Akshay Pruthi

@PruthiAkshay

Guaranteed way to grow your start-up user-base by 10x

Don’t get lost

3 weeks back, I posted this on Facebook:

Facebook post

As you can see, within 14 hours, there were 47 comments and I received 12 personal messages from people who were interested in reading the article. Eventually the post settled with 63 comments and 20 personal messages.

What do you think drove this behaviour in people that convinced them to comment on a post catering to a niche?

Value — one’s judgement of what is important in life

Someone once told me, by far everyone in this world falls into the category of good people and this world functions by providing or extracting value from an individual.

Conclusion 1 : There’s always an audience seeking for real value.

Background

Akshay Pruthi

I’m a B.E. graduate from NSIT, University of Delhi. At the age of 17, I started my first entrepreneurial journey with Lost Beat, won a couple of B-Plan competitions, generated $10,000 in revenue, eventually figured — won’t be able to scale this up. Therefore, dropped the idea and started working on another interesting Project — Reach. Reach was a content discovery platform that let you discover content available on your friends mobile phones. We raised about $500k from the top VCs and angel investors and finally got acquired by ixigo. I then led the Special Project Team at ixigo, owning the product of cabs, and AI travel bots. After working there for a while, I decided to exit ixigo to start something again with Durgesh Kaushik.

Okay, so you really thought there is a “Guaranteed” way to grow a start-up by 10x? If there was, and I knew the way — I’d have been a billionaire, as I would have known the formula behind elixir.

Conclusion 2: There are no shortcuts in life

Don’t start making judgements yet, I’ll try and do justice to what I committed and help you understand what growth really is, why most of the start-ups get stuck at ~10,000 downloads and end up using some shady methods to justify the growth they wish to achieve and eventually fooling themselves.

Let’s start with some data points

Airbnb Growth Curve

2010–2011, hardly any growth. The important point to notice here is that for one entire year, they were struggling to find the right product market fit, experimenting with a lot of things and simultaneously failing at a lot of things.

Conclusion 3: Patience is super important (key) for growth
The result is sweet :)

What’s growth?

Paul Graham scientifically claimed, a business viability is determined if growth of a business is 5 to 7 percent per week, while an exceptional growth rate is 10 percent per week.

In the startup world, it’s super important to realise growth is as essential to life as oxygen. It’s very important to set the right growth goals and equally important to meet those growth goals — a metric for you to determine the life period of your company.

Falling under the viscous circle of numbers

Now that you have set your company growth goals, have the right team to execute it, and everything is set, you just need to execute the plan and BOOM!

Does it work like that? 
In a lot of companies, I’ve witnessed mammoth mismatch in management where leaders themselves fell under the trap of golden numbers (top-line metrics)

Business Goal for the months: $2xxxxx
20th day of the month status: $1xx2xx
Marketing budget left: $xxxx
Campaign: Discounts & offers (incurring a total loss to the company)
False truth: Happy manager ; Happy ceo ; Happy employees

The worst part is, this becomes a habit for every other month. To achieve those business goals, you end up incurring huge losses for the company accounting it in “Marketing budget”

Conclusion 4: Transparency & Honesty to your business are the true North Star Metrics

Setting the Objectives Right

Current Process
1. Open excel sheet
2. Check the market standard for the mom/wow growth for your type of company 
4. Little tweaking of numbers with the understanding of your market conditions —not much but good enough for you to get another round of funding
3. Copy paste

Current method of proposing/assuming growth

Hurray!

Proposed process
Growth shouldn’t be carved by assuming growth. Oh, you knew that already? But how about we actually implement it?

  1. Identify your one metric that is the most crucial for your number. 
    You must have read this statement many times, in many blogs but the fact is, we get easily deviated and keep on changing our most important metric, falling into the trap of numbers again.
  2. Be intellectually honest to yourself and assume your company growth around that metric. Try reverse engineering to achieve that.
  3. While I was running my start-up -Reach, we faced multiple issues in the beginning in setting the right metric we wanted to focus on. We couldn’t say no to the metrics that were increasing.
Reach growth Curves

Eventually, we brought it down to:

Number of friends a user has= 5

This in a way took care of all our other metrics, the engagement, the content etc.

4. Never underestimate a channel: While laying out your growth channels to achieve that magical number, you might get pessimistic around executing some channels because of the painful effort it requires daily to execute that. For instance, while working on my new start-up Wishfie, we initially thought posting something daily on Facebook, creating new graphics everyday might result in a lot of effort but no result.

Nevertheless, we thought of trying.

61 comments, 7000 people reached

Surprise! Surprise! A simple and neat design, hardly took a minute and an amazing content piece — Boom! All it takes is a little effort for you to try out different channels, keep experimenting you will never know — One channel might just give you that hockey stick.

Conclusion 5: Set the north star metric right. FOLLOW THAT!
Conclusion 6: Never underestimate any channel. List all of them down. Keep experimenting

Case Studies

  1. Facebook Case

Making small changes and measuring the result is the key to moving fast. A lot of companies fail miserably even after scaling to 50 mn+ users just because they never established a right testing environment. Not many people are aware, but the major reason why Facebook scaled and is still growing, is because they have thousands of different versions of Facebook running over different user sets, continuously testing what works for which audience, closely analysing the data and then rolling out the changes. Below is a very interesting post from a Facebook employee on how they test:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-engineering/building-and-testing-at-facebook/10151004157328920/
Conclusion 5: Set the right testing environment for your company.

2. Muscial.ly

Musical.ly never approached things in the most traditional way. They believed in forming a very strong community of people whom they call as Musers and have constant meet-ups with them. Instead of taking follows and followers, Musical.ly came up with BFFs or “Best Fans Forever”. Musicaly.ly then devised some special features arund BFFs which only they could do, for eg; doing things like a duet.

“Especially in the social media area, it’s usually the winner who takes all. You have to come up with something radically new. You shouldn’t be a me-too product,” Zhu said.

A lot of these ideas were thrown by people from the community who are using the app almost daily and pushing ideas to the team. Mysical.ly has various chatting groups with these community members, having vigorous discussions around different ideas. The impact of this is huge:

  1. Musers feel a sense of importance within the company
  2. Musical.ly get to know how their TG thinks

Never underestimate the power of content. Many of us don’t give much preference to the copy (text) we use on the app/small design changes that we think might not impact the growth. See the below graph which clearly depicts how a small change in their design drastically increased their numbers.

Source: Business Insider

Similarly for Instagram, a small change in the approach of posting good looking photos increased their growth numbers by thousand.

Conclusion 6: Give more importance to “what you think is dirty work” 
Never underestimate the power of small changes

Empathy is key!

Try putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Know your customers the way they want you to.

How?

  • Make user stories around their daily routines. Clueless? Talk to your target audience, 20 calls a day. Ask them what’s their daily routine looks like, at what instances they open which all apps? Try to identify when will they open your app. Sitting inside someone’s phone is a huge asset. See how your product can achieve that.
  • Start drawing patterns and observing trends. Once you call 100 odd people, you will start observing some patterns. That is when you start drawing conclusions and take some decisions on what you should execute next.

Sharing some resources and cheat sheets that might help :)

  1. Creating Personas
  2. Growth Hacking Tools
  3. How to write to top tier publications
  4. Behind the success of Kuaishou, the biggest social video sharing app in China
  5. List of top Publications
  6. Growth Playbooks
  7. Growth Hacks for 2017 — Free eBook
  8. The Ultimate Facebook Ads Cheat Sheet

Do hit the like button if you appreciate the post. Next I’m writing “The orgasm theory”. Stay tuned.

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