Ask me anything + discussion forums
I recently set up a discussion forum to discuss the topics I’ve written about- I’m active nearly every day, and you can post your questions/comments/etc here.
It’s called The Backchannel and you can sign up here: http://talk.andrewchen.co.
eBook, presos, PDFs
Rational Growth (pdf). The team at AppSumo also sponsored an eBook based on a few interviews with me. It’s supposed to be an intro to thinking about product and growth from an analytical POV.
Zero to product/market fit (preso). How to go from nothing to product/market fit, and why so many startups fail trying to get there.
SaaS isn’t viral (preso). A critical examination on the factors that make SaaS products hard to distribute.
Minimum Desirable Product (preso). A presentation given to Steve Blank and Eric Ries’s Lean Startup class at Berkeley about balancing business goals and user experience.
Growing renewable audiences (preso). A talk to the portfolio companies of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures on why PR and press aren’t important for scalable user acquisition.
How to create a profitable freemium startup (spreadsheet)
The Viral Startup (pdf). The nice folks at Hyperink collected a bunch of my blog posts together and turned them into a PDF.
Search the archives
Recent Essays (2011-current)
Below, I’ve organized some of the essays I’ve written in the last few years. Hope you enjoy them.
- Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing
- You don’t need a growth hacker
- After the Techcrunch bump: Life in the “Trough of Sorrow”
- How do I balance user satisfaction versus virality?
- 2011 Blogging Roadmap: “Zero to product/market fit”
- Minimize your Time to Product/Market Fit
- When has a consumer startup hit product/market fit?
- When does high growth not imply product/market fit?
- Does anyone care about your new product? (Doing market research with Google’s Keyword Tool)
- Has Facebook’s DAU/MAU always been ~50%?
- How mobile startups can iterate better, faster, stronger
- Mobile app startups are failing like it’s 1999
- Don’t just design your product, design your community too
- What factors influence DAU/MAU? Nature versus nuture
- Strive for great products, whether by copying, inventing, or reinventing
- Why you’ll always think your product is shit
- Don’t compete on features
- Simple is Marketable
- Know the difference between data-informed and versus data-driven
- How to use A/B testing for better product design
- How to write good and bad titles for your blog post
- How this blog grows: Evergreen content, Social whales, and “Don’t get bored”
- How to use Twitter to predict popular blog posts you should write
Industry and Investing
- Why are we so bad at predicting startup success?
- I’m a Google Glass skeptic and think it’ll be the next Apple Newton
- Why it’s hard to evaluate new social products
- Confessions of a Startup Seagull
- My friend Noah and his $100M lesson after being fired from Facebook
- Career Suicide versus Startup Suicide
- Stop asking “But how will they make money?”
- What makes Sequoia Capital successful? “Target big markets”
- The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs
- Visual Basic, PHP, Rails. Is Node.js next?
- Why I doubted Facebook could build a billion dollar business, and what I learned from being horribly wrong
- How sheep-like behavior breeds innovation in Silicon Valley
- “Anyone can start a Groupon!” and other startup myths
- When Does Paid Acquisition Work for SaaS Startups?
- Stanford CS major seeks sales/marketing monkey
Older content from 2007-2011
See below for some of my older content, from before 2013. Most of the discussion is about websites, and some of it outdated or wrong :) But I’ve archived them here to read at your leisure!
For web entrepreneurs, growing your userbase is a key challenge, alongside product development and financing. These posts emphasize a quantitative approach to getting traction and growing users.
- What’s your viral loop? Understanding the engine of adoption
- Adwords is not enough for success on the consumer web
- Bridging your traffic engine with your revenue engine
- Facebook viral marketing: When and why do apps “jump the shark?”
- How to calculate cost-per-acquisition for startups relying on freemium, subscription, or virtual items biz
- Is your site really viral? Viral Branding versus Viral Action
- Social network marketing: Getting from zero to critical mass
- Viral marketing is not a marketing strategy
- Growing renewable audiences (a talk at O’Reilly Alphatech Ventures)
Engagement and product design (2007-2013)
Using principles from game design and analysis of consumer behavior, these essays cover the process of creating experiences your customers will love.
- 25 reasons users STOP using your product: An analysis of customer lifecycle
- Are people like lab rats? Using reward schedules to drive engagement
- Do you ever say, “MySpace is sooo ugly?” This blog’s for you…
- Does Facebook reflect your true friendships? How about e-mail?
- Friends versus Followers: Twitter’s elegant design for grouping contacts
- How desktop apps beat websites at building large active userbases
- How to keep visual design consistent while A/B testing like crazy
- Is your website a leaky bucket? 4 scenarios for user retention
- Product design debt versus Technical debt
- Public and private spaces, and why YouTube comments are so awful
- Minimum Desirable Product
- Minimum Desirable Product 2 (slides included!)
- Social network death spiral: How Metcalfe’s Law can work against you
- Social design explosion: Polls, quizzes, reviews, forums, oh my!
- Talk to your target customer in 4 easy steps
- Technology always changes, but people always stay the same
- The design of social spaces
- User retention: Why depending on notification-driven retention sucks
- Users, customers, or audience – what do you call the people that visit your site?
- Why your friends list gets polluted over time
- Why you should make it easy for users to quit your product
- Why low-fidelity prototyping kicks butt for customer-driven design
- Your site will succeed or fail in the first 10 seconds
Freemium and online ad monetization (2007-2013)
Social web product have unique characteristics as it applies to online advertising and direct monetization levels. These posts cover some of the issues around key topics such as ARPUs, conversion funnels, CPM rates, behavioral data, revenue modeling, etc.
- 3 key ideas from a recent Freemium dinner conversation
- 5 factors that determine your advertising CPM rates
- 5 things that make your social network monetize like crap
- 7 ideas for billion dollar startups in online advertising
- App monetization: Gambit launches, funnel metrics, and ARPU versus “CPM”
- Age (and ARPPU) ain’t nothing but a number: How age impacts monetization (Guest post, Susan Su)
- Are social gaming offers scamming users? A detailed analysis
- Data portability: Is the social network data you’re hoarding treasure or trash?
- Counting your big pile of Benjamins: 5 startup tips for maximizing ad revenue
- Creating value versus optimizing revenue
- Free to Freemium: 5 lessons learned from YouSendIt.com
- Freemium case study: AdultFriendFinder ARPU, churn, and conversion rates
- How to create a profitable Freemium startup (spreadsheet model included!)
- Ignore cougars, follow the money: 3 social gaming tips for monetizing younger users (Guest post, Susan Su)
- How NOT to calculate ad revenue
- How social gaming offers create value for everyone
- Online advertising during a recession: 5 key trends for ad-based startups
- Virtual goods summit video, The Whirled Case Study: metrics for the virtual goods business
- What’s the value of a user on your site? Why it’s hard to calculate lifetime value for social network audiences
- Your ad-supported consumer site is actually a B2B enterprise in disguise
- “Stealing MySpace” and my personal experience monetizing MySpace ads
- Super Rewards and the leadgen side of Facebook virtual currency – can it last?
- Remnant ads and the advertisers who love them
- Ad targeting talk from Community Next: People Not Pages (updated x2)
- Revenue, ARPU, Funnels, and RPM: My talk from Startonomics on Revenue metrics
- Ad-based versus direct monetization: Which one is better for you?
- What would Facebook look like if it sold out to ads? Click here to see…
- Will social payment platforms really work long-term? (Guest post by Jay Weintraub)
Without metrics, web entrepreneurs are just flying blind. These essays cover some of the organization and development issues around instituting a metrics system – what to measure, in what order, and how to implement them.
- 5 warning signs: Does A/B testing lead to crappy products?
- 5 steps towards building a metrics-driven business
- Benefit-Driven Metrics: Measure the lives you save, not the life preservers you sell
- The first 6 steps to homegrowing basic startup analytics
- Are you misusing Alexa numbers? (Probably)
- Lessons from the casino industry on engagement metrics and lifetime value
- Obama and McCain: How political marketing has evolved from offline to online
- omg I’m just a startup, I can’t do those fancy analytics!
- Recency Frequency and Monetization (RFM): Optimizing your notifications strategy
- How to measure if users love your product using cohorts and revisit rates
- How to generate awesome test candidates for A/B testing
- Why metrics-driven startups overlook brand value
Media and games (2007-2013)
Traditional media, including TV, music, games, and movies are at a crossroads. Here are some thoughts on how the industry is changing and evolving.
- BBS door games: Social gaming innovation from the 1980s
- From analog dollars to digital pennies: The crisis in traditional media
- Game design tutorial at the GDC
- MySpace versus Facebook: Analysis of both traffic and ad revenue, using Google Trends
- What every Web 2.0 entrepreneur should know about virtual goods
- Social Gaming Summit: Recap and observations
- Early adopters vs the Mainstream: Google Insights points out websites only used by Silicon Valley nerds
- YouTube vs Webkinz: Case studies for new product adoption
- Prosper.com and peer-to-peer lending in the economic downturn
- 4 major cultural differences between Games people and Web people
Entrepreneurship and startup life in San Francisco (2007-2013)
Just a couple thoughts on things I’ve encountered while arriving in SF.
- 10 tips for meeting people at industry events
- 5 ways to break past the San Francisco echo-chamber
- Are Web 2.0 startups wasting their time with Web 2.0 early adopters?
- Bay Area investors I’m following on Twitter
- Building the initial team for seed stage startups
- Building lifestyle companies vs VC-backable startups: Is it walk before you run?
- Built to Fail: How companies like Google, IDEO, and 37Signals build failure-tolerant systems for anything!
- Couple quotes on Facebook in Wired, Fortune, and NYT
- Does Silicon Valley noise detract from long-term value creation?
- How do you find a badass co-founder, Part 2
- How do you find a badass co-founder?
- How do you do concrete interviews for non-technical people?
- How to start a professional blog: 10 tips for new bloggers
- How helpful is venture capital experience to building startups?
- Is blogging worth it? What’s the ROI?
- The question that got me to leave Seattle for greener startup pastures
- Moving to SF and joining the tech community – Lessons from my first year
- What’s an Entrepreneur-in-Residence?
- What if interviews poorly predict job performance? What if dating poorly predicts marital happiness?
- Which startup’s collapse will end the Web 2.0 era?