Airbnb founder Nate Blecharczyk, Brit + Co founder Brit Morin, TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque, and Lyft co-founder John Zimmer took the stage here at Disrupt SF to talk about their experiences as disruptors of already-disrupted industries, but the first question from the audience was a doozy — how did each of their respective services capture their first 10,000 users?
Lyft founder John Zimmer pegs some of the company’s early success (it’s only 11 weeks old, after all) on fostering word-of-mouth about the new social ride-sharing service. Part of that crucial equation is, interestingly enough, the iconic pink mustaches that appear on every Lyft vehicle. They’re a notably quirky addition to an otherwise normal car that was conceived as part of a driving experience that people couldn’t help but talk about.
Brit + Co’s Brit Morin’s approach to gaining traction was similarly social, but as an online content company its approach was powered in part by Facebook and its open graph actions — getting people to like and share content was a big component of Brit + Co’s early growth. The company has recently begun to shift its attention to weddings, too, with its Weduary service, and the intrinsically social nature of those events has also driven plenty of invitations to Brit’s media.
Meanwhile, Leah Busque took a highly local approach when it came to growing TaskRabbit: The company focused on particular customer segments first (groups of mothers, mostly) in certain areas before expanding geographically.
Airbnb’s story was a bit more opportunistic — Blecharczyk and his team struck while the iron was hot during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, when there was a considerable shortage of housing available for people looking to get a glimpse at the political process.
“We rode someone else’s wave,” he admitted. “There was a lot of press coverage of that event, and we fit into the story.” The company was eventually featured on CNN, and the rest (as they say) is history.
In case you’re itching for more from this panel, the full video is available below: