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Growth is a system, not a bag of tricks – Manifesto Conference Q&A video/transcript

2015-10-08 16.16.282015-10-08 16.16.20
I recently was interviewed by Tim Chang, Managing Director of the Mayfield Fund at the Manifesto conference. We talked about growth, what I has learned from trying different tactics, and how to evaluate the success of growth initiatives. (By the way, SC Moatti, the co-producer of Manifesto, also a tech entrepreneur and ex-Facebook PM, is writing a book on the business mobile called Mobilized. I had a chance to read it and find her insights really valuable. And the next Manifesto is dedicated to mobile.)

You can watch the full video of my talk here.


Here’s the key points of the Q&A below. (Thanks to David Grotting for helping with these)

How Did You Get Started?

  • Started in Venture Capital as an entrepreneur in residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures.
  • One of my most important experiences was working in Ad Tech
    • You spend all of your time thinking about quantitative customer acquisition for tens of thousands of customers.
    • You learn all the interesting nuances of different business models and gain a keen sense of customer funnel optimization and key metrics like cost per customer and LTV.
    • One example being working with a dating site and realizing that the average time for a dating “match” was about 4 months so it’s important to get users to sign up for a 12 month subscription. This is very different than a gaming company strategy, as a contrast.
    • I was one of the few people who had all this quantitative experience with customer acquisition and wanted to apply it in a consumer context.
  • At this time in ‘07 the IQ around consumer products was was relatively low – and investors were making investments off number of hundreds of thousands of registered users. It’s been amazing to see over the the last couple years how much the industry has upgraded its thinking.

Lessons To Share About Growth:

  • Growth is not a bunch of small, tactical growth hacks. (Make a button this color, etc.)
  • Growth is a full model and system with linked parts and loops that align with your business
  • Tactics can be used to optimize loops, but the entire model must be well understood first.
  • If you’re going to focus on virality – it’s not about just building something cool, but actually thinking how one batch of users end up inviting the next batch of users and optimizing that entire loop with with tactics.
  • You must put in the hard work to build a framework that is situationally right for your product.

What is a Growth Hacker?

  • Sean Ellis coined the term while working with Sequoia companies. It was the embodiment of a direct response marketer combined with a product manager that had a deep focus on analytics.
  • Growth is fundamentally a product thing: Requires true team effort of PMs, designers, developers, etc. that utilize software to drive KPIs
  • Growth Hacking has started to become a negative signal: Next generation of consultant keyword/title

Metrics should be a reflection of the strategy you’ve decided

  • Be careful about focusing on vanity metrics like daily installs
  • Churn is one of the most defining aspects of whether or not you have a sustainable business.
  • Have your metrics prove that you are creating a sustainable growth model
  • In the beginning, entrepreneurs build a product from the heart and have the ability to be hyperattentive, listen to each customer, and get all the details right. You then get to a point where there is a phase transition where you have to truly scale, and that tends to be the most difficult.
  • Finding product/market fit is key before scaling growth efforts
  • Mobile is in a dark time and it is very difficult to grow a mobile app now. It is daunting for new startups as successful apps are prioritized in rankings and it becomes more difficult to gain new-app visibility. You must continue to look for new platforms.

Messaging apps are going to create the next platform beyond app stores

  • Messaging is where social was in ‘07/’08
  • Just like adding social to other categories of products has been successful (Social Reviews = Yelp, Social Videos = YouTube, etc.), messaging will have opportunities to be paired with other categories of products with success.
  • Messaging and communication is the killer app for your phone.
  • I’m hopeful that messaging will create the next generation platform for mobile app distribution.
  • Working backwards when you have a new idea or new product and thinking about how it relates to messaging is a very important question to ask if you want to be hitting scale 2-3 years from now.

Who are your influencers and what are some of your favorite books?

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