5 Great Startups that Hacked Early Growth

by adam on August 5, 2012

1. Facebook

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a fundamental understanding of your product – and specifically what the key reasons people use it are. its amazing to me how confused many people are about this and unable to really discern motivations and root causes from byproducts and outcomes. knowing true product value allows you to design the experiments necessary so that you can really isolate cause and effect. as an example, at facebook, one thing we were able to determine early on was a key link between the number of friends you had in a given time and likelihood to churn. knowing this allowed us to do a lot to get new users to their “a-ha” moment quickly. obviously, however, this required us to know what the “a-ha” moment was with a fair amount of certainty in the first place.

– Chamath Palihapitiya

2. Dropbox

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Not all companies have sharing functionality. If you’re one who does, it’s important to make it really easy for your users. Take inspiration from Facebook or Dropbox. Simplicity is at the core of what top technology companies do. When users share with other non-users, it gives Dropbox a chance to show off their speed, simplicity of design & usefulness. What does your product show off when users refer others?

7 Ways Dropbox Hacked Growth

3. Twitter

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The three things I’ve found about people in designing products are that people are lazy, selfish and vain. Twitter hits the trifecta: Lazy. No worrying about writing thoughtful blog posts that are coherent. You can tap out a tweet in less than 30 seconds.
Selfish. Most people do things that benefit themselves or people/companies around them (which indirectly benefits them). A large proportion of tweets I see are people pitching their own products, work or the work of friends/colleagues/people they want to get attention from.
Vain. People like to talk about themselves and hear people talk about them. The prominence of the follower counts led to high-profile races, which drew more awareness. (Though I think these days it serves as an obstacle to new users as it’s a demotivator to have “only” 100 followers.) Vanity is also the reason I think that Facebook photo tagging is the single best viral mechanism ever invented.

- Rocky Agrawal

4. Pinterest

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When you sign up for Pinterest with Facebook, your friends who are already using Pinterest auto-follow you and you follow them back. But all this auto following doesn’t seem to happen all at once but is staggered over time so that you get periodic notifications that someone has just started following you on PInterest. This brings you back to the app again and again. This also helps alleviate the cold-start problem and gives me a social incentive to maintain my presence on the site, lest I look boring in front of my friends.

- Adam Breckler

5. Slideshare

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Slideshare’s embed code provides a classic example of a discrete growth hack. Imagine for a minute that it’s early 2007. Facebook Platform wouldn’t even launch until the end of May and SEO ruled the world of cheap distribution. Youtube had just been purchased for an insane amount of money per month of existence a few months before, largely on the basis of embed-fueled hyper-growth.

- Matthew Johnson

Want more growth hacks? Follow my Growth Hacks Board on Quora.

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