Josh is currently a principal at Greylock, but previously he was the product lead for growth at Twitter and grew their active user base by 10x. He was also at Facebook and led the launch of Facebook Connect, and he was at LinkedIn as an early member of the growth team.
→ How important is growth to a company
→ What’s the difference in growth and virality
→ What does adoption mean
→ What is the important things about growth in LinkedIn
→ How important is that distinction to justify the growth of any company
→ The product lead for growth in Twitter
→ His role in Facebook Connect
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Josh Elman with us. Josh, thank you so much for coming on the program for us.
Josh: And thanks for having me.
Bronson: Absolutely. Now, in case people don’t know who you are, which they probably do, let me give a little bit of your background here. You’re currently a principal at Greylock, but previously you were a product lead for growth at Twitter, helping them grow their active userbase by ten X. Before that, you were Facebook and you led the launch of Facebook Connect and you’re also at LinkedIn, where you were a part of the early team that focused on growth. So basically, you might be the perfect guest for growth. Hacker TV.
Josh: Thanks a lot.
Bronson: So let’s jump right in here to start off with. How important is growth to a company, in your opinion?
Josh: Well, I mean, I think growth is everything. I think when you’re starting a company, you’re building a product that you hope is this amazing product that will make a really big difference in people’s lives. And then once you’ve kind of got that products order to an interesting place, very excited about how it works and how it feels to have shared it with friends. You’ve shared with people how you that product then gets in the hands of many, many, many more people and how it expands and how in many cases, as more people are using it, the product itself gets better is fundamental to a company’s success. And this is true whether you’re a brand new startup, virgin, your first product, or whether you’re a company that already has 10 million users. It’s trying to figure out how to get a bigger and more important impact in the world. You always want to be figuring out like, how do I grow usage and engagement? It is making sure that people are having a more meaningful interaction and they’re really getting the value out of my product that they can.
Bronson: Yeah. Now, you know, I’ve read a lot of what you have to say online and I’ve watched a lot of your interviews and you make an important distinction between growth and virality. And it’s a distinction that I think informs kind of a lot of your perspective. What’s the difference in growth and virality?
Josh: Yeah, so that’s a great question. And a lot of people kind of think growth is rapidly getting lots of people to come and try out my product. And you see sort of these short term active user numbers jump up and maybe you rise up the charts and you’re featured by, by, you know, on some article or you’re featured on the press. But really meaningful growth is not getting lots of people to try it out, but it’s figuring out how people are really deeply using your product and how to get more and more of them doing that every day. And that’s not something that usually happens overnight. It’s only just happens over time. And as some people use it, they get really engaged. As more people come, they get more engaged. Now, virality is one of the great ways that products spread, just like marketing, just like press. And so you want to find products that are one of the neat things about when you have a product that’s truly viral, is it actually spreading for free and people are sharing it. But virality that says come try it out and everybody leaves is not the same thing as growth.
Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s a great distinction that I think a lot of companies don’t make, like you said there. And this kind of leads into an article that you wrote pretty recently a couple of months ago. The title. The article was What is Growth Hacking, really? And you said you can’t hack the long term patterns of growth. Now, I must admit that quote is probably on my Twitter stream at least once a day. Josh Elman You can’t hack the long term patterns of growth. Is that what you meant by that? That the long, durable, sustainable stuff, there’s really no hack for it.
Josh: Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, if you build something meaningful, you can’t hack your way to get everyone to understand the meaning. Every time that, you know, you see, hey, go spam all your friends. What usually happens is, you know, not that many people, you know, a lot of people might come check something out and they don’t stick around. And then what you would you risked is you’ve actually burned a lot of people out. You’ve caused a lot of people to come check it out and go get out. It’s not for me was really meaningful to understand these long term patterns of growth is is what is it at the point where someone truly gets engaged with a product? For example, you know, Twitter, we found that once you follow a certain number of people and you start checking your timeline at a certain frequency, if might have gotten into a habit where Twitter is actually providing you meaningful content you naturally want to come back for or even take another product like Evernote that isn’t viral at all. But once you get it and someone says You should try out this notes app, it’s much better. It syncs to the cloud and then you start typing some things in there and then you type more and then you type more. And then one day you start looking up your notes and you realize now you’ve got like two weeks, a month worth of notes. You’ve now got these much deeper patterns embedded for what growth is. It’s not something that was something that you hacked in. You convince everybody, you’re like, Hey, free pictures of you if you come check this out right now.
Bronson: So tell me if I’m wrong here. But basically you’re saying the core product is the main thing. But virality can help people get in touch with the core product so they can learn to love it and use it over time, you know, over and over and over. Is that basically what you’re saying?
Josh: Yeah, I think virality is just one flavor of growth. But I think I think you’re right, the core product is the main thing. But what a lot of people miss is there’s actually one other main thing, which is the entire onboarding and activation experience to get somebody from the point where they might hear about the product for the first time and how they heard about it is kind of your overall marketing to the point in which they’re trained to actually have the product become a habit. So it’s really the core product is the most important thing. But how you train people and how people learn from the first time they interact with your product until they’re actually using it like a habit. Is this other key thing that I think a lot of people don’t focus on? Not.
Bronson: Yeah, and I want to ask you about that in just a minute, because I want to have you walk us through, you know, the habits and inception, all those things. But let me ask you one more question about the Post. First, you said that you don’t think milestones are as important as figuring out a path. To sustainability. What kinds of milestones are you referring to here that don’t really impress you anymore?
Josh: Yeah, look, anytime you say, hey, I’ve gotten to a million users or I’ve gotten to 200,000 people who upload a photo yesterday, like those are all great numbers and those are all signs that there’s clearly something working in something meaningful. And you’re on some path where you’ve done something great. But you can say, Hey, you know, Coachella was yesterday and said, Everybody upload your pictures from Coachella. And we had 200,000 people, you know, upload their pictures from Coachella over the weekend. And that’s a great step. But there’s nothing in that data point that says next week I think we’re going to have 220 or 250,000 people or the week after that. So what really matters is not when you say, hey, we hit some number, we have some number of users, but we say, hey, the way that we’ve gotten to this number and the patterns we’ve seen and the patterns we’re seeing from our user behavior and the way people are finding out about it and our spreading it virally leads us to believe that that number only gets better tomorrow and only gets better tomorrow. And then as we add this kind of feature, this kind of idea, it only gets better the next day and we’re going to keep seeing it go up and up.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, what it makes me think of when I hear you talk about that kind of stuff is how used to we view TechCrunch as like, Oh, we’ll get on TechCrunch and then everything’s going to be okay. And now we’ve all kind of learned like, well, there’s the, you know, the, the drought, you know, that, you know, all the users kind of go away after a couple of days, but really that happens in other ways. Also, you can have these cool stats and these big numbers that aren’t PR related but still aren’t really that meaningful. But yet we tout them as something really important. So, no, I think you’re absolutely right there.
Josh: Now, we had a great example from a from Twitter that the product wasn’t really ready and the network wasn’t really deep enough in France. But in prime time television, someone had talked about Twitter on one of the main primetime TV shows there. And so the spike we got in France of people signing up for Twitter was incredible. But when we checked a month later, the number of people who were still engaged with Twitter after that spike was almost no different than if we had been on that show at all. Now, it’s neat to have that kind of exposure and to have that many people trying it out. But until that, the network and the product really gets you to a point where you’re sort of self perpetuating kind of the habits and the activity. It’s not ready.
Bronson: Yeah, and you mentioned our habits again. So that brings me to my next question. During presentations that I’ve seen you give, you summed up your perspective on growth and I think a really meaningful way you explain growth using the four words problem, inception, adoption and habits. I want to have you walk us through each of those words. So it starts with problem. What do you mean by that?
Josh: Look, I think the most important thing with with everything you’re trying to do to build your product is why should somebody use it? What is the the problem or the need or the want that they have in the world that your product actually fulfills? And if you think of, you know, the problem can be anything from like, I’m bored, what’s the most exciting, engaging I could do with when I’m bored? Maybe it’s hang out with my friends and talk with my friends. And some products like Facebook, maybe like, you know, messaging apps or like Snapchat give you this amazing thing to do when you’re when you’re bored to go have these much richer experiences with your friends. Or maybe the problem is I need to find a business and I need to find a restaurant nearby. What’s the product that actually does that? And today, Yelp comes top of mind a lot when I need to go find a restaurant nearby, or for some people, maybe Foursquare. But but that’s a that’s where you start with like, what is this problem that you really want to go solve? And you need to understand that and crystallize that so deeply so that when you go to figure out how you’re going to grow, why people are going to learn your product, which can become a habit, they’re going to have this point where, like, whenever I have this problem, I go to that product or that experience to kind of address it.
Bronson: Yeah. And that leads to Inception. So you kind of really formalized what the problem is internally. You know how to crystallize that what is Inception?
Josh: So Inception is the idea that in every single way that you market spread virally spread your product, you’re not just saying, come check out the product, the product’s cool, but you’re actually inserting the idea that this product solves the problem that you may have. So if you want to find a great restaurant, you should be using Yelp. If you want to make sure that you’re open to the best professional opportunities, you should be on LinkedIn and you should have a good network, for example. And I go to that a little bit. One of the things we found at LinkedIn it was really important was it wasn’t just, Hey, I’m getting everything LinkedIn, please come and sign up. It was, yeah, I’ve set for this thing LinkedIn, which great opportunities might come through my network and they might come and be able to find you if you get on LinkedIn too, and I’ll share them with you, and then hopefully you and your network will share them with me. Now, in that statement, it’s not just come sign up for this thing, but it’s like, come sign up, come have a big network. And if you do those things, you may actually the right opportunity might land on your doorstep that you didn’t know otherwise. And so, of course, you’re going to sign up and you’re going to want to have a big network. So we’ve incepted a much bigger idea of what LinkedIn is for.
Bronson: Yeah. Now a follow up question on that. With LinkedIn, you know, you really appeal to their fear of missing out, you know, great opportunities. Don’t miss them. How long did it take you to stumble upon that sentence or that idea? Was it just a couple of weeks or is that months in the process of really honing in the thing that’s going to make them come and sign up?
Josh: You know, I think I think what was neat about LinkedIn was this was actually baked into a lot of the original vision for the company that said, if we map everybody’s professional networking into the kind of what Reid was Reid Hoffman was thinking at the very early days, if we map everybody’s professional network, we can spread and cause these opportunities to get in front of people and help them in their careers in ways that would be much, much harder before you have this idea that like LinkedIn is all about being, you know, both finding the right things or the right people and being found for the right things and the right opportunities. You know, I think it’s a constant iteration to figure out what the right language and the right way to describe it is. We used to test a very large number of varieties of the viral invitation text. We tested everything from let’s let the user write their own to let’s give them the option of five or six. I’m looking for a job. Please help me find a job. I’m looking to hire somebody. Do you know somebody? You know, and we kept using these data to figure out what would actually drive the the most likely activity, not just for getting people to come and sign up, but also getting people to come and sign up and then invite more.
Bronson: Yeah. And so you’ve crystallized the problem. You’ve found a way to incepted into people with the language or you know what, however else. And then the next thing is adoption. What do you do after you’ve incepted them? What does adoption mean?
Josh: Well, so adoption is this amazing moment now where somebody committed to trying out your product and signing up. And I talked to a lot of people where they say, hey, my user flow is really, really short. I’ll just ask them like one or two questions, then jump them right into the product. And that’s not really the best way to help somebody really adopt your product. I say that at the time that somebody signing up for your product is actually the single best moment that you have to help them become a user of your product. They’ve actually committed a couple of minutes to you and in fact, for the people who truly wanted it to be a slam bam, sign up, check it out, leave option. They’re probably not that likely to be sticking around anyway. So so I really encourage people to build these experiences as you’re walking through the product for the first time, they help teach you the product and get you set up the right way to use it. One other thing that I think is important is a lot of people get excited about these tours. Flip through a couple of screens and if you read them and look at everything, you’ll understand the product. And I don’t think that really works either. I think most users I’ve spoken to and have seen and I’ve just observed in experience, flip through the things and have very little recall. So what we’ve always focused on is how do you build a flow where you kind of learn the important components of the product by making decisions along the way? I think Twitter’s right now is still my favorite example, where you actually walk through a multi flow process where you’re shown a bunch of information and asked to make decisions on the screen, mostly in terms of starting to follow the right people. Find some of your friends to follow and then you end up on your timeline and says, Here’s the results of everything you followed. Now go forth and follow more. And hopefully we’ve trained you. How important following is to your Twitter experience by finding things that are interesting, things in news and sports and entertainment, friends and people you may know things that are local and around you. Yeah. So I think a lot of people try to treat these flows as like check it out and go use my product and you’ll figure it out. But I think adoption is much I think you can invest so much in helping people really get the right experience.
Bronson: Yeah. So instead of telling them what to do, you actually have them do it. That’s kind of the onboarding. Yeah. And I would recommend people go watch your LA Web presentation because it’s really good. And you walk through the Twitter flow and you show them how the onboarding works and why that you actually add steps. But it increased, you know, the adoption. So I would tell them to go dig in there if they get a chance to. And then the last thing is habits. And this is kind of the Holy Grail. Some people understand the problem. Some people can and set people with it. Some people can even get them adopted to make something a habit. There’s a very select few companies that actually master that. But tell us, what is habits?
Josh: Well, so the first thing is habits is where, you know, for that problem that every time that person has a problem, they’re now using your product to solve that. And then, you know, hopefully you’ve picked a problem that is either one that people have pretty often. Like, you know, a problem that I want to know is like what’s going on in the world. So Twitter now has become my solution for that. So I have that many times a day and I turn to Twitter to kind of get my fix and get my answer, or you have a problem that might happen less frequently, but it’s higher value. So like, Oh, I need to fly to Los Angeles, I’ll check out this travel site or I’ll choose this airline where I’m spending a lot more money to go, you know, and actually solve that problem. And my habit now is that I turn to that travel site or that airline to go in and address it. The real key that you want to understand with your users is how do they have the habit that actually matters for my product? And what that what you basically want to look for is do they come back on the frequency at which they have the problem to actually be using my product? And it’s usually on a month over month basis. So with a lot of, you know, a lot of these experiences like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest is when you’re seeing behavior today, are you seeing it because they’re kind of spiking and checking out they heard about it in the press? Or are you seeing people who use it so many times this month that they’re going to come back the next month and the next month and the next month? And you can really learn to understand your data for how many users you really have and how much of your product is a leaky bucket. Like the Coachella example we talked about further that product be like, Look, I got 200,000 people who did something, but the next month you have none of them coming back.
Bronson: Yeah. And there’s another blog post you wrote called The One Metric That Matters. And I think this was late last year. But in it you said that one of the similarities that all the companies you worked for had in common was that they didn’t just focus on high level numbers. They focused on what the users were actually doing and then allowed them to really kind of, you know, understand the metrics and make good decisions. Is that the kind of thing you’re referring to there?
Josh: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Which is you really dove into how many people are using my product in the way that I intend them to use it. I’m not looking at metrics just like page views or active users or invitations sent, but I’m actually saying how many people are checking Twitter many times a day? How many people are reading their Facebook newsfeed? How many people are responding to inquiries on LinkedIn when they get them, and how quickly are they responding? How many people are checking their Instagram feed? And you want to you want to really understand, like if they’re doing that behavior, then I know that they’re they’re doing it on a way that I know they’re going to come back next month or next month. Then I know that they’re really hooked. And if you look at just, hey, I’ve got a lot of page views where they all came from. Then the next month I got a lot of page views and they came from somewhere different. You won’t end up having any of those habits or really that one metric that you’re tracking that says, Look, we’re going to be a bigger company next month than we are this month.
Bronson: Yeah. Now, that’s great advice. Now, you worked at companies that are synonymous with growth. I mean, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. I mean, it’s kind of insane that one person gets to work for all those companies. And you worked for RealNetworks back in the day as well, or for Zazzle. But those are a little lesser known, but the three big ones, everybody knows. So what I wanted to do was. I want to walk through each of those real quick, and I want you to tell me what the primary thing you either learned or discovered about growth at each of those companies are. So let’s start with LinkedIn. What’s one of the main takeaways you took away from LinkedIn?
Josh: I think one of the most important things about growth that LinkedIn and LinkedIn’s the one service out of all of these that grew truly virally, that that really grew because we figured out how to motivate people to actively invite other people, get them to sign up and stick around. There is still a robust company. I mean, the early days of LinkedIn, nearly 90% or over 90% of the signups were viral invited by somebody else, rather than just came to the website and signed up, you know, and spread through word of mouth or PR or kind of any of those other means. But one of the most important things people don’t understand with LinkedIn’s virality is it’s not just, hey, somebody signs up and then they go and invite all their friends. It’s this key thing, kind of what I call the double viral loop, which is the moment you sign up for LinkedIn. The first thing LinkedIn does is says, Hey, there’s other people on the system you already know. Why don’t you go request them to connect? And so it gives you a way to go touch all these other people that are already on the system, connect with them before you move on. And then we say, Hey, maybe you want to go and invite more people that you know. Now, each of those people gets a special message from you that says, Hey, Josh is now on the service and would like to connect with you. Do you want to come back and accept this connection? You’re like, Oh, of course I know Josh Of course I’ll do that. So you come back to the site, you accept the connection. They were like, Hey, who else do you know in your network that you might want to do it? And that person who’s already familiar with LinkedIn, who’s already been a user and signed up before looking more likely to go and invite people, even then the new user who’s signing up for the very first time. So you take that new user signing up, give them a way to touch existing friends already on the service, and you actually increase your overall virality rate quite a bit more than if you had just said, Hey, welcome, who do you know? Spammed them and you know, thank you, don’t send it for the product, which is the experience I get for most of the products I use today.
Bronson: Yeah. Now that’s great. I’ve never heard that phrase before. Double Viral Loop. So yeah, that’s that’s the core of the interview right there. I think online just exploded. I know there’s another.
Josh: Blog post in there having a.
Bronson: Guy write something. So now Facebook is the primary kind of takeaway there. And honestly, I don’t know how much you how close you are to growth there. I know you launched Facebook Connect. I don’t know if you’re a part of actually growing Facebook next or what your role was there. But tell me the main takeaway from Facebook.
Josh: Yeah. So so yeah, I mean, just to answer your second question, you know, I Facebook, I work on the platform team where I worked with all the third party developers who were building things on Facebook and trying to grow and figure out how to grow on Facebook. And then we were figuring out how to take the Facebook platform elements where growth and finding these new social applications and how bringing your friends and any experience would really work for any site across the web or any app instead of just online on small Facebook groups. And so, you know, look, I think I learned to think Facebook. So one is getting to be part of the company at this time of massive growth and sort of, you know, having had the experiences at LinkedIn, I was friendly with the growth team and understood what they were doing, which was, you know, really understanding this secret moment of when you got Facebook and if we got you to having 12 friends, I think at the time on Facebook, the likelihood that you were going to come back and have a newsfeed that mattered and start to just get engaged and learn the habit of checking my newsfeed, it gets better every time was incredibly important and there was a very virtuous cycle of you sign up, you do you see other people doing an activity, you do an activity, you get feedback. You’re more likely to keep doing the activity. New people come up to you doing the activity and it feeds on itself. So, you know, the way that you learn to do things on Facebook was from other people. Like I posted a photo that looks really cool, like his photo, and then I’m like, Well, maybe I should post the photo and then you post the photo. Then you get likes and comments from your friends. You’re like, I love this feedback loop. Now I’m really excited about being and staying on Facebook link. That was just this is really fundamental. They’re sending it that Facebook was like the first company to really institutionalize and you know, has grown to massive scale.
Bronson: Yeah. All right. Now, what about Twitter? Twitter? What’s the primary thing you kind of walked away with there?
Josh: Yeah. So so Twitter was this amazing phenomenon where most of the awareness of Twitter kind of spread through PR and through people talking about it because of this amazing platform of communication. People who are already actively communicating online blogging and other things found Twitter to be a new, even better channel to communicate in a different way what was needed. They would be talking about Twitter everywhere else. They were already talking online, in forums and blogs with the media. The media was excited, so they were part of the conversation, too. And so Twitter spread not by saying, you should use this thing. Twitter, it’s really cool, but but much more through the well on Twitter today I learned such and such or on Twitter today this person and this person, we’re talking about this and it was amazing. And you start to go, I wish I was part of that conversation. And so a Twitter, you know, we really learned I really learned and witnessed how important the right conversation about your company is to get people to use it. And a big flip that we made was how we learned to start talking about Twitter, not, hey, such and such, we’re talking about this. If you get on Twitter and you start talking about stuff, you’ll get all these followers and all this audience. But in fact, if you get on Twitter, you’ll be able to be part of and hear the most important things going on and you won’t miss out. And there’s a great example I use in spring of 2010 when Conor O’Brien have been fired from NBC. He was really upset. Try to get on Twitter, started tweeting one tweet a day, decided to do a tour, and he sold out the entire tour with one tweet. And there was a bunch of PR stories that said CONAN O’Brien sold out his entire tour. With one tweet. But if you’re a reader and you hear that story, you’re like, I don’t understand how that’s relevant to me. I’m not going to use Twitter to go try to start a tour with one tweet. I don’t have an audience. So we started changing the story, which was, if you were on Twitter on Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m., you might have seen the tweet from CONAN O’Brien and had a chance to buy tickets. So and the moment you start telling the story that way. If you if you read that story, you’re like, oh, I should be on Twitter more. I should be following things I care about because I don’t want to miss out. I need to be first to the party, not late, or I won’t be able to get tickets for stuff like that. And so you completely change the way people talk about it. And then all of a sudden, you know, people sign out, have different expectations and get much more engaged in the product.
Bronson: Yeah. And that goes back to what you said about Inception. You know, that sentence, how the concert was sold out, was it by a tweet or to his Twitter followers that in sets the right idea to make people want to come back and use the product and service reading a cool story on a on a news outlet. Now, at Twitter, you know, online, it says that you helped grow the active user base by ten X. Yeah, I know. We talked about the onboarding experience earlier and kind of the screens and really helping them do it, not just showing them. Was there anything else that really went into that mix to help grow that user base, the active user base so much?
Josh: Yeah, well, look, I mean, I can’t take too much personal credit. The entire company was was an amazing place at that time. And and there was just a lot of pull from the market and everything else. You know, when I joined the company, I think the biggest challenge that we saw wasn’t that people were not trying to sign up for Twitter. It was nobody was sticking around. And, you know, literally one in four people who signed up came back in the second and the second month. So in the case of Twitter, because we already had this poll, we really focused on making the product stickier, making it easier to adopt, helping you understand that having the right feed was the most important part of Twitter and building a lot of tools to help people get the right feed, whether it was the new user experience, whether it was email reminders that help you come back and have a better feed, whether it was building the whole who to follow system that actually kept suggesting you knew people you want to follow. So you may be constantly tweaking your feed and your timeline. You know, those were these things that basically said, hey, this Twitter thing don’t even even if we had done no work at all, Twitter was definitely going to keep on growing. It was a phenomenon, and it was amazing. But by figuring out how to change the way that people adopted it, it made it a lot more sticky. You know, we got to just really, you know, ramp up the curve and the hottest.
Bronson: Yeah. And let me bring out something that you guys did is that, you know, when you found that it wasn’t sticky enough, you said online that you could have just sent out newsletters to try to bring them back in the loop. You could have just paid for retargeting ads to find them online wherever they were, and remind them Twitter existed and to come back in. But you opted not to. To throw money at it. Or to throw email newsletters at it. And instead we fixed the product. How important is that distinction to just growth of any company?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, that’s a that’s a great question. And, you know, being a product guy, you know, my whole career, I think products fundamental. I think what we’ve seen, you know, just in every company that’s, you know, become these significant companies is is having the right product and having the product work the right way is is the most fundamental foundation to being successful and really growing. But that said, there’s no like all of these other channels, marketing and newsletters and pay working, they’re all great ways to feedback into a great product. And so if you can figure out in a really positive way how to get people who then adopt or they’re incepted the right way through the marketing they adopted by the right way, they turn it into the right habit where you’re not just keep paying per transaction, please come and buy something on my site the next time I need you to come back. Please come and buy it on my site or I pay to please come and sign up and and do one search on my site and please I keep paying for that every time. But you you find the right pockets of people who will sign up, adopt it, spread it to other people in the right way. Like those are all really effective means as long as you’re understanding over time what committed habitual users are.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now there are a lot of startups that watch Growth Hacker TV. So tell us, what do you want to start to know about growth that they usually get wrong? Because you see startups from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, you know, a gray log, that’s what you do. What do you what do you want them to know about growth?
Josh: One is I want them to know that growth is always a long game and not a short game. And that is it’s trying to manufacture growth through paid marketing or or viral hacks that sort of churn a lot of people through to get very few who actually stick aren’t going to be there, aren’t going to be successful in the long run and often end up being a waste of time and even burning some bridges or burning some money with with potential, you know, either burning bridges with potential users or burning some money. So you really want to figure out, like, what are the patterns that are going to make it work? Is there really something here that as more people start using my platform, that’s going to naturally cause more and more and more people to keep using my platform?
Bronson: Yeah. What are some examples of companies that you think are getting growth? Right, but maybe aren’t household names yet? You can use some of your portfolio companies if you want. You can brag on them or maybe just other companies you respect. What are some companies kind of below the radar that you think are doing the right things? Yeah.
Josh: Yeah. So so I’ll give you a couple. One is a company called Next Door that people may not be that familiar with an easy way. Describe it as a group site for your neighborhood, similar to like a Facebook feed for your neighborhood where you sign up, give it your location, and then engage with your neighbors in a meaningful way. And what’s amazing is the product works. When you get enough neighbors on, you have an incredibly different type of communication that you have with your neighbors than you would have ever had, you know, on Facebook, Twitter or anything else. I seen when they were saying, I’m trying to get my fence, remodel your fence repaired, know we have any recommendations. And one neighbor said, hey, why don’t you come and check out my fence? You know, I just had that done like a month ago. And I bet you those neighbors have never met. And I checked their addresses and then have seven doors away. And they’re using this new platform to actually, like, have a really meaningful interaction. And so when it works, one person stands up in the neighborhood, is kind of a community leader. They know a bunch of people in the neighborhood. They invite them to the product. Everybody knows two or three more people in the neighborhood. So they keep spreading it out. And it’s really powerful when it works. And yet it’s hard to go. I need something for my neighborhood. I’m going to go sign it for this product. And how it spreads neighborhood to neighborhood to neighborhood to community, group to the community. Community is still something that the company is working really, really hard on to make every neighborhood in America where. Yeah. A second company that that I think has just really done something tremendous with growth. And you know recently if people don’t know about it’s called my fitness pal and their health tracking. So they’ve been around like, you know, many, many years. They were on the Web for a long time. Now they’re one of the top mobile apps in health and fitness, and they’ve just done an incredible job of being so good at this thing about how to track the food that you eat every day and your calories. Then everybody talks about them. But health and fitness isn’t, you know, and weight loss isn’t something that you actively promote and actively talk about with friends. And so the way that they’ve been able to kind of get the community excited and have the right people share, it is just, you know, again, a great story of sort of this long term play of growth content CEO and community, you know, versus viral spread. Mm hmm.
Bronson: Now, those are great examples. Thank you for those. Josh, this has been an awesome interview. I have one last question for you. As a principal at Greylock, how do you spot the companies that can achieve this durable, meaningful growth that we’ve been talking about? Because some of your investments are, you know, early stage, some of them are seed. What do you look for when you’re looking at a company to say, yeah, I think this might work long term, you know, in the way we’ve been talked about. Are you looking at the products that you’re product guy? Are you look at the team, the market, a mixture of all something else? How do you see it?
Josh: And so there is always a combination of product team and potential market. Is there a potential impact on the world? So the first thing we look at is the product and we try to understand why is this a product that some day, you know, it’s an iconic product that hundreds of millions of people will use. That is a new behavior that’s meaningful. And, you know, fundamentally, we look for the team that has a vision and able to articulate that vision in a way that’s infectious and gets, you know, the Greylock team excited. We’ll get new employees excited. We’ll get, you know, partners and customers excited when those matter. You know, the second thing we look for is somebody who fundamentally is understands these patterns of long term growth and what they’re going to take and has a thesis. And we fully expect those things to change many, many times. No product Facebook product is not the same today as it was back in 2005 and six when Greylock made investment. LinkedIn’s product is nothing like it was back in 2004 when the Greylock team made an investment. But the fundamental vision and theory are still there, and the thesis for how it grows have evolved as the team has grown and learned. And so we look for people who understand this, come up with strong hypothesis, are able to test it and experiment with it, show what’s working, learn what isn’t, and continue to have new theses as the world changes.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Josh, this has been an incredible interview. Again, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule and I’m pretty sure that this is going to be one of those videos watched many, many times on our platform. Thank you again, Josh.
Josh: Thanks, France, and thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
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