Invite Only

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. 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:



















Random Startup Generator


4 Responses to “Invite Only”

  1. Eric

    I’ve noticed the same thing and often after giving up my email and contact details I never hear back.

    Having worked on a few startups myself, I think I can understand the need to tease the public. The danger is in being overwhelmed with the interest and being unable to deliver on the initial hype.

    My guideline is: don’t put up the coming soon teaser until you are actually doing internal UAT and can invite some users to help in the beta test.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Dave

    Did Google start this trend? They are the first ones I recall setting up new things and then requiring anyone interested request an invitation. The resulting chatter produced people begging for invitations, swapping and even offering to pay for invitations because the wait for GA was just too much for many of the anxious followers.

  3. Mason Brown

    Hey Eric, very good point. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mason Brown

    I think you’re right. Google probably was the first. However, remember Google Wave a while back? Their Hype Machine generated a ton of beta-invites, and everyone seemed to have one. It went bust only after the public could actually try it out. Where now, Google just rolls out new services and people just adopt without hype or hesitation.

Please Share Your Comments