Human-mediated species invasions are a significant component of current global environmental change. There is every indication that the rate at which locations are accumulating non-native species is accelerating as free trade and globalization advance. Thus, the need to incorporate predictive models in the assessment of invasion risk has become acute. However, finding elements of the invasion process that provide consistent explanatory power has proved elusive. Here, we propose propagule pressure as a key element to understanding why some introduced populations fail to establish whereas others succeed. In the process, we illustrate how the study of propagule pressure can provide an opportunity to tie together disparate research agendas within invasion ecology.