How Dropbox went from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in 15 months

Those are the number of users Dropbox gained during the crazy growth, which led them to increase:

  • +4 million users in 15 months.
  • 40x increase in users every three months.
  • 2.8 million referral invites.

It’s sometimes thought of as the most significant growth hack of all time… but Dropbox wasn’t the first kid on the block.

Even with competitors, the online storage world wasn’t something the average person was willing to use yet; that’s why Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, was rejected from Y Combinator two times.

After the third time, a partner at the accelerator asked him, “there are so many online storage websites, why is yours so different”?

To then, he replied, “Do you use any of them”? By replying no, he followed with “What if we can make something you’ll use”?

Ahh, gives me goosebumps every time.

This is how they did it, shhh…

In my last article, I talked about how PayPal used referral marketing to get 100,000 users in one month after its official launch. Dropbox followed their footsteps.

While PayPal rewarded its users with cash, Dropbox gave extra storage space to both the referrer and the referees.

By using a referral program, Dropbox gave users 500MB of free storage to each friend they referred up to 16GB.

This was clever because it invests the users in the product. It made sense for PayPal to give cash because they’re a payments company and need users to use their service to make financial transactions.

Dropbox is a storage company, and they need their users to use their service to store stuff.

A referral is a way of talking about a brand AND a valid excuse to talk about it more.

Let’s go into details

In the first image, this is a great way to refer to friends through email, but they are also ways to get more out of it.

By using the phrase “get more space,” DropBox gave better benefits if you referred in other ways. By the referrer making a social media post, Dropbox would provide you with bonus storage.

Three main takeaways

  • 2.8 million referral invites
  • You don’t need money to make people talk
  • Give users what they want to make them talk

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I know a thing or two about tech start-ups, inbound marketing, front-end design & blockchain tech. Tweet me @marcthibs