

After a while, they started paying attention to other businesses, like cafes and restaurants, whose clients often used taxis. Instead of investing in advertising, the developers decided to collaborate with these places and offer their guests vouchers for a free ride. The same strategy was later used by the Yandex company’s own taxi service.

Thanks to their word-of-mouth marketing campaign and an active presence on social media, Uber became a very popular service. Among their projects are the food delivery service Uber Eats, Uber for Business, Uber Freight (an app that matches carriers with shippers), and Uber Health (a transportation platform for healthcare organizations). The service has become part and parcel of our daily life, but it all started with an innovative idea and a wow factor.

Airbnb: professional approach and high-quality content

Established in: 2008
Market value: $20.3 billion

Number of staff: 10,733.

Just like Uber, Airbnb is a sharing economy company, which means that it not only offers its services but also gives people an opportunity to earn some money from renting out their property. What makes Airbnb different from other booking agencies is its concept of selling experiences, not just services: why not stay at someone’s house instead of a hotel and even save a bit?

The main problem Airbnb’s developers faced was that many users who wanted to earn money with the service, didn’t fully grasp the idea that to sell something, you have to make it attractive to people. They uploaded bad-quality pictures and didn’t know how to market themselves. That’s why the developers decided to hire professional photographers and copywriters to have them take beautiful pictures and write interesting texts.

What also helped the popularity of Airbnb was the use of third-party channels to draw the audience’s attention. For example, they posted information about their offers on the American classified advertisements website Craigslist. The company also provided Facebook integration in order to personalize their services based on users’ interests and needs.

Stripe: developers first

Established in: 2010
Market value: $20 billion

Number of staff: 1,608.

Stripe is an online payment service and credit card processor designed for small businesses and online merchants. The idea behind the project was that back in 2010, there were not so many good user-friendly payment systems. That’s why the developers decided to come up with their own.

They could do whatever they wanted with their product. For example, they could create their alternative to PayPal, but instead, they adopted a different approach and focused on developers’ needs. They used an advanced feedback system to attract programmers and designers. Those who proposed the best solutions were granted the status of brand ambassador. Thanks to a well thought-out concept and a user-friendly image, Stripe has become one of PayPal’s biggest competitors.

They also place extra emphasis on their corporate culture. Your team is your main asset when it comes to building a successful company and making a cool product.

You can learn more about the company’s working strategy in a podcast by the company’s CEO Tim Ferriss.

Slack: makes communication simpler

Established in: 2009
Market value: $7.1 billion

Number of staff: 1,671.

The corporate messaging application Slack uses the same methods as the above-mentioned companies. From its very start, Slack’s developers emphasized that what they offered wasn’t just a product, but an innovation. With Slack, you can better communicate with your team members, making communication simpler. Or you can integrate it with other services such as Dropbox, Trello or Wiki to work even more efficiently.

Just like the others, Slack uses social media and works with the community to promote themselves and their products. The service is available both for free and for purchase.

Summing up

You’ve probably noticed that the same words have been used to describe each of the companies: working with community, integration, and a user-friendly interface. These are the key factors that make up a successful company, helping them achieve rapid growth and catch up with their competitors.

Journalist
Archive by year: