How Did Robinhood Become the Most Popular Stock Trading App?

Robinhood was all over the headlines during the GameStop story in early 2021.

Yet, in 2020, the app already had 13 million users. Their pre-launch waitlist was the catalyst behind their growth.

It was 2013. Robinhood hadn’t even launched their app, yet their waitlist was already at one million users. That’s incredible to have that much buzz without having a viable product.

How’d they do it?

The Breakdown

Building FOMO in the pre-launch

They leveraged their fan base to invite potential users to gain invite-only access to the private beta. (Similar to how Gmail started on an invite-only basis.)

The waitlist itself created a sense of exclusivity, which naturally people want to be a part of. With the traditionally high commissions in the brokerage industry, especially if you’re trading frequently, free trades sound enticing.

It also got a big break by getting the attention of HackerNews, making the waitlist grow even more.

Pain-free sign-up

To capture this FOMO, Robinhood made the signup process extremely easy – they just asked for an email.

The design of the landing page (the top image within this article) was very intuitive. It didn’t have much copy or jargon.

Just one powerful hook:

“The world’s $0 commission stock brokerage. Stop paying $10 for every trade.”

Gamification of the referral system

The waitlist principle was first come, first served. Users, after entering the email on the sign-up page, were sent to a thank you page where they could see their spot in the line.

Yet, they were given the chance of gaining a higher position by referring Robinhood to their friends: “The more friends that join, the sooner you will get access.”

And they also made it easy to refer a friend.

This strategy gave Robinhood the initial boost to generate 13 million users and gain a $20 billion valuation in the process.

This framework is easily applicable, and not just for the pre-launch of a new business. It even works if you manage an e-commerce store and you’re about to launch a new product or a new line.

  1. Create a waitlist.
  2. Tell your audience that items are limited and people on the waitlist will have priority access. You can pump up the FOMO even more by saying that the first people on the list will also have access to a discount or another bonus.
  3. Gamify the experience with a referral system similar to the one used by Robinhood. The more referrals, the more chances of getting the bonus.
  4. Watch the sales roll in.

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