To continue our analysis of startups this month, let’s get to the nitty gritty. It’s one thing to discharge pseudo-philosophical content on content marketing and social media ad nauseum; it’s another thing to look at what really works. At lotus823 we understand that high concepts of digital marketing are important to startup culture, but they’re not enough on their own. You need numbers. Below are startups that killed it with both concepts and numbers. Let’s look at why they worked.

Snapchat

Snapchat is like the self-destructing message of Mission: Impossible fame. It’s a solution to the deep-seated fear we all share of our pictures and messages living inside the Internet forever. Snapchat destroys them. This solution disrupts everything we understood about the digital age. So many of us, the younger generation in particular, have wrestled with posting on platforms like Facebook and Twitter because there are types of content we want to share without being inked permanently in the digital catalogue. Now, they don’t have to be.

Today, about two and half years after the first idea for the program, people send 350 million Snaps a day. Though its finances, its court cases, and its investments are complex, their business model is incredibly simple: provide something no one has ever thought of but everyone wants. The app developed its own momentum and spread like wildfire.

Here’s how Snapchat succeeded.

1) Their idea reverses a universal truth.

The nature of the most successful startups is to find a deceptively simple solution to a problem we accept as unsolvable. We thought information we shared digitally would live forever. Now, it can die in about 9 seconds.

2) Simplicity.

They made their service so easy to use and understand that they eliminated the risk of people giving up on it and bouncing.

3) Their service has specific real-world applications.

Think about note-passing in high school, which is the age group that really ran with the service. The teacher can’t read your note in front of the class if it’s gone.

There are over 30 million active Snapchat users.

Uber

Uber has changed the way we think about drivers and transport. Summon a car with the app, and you know where it is and how long it will take to arrive. Essentially, Uber has given the driver service industry back to the consumers, who for years have overspent to fund bloated taxicab unions. The essence of a startup is to scrutinize a traditional system and find a backdoor to a better service or product.

Uber does the work for you, and the pricing is preferable to standard metered taxis for the services offered. If you make something cheaper and more convenient, then you’ve really got something. So how did Uber do it?

1) It looks good.

We hate to wait. When’s the last time you actually sat and waited for something without perusing every app in your phone? Uber makes waiting look good. You can watch the car approach you on your phone’s map. There’s no uncertainty.

2) It’s flexible.

The startup model is about openness to change. Uber exemplifies this aspect with surge pricing. When conditions on the road are bad, surge (read: double) pricing takes effect. The benefit is two-fold; price adapts to demand because people are willing to pay more for a service in which conditions have made more important, and drivers make more money to work harder. Makes sense, right?

A recent leaked Uber document shows a revenue of $22,103,756 in 7 days.

Tinder

It’s never been easier to hook up, and that’s mostly because of Tinder. The dating app is easy: swipe left or swipe right. Diss or date. Again, its simplicity is its selling point. Online dating is another industry that had grown stagnant for want of a new model. Tinder is that new model.

Gone are the days of wading through dizzying profiles ripe with pre-fab information about sunsets and travel. Now, all you have to deal with is the most basic human attractor, the face (or body). It’s a game now: win, lose, win, lose, and we love games, so we keep playing. And these people are right in your backyard, relatively speaking, so you can make it happen right now. There’s something inherently addictive about that.

Here’s what they did.

1) Optimize.

Tinder trimmed all the fat. It removed almost every hurdle from the process of learning about someone. You don’t have to weigh your music taste against the other persons, or your interests, or anything, really, except your face.

2) Empower people.

Tinder creates a sense of power and control with its binary system. 1 = yes, 0 = no, and you just keep it moving. There’s something empowering in being totally decided. With, say, a match.com profile, you could be torn, i.e. I like his eyes, but not his job. Tinder removes the conflict and lets you make the dating decision confidently.

Tinder matches over 10 million people each day.

As you may have noticed, the most successful startup stories are usually a lot simpler than you thought they’d be. If you wonder what people are thinking, ask them. If something’s not working, scrap it and keep going. Look at the successes of these three companies; they’re household names now, all three of them. Though their technology may be bafflingly complex, the actual services they offer couldn’t be easier to navigate. What can we take away?

One great idea is worth infinitely more than two mediocre ideas.

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