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Startup paid Black Friday shoppers to snap up cheap hard drives

Holiday deals aren't just for self-indulgence and stocking stuffers. Backblaze, an online backup company, paid folks $5 a pop to buy up discounted hard drives over Thanksgiving weekend.

Some of the hard drives Backblaze rounded up on Black Friday.

Retailers have engineered Black Friday to whip consumers into a buying frenzy, but it turns out it can be good for startups looking for a good deal, too.

Backblaze, the online backup company that headed off a hard-drive price-hike crisis by enlisting friends and family as deputy procurement officers, found itself scouring the ads for good deals again during the holiday buying season. The result: another round of "drive farming" by people willing to help the company.

This time, though, the drive farming was open to the first 200 people who signed up to participate, and Backblaze paid each person who participated $5 per drive.

"Using a combination of crowdsourced drive farmers and experienced Backblaze employees, we've gathered over 300 drives, with more on the way," the company said.

Backblaze isn't big enough to benefit from discounts available with direct purchase agreements that benefit customers buying at least 10,000 drives a quarter. The drive farming approach has become a tool to try to keep costs down so Backblaze can maintain its flat-rate unlimited backup plan.

Specifically, the company got people to buy Seagate 3TB Backup Plus external drives for $100 from Costco Online -- "not from a Costco Store; leave those for the local folks," the company said. People shipped them to Backblaze's alias, "H.D. Farmer."

The idea for the project struck on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. "We saw a flier for the Costco $99 drive deal and started thinking and talking and debating what we could we do," the company said in a blog post. "The entire campaign came together in about 2 hours -- rules, sign-up process, blog post, promotion, everything."

The Costco coupon that got Backblaze to pay people to buy it hard drives on Black Friday.
The Costco coupon that got Backblaze to pay people to buy it hard drives on Black Friday. Backblaze