Coin is a small startup that’s made some pretty big waves on the Internet recently. Put simply: Coin is a digital and swipeable credit card that holds up to 8 of your credit, debit, reward, and membership cards. Effectively, it will:
Turn this problem: Into this solution:
Take a look at to understand the concept:
This nifty little device is only available to pre-order and won’t even be shipped until this summer. So why the heck did I just shell out $50 bucks for some untested technology with zero customer reviews? 5 key strategic components went right for this company, and the data helps tell the story.
#1: The Concept and Design
For me at least, Coin is a good idea. It solves a problem at a fair price. This is the entrepreneurial sweet-spot, and where Google Wallet misses the mark, Coin hits the bullseye – at least until something better comes along. For $50 I can finally fit my essentials into that nice wallet my brother gave me four years ago. But if a great idea that solves a problem were enough to succeed, we’d all be grocery shopping at Webvan. The idea isn’t enough; the idea has to be communicated through the right channels and to the right people.
#2: Getting the Launch (mostly) Right
Coin officially launched on November 14th. Funded by Y Combinator and K9 Ventures, the company’s fundraising goal was 1,000 pre-orders, which they hit in 40 minutes. They would then go on to be “mentioned” almost 14,000 times on Twitter that day alone. And between then and December 31st, the company’s website was visited by nearly half a million unique site visitors. That’s not just dumb luck. This is a well-crafted outreach strategy, which started by getting the right coverage with the right media outlets, using the right content.
The top shared media outlets that mentioned Coin on Twitter that day were not the large, traditional media outlets. Instead, sites like , , , , , , and – all distinctly geeky outlets with early-adopter audiences– ran with the story. By day’s end, over 119 other unique sites had been shared on Twitter featuring original and syndicated stories about Coin. The New York Times eventually got around to … and by the time I learned of Coin (much later on), it had a well-established online presence with high hopes and high praise.
By building a large & dedicated community, while co-opting hobbyists & targeting influencers long before its product release date, Coin has turned the technology adoption cycle (AKA “Early Adopter Curve”) upside-down (not literally, of course). This new model blurs the traditional line that has separated the daring “innovator” from the cautious “early adopter.” Traditionally speaking, the former buys an untested and unproven product, after which the latter follows suit. Yet we may be witnessing a new model, in which after early co-opting of “innovators” proves successful, “early adopters” take on a role once played by the “innovators.” It’s a whole new era.
New brands today – especially those in tech – have an opportunity to go beyond straight-edge professionalism to present themselves with enthusiasm, charisma, and humor. Brands like Zappos, J Peterman, Philosophers Guild, Trader Joe’s, Vitamin Water and Seamless have done this impeccably for years. These brands are serious about their goals, yet don’t take their personalities too seriously.
Take a minute and read through Coin’s FAQ. I bet chances are good that it makes you smile. To me, the right balance of humor and passion are healthy for a new brand – especially one in technology. Coin found that balance.
#4: Community Management
Let’s start with the bad news and then move toward the good.
You may have noticed above that I wrote that Coin got its launch “mostly” right. Broadly speaking, on November 14th the company hit all the right notes, reached all the right tech influencers, and drove a ton of traffic to its site… but its customer service portal was not equipped to handle the mass of inquiries it received. Armed with a limited staff and Sprout Social – a basic social media management tool – Coin’s customer service team did its best to field an onslaught of questions, but simply could not handle all of the noise. Beyond that, many of the early questions received during the initial onslaught never received responses. That is a serious oversight for a customer service team – no matter how small it is.
Fortunately, Coin’s community management is now back on track. It is generally active and highly responsive. For a cautious “early adopter” on the fence about a purchase, online presence and reliability is critical. Seeing that presence was, in no small part, a factor in my purchasing decision. By the time I was looking into it last week, their customer service process seemed well organized. That’s something that stood out to me and made it easier to have some trust in this company I knew nothing about. Kudos to the Coin team for that!
#5: Sustaining the Buzz
How about some data? As of yesterday (1/27/14), at least $665,000 worth of purchases can be tracked according to unique Twitter share referral links alone. In its slick promotional YouTube video, its sleek website, its comprehensive Q&A, and its seamless referral program, Coin has designed a disruptive product and has launched it in disruptive style.
As far as the data looks, Coin is off to one heck of a start. It will be fascinating to watch where it goes from here. It no doubt will have to overcome emerging privacy and security concerns nationwide, as well as likely push back from the financial sector. The brand has successfully made it through its launch, but how it fares in the future is still to be seen.
I’ll be watching with interest.
(Data in this post is sourced from Sysomos.)