I found an old document today, where I analyzed case studies, blog posts, and quora answers about "How did [startup X] get initial traction?" Here are funny examples of how some of them used rather dark methods to attract an initial user base:
The founders of MySpace sent emails to the 12 million customers of XDrive, the company they were working at before. Also, they attracted users by paying hot models to use their platform.
Reddit had a ton of fake users. In this video, co-founder Steve Huffman talks about how they were posting content to their platform day by day â€“ until a "magical day" months later, when they didn't have to anymore, because user generated content increased.
Paypal created a bot that bought stuff on eBay, but then contacted the seller and insisted on only paying with Paypal. It's all about creativity!
How Paypal and Reddit faked their way to traction
Startup Traction: How do social sites (e.g. Hunch, Foursquare, Reddit, Digg) go from 1 to 1000K users?
There's still a lot of insights in that document. Tell me what you're interested in regarding initial traction and I can make a post ready.