More often than not technology entrepreneurs are advised and conditioned to look at the larger opportunity, scalability and technology to solve a problem. Silicon Valley folklore is full of stories of Google’s simplicity, Facebook’s singular focus, Twitter’s scalability. We tend to believe that all growth hacks are technology solutions that seem scalable when they are conceived.
However, reality is much different, most Growth Hacks sound outrageous and unscalable initially and there is little or no tech. involved.
For example Airbnb was a dying idea in 2009. Here’s the story of their hack, quoted from First Round Capital’s Blog.
At the time, Airbnb was in Y Combinator. One afternoon, the team was poring over their search results for New York City listings with Paul Graham, trying to figure out what wasn’t working, why they weren’t growing. After spending time on the site using the product, Gebbia had a realization. “We noticed a pattern. There’s some similarity between all these 40 listings. The similarity is that the photos sucked. The photos were not great photos. People were using their camera phones or using their images from classified sites. It actually wasn’t a surprise that people weren’t booking rooms because you couldn’t even really see what it is that you were paying for.”
Graham tossed out a completely non-scalable and non-technical solution to the problem: travel to New York, rent a camera, spend some time with customers listing properties, and replace the amateur photography with beautiful high-resolution pictures. The three-man team grabbed the next flight to New York and upgraded all the amateur photos to beautiful images. There wasn’t any data to back this decision originally. They just went and did it. A week later, the results were in: improving the pictures doubled the weekly revenue to $400 per week. This was the first financial improvement that the company had seen in over eight months. They knew they were onto something.
I see 5 Key Takeaways for Hackers from Airbnb’s story:
1. Hacks start with discovering patterns- It is worthwhile to look at Site usage, Entry Exit Pages, Shopping Carts, Landing Pages.
2. Hacking is not about Technology- Technology is growth hack enabler however, not the hack. Hacks are about identifying gaps in perception or value and plugging those gaps.
3. Hacks may seem non-scalable- Initially the growth hacks may seem non-scalable and that’s OK, One can iterate later to bring in scalability.
4. Experiment and Act fast- Outrageous as it may seem there’s no substitute to testing the hacks. Believe in yourself and your idea.
5. Seek help from Advisors/ Mentors- Entrepreneurs end up parenting their startups and at times fail to see things that are obvious. a seasoned Advisor/ Mentor helps bring in objectivity and fresh perspective.
Focus on the Hack that will help you grow to the next stage, do not bother too much about building the enterprise.