On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, OLC attended GrowHack’s monthly event, Growth Hacking Meetup. It was held in Projective Space LES and featured Nabeel Hyatt, a Partner at Spark Capital and former General Manager at Zynga. Hyatt also worked as the VP, Product at MIT Media Lab spinoff, Ambient Devices.
Nabeel Hyatt talked about driving growth and scaling growth. Growth begins by people asking certain questions, like “Growth is important, so should I hire a customer acquisitions guy?” or “Do I hire UX or an analytical person?” or “How can I divide workload?” or “What goals should I set up for the company?” or “How can I make teams feel more connected with the goals I set up?” Hyatt says that what actually goes on is prioritizing. “Companies try to organize teams and they end up messing it up pretty bad,” he said. “The caveat is to understand that this advice is not a panacea. You will not be certified. Leading a team and product requires subtlety.”
Hyatt listed evidence-based product development examples. “First, you set clear goals. Then you form ideas on how to hit those goals. Test those ideas and learn from those ideas. I follow these four basic things. It all depends on your product understanding. This basically boils down to this: thesis to build to data to learn and repeat. People are looking for silver bullets, but there aren’t any. You have to think like a scientist. Be a disciplined product person,” Hyatt said.
He said that creativity is important to building a product. He asked that everyone set an estimate and analyze the data afterwards. “Most product people release every quarter,” Hyatt said. “You learn a lot from both ends of the spectrum [bad and good]. It’s easy to learn from that, but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen enough.”
Hyatt revealed that Zynga does not A/B test. “It slows down business,” he said. “It shows that your product team is indecisive. We do some sample testing and multi-variable testing, but not A/B testing. A/B testing to me is your product last week and your product now after learning from your mistakes. It’s about getting it done.”
Hyatt talked about OKRs (Objective Key Results). Objective is the mission and KR [Key Results] are the measurements of hitting the mission. “You should not be hitting all your KRs. They are goal posts,” Hyatt said. “It’s important that the object is not a number. It’s why you’re doing the things you’re doing. KRs help your team stay focused and take risks. Without the sustainable processes, the startup isn’t a startup anymore. It’s a big company.”
“Goals are public or not at all,” Hyatt said. “It’s not about hitting a number, it’s about understanding the customer’s behavior. It’s being objective about your results to look at what’s wrong with the picture.” Regarding pipelines, he said to have an expected goal. “Every feature you haven needs this. Go over this process over and over again,” he said. Finally, he asked that everyone roadmap their results and then analyze the results.
The goal of driving growth is, if you can predict, you understand your users. “If you understand your users, you can shape the product. Start to predict. Analyze why you are wrong and you will learn about your users,” Hyatt said.
At this point, the presentation changed to an interview Q&A.
“Why do people not take a scientific approach—how can we fix that?” Mattan Griffel asked. “You mean why people don’t do this from the beginning? I think it’s because it’s not intuitive. I think the way we want to build isn’t perceived as scientific. Creativity isn’t seen as scientific,” Hyatt said.
“Are there any myths and mistakes that startups make with growth?” Griffel asked. “I think it’s the silver bullet strategy. If you sit down long enough or talk to enough people, a magic formula will be thought of. Sometimes it works, but the features are unnatural. The best way to approach it is to understand the user. Just having your head up won’t get you anywhere. It’s knowing when to keep your head down and working on your product,” Hyatt said.
“What is the perfect growth team?” Griffel asked. “I would say, at least for me, they came from incredibly varied backgrounds. There’s really no profile. There is no pattern, but you need someone who is right-brained and left-brained. Three pieces I look for are analytical, creative and leadership ability,” Hyatt said.
“Where would you recommend people to go learn about growth hacking?” Griffel asked. “I think the growth hacking conference is a pretty good place to start. Blogs, newsletters, books and panels are other great resources,” Hyatt said.
“What’s a retention number you look for when investing?” Conrad Wadowski asked. “One of the things Spark Capital’s been doing is gathering data from the companies we’ve invested in. There’s benchmark data to look at. It’s never been if you hit a marker, we give you a check. We’ve a very product-oriented group,” Hyatt said.
Wadowski asked what else Hyatt looks for in the startup. “We do look at metrics,” Hyatt said. “It’s a little bit harder because at the end of the day, it’s a very different set of criteria we go to. You ask any venture capitalists the same question; they say market, team and product. For us, it’s product first, team second and market at a distant third,” he said.
“How does A/B testing work with mobile apps?” Wadowski asked. “The issue is to be highly iterative,” Hyatt said. When we’re humming, we can figure out an hour before the launch if it’s going to be successful or not. There’s two things to talk about: tactical, which is releasing one app in multiple geographies or having two versions of your app. The second thing is organizational. You wait a certain amount of time, analyze it, rebuild it and release it and then gather the results again. Some teams have two sets of OKRs to switch back and forth while waiting for data,” Hyatt said.