Learn How to Build a Mobile-First Startup with Marissa Chacko at HotelTonight

Posted by Anant January 12, 2023

Marissa gives us incredible insights from HotelTonight, a fast-growing startup that is focused exclusively on mobile, and she walks us through the daunting task of product management, showing us how it affects overall growth.


→ Her incredible insights from HotelTonight

→ What is Hotel Tonight

→ Who’s the demographic

→ What is the growth of HotelTonight

→ Her strategy for how they continue to grow

→ They have 17 countries expanding internationally

→ How hard is international grow

→ Her role as a product manager

→ What is her main focus as a product manager

→ What are the big initiatives that HotelTonight is trying to tackle as a whole company

→ And a whole lot more


Marissa’s LinkedIn Profile

Hotel Tonight Website



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Marissa Chacko with us. Marissa, thanks for coming on the program.

Marissa: Thanks for having me.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited about this because you are the product manager at Hoteltonight and that’s awesome because we get requests all the time for more conversation about app growth, more people that are in the App Store, how do we get our app into people’s hands? That’s what people want to know. So first, tell us kind of at a high level, what is Hoteltonight for those that don’t know?

Marissa: Sure. So Hoteltonight is an on demand mobile hotel booking app. So basically, if you’re anywhere and you say I need a hotel right now, you can open up our app and get it today. We don’t do, you know, booking two months out. We’re very focused on just that one use case.

Bronson: Yeah. Who’s the demographic? Is it just young people that are just on the go and trying new stuff and they’re in a city and they didn’t think they would be in that kind of group. Yeah.

Marissa: It definitely started out that way. But we see a wide variety of people now. It’s it’s almost like the average traveler, you know, you’ve got moms and dads who are on a road trip. You’ve got people who are businessmen who miss their flights or have to stay an extra day in a place. So it’s a pretty wide group now. We still have some of those young techies who I think were the initial folks, but now it’s it’s pretty average traveler. And we’ve got a lot of people who use it for anything from a spontaneous getaway to a travel emergency. Actually had to use it recently. And I was going home for Christmas and our house flooded. And so I had to relocate my whole family to a hotel. So, yeah, it was great for that situation, which we hope isn’t happening to most of our customers. But, you know, it comes in handy.

Bronson: Yeah. And now, you know, you’re doing you’re kind of booking the hotel the night you need it. Are you getting a discount because you’re booking it so late or or is there an incentive there when you do it that way?

Marissa: Definitely. We give discounts that can be, you know, anywhere from 20 to 50% off of what users could see, definitely on the hotels, websites and even on some of the other OTAs. So the kayaks and Expedia and things of the world. So yeah, you’ll definitely be getting a discount in some cases. You know, the rates are what they are. If you’re trying to book, you know, Valentine’s Day night, it could it could be a little bit higher. But it’s the same way it’ll be for every other hotel booking application.

Bronson: Yeah. Which is kind of a great strategy I think behind the app, which is, you know, there’s this inventory that is not really being monetized because it’s hard to sell that kind of inventory. And then you guys came in and found a way to sell it at a discount to users, and then the hotel makes money that they probably would have made otherwise, right?

Marissa: Absolutely. Yeah. Those rooms are just sitting there empty. And I think it’s a win win for the hotels and the users. So everybody benefits.

Bronson: Do you think the best products really create a scenario where both sides of the exchange feel like they got something out of it? They both feel like they got the better deal?

Marissa: Absolutely, yeah. I think when you have tension between the two sides and you have sort of that fixed pie mentality, then it’s always going to be a struggle. But since we’re kind of growing the pie and and giving users more reasons to book hotels, as well as giving hotels additional revenue, I think it works for everyone.

Bronson: Yeah. And that’s something I want to reiterate for people watching and listening is that really business is just about incentives. Is everyone properly incentivized at the employees paid enough? Are the users getting enough incentive to use it? Are the you know, the vendor is getting enough. Just everyone just has to have the right incentive. And if you align incentives and create a system that does that, you’ll win. It’s not that complicated. Definitely not. So talk to us about the growth of Hoteltonight. You guys have been around since, I believe, 2011 and you guys are pretty crazy numbers. I don’t know what you can disclose, but whatever you can tell us about the growth would be awesome.

Marissa: Yeah, we’ve gotten about 9 million downloads so far. So we’ve seen and that’s just been picking up more and more as we’ve been chugging along. We’ve got about 250 different destinations right now and we’re in 17 countries and we continue to grow internationally. In terms of our hotel partners, we’ve got about 10,000 hotels that we partner with and we curate the hotels we work with. So, you know, there’s a lot of folks who want to work with us and we pick and choose the best ones that we think will really meet what our customers are looking for. But we have great relationships with those ones and we’re continued to onboard new hotels and new destinations.

Bronson: Yeah, so you got to see curated hotels. It’s not just anyone can sign up and throw their excess inventory on there, right?

Marissa: Exactly. Yeah. We want to make sure that it’s really easy for users that they can get on the app and trust that we haven’t given them a really bad experience at some hotel that’s just below expectations. So, you know, you’re not always going to get the the W when you want to stay at the Albuquerque airport. But, you know, we try and get the best of what’s available and make sure it meets our standards. And if we do have a lot of complaints about hotels, we we definitely work with them to try and bring them up to the standards or sometimes we have to cut them because they just don’t meet what our customers are looking for.

Bronson: Yeah. And that kind of leads into my next question, which is what everybody really wants to know, which is why why is it growing so much so fast over the last couple? Will years. You know, is it just because the idea is really clever? You know, it’s a great way to sell that inventory. Is it what you just mentioned that you guys are curating it and making it a great experience on the app? Is it something else we don’t know about? I mean, behind the scenes, what do you guys look at and say, yeah, that’s why this has worked?

Marissa: Yeah. I mean, I think first the idea was great. It was simple, but we weren’t the first person to allow you to do same day hotel bookings. I think really our our focus was I think the the best part was that we had a focus. So we weren’t trying to become Expedia 2.0. We were saying we really want to go after same day hotel bookings. We only want to do mobile and we’re a technology company so we can start building from the ground up on that platform. And the incumbents had largely ignored mobile. You know, they were sort of building apps here and there. A lot of them were doing just kind of mobile websites and not really thinking that that was going to be a huge platform. And really, as mobile has taken off in the travel industry, you know, we’ve really benefited from all of that. So being able to to build with that focus has really helped us. We’re not trying to do everything or be everyone.

Bronson: You know, it seems like something we heard on the show before, which is, you know, to win you have to niche down. You guys didn’t do desktop, you did mobile. So focused all of your engineering, all of your design, everything on that. You also didn’t try to become Expedia. And do all you know, you’re not getting, you know, car rentals and packages and it’s just you need a hotel tonight. That’s it. And so that’s down kind of in multiple ways. It allows you got to really focus. So would you say that really is the key if there was one?

Marissa: Yeah, I think so. It really allows the engineering team and the product team to really drive towards that one goal and not get distracted by trying to become too much too soon.

Bronson: Yeah. Yeah. That’s one of the things that we’re really seeing is that companies are learning they can’t do everything. Just yesterday, I believe, 37 signals came out with a press release saying, hey, we’ve been doing too much. Basically, we have too many products, too many things going on. So they changed their name from 37 signals to base camp and they’re going to align all of their engineering around Basecamp because it’s it’s the goose that laid the golden egg. And there’s no sense in, you know, running after all these other things. It seems like you guys just did that from the beginning and you didn’t have to figure it out ten years in, right?

Marissa: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s helped us all align very well as our strategy and how we’ll continue to grow.

Bronson: Yeah, and that’s great to hear. Now you guys are also expanding internationally. How many countries are you guys in right now?

Marissa: We’re in that 17 countries right now and we’re continuing to grow.

Bronson: Would you say that going into a new country is kind of the best way you’re going to grow from this point forward? You know, I think about Facebook and so much of our strategy was let’s just get to more countries, because I knew of they got to a new country in that language with a great experience for the locals that they could just really blow up, you know, their numbers. And that’s how they got over a billion. I mean, that’s why, you know, going international, is that the way you guys see the world that it’s really about going into countries?

Marissa: Yeah, I would say it’s definitely one of the a big growth factor for us, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the only one. I think we’ve still got a lot of work that we can do here in the US. You know, I think when Facebook was starting to get big abroad, they had already gotten, you know, a majority of the US on board. So there really wasn’t anyone left unless they go to, you know, infants ages 0 to 3 or something like that. So, you know, we still got a ways to go before we get all, you know, 200 million, 300 million Americans on our side. But, you know, we think about things like recently there was a stay that came out that said about 29% of bookers last quarter booked same day. So, you know, if you think about that, that’s like about a third of the market is doing same day bookings. And I think if we can capture the majority of that, that’s just a huge, huge market for us. Yeah. And we also saw about 20% of users booking 1 to 2 days before their stay. So if we can help users feel like they can trust us and that they become more comfortable with same day booking, that’s another large segment of the market that we could go after as well.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, like we said, you know, international is one vector, but you have some other things that, you know, are still just waiting to be taken. I mean, part of that education, part of it is how people feel like it’s not that risky to do it this way. So yeah, do I do have a lot left to do in America. So really it’s kind of good because you guys have a lot of growth channels still open to you.

Marissa: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Yeah. And I think international will still be a part of it, but it’s good that we have multiple areas, so that way we’re not sort of relegated to that one. Mm hmm.

Bronson: Now, as a product manager, how hard is international growth? I mean, is it a part of what you have to deal with? It seems like it would be. And if it is, how hard is it?

Marissa: Yeah, it can definitely be tough. You know, I think localization is one piece, but it can tend to be actually the easiest part. I think design can be one of the toughest components and a lot of it’s about, you know, how are people going to interpret different icons that we use? How do we have to change something to become more international? Or do we have to use different icons, different text, and build kind of different app experience for different user base to, you know, understanding cultural differences? What and what travelers like and what their expectations are can be really tough. So that’s something that makes it more difficult to really design a product for a lot of different markets when you want to keep a singular, a singular experience in most cases. I would also say testing becomes sort of a nightmare when you have to account for multiple languages, different OSes and devices. We’ve also had surprises like we recently were expanding into a country and there was some interesting tax laws about we have to tax foreign citizens differently than nationals. And so how do we account for that in the product? And we don’t have to be building certain features for each single country where we go into. So how do we incorporate those things into the back end potentially? So we aren’t having to change our app every single time we expand.

Bronson: Yeah, and that’s an interesting thing is, you know, when you’re building a company, you run into all kinds of things like that that are just unknown, weird, you know, time sucks, money sucks, all those things. But entrepreneurs, they can never be afraid of those things. You have to just keep going, try new things, and there’s gonna be a lot of red tape you got to go through, but you got to bust through it and just figure it out as you go. I mean, I hear people all the time, they’re like they’re afraid to start a company because they don’t know how the tax law works. That’s the least of your problems.

Marissa: Yeah, absolutely.

Bronson: If you can build a party people love, you’ll figure out the rest.

Marissa: Definitely. Yeah. And, you know, there’s always people to help you figure those things out, you know? But, yeah, you can’t be afraid to go into a country just because you think the tax regulations are difficult. You know, you’ll figure out a way to do it. And if it’s important for your users, it’s important for your company to be there and you just make it work.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, let’s talk about your role as a product manager there. Josh Elman, the former grossly to Twitter. He says that product management kind of lives at the intersection of a few different things. He says it lives between UX, tech and business. And in his essay, he goes on to say, That is notoriously hard to define because it’s so different everywhere you go. What do you think? Do you agree with that kind of assessment of what a product manager is, or do you see the world a little differently?

Marissa: Yeah, I would say it’s very accurate, actually. I think a great PM has to juggle a lot of different hats or they have to wear a lot of different hats. They’re constantly making tradeoffs between, you know, what’s the best design versus what’s going to drive the business forward. And hopefully a lot of those things align, but there’s constantly going back and forth. I personally use a lot of data in my world, so I think a lot about how the experience for users is as a path through our application. What are the implications for conversion at the end of the day? How do I get a user in from the first day and to convert at the end? So I spend a lot of time looking at the data and thinking through those different paths and that leads into a lot of the UX experience as well as the business. I don’t have a technology background, but I’ve worked for technology companies for a long time now, so I love working with engineers, but I’d say my job here is more about thinking about what’s the best solution for our users, rather than dictating what the actual technical solution will look like. So I’ve got a great team of engineers that I work with, so they definitely help me out and see what technology can enable to make our experiences even better.

Bronson: Yeah, so it’s kind of like you’re a user advocate. You come to the product as if you’re a user in one sense to see what does it feel like to them, how are they moving through it? But then you kind of put on a different hat of Now what does the data say? Because we need to make money from this. So is that kind of the two things are generally what’s the best experience? How can we monetize it? And sometimes I conflict and sometimes I don’t. Right.

Marissa: Exactly. Yeah. You want to be able to you know, you want to make the experience seamless. And if if users don’t like your application or your product or you, they feel like you’re constantly asking for money or trying to force them into something they’re going to leave and they won’t retain. So you can never, you know, try and force them into something. But at the same time, a lot of people do want to book a hotel or do want to do things, and you’ve got to make that process as painless as possible. And when you think about growth features too, like if you want people to share something on Facebook, where are you introducing that in the flow? Are you doing it at a point where they really want to be sharing something or are you just kind of jamming it in there? So you really have to think about like, what are the what are the different paths the user can take and what’s the optimal time to be introducing these things? And a lot of times if your users are happy, then they will want to pay you for it and they will want to engage. So I think it’s just really thinking through that and hopefully not trying to jam anything down someone’s throat.

Bronson: Yeah. So you’re actually looking at the funnels in your job. They’re you’re actually looking at, you know, they’re going from here to here. Here’s the drop off, all those kind of things. And then you’re thinking about, you know, when to introduce certain things. Like you just said, your product is kinda like an orchestra, isn’t it? It’s about timing when you want, not just what you do.

Marissa: Yeah, absolutely. I think timing is everything. And there’s times where users are going to be very receptive to certain pieces of information or asking them to do certain things. And those other times they’re not. You know, one of the things we think about a lot is our core booking. Flow. It’s very simple. You can get you can book a hotel on about three taps in a swipe. So anything that’s going to start blocking that path becomes like very, very controversial. All right. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to stop people from that really clean, simple booking path. So we have to be very careful about how we introduce new features that we don’t distract from that. So, yeah, I’m always looking at where people could be dropping off, where we could be losing them, and think about how do we pull our content forward? How do we understand? What are the barricades for them to actually go through the process? Maybe they aren’t ready to book right now, but a lot of people are and they leave. And so what can we do to understand why they’re leaving? And, you know, is it should we be asking for authentication? I think that’s one thing I see in a lot of applications that I’m like, why are you asking me to authenticate right now? I don’t need to. For your experience, you’re putting this terrible barrier in front of me from even understanding your product and you know you can do it. Once I get fully engaged and I would be more than happy to. But if you throw up that gate right away, then I’m very likely to drop off when I haven’t even seen what your product is.

Bronson: I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve downloaded the app. The author comes up. There’s no sign in with just my email. I don’t want to give them access to my Facebook or Twitter because I don’t know them and I don’t trust them. And I don’t like people having the ability to push things to my profiles. When I haven’t built that relationship, I instantly delete the app so many times. That’s what it.

Marissa: Was. Yeah, it’s so frustrating and yeah, I think that a lot of people will grow to trust them. You’ve just got to give them that experience. And and I definitely agree.

Bronson: You know, we talked earlier about kind of curation. You know, you curate the hotels. It almost seems like as a product manager, you’re curating all the needs of the business. You know, there’s the make money needs, there’s the engineering needs. You know, there’s the CEO needs, there’s the user needs. And they all kind of come together and you are the filter of this is, okay, this isn’t it. And here’s why you’re having to kind of be the equation that balances all the various needs of the company. Is that kind of a fair way to sum up what you do there?

Marissa: Definitely, yeah. As product manager, you’re always kind of the center of the wheel. I think that I’ve seen a lot of people talk about it. You know, there’s all the different functions that are rotating around you, but at the end of the day, what goes into the product has to filter through you. So you have to be able to make those tradeoffs and, you know, really understand what what’s going to be best for our users, but also never sacrificing the business. So yeah, I think it’s a it’s a tough job, but it’s also, I think, the best job in tech right now.

Bronson: Yeah. So since you’ve been there, what’s been one of the main focuses? You came in and you said, okay, of all the things, because as a product manager, you can justify focusing on almost anything. You know, what was the thing? You’re like, I’m going to tackle this, I want to make this better, and here’s why. What’s that thing been?

Marissa: I think right when I came in, it was actually a lot about process, which is probably the least sexy thing to talk about. But for for us, you know, when I came in, I thought, you know, we could really refine the feature development process. So I was thinking a lot about how do I enable the engineering team to to ship features really quickly and make sure they’re clean, make sure we’re not thrashing them a lot and driving features that can move the business for. And so I think for startups, you know, process can be a lot of a headache or nobody wants to like implement something that’s going to be really laborious and it’s going to stop innovation. But when you know you’re a startup that’s transitioning from that scrappy, let’s move fast break things to let’s take the business to the next level. You do sort of need some processes in place to make sure that you’re shipping things cleanly and that the team can really focus and you’re not constantly pulling them from project to project or interrupting them and distracting them. So it’s really about how do we, you know, set up just some simple frameworks to make sure that we’re building the best features and that our engineers can do what they do and stay awesome and happy. Yeah.

Bronson: As, as our engineers watch this episode, they’re going to be singing your praises. Say, Bronson, why don’t you take some of her advice? It’s hard. I mean, it’s like, you know, the needs change or pulling people. You have to realign what the objectives are, life. And it’s tough to get the processes where everyone feels like, you know, it’s smooth and it’s what it should be. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s it’s a tough thing to tackle. Let me ask you this. Since you’ve been there, you’ve got to see a great product. It was great before you got there. It’s great now and you’ve been a part of it. What’s been some of the primary insights you’ve learned about shipping a great product? Maybe it’s something they taught you, maybe it’s something you’ve been teaching them. Either way, what’s what’s a great takeaway about what makes a great product?

Marissa: Yeah, I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here and I would say, you know, one of the first big things would be great. Design takes time. So we focus a lot on the design of our app and and the overall experience. And you know, there’s some features that we can nail it and, you know, one or two iterations. But I’ve had some features I’ve been working on and it’s been weeks and close to a month that we’ve just been going around and around trying to figure out where. What’s the right solution? And I think really like allowing yourself to have that bake time is important, especially if you feel too rushed. You might jump to the wrong solution for your end users and ultimately come out with a feature that’s not going to move the metrics like you wanted it to.

Bronson: So right now, what are the big initiatives that Hoteltonight is trying to tackle as a whole company? What are you guys going after? What do you rally around right now?

Marissa: Okay. So a lot of it is about ubiquity right now, like how can we be everywhere the customer wants to be? So a lot of this maybe being global expansion, but it’s also like, you know, when you’re driving on a road trip in between Houston, Dallas, there are some hotels there. And we’ve primarily focused on sort of the large cities. But how do we make sure we’re also, you know, if you’re stuck in the middle of Houston and Dallas, that we’ve got a hotel for you. So I think it’s trying to figure out what are those places and making sure we’re everywhere our users want us to be. We’re also focused a lot on product innovation. So how do we push what we’re doing even further? We’ve always been pushing on different features, different designs that are really going to drive our product forward and take advantage of new technologies that are coming into the market. That’ll definitely keep us ahead of the pack, we hope.

Bronson: Yeah. Now that’s the hope for sure. You know, this has been a great interview and I have just a couple last questions here for you. The first one is, when should a startup be thinking about hiring a product manager? Because it seems like what you do is extremely valuable in that you’re juggling a lot of different needs. You help the end product be what it should be. But at the same time, you know, early in a startup, you know, money is tight. You know, you try to do whatever you can to survive. So when, you know, product manager be introduced, what do you think?

Marissa: I would say in the ideal situation, you know, a product person is part of your founding team. For Hoteltonight, Sam Shank was the CEO, the co-founder, and he was also a product person. So he was great at focusing on, you know, what should be our experience for our users and how does that translate into the design and to the features. So I’d say that’s kind of the best case scenario where you have somebody that can be juggling the business and the design and the product. So that was great and I think it really helped take Hoteltonight to where it is today. In terms of hiring a dedicated product manager, I would say it’s probably more of like when your development team is starting to hit blocks that they might not have a person that can help identify those problems and write specs and build a roadmap that they’re sort of, you know, waiting for that other person to come back around. So it’s really, I think when your development team gets to that critical mass that they need somebody who’s going to be with them all day, that they can ask questions, you know, iterate on ideas from. And, you know, if it’s the CEO like he’s obviously got a lot of different things that he has to be taken care of on a day to day basis. So I think me coming in here kind of relieved that so he can focus on all the things he has to do and I can focus on just being in the weeds with the product team and making sure we’re building the right things.

Bronson: You know, I think there’s a huge insight and what you said and that the founding team needs a product person. And I think that’s different than some of the normal advice. And here’s what I mean. A lot of times you hear you need a hacker, a hustler, a designer, but a designer may not be a product person. A hacker may not be a product person. A hustler may not be a product person. And so, yeah, you had the skill sets that are kind of there in a way, but if someone doesn’t have a vision for how they all come together, you cannot present something. The end user that gets them excited, right?

Marissa: Definitely, yeah. And I think you see this a lot with teams that build something and they don’t really understand who their users are and they sort of are like, Oh, we’re so excited about this. We’re going to get out there and sell it. But they never really figured out who their customers are and whether they’re delivering the right value. And so I think having that product person, that’s really your user advocate, that’s there friend from day one and you know, maybe they are rolled into that hacker role or the or the designer role. But, you know, you really need to have somebody who’s going to be focused on having that that product vision from the day from day one. Otherwise, you know, I think it’s easy for teams to get off track.

Bronson: Mm hmm. Absolutely. And, you know, it’s funny just being around the startup world for so long and talking to so many, you know, talented people like yourself. Now I see a screenshot of a new startup and you just see holes in it. You just see like, yeah, okay. Like, I don’t know what that headline is doing. Like, who is it? Who is it talking to? I don’t know what that button means. I don’t know what they want me to do. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know. I’m just a closes tab. I’m done. And they don’t see that, though, because there’s not a person in the middle of the organization saying, what is this for? Like, who’s using this? Because until you start making every decision about the person using it, you’ve just made a bunch of decisions that are meaningless.

Marissa: Exactly. Yeah, you’re sort of. Yeah, I think Steve Blank always talked about, you know, you don’t want to be too in love with your product or in love with the technology. Right? Otherwise you kind of lose sight of what? What you’re actually building and who you’re actually building it for, and maybe you’re the user. But a lot of times you aren’t. So, you know, you really have to think about both sides.

Bronson: Yeah. And this kind of brings to another point is that, you know, we talk a lot in this show about growth and, you know, marketing tactics, growth tactics, new channels, whatever. But we all are in agreement that without product market fit, everything doesn’t really work. You have to have a market fit and then you can find channels to grow that product that has a market. That’s what a product manager does, is you get to that fit or you keep that fit. And that’s what a lot of stories I think miss is they try to grow something that never really got to that stage. Right.

Marissa: Mhm. Definitely, yeah. I think if you’re not addressing the core problem of your users then it’s going to be hard for anyone to evangelize for you. Right. You know, they’re never going to see the value and they’re never going to be your advocates that you need on the ground.

Bronson: Yeah. And yeah, I think when I think about like different growth channels that are available to startups, you know, word of mouth is the one that we don’t talk a lot on this show about. Just because you can’t optimize that, really can’t see the funnel clearly. Like it’s just the thing that’s there and it’s real. But how do you measure it? How do you, you know, do all those things around it? But I think when there’s a great product manager and the product itself really sings, word of mouth become a really powerful channel that you can’t get to from any other tactic. It’s just about the product only.

Marissa: Definitely. Yeah. I think that’s something that has been instrumental to Hotel tonight’s growth. We see our users talk about it all the time and they’re sharing it with their friends and they constantly are giving us feedback and saying like, Oh, I just told my mom, my dad about this. So it’s just so powerful and it’s free. And, you know, I think it’s just if you build the product that’s really going to make their lives better, then you can get to that great word of mouth and you’ll see it in your organics coming through the App Store. And, you know, hopefully it’ll come back around. But it’s hard. It’s hard when it’s not just, you know, let’s put a share on Facebook button in front of people. It’s more nuanced or it yeah.

Bronson: It’s more nuanced. It’s more long term. It took months to put something out that could do that. You can’t just add a little thing and you can’t just put a little snippet of code in the site and make it word of mouth. Ready?

Marissa: Exactly. Yeah. You have to be really designed from the ground up thinking about your users and what’s going to what’s going to delight them, what’s going to make them really happy about using your product that they couldn’t get anywhere else. And I think when we think about that experience and how do we surprise and delight people every day, that’s really what we’re going for.

Bronson: Yeah. And I like so much what you said earlier is that, you know, you have a feature that it’s it’s coming up on a month that you’ve been working on this thing, you know, and some features just take that long. And you said, I think design takes time. And that’s a thing we have to think about with our startups is we’re not McDonald’s. I mean, you couldn’t even do that. That’s your strategy. But you have to know you’re McDonald’s. But if you’re not McDonald’s, your strategy has to look very differently then that kind of process. And it takes time. It takes time to make a steak. And so if you’re going for that, you have to really let things take the time they need, give people the resources they need, and then you can actually have something that’s shareable, like Hoteltonight. I share it because I have it. I open it, it’s fun. I look at it, I show people to it. You know, that was growth out of TV. You know, I look at our stats and so many of them are direct and it’s like, I can’t do much with that except I keep building a great product.

Marissa: Yeah, absolutely. No, I totally agree. I think it’s just, you know, you’ve got to you’ve got to give yourself time and you’ve got to give the product team time, too, to build the right thing. Startups usually want to run fast and break things, but sometimes, you know, you got to slow down a little bit and really think about what’s the best experience and that can take a little bit of time. And it’s a sacrifice that startups have to make. But when you think about growing your user base, you need to have those magical experiences baked in. And you know, people aren’t going to be talking about your product if it’s broken and and there’s constantly issues. And, you know, so you’ve got to weigh those tradeoffs and really think about what’s going to make your users talk to others about it.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. This has been awesome. Marissa, I have one last question for you. What’s the best advice do you have for any startup that’s trying to grow? It’s a vague questions. You got something anywhere you want?

Marissa: Sure. I’d say, you know, first make sure you’re talking to your customers, make sure you understand their needs, what’s important to them, and be humble. Put your ego aside sometimes and just think about what’s really best for them. For for small startups, they take advantage of your size when going against big incumbents, you know, we’re going against the experience of the world and that’s tough, but we can iterate and build a lot faster than they can. So we use our speed and our size to our advantage. And the final point I would say would be just thinking about your funnel. What blockers are you putting in front of people to keep them from using your product? Do you really need to have an update there? Do you really need to have a wall there? How can you get people into your core experience as fast as possible? And and how can you implement features that are going to drive growth from day one and not tack them on and make them part of the core experience? So I would say, you know, always think about your funnel.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s awesome advice, Marissa, thanks again. For coming on growth actor TV.

Marissa: Yep. No problem. Thanks for having me.

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