Perception vs Reality: How these 5 Startups are really growing

by adam on October 21, 2012

In many tech startups there often exist two different stories for how a company has gained it’s hard fought success. There is the story that gets told in the news media and distributed on sites like hackernews and techmeme, and then there is the un-told story that underlies the reality of how the company is actually growing.

Here are some examples of these two different stories:

Perception Reality
AirBNB kids-couch-surf-flickr-brandon-cripps

Collaborative consumption is driving new demand for previously un-used supply.
abnb

Land-lords are using airbnb as a channel to market their under-utilized or vacant rental properties. Source.
Twitter US-State-Department-Taps-Twitter-for-New-Age-Global-Relations


A democratizing force of good for the world where everyday people are given a global voice.
fake-twitter-accounts


A navel-gazing wasteland of internet pundits and pseudo celebrities where fake accounts drive a large percentage of traffic. Source
YouSendit imgres


Yousendit is popularly known as file hosting business for all types of business’s to swap large files with each other.
imgres-1


What they don’t tell you in the press is that the service is used by pirates and pornographers to distribute illegal content.
Justin.tv, Ustream imgres-2

The popular myth behind startups Justin.tv and Ustream was that they were riding the wave of a new live broadcast revolution powered by UGC.
justin


The reality was that both sites turned a blind eye early on to pirated content that was being live broadcast around the world, fueling growth in visitors seeking this content. Source.
Scribd scribd

Scribd launched publicly as a ‘youtube for documents’ and a way for author’s to self-publish their work, democratizing the publishing business.
clip_image002_2


The reality paints a different picture, of pirated content driving the lion’s share of pageviews, while other original content is left in the dust. Source.

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

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Why developers should learn how to sell

by adam on June 12, 2012

Much has been written about Why marketing and bd professionals should learn to code. As everyone knows by now, Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing. If you aren’t learning to code, you are going to get left behind.

Not so fast.

On the other side of the argument there are those imploring you to “Please don’t learn to code”.

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While the debate rages on without an end in sight, there is a much subtler point that is being overlooked in all of this.

Cue dramatic pause for effect.

Once basic coding skills become common place amongst traditionally non-technical disciplines, what are people who’s primary role is coding going to do?

Of course, there will always be a need for talented programmers, but those who got by on simply being a ‘coder’ and not having any other talent or skill are going to be left in the dust.

In fact, all hope is not lost for these coders. Look at the list of founder’s of large internet companies who like Instagrams CEO, who had no formal programming training, and the list is fairly short.

Contrast this with the ever-expanding list of coding luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin & Larry Page and Bill Gates, just to name a few. All of these formally trained engineers were forced to learn the nuances of product, sales, business development and marketing out of necessity and ended up being good enough at each of them.

So the next time that one of your non-coding friends in sales asks you wether or not they should learn to code, instead of encouraging them one way or the other, simply give tell them that you will help them learn to code, as long as they help you learn to sell.

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Pinterest Growth Hacks: How did it grow so fast?

by adam on June 2, 2012

Growth Hack #1: Insta-follow

Upon signing up for Pinterest you are automatically following a select group of high quality users. This in turn helps alleviate the cold-start problem, where I have to go looking around the site to find boards and people to follow. Instead I get a sampling of high quality content immediately filling my feed.

pinners



Growth Hack #2: Facebook Friend Follow

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.

follow-all



Growth Hack #3: Always Available UI

The user interface of Pinterest, while seemingly uncluttered, hides a tremendous amount of features and functionality within immediate reach. For example, I can perform almost every action that I would take anywhere on the site all from within my feed, including: commenting, liking, re-pinning a post, following a friend. With one more click to view a pin I can then follow the author of that pin, like/tweet/embed/email the pin, follow the board the pin is from, follow the website source of the pin.

Having all of these possible actions omni-present streamlines the amount pages that I need to navigate to and from to perform any desired actions and has the effect of increasing the overall amount of interactions and actions that I perform with the users of the site and the content being posted and in turn increases the overall flow of new visitors and traffic.

1280-pinterest-sahil-lavingia-design



Growth Hack #4: Infinite Scroll

Try and scroll down your pinterest feed and you will never reach the bottom. The auto-scrolling technique that pinterest employs when you scroll down the page produces a state of ‘flow’ that is very easy to get lost in, spending minutes or even hours scrolling through pins without being mindful of the clock.

fetching



Growth Hack #5: Social Bookmarklet

The “Pin” bookmarklet is a low friction tool that does not require immediate action, but if you want to complete the Pin from the stash area its straight forward to do so. Visual browse requires scanning or skimming images rather than reading through laborious text, which is also a lower friction search experience.

pinit


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