Growth Hackers Conference: Lessons Learned

Written by Thomas Schranz, CEO and Product at Blossom

Business Cartoon #0203 by Andertoons

Here is a brief write-up of my notes from last week’s Growth Hackers Conference in Menlo Park. I tried to sum up the essential bits of information that stuck with me and hope that they will be useful for you as well.

You can take a look at the incredible lineup of speakers that were at the conference here.

Culture wins every time

Chamath Palihapitiya kickstarted the day by sharing his personal lessons learned from leading Facebook’s Growth Team. An interesting point he emphasized early on was that culture trumps everything else.


Chamath was very careful about picking the right people for his team. My personal highlight of his session was when he shared the checklist of values that he is looking for when hiring people.

Establish a dead-simple Framework

To make it easier for everyone to understand what to focus on and why it matters Facebook’s Growth Team started out by establishing a very simple framework of things to measure and improve on.

This reminded me a lot of Dave McClure’s Metrics for Pirates and it was no surprise to learn that ebay was using a similar framework for measuring product engagement as well.

I think the key message here is to boil the abstract concept of “working on growth” down to a few simple concepts that everyone understands. That way it is much easier to align efforts, decide on trade-offs and to understand what you are actually doing.

That said, Chamath made it very clear to not waste time on virality. It actually never was a major topic at Facebook’s Growth Team. Virality will happen as a by-product if you make progress on acquisition, activation and engagement.

Initial User Experience is Key, front-load Aha! Moments

Another pattern at the conference was the importance of great initial user experience. Similar to meeting new people the first impression people get about your product is key.

Hiten Shah of KISSmetrics shared that it payed off for them to provide three different optimized onboarding flows for their analytics product: Fast, advanced and “talk to us”. Spend time to think about the first thing you show new customers. It is worth it.

Sean Ellis of Qualaroo recommended to identify the must-have experience of your product and to look for ways to front-load that experience. The sooner your customers experience the value of your product the better.

Surveys and other qualitative methods like customer development can help you to identify what that means for your product. Sean recommended survey questions like the following.

Resurrecting lost Users is hard

ChenLi Wang of Dropbox shared an interesting lesson about re-activating users.

It is very hard to resurrect people that you’ve already lost without coming across as being pushy. But if done right emails, notifications and app store updates can do wonders for getting people back into your product.

ChenLi recommended to closely monitor engagement and unsubscribe rates of messages before you send them out to everyone. Make sure to focus on headlines, clear calls to action and a pleasant look & feel of the messages that you are sending out.

Double down on what already works

While all sessions were incredibly insightful I especially enjoyed Elliot Shmukler’s lessons learned while growing LinkedIn from 13 to 175 million users.

Elliot emphasized that when you have limited resources and therefore don’t have the time to work on everything you’d love to improve it becomes very important to focus on the right things. One hands-on example he gave during the presentation was about sign up conversion rates.

What caught me and the majority of the audience off-guard was the idea to focus on parts of the funnel that already perform well.

At first that sounds a bit counter-intuitive because you might think that it is easier to improve on a lower conversion rate like 4% compared to a conversion rate that is already performing incredibly well at 40%.


Here are two example channels for LinkedIn signups that they’ve decided to improve in 2008.

Email Invitations: 4% 25.000 ->  7% 44.000 (+19.000) took 2 years
Homepage Views:   40% 50.000 -> 50% 63.000 (+13.000) took 4 months

Another insightful observation of Elliot was that it is way easier to increase engagement of active users compared to people who are inactive. One example he gave were retention emails that show you who looked at your LinkedIn profile. That’s why they ended up optimizing wording and design targeted at active users instead of inactive users.

It seems like there are many different reasons why people are inactive whereas the group of active users share many of the motivations that make them stick around.

If you want to read more about Elliot’s session make sure to check out Sandi MacPherson’s notes over at the Quibb blog.

Use HTML5 to iterate faster in native apps

During the Growth on Mobile panel a lot of the questions circled around how to do A/B testing and fast iteration cycles in native apps.

Eric Florenzano, Growth Engineer at twitter had a great pragmatic answer. If you want to move as fast as possible use HTML5 for components of your app that you are not yet sure about and only implement parts natively that you’ve already nailed.

If you are involved in mobile app development make sure to check out clutch.io, an A/B testing framework for native apps that takes exactly this approach. Clutch recently got acquired by Twitter and was then open sourced just a few days ago.

Product Manager’s Renaissance

My main takeaway of the conference was that we are in a renaissance of product management.

With the possibility to iterate on your product and marketing efforts faster and faster the product manager’s role more than ever builds the backbone of a product’s competitiveness and success.

Decisions need to be made faster and have more impact. Breaking up silos between design, engineering and marketing is no longer only a good idea, it is essential.