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Andrew Chen is a writer and entrepreneur focused on mobile products, metrics, and user growth. His newsletter on growth/metrics is available at http://andrewchen.co He is an advisor/investor for tech startups including AngelList, AppSumo, Barkbox, Cardpool (acq. by Safeway), Dropbox, Frankly (TSX.V:TLK), Gravity (acq. by AOL), Grovo, Kiva, Product Hunt, Qualaroo, Qik (acq. by Skype), Secret, Wanelo, and ZenPayroll.

Previously, he was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV), a Silicon Valley-based firm with $2B under management. Prior to MDV, Andrew was director of product marketing at Audience Science, where he started up the ad network business that today reaches over 380 million uniques. He also co-authored a patent on personalized advertising and holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Washington. 

  • AG

    Alex Gu

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, love your blog!

    So you have lots of experience on growth, what are the most common mistakes startups make on growth?

    Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      By far the biggest three mistakes are:
      1) thinking that growth consists of silver bullet hacks, rather than a systematic approach that requires careful thought.
      2) not having product/market fit, and thus no growth, but thinking that the problem is that the product hasn't been optimized enough.
      3) people getting all their knowledge about growth from reading blogs, rather than actually doing the work, running the experiments, and building great products.

      • KR

        Kamil Rextin

        over 3 years ago #

        "reading blogs, rather than actually doing the work, running the experiments, and building great products." +1.

        • NE

          Nick Eubanks

          over 3 years ago #

          seems [growth] and [SEO] could be interchangeable here :)

          • VV

            Visakan Veerasamy

            over 3 years ago #

            Actually, any sort of learning. You could even be talking about fitness and nutrition– you can do all the reading, but if you're not working out and making yourself healthy meals, the knowledge isn't all that useful. Classic difference between "knowing-of" and "knowing-how"

      • AL

        Ariel Lederman

        over 3 years ago #

        "people getting all their knowledge about growth from reading blogs, rather than actually doing the work, running the experiments, and building great products." DEFINITELY agree with this statement. I know alot of people who read countless blogs but don't apply it in real life.

  • SA

    Soroosh Azary Marhabi

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew!
    We’re a startup in Iran, developing a vertical search engine for online retail stores, which are experiencing an exponential boom in number & in sales. The market has some big players, but it has no dominant player yet (like amazon), so there is room for a search engine.
    What do you think we should consider in our growth engine?
    Thanks for your time!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Search is tricky, because only two things have worked so far: 1) Build something that has the "it works" feature, like Google. And 2) Partner with people with very large audiences, like Yahoo, to drive traffic. If you want to count some of the shopping comparison apps, they started out by buying a ton of SEM traffic and arbitraging it in the early years. But to be honest, it sounds like things are early for you and the first thing you need to do is to prove that people actually want this product. Then once you build a base of traffic, you can start optimizing it.

  • ND

    Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew! Thanks for the AMA. What five books would you recommend to a SaaS Consultant to read?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I've compiled a couple lists of books over the years- here's the latest one. http://andrewchen.co/ten-classic-books-that-define-tech/

      Within a cutting edge industry like SaaS that's always moving, there aren't many books that are completely up to date with the newest stuff. Ultimately you'll have to talk to others who are doing good work in the field, go to events/conferences, and read all the same blogs we're all reading.

      The feedback loop to get best practices from the industry into book form seems to take long enough, in most cases, that by the time it's in a book it's pretty obsolete or becomes super abstract/strategic/theoretical.

  • MS

    Melvin Salas

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew! There are features that help you improve user retention, and others that help you incentivise users to invite other users. The combination of both its what eventually sum up your growth. So, my question would be: How do you know when to focus on retention and when on growing? Or when you should focus on one big feature (lets say ~2 months to build, but with high growth expected) or several small features (~1 week to build but small increments). Should you build the big feature first and then the small ones, or the other way around? How would you recommend the best way to get organized and approach this issue?

    Thanks!

  • AC

    Andrew Chen

    over 3 years ago #

    Okay! My time is up! Thanks to everyone for asking questions. It sounds like, for the folks who are working on pretty new products, that they just need to nail the product experience rather than worrying about little tactics they can use. That's my biggest takeaway from these questions. Good luck everyone.

  • NS

    Nipun Singh

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew,

    I'm currently a rising 3rd year at the University of Virginia studying Computer Science. What are some recommendations you have to a college student / person early in their career that wants to get into growth hacking / growth engineering?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Move to the Bay Area and work for one of the tech companies here that has a formal growth team. There's a few lists floating around of those companies. Barring that, move to SF and get a job as a PM or PMM. Here's some great advice I'd also refer you to: http://hunterwalk.com/2014/03/08/new-grads-midstage-startups-are-your-best-first-job-in-tech/.

      Ultimately, I think being in SF is a huge huge deal and if you want to learn from the best people, I'd get out here ASAP. One of the biggest regrets of my early career was waiting until 25 to move to SF rather than doing it right away.

  • ZF

    Zsolt Farkas

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andy!

    Big up for you to hold this AMA.

    Simple question from me. What do you think, what is the minimum crowd at Split testing that is representative? How many impressions/clicks/money spent per ad? (lets say a B2C mobile startup wants to validate with 10 ads for a week in SF,LA and NY - looking for the best converting ad)

    I work as a growth focused marketer at an accelerator and we are always struggling with this issue with the portfolio companies.

    Thanks a lot!

    Cheers,

    Zs.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew, Thanks so much for doing this AMA. My question relates to your essay “The most common mistake when forecasting growth for new products” http://andrewchen.co/the-most-common-mistake-when-forecasting-growth-for-new-products-and-how-to-fix-it/ . It seems so obvious in hindsight, but I think your suggestion that “Inputs are what you actually control” was really profound. I’m curious how you think that CEOs and even investors can use this insight of “control the inputs" to prevent surprises when it comes to growth, rather than waiting for the lagging indicator of actual results. In other words, what would the ideal CEO/board report look like to provide transparency around growth expectations into the next quarter? How simple/complex should this type of a report be? Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Hello sir! Yeah this is an important problem because board discussions tend to happen at the level of aggregate statistics - which we've gotten smarter about as an industry (MAU, churn rates, etc.). But inputs imply that you also have to convey the model for how growth happens, and these inputs will be hard to compare to other industry benchmarks that are readily available. So ultimately, it seems like you still have to talk through the stuff where people can talk about comps, but also break that down into a small number of inputs so that the team knows what to focus on. Hard problem when investors can have ADHD and just want to talk about the big easy numbers.

  • SP

    Steven Pesavento

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, Love following your blog. Thanks for all the great info & resources.

    Companies like HubSpot (w/ Inbound Conference), Moz (w/ MozCon), and many others have leveraged conferences & training programs (both paid & free) as a growth lever for their product lines.

    Based on your experience building community online & in person, what factors do you think play into success or failure with this tactic?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Events/conferences/etc are clearly an amazing lever for B2B companies. So first off, the most important thing is that the approach fits your product and targets a a smaller group of people. The second thing, and this is true for both content marketing and events, is that the actual content of the events work best when it's really adding value to the ecosystem. If you can bring together a great group of people and have them discuss super valuable topics that people want to hear about, that's the most important thing. Third, it's important to also think about how to leverage live event/conference content afterwards in an online format. CreativeLIVE is doing some great innovative stuff in this direction, and it's worth looking at.

      • SP

        Steven Pesavento

        over 3 years ago #

        Andrew, above are some great points. I especially agree about your last point on: "leveraging the live event content after the event". Thank you!

  • NS

    Nidhi Shah

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey @andrewchen

    Thanks for taking out time to do this AMA. Can you share a technique on how can an app developer ensure closing the viral loop for his mobile app?

    Interested because I write for mobile first startups.

    Thanks in advance!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Wireframe all the steps in your viral loop, put it on a spreadsheet, and measure the real numbers. Fix the holes, and repeat.

  • EV

    Emily Veach

    over 3 years ago #

    "Dive into Backchannel" has been on my to-do list for a while now. Can you tell me your top reasons why I should make it a top priority? :)

    Or, what have you learned since the community launched?

    Thanks for the AMA! Really enjoy the newsletter and no-fluff resources.

  • KY

    Kaushal Yadav

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew! It's always good to go through your blog posts. Just love it the way you feed our minds time to time.

    Would like to know your thoughts on Travel industry?

    Do you think that Travel companies/startups are still lacking innovation? And can do better? How do you think a Travel startup can do things differently than others are doing right now in the market? (Worldwide)

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Travel is super broad - it's hotels, airplanes, Airbnb, travel packages, loyalty programs, taxis, food/entertainment, gambling, etc. - so it's hard to comment on this question specifically. If you have a more detailed question on this, let me know.

  • VG

    Vivek George

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew! Thanks for doing this. Love your writing. Do you have an industry avg numbers for active user growth for mobile apps?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I'm sure that the average industry numbers for mobile user growth is pretty close to +0%/month. Most apps fail and no one uses them - that's why there's millions of apps and only a few winners.

  • JP

    Jason Puckett

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew- I see that you have a patent on personalized advertising. Can you please elaborate on how important you think patents of IP are in the software realm. They seem very difficult to obtain and even more difficult to enforce. Are they worth it?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      For startups they're useless. You can just hire a patent attorney and for a few tens of thousands, they'll write one. We happened to get one because we wanted to build a portfolio for a very B2B/enterprisey adtech company, but I don't know that it mattered much in the scheme of things. It's fun though.

  • EY

    Eslam Yosef

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, thanks for doing this.

    I'm in an early stage of creating a blogging community: http://jumzler.com

    What advices would you give to me in this stage?

    Thanks in advance!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      My advice is- rather than posting your link to GH and asking for vague/general feedback, you should focus on creating great content and building as much value as possible in the ecosystem. Then driving traffic will become relatively easy, since people will love what you've built. Lead with value.

  • CB

    Charlie Benkendorf

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    What are your thoughts on crossing the chasm for a hardware startup?

    In one of your articles, you describe how a brand new startup should go after a big juicy market (validated with Google Keyword Research tool), then segment to find one that you can execute much better than existing competition.

    In our case, the market is huge (people who cook at home) but our current segment is small (people who use our kind of devices). One big benefit of our device is that it makes it easy to cook great food consistently. So if I look more broadly, for example, there is a segment of people looking for an easy cook. Searches for "easy cook" are in the tens of millions.

    So I can begin to create content, ads, landing page focusing on these more mainstream points of view.

    What else can help break into mass consciousness? our primary growth channels have been SEO (from recipes) and paid.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      The good news is there's basically been no better time in decades to build a hardware company. So nice timing on that. Luckily, you don't have to reinvent the wheel on this- building a landing page, doing a kickstarter, building a social media following, partnering with foodie blogs/YouTubers/etc. I think step one is to do a bunch of this hustle work before you even talk about how to scale the growth over time. Scaling will be retail partnerships, paid customer acquisition, etc.

  • TB

    Tuan Bui Anh

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for finding the time for answering our questions here!

    I have eCommerce WooCommerce (WordPress) extension and going to launch Private Beta testing in August. Our main target audience is freelancers / web developers. Which growth channel should I pay attention for getting first beta users on board?

    Thanks,
    Tuan.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      If you're talking about the first users, and not thinking about scale, step one is probably literally just emailing them or reaching out via Twitter. Also intros can help. I don't really think of this as a "channel" but rather the initial customer development stage of your product. You can worry about channels later, when it's clear people love your product.

  • AF

    Arran Ferguson

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, I work for a new tech startup called Frame. I'm working in the marketing department and haven't got a marketing budget, what can i do to gain growth on social media and app downloads?
    Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      OK, so you have no budget, and I assume no control of engineering resources. There's a ton you can still do- content marketing, partnerships, list swaps, events/conferences, PR, etc. Sounds like you just need to do some research and make a list of potential marketing activities.

  • NB

    Nathan Black

    over 3 years ago #

    Given the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs (current channels currently will get increasingly saturated/less effective), what do you think might replace existing ways to gain mobile traction?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I don't think of "mobile traction" as getting saturated, but instead, think of the specific channels as getting saturated. Mobile install ads on Facebook, for example, were much cheaper before and are now expensive as games cos are bidding it up. So I think you want to look closer and figure out what channels are relevant there. It's still early for platforms like Pinterest, YouTube, and a lot of mobile advertising, actually. Plenty of opportunities out there if you have a strong product that monetizes and can fund paid ad campaigns.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew
    Thanks so much for doing this.
    Could you list some benefits of your Backchannel community that are unique to it?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I'm active on it every week and try to be helpful. It's really a way to redirect all the private email questions that I end up ignoring into a public forum where I can help more people.

  • AB

    Alex Bhandari-Young

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew! I'm a student in college and have just finished making a website for student entrepreneurs to share ideas and collaborate. I am starting to launch and would love some general advice for taking a finished website or app public and gaining popularity. I have started
    1) emailing the heads of popular groups and clubs to get the word out
    2) posting in Facebook groups with an audience I think would be interested
    3) telling everyone I know to try to get the site to spread by word of mouth
    And 4) plan to look into Facebook ads next to target students at the university so they keep seeing it and eventually check it out :)

    I would love to get your thoughts on this approach and any other ideas you might have. I think many budding entrepreneurs face the problem of how to get their product out there and would find this helpful.

    Thanks!
    Alex

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      These are all great ideas! Given that you're a college student, and surrounded by college students, you'd know best what initial channels to use to reach your classmates. I think the only thing that people like me, outside your environment, can really give advice on, is what to do once you've saturated your initial channels and need to scale up. But what you've said above seems to make sense. I'd also try to understand what others have done for the same market - Yik Yak, Tinder, etc. - and see what you can borrow.

    • GH

      Grant Horvath

      over 3 years ago #

      Alex, I have gone through this experience in the last 12 months: Focus on the niche market "Entrepreneurs" and everyone associated in that group at your university. Teachers, Dean of the college of Entrepreneurship, business Frat groups, if they exist. College is really tough to get on board, Most emails will go through with no response, but don't be discouraged, college is simply a very difficult market.

  • CT

    Chris Tan

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    Me and my team are working on a local classified app like Gumtree/Craigslist for an education and coaching niche. One problem we see with an idea like this is user retention. Once a transaction has been made, if students successfully find a teacher or coach, it may be some time before either use our product again. This is the same logic of an ideal dating site, which does not have good user retention by virtue of matching up people really well.

    Do you have any insight or advice for a product like this? It can be related to user retention or not, it's just one challenge we foresee.

    Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Agree that you've put your finger on an important problem. There's a few ways to resolve this- 1) make enough money on each transaction that it doesn't matter. For example, Airbnb is like this- people don't travel often, but when they do, Airbnb makes so much money the whole marketplace works. 2) Other solution is, build in more workflow and try to become more useful in the day to day. There's a new category of products called "Market Networks" that's worth looking at, which is this kind of an idea, which keeps people engaged as they use the product over time- for example, actually helping people do the coaching/edu not just acquiring the customer.

  • VJ

    Vishveshwar Jatain

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew,

    I've worked in writing/editing/content management both in print and online for many years now. As interesting as the field is, I think my profile would benefit substantially if I picked up some technical chops so compliment my existing skill set.

    What are the some design markup and general programming languages I should start with that won't intimidate me too much in the beginning while also widening my horizons?

    It doesn't necessarily have to be a language. It could also be a software you think I should pick up. Any general advice even.

    Also, love your blog. And thanks for doing the AMA!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I don't know that you need to learn how to program to be more effective. That's a long journey. Probably most interesting is to learn the entire content stack, starting with Wordpress. Then add analytics, AB testing, etc. And then social media tools. If you want to dive deeper from a technical standpoint, probably learning HTML/CSS/JS and being able to get Wordpress to do exactly what you want is the best place to start.

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 3 years ago #

    Why do startups fail after reaching product market fit? What's the percentage of startups that fail after reaching product market fit?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I don't think anyone is tracking the percentages, nor is it easy to define what it means to fail or if a product has hit product/market fit. This is all industry shorthand/jargon, after all. You could say a company like Netscape "failed" since it was "crushed" by Microsoft, but it was still sold for $5B and everyone made lots of money. That's kind of an aside.

      To try and qualitatively give an opinion to your question- it's clear to me that just because your product works well for customers doesn't mean that you can produce it profitably, or scale it profitably, or that your investors/cofounders won't screw you over, or many other bad things that afflict startups. I imagine if you looked at a more general list of why startups fail, many of the same reasons would still apply, but obviously not having p/m fit exacerbates the problems.

  • GH

    Grant Horvath

    over 3 years ago #

    Andrew, you said that the first 3-7 days of an app are critical to the retention because it is important to get users hooked. For a social networking app, what are some examples in "bending the curve via activation" and not through notification spam?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      All the big social networks do a great job getting you connected right away, which builds your initial feed, rather than sending tons of notifications. Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin all try to get you to the magic moment of a feed populated with useful info.

  • JH

    Justin H

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Andrew,

    Really enjoy your newsletter. Our team is building a SAAS product geared towards brands and agencies and we are getting ready to acquire our first customers.

    Any best practices to acquire early customers/use cases for an early SAAS startup?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      For SaaS, one of the big foundational tools is being great at content marketing. There's a ton of material on the internet for that, but I would focus on publishing really great, unique content, that your audience will love. You'll figure out the pipeline on how to connect your readers to your customers later on.

  • JP

    Jaakko Piipponen

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew and thanks for doing the AMA!

    I was wondering how would you address churn in a SaaS startup? The Metrics guest blog on your site was awesome, but understandably couldn’t dive deep into every one of them.

    The issue is that the customers subscribe the product (surveying tool) only once or twice a year at $50/m, feeling that they get near-full value of the product. However, the customer would get significantly more accurate results by surveying their customer base with drip campaigns throughout the year.

    Right now, I’m working on revamping the onboarding emails to educate the customers about the benefits of the continuous use.

    Any thoughts? What do you think about educating customers even before they “buy in?” (Say, experimenting with the pricing page highlighting the benefits of annual use.)

    Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      It sounds like you are thinking about the right problems- better activation, more engagement. And you probably add features over time to specifically try to target higher frequency use. Good luck.

  • GP

    Gabor Papp

    over 3 years ago #

    Every time I read your blogposts, I feel like I walk away a lot smarter. Does it happen to you when you read someone elses work? If yes, who are these people? Who do you regularly read / follow?

  • KV

    Kanchana Vivek

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, Did companies like Uber, Airbnb start off with Product/ Market fit? If not, what other strategies did they use initially to capture the market that never existed in the firstplace?

  • AM

    Andrew McInnes

    over 3 years ago #

    What up and coming growth teams are you excited about today?

  • AL

    Andrea Loubier

    over 3 years ago #

    What experiments or growth strategies would you focus on for a productive communication app, specific for Windows OS users and for the B2C market?

    What would you do different if addressing the B2B market?

  • RT

    Rajyavardhan Tater

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    I'm working on an android app where users can view opinion of their facebook friends on various issues. We have been able to get our friends on board but what are the most effective ways in which we can ensure that friends of friends also install the app? Thanks.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      First, the product has to be great. Your friends have to stick around. Once you get some organic growth going, then you have to think about the "viral loop" and why each new user refers a new user. That might be something like a mutual benefit - like Skype's free calling - or something like Uber's give-a-ride-get-a-ride program. And then after that starts working, you can optimize the loop. Good luck!

  • SJ

    searchism james

    over 3 years ago #

    Andrew- thanks for the AMA!
    Big fan of Barkbox- what can you tell us about their growth success and what are the plans for the future for the brand.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I think you'd have to ask them. But i'm super bullish since spending on pets is up to the right, and families are having fewer children at a later age. Pets are sort of a child-replacement and I think we'll see more products in the future targeting this segment. DogVacay is another successful VC-backed pet startup.

  • AB

    Anthony Bandera

    over 3 years ago #

    Dear Andrew,

    You are fri*ing awesome!

    If you were running a team that is focused on growth. How much input should the marketer vs designer have on the on boarding process... Andd how would you balance and structure these teams?

    P.S. You are the man!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      For the onboarding process, typically that's a product function so typically that reports up into whoever is running the product roadmap. The reason for this is that making modifications to the onboarding process typically involves engineers, and design/product/engineering end up working together on these kinds of projects. I'm sure marketers and designers can provide useful input, but typically that's the configuration as far as I've seen it.

  • SB

    Sarah Bidmead

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew
    Really enjoy your blog! I'm working with a company who has been approached to work with new brand on an ongoing basis creating all their digital marketing and branding, and we're searching for an agreement or contract base/template that sets up an ongoing marketing contract that includes a percentage of sales and a percentage of the profit from their business if they do eventually decide to sell - as well as a monthly retainer.
    Do you have any ideas on where to start, where to find a template or a place to begin?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you :)

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      No idea. This kind of sounds like an affiliate contract with a monthly retainer as the base. But it sounds like something you'd want to draft up with your favorite lawyer.

      • SB

        Sarah Bidmead

        over 3 years ago #

        Thanks for getting back to me. Is this something similar to how you structured the Dropbox agreement? ;) There is not a lot of practical info for deal structuring available - would be a great blog post!!!

  • MM

    Manjit M

    over 3 years ago #

    Hello Andrew!

    Been a big fan of your blog. We are testing an MVP related to an on-demand marketplace for at-home beauticians and stylists in India. We have designed custom landing pages, explainer videos and also have a signup section (basically we'll provide a discount for first few signups). We plan to have Google and Facebook ads and also plan to invest in content marketing/blog to get our first set of customers. I would like to know about 2 basic things:
    1. Can you suggest other ways by which we can get more customers to our site and make them signup for our service
    2. How can we be sure whether our MVP is a success or should we pivot (how many minimum customers to look at, ratio of visitors/signups required, other metrics to look at, etc)

    It's indeed a pleasure to read your blog! Thanks for the AMA!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Without really diving into specifics, it hard to say how to answer the first question. It sounds like you are doing the basics. I would look at what channels are already being used to reach the in-home stylist market (magazines? events? blogs? etc.) and figure out how to take advantage of the same metrics.
      For 2, you might be surprised how hard it is to judge if something's a success or failure. Of course there are some metrics you might look at, but especially in the early days, you won't have very big numbers to make that decision. So a lot of it will be qualitative and if you think you're solving a big enough problem with people. Sean Ellis has also pioneered a lot of Net Promoter Score-related ideas, and you can compare to other marketplace metrics, but both of those imply you have a nice base of users before you can pursue those ideas.

  • AF

    Andy Ford

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, big fan of your blog, in particular your work on referral.

    I'm head of growth of a citation tool utility app and website for students. Circa 60% of our growth has come from user referral of our app so far and we want to increase this number. There's currently 3 hypothesis on how best to achieve this and I'm wondering which horse you would back if you had to place a bet on which one would end up being the most fruitful (plus any other hypothesis most welcome)

    1. Focus 100% on making the product awesome and super easy to share.
    2. Develop an incentive based referral programme e.g Invite friends to unlock a new feature
    3. Develop new feature(s) which require users to share / invite friends in order to get more value from the product e.g social / group features.

    In reality I know we need to hedge our bets and test different options but I'm keen to hear if any of the 3 strategies jump out at you as being better (or worse) bets than the others, based on your experience - or indeed if you can recommend any other strategies to achieve this goal.

    Thanks for your help!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Those 3 projects all sound reasonable. It's hard to make a prioritization discussion without the details. I'd approach this by building out a few cases for each- what % of users will it affect, what will the response rates be, how much topline might it generate? And really discuss it, using as much data as you can, and try to run a couple experiments.

      The biggest bottleneck I can see from your list is that you might be developing referral features not everyone will use. Which one has the highest % of users interacting with it? Feels like #1 might be the case? Not sure, you would know better. Very situational.

  • AG

    Adam Gorbe

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    The current app ecosystem comes with certain hard limits (# of installed app, # of regularly used apps, retention curve) that you explored in depth in your posts. These provide a certain environment and rules that apps have to abide. In your opinion, can these limitations be pushed further by new technologies, e.g. deep linking?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Some of these usage patterns are pretty standard across platforms. Cohort retention curves all look pretty crappy, whether you are talking about web or mobile or anything else. I'm sure a retention curve for a restaurant even looks like an exponential dropoff. New technology can always change certain things, but it's hard to predict. Deep-linking could specifically be interesting in making low-frequency, high-intent, traditionally SEO-driven apps more viable in the mobile ecosystem, but it depends a lot on the implementation.

  • AL

    Andrew Lee

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew!
    I am a big fan of the essays you write and have gleaned a lot of useful information from them which I have been able to use and incorporate my own startup.

    'What’s your viral loop? Understanding the engine of adoption' is the article I have been focused on most recently because I want to try and incorporate a viral loop into my website. The problem I am having is that most examples I have read about such as Dropbox and Airbnb have something tangible to give away (free storage or discounts on apartments). This makes it a lot easier to incentivize people to share their product/service. The other format would be something like the 'Will It Blend?' featured in your article. However, I am not sure I could produce something appropriate for a website that is based on finding local services rather than something like a blender.

    My website is a lead generation website where users can find get 5 quotes for any type of local service you can think of by simply filling out a questionnaire (similar to Thumbtack). We just introduce the two parties and let them sort out the rest. Since no transaction takes place on my platform, it makes it difficult to come up with something that would we can offer a user at the end of the funnel that would encourage them to share the website with their friends.

    How would you approach this problem? Is there anything you can think of that would incentivize someone to share my site?

    Thanks for your time.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Traditionally, virality works best for high-frequency, high-retention products like social and communication. That's why Skype, Hotmail, Facebook, and others are so great. They are inherently viral products.

      For a leadgen product, I would lean away from virality. It's probably not the right channel for you because leads are generally high-intent, low-frequency, and it doesn't make that much sense to refer friends.

      • AL

        Andrew Lee

        over 3 years ago #

        Andrew,

        Thanks for taking the time to get back to me, much appreciated. I am looking forward to your next essay!

  • AT

    anuj tyagi

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    We are building a social discovery app in India,We started as hyper-local dating app but realized it's really tough to acquire female customers for dating app in India(loved your article about dating app) so we decided to broad our reach with interest based social discovery.what's your view about social discovery space ? Do you think people need a Pinterest of People kind of platform?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Ideas are hard to critique :) Great companies often start with weird sounding ideas, and vice versa. You'll have to try it to find out. But I will say that in general, "meeting new people" apps have not had a good track record. They seem hard to build since they end up mostly being about dating, and are plagued with the same problems I Mentioned before.

  • TC

    Tim Chan

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, what's the tool you use for growth hack? Can you share some good resource for us to learn growth hacking too ? Thank you so much!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I recommend that you use your brain, first and foremost, to think about growth. It's more about learning, talking to people, and practice, over using a specific set of tools - those tools always change over time.

  • AS

    Achim Schwarz

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    we are a startup and developing a mobile marketplace for 2nd hand items. but as many marketplaces before we have the issue of chicken and egg.. getting attractive users to get more drive to the marketplace.. we are thinking of different GH tactics to push virality like user can only use 3 picture of item.. if he wants more he must be share to unlock more pictures.. or he can only upload 3 items.. if users want more he needs invite more friends..

    is there any important point what we need to check.. especially for a mobile marketplace.. any advices and infos are welcome. Thank you very much and for your time.

    best--

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I wouldn't focus much on tactics, when you are just getting started. Just focus on making a valuable marketplace where buyers/sellers are happy, and you can layer on tactics later once it's working, to accelerate.

  • AC

    Alex Craig

    over 3 years ago #

    Hello! I've read your professional pedigree before, but didn't know about your B.S. in Applied Mathematics. In addition to your focus on metrics (which seems like an obvious extension), how has applied mathematics influenced your career, and how you approach mobile products and user growth?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Honestly, picking my degree wasn't that important of a decision compared to other stuff- it's more of a result of my interest in numbers than a causal effect. I like the idea that people are "educated, not trained" by their universities. The bigger and more important decision for me was to get into tech at an early age- doing my first job in software testing when I was 15. That definitely influenced me more than my undergrad.

  • AC

    Alessia Camera

    over 3 years ago #

    How important are communities to drive growth?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      Sometimes very important, sometimes not important at all. Depends on the product.

  • LF

    Leonardo Federico

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    What books about Growth / Adv would you recommend to read?

  • TK

    Tom Kay

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew

    Interested to read all your answers!

    A fun question for you - riffing on the concept of the law of shitty click through rates & current under exploited growth channels.

    If you could start 3 businesses tomorrow morning what would they be & what channels would they be taking advantage of?

    Cheers

    Tom

  • PP

    Paolo Perazzo

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    which tools do you recommend to use to compare our D1/D3/D7/D30 with your data in here: http://andrewchen.co/new-data-shows-why-losing-80-of-your-mobile-users-is-normal-and-that-the-best-apps-do-much-better/
    Flurry (Return Rate) or Mixpanel (First time instead of Recurring I guess)?
    Thanks and great work - would love to see more of this data!

  • AC

    Anubhav Chopra

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, thank you for your time!

    How do you recommend B2B companies to focus on Growth? Do you measure the viral coefficient for B2B products? Is it different from B2C products?

  • AC

    Anubhav Chopra

    over 3 years ago #

    I was just curious, how do companies like Facebook or Twitter acquire new customers once they have reached the masses?

  • AC

    Anubhav Chopra

    over 3 years ago #

    We have all heard of the growth hacking stories like Dropbox, are you seeing any new trends in growth hacking?

  • SC

    Samantha Cuellar

    over 3 years ago #

    What is you most favorite Growth Hack? How did you execute and what were the results?

  • SB

    Stefan Bruun

    over 3 years ago #

    What would be your 3 best advices for new PMs with ambitions of becoming exceptional at user growth?

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      1) move to SF. 2) work at a great company or late-stage startup. 3) Learn from others in the ecosystem.
      People try to skip 1, but I don't know that it's possible.

  • SM

    Savicom MSD

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew! In your role as an adviser, what are some of the most memorable growth challenges you've seen tech startups encounter-- and how were they overcome (or were they?)?

  • AM

    Andrew McInnes

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you taking the itme to do this AMA.

    I am also curious to learn whether there is an important truth about growth that very few people agree with you on.

    Many thanks!

    Drew

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      From even the questions in this Q&A, you can see that most people think of growth as a bunch of tactics, rather than a deep aspect of your product strategy. And also they tend to lump stuff like PR or traditional marketing activities into "growth" when I think of the former as marketing.

    • AM

      Andrew McInnes

      over 3 years ago #

      Thank you very much!

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 3 years ago #

    After achieving product market fit? What is your systematic process for testing and choosing a customer acquisition channel?

  • EL

    Erik Larson

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew!
    Been reading your posts for a while and always find them insightful.

    My questions: How can you tell if a retention drop-off is solvable by growth tactics (on boarding optimization, re-activation emails, push notifications, etc) or if it based on a fundamental problem with the product that requires a more fundamental change?

    Thanks!

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 3 years ago #

      I've never seen a retention curve get fixed with more emails.

      Onboarding/activation is more likely, since it's about unlocking the product's fundamental value. But more notifications, no.

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 3 years ago #

    Do you find that it is true that startups scale on 1-2 channels?

  • EL

    Erik Larson

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew,

    One more question - given that substantial growth can be driven from various product optimizations, where should the line be between the growth team and the product team?

    Thanks again!

  • PT

    Peter Thomson

    over 3 years ago #

    Have you come across any great examples of startups allowing their customers to become investors? Has your work in growth hacking allowed you any insights into the changes happening in the world of angel investing and equity crowdfunding?

  • OM

    Oleh Mykhaylovych

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Andrew, I'm wondering if you can suggest on how good should be service that provides high quality leads to stand comparing to other channels like GoogleAdwords.

    What would you do to assure startups to order such service?
    i.e. http://1000leads.co/

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