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Tom leads growth at Khan Academy. All he dreams about is getting more people learning for free on Khan Academy's website and apps. Tom has been at Khan for almost three years as the non-profit has grown from 6 million to 36 million users. He started hacking growth by sending hundreds of millions of reactivation emails in his first year, and is now trying to lead growth and execute other product initiatives for the online learning website. Tom thinks he has the best job in the world. Or, if not, at least Top 3. 

Previous to falling in love with Khan Academy, Tom has been an investor with the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund and LeapFrog Investments, a consultant at McKinsey, had a brief stint at the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet in Australia, and has an MBA from UC Berkeley. He is also on the board of the East Bay Innovation Academy. In a few years Tom plans to open a chain of innovative schools back home in sunny Australia, inspired by the independent/charter school sector he's worked with here in the US.

Tom grew up in rural, remote Australia, and is the youngest of seven in a patchwork family that has given him 15 ~sweet nieces and nephews and three million laughs. He is happy to dispense words that might look like wisdom based on what he and others have learned in Khan Academy's bumpy fun journey.

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @thomaspryor

He will be live on Jan 26th from 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 4 years ago #

    Thanks Tom for doing this AMA with us! I'm really curious if Khan Academy spends money on "customer" acquisition and if so, how do you determine the right amount of money to pay for a user since there really isn't a classic ROI calculation?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Hi Sean and everyone, excited to be here!

      Great question. Short answer. No, we don’t spend money on customer acquisition.

      We’ve toyed with it. We’ve always assumed it would be prohibitively expensive—for a non-profit it is hard to justify the expense when we could be investing in higher ROI. But assumptions weren’t enough! Two years ago I ran short pilot campaigns on Facebook and AdWords to determine the Cost Per Learner as well as the ceiling on demand for academic help so we could understand the opportunity cost, and also to have concrete data to pitch to some funders. Cost Per Learner was relatively low compared to many industries, except our revenue per learner is obviously $0 so at $2-$5 per learner it was far too high. We could drop $500K/month on ads, bring in 250,000 extra learning sessions that month, and that would only lead to a <1% increase in our traffic that month! Needless to say that wasn’t an attractive investment for us nor our funders.

      It’s somewhat liberating to have this channel removed from your toolkit.

      5 Share
  • YS

    yassin shaar

    over 4 years ago #

    Tom thank you for doing this AMA. Looking forward to all of your responses!

    I have a couple of questions for you:

    1- How does your activation funnel looks like? What are the actions you want your users to take in the first day/week of their experience on Khan Acaemy and why?

    2- Do you measure the impact of your product on "real life outcomes"? e.g. a user who completes our math curriculum usually scores 20% higher on their math test.

    3- Learning is a process full of friction and in my experience very few users complete the curriculum they've started, even less implement the learning in their business/life. What have you learned about your users' behaviors/motivations to increase the odds of someone finishing the curriculum they've signed up to & actually implement what they've learned?

    I have ton more questions but I want to be respectful of your time and give an opportunity for others to ask :). Thank you!

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      First question: on our funnel, step by step:

      0. Most new visitors come via Google search: 50% branded (e.g. they’d heard of Khan Academy from someone and typed it or some misspelling of it into Google) and 50% unbranded (e.g. googled “how do I use the quadratic formula”). These folks typically land on a video or text page with an explanation.

      1. Our first goal is to get them learning, so we focus on getting them to play or read/scroll. (e.g. We made our play button huge and red and it increased video starts by 2%!)

      2. Next goal is to get them to completion of the video/article/exercise. (e.g. Adding video speed controls increases completion by 3%!)

      3. Once they’ve started we want them to feel a sense of accomplishment and investment in the product, so we start awarding energy points visibly on the video page.

      4. Once they’ve learned something we want them to create an account so we can save their progress, bring them back, and make better recommendations to them. Since we’ve awarded them energy points and probably a badge or two, we prompt learners to save their progress by signing in. To be honest, our value proposition for sign up is weak, and we’re trying to work on that later this year. We really need something of clear value to offer in exchange for creating an account.

      5. Once you sign up we’ll send you an email that’s quite ugly but performs very well: it’s a huge list of all of the subjects on Khan Academy. We discovered it was no longer easy for learners to see what subjects we offered as we expanded, so this email expands learners’ and teachers’ horizons and has an incredibly high click rate.

      6. We then have a month-long welcome email series, as well as some triggered emails based on in-product actions. I set most of those email campaigns up myself over two years ago and we haven’t really changed them since, so I know they’re basic and bad. We need to improve them. If anyone is keen to come and help us do that, please let me know!

      5 Share
      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        Your third question: on completion of curriculum...

        We try not to focus on completion the way that MOOCs do. Much of our use is on demand ("I need help on this specific concept right now!"), and we don’t know what unit is most useful to a learner at any point in time, so we present our content at any level of aggregation, form a 3-minute video, to a 20-hour mission in Calculus, and let the learner choose which is best for them.

        Maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but it’s true—you’ve got to focus on your core use and where your product-market fit is. There’s no denying that’s where ours is.

        That said, we’ve definitely experimented in the past with ways to engage students from start to finish for a whole math course, and plan to in the future. The three main lessons we learned:

        A. You don’t know what level or amount of content the learner wants. Do they want to learn the quadratic formula, learn how to use it, learn about quadratic equations, or learn all of Algebra? You need to be flexible to accommodate all of these, and the most common are the quickest/shortest.

        B. Related to that: Khan Academy is supplemental for most learners—we have a giant, formal education system that is the primary method for learning for most students, and if we try to teach everyone everything in 8th Grade Math, they’re probably not going to be into it—they’re main concern is following along with class and getting help in the parts they need it. So we try to be great at that role for them, as well as provide scaffolding for larger goals if they don’t have access to that system or want to opt out of it.

        C. It is very hard. We humans aren't very good at sticking to things long term. Hacky add-ons to a product usually only move numbers by small percentages. The core mechanics of your product need to be very strong to move the needle significantly. Those are harder to change, but worthy of a lot of attention and experimentation.

        We’re not good at this, but we're working on it!

        4 Share
      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        Second question: on measuring impact of product on real life outcomes...

        Love it. Yes, we have tried, but this is very hard. There’s always the issue of correlation or causation. And learning is very hard to measure, and it takes a long time. Most learning products try to do this but when you look at their study (it’s almost always just one study) it is typically very weak (weak methodology or weak results).
        We’ve run a couple of studies with researchers, but it’s very time consuming and tricky managing those relationships. The results have certainly been positive, but we try not to focus on these so much since it’s such a fraught area. We take solace in the fact that learners keep returning to our site and that teachers keep recommending Khan Academy to their students and other teachers. And we measure this a LOT.

        3 Share
      • YS

        yassin shaar

        over 4 years ago #

        @thomas_pryor thank you SO much for the insights. Wishing you the best with your endeavors.

  • JN

    Javier Nanni

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

    One questions= I've been trying to better understand as our teams grow is, normally, where do you draw the line between the marketing and the growth teams? In terms of who owns what, and who is held accountable for which type of metrics.

    I'm sure the answer can vary a lot, but ...

    1) What's the case with Khan Academy?

    2) Any advise on how to make sure Marketing and Growth complement each other as best as possible?

    3) And last one: in small - medium teams (<150 employees), do you think it even makes sense to have both a Marketing and a Growth team, or should all these functions be integrated in a single team?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      2. "Any advise on how to make sure Marketing and Growth complement each other as best as possible?"
      Not yet. If others have advice for both of us, please share below!

      3. Separate Marketing & Growth teams? I do think it makes sense in general, but it depends on your business model. If you rely on organic unpaid acquisition then a Growth team makes the most sense, e.g. Khan Academy, Duolingo, Facebook early days. If you rely almost solely on paid acquisition, then a marketing team will be a dominant force in the organization and will likely consume much of the growth functions.

      It's quite dictated by if you have a push or a pull product.
      Selling life insurance? Push product—no one wants it unless you really tell them about it. >> You’re marketing team matters most.
      Selling Puppies That Stay Puppies Forever for free? That’s probably a pull product, and your growth team might matter most :)

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      1. Ahh, well that’s an area we’re still discussing here at length, but the current answer is easy: We don’t have a marketing team yet! We’d like to build that function better. We have folks who manage social media and email, but it’s not their full time job or focus (and thus we’re not very good at social media!). The division we’ve had in the past is:
      Marketing-type functions and folks take care of one-off email and social media campaigns triggered by us or external events.
      Growth folks take care of in-product email campaigns/triggers and anything else that requires ‘product’ work, i.e. engineering work.
      This is not perfect, but that’s how we do it for now.

      Growth is accountable for return learners from in-product emails, conversions on content pages, signup rates, retention rates, and SEO metrics.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tony,

    Thank you so much for this AMA.

    1. I noticed that while registering for Khan Academy, you are required to pick an avatar, and throughout the entire learning process, you earn all sorts of badges. Gamification is a popular concept, and obviously Khan Academy is primarily for younger audience, but what are your advices to share with someone trying to launch gamification system for a website/community for general audience?

    2. Khan Academy is free, what is your biggest challenge in growing something free (other than lack of marketing budget if that is even one issue)

    3. Out of curiosity, is retention particularly hard to for kids as an audience?

    Wish the serial uncle continue to have many successful exits in the future:)

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      1. Gamification...
      Oh this is a topic of much contention at KA! Gamification has certainly worked for Khan Academy in many ways, especially in the early days. As we’ve reached a critical mass of awareness and use in the US we’re reaching more than just very self-motivated learners, and in many of those cases (especially adult learners) our gamification can be off putting. But for many younger learners of a certain mindset, and certainly for many of our longtime power users gamification is the core part of their experience. So it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship for me and many others. The funny thing is it was added many years ago very quickly when the team was small and we’ve barely done anything to it since, but since then it’s grown into this beast that is very hard to get control of. I’m tasked with finding an answer to this ‘unfertilized’ area of the site in the next three months, so we’ll need a plan for it very soon. My current hypothesis (to be fully transparent) is to gradually de-emphasize the game-y part of it that might be off-putting to a large segment of our learners (though still retain it), and introduce less abstract elements such as # of units complete’ and ‘time spent learning’. I prefer these not just because they’re less abstract than ‘energy points’ and ‘unlocking avatars’, but also because they’re clear ‘input metrics’ (vs output), i.e. they’re encouraging the effort and persistence part of learning, which is key, not the results (www.youcanlearnanything.com).
      To more directly answer your question, I’d be very careful launching a gamification system. If it’s primarily to motivate the ‘super-user’ segment of your audience, it might make sense. If not, a couple of warnings: it takes a lot of effort to add and maintain it; it might put off a segment of your audience; and lastly, the payoff may be minimal. I’d focus on improving and adding to the core mechanics of your product vs introducing gamification.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 4 years ago #

        Very valuable insight, and thank you for being so transparent!

      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        For example, We added a ‘mastery’ mechanic based on the idea of spaced repetition (which is good for learning). If you nail a math skill on our site that day, in 16 hours we’ll release a ‘Mastery Challenge’ for you to come back and do a similar problem to prove you still remember how to do it, and you’ll get asked again in a week or so, and occasionally again in the future. Once we attached an email notification to this, we added an extra 200K visits to our site each month. Just like that! It’s very powerful when something core to the product is ‘unlocked’ while you’re away from it, so that folks are keen to come back and get extra value from it.
        Hmmm, that story was only ~kinda relevant to what you asked, but a nice story to share, so I’ll forgive myself... ;)

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 4 years ago #

        @thomas_pryor I think your story is very relevant, what it tells me is that before thinking about gamification, you really need to understand your core product value and human psychology. Gamification or any other mechanism can only work if you can fully understand and link the two of the above.

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      2. On being free...
      For going to direct to learners (aka consumers) it’s mostly a blessing for sure. We do struggle with 'forced virality' which is a very popularly driver for many companies, because we can’t offer any discounts for referrals to friends. I mean, we’ve joked about sending folks ‘coupon codes for free access’ but that really isn't on the cards! but it just means we can’t rely heavily on direct forced referral mechanisms like AirBnb, Uber or Handy have (and those are great growth investments, because they compound as you grow!).

      Where it has strangely hurt us is in schools and school district adoption. It’s curiously easier for a school to adopt a new product if it’s something they can buy. They have a formal process for it, and it’s slow and painful, but at least there IS a process for it to happen. For Khan Academy which is free and virtually process-free compared to most school tools, we’ve sometimes struggled to get into schools because of that.

      3 Share
      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 4 years ago #

        So because of free, schools don't have a process to accept it. That sucks and doesn't make sense at all. A friend of mine launched a English learning Ipad App in China, it's for free, and all schools love it so much. Maybe you should go to international market!

      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        3. On retention with kids...
        Yes, it is.
        * We try hard not to get into ‘edutainment’. It’s easier to retain folks (and grow) if you edge towards that line. But plenty of others are doing that and it’s not core to our mission (a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere).
        * A traditional tool (and easy tool) for retention boosting is email, and kids don’t have email. Heck lots of folks under 25 don’t ever check their email. So that tool is still big for us, but diminishing and not effective for school students.
        * Retention is really hard for adults, especially anything that requires sustained habits. I mean, we almost all universally suck at it. For kids it can be even harder, they have less set schedules, less experience with committing to things. That said, if the content or product really strikes a chord with a kid, they’ll be far more committed than any adult! They have the time and the intensity of focus to rack up millions of energy points on our site. It's incredible what a kid on a mission can do. It's the unbridled power of passion.
        * A lot of access to kids is through their parents, so you need to appeal not just to the kid but to their parent too.

  • HK

    Harmit Kamboe

    over 4 years ago #

    How did the Khan Academy get its first 1,000 users and how long did it take to get to the 1,000 threshold?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Hi Harmit, unfortunately I wasn't around for this when it happened. And from what I know of the story, it happened accidentally through organic growth on YouTube back in 2005/2006 and only took a few months. Perhaps others who've been through this experience can chime in below? I'm eager to hear too!

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks so much for joining. I honestly think the work your doing at The Khan Academy is some of the most brilliant work around.

    A couple of questions:

    1. What is the most fascinating thing you learned about a persons ability to learn/best way to learn, that you didn't know prior to joining the Khan Academy?

    2. What does the future of education look like? (I personally think self taught education and practical application trumps traditional education particularly in the UK)

    3. How have you self directed your own Growth Hacking education?

    • ES

      Edward Stephens

      over 4 years ago #

      Also, Happy 'Straya' day for yesterday Tom.

      I'm half aussie so hope you found bit of time to celebrate!

  • TP

    Tom Pryor

    over 4 years ago #

    Thanks for the great questions all, this was a blast! It was a very thoughtful crew, and it was great to have some time reflect on a lot of this myself.

    Grow strong,
    Tom

  • SJ

    Sebastian Johansson

    over 4 years ago #

    Thanks for letting us pick your brain Tom :)

    1. Growth hack question: Whats your process to decide what type of content to produce?

    2. Foil hat question: Do you have lobbyist trying to push your content in one way or another?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      1. I'll admit that deciding what content to produce this has been very organic until recently. Initially Sal would make this call based on his research, what folks were asking for, what he thought was served poorly currently, and his intuition and interests.
      More recently the process has been more methodical, as we’ve brought on amazing Content Fellows in key subject areas like Chemistry, Biology, US History, Electrical Engineering, etc.
      Their process involves research on the most common courses and curriculum in the US, reviewing all the major textbooks and other reference materials in their area, interviews with students and teachers on what the most common areas of confusion are (including using our own Student Advisory Board of ~30 current high school students), and custom SEO keyword analyses of the highest volume keywords in each area. All those inputs combined with their own expertise and intuition make a content development plan, which they’ll execute over a year or more, and adjust based on demand and quality ratings given to their first releases of content.

      2. "Do you have lobbyist trying to push your content in one way or another?"
      Ha, funny question. To date, as far as I know, we have not had anyone trying to influence the direction of our content. You are welcome to try, but we won’t listen :P

  • AH

    Agnes Haryuni

    over 4 years ago #

    HI Tom! Thanks for your time, I got a couple of questions:
    1. When Khan academy started, guest post or any SEM moves are not so common back then. How did you first approach your audience and spread the word about your site?
    2. Many schools and brick and mortar organization use khan academy, how do you reach them if they never heard about your website?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      1. Back then it was all VERY organic. Sal never intended to make videos for folks other than his cousins initially, but they were on YouTube and they gradually became very popular and students were relying upon them. We only built the site because we found the YouTube experience and CMS to be too limiting and they had no plans to expand it.
      The only content we’ve ever produced has been actual educational content, not any 'content marketing' blogs to attract visitors or build the brand. Most of our referral traffic comes through our educational content. Content is certainly King, but in our case content is our product too, so by making our product we also drive our marketing (lucky us!). And aside from that we got lucky enough to have great word of mouth (boosted by great press). This still continues now, with 60% of our users hearing about Khan Academy from someone they know. So sadly this is a pretty unique situation and not very helpful to you Agnes, sorry!

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      2. Reaching schools..
      We’ve really struggled with this. Almost all school products rely on a sales force. We’re a small non-profit without a revenue model, so we can never grow a sales force to compliment our product. Our education partnerships team was 5 people at it’s peak, and when you have over 1 million teachers signed up to use your product, you can’t give any of them the quality level of support you want. So the answer to this isn’t obvious.
      Where we’ve had the most recent success is with a mass learning challenge for schools and classrooms. www.learnstorm2016.org is about to start the second year for us as we expand to four regions. This challenge makes for a simple value proposition to schools, districts and teachers: ‘sign up your class in 5 minutes for them to compete for amazing prizes from Google and Comcast, as well as to help them learn math and build their growth mindset’. It’s a time-bound and very specific ask, with big launch and finals events. It’s also a competition (but we prefer the term ‘challenge’), so classes are incented to sign up other classes in their school to compete, and schools to sign up other schools to compete against, etc. Local press love writing news stories about which school is topping the leaderboards or which kids are on top, which multiples our reach.

      It’s the first time we’ve had true virality built into the product and it seems to have worked in our pilots so far.
      We are about to launch the second year of pilots and have almost 100,000 students signed up already. NB: This is not a growth hack! This is a big event that requires a lot of funding and support (from folks like Google.org and hundreds of volunteers) but compared to a sales force it’s much more scalable. And fun!

      The coolest thing is that it’s not about being the best or the ‘smartest’. We discourage that. In fact the big metric is ‘hustle’, which is a secret metric we have to encourage effort, grit, and resilience—the keys to learning anything!

  • TT

    Tina Tang

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom,

    Could you provide suggestions of what to look for in technology solutions (or features/capabilities) that help you track your processes, campaigns, and results?
    What tool(s) do you use for this purpose?

    Thanks!

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Ohhh we’ve had fun figuring this out! Sadly I’ve no particular tools I’m happy to recommend to you outright. We’ve tried many. We usually end up exporting things into Google Spreadsheets or BigQuery (Google’s SQL database) and now Tableau. Our metrics and matters of importance are quite unique given we’re a non-profit, so most out-of-the-box solutions don’t work for us, plus we’re pretty demanding/picky. So flexibility is the key for us.

      The most success we’ve had is in the area of SEO where we finally got an agency to help us, and we made the template for our Dream SEO Report, gave it to them, and then two months later they came back with it automated. We like to do stuff in house usually, but in this case I was very glad we outsourced: they call from a bunch of tools and vendors for the report. No specific tool could handle what we needed.

  • HW

    Harsh Wardhan Singh

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the AMA! Obliged!

    Here are what I would request you to answer for me:

    #1. What are the growth priorities for you in the Khan Academy? Is it primarily about increasing the number of users only or you also prioritize the time users are spending on the site? Kindly explain how you are reaching your priority goal.

    #2. Since Khan Academy is "free" so, in what terms the ROI is being calculated?

    #3. What is your method of finding new students/users and how likely your targeted users open account on Khan Academy?

    #4. What is the goal of Khan Academy in 2016 and how are you going to achieve that?

    #5. Since it is free, I believe it could reach to those who are somehow unable to study. How are you going on that?

    #6. Which is your biggest marketing channel?

    Lots of thanks for reading.

    Cheers
    Harsh

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      #1 Our big priority is to increase the total amount of learning time in the world. The easiest way for us to do that is via our site and apps, of course. So we balance growing our number of users and increasing the amount of time they spend learning. Right now we can do better on retention and user growth continues to chug along after substantial investments in SEO, so we’re gearing up to focus on retention more. This will likely be through offering flexible chunks of content for longer term learning, and providing scaffolding to help stick to it. That sounds very vague, because it is right now :)

  • AC

    Abhijith C

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom, Thanks for taking time out to do this AMA.

    My question: Khan academy is a global learning platform. What were some of the challenges you faced to grow a platform internationally and what strategies did you use to overcome them?
    Also Carol Dweck's "Mindset" is one of my all time favorite books. Has it in some way shaped the message of "You can learn anything" at khan academy?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Growing internationally:
      Boy, this has been a wild ride. We have a team focused on this, so I can't claim any responsibility or deep knowledge of it, but from what we've worked on the biggest challenge has been localization of content.
      Learners and teachers want to learn what's relevant to them, not what's standard in the US. And that takes time, is expensive, and makes managing our content system very complex. We tend to bias to action and ship often, so we've just been growing our system incrementally to try to accommodate this as we add more languages and regional partners. That's our culture, and it's been ~OK so far, but now that we have big partnerships in India and Brazil and hopefully more big regions we need to get better at this and our incremental solution will likely break. We'll need to invest in our own custom content management system that can handle locally created and curated content, as well as translated content. It's so amazing to have that reach, but boy does it add complexity.

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Distribution is also tough internationally. Especially when you have zero marketing budget and no team on the ground. We've gotten around this by finding incredible local partners in our key regions, e.g. Carlos Slim Foundation in Mexico, and Tata Foundation in India. These partners have huge access to millions of local consumers through marketing channels and relationships, and can help fund our translation efforts and tools. Thankfully many big local partners are hugely supportive of our mission and are eager for us to come to their region, so it's usually a matter of capacity on our end to build and manage these partnerships and local efforts. We are very fortunate.

      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        Re our "You Can Learn Anything" campaign, yes, this was directly inspired by Carol Dweck's work on the growth mindset, and also what we'd seen as obstacles for many folks learning on Khan Academy (or not yet learning!).

        If there was one thing we could do for this world it would be to make everyone realize that they can learn anything. It's a mindset issue, and it's holding us all back. Including myself—I always thought I just naturally sucked at piano ever since I attempted it as a kid, but just before we launched the campaign I started learning again to prove it to myself and walk the talk—and you know what? I still suck! But I love the journey and am certainly a lot better than I was.

      • AC

        Abhijith C

        over 4 years ago #

        Thanks for sharing a great answer on this. I find myself in the exact same position as you. After reading "mindset" I started taking guitar classes again and just loving the journey through the growth mindset.

  • MB

    Matei Banfi

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your time!

    Quick one: growth positions are tipically associated with commercial organizations. As a NPO what are the biggest growth challenges that you are facing towards sustainable customer acquisition, and how do you determine LTV?

    Cheers!

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Great question. It's certainly tougher being a non-profit. I read a lot about what others are doing (the whole team does) but often it can't translate or we at least need to customize ideas and experiments to our unique situation (e.g. referral codes don't really work like they do for for-profits!).

      SEO is our biggest channel (organic search, primarily through Google), and that's amazing because it's free. But it's also scary, because Google's algorithm can be fickle, and if we somehow lost domain authority or changed something major on the site accidentally, that would cost us a lot of traffic and growth. You never want to be dependent on SEO.

      • TP

        Tom Pryor

        over 4 years ago #

        We don't calculate LTV, but we do calculate Total Learning Time per user per product.

  • CP

    Carlo Pajusco

    over 4 years ago #

    I'm a former strategy consultant and inv banker about to begin a growth hacking course in 3 weeks. I started learning basics of html/css and ruby on my own. What are the top 3 priorities I should focus on according to you?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Great question. Just start hacking for real products or sites Small projects, for little or no pay. Learn things on-demand as you need them. Trying to guess what to learn in advance by doing a course is very tough.

      I got into this game with very little knowledge and small amount of product and marketing intuition, but I was very willing to learn whatever I needed. I just started doing things. I've needed to learn very little coding, but I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't started doing things.

      For example, I knew nothing about SEO two years ago when I made it a priority for Khan Academy, and over time after hundreds of googles and experiments I feel confident on most aspects, and our Top3 rankings are growing over 100% year on year! For me it took time and lots of 'doing' :)

  • CP

    Chris Powers

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Tom,

    I am getting involved with a lot of environmental non-profits and businesses through my work at a local incubator. How did you get started in the growth space and any tips for someone who wants to start using marketing to build a better world?

    Thanks!

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      There's another question where I attempt to offer some wisdom too, so apart from just diving in and doing lots of small projects for varying organizations, you can do what I do which is
      1) Read this site a lot
      2) Find out the names of some great Growth folks and meet up with them for coffee, learn what they read, how they think, what they don't know (most people don't yet know most things, so it's nice to know what's OK not to know!)
      3) Experiment a lot, be OK with messing up a lot

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 4 years ago #

    Bonjour Tom,

    I have a quick question related to your experience with the Resolution Project.

    Who is the socially-responsible leader who has inspired you the most so far?

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      I love this question. Highly recommend the Resolution Project if you have a socially-responsible business or want to help those who have them.

      The most inspiring leader is someone you've never heard of: Ronni Khan, CEO and Founder of OzHarvest, a food rescue organization back in Australia. They pick up tonnes of unwanted food in major cities everyday and deliver it to the people who need it most. It's an incredible model that makes something from nothing.
      But Ronni is inspiring because she wears her passion on her sleeve and doesn't take no for an answer. That can be annoying if you're trying to push a standard product onto people, but for socially responsible businesses it is worthwhile and incredibly effective. I'm not naturally like that on the outside (though I feel it on the inside!), but seeing her reminds me how important (and contagious!) it is.
      That's quite a fluffy answer, but it's the honest one.

    • TP

      Tom Pryor

      over 4 years ago #

      Also Andy Kuper, my old boss. Andy is Founder and President of LeapFrog Investments, a profit-with-purpose 'impact investment' fund investing over $1 billion in services for the bottom of the pyramid in Africa, Asian and South America. He shares Ronni's traits: fearless, passionate, an compassionate. Andy demands the best (like I do) and is always focusing on the people and the relationships, as that's what matters and pays off in the long run.

  • CD

    Carmine Di Maro

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Tom,

    I'm a freshly graduated business major with a burning desire to work in a growth role in a promising startup.

    My question is what should I focus on when approaching these young companies and their teams when I can't point to concrete experience growing companies in the past? Where should I focus my self-development energy in the mean time?

    Thanks!
    Carmine

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Tom,

    A while back you'd asked this question on ideas to spread the message of the #YouCanLearnAnything campaign: https://growthhackers.com/questions/ask-gh-at-khan-academy-weve-just-launched-our-mission-to-unlock-the-worlds-potential-the-youcanlearnanything-campaign-any-ideas-on-ways-to-help-spread-the-message/

    A couple of follow-up questions related to this:

    a. What did you actually land up trying (from the suggestions you got on GH or others, and which one's worked/are still working?

    b. Was there any specific strategy/tactic that you thought would really work and didn't? If yes, were you able to ascertain why?

  • GL

    Gbemi Lolade

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Tom,
    Big fan of Khan Academy's teaching structure here.
    In your opinion, what are best steps/strategies for customer acquisition in the first 2 months of launching a learning/educational community?
    How did you acquire the first set of customers at Khan Academy?

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