How Passfolio Went From Zero to 16,000 People on Their App Waitlist

"The great thing with KickoffLabs is that it let us set up the referral program before the app was ready."

David Gobaud


New Leads

The number of subscribers that came directly from the campaign


Viral Views

Amount of unique views to Passfolio


Conversion Rate

Percentage of traffic that converted on the landing page

Key Takeaways

Doing things that don't scale is how you scale!

The Market Isn't Saturated

They found a gap in the international market and found a pain point that wasn’t being met..it’s hard and expensive for people to move money around internationally.

Set-up the Referral Program Before the App is Ready

Don’t miss out on the chance to stir up excitement around your app launch! Passfolio utilized the Waitlist campaign, well before their app was ready.

Utilize A/B Testing to Test Different Product Ideas

They created a set of landing pages for each product idea and tested across different audiences, tracking the amount of conversions.

Give an Incentive to Users Instead of Giving the $$ to Facebook or Google

The first people who signed up got $25 of stock, which led them to take more interest in Passfolio and continue investing their own money.

Test the Product Market First Before Writing a Line of Code

They had five product ideas before narrowing down the winner, Passfolio!

Don't Forget About Word of Mouth!

Passfolio gaiined many of their 16,000 leads through referrals. Provide a valuable service and make users want to tell their friends.

"Here's some cash to use our app, and we'll think you'll like it, and we'll think you'll get hooked on it."

"I've done several startups, and I learn something every-time..I realized it's important to attest the market first with as little coding as possible."


Campaign Goal:

Build prelaunch waitlist for successful app launch

Key Features Used:

"We had over 16,000 people sign-up to our KickoffLabs waitlist."

Contest Type(s): waitlist

Interview Bio

David Gobaud picture

David Gobaud- Founder & CEO - PassfolioPassfolio

David is the Founder and CEO of Passfolio, an app bringing commission free US stock and crypto trading to the world. He previously founded Pluto Mail, an ephemeral email service and Yoshi, a Y Combinator backed company. David has a BS in computer science from Stanford and a JD from Harvard.

Full Transcript

Josh:Hello, and welcome to the On Growth Podcast. I'm Josh Ledgard, founder of KickoffLabs. And today's interview, we're going to talk to David Gobaud. He's the founder and CEO of Passfolio. Passfolio is a financial app that he describes as the Robin Hood for the rest of the world. In today's interview, you're going to learn how David used KickoffLabs to validate their business idea, and then get over 16,000 people signed up on their wait list. With over 25,000 viral views based on the KickoffLab sharing to their campaign, you'll see why it was a success. You'll also learn why a new CS grad from Stanford made a hard right turn to go to law school instead of cashing straight in as an app developer after school.

Josh: While you're listening to this ... I'm going to retake and get out that cough. As you're listening to this, you may want to check out the episode notes in the link, where we'll have a full transcript with key takeaways and images of the pages and emails used in this campaign. As always, these interviews are sponsored by our sponsor, our only sponsor, ourselves; KickoffLabs, where we'll help you set up viral contests in minutes, go beyond landing pages, quickly and easily set up giveaways, sweepstakes, product launches like this one, and places where fans can earn points and rewards for telling their friends and promoting your brand. We even work really well with Shopify, so, if you want to take somebody and turn them into a promoter instead of just a customer, we can do that for your Shopify store. Email support@kickofflabs.com to find out how. All right, let's get on with the show.

Josh: All right. Hi, everyone. I am live with David Gobaud. He's the founder and CEO of Passfolio. And so David, how are you doing today?

David: I'm great, Josh. It's good to talk to you.

Josh: It's great to talk to you as well. Why don't you tell people briefly about Passfolio and the successes that you've had with the company to date, and where you guys are at.

David: Yeah. So, Passfolio is an app that allows users all over the world to invest, commission free, in United States' stocks and cryptocurrency. And we're actually about to launch the cryptocurrency support, probably, in the next week or two. So, it's a really exciting time for us. In terms of where we are, we launched our private beta last year, and we're looking to grow big this year.

Josh: And so, anybody, right now, as of now, anybody who wants the app can download it and start using it?

David: Yes, yes. We are live in the Apple and Android app stores.

Josh: And I like the description you had before we started the recording, you described what you guys built as Robin Hood for the world?

A Robin Hood..for the world

David: Correct. Yeah. I mean, that is a simple way to think about it.

Josh: Perfect. I mean, I think it helps frame the app for what people are hearing during the interview. So, tell me about your background. How did you get here? Did you start out as an intern in a banking institution, were you an app developer? What was your path to get to this point?

David: Well, I'd say, I've been working on startups for a long time. I studied computer science at Stanford, I graduated from there in 2010, and then actually went to law school, which I graduated from in 2015 from Harvard. So, it was not a banking or finance history, it was more a startup entrepreneurship that led me here. And it was actually, originally, back in, I guess, at 2017, now, got into the space through a cryptocurrency project. So that's what introduced me to the space and then as I traveled the world, I saw that people wanted access to better investments, and that's how I came up with the idea for Passfolio.

Josh: Cool. So I want to back up a second, because this is interesting. You graduated with a CS degree from Stanford. Now, at that point, I think a lot of people might say, "I've now struck it rich, I can work for any of these big companies here in the valley. I can command a king's ransom in terms of a salary, most places." And you said, "No, I'm going to go to law school." So, how did that right turn happen?

David: Yeah. Well, so, one is, I did not want to just go work at some big company. I had done an internship at one of them, and it was a great experience; lots of perks and benefits and stuff, but it seemed very, I don't know, not exciting. And, what actually happened, my last year at Stanford, I was the Stanford student body president and got very interested in government, actually. So, after Stanford, I went to Washington DC, and actually interned at the White House, and the Council of Economic Advisors, and did more government stuff, and that solidified my interest in law school. And long term, I actually plan to go, possibly, back into government in some form, and the idea with the law school was, if you look at where technology is going, it's going to be very important to think about regulations; how do you regulate technology to protect people whilst not stifling innovation?

David: And, I think that's become more important. It's more important every day. You look at what's going on with ... There is this company that I think has mined all of Facebook's images, and has a huge facial recognition database. You have all the big issue with Uber; what's a contract worker, what's a full time employee? Actually, have prior startup called Yoshi that I co-founded. We were dealing with gas transportation regulations. But, basically, is the law moves into the real world, the physical world, it really starts to have a ... Well, it starts to run into more harder issues, from a legal and regulatory, and human aspect. You're seeing this everywhere. Self driving cars are another one. So, that's what took me to law school.

Josh: That's a great answer. I mean, I agree with you 100%. I mean, it's frustrating, total aside from the point of the interview, but it is frustrating to see people in government discussing potential regulations and things to do with Facebook, and these are people who you can tell barely know how to upload a profile image on Facebook. And you're like, "I'm not sure you're the right person to come up with the answer here." And so, it's good to hear that there's people like you out there looking to get back into the challenge at some point as well. So, now, let's go back into Passfolio. And so, you've got this idea for the access to stock trading worldwide, building a simpler app, aren't there a bunch of these apps out there today? I mean, aren't there a bunch of apps that do similar things in the market? So, how did you break through the noise and promote your product, and what have you done to promote and market your product in a world where there are, seemingly, from a customer perspective, a lot of different financial app options?

David: So, there are in the United States. So, we don't focus on the United States. Especially now, the market has been driven to basically zero fees in the US. You've got everyone doing it now: E-trade, Ameritrade, SoFi, Square, Charles Schwab. Everyone zero, and there are a million options in the US for people to invest in the US and stock market, but that is not true abroad for everyday people. It's always been true for really rich people, but it's not for people who want to invest, say, a dollar in Apple. So, we're also provide fully fractional shares. I don't even think Robinhood does that yet. So, you can invest a dollar in any stock. And, the key is, this also gets to why I'm a big believer in cryptocurrency is, it is still hard and expensive for people to move money around internationally.

David: So, if you want to invest in the US stock market, you probably got to get whatever foreign currency you have into the US market, and if you do a Swift international wire of that, you're looking at maybe $50 in fees, not counting the conversion rate. So, we make it fast, easy and cheap for people all over the world to invest in the US stocks. So, for example, we have some foreign exchange providers where people send in currency in the local currency, for example, in Brazil, they can send over reais using the [ted 00:10:16] banking system in ... Same day, sometimes within minutes get USD credit into their brokerage account and trade stocks the same day.

David: And, also going back to the cryptocurrency stuff, and, once again, how there are so many options in the US, we also take the US dollar for granted, but look at ... Currencies do crash. This is one reason why people in Venezuela love ... They want to use Bitcoin, or they like Bitcoin, because it may be volatile, but it's nothing like their local currency. In the US, we don't go to bed at night worried about our banks collapsing. They're insured and federally bailed out. So, you can also use Passfolio as just, basically, a store of US dollars.

Josh: So, I hear the differentiator now, and so I get the market. You've got international customers who are looking to do these modern things that US customers might have been able to do for a couple years now. How do you promote to these customers? What sort of things were you doing to market while you were setting up your private beta?

David: Sure. We ran some ads, Google, Facebook type ads to bootstrap it, but then there was a lot of word of mouth. We have a referral program that's still going really strong. We give out promo codes. I mean, what we see is that users love the app and actually find it valuable, because it actually provides a real valuable service to them. It gives them access to the best investments in the world, broadly, the US dollar and the US stock market, and they tell their friends. Passfolio thanks page

Josh: So, you've got an app that's got the potential for word of mouth, and you set up a referral program. Can you talk about how you used KickoffLabs to help with this?

"The great thing with KickoffLabs is that it let us set up the referral program before the app was ready."

David: Yeah, so, the great thing with KickoffLabs is that it let us set up the referral program before the app was ready. We actually even used, I think, KickoffLabs to run A/B tests on different product ideas before we had decided to develop this product, because we wanted to see which ads performed best, which one resulted in the most conversions of people giving us their email.

Josh: So, you were running A/B tests and marketing messages on the landing pages and KickoffLabs that you were running and saying which one was getting more signups, which one was getting more people to spread word of mouth.

David: Yes. Yes.

Josh: So, can you describe an example of something you learned through that kind of testing?

David: Yeah, I mean, the one, it's how we picked the idea Passfolio. I had several other ideas that we were testing, including using cryptocurrency for remittances, banking the unbanked, and I think we were looking at Nigeria ... What else? We had a strike for crypto idea, and, basically, this is the product idea that performed the best, and it also ... Well, KickoffLabs didn't really help with this part, but we ran the ad in many different countries, and we saw the country where there seemed to be the highest interest, which is super helpful, too.

Josh: Great. So, you set up landing pages, you had a few different variations of, kind of all sounded like they're all in finance, but a finance related applications. And, you set up a series of landing pages and started advertising and promoting each of these landing pages to see which ones would perform the best.

"I've done several startups, and I learn something every-time..I realized it's important to attest the market first with as little coding as possible."

David: Exactly. Yes. That's how we decided to build Passfolio. I mean, I've done several startups, and I learn something every time, and I realize it is important to attest the market first with this little coding as possible, and KickoffLabs let us do that.

Josh: And, if you don't mind, how many leads did you get using KickoffLabs once you'd narrowed it on the Passfolio idea?

"We had over 16,000 people sign-up to our KickoffLabs waitlist."

David: So, I'm looking right now; it looks like we had over 16,000 people sign up in KickoffLabs for the wait list.

Josh: And then, how did you go about ... Were you giving people anything to sign up, or you're giving people anything to share? Were they getting earlier access if they shared? What were you using to motivate people to sign up and eventually share?

David: So, all of those. So, we started off in private beta, and the way it worked was, we let the users who are basically the top users who referred the most people, got in first. So, there was a wait list, you would move up the wait list if you referred more people, and you would get early access if you did that. So, for a while, we would start by inviting 10 people, then we did 100 people a week for a while, and then we did 1000 people. And, based on when you got actually invited to the app, you would get a different reward. So, I think the first people that signed up got $25 of some stock, and it lowered to maybe 20 and then 10. So, it encouraged people to share their referral link.

Passfolio Wait-list

"Here's some cash to use our app, and we'll think you'll like it, and we'll think you'll get hooked on it."

Josh: So, how did you decide to do ... It sounds like you're giving people's some actual dollar value and credits, so that if they promoted their friends, they could have gotten 20, or $10, or some amount of money to invest while using the app. How did you decide that was the best idea, that was a good idea to do to just ... You're basically saying, "Here's some cash to use our app, and we think you'll like it, and you'll get hooked on it."

David: It seems to be just a common growth model. I think several services have done that successfully. And, I mean, we saw the same thing. I think PayPal is one of the first ones that ... I don't know if they were one of the first ones that they were one of the early ones that did it very successfully.

Josh: I talked to a different company recently in finance space, and they said, getting a finance customer can cost, online with ads, upwards of 1000 to $2,000 per customer. And so, any amount of that, that he could just give directly to his customers to refer somebody else, was worth it to him, because he'd rather ... His answer was, he'd rather be paying his customers than paying Google or Facebook directly that way.

David: Exactly. So, we're actually relaunching our referral program, but there will be the chance to, I think, get up to $100 for both the person doing the referral and the person that gets referred. So, I mean, in the finance space, the customer acquisition cost is definitely higher, because it's not the easiest ... It's not just like you enter your email and password and you can start using the app. There's a lot of regulations and laws that require us to get a lot of, what's known as, know your customer information, your name, your address, a photo of your ID. So, it takes a bigger commitment to get users to submit all the info.

David: I mean, I think I saw Brex for the credit card just paying $500. So, I mean, I'd rather give the money to users than give it to Facebook or Google.

Josh: And then, presumably with the model in this space, one of the reasons it's a good ideas is, once people have that money to play around with, and start doing the investing, it becomes a real simple shift for them to then say, "Oh, I see how this works. Now, I use my own money and put some of my own money into the system." Which then, I assume, benefits you guys, because then you're managing that money, and the trading, and everything that goes on.

David: Yes. Yeah, yeah, the lifetime value of the users is, I think, definitely higher than non-financial apps, in general.

Josh: So, what's been the most challenging part to getting to the public app launch where you're at now, and now working on a second referral program with the public launch? What's been the most challenging thing to date for you?

David: Well, it's not a trivial app to develop. It's actually a lot more complicated than you may think. So, just the engineering side, there's been a lot of app work, server work. We're in a highly regulated industry, so, we've even had to have some people to take various exams to get certain licenses, they even took a long time to get the license.

Josh: I was going to ask, it's not like launching an app like Twitter where you just, you're launching this app, and people can just do what they want with it. You don't really need much of a background to launch the app. So, you had to get people that work for you, writing code, specially licensed and certified to be able to write, or access certain bits of financial data?

David: No. Well, yes on the customer info part, not on the writing code. The regulatory stuff applies to the customer support reps that are helping users with stock trades, for example.

Josh: Got it.

David: Or just running a broker dealer, it's regulated by FINRA, and there's exams people have to take to show they're qualified.

Josh: Got it. Understood. And so, dealing with that red tape has been the most challenging part, you would say.

David: That's the most expensive part. The engineering and then partnerships related to ... I mean, there's still a lot of old technology in this space, sometimes you have to integrate with. That moves slow. It doesn't move at Internet speeds, some of this stuff. So, it's a long ... It's six month process to, more or less, get the US broker dealer license. So that, I think that took time, developing the app took time, partnerships take time. I mean, it's like, I love the space but it's definitely a lot of work.

Josh: Ledgard: What advice do you have for somebody who might be setting up, or looking to launch an app in the next year, and you're thinking about how they should go about marketing and finding customers? What advice do you have for people that have similar goals in terms of app distribution?

David: Well, I mean, I'm a big fan of the try to test the product market fit before writing a line of code. So, I really like the idea of doing different landing page, A/B tests or different product tests. If there's not some idea that, for whatever, you have conviction in it, or you're looking at five ideas, I would say, a databased approach to trying to find the one that makes the most sense or has the most demand for it's probably a smart thing to do.

When we first started KickoffLabs, my co-founder and I has five different app ideas.."

Josh: Absolutely. I mean, it definitely rings true with me. I mean, when we started KickoffLabs, my co-founder and I, we had five different app ideas, and we said, well ... We started writing these business plans around them, and you get to a certain point, and all the numbers you're writing down are just fictional BS; I could make any of them look good. And so, it came down to, well, which one of these things do we think we could effectively market and find an audience for? And so, then we said, what we really needed is to set up these landing pages, and we said, "We're developers." So we're like, "Well, how about a product that made that easy setting up the referrals and the landing pages?" We said, "All right. That's idea number six. We'll build that, then we'll build out all six landing pages." And, we had two winning ideas from that, and we'd started down the path of developing both ideas. And then, eventually, this one started to get faster traction, and so that's how we ended up with where we are today.

David: Cool. That's awesome.

Josh: Ledgard: It definitely rings true. So, we've gotten to the part near the end of the interview where I want to ask the fast five questions. So, for you, personally, how do you get into the work zone?

David: I don't know if I do anything special. I try to go to the gym in the morning.

Josh: Okay.

David: That's it. I don't know. I think I'm just working 24/7.

Josh: Ledgard: You're like, "I'm going to take care of this physical part and then I can go to work, and not feel guilty the rest of the day for not moving."

David: Right.

Josh: Okay. So you're working 24/7, and I know it's a busy time for you guys. So, what about favorite ... If you reached a milestone, you're going to go celebrate on vacation, favorite vacation destination?

David: Oh, man. Maybe Vegas.

Josh: Ledgard: Vegas. Okay.

David: I don't love to travel, but Vegas is close.

Josh: Vegas is close enough. Got it. All right. Favorite book or a podcast?

David: Favorite podcast. Well, I don't have a ... Well, actually, no, I do have a favorite podcast. It was the one ... What's the most famous one? It was like a real life ... The murder mystery. Unfortunately, the bit about the murder, the unsolved murders-

Josh: Was it Serial? Was that it?

David: Yeah, Serial. That one.

Josh: And then, something you learned in the last year?

David: Let me think. I've learned about more today, called the travel rule. It's a banking regulatory thing.

Josh: Okay. Can you just describe it briefly, or is it something that's complicated?

David: Yeah. It's not that complicated. Well, I don't know the details, but it has to do with ... So, we support a lot of international users, we support fast, easy and cheap money movement from foreign countries back to the US, and several financial institutions are involved, including, at least, two of ours, and there is a ... I don't know the details yet, but there's some legal requirement that, it seems the financial institutions share information about the customers as they move the money between the different financial institutions.

Josh: Interesting. So, final question; someone you look up to business or personal?

David: Now that one's easy; Elon Musk. I'm a huge fan. I was actually driving, I guess it was two days ago, down the 101 from San Francisco down to Palo Alto, and I saw six tractor trailers full of Tesla's driving North, and I saw one empty trailer driving South. I don't know exactly how their distribution pipeline works, but I swear, every time I'm on the 101 I see a truck full of Tesla's. It's crazy. I mean, what Elon is doing, I just think is amazing. I think he's by far the best entrepreneur out there, right now, working on probably the hardest things: car and rockets. Neither one is easy.

Josh: Absolutely. That's a great answer. So, thanks for joining us today. If somebody had a question that goes beyond this interview, or a question about Passfolio, how can they reach you?

David: So, if it's about the app, they can email hello, or support@passfolioapp.com or they can email me david@passfolioapp.com.

Josh: Perfect. Anything that we missed that you feel like we should have talked about?

David: No, I think that covered it. Was really great talking to you, and thanks for making KickoffLabs. It's been a big help.

Josh: No problem. Absolutely. It's great talking to you as well, and I hope you have a great rest of your day and week.

David: Thanks, you too.

Josh: Thanks for listening to today's interview. If you enjoyed the On Growth podcast, please write us a review on Apple podcasts, and don't forget to hit that subscribe button. If you'd like to run your own viral campaign or set up a wait list for your upcoming business, like they did, check out kickofflabs.com. We can provide the landing pages, referral tracking, leader boards, and reward level emails required to make your next product launch a complete success.

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