Growth School

A few months ago, I began to focus heavily on driving organic member growth at OpenSky. Since then we’ve seen significant gains to viral coefficient and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

Step #1 for anyone should be a hyper-detailed cohort report. Looking at organic growth, I maintain a day-by-day funnel report of how new users come through our system, both the inviters and the invitees. Record numbers at every point where a user can make a choice, because some growth tactics will have a positive impact in one area while damaging another.

Here’s a list of articles and that got me started in this area:

a. Andy Johns, previously from Facebook’s Growth team, explains things on Quora:

And another good growth page: What are some top strategies for conversion optimization?

b. Andrew Chen on growth

From an OpenSky perspective, ecommerce emails in inboxes seems like “the last war,” so we’re actively looking at alternative channels. Honestly, any marketing email is probably a “last war” – while still valuable, it’s a declining option so you need to look elsewhere.

c. Turntable explained by Quora:

d. Mint:

e. Badoo. I thought their recent NYC subway ads were beautifully designed as a “platform with a voice”, so I looked them up and it turns out they know a thing or 2 about growth:

f. And random answer re address book imports:

Think anew, act anew, disenthrall ourselves

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.

Abe Lincoln, 1862

Via Sir Ken Robinson at TED 2010

This statement resonated with me in a couple of contexts: first in my daily work as I grapple with defining new commercial interactions (and attempt to avoid falling into existing patters) and then, later, as I recalled a moment yesterday when Shannon and I visited our obstetrician with Winnie in tow.

When the OB entered the exam room Win asked a ton of great questions about the various tools and equipment that adorned the shelves and walls. I was so proud that I transformed into a leering adult and asked “do you want to be a doctor when you grow up?”

“No, Daddy,” she shouted, suddenly intent on twirling the doctor’s stool with her hands, “I want to be a… a… spinning ball!”

Join OpenSky again, for the first time

Back in 2009 I invited all of my friends to join me at OpenSky. We were young and enthusiastic and naive back then; in the intervening 18 months we’ve become less young and naive but more enthusiastic than ever, because we relaunched OpenSky just a couple of months ago and our growth and shopper responses have been phenomenal since then.

I’m finally at a point where I’m proud of the work we’ve done and eager to give you an inside look. And if you know me then you know that’s saying a lot.

I’d also like to offer you a couple of incentives for joining right now with this link:

First, we typically only allow shoppers to follow 10 curators (and access their sales), but if you join with my link and send a quick email then I’ll use my secret powers to allow you to follow an unlimited number of OpenSky curators. (Be warned, though, that each curator’s weekly sale triggers an alert email – we’re working on improving that.)

Second, there’s a fair chance I owe you an email or call, a lunch, a beer, an alibi, or something else. If so, I promise that if you join OpenSky today then I’ll finally stop wasting my time wondering how to make OpenSky better and start talking to you instead. Yes, it’s sad, but I’m a man obsessed.

Again, the link is:

You’re smart, empathetic, and generally good looking. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts about OpenSky and the experience in general, so I can continue to improve it. Please leave a comment and let me know.

Here are some quick questions to get you thinking:

  1. How would you describe OpenSky to a friend? Why would you suggest they join?
  2. What other sites or services would be effective alternatives to OpenSky?
  3. Do you think you’d ever want to use OpenSky? What type of person do you think would really like OpenSky?
  4. What’s the single most important thing we could do to improve OpenSky?
  5. What curators should we add to OpenSky?

Finally, I’m going to stretch my luck by asking you to please tell to your friends about this blog post and ask them to join and post their thoughts as well.

Again, the link to join is:

Thanks, and have a wonderful weekend!

Woodkid – Iron

A couple of weeks ago I found some old Elric paperbacks on someone’s stoop (that’s how we freecycle in BKLN – just leave your cool crap on the stoop for someone else). As an old school D&D player, I knew of Elric but hadn’t ever read Michael Moorcock’s tale of the nihilist young Melnibonean emperor who attempts to cheat fate and save the world despite his dual addictions to drugs and a demonic sword.

Stumbling on Woodkid’s Iron video as I journey through tales that informed so much of my creative aesthetic feels like a gift from Arioch himself: a wicked delight, an otherworldly scheme.

How to startup and how to market it when you do

Sorry, no analysis here; I’m bookmarking this stuff for later reference.

how to succeed with an early-stage startup

Takeaways from the articles above:

  1. Lean startup FTW (caveat: garbage in, garbage out).
  2. Founder passion (founder domain knowledge allows you to bypass customer discovery).
  3. No marketing. Products should be natively social. Games are social, as is expression.
  4. Native monetization.

Fun quotes from Fred Wilson

…and others, culled from the articles above:

The 2-step super distribution model: Get the power users to adopt something and then the people who follow the power users will adopt it too

Early in a startup, product decisions should be hunch driven. Later on, product decisions should be data driven.

Early in a startup you need to acquire your customers for free. Later on, you can spend on customer acquisition.

If you have an idea that you can’t get out of your head, do a startup. Otherwise join a startup.

Don’t worry about whether you are building a feature, a product or a company. Build something great, have huge passion for it, engender affection with a large customer base, and let the rest follow.

There are three addictions in life: calories, heroine, and a paycheck.