Why was the launch of Coin so successful?
Answer by Brian Roemmele:
1,000 Sold In 47 Minutes
There are a number of ingredients that allowed Coin to become a classic viral explosion.
Coin set its sights on $50,000 to fund the development and production of the proof of concept wallet-like product. This goal was met in 47 minutes on the afternoon of November 14th, 2013. This represents at least 1,000 confirmed pre-orders. However, it is clear that the numbers will continue to raise, and they may have doubled as of today.
1) Solving A Real Problem
Coin has touched upon a true problem with a Practical and Pragmatic solution. The problem is simple to express and understand and the solution is simple to express and understand.
Problem: Too Many Payment Cards
Solution: One Consolidated Card
Just about all of us have at least a few payment cards, Coin would allow a single universal card to simulate eight payment cards with the promise on unlimited cards if one scans them into the app.
We all know that endless number of startup companies heroically started out to solve this problem and just about all of them got lost with abstractions and distractions that ultimately caused more complexity and confusion for the consumer and the merchant. Sitting on the shelf of history are hundreds of stories on how adding complexity and confusion for the consumer and the merchant tuned out. The consumers are jaded and the merchants are jaded and aided by a philosophical premise I call Practical and Pragmatic.
Solving a real problem is a powerful inducement.
2) Implied Limited Supply
Although Coin did not precisely state that they would only produce $50,000 worth of devices and thus limit production to 1,000 units, most of the people that visited the site could make this assumption. One of the reasons is the way many early adopters have had behaviors guided by the first order rewards just about every Kickstarter program uses to great effect. The “Pre-Order Now” button also could subconsciously signal a limited supply.
“Order now or it is too late" is a powerful inducement.
3) Limited Time Low Price
Once a potential customer visits the Coin site and are even partially interested, they may click the “Pre-Order Now” and they will see an instant order form and payment form. This form is unique in a number of ways.
The payment form is a beautiful implementation of’s payment API and works fast and flawlessly. This is done so well it is disarmingly fast and simple. In my view, it is a showcase of the really powerful features Stripe has to offer startup companies.
Coin shows at the top a 50% savings if you order now. They also imply a very limited supply with the “Limited Quantity.” Their order form is also very simple, it really only cares about your payment card details and your email address. This was a brilliant move to remove even the slightest barrier to completing more fields in a form. The final touch is to use the savings example at the bottom of the form reinforcing a $50 savings.
A limited time low price is a powerful, very powerful, inducement.
4) Early Tastemaker Appeal
Coin not only solves the very real problems that I presented in point #1, they also have presented a mesh-up of technologies that make most of us in technology get excited. They are mixing a little bit of the old-world with the new world. Coin is simulating a dynamically changing magnetic strip to present the payment card data to the merchants payment card terminal. It is not a large technological achievement, but it is unique for even the most informed. Coin is also using Bluetooth LE and applying the technology not just as a transmission protocol to communicate with the Coin card, but also to act as an electronic leash and tracking system for the Coin card. Finally, it is rather unique to present such a system to friends and family because few people would have seen this.
These combined elements are a powerful inducement for early adopters who are likely tastemakers and will have a direct influence on people that value their views and insight.
5) $5 Referral Program
There is a $5 compensation for referrals for anyone that has pre-ordered Coin. This will have a dramatic effect on how rapidly and how pervasively people will promote Coin. In my early research, 95% of the links I have seen on Twitter and Facebook are referral code links. The rules are really simple,  although perhaps too creatively written (I do appreciate the alchemy nod however):
REFERRAL PROGRAM (6)
Q. How do referrals work?
A. When you pre-order your Coin we conjure up a unique referral code URL using a mystical form of alchemy. If someone clicks the referral code link and pre-orders a Coin within 90 days, you get $5 credit. Magic loves to be shared.
Q. What are the rules?
A. We want this to work in your favor but there are a few rules. This isn’t Thunder Dome.
First, we’ve got to be able to charge the person you refer. If there are any hiccups in processing the pre-order payment for a referral we cannot bestow the $5 credit upon you.
Second, regardless of the quantity of Coins your friend orders you will still only receive a single $5 dollar credit.
Third, we will honor your referral credits up to 90 days after you pre-order your Coin.
Finally, you can earn up to $50 in referral credit. For you early adopters this means that if you get 10 of your peeps to pre-order a Coin, your Coin is on us.
Q. How will I know when I’ve earned referral credits?
A. Each time you earn a $5 referral credit, we will send you an email.
Q. How will I receive my referral credit?
A. We will issue a $5 refund to the account you used to purchase your Coin. If we hit any snags issuing the refund we’ll contact you via email and get it straightened out. We take the referral process seriously and want to reward you for spreading the word about Coin.
Q. Can I use my own referral code?
A. Clever, but no.
Q. Will the referrer be notified when I use his code?A. When a referral is successfully processed the referrer is notified that…someone…has used his/her referral link. However, the identity of The Masked Referrer is forever a mystery! Unless, of course, you tell them it was you.
I was certain that this would produce a rapid viral effect when I saw it, and it did. This part of the marketing alone may be one of the most brilliant aspects of the marketing systems Coin has used to great effect. This is reinforced by the receipt email for the transaction:
Our delivery owl will need an address to deliver your Coin but we'll get that from you later. For now check out your receipt and make sure we hit all the marks.
Date: 2013 Nov XXXXX
Pre-order number: XXXXX
Item: Coin – Midnight
Want to get your Coin for free?
Use the URL below to refer a friend. Every referral equals $5 off all the way up to $50. Money for nothing. Clicks for free.
Yes, that is a live link, feel free to click my referral link and sound off a Cha-Ching of $5 in my direction.
Although referral systems have been around since the start of the Internet, they have been out of fashion with the last four years of popular startups. The correctly planned and presented referral program will bring a product to the tipping point of viral far faster then another force in business.
An easy to understand and use referral program may be the most powerful inducement.
Coin’s Combination Of Marketing Elements Are An Early Successes
There are some more aspects to why thus far Coin has been wildly successful. This success may be misread by some startups in payments and may prompt them to move in a similar direction. It is my advice to understand the five points I presented and the many other elements that are not obvious before building a new business plan.
Coin faces some very large challenges from all of the payment card companies validating if this system is acceptable. There are also a number of PCI DSS compliance issues that will need to be addressed. Coin faces the real challenges from merchants who have been trained for over 50 years to reject payment cards that do not adhere to the visual requirements the payment card companies require the merchant to verify. I presented this issue and other details in an earlier posting .
I obviously pre-ordered Coin and was motivated by my over 30 years in the payment industry and my desire to support innovation. Like anything that is essentially is funded by a group based on a prototype, a great story and wonderful vision there may be some challenges along the way.
No matter how this all works out, we can learn a great deal about how a great idea that really solves, at least a short term problem, can become a wild success.