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Timing & Tools

How do you know when and how to grow?

Josh Elman

Product Guy, Greylock Partner, Growth Expert

Lessons Learned

The best tool for growth is having the right data and understanding it.

Who are your users? From where are they coming? How are they converting? How are they engaging?


Lesson: Growth with Josh Elman

Step: #5 Timing & Tools: How do you know when and how to grow?

Growth is a key foundational component of every startup company from day one. How will I grow? How do I grow? How do I get my first ten users on? How do I get my first 100 users on? How do I get my first thousand customers? You're always asking those questions for growth. So every product and every feature and every decision you want to make, need to be oriented on, will this help me get to scale faster?

Now, is the art of growth that we've been talking about, focusing on, improving your onboarding experience or improving your logged out experience or improving SEO and marketing, something that you necessarily do every day in a company? You really want to do that once you know that you have something working but actually, everything you're doing around product market fit in getting your company going even in the very earliest days, is to arrange it around growth.

I'm going to do a beta with 100 people, that's part of growth, because I'm going to have to find 100 people, to figure out what they learned from the product, to figure out how to improve it from there. How you're setting up your URL structure in your very early days, has massive SEO implications down the line. So you're thinking about growth when you're very early, even if you're not necessarily doing all the SEO things to make sure your pages are turning up in search engines because it's still early, but you want to think about that from the beginning.

No matter what, for every new product, you're going to build a sign-up flow, you're going to build a sign-up experience. You're doing things to help users onboard into your product from day one. So you're always thinking about growth. I don't know if you need any dedicated growth team who only builds features for that versus you're kind of going back and forth amorphously across the product until you have something that you know is working and you're trying to kind of double down. But even in the earlier stages, you're still building all those features and you should be thinking about every single thing you do at your company. Will this help us get bigger faster?

This kind of field of growth and viral behavioral growth and new marketing companies, has had a ton of tools over time that have been developed. Marketers have massive suites of CRM tools and other things that all try to help you figure out how to understand your customer base and get more customers and new acquisition tools, etcetera. In this new world where we're building the products and doing it themselves, the foundational data, the tool set is having the right data. Really understanding who your users are, what they're doing, how they're converting, how they're engaging with the products, you can figure out where to actually work from, where they're coming in from. Mixpanel, KISSmetrics, even Google Analytics, but I think the other two are better and richer today, will help you get that started.

Then as you keep building, you do want to learn how to make decisions and learn what decisions you make and how those affect things. Tools like Optimizely, this amazing new A/B testing tool that helps you learn from decisions in a way that you never could before. So I recommend using that. But it's easy to go "Well, I have all these tools and growth isn't happening" or "Well, I could grow faster if I actually had all these tools but we don't have them useful." And none of that is really true. The answer is it takes just understanding your data and having theories about features and actually continuing to iterate and learn and be right. So the more that you can do there, the better.

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