Have a killer idea, but not quite ready for primetime? Better plant your flag in the ground and discourage others from stealing your dream. Plenty of startups are cloning the “launching soon” model in order to attract an early user base. This model is loosely based on offering interested parties early beta access in exchange for your email address, a few of your friends, and are typically invite only. By this point you probably can’t decide whether this is genius or terrible. While this attraction tactic seems virtually harmless, it’s effectiveness will likely diminish as more startups continue to abuse it.
Sure, it’s enticing to feel like an early adopter and earn your rank amongst the elites, but many startups easily trick people into signing up for a product before they even have anything to offer. A prime example is Hipster, which was able to get ten thousand signups in two days without revealing what it does. When the site finally revealed its purpose, anxious followers just found a glorified news feed. Would they have gotten nearly as many signups if potential users could see behind the veil? Probably not. Visual.ly is another site that recently grabbed a lot of attention without having a real product to offer, just an idea. Their idea promises to unify the data design community, but it could very likely just end up being another tumblog or found feed.
I do encourage entrepreneurs to find creative ways to generate hype, but I also can see how a crafty launch strategy could backfire. Think about throwing a party, that’s invite only, but attendees must RSVP to request an invite. What kind of people are you trying to attract?
Here are 10 startups that invite you to stay interested: