How Do I Get Started Growth Hacking My Startup?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a General Assembly Seattle presentation on growth hacking tech startups by growth hacking pioneer Nik Badminton. Nik is a self-described “recovering management consultant, ad man” author, futurist and the current Regional Director at Freelancer, the world’s largest freelancing, outsourcing and crowdsourcing marketplace. Freelancer was founded in 2004 and is now worth over 1.8 billion dollars and has over 13.6 million users, attributing most of their success to growth hack marketing.

So what is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is a marketing technique predominantly used by technology startups, which uses creativity and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure quickly. It focuses on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing. Examples of growth hacking are viral marketing campaigns, social-driven campaigns and using innovative tools in interesting ways to get results quickly and for little or no money. Think Twitter, Facebook and Airbnb. These companies all used inexpensive, creative ways to gain traction and growth for their startups.

Growth hacking isn’t just marketing; it affects multiple parts of companies, often driving new product lines, or sometimes removing them. It puts marketing and production in one room, working together to create growth.

Let’s talk about some growth hacking success stories.

hotmail-logoIn 1996, Hotmail launched the first free email program on the Internet. When growth was slow, Hotmail invested in all traditional marketing avenues and saw very little growth. They found that most new sign-ups on the site actually came from user referrals. Hotmail hacked their growth by adding a simple line at the end of every email sent:

 P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.

One year later, Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft and had 12 million users (17% of internet users at that time).

airbnb-logo

Airbnb is the perfect example of what is called a software growth hack. They actually reverse-engineered their site to automatically send all Airbnb listings to craigslist without actually hacking into craigslist’s API. Craiglist intentionally does not have a public API. The users Airbnb wanted were already online, they just had to get their attention. They were able to grow their rooms and renters by tapping into the user base of craigslist by creating specialty software within Airbnb’s platform. Previously to this, Airbnb had experienced limited growth. This is an example of how a growth hack actually affected the product Airbnb was offering to its users. Eventually, craigslist was able to remove this service from Airbnb, but it had already done its job by bringing millions of new users to the platform.

freelancer-logo

Freelancer really loves to capture new users by energizing their community. A great example of this is the contest they offered in which they challenged users to expose the Freelancer logo in the craziest ways, with a $25,000 cash prize going to the winner! The winner was an entire city in Bangladesh that printed a 2,000 square foot banner that was marched through the city by 300 people into the stadium where they were offering to teach women how to use Freelancer to generate income. The video went viral, drawing millions of new users to the site!

So how do I get started growth hacking my startup?

Nik’s recommendation? Stop. Stop and think. Strategy is the most important part of growth hacking. He says:

Jumping ahead without a well-thought-through and structured strategy will mean less results.

It’s important to set up framework. Nik suggested starting with GO SAM.

GOAL
OBJECTIVES
STRATEGIES
ACTION
MEASURE

While you are strategizing, Nik recommends asking yourself, “Does this matter?”

Does it offer users utility and value? Does it drive revenue? If it doesn’t, scrap it.

You’ve set your goals and objectives. The strategies have been hammered out and you’ve rolled out your growth hack. Now what? It’s time to track what you’ve done. Growth hackers are obsessed with tracking every activity. Your analytics are going show you what worked and what didn’t. Where you need to focus and what needs to be let go. Analytics will help you repeat your successes and avoid repeating your failures. Your analysis will help you more accurately predict the future outcomes of projects.

You know a little about what growth hacking is, who has yielded success with growth hacking and how to get started. Now get out there and start strategizing how to growth hack your tech startup!

Want to learn more?

Re-hiring an Employee That Quit Your Startup

ryan-gosling-back-at-your-doorWhat I’m about to write is NOT going to resonate with the millennial Gen-Y crowd and that’s ok. This post is written for the startup founder, entrepreneur, and small company CEO. This topic is looking through the lens of the person that created the company, started the company with their own money, and pretty much has everything on the line if this company doesn’t succeed. Much of this post was inspired after reading “Never Hire Job Hoppers, Never, They Make Terrible Employees“.

The millennial Gen-Y crowd mostly are job hoppers.
In six years of running this company I would have to label all employees who can’t stay in a company for more than 2.5 to 3 years as a job hopper. I get it that those people are just starting jobs after college are going to make a 1000 different decisions on what is best for them and their career. So, that said, I look back at my own track record as a Gen-X and see that I was with the same company for 3.2 years. Not every day in those three years was great, but, I didn’t quit at the first sign of hardship. I always think about the “fight versus flee” mentality and at the first sign of trouble are you a person fights or runs out the door? I do realize that we just came out of the worst recession our generation has ever seen and there are going to be reasons out there why the economy impacted a person’s career path. If that’s the case, make sure that your resume reflects that the company went bankrupt which is why you left your job.

I quit my job because my manager sucked.
In Mark Suster’s blog he said: “I was working for a lame boss.  I had to get out of there.”  What I hear, “You’re difficult to work with.  You don’t have gravitas.  Anybody with any common sense would know not to talk badly about a prior boss.  What will you say about me after you’ve left?  What will you say about me to your peers in my company when I make difficult decisions?”.

I quit my job because I was recruited away.
Again in Suster’s blog: “I was recruited away from that job.  The new company was willing to pay me more money / give me a title increase” – what I hear, “Three times?  You were recruited away three times?  You aren’t loyal.  The first company that offers you a higher check means you going to jump ship.  You’re only about the money and yourself.”  Believe me – people WILL offer your employees more money.  Job hoppers take it. I’ve personally been there, considered it, but I’ve turned it down.

They ran away from home.
A good employee that quit. One and a half years later they come back and say they would like to be re-hired. What do you do? Assuming that they left in good standing you have to ask them the hard questions. I’ve come up with questions to ask an employee who quit and is asking to be re-hired:

    • In what ways have things changed for you and the company so that those reasons that you left are still not reasons why you would leave again? [This is non-negotiable, if the reasons why they left the first time have not been exterminated then this employee will leave you again. Be the first person to offer and help them find a company to work for where that problem doesn’t exist.]
    • In order to build a great company, which is a huge challenge for startups and small companies, what are you going to do help me attract and retain great employees? [A lot of the momentum in your company is built upon hiring great employees, when someone great leaves the can destroy that momentum. They can even recruit other employees away on your team, and being a small company or startup it is devastating to your company. I’ve had this happen and it causes an incredible amount of pain. The flip side is when you hire great employees, it attracts more great employees, and I’m fortunate to be in that cycle right now! A-Players love it when you hire more A-Players. B-Players get scared and turn into C-Players.]
    • You’re back on my team for a month and someone that used to work with you gives you a call and recruits you to come work with them, what are you going to do in that situation? [You already question their loyalty and because a persons network is only so large, they are likely to be recruited by someone from within their network. You’re looking for loyalty and the opportunity for them to recognize that you’re giving them a second chance.]
    • What new skills have you learned in the company you are working for that you didn’t have when working at your company? [If they left your company, hopefully, they have learned something new that they will bring back to your company and improve your business. If not, then they aren’t worth re-hiring.]
    • Their life plans and goals have changed. [Find out how have those life plans changed. You have every right to understand how and why the stage in their life is now going to impact further life decisions such as finding a new job. The reasons why they left in the past, is no longer valid.]

With that I would have to say that if you’re going to take a risk on re-hiring someone that quit, the absolute number one reason to not re-hire them is if the reason why they left has not changed then they will undoubtedly leave you again. Don’t waste your time with that. You’re investing in people that believe in your company, it’s mission, and even when the tough gets going (and I’m 100% sure that it will get tough) that they are not the person that will run out the door. One of my best decisions, which was also a hard decision at the time, was making a decision on going with a new employee who really wanted to work for me rather than re-hiring someone who would have been excellent but probably not in it for the long run. I trusted my gut and now I have someone I can build the company around rather than have questions in the back of my mind.

No take back policy

I’m a person that believes that people need to be shown more grace. With that I think that if they get through those questions then it’s worth the chance that they can become exceptional loyal employees. One of my favorite blog posts that I’ve ever read comes from my advisor Annie Duncan, who wrote this blog post: Maybe the Grass is Greener on the other side. Annie says: “Instead of being jealous or threatened by greener grass, see it as an invitation to water the grass you’re standing on”. What are your thoughts on re-hiring people that have quit? What other questions have you asked to test their loyalty?

Some other good blog posts on this topic:
Never hire job hoppers. Never. They may terrible employees
Why job hoppers make the best employees (I have to say I totally disagree with this blog post)
A Gen-X Managers Advice to Millennials
Confessions of a job hopper
Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare

A Roadmap to Develop Leaders With Both Heart & Horsepower

heart+horsepowerI’ve been running my company for six years and it still feels like a startup. I’ve had bits and parts of a leadership team in the past but it never matured into a leadership team that was able to scale and grow to reach the next level. We’re already in the top 4% of all companies and have $1M+ in revenue but our goal is to be named in the INC 5000 and also reach the top .4% of all companies and have $10M in revenue. In order to reach this level, the right people, strategy, and ability to execute has to be in place. The part that I’m most excited about right now is the launch of the thinkspace Leadership Academy with a new framework that I haven’t had in the past.

Creating Leadership Academy

I’ve formed a Leadership Academy which is modeled after the Bramble Berry Leadership Academy. The intention that I have set forth for this program is to elevate the directors on the team which bleed our core values and have both the heart and horsepower to reach our goals. My goal is to focus on both growing our IQ as well as our eIQ. There also needs to be true passion, the same kind of passion that drives me as the founder. This kind of passion is the feeling like one is able to change the world through this business and it’s not because of monetary compensation. Its hard to put words to it, but, if someone were to treat your passion like their job, you would probably hate that.

“Great lives, great businesses, don’t happen by accident. They happen through deliberate design and hard work” – Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO of Bramble Berry.

Creating Space to Learn

bellingham-view-chantel-bailey-katie-walvatne-peter-cheeThe love of reading is a requirement. We’re reading a book each month. Reading opens the mind to new ideas. You must have an insatiable appetite for learning. Good thing that’s one of our core values! The first book we’re reading is “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson.

One of our key training initiatives is having my leadership team participate in the EO Accelerator Program. This is a program that focuses on helping companies go from $250K to reach the $1M mark. The importance for me is total alignment with my team. The Accelerator Program helps them think like an entrepreneur. The primary book we’re reading is “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish.

Modeling Success

anne-marie-peter-chee-soap-queen-tvRather than learn to be a successful from scratch and re-invent the wheel we are modeling ourselves after successful leaders that have already achieved a high level of success. Each month we are meeting with CEO’s and leaders that exemplify similar core values as us. The goal is to surround yourself with extraordinary people that have been able to break through and model yourself after people like that. It’s the fastest way to successfully learn.

It’s About the Journey Not The Destination

This year I’m on a mission to complete my first marathon. My goal is to just finish. I’m not looking to break any land speed records. I’m defining success as the journey to get there not just the actual act of crossing the finish line. A few people on my leadership team are also participating in this journey with me. I know through doing this it’s going to further push the edge out for all of us and its the most exciting thing for me this year — I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

Campfire Show & Tell | Showcasing Mobisante

mobisante-productsA wise food blogger once wrote, “Valentine’s Day will be over soon, but chocolate is forever.” So take those words to heart, and join us for some cocoa confections as we showcase thinkspace member Mobisante at our monthly Campfire Show & Tell event! It’s all taking place in the second floor lobby at our Redmond location on Wednesday, February 18 at 1:00 pm.

Mobisante is the company responsible for bringing portable ultrasound diagnostic imaging to your smartphone or tablet. And they’re doing it at a fraction of the cost of other expensive portable ultrasound systems. As Mobisante puts it:

We’ve put the power of diagnostic imaging in the hands of the world. On a smartphone or a tablet from Mobisante or a Windows-based device of your own. Not just in the emergency department or the bedside, but on the street, in a home or a remote village.

And at a price for everyone.

mobisante-logoMake sure you get there on time! Sailesh Chutani, Mobisante’s CEO & co-founder, will begin the event with a brief presentation, followed by Q&A, networking and—of course—chocolate.

A post-Super Bowl-post: Stop trying to have a better past.

Handling loss.

A fitting topic for this dreary-raining-post-Super-Bowl-Monday morning.
Especially if you’re a Seahawks fan.
Especially if you’re a Seahawks fan that wore her wedding dress+jersey only because that’s what you wore on February 1st, 2014 (thinking, superstitiously, “This better work…”).
Especially if you couldn’t sleep last night because you replayed that last possession over and over in your mind.
So…about that loss…
After a restless night, this morning I’ve found solace in what a friend of mine says:
“If you want to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past.”
There’s nothing we can do with yesterday.
Only what we can do with today.
Feel free to apply that to yesterday’s game, or wherever it is fitting in your life.
Looks like Russell Wilson already has. #leadership #gohawks

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 8.00.39 AM

Campfire Show & Tell | Join us for s’mores!

campfire-show-and-tellCome join us around our imaginary campfire as we kick off our 2015 Campfire Show & Tell event series with some good, old-fashioned s’mores. The event will take place in the second floor lobby of our Redmond location on Wednesday, January 21 at 1:00 pm.

Campfire Show & Tell is an ongoing monthly event that allows us to showcase our incredible members—their successes, what they’re launching, what they’re​ working on. We’ve seen the launch of a new lunch option at thinkspace in Redmond, discovered recyclable furniture, learned about website heatmaps and explored the value of the hashtag.  This month, we’re keeping it casual. We’re getting together and roasting marshmallows. So stop by to meet and mingle with the thinkspace team and your fellow thinkspace members!  We’ll have marshmallows and good conversation ready for you.

New Year’s Practices

happy-new-yearFor the next few weeks, you’re going to need an answer to the daunting question “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?”  This year, resolve to answer with something you’ll practice.

Allow me to explain.  In the past, my resolutions have had a common denominator – they’ve all shared a lofty (and usually unattainable) goal.
I’m not going to eat sugar.
I’m going to lose 20 pounds.
I’m going to stop watching TV.

These resolutions had an all or nothing approach, leaving little wiggle room and no plan to achieve them.  #Fail

Furthermore, our resolutions usually stem from unhealthy behavior, so to just resolve not to do them doesn’t deal with the root cause of why we do them.  #DoubleFail

Those two reasons combined is probably why 75% of people quit their New Year’s Resolution after the first week, and 46% of people are off target after six months (source).

So the more I’ve thought about resolutions, the more I’ve decided I’m done with them.  This year, I’m making New Year’s  Resolutions Practices.

What’s the difference?  A resolution is an empty statement, but a practice involves an action plan.

Resolution: I will get more sleep at night.
Practice: I will have less screen time one hour before I go to bed and read a book instead of watch TV/check my email/play on my phone.

So what’s your New Year’s Resolution Practice?

Campfire Show & Tell | Showcasing Tagboard

josh-decker-nteIt’s that time again! Join us in the second floor lobby at our Redmond location on Wednesday, December 10 at 4:00 pm for our monthly Campfire Show & Tell event! This month, new thinkspace member Tagboard will be joining us for some Christmas cookies and craft brews at our Holiday Happy Hour.

Tagboard offers hashtag-based curation, collecting posts from the social media platforms that you already use. Why hashtags? According to Tagboard:

No other social discovery mechanism has the same speed, versatility, and widespread adoption as the hashtag. It may seem geeky or trendy to some, but the hashtag is a powerful tool that unites people around common interests and goals. We believe every community needs a hashtag, and every hashtag needs a tagboard.

You’ll want to be on time for this one. Tagboard’s founder and CEO, Josh Decker, will be kicking off the event with a short presentation, to be followed by Q&A, as well as the opportunity to sign up for a free trial and group training session.

everymoveIn case you need another reason to be on time, our friends from EveryMove will be here to motivate you to get moving! Come learn about their @Work program, where you can compete in challenges, earn points and win prizes! Read more about it here.

We’ll see you on Wednesday for some seasonal goodies, free giveaways and holiday cheer!

#13DaysOfRainbows

13Days_smallThe holidays are called “the most wonderful time of the year.”

And that can be very true.  Especially when festive foot-tapping sing-a-long music is played in every store you enter, decorations are around every corner, and a fresh dusting of snow is just another sign of the magic of the season.

But the holidays can also be hard.  Really, really hard.

If you’ve experienced the loss of someone close, you know this.  You dread the holidays because of the absence it points to.  When someone who was there – or you planned to be there – isn’t there anymore, your life is changed.  And so are your traditions.

How do you honor and mourn a loss in the midst of excessive celebration?

#13DaysofRainbows (which you can read more about here).

A good friend of mine lost a baby boy named Noah much too soon in life, and around this time last year decided to honor his sweet life through random acts of kindness called #13DaysofRainbows.  Things like: snow shoveling a driveway, delivering a poinsettia to a local coffee shop, a care package for a boy in the hospital, and bringing a pot of soup over to a neighbor.  In the midst of the “merry and bright” holidays around my friend, she sensed a dark and hard time settling in.  #13DaysofRainbows didn’t provide an out from this hardship, but it did provide a glimmer of hope.  Because sometimes even the smallest act of kindness and generosity can remind you that good still exists.  

#13DaysOfRainbows is celebrated December 5-18th.  Join many of us as we participate with the movement to spread love and joy through random acts of kindness .  #13DaysOfRainbows cards are available here, and don’t forget to use the hashtag!  There is so much you receive when you give.  Let the kindness-spreading begin :)

thinkspace Community and EveryMove @Work

Mockup_Womens_Back

thinkspace is teaming up with EveryMove @Work to encourage our entrepreneurial community to get moving! EveryMove is a free application you can download on your phone or computer in order to log your activity and movement throughout the day. The more activity you do, the more points you will receive! And if you receive enough points, or meet a challenge, you can win neat prizes.

thinkspace will be launching different challenges throughout the year with prizes and incentives for participants. We will be posting leaderboards throughout the halls of thinkspace so that the most active people will be spotlighted. So, whether you want to use EveryMove for motivation, to join the competition, or to track your physical progress, make sure to download the app and participate! Let’s make this holiday season an active one.

Who can join? Members of the thinkspace community and employees of thinkspace.

How to join? Create an account and join page. http://everymove.org/thinkspace. Space is limited to 25 people.

Also, come join team thinkspacers in the 30th annual 5k Jingle Bell Run/Walk! This is a great way to kick off the holiday season while raising money to fight arthritis.

The event takes place on Sunday, December 14th at the Westlake Center in Seattle. It is a 5k (about 3.1 mile) loop and you can choose to travel the course at whatever pace you like!

You can register online before December 5th and make sure to join team thinkspacers. Let’s make this a great turn out for the thinkspace community!

Here is the link to join our team. If you have any other questions feel free to contact Katie Walvatne: katie@thinkspace.com