Case | HBS Case Collection | May 2016

Airbnb, Etsy, Uber: Acquiring the First Thousand Customers

by Thales S. Teixeira and Morgan Brown

Abstract

By 2016, two-sided online platforms (or marketplaces) were pervasive among the highest growing internet startups around. These marketplaces sought to match suppliers of assets for rent, physical products or services with customers demanding them. Among the most notable two-sided platforms in terms of their tremendous early growth were Airbnb, Etsy and Uber. They offered short-term property rentals, handcrafted goods, and car rides, respectively. As two-sided markets grew to scale, network effects kicked in as more consumers bred more suppliers and vice versa. But how did these platforms acquire their first customers, at the time when they had so few providers? How exactly did they go about acquiring their first thousand customers?

Keywords: Airbnb; Etsy; Uber; Growth hacking; two-sided market; digital marketing; Online Technology; Marketing Strategy; Two-Sided Platforms; Online Advertising; Business Startups; Transportation Industry; Accommodations Industry;

Citation:

Teixeira, Thales S., and Morgan Brown. "Airbnb, Etsy, Uber: Acquiring the First Thousand Customers." Harvard Business School Case 516-094, May 2016.