Initiative Q is really worth it

Two million new registrations for Initiative Q: Ingenious Growth Hack or Pyramid System?

“Ex-PayPal people are building a new currency that may one day be worth a lot of money! Secure some of it for yourself with my invitation now for free! ”- This is the slightly abbreviated message that is currently spreading like wildfire on the social web. Two million people are said to have already registered for Initiative Q; most of it probably in the past ten days. Initiative Q has existed for almost six months. OMR analyzes what is behind the sudden success.

“Q is the payment network of tomorrow. So that millions can join us, we are giving away our future currency. ”This is the message that unannounced visitors are welcomed to the homepage of the Initiative Q website - including information about how many“ Qs ”(the name of the currency) the users secure themselves if you register now. However, registration is not easy, only by invitation. Conveniently, visitors to the Initiative Q website can post a pre-formulated post via Facebook or Twitter with just one click and in this way ask their network whether someone can invite them.

Almost one and a half million interactions on Facebook

This is no longer necessary. If you haven't already received an invitation to Initiative Q in the social feed, you will find what you are looking for in no time with the appropriate search terms on the common social platforms: Hundreds of thousands of Initiative Q users who are already registered compete with public posts and comments, including attached ones Link to register new users. This is not so much altruism or enthusiasm for a new and potentially better payment system than self-interest: with each additional user who registers via the link of an already registered member, he receives further "Qs".

Anyone who tries with common tools to get an idea of ​​how widespread Initiative Q has found with this mechanism in the past few days will come across astonishing numbers. According to the social analytics tool Crowdtangle, which has since been acquired by Facebook, posts containing the URL of the login page have so far recorded 1.4 million interactions on Facebook, including almost 700,000 comments and over half a million shares. The total range should therefore be many times higher. And that doesn't even include posts and messages on other platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp or Youtube.

Crowdtangle shows almost 1.5 million interactions for posts with links to the Initiative Q login page

Two million registrations, 6.5 million website visits

The statistics tool Similarweb shows a similar picture: According to its estimate, the Initiative Q website has recorded 6.5 million visits in the past 28 days. The majority of it comes from the period after October 23rd. On October 30, the number of visits is said to have been just under a million.

The estimate of the number of visits from (Source: Similarweb)

The makers of Initative Q themselves also give remarkable numbers: Actually, they would have recently celebrated the milestone of one million registered users, according to a Facebook post on October 30th. But by the time they wrote a corresponding text, user growth had accelerated so much that the number had risen to two million in a very short time.

Is Initiative Q already bigger than Ethereum?

Via the viral wave, the topic has long since arrived on the banks of the mainstream. Well-known media such as the BBC, the Financial Times and, in Germany, Computerbild take up the Initiative Q phenomenon (sometimes quite critically). This increases the reach again, and at the moment Google searches for “initiative q” more frequently on a global level than for the (probably second largest) crypto currency Ethereum.

The question of how a project, which until a few days ago hardly anyone knew about cryptocurrency and blockchain insiders, can attract such massive attention within a very short time, also seems to fascinate the marketing industry: In Germany there are already several big names in the scene on Initiative Q and the company's user acquisition campaign: social media expert Felix Beilharz, growth hacker Hendrik Lennarz and SEO and online marketing veteran Karl Kratz.

Where does the sudden success come from?

Indeed, the success of Initiative Q is as remarkable as it is astonishing. Even if the creators expressly differentiate themselves from crypto currencies on the website: Insofar as Initiative Q wants to issue a new currency, the project is already comparable to an "Initial Coin Offering". So far, hardly any ICO has generated such widespread attention. And what's more: If you take the results of a Google search as an indicator, Initiative Q started last June. So why has the project gone so crazy right now?

It would have been obvious that influencers and / or media with a high reach would have pushed the topic against payment or unpaid. But OMR was unable to verify such a thesis using several tools.

Did sharpened formulations make the difference?

Then, while reading a blog post in which the British blockchain and cryptocurrency journalist David Gerard takes a critical look at Initiative Q, we noticed something: Apparently, the operators of Initiative Q recently changed the pre-formulated text that registered users use invite their network to register via social media post. The company confirmed this to OMR by email. They had received feedback that the previous message had not correctly mapped the core of the project ("We received feedback that the old message had not conveyed the essence of the project in a meaningful enough manner"), according to a spokesman. The text was gradually changed around mid-October.

The old invitation text from Initiative Q:

"The Q initiative is building a new payment network. To get people to adopt it, they're giving away significant sums of their future currency to early people. They require only name, email, and an invite from an existing user. Here’s my invite link:
Initiative Q will only succeed if many people join. The more people invite their friends, the greater the likelihood of reaching the goal of each Q being worth around one US dollar. "

The new invitation text reads significantly differently:

The current invitation text from Initiative Q:

"Initiative Q is an attempt by ex-PayPal guysto create a new payment system instead of credit cards that were designed in the 1950s. The system uses its own currency, the Q, and to get people to start using the system once it's ready they are allocating Qs for free to people that sign up now (the amount drops as more people join - so better to join early). Signing up is free and they only ask for your name and an email address. There's nothing to lose but if this payment system becomes a world leading payment method your Qs can be worth a lot. If you missed getting bitcoin seven years ago, you wouldn't want to miss this.
Here is my invite link:
This link will stop working once I'm out of invites. Let me know after you registered, because I need to verify you on my end. "

(Emphasis: OMR)

Can it really be that just changing the text made the difference for Initiative Q? If you consider that for many new users, the first point of contact with Initiative Q should be precisely this text, this is quite possible. In any case, the time correlation is striking: shortly after Initiative Q changed the text, the viral campaign really took off.

Which new text components could have made the difference?

1. The mention of PayPal to build trust

With the first sentence of the invitation text, Initiative Q may collect trust points from the recipient for the second time. The company receives its first leap of faith because a friend or acquaintance recommends it. The mention of PayPal is probably also very deliberate at this point. The company operates almost the only digital payment system that has succeeded in making its way into the mainstream worldwide and that is trusted by a corresponding number of people.

In addition: Many people who deal with digital business even a little should be familiar with the “PayPal mafia”. The early creators of the payment service are still hugely influential figures in the US tech scene and beyond. Six of them are now billionaires, including entrepreneurial star Elon Musk, star investor Peter Thiel and Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman. To readers with this background knowledge, the mention of Paypal signals: If these people tackle something, then it has great potential. Ironically, Saar Wilf, founder of Initiative Q, was not part of PayPal's founding workforce. Wilf is Israeli; he co-founded Fraud Sciences Corp. was bought by PayPal in 2008 and integrated into its own software.

2. Trigger FOMO

Unlike the previous text version, the new invitation text tries several times to generate "Fear of Missing Out" for the recipient. “How many Qs you get depends on how quickly you register, because the more people register, the lower the amount drops. There is nothing to lose, just something to miss. This link will stop working when I run out of invitations. ”In the meantime, apparently even the phrase“ the value of the reward could be up to 130,000 US dollars ”was included in the pre-formulated text, such as can be read on Twitter. Felix Beilharz aptly describes this procedure as "risk reversal": It is riskier not to participate than simply to register quickly.

The reference to Bitcoin is likely to ensure that greed finally wins over the mind: "If you don't want to be annoyed, as with Bitcoins, that you didn't worry seven years ago, you shouldn't miss this." Initiative Q may have found the ideal time window here to drive users to register with such a wording. Due to the dizzying highs of the cryptocurrency at the end of last year, the topic has penetrated the general public consciousness and should still be triggerable in many there.

3. The emphasis on the free character

Registration with Initiative Q was free of charge even before the invitation text was changed. The request for the email address was described as "the only thing you need" - a word with rather negative connotations in a pitch. In addition, there was previously cloudy talk of a “future currency”. The new text version speaks of “free Qs”, the free character is highlighted several times, and it says: “Registration is free, everything it is about ask are your name and your email address. "


Possibly it was only these changes that made it possible that the (from a marketing point of view) apparently well-thought-out campaign mechanics could develop their success at all. The underlying principle, namely to reward both sides for a registration as part of a referral program, is a basic principle of growth hacking (“Growth hacking with referral programs: this is how these companies have won millions of users”). The cloud storage service Dropbox was particularly successful in providing advertisers and those referred to with additional storage space.

The Method from the Growth Hacking Playbook

But PayPal also used a similar method and gave away money to early users through a referral program: At the beginning, each new user received US $ 20 and a further US $ 20 for each new registration they generated. In this way, PayPal is said to have gained 100 million users. The idea behind the cost-intensive user acquisition method: New platforms and marketplaces have to spend money on customer acquisition one way or another - so why not give money to users themselves, turn them into product ambassadors in this way and create a snowball effect?

At this point, Initiative Q does not even have to make financial advance payments because the currency currently has no real value. On the one hand, this is an advantage from a cost perspective. On the other hand, this fact makes the registration less attractive for a new user and increases the inhibition threshold for a registration.

Pressure or “Incentive”?

Thanks to the campaign mechanics and the formulation of the texts, however, the creators manage to exert permanent pressure (if you wanted to put it positively, you could speak of “incentives”) on already registered users and on potential new users. Newly registered users are encouraged to invite five new users within 96 hours in order to receive more Qs. With the restriction to five free slots, potential buyers should be encouraged to accept the invitation quickly.

If you got rid of your five invitations, you can spend ten more and thus further increase the proportion of your Qs. In addition, if users who were recruited by another member invite additional users, the original recruiter will also receive additional Qs. Social media expert Felix Beilharz has "played through" the principle and determined that after 40 successful invitations it is obviously over for the time being. Apparently, participants can only develop additional Qs indirectly by engaging the users they have invited, Beilharz suspects. In the FAQs of Initiative Q it is said that in the future users could be rewarded with Qs even after completing tasks such as downloading an app or shopping.

Pyramid or not?

With the cascading reward, Initiative Q fulfills the decisive criterion for a classic pyramid system, at least in terms of architecture. The makers deny this: A pyramid system typically requires that every participant has to make a payment at the beginning - this is not the case with Initiative Q.

Wilf expresses ambitious plans in interviews; he sees Visa as his main competitor, as he explained to “Tech in Asia”. From 2021 onwards, Initiative Q should be one of the largest payment networks worldwide, as stated in a detailed roadmap on the website. In several media reports it is unanimously said that economics professor Lawrence H. White of the George Mason University in Virginia developed the "economic and monetary models" around Initiative Q. His name cannot be found on the website itself.

If you're not paying for it ...

Crypto journalist David Gerard is critical of Initiative Q. He doesn't believe that the makers are fraudsters, but there doesn't even seem to be a rough plan for what Initiative Q's payment network should look like. “They recruit people with Qs as the lottery tickets of the future so that they can win over dealers and probably venture capital investors with the argument 'We have this large number of users!' But first they have to overcome the problem that none of it exists so far - and they literally have not the slightest plan so far. ”(Incidentally, Initiative-Q founder Saar Wilf responded to David Gerard to some of his criticisms.)