Until yesterday I thought that Mailbox nailed their launch. They seem to have done everything right: created hype, designed a great-looking app, came up with an intriguing video, built a robust waiting list, and got tons of press.
The icing on the cake was their brilliant plot to shoot up to the top of the iTunes most-downloaded app list (currently number 4 overall): they sent everyone on their waiting list an email which asked the recipients to download the app in order to check their position on the waiting list. Mailbox could have sent your waitlist position in that email. They could have even waited to email you until they were ready for you. Instead they chose to promote app downloads to get to the top of the free apps list in order for the app to get even more downloads.
Until yesterday I thought it was brilliant. Once you get to the top of the charts more people find you, the press writes about you again, and even more people download the app. Lather, rinse, repeat. Today I checked on Mailbox again and realized that this strategy backfired on them. While only yesterday the app commanded an impressive 4.5 stars rating (most probably by people that actually tried it out and loved it), today the rating dropped to 2 stars, fueled by legions of would-be users with 500,000 people ahead of them in line. These people felt manipulated and made sure that everyone knew that by giving the app one-star reviews.
Every startup wants a perfect launch with exponential growth from day one. But when you over-promise you run a much higher risk to under-deliver. I think that if Mailbox would have offered an alternative web-based way to check your place in line, and only sent an email when they were ready for you, it would have been a whole different story right now.
Don’t get me wrong. I am waiting myself to try Mailbox out and want them to be successful. But patience is a virtue, and perhaps Mailbox should have patiently waited for its app to top the list when it could satisfy its new users’ wishes to actually use the product they had downloaded.