Founded by John Collison and his brother Patrick, Stripe is now used on 3.1 million websites.
It's one of the fastest-growing companies of all time.
Here's how they got their early customers:
1) Build and Validate Quickly
In 2010, they created the first version of Stripe.
It was very manual.
There wasn’t a financial infrastructure.
The front end looked like a normal website you'd sign up for.
The backend was much different.
It was a "Wizard of OZ MVP".
Patrick Collison would call up his friend at a payments gateway company.
His friend would set up a merchant account for them.
He would then give the customer the code to install on their site.
Your first version doesn't need to be perfect.
2) Leverage your network
Stripe's first 20 customers were all members of their Y-Combinator batch (S-09).
YC is filled with founders, most technical, building online products.
Stripe had their target market right there.
They went directly to their audience who were close to them.
Tip: Your friends and network can be your early customers.
If they suffer from the problem, don’t be afraid to get them to use your product.
3) Remove Friction
When getting their first customers onboard, they eliminated all friction.
If someone agreed to sign up for their beta, they asked for their computer.
They would then install Stripe on the spot.
Paul Graham called this the "Collison Installation".
They didn't send a link to the site.
They did it for them.
No ‘I’ll do this later’.
You will always get drop-off.
Make sure there are as few ways for potential customers to drop off as possible.
Make things frictionless.
4) Get Hard Feedback
Stripe priced high.
They wanted to get real feedback.
They wanted people who suffered from the pain.
And were willing to pay more to have it solved.
This is unlike many startups who want to give you everything for free to get you using it.
Price is the ultimate validation test.
"Does this product solve a big enough problem that people are willing to pay for it?"
So charge for your product.
And don’t be scared to charge a premium.
It shows your product is useful & forces you to provide value to back up the cost
5) Go to where your community is
To get some early customers, they got another founder to post about them on Hacker News. In this case Alexis Ohanian.
Hacker News was mainly YC founders and developers in the space.
This post got them their ideal customers wanting to use their product.
Find where your community is online:
• FB Groups.
Then engage with that community.
And Golden rules of community:
Give. Give. Give. Give.
Then you can ask.
6) Build community
Every month, they hosted Capture The Flag events at their office.
This helped build community and get the founders to know their early customers.
They provided free value (and free pizza and beer).
They built relationships with their early customers.
They had fun together.
The founders likely knew them by name.
That is how to make a customer love you and not just like your product.
We buy from people.
Build human relationships with your early customers.
7) Help Your Community with Content
Stripe placed a big emphasis on helping & empowering their community.
Good, clear documentation for developers.
They also created tons of amazing resources for early founders.
A great example: Stripe Atlas Guides.