Referral Marketing Success Stories – Uber, Dropbox and Airbnb

When you look at incredibly successful companies such as Uber, Dropbox and Airbnb, it is so easy to forget that they were once obscure startups without any following or revenue to talk about. How did these companies become the force they are today?

Two words – referral marketing. Referral marketing is a strategy that really works and it is something you need to use in your business. Let’s analyze the referral campaigns used by Uber, Dropbox and Airbnb and find out if there are any lessons to be learned from them.


Remember the time not so long ago when most of us used to yell at taxis while standing in the rain, hoping to get a ride home? Now, all you need to do is to open the Uber app on your iPhone or Android, click a button, and before you know it, a cab will arrive at your location, to take you to your destination. Uber is a ride-sharing app that changed the way transportation works in much of the world. Uber is today worth $50 billion and is the #1 cab service in over 60 countries and almost 300 cities around the world.

Uber became what it is today because of its brilliant referral program, which has been around from the very beginning, when Uber was a still a fledging new company. Uber’s referral program involves offering free rides to people for referring the app to others. Uber referrals also incentivize cab drivers to recruit other drivers to Uber’s program. This soon became a huge hit and made Uber into the force that it is today.


Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects people who want to rent their homes to those who are looking for a place to stay for one or more days. Airbnb connects hosts to travelers – hosts rent out their unused spaces and travelers book accommodation in them. Today, Airbnb is values at $20 to $25 billion. Impressive, considering the company has been around only for a few years.

How did Airbnb become so big in such a short time? For starters, a great referral program, which involves sending email invitations to Airbnb members and offering them a travel credit of $25 for every new person they referred Airbnb to. Airbnb referrers were also given an additional $75 when those they referred, hosted a guest for the first time. The key to Airbnb’s referral program was that the company paid for referrals only when a user made an actual purchase. So the incentives offered were well worth it.


Dropbox is a phenomenally successful startup that is today worth over $10 billion. Dropbox is an online file storage service that allows users to store, share and synchronize their files across multiple devices on the cloud. Dropbox became what it is today because of its phenomenally successful referral program. Dropbox had to fall back on a referral program to market its product as using PPC ads was far too expensive and using organic search to grow the business in a highly competitive landscape was incredibly difficult.

Dropbox launched a referral program that incentivized both the referrer and referred to promote the product to others. All referrers were given extra storage space for each referral. So in the first year and a half of the program starting an astonishing 2.8 million referral invites were sent. Even today, 35% of Dropbox’s new users come from its highly successful referral program.

With InviteBox, you can create your own referral program in minutes. InviteBox is a referral software program that includes everything you need to get your referral program going in a single package. It is fast, easy to use and allows you to setup your referral program with your own unique rules in a matter of minutes. Juts set up your campaign, and copy and paste the InviteBox widget code into your website page(s) to get going. It doesn’t cost much either!