I’ve been thinking about the concept of “tracking growth” recently. In the startup world, there is a difference between gaining traction and growth. Traction can be having interest from the right people (customers, investors, etc.) Growth is a number you track every hour, day, week, month, year. Growth is the lifeblood of startups. If you are growing quickly, you can do anything in startup-land. But when should you begin tracking growth?
The easy answer is “from day one.” But I also strongly believe that the data you get from tracking growth from day one, if not looked at through the right lens, can be detrimental to your company. I think you really start making decisions based on the growth information when you have the right product that is ready to grow. This seems obvious but many companies track growth early and get too crazed about growing month over month before they really should be. The problem with the above is when you don’t have the right product ready to grow, the numbers you will be tracking will (at best) most likely disappoint you, or at worst cause you to do stupid things or gray area stuff to hit the numbers you want to be hitting.
I think a good middle ground is, at the early stage, to track things with the knowledge of bettering decision-making but not for “growth” purposes and then once you have the product ready to grow, then track the hell out of everything related to things you want to grow (usually users, activity, and $$).
What do you think about tracking growth at startups?
Part of unspoken agreements at startup companies is that employees will be taking on multiple roles in the organization as the company grows. With limited financing and resources employees are expected to do their job, plus other functions that they might not know anything about.
If you don’t pick up the slack when needed, you may not be around for long. Startups aren’t easy and this is one of the more daunting concepts around working at a startup. You’ll definitely be pushed in uncomfortable directions and might not know how to respond.
Here are a few tips on how to tackle that new role that is being thrown at you on top of your existing responsibilities:
1) Read + Learn about the new responsibilities. If you do BD and need to learn marketing best practices pick up a book or head over to the countless marketing expert blogs (ask around to find out who is good and who is all noise) and dig in.
2) Bring in an expert. Whatever the skill set is, ask management or your investors to help conquer the beast that is the new thing you are needing to tackle. If it is paid advertising and you have no idea what is left and what is right it’s your responsibility to ask for help.
3) Know yourself and at a certain point if you have so much to do that you can’t even do your own job talk to your boss and put it all out there. You may need to hire someone to fill that role.
4) Go work at a different (bigger) company. Less potential reward, but more stability and hey if you are good, you can move up in the ranks and make a good salary/career out if it. Some people realize they are not right for the startup life at this point. It’s a hard lifestyle to maintain.
Hope this is helpful!
There are many reason why a startup fails. Depending on the stage of the company there are a trillion scenarios where your startup just doesn’t work out. And while there is no one reason your startup will fail, I’m fairly certain hiring the wrong employees is in everyone’s top 3 reasons why it does.
And it makes sense. Hiring the wrong employee can set a company back so badly that some never recover. If you think about it- let’s say in a good scenario- you come to the realization you hired the wrong person 6 months after said hiring (because it never happens instantly). Now you need to let the person go and find a replacement. That will take another 1-3 months. Then that new person needs to be brought up to speed (and you run the risk that they might also turn out to be the wrong person). So we are talking 9 months to one year of time lost for a role.
Now think about hiring the wrong person in multiple roles and only raising enough money for 18 months. Startups need to make enough progress to justify another round of fundraising, taking the business to the next level.
So, you can see how hiring the wrong employee can really sink a company. But what can a company do to make sure they hire the right people? I think it goes without saying that they need to ask the right questions in the interviews (or courting process). On top of that, you need to hire for the here and now as well as where you want to go. This means making sure that if your company is going to be growing, you have the right personal to grow with the company.
I’m not a hiring expert, so I would love for someone who knows what they are doing to jump in the comments and give some helpful tidbits about hiring the right employees and tricks to spotting the wrong fits.
I’ve been thinking about inflection points. For those that aren’t familiar with this term in startup-world, it means when your startup has hit a point that leads to accelerated growth. This typically happens when either a new feature is released or tweaks fix an existing feature. Or it may be events out of your control (otherwise known as luck).
The big question for every startup to ask themselves is, “What can I do to get to a stage of hyper growth? How can we hit our inflection point?” There are obviously different paths for different companies to take.
For Youtube it was a few viral videos including Keyboard Cat, but maybe videos like Lazy Sunday, being huge accelerators. For Facebook, it was letting third party platforms build games on top of it (i.e. Zynga). For Twitter it was a mix of developers building third party applications plus celeb tweeters/events (like Charlie Sheen, Michael Jackson’s death, the Arab Spring, etc.) For Instagram it was Justin Bieber joining the service.
Inflection points can turn hot startups into companies. What are some of your favorite inflection points that you’ve heard about, read, or even experienced?