with Josh Elman

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Growth vs Hacking

How is sustainable growth different than hacking?

Josh Elman

Product Guy, Greylock Partner, Growth Expert

Lessons Learned

The entire mission of a startup is to grow.

Growth hacking is using non-sustainable tactics to get things started.

Growth is about understanding the components that cause your product to sustainably grow.


Lesson: Growth with Josh Elman

Step: #1 Growth vs Hacking: How is sustainable growth different than hacking?

The entire mission of a startup of a company that's small is to become large, and to become meaningful, and to take this vision, this idea and bring it to everything. So the right environment is when where everybody is thinking if our number one goal is to 10X our user base this year, how is everything that I'm building or you're building helping us do that, and understand where that contextually fits. Sometimes keeping the site up or making the site faster is the most important thing you can do for growth, because if you don't have a product or it's too damn slow, nothing else matters.

Sometimes working on a new viral funnel is the most important thing you can do. Sometimes it's adding this important new feature so that now we have this feature we can attract an entirely new audience or give them something else to do that will make them richer in the product. So you just want to make sure that everything you're prioritizing, you can go under the rubric, is this the most important thing this person could be doing? To make sure that a year from now we have a lot more users than we do today.

Growth hacking is this new concept, this term that has been used for what kind of tactics people might use to do growth and often they feel like hacks. And often they're used to get things started. The Airbnb story is very famous. They started by going on Craigslist and both listing places for rent and finding people who were listing place for rents and say "Hey would you come list on our site" and they were finding that Craigslist was the place where there was already a lot of demand. But they were saying "Hey you might want a better listing, or better experience. Come and try using our marketplace." That's kind of a hack, because you know that over time it’s not sustainable to keep going after Craigslist and whether Craigslist even blocks you over time, that that's not a sustainable way to get your marketplace going. That's kind of a hack.

Other growth hacking people may talk about virality efforts and try to figure out how do I optimize exactly the message of the viral invite in order to do it. They call that sort of A/B testing and hacking for growth hacking. But I think fundamentally growth isn't about these hacks beyond things getting started. Growth is really about systematically understanding what are the components that cost my product to sustainably grow day after day, week after week, and build these robust programs that do that.

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