Calm's cofounder Guide to Going Viral
How Calm Got Its First 100,000 Signups
Today’s story is about Calm. More specifically, about how its founder Alex Tew, got 100,000 to sign up for the app before it even existed!
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Let’s dive right in.
How To Make Million Dollars?
The answer is simple. Sell a million items for $1. You know that this is almost impossible, right?
But Alex did it.
This was in August 2005. He built a website with 1 million pixels and sold each for $1.
After convincing his friends to buy 4700 pixels, he hired a PR agency to write a press release.
It caught the attention of BBC and The Guardian and it went viral. By Christmas, all the pixels had been sold!
“In 4 months, I went from living at home with my parents to being a millionaire.”
How To Go Viral
In the next few years, Alex built several projects that went viral using the following strategy:
Keep an open mind: you need an outlandish idea(eg: how to make a million dollars in 2 weeks?)
Keep it simple: People should be able to get the idea instantly.
Give it a great name: “Puns and descriptive names work best.”
Make it Shareable: Users should be able to share their experience in a tweet.
And finally, experiment. Going viral is like catching lightning in a bottle, you probably will not succeed on the first attempt.
This Brings us to….
Alex wanted to build a meditation app.
The problem with meditation? It is a niche topic.
In order to spread the word, he had to build a simple tool that could catch the eyes of millions.
Enter donothingfor2minutes.com. A 2-minute timer that restarts if you move the cursor or press a keyboard key.
Here is the thought process behind it:
“What would the simplest website in the world be. It would be a website that does nothing. Let's build a website that invites people to do nothing. Okay let's invite people to do nothing for two minutes.”
Getting 320 upvotes on Hacker News helped seed the viral loop.
And to keep it going, he added a share to Twitter button.
People loved the website. It got 2 million visits in 10 days.
In order to convert visitors to users of his future app, he added a prompt at the end of the timer asking visitors to submit their emails for future tools. Over 100,000 people signed up!
Thanks for reading — Mahmoud
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