How to grow your app waitlist with DRF company Faves

Faves, an app that connects friends over content curation and link sharing, recently held a workshop for our community on consumer social growth. The DRF community company has amassed an impressive waitlist of 95,000, counting Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Ancestry.com, leading VCs and Heads of Product at social media giants among its early adopters. Here’s a quick snapshot of what Faves covered in the workshop.

Big thank you to Tyler Maloney (Founder) and Hamza Alsamraee (Head of Growth) for their incredible insights.

You can now get early access to the app here. To access the Faves Early Adopter Slack, where you can meet the people curating content on Faves, get exclusive updates and shape the future of the app, join here.

What is Faves?

Faves gives the best curators the power to share the best content, and users the ability to discover the content their idols like. Born out of Tyler’s observation that the social experience of link sharing between friends was frequently clumsy and crowded over text messages, Tyler set off to bring all the best content (scattered across the corners of the internet and a multitude of social media apps) into the one app. Since its inception, Faves has undergone several iterations to better solve consumers’ problems, a nod to Tyler’s deep understanding of his audience’s psychology and the intentionality with which he approached building customer connections.

Faves’ early days and takeaways

To incentivize users to share content and engage with the app, Faves recruited sought-after venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. They also opted for an invite-only option to control the speed of growth sustainably.

Follow the glider theory. Status flows downhill. If you succeed in getting the cool kids to the party, then everyone else wants to follow, in the same way as when you have a paper airplane, how high you launch it dictates how far it goes. If you launch it from Mount Everest, the airplane will continue flying forever. If you launch it from the ground, it’ll only go so far.

UI/UX matters in the early days. “Faves looked like Facebook drawn by a toddler,” Maloney said. Having a UI that was familiar to people meant a lower barrier of entry to use the app, crucial for gaining loyal users in the earliest days. How an app looks or feels can dictate how much longer a user wants to try using your product.

Frame your product through the lens of how it helps others. Faves started off at Substack because they targeted thought leaders. In place of a cold email, Faves reached out to Substack writers by subscribing as a reader and talking about their writing. When Faves reached out, they emphasized that their tagline was “we can help you grow” and not “come check out our product,” which was crucial at tapping into that audience and building loyal, authentic customer relationships.

Focus on distribution through viral platforms. Faves focused on TikTok and Reels, which Tyler said has lower conversion but higher reach. They used growth, engagement, and retention as key metrics. But early on, metrics were all over the place, so two people on the team worked out a feedback loop. The team wanted to hit new milestones and make product development more intentional, especially with input from designers and engineers.

How to grow the company

Take feedback with a grain of salt. The founders recommended taking quantitative and qualitative feedback into product development, but take advice with a grain of salt. Data tells you local maximas, but long-term vision shows global maximas. Also, people who disliked features were vocal about responses, but it’s tricky to get candid feedback. Maloney said that in their early days, TikTok created fake user content to message other users who were more likely to give honest responses. It’s super important to create a psychological safety net during user interviews, so Maloney recommended the book “Talking to Humans: Success starts with understanding your customers” as a way to start.

Build a waitlist. Get the most engaged people early on and focus on super fans. Faves admitted to getting lost in the early days as they tried to build out a waitlist. To grow TikTok, they recommended founders follow three methods:

  • Hook: Don’t tell people what you’re talking about. Just hook them. Promote what you want to at the end. Once people hear a product name, they think it’s an ad.
  • Address an actual problem: Capitalize on a problem but address it with imaginary solutions.
  • Create FOMO: Limit the number of invites to create urgency, or tell people they can skip the waitlist if they follow your call to action.

Find distributions through audiences that you can piggy back on. For instance, if a person with a huge following likes your product, they’ll naturally promote it and get their audiences to like the items too. When Faves started, they looked for 100 people, all with audiences. Think of the people that you find as “celebrities” with abilities to move crowds. You want to capture these people so their followers will listen when they promote or use your product.

Use an early adopter’s Slack. From the get go, the founders responded as soon as possible to feature changes in Slack. Maloney was always on the Slack, and once he received a request, he’d ping one of the engineers. Faves noticed that people like to hear comments but don’t want to comment themselves. If founders responded enough times, people felt more comfortable voicing concerns. When an engineer adopted a feature, the founders gave a shout out in Slack, in hopes that people felt like they’re part of the building process. They also brought on high profile curators so everybody else wanted to be on the Slack.

You might do unscalable things. The founders sent $50 water bottles and handwritten notes to early adopters, thanking them for taking a chance. By doing unscalable things, the founders built long term relationships and loyalty at the earliest stages.

How they build out a team

Be selective about advisors. Don’t waste equity on an advisor without functional skills or credibility. Make sure you’re smart about how much equity you give up. Sometimes, if an advisor can’t do the tactical work, they’ll give you a general direction. But you want to make sure that the advisor has highly skilled operator advice so you can act on what they recommend.

Team structure. Faves operates with three full-stack developers and five machine learning engineers. When they raised a round, they had one developer.

Written by DRF HQ members Anne Wen, Rahul Bathija, Melissa Li, and Ansh Nanda. More updates on our Twitter, website, and newsletter. Founders, apply for an investment from Dorm Room Fund 🚀

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