Guerrilla marketing is always something I’ve been a fan of.  The gist of it is that it’s a  strategy that utilizes unconventional and creative tactics to promote a product or service, typically on a low budget. This type of marketing is highly targeted and aims to create buzz and generate attention. I’ll share a story here that caught my attention during startup school.

Legend has it that there was this big fintech conference happening in the valley and to have your logo featured on the stage and in other places – you needed to pay for a sponsorship that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stripe was a young startup back then and it was taking on PayPal – the Goliath. What the team at Stripe did was take some bank notes, put them in a bucket and froze them overnight. On the day of the conference they turned up to the venue – put the money (now inside ice cubes) near the entrance and held a placard saying – “Paypal freezes your money – Try Stripe !”. This got the attention of EVERY single person at the conference. Stripe also did something clever – they paid the bellhops at the hotels and had them slip a brochure of their product into every room which had conference attendees. This would have cost a bomb to do otherwise – sponsoring the event and include this brochure as part of the SWAG kit. One thing was clear, at the end of this event, every single person knew about Stripe, was discussing their antics and several of them tried Stripe over the coming days.

The next story is somewhat different. On average a successful startup returns about 676% over the course of its lifetime – Wufoo returned around 30,000% ! Yes you red that right if you had invested $10k during their initial fundraise, you would have made around $30M when they were sold to SurveyMonkey a few years later. Such outliers naturally grab my attention and I was looking at some of the things they did right.

I’ll share a story of when they used a form of  Guerrilla marketing to get outsized returns. Most companies in the 2000s used to run hackathons when they came out with a new API and used to give out iPads or iPhones as prizes – this was the norm and was getting kind of boring. Wufoo wanted to try something different, the founding team and early employees were medieval nuts. They contacted a forge and got an actual battle axe built which would be the prize. Talk about weaponizing programming !!

At the end of this hackathon Wufoo got an Android app, an iPhone app and a WordPress plugin for their platform. This would be otherwise impossible to build for the small team with the money and resources they had. Lots of developers continued to remember and discuss this cool hackathon in the coming days and the traction in dev community was unbelievable.

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