Prelaunch Campaigns for Fintech Startups: Why they matter

Prelaunch Campaigns for Fintech Startups: Why they matter

‘Fintech’ is a term I hear more and more these days.

Ever since the early days of internet commerce, it became apparent that the web could build income streams that weren’t available before.

Even though the term was already being used since the ’90s, it wasn’t until 2007 that things started to get serious.

What happened in 2007?

We can pinpoint the origin of many of the technologies we use nowadays, back to the same event; Apple launches the iPhone.

Yes, Paypal was already around for almost a decade before the iPhone, but it wasn’t as impactful.

Smartphones shifted the way we do, our needs, our perception of the world, our personalities, and how we spend/make money.

The iPhone had a snowball effect:

  • 2008: Wealthfront is founded and provides automated investment services 
  • 2009: BitCoin launch. Square is created, providing mobile payments solutions
  • 2009: Kickstarter introduced a reward-based crowdfunding platform
  • 2011: P2P money transfer service Transferwise is created

In 2013, Robinhood launches, and as you can see in the following graph, the interest for fintech gets skyrocketed:

Today, there are more than 1400 fintech companies out there, and the number is constantly growing.

As the number of fintech startups rises, so will the chances of failure for a new company.

Although there are several reasons why fintech companies fail, today we’re going to focus on one of them; the market factor.

A good idea for a company is not enough to create a successful business. There has to be a market for it.

And that’s where a cycle begins:

  1. Capital fundraising.
  2. Product development.
  3. User acquisition.
  4. Back to 1.

User acquisition and early adoption are crucial for achieving product market fit and keeping the company from becoming underfunded. An underfunded fintech company means a dead fintech company.

In other words, the company needs users.

The title of this article gives it away; Further down, you’ll read how a fintech company can use a prelaunch campaign to overcome the user acquisition and early adoption obstacles

Why you should run a prelaunch campaign for your fintech startup.

As I wrote in the previous section, grabbing the attention of potential users is crucial. The earlier, the better.

There are two reasons:

  • The hype can generate even more users.
  • You’ll be able to conduct user interviews and achieve Product Market Fit.

Create hype and grab users

Are you familiar with the echo chamber effect?

More or less, this principle explains that people seek information that reinforces their existing views.

The same occurs with products.

People who “believe” in fintech companies are always looking for the next big thing. And when they think they found it, they’ll not stop talking about it.

That’s what happened with Robinhood

Their prelaunch campaign got them around 1 million users, mainly due to word of mouth.

They offered a great deal for their future users: zero-commission stock trading. 

Product development

You can’t really validate if people like your idea until you can talk to them. And that’s something that many companies (fintech or not) tend to forget.

A product prelaunch is much more than plain list building.

From the moment a user signs up for your prelaunch, you should immediately start learning more about them. 

This is a two-step process:

  1. Segment prelaunch subscribers and gather the people that fit the target persona for your product.
  2. Interview and record their experience with your product.

The interviews will provide feedback that can shape your product; you may even understand that you might have to pivot.

After the interviews, only one thing is for sure: you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what people need from you.

How the champions do it.

Since I made clear why prelaunch campaigns are crucial (especially for a fintech startup), let’s look at three fintech companies nailing their prelaunch campaigns.

Note: On the day that this article get’s published, these campaigns are still ongoing.


Baraka’s prelaunch campaign offers early access to commission-free investing

Additionally, by joining the waitlist for early access and invite their friends, users have the chance to earn $50 free stock

I joined their campaign, and I got the #10198 position.


Greenwood is a digital mobile banking solution made for Black and Latino customers.

I also joined Greenwood’s prelaunch campaign, and I was blown away. My position on their waitlist is currently #536435.

Half a million people want to get early access. But there’s also an interesting twist.

After joining the campaign, I received an email with extra incentives for sharing about the campaign.

As stated in the email, when I refer my friends, I will climb on the waitlist (thus get access earlier), and also make money.

Both me and my referred friends.

Airbnb’s infamous referral program established double-sided referral rewards, and it works like a charm.


OptionAlpha is an exciting product. They offer a solution for automating stock & option trading without any coding.

I couldn’t keep myself from joining the campaign, and I’m currently sitting at position #244738.

Apart from climbing the waitlist, there’s no other incentive for inviting my friends.

Instead, after signing up, I received an email that prompted me to learn how to use OptionAlpha to build and train my trading bots.

How to build a prelaunch campaign

Reading down to this section of the article means only one thing: you’re considering running a prelaunch campaign for your fintech company.

You’re probably wondering how you can do it. The answer lies below, and it’s not that hard.

Before you start, you need to figure out a few things:

  • The referral mechanism.
  • Are you going to offer extra incentives, apart from early access?
  • Where you are going to host the prelaunch campaign.

Also, you should probably read our huge guide on referral marketing

We gathered 6 years of experience from referral marketing and poured it into an article. It will give you a deeper understanding of why and how referral marketing works and probably generate a few ideas about your prelaunch campaign.

The referral mechanism

From the examples presented above, it’s evident that the most popular option for a fintech startup prelaunch is the waitlist.

The logic behind waitlists is simple; when a user signs up, they get the bottom position of the waitlist. From this point on, every time they successfully refer a friend, they climb higher on the waitlist and claim earlier access.

Building a waitlist for your prelaunch campaign couldn’t be easier. You can use our Startup Prelaunch template. It literally takes minutes to set up your campaign and go live.

What about other rewards?

Building a plain waitlist prelaunch campaign might do the trick for you, but offering extra incentives for early adopters to refer their friends will not hurt.

In case you choose to offer extra rewards for referrals, you also have to think about what you’ll offer.

Keep in mind that the rewards should be related to what your product is about. Offering a MacBook in exchange for referrals when you’re an online bank makes no sense. 

It would be best if you found something that your early adopters can use with your product.

In the example of Greenwood, an online bank, they choose to give cash for each referral. It’s a wise choice because giving funds to your users in this particular case means that they activate them instantly.

You don’t have to give cash. 

Dropbox’s referral program got really creative with the rewards; instead of offering a gift, they expanded their user’s experience (by extending storage space) as a way to say ‘thank you’ for referring someone.

Hosting the campaign

A few years back, building a referral program could be a nightmare. You needed a developer to write the code for the referral system, test it, debug it, and so on.

With a solution like Viral Loops, you can build your referral prelaunch campaign in minutes. After the basic setup, all you have to do is to follow the instructions and install the campaign on your website.

But what happens if you don’t have a website or don’t have the resources to hire a developer?

No worries. You can build a simple landing page for your campaign using Viral Loops Pages, a simple landing page builder with quite a few customization options.

Here’s a look:

Why we've built Viral Loops pages and how to use it

Problem solved!

Before you go.

User acquisition and early adoption are crucial for the survival of a fintech company

Having no users means that you’re missing out on your chance of achieving Product Market Fit and lower your company’s value in the eyes of investors.

Fintech startups solve these problems by running referral prelaunch campaigns and offering early access to their early adopters in exchange for referrals.

While building such a campaign was challenging in the past, you now can use our Prelaunch Template and get your campaign live in minutes.

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