From Scrappy Startup tohousehold Name: The Meteoric Rise of Discord

As a tech entrepreneur and startup advisor, I’ve seen many promising companies struggle to find traction and scale. So when I consider Discord’s journey from fledgling startup to one of the most popular communication apps worldwide, I’m fascinated by how they pulled it off in just 7 years.

Curious to know how long has Discord been out in the market? This article is made just for you. 😊

Let’s dive into the key milestones and growth drivers that fueled Discord’s incredible rise.

Launching with a Laser Focus (2015)

When Discord launched in May 2015, the platform had a clear focus on voice chat for gamers. As a scrappy startup, Discord smartly identified gaming as an underserved niche.

Co-founders Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy were gamers themselves and wanted to solve common voice chat headaches they experienced. As Citron told VentureBeat:

Before, it was super difficult to get 10 friends together on the same voice chat service without running into latency problems.

This laser focus on gamers helped Discord gain significant traction in its first year, amassing 25 million registered users.

Discord‘s user base in the early years focused on gamers

While dwarfed by social media giants like Facebook, hitting 25 million users in a year with no marketing budget was an impressive achievement for a fledgling startup.

Expansion Beyond Gaming (2016-2018)

After the initial traction among gamers, Discord started expanding its positioning between 2016-2018. The platform evolved into an all-purpose chat community for any interest group.

Key product updates helped fuel this expansion beyond gaming:

  • Persistent chat rooms and threads
  • Role-based permissions and moderation
  • Embedded media and bots
  • Screen sharing

Discord was no longer just for coordinating your gaming squad. The platform became a hub for diverse communities united by common interests like music, coding, writing, art, and more.

This broader appeal led to steady growth in Discord’s user base during this period:

  • 2016: 45 million users
  • 2017: 80 million users
  • 2018: 130 million users

Discord expanded beyond gaming communities between 2016-2018

While still finding its footing, Discord had expanded well beyond its roots. The diverse mix of groups choosing Discord laid the foundation for future growth.

Taking Off Through Word-of-Mouth (2019-2020)

In 2019 and 2020, Discord’s popularity exploded thanks largely to word-of-mouth growth. The platform continued gaining share as the chat app of choice for online communities.

Some key word-of-mouth growth drivers:

  • Network effects: As more groups joined Discord, it added value for other communities to be where people were already gathering.
  • COVID-19 lockdowns: With in-person meetings on hold, many groups went online instead, adopting Discord as their hub. Monthly active users spiked from 56 million pre-pandemic to 100 million in 2020.
  • Influencer communities: Big Streamers and YouTubers created Discord servers for their fans, amplifying growth.

This viral, grassroots adoption led to a rapid rise in Discord’s user base:

  • 2019: 250 million users
  • 2020: 300 million users

Funding and valuations also began rising exponentially during this period:

  • 2017: $50M funding at $1.65B valuation
  • 2020: $100M funding at $3.5B valuation

Viral adoption drove major growth for Discord in 2019-2020

Discord’s product-market fit was clear as millions of users flocked to the platform. Top-tier funding poured in to scale up the startup.

Mainstream Status (2021 – Present)

With meteoric growth throughout 2019-2020, Discord entered 2021 with undeniable mainstream status and momentum.

Metrics crossed new thresholds:

  • 350 million registered users
  • 19 million active servers per week
  • 4 billion conversation minutes daily

And Discord gained ground on competitors, ranking as the 2nd most popular social app among 18-24 year olds in 2021.

Strong growth and market position fueled a massive $500 million funding round in 2021 at a $15 billion valuation – nearly 10x the 2020 valuation.

Today, Discord is deeply embedded in online culture. The platform powers some of the largest online communities spanning gaming, music, AI, and every interest imaginable.

Discord hit mainstream popularity and status in 2021

In just over 7 years, the scrappy startup laser-focused on gamers has turned into a household name. The Discord growth story remains one of the most impressive in recent consumer tech history.

Key Takeaways for Startups

For startups aspiring to similarly explosive growth, Discord provides several instructive lessons:

  • Start niche: Discord’s initial success came from focusing on a specific underserved user group (gamers). Don’t try to be everything for everyone right away.
  • Expand thoughtfully: Discord expanded gradually into adjacent markets, while staying true to its chat community roots. Grow your niche before chasing broader markets.
  • Build virality: Discord prioritized social features that facilitated word-of-mouth growth. If people love your product, how can you help them spread the word?
  • Capture the zeitgeist: Discord aligned with the remote collaboration trend accelerated by COVID-19. Build for where the world is heading next.

Discord offers a startup growth playbook worth studying and replicating. By pursuing the right strategy, your scrappy company could be the next household name!