Viral Loop is a new book by Adam L. Penenberg. I’ve not read it yet but did go through the author’s guest post on TechCrunch.com (article link). The Hotmail story is relevant to BetterRetail. A summary:
Hotmail initially raised money through the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. While considering advertising Hotmail founder suggested billboards. Draper (founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson) suggested putting PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail at the bottom of every email. The Hotmail team did not like this approach and didn’t include it in launch. Hotmail.com launched Independence Day 1996 and was adding couple of hundred users a day. Draper still insisted on adding PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail. Finally, the Hotmail team agreed; though they dropped the PS: I love you bit.
The impact was almost instantaneous. Within hours Hotmail’s growth took on the shape of a classic hockey stick curve. They started averaging 3,000 users a day, compounded daily. By Labor Day they registered 750,000 users and within six months they were up to 1 million. Five weeks after that they hit the 2 million user mark, adding more than 20,000 signups a day.
The rest is history.