📈 Robinhood Used a Waitlist to Launch with 1 Million Users

By Maya Kyler on February 23, 2023
Robinhood: A mission to make a trading consumer-friendly
Robinhood is a stock trading platform that was founded in 2013 by Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt. At the time, stock brokerages had outdated interfaces and would charge consumers fees per trade. Tenev and Bhatt wanted to build a consumer-first trading platform that was simple, mobile-native, and had no fees. They developed the idea from 2013 to 2014 and launched for the first time at LA Hacks. In late 2014, the app was published on the app store and they had an official launch in 2015.
Using a gamified waitlist with viral loops to grow
What's interesting about Robinhood is how they strategized their launch. In 2013, they launched an "early bird program" with a referral-based waitlist. When a user went to the website, they landed on a simple page with a waitlist and a field to sign up with an email address:
Robinhood Waitlist website
After entering their email in the waitlist, they were redirected to a separate page where they could see their spot on the waitlist and how to move up:
Robinhood refer a friend dynamic
The waitlist design was simple: it showed someone's spot in the waitlist, total signups and directed users to advance on the waitlist by referring their friends. This was great referral marketing, because the waitlist made it easy to refer friends through Twitter, Facebook, email or LinkedIn. This was a well-designed, frictionless experience that optimized for conversion. People posted their referral links on social media, and the people they referred would in turn share their referral links with their friends, and so on: this was a classic viral loop enabled by referral software.
Referral marketing was easy to set up for Robinhood, and it worked great! With this strategy, the waitlist had a powerful viral loop that grew to one million users before they opened up the app to the world. Take a look at how they grew pre-launch:
Robinhood growth curve
Takeaways from Robinhood: keeping it simple and relying on gamification
So what do we learn from Robinhood's launch?
  1. Keep the pre-launch process simple. Robinhood had a simple landing page with a referral waitlist. Referring other users was simple and straightforward. Users had just one way to opt in.
  2. Take advantage of high demand. Robinhood's product looked enticing, and people wanted to use it. With lots of people in line, users wanted to move up in priority to have access first. This creates the right incentive for getting them to refer their friends.
  3. Founders launching business benefit from getting the word out, having a simple viral waitlist, and gauging responses rather than doing user surveys or promotional giveaways. This waitlist did an amazing job at validating demand for the product before they launched! It was easy for them to know they were on to the right thing.
  4. Gamification works well when mixed with clear calls to action. A referral marketing waitlist really is a gamified waitlist where you create a little bit of competition among the signed-up users. But that competition has a clear call to action: here's your position, share your link to move up.
You can create your own Robinhood-style waitlist today
At GetWaitlist, our mission is to give you the tools to build a viral pre-launch waitlist just like Robinhood. Our free, customizable waitlist widgets are easy to integrate into your website, and come with analytics and email marketing included. Users can easily sign up for your waitlist and refer others to move up in line. We handle everything from email verification to zapier webhooks. Let your biggest fans do the marketing work for you!
Waitlist API - Quick and easy waitlist with built in referral. | Product Hunt

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