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Hey - I’m Nilan, VP of Growth at TransferWise and an advisor to startups. Welcome to my first GrowthHackers AMA! At TransferWise we use peer-to-peer technology to help save people money when they send money abroad. On average, we save people up to 89% compared to their banks or services like Western Union. We’re backed by Peter Thiel, Richard Branson and a16z. To date we’ve moved over £3 billion of our customers’ money, saving them over £135 million. We’re also growing. Fast. Word of mouth is our biggest growth factor and we have a strong focus on NPS-driven growth. You can read my deck on NPS growth here. On the product side, we operate in clearly structured autonomous teams with a focus on hitting KPIs that drive growth. More about that here. I’d love to answer your questions on any of the above and how we’ve leveraged growth at TransferWise without losing focus on maintaining our culture. A bit about me: Alongside helping TransferWise grow, I’m also passionate about tequila (just ask anyone who’s ever been drinking with!), startups and FinTech. You can read my latest blog on the latter here. Find me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nilanp

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for doing this AMA Nilan and team. We really appreciate you sharing your growth insights with the GH community.

    Nilan this question is for you... What do you believe that you uniquely understand about growth that most marketers and growth teams don’t understand? What, if anything, is different about your approach?

  • DR

    David Rodríguez

    over 3 years ago #

    Hello Nilan and GH team! Thanks for this AMA.

    Question: I have seen your Slideshare focusing on NPS Growth at start, but do you think the same principle can work for B2B business? If so... what barely free channels do you used to get this first customers to work on?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      I've got very little experience in scaling B2B businesses and am very impressed with anyone that can figure out how to scale them in a customer centric way.

      That said I have advised a few B2B startups and a few principles I've seen in the more successful ones are:

      - Be unequivocally the source of revenue for your clients
      - If your customers spend more with you they make more

      I've seen a few B2B businesses try to align their product roadmaps with things that directly impact their customers growth rather than their own. That seems to work

  • ML

    Mikael Lirbank

    over 3 years ago #

    Before you turned to NPS (before your product was really working), was there a single metric you focused on to help you get NPS-ready, or how did you operate? I find many startups (including myself in previous lives) focus on growth metrics that are not right for their current phase, which many times has devastating effects on their (and mine) businesses so would be great to hear your thought process in the early phases.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 3 years ago #

    This one is for anyone on the growth team.... Can you give us some more details about how your team is organized? For example...
    - What are the roles?
    - Does marketing report into the growth team, vice versa or are they completely separate?
    - How much do you guys rely on shared resources or are you completely autonomous?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      See above there's no growth team :-)

      So one of our autonomous teams is performance marketing. They have a product manager and engineers and can change anything on the site, that enables them to grow traffic from Facebook. Hence marketing is an autonomous team in its own right. The only shared teams which don't have a growth KPI are HR and finance (we're working on fixing this too :-))

      • DM

        Depesh Mandalia

        over 3 years ago #

        That's super interesting - we've split paid marketing into a team with resources to achieve their KPIs. However CRO is its own team which owns landing pages; we're still working on whether landing pages are CRO or paid marketing functions... do you consider performance as paid marketing or does it include other non paid channels?

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          We see performance as Facebook, Google ads etc. , we have separate teams on Buzz and WoM

  • BR

    Bartolome Rodriguez

    over 3 years ago #

    Hello Nilan, thank you for this AMA!

    I'm a big fan of alternatives to banks and I have been using Transferwise for a while (we pay our employees through it).

    I would like to know how your referral system is working. The $150 rewards is pretty attractive, maybe too much, people could try to cheat the system just to get the reward. In the other hand, I'm quite happy with the service, and I would recommend it to anyone who need it, but it makes no sense to send my referral link to all my contact lists because I don't think many of them make international transfers (maybe is this the different between happy user and evangelist? Evangelist will send it anyway?). So How is it working for you ? Won't be more interesting to promote it in affiliate networks ?

    Thanks!

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Bartolome - thanks for the question

      Do people recommend us for money (mercenaries) or because they believe in our revolution (revolutionaries) ? The answer is our customers do it for both reasons, revolutionaries matter more than mercenaries today though and we try to optimise our product for both of them

  • AP

    Andrus Purde

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan - what's the analytics stack you use at Transferwise?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey dude

      We believe that our teams really own their KPIs if they own the way that they are measured. Take conversion rate . The path to conversion for a money transfer customer is different to that from someone buying tomatoes online. Hence we roll our own tools.

      ps

      the teams also keep an eye on mixpanel funnels and google analytics

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        To the point about owning KPIs - in one of the posts you linked to above, you said " Team’s fail when they struggle to identify the KPI they are trying to move"

        Do you have a framework for how to identify such KPIs?

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          We analyse NPS comments to find out what drives a great experience. Reading NPS comments you can figure out what matters to your customers. Speed, Convenience and Price matter to ours, so we have teams focussed on improving these.

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      over 3 years ago #

      Related question: What is your conversion stack?

  • YK

    Yannis Karagiannidis

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan,

    What's your Month-over-month Transaction / Visit growth and which traffic sources work best for you for user acquisition?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      We are growing at 10-20% MoM. We are heavily tied to the social graph of our customers. So facebook works well from a paid marketing perspective. (i.e. Facebook's similar audiences helps us reach friends of our customer base and hence re-inforce WoM).

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 3 years ago #

    Another question for @nilanp ... Would you agree that some growth roles are much easier than other growth roles? If so, how do you go about picking growth roles where you can really shine and avoiding ones where you would be doomed to failure?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      So we don't have a growth team. Everyone at TransferWise can impact user growth. We work in multi disciplinary product-engineering teams. Hiring great product people that can use data, and customer insight to improve our product and drive growth is the biggest challenge.

      • EO

        Eri Obot

        over 3 years ago #

        Greetings Nilan, thanks for your perspective. Interesting you mention this challenge because I'm interested in the Associate PM position in NYC. Can you speak further about this challenge and how you're resolving it? Would you say TW requires a special breed of product people (in addition to being revolutionaries) that aren't already in the market or does TransferWise product require a different skillset from what most people have/companies require? I'd love to contribute my support however possible to the rapidly growing NYC teams. Grateful to chat further if you have a moment.

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          For product we are looking for creative, analytical, structured (and driven) people. That have a natural focus on customers and can work with engineers. We've found product management in most companies to be quite a vacuous role. Product managers in corporations are good at managing stakeholders and getting budget approved, but don't necessarily have experience in: understanding what customers want; figuring out a neat solution, and working with engineers to validate this.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 3 years ago #

        Sorry for lack of clarity in my question. I actually meant the companies/products that you personally decide to work on.

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          Ah ! Really really good question. @seanellis your questions have given the most pause for thought.

          So - I'm pretty democratic and try to help everyone (i went to convent school). .

          On joining a startup (I'm full time revolutionary at TransferWise) - the most important consideration is the values of the founders. Startups always get really hard and strong values and integrity are all that get you through that.

          On advising startups its based on impact. Not based on reward. If I think I can help, then I try to. Over time as I've reduced the time I've spent advising - I more try to spend my time on problems I'm trying to figure the answer out to - e.g. how do you grow a startup without spending money on marketing. I've stopped trying to be the worlds best performance marketer.

          Also I'm pretty lucky that i've spent time with quite a few of the startups that are taking off - hence I get to have a really good feel for the team, product, market before spending time with a team. Totally recommend that kind of approach

  • DM

    Depesh Mandalia

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan. How do you guys manage the inherent challenges of autonomous teams and thus fewer roadblocks vs avoiding silos and chaos? Clear KPIs, roadmapping and objectives I get, but anything else?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Kristo - one of our founders likes to say our strategy is what the teams choose to focus on. There is no one whose job it is to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Its up to you - to figure out, which other teams are impacting your area (positively or negatively) and go talk. Once a quarter all our teams get together and share plans which helps too.

  • AB

    Avadhoot Bhambare

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan,

    Great going here (as well as in your venture)!!

    How do you convert/pull back users who have opted out/unsubscribed from your email lists? A "come back/miss you" approach is quite common however can you give some insight on some ways you tried already?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      We don't try to pull back unsubscribes. We try not to send DR emails and focus on emails our customers would find useful. E.g. launching new currencies. This gives us sky high open rates.

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      We dont spend any time trying to pull back customers who have unsubscriberd.

  • TK

    Tom Kay

    over 3 years ago #

    Nice to have someone at a London co doing an AMA.

    Less product, more marketing as questions go but would be interested to hear any insights you have :)

    How do you measure the ROI & effectiveness of the video PR stunts you do?

    How do you compare their relative effectiveness?

    How do they perform ROI wise vs other media channels? - how are you deciding what to invest vs other media channels / product resource?

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan,

    Thanks for doing this AMA. What were some of the early traction things you did that got the initial traction for Transferwise?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Great question Morgan

      So We only had 100 customers a month for the first year and we tried everything to grow.

      From looking at our data and talking to customers we started understanding who they were - international students, people who were paid in Eurors but lived in the UK and british people living in spain.

      • NP

        Nilan Peiris

        over 3 years ago #

        (continued) We tried a few "growth hacks" to get things going - e.g. going to universities with high proportions of foreign students and giving them referral bonuses if they invited their friends; hitting HR directors of businesses that paid people in Euros and telling them they could give their employees a payrise by paying with transferwise. We realised these hacks only worked when the person who was hustling on our behalf was an existing customer. (e.g. if the student or the HR director was a transferwise customer they told their friends) We got to traction by focussing on delighting our customers and asking them to tell their friends about TransferWise

        • MB

          Morgan Brown

          over 3 years ago #

          Awesome - thanks! That's some great insight on using trusted referrals and then scaling that out.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    Non-marketing question - What's the best tequila no one's ever heard of? :)

  • EO

    Eri Obot

    over 3 years ago #

    Greetings Nilan, so many gems here thanks. I'm wondering how your and Transferwise's growth strategies change when you expand to new areas, like NYC. What changes with strategies for customer acquisition, product, and team expansion/autonomy when you enter a new city? Specifically, what's the role of NYC in TW growth?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      The US is a pretty huge market - and we launched in NYC in February. We've learned a lot since then. Customers are different in every country, and we've found we've had to adjust marketing messaging and our product for the US. For example wire transfers aren't that easy to do in the US (our European product is built on wire transfers). We needed to develop an ACH (direct debit) solution to make the product easy enough to use for US customers. Focussing on NPS told us the product wasn't good enough and we had to go the extra mile to make our customers happy. We are always looking for ways to improve our product further.

      • EO

        Eri Obot

        over 3 years ago #

        Wonderful Nilan, thank you for your reply. How does TW forsee their growth in the offline remitting market -- amongst the brick and mortar WU goers for example? How are you gaining customers and insights in countries where online money transfer and internet access is new and rapidly growing yet comparatively under utilized. One revolution at a time perhaps. For example, now that TW offers more US options, like USD NGN for example, I'm curious to know how your teams are working with customers in the US, Nigeria and other recently added countries to make sure all insights are captured for product optimization given different behaviors, pain points, and infrastructures.

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          All customers in different countries are different and we are increasingly focussed on corridors - e.g. USD -> NGN, to improve our product and increase the relevance of our marketing. Hence over time we'll be making corridor specific changes to our product.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    One more q for you:
    Do you have a particular growth experiment that was either a big win or a big learning experience that you can share with us?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Refer a friend schemes. So - these only work, if your product is good enough for your customers to refer it naturally, but adding incentives to refer adds fuel to the fire.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan,

    How often do you measure NPS? Monthly/Quarterly/some other interval?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      We ask every customer the NPS question. However, we don't ask them all at the same time. (e.g. Some get asked soon after their 1st transfer, some after their 2nd transfer).

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        Why did you decide to do it that way?

        • NP

          Nilan Peiris

          over 3 years ago #

          Can't really comment - but you should be able to figure it out :-) We are trying to optimise our experience for different segments of customers...

  • MG

    Matteo Gamba

    over 3 years ago #

    Who's paying for dinner? the Mo's choices totally depend on this.

  • JB

    Jorge Bestard

    over 3 years ago #

    First of all, thank you guys for doing this AMA Nilan and team. As you know, I've been following Transferwise pretty closely, and as a US ex pat, really love the disruption you're causing in the space!

    Having said that, my experience has always been in B2B growth and I'm starting to be more interested in anything/everything related to high growth/scale b2c startups. I'm very curious... have you experienced working with b2b growth execs transposed into a b2c role? What was the outcome? Where do you think they fall short? Where do you think they excel?

    thanks once again!

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Good question. I think people with good B2B SaaS experience can be data and customer driven marketeers too !

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan, why did you get involved in money transferring? What's your interest in this field?

    Oh and any book recommendations? No specific, just whichever novel you've told others about the most.

    P.P.S. Thanks for doing this!

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey - I had no interest in FinTech or in money transfer. I joined TransferWise because I believe in the values of the founders and the change in the world we are trying to be (sounds like marketing bullshit - but its true)

  • AS

    Adam Szabo

    over 3 years ago #

    TransferWise is a great idea and a great product, kudos to you!

    When bank accounts and credit cards are involved, most people get really cautious signing up for a new service.

    What do you guys do in order to create a secure feeling for the site?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      We spent a lot of time in the early stages making the site look like a bank. It didn't work. People trust their friends - not trust symbols and testimonials.

      That said in early stage markets where we don't have a critical mass of customers - trust symbols are important.

  • BR

    Brad Ruderman

    over 3 years ago #

    Late to the game here, but my question would be, How does a consumer, transactional business measure cohorts? How do you know if a customer is "active" or if they have "churned"? Do you bucket users and then have an expectation of how much they should be using the platform?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey - good question. I don't see enough good debate around this.

      This quetsion is impossible to answer. At the end of the day, we can make assumptions that there are users that have different "frequencies" of transfer. E.g. Monthly users, daily users, quarterly users. You have no idea which group a user really is. All you can do is see if cohorts of customers are repeating at the same rate they've done over time.

  • JC

    Josh Caba

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks Nilan.

    If you were a brand new and completely unknown startup with no funding. What would be the most effective ways to get people to start visiting your site and gaining traction in the short-term?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Tell your friends, go find the places your customers hang out, tell them. Show your app to anyone interested. Watch their reaction. If they love it and they would tell their friends. Your done. If they're not wowed, figure out what to do to wow them

  • MA

    Marc Abbott

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan, thanks for taking the time out for this AMA, my question is:

    - When in very very early stages of acquiring actual paying customers, outside of reaching out to personal networks, did you have a particular process you went through to identify who your customers were going to be during this customer development discovery stage?

    - if so, how long did it take before things started to kick off?

    - ...and if you can fit a 3rd answer in :) were there any memorable eureka moments when you gained a killer insight that seemed to unlock the doors to acquiring customers, or was it a large number of different insights that are hard to recall any individual specific moment?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      In the very early stages - we did everything we could think of. We asked personal networks, told people on the street, went to places we thought our customers would hang out... everything you could think of. It was hard to get paid marketing to work initially, as we were so cheap, we had dramatically less margin to spend than our competitors. This forced us into referrals and WoM at an early stage. I think it took a year for things to take off and that happened when we started focussing on NPS, WoM and an invite scheme.

  • PK

    pardeep kullar

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan,
    From looking at your slides, isn't NPS a way to get to a great product rather than something you do after you've built one?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      You're right, will update my slides :-)

      Just kidding, the point I was trying to make is that its hard to measure NPS when you've got <100 customers.

      • PK

        pardeep kullar

        over 3 years ago #

        Ok, I had it figured as being similar to the Sean Ellis 40% thoroughly satisfied stat. This makes good sense to me. I shall now immediately build a massive NPS calculation website using millions in funding.... or a spreadsheet.

  • RQ

    Ryan Quiel

    over 3 years ago #

    To track NPS growth, what tool would you recommend for the feedback loop?

    Promotor.io looks good, but is there something better for NPS on the market that I am not aware of?

    Also, I see on your website TransferWise.com, you ask users on the homepage after 30 seconds about their past experience sending currency overseas. Why do this and to what effect has it helped? Thanks!

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Promotor.io is great. But we built our own tool. The NPS question is a super easy question to ask. Also kind of useful having NPS data in the same database your customer data is so you can spot patterns.

    • MD

      Mikhail Dubov

      over 3 years ago #

      Ryan,

      We at chattermill.io are building a new tool to collect NPS. Unlike Promoter.io and Delighted it actually automates the whole workflow connecting directly to your CRM / Email marketing tool. What really makes a difference though is using natural language processing to automatically categorize individual sentences into precise themes and score them based on user sentiment.

      We are looking for additional trial partners so get in touch if you are looking to collect NPS. We are at hello at chattermill.io

  • VP

    Vlada Pechenaya

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi guys, I have read your article about your company structure and I agree that using independent teams with highly defined KPIs is super effective. However we are an early stage b2b SaaS start-up and we don't have teams, just 4 people to do everything. I do marketing and I want to set up Marketing KPIs for ourselves. I am struggling a bit, could you give me an advice on that or point me towards a useful resource or article on that ? Thanks, Vlada

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey -

      Love this stage of a start up. Its super fun.

      1. Figure out what your current customer economics are. How much do you earn on a customer in month 1. If you don't have enough data put down what you believe it will be

      2. Depending on your product - if there's demand for it already in search and your product is a better alternative to what's already there - launch search.

      3. If its a new category - really focus on marketing the product to existing customers to get them to switch to it. Support WoM growth. Develop referral programs, talk to customers and figure out why they use the product

  • FP

    Federico Pascual

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan!

    Regarding reducing the friction in doing a transfer, what where the 'least expected' points of friction that you discovered with data (and experience) that before hand weren't that obvious?

    Thanks!

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Well the obvious one - reducing keystrokes :-)

      The less obvious ones we haven't figured out yet

  • AL

    Ariel Lederman

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for the AMA, question: are you hiring?

  • SP

    Sugaun PJ

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Nilan,
    How will Bitcoin's future be?

  • DV

    Daniel Vianna

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for coming here Nilan! What metrics and analytic tools do you use? I'm working at a small company and we don't have much time to keep pushing metrics all the time, I'm thinking on using cyfe and create dashboards, another way was a marketing automation tool but we still can't afford that.

  • FB

    Fede Behrens

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan!

    What are Transferwise's plans for the business to business category in the near future? Thanks!

  • ZT

    Zetong Teoh

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for doing the AMA, @nilanp. I've just read your NPS-driven growth slide deck.
    Question: How do the feedback you receive from your promoters or demoters impact the new features you roll out?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey - we review the promoters and detractors over time and have noticed trends. We categorise the trends and have teams focussed on improving these

  • TM

    Tom Morgan

    over 3 years ago #

    Do you view Dwolla as a competitor?

  • MM

    Martin McKenna

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan! Super interesting to hear about your focus on NPS. Have you looked at the correlation/overlap between users *saying* they will recommend TransferWise, and users actually *doing so* by using your referral programme? How similar or different are the profiles of users who rate highly on NPS vs those who use the referral programme?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey - Lots of poeple ask this. I don't think thats the point of the NPS question. We aspire to build an experience so good that people SAY that they will recommend to a friend.

      Separate to that our Word of Mouth team and invite a friend team have looked at the correlation between WoM and invite referrals and NPS. But that's a different question for different aims

      • VM

        Venkat Mattapalli

        over 2 years ago #

        Hi Nilan,

        I am a good tester. Could you please let me know if i can help you with testing your Referral program?

  • PV

    Priit Vaikmaa

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan,

    Can you please advise what is the best follow-up question to add to our NPS form?

    Something like thise:

    "What could we do to improve our products and services?"

    I just saw TransferWise form but forgot to take a screenshot :-)

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey -

      Free form comments.

      Over time you can ask for impact on NPS drivers - e.g. How did you find the speed of your transfer etc.

      N

      • PV

        Priit Vaikmaa

        over 3 years ago #

        I went with this question:

        "How can we improve <>? Please send us your ideas and suggestions."

        Then we can see how the ideas / suggestions differ between detractors vs promoters.

        Already seeing some useful feedback.

  • GB

    Gennady Barsky

    over 3 years ago #

    Where do you see your company is headed 10 years from now?

    • NP

      Nilan Peiris

      over 3 years ago #

      the stars.

      really no idea. @taavet likes to say, the only plans worth doing are for 3 months in detail and have 1 year aspiration

  • ER

    Eetu Raudas

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Nilan, thank you for being here for all of us beginners! I have a couple of questions that would really help me alot, thanks Already!

    1. How did TransferWise find its first niche target group / early adopters and how did you approach them?
    2. Your HQ is based in UK but did you have any geographical limits while onboarding first early adopters (start from USA or UK for example)?
    3. How did you find out when WoM started kicking in and organic growth/virality started, through some kind of KPIs?

    All the best!
    -Eetu .R

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