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During the third lecture from the Stanford CS183 course, How to Start a Startup, Paul Graham said, "Whenever you hear anyone talk about 'growth hacks,' just mentally translate it in your mind into 'bullshit'."

https://twitter.com/lylemckeany/status/517198974164664320

  • VV

    Visakan Veerasamy

    almost 3 years ago #

    Well, what does PAUL GRAHAM think of Paul Graham's comment about Growth Hacking?

    http://www.paulgraham.com/philosophy.html

    "The concepts we use in everyday life are fuzzy, and break down if pushed too hard. [...] Everyday words are inherently imprecise. They work well enough in everyday life that you don't notice. Words seem to work, just as Newtonian physics seems to. But you can always make them break if you push them far enough.

    I would say that this has been, unfortunately for philosophy, the central fact of philosophy. Most philosophical debates are not merely afflicted by but driven by confusions over words. Do we have free will? Depends what you mean by "free." Do abstract ideas exist? Depends what you mean by "exist."

    Is growth hacking bullshit? Depends on what you mean by growth hacking, and what you mean by bullshit. :P

    I think what we can all agree on is that our efforts ultimately get judged by the results. If there is growth, we have to respect that- regardless of what the people responsible choose to call it.

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      almost 3 years ago #

      I wish I could vote this up 100 times. :)

    • AM

      Adam Miller

      almost 3 years ago #

      This clarifies his position even further. http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html

      "Understanding growth is what starting a startup consists of." It's not that he doesn't believe in growth. It's that he sees it as being inherent rather than a bag of tricks.

    • JB

      Joseph Bentzel

      almost 3 years ago #

      Graham is full of it. In fact the concepts we use in everyday life get more robust when pushed on hard. That's the nature of creative conflict. And if Graham thinks all substantive debate revolves around 'confusion over words', he's missing the whole point. It's the conflicting agendas trying to 'own' the meaning of words that drives 'confusion'. Personally, I do know 'bullshit' and self-deluding moral relativism when I see it, and that's what's written above.

      In regard to his comments on 'growth hacking', strategic marketers and growth practitioners across the full spectrum of tactical approaches need to understand ONE THING very well.

      Here it is.

      DO NOT under any circumstance allow VCs or Incubator people to effectively disintermediate you out of the marketing value chain with their endless supply of bogus 'thought leadership'.

      Stop playing defense with regard to these kind of asinine comments that only undermine the legitimacy of your new movement. It is you (in this community) who define the theory and practice of growth management in the digital economy based on your own trial and error---illuminated by industry best practices across categories and generations of startups/turnarounds and market superpowers. In short, get a little home field advantage going and stop playing theoretical 'away games' on some other guy's theoretical turf.

      And stop hanging on every word of people like Graham or Andreessen.

      They are only really relevant if you are pitching them for money. Take their money. Not their advice.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    almost 3 years ago #
  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    almost 3 years ago #

    I think in many cases, he's right. Lots of people who talk about growth hacking have no idea what they're talking about.

    But as I discussed in my essay "Growth Hacking = People + Process", there are merits to hiring the right people and doing systematic experiments to increase your company's growth. It works. And if you refuse to believe in it, then have fun shooting in the dark and trying to get lucky.

    I bet YC would have a better success rate (not that they're suffering) if they embraced growth hacking the way that 500startups has. Dave McClure is so smart to teach his companies how to systemize their marketing.

    This is no different than saying Agile is bullshit. Or Lean is bullshit.

    • LM

      Lyle McKeany

      almost 3 years ago #

      There's obviously a different approach between YC and 500Startups. YC was founded by Paul Graham, a programmer, and 500Startups was founded by Dave McClure, a marketer. Just like any other company, their values and point of view usually come from their founders' point of view. I wouldn't go so far as to say one approach is better than another. As usual, the answer is always, "it depends."

      • RS

        Rob Sobers

        almost 3 years ago #

        I don't think that matters. Do you think Paul Graham cares if his companies have elegant code? Nah. He and Dave care about the same thing: money.

        I honestly think PG was just ragging on the hype around the term growth hacking, which is fair given the hype.

        I'm sure if someone interviewed him and asked: "Do you tell your companies to do split testing, test different traffic channels, and experiment with their onboarding and referral flows?" He'd say "Hell yes."

        It's just semantics.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    almost 3 years ago #

    I'll have to hear the comment in context but I agree with Sean that it comes down to your definition of it.

    In reality, Y-Combinator is obsessively focused on growth. Talking with founders who went through the program, it's the number one thing they focus on.

    So whatever you want to call it, Paul Graham is relentlessly focused on growth.

    • LM

      Lyle McKeany

      almost 3 years ago #

      I think the gist of his point is that there isn't a silver bullet growth hack that will answer all your growth issues. He just delivered his point in his typical PG way that gets people riled up.

      • RS

        Rob Sobers

        almost 3 years ago #

        Great point. I actually just re-read his quote and I noticed he said "growth hacks" not "growth hacking." I think you're right that he's trying to dispel the idea of the silver bullet, not poo-poo'ing what we do.

  • JS

    Jit Salunke

    almost 3 years ago #

    My 2 cents:

    1. Some kind of resistance from established individuals or institutions is actually good for a concept. I am sure, YC must have been ridiculed by lot of VCs and universities equally back in 2005. Such criticism will ultimately help growth hacking evolve as a framework / methodology & fill the important gaps.

    2. Based on my experience, growth hacking changes your perspective towards selling your product. There is certain taboo around Marketing and lot of people find it difficult to align with it due to presumptions. In case of Growth Hacking, they are enabled to try new tactics which can be bit relieving. This is a much more comfortable way to enable new founders to learn selling products. Even if growth hacking end up achieving that (& I believe most companies fail as they are not able to sell), purpose served.

    3. He might be referring to the abuse of the word: growth hacking. As he was talking about Starting up a startup in front of students, he might want to discourage people from thinking it as a one more thing they should be good at to start a startup?

    • KV

      Kumaran Veluppillai

      almost 3 years ago #

      @jitsalunke +1 on your first point...As a community we need to reflect and see how we can cut through the buzz/theory and use the criticism to help raise the level of conversation and evolve our understanding of the field.

      @sean what are your thoughts on this?

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        almost 3 years ago #

        There will always be some criticism. I agree that it can be healthy for forcing all of us to crystallize our thoughts on what is truly needed for driving sustainable growth. For example, I think a lot of the discussion around process is a big step forward. As with anything critics are best for helping us understand our shortcomings so that we can we to fix them.

        • KV

          Kumaran Veluppillai

          almost 3 years ago #

          Discussion about process has been a big step forward and we need to continue to strive to raise the bar of the conversation.

          As a community we should continue to focus on the practicalities of taking this approach and mindset. It's HARD and hopefully we can all "Unlock growth. Together". That's why I'm excited about this community and look forward to exchanging knowledge.

          @visakanv spot on. who cares about the definitions and labels - let's be practitioners who deliver growth.

  • IK

    Ivan Kirigin

    almost 3 years ago #

    There is a tragedy of the commons with "growth hacking". Many people do great work. Some people act like there are silver bullets. That makes people think growth hacking is a quick fix to their problems, and such hopes can't be met with reality.

    So you can do your part by trying to focus on real growth work, be in in analytics, testing, research, copy, CRO, whatever. There are no silver bullets.

    • LM

      Lyle McKeany

      almost 3 years ago #

      Absolutely agree, @ivankirigin. I've met with several founders looking for the silver bullet. It sucks being the one to throw cold water on their hopes, but that's how it has to be sometimes.

      BTW, I'm really liking the pivot you've made with YesGraph. I think it's a smart move and it's right in your wheelhouse. Good luck!

  • DS

    Daria Shualy

    almost 3 years ago #

    It made me lol. I think Paul Graham doesn't like buzz-words and the way they are often abused. Keep in mind who he was talking to. I think he wanted to convey the message that there are no shortcuts or tricks, that no matter what you call it, it's all hard measurable work, that's all.

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