Learn How Will Bunker Grew His Dating Site Into Match.com and Mastered Traction and Growth

Posted by Anant January 14, 2023

Learn about how Will grew a dating site that would eventually become Match.com, and get a behind-the-scenes look at what he’s teaching his students about traction and growth at Tradecraft.


→ How the Match.com story

→ How does he maintain that discipline and leanness both strategically and mentally

→ What does Tradecraft mean

→ How does he compare contraction and growth

→ His best advice for any startup that’s trying to grow or get traction

→ They grew 30% a month for five years

→ What’s unique about a service they have

→ And a whole lot more


Will Angelist link




Ryan: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Ryan Holiday and today I have Will Bunker with us. I’m the author of a little e-book called Growth Hacker Marketing, and Wil is the founder of a service that eventually became Match.com and a handful of other properties that we’re going to talk about today. So I thought I thought we’d just get right into it. Do you want to tell us about how the Match.com story and how it how it happened?

Will: Sure. A friend of mine, Dave Kinney, I just desperately wanted to start an Internet business in 1995. I did a lot of research. And our key insight was that AOL, which charged by the hour at the time, was making half their revenue off of chatting. And if you weren’t looked at what people were doing in chat rooms, they were basically trying to pick each other up. And we said, okay, if we believe the Internet’s going to work and it’s not going to be a walled garden like a well, let’s start something in that space. Plus, we read a report from the newspaper industry that said basically if you had a newspaper and you didn’t do personals like you did, if they made that much money and they laid out the basic business plan, and then we took we had a massive amount of capital, $2,000. And we put up a Web site. And I’m from a very small town and I thought, you know, no one in their right mind will put their their stuff up on the Internet saying they want to date. Like, that’s just insanity. Sure. But it turns out it only took about $5 in advertising to get a profile. And that was kind of our initial statistic was we took the money that we had, we put it into the marketing and we said, okay, for every $5 we can get a profile match could reach $2 million the year before. Okay, they have 20,000 profiles. And we said, Well, okay, we need $100,000 and we can get one. And that’s what we raised. We raised a total of 100 K. We added value prop to the investor was we even raised it all at one time. We just said, look, you know, right now our revenue is at a 10th of a penny of visitor and it’s costing us $0.05 to get a visitor to the website. So we hypothesize that that revenue will go up with the number of profiles, you know, as the density got there. And it did mean it was almost linear. And I remember the day we crossed over and we reach, you know, $0.08 a visitor, at which point we could really start opening up and advertising in lots of new places. And that was the story. We didn’t have to raise any more money. We cash floated up to 14 million in revenue and then sold it in 1999. And our last job was to take the match brand name and put in our business in Dallas. They had basically failed. I mean, they they had ran through the DC money had been sold for the original $10 million and then were languishing and like sued the corporation before Ticketmaster lost both of us.

Ryan: So that that that shows up a bunch of questions for me the first of which this seems very different than the sort of. Web bubble story that most people are familiar with. Right. You guys started very small. You spent very little money. You had a very specific sort of down to earth business model. And then you kind of bootstrapped it from there. Was that an accident? Was that on purpose? Was that in a reaction to what everyone else was doing?

Will: You know, I still counsel this way to new entrepreneurs that I talk to. And then a big part of formulating a winning plan is knowing what your resources are, surely playing the game according to what you have. So, you know, we knew that we were in Dallas, the only venture capital money there were for telephone switches or physical hardware, you know, very old school stuff. The Internet was extremely new and weird. So we knew that we weren’t going to be raising capital. So from the very beginning, we said we have to find a business that can cash flow and then behave that way. And truly, the reason we won was that we more efficiently spent advertising dollars than any of our competitors. I mean, we grew 30% a month for five years.

Ryan: So, yeah, so tell me about that spending efficiently, because not only is that just difficult in general, but I think it’s even more difficult when you’re competing with people who have $10 million or $50 million and they can buy television advertising taken by radio. They can do it, can sponsor parties. How do you maintain that discipline and leanness both strategically and, I guess, mentally?

Will: Well, you know, what you’ve got to think about is it’s a large universe of potential spots to talk to people about what you do, any business that you have. And so to think that, you know, all the competitors are going to have found every efficient pocket to put money into is just crazy. I mean, even if they’re doing television that you do radio or maybe you don’t do radio, maybe you do Internet advertising, you know, so what our job really was, was we would take very small batch, you know, $500 at a time. We would try out new channels. And so the thing we couldn’t do that our competitors, some of our competitors did and certainly most of the business today was they would raise the VCR round to get the whole page of your book right. I that was the part like if we could just raise enough money to get on the whole page of Yahoo, then we could go home. And so but we ran the numbers on it. And basically, when we could finally afford to do it, it was a better company strategy. And we just don’t feel comfortable doing that and we’re more comfortable going $500. Does it work the double down? Right. You know, and so we built it. Now it’s all very trivial, but at the time we had to build our own tracking system so that we tracked every nickel it got spent all the way to the long term value of the customer.

Ryan: Well, and what I think is interesting about what you’re talking about is that you you’ve very clearly defined what a customer was worth to you and what it was costing. And then you just sort of arbitrage that until you were able to tweak that ratio to a point where it was sustainable. And then as soon as you got there, that’s when you stepped on the gas.

Will: Absolutely. I mean, it was that part of it. We were very deliberate about, you know, because because we had there was no other option. There was no fire. Lucifer No. I mean, like, you know, if you look at it now, there are exceptions. You know, when, when the growth is frictionless, then you can avoid worrying about a business model. And sometimes it’s very appropriate if you’ve got frictionless growth, capturing as many users as possible makes total sense.

Ryan: So so tell us about growing a dating site then. What’s unique about a service like that? And then what maybe would you say is common that that are lessons that people could take from growing a service where obviously you want to bring as many people in as possible, but you want to bring high quality people. You want them to build connections. I imagine there’s some some stuff there that that maybe isn’t obvious. People haven’t done it well.

Will: I mean, like, for instance, we had to re we had to have someone read every profile, okay? Because, you know, no one wants to have their profile next to a, you know, the guy with his pants off. I mean, so, you know, there’s a part of that that there was always a manual piece to that that was a little bit different than some things, although I think you generated content has that problem and people just don’t talk about it. I mean every site has user generated content, comments, whatever. You have to manage that. Sure. If you let the users put out whatever they want, it kind of descends into the lowest common denominator totally. And then, you know, in terms of it being the same, it’s just, you know, once you get to the value proposition, I kind of divided that business up into two pieces. One was volume and that was all about marketing.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: And then the second is the product, which is the yield and the lifetime value of each customer that saw the product. So as we grew bigger, we got very we got much more granular in that, you know, let’s so we had the profile, you know, put it on your profile page or had a person whose sole job it was was to improve that page. And at that volume, you could say, and if you make it this much better, I’ll give you 20 more thousand dollars a year because it’s worth 2 million to me. Right. You know, so there’s a luxury that you get as you scale up that you don’t have as a small company. When you’re on the small end of that, the equations radically different because you can’t micro you can’t look at the micro because a 1% gain at a low volume doesn’t do you any good. Right. You know, you’ve got to make major value changes.

Ryan: Sure. Are there any lessons that maybe you learned that you wish you’d known as you’re scaling this business? Because it sounds like it took off pretty quickly?

Will: The biggest mistake that we made was not understanding the value of brand. Okay, so if you looked at Match, they were half our size and shrinking and they sold for the same value because they had built an interesting brand.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: And we had built a direct marketing machine and we could have done both. Like there was nothing that precluded us from doing a brand. I think if we had once we had the cash flow going, going back and looked at the brand, it would have been very affordable to work on that and probably would have tripled the sale price.

Ryan: Well, that’s very interesting because, you know, this is growth accuracy. I come from a traditional marketing background and then I sort of realized how a lot of the growth hacking techniques are missing there. But I think most of the people watching come more from a tech background. And it it sounds like what you’re saying is pseudoscience or it’s it’s it’s creative and then their their eyes blur over what, you know, how do you balance those two things? And what do you feel like specifically, specifically you were doing on the brand front that maybe you wish you were doing that people could learn from?

Will: Well, you know, creating a brand and being after having it cost me $100 million, I kind of went back and looked at it. Sure. It’s just like, wow, okay. This is an interesting thing is really not that difficult. It’s more about creating a, you know, a voice and a position that your products coming from in a lot of the best products today do that really well. I mean, I think many of the things that grow, you know, have that hyper viral growth, have interesting brand aspects to it. I mean, I’m sure you and I finally, after reading The New Yorker article in Secret or No was one of the VCs posted on secret. I was like, okay, you know, let me go check it out. It has a beautiful voice to it. I mean, there’s a coherent way it feels when you use the product, even though it’s not my kind of thing. But I think creating that that value with design and brand is critical and not as hard as an engineer would would imagine, though, when I went through it is like, Oh, there’s simple rules of thumb and I think you can triple your brand value with very little input if you just pay some attention to it.

Ryan: I think maybe the. This is an analogy that I’ve seen in my work in books, which is that the direct marketing techniques, the affiliates and the sales part of books are something that basically anyone can grasp, especially if you understand growth hacking. So a lot of people start there and they make something. But the sort of the creative aspects and the positioning and the packaging and the fact that they just don’t have that much to say sort of gets lost. And then they wonder why their book, you know, only does X where somebody else’s book does ten X. And that’s because they sort of think there’s not that creative. They’re not speaking authentically about anything. They’re just focused on the growth techniques. And it’s when you have both that you get something really explosive, I think you would say. And maybe that’s why the merger ultimately made it. The horse say blow up in a huge way because absolutely they brought the brand. But then you brought the engine that grew that brand to the stratosphere.

Will: And that was kind of my take away. It’s not an either or.

Ryan: It’s both, totally. And at least if you start with the growth techniques, you can grow something. If you only start with the brand, you’re just hoping that you get lucky and it magically takes off, which isn’t a great strategy either.

Will: Yup. I agree.

Ryan: Okay. So I mean, any sort of final lessons from you on on the Match.com thing that maybe you think that you still think about today that you walked away from, and then we can talk about what you’re doing now.

Will: Mostly it’s just, you know, getting really analytical on what’s happening and then forming the right goals. I mean, it was always so many times I run into entrepreneurs that are blocked and they’re either, you know, working on volume against a product that doesn’t yield anything or they’ve got the yield in there, but they won’t work on the volume. And then they’re wondering why it’s not where, you know, that they’re making $300 a customer. They can get a customer for $100 and they want to make the product yield $320. Right. And it’s just like, no, you don’t need more engineers, you need better marketing or you need a marketing plan or something. So it’s it’s really learning where to focus your attention on the right part of the business.

Ryan: So do you think in that case, people were just sort of getting paralyzed by the numbers and they’re thinking about making it sort of a myopic view? It’s like, oh, I can I can improve this when this other lower hanging fruit is sort of staring them right in the face and they’re not grabbing it.

Will: I think people want to work on the part of the problem that’s comparable to.

Ryan: Sure.

Will: Or the part that they’re embarrassed about.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: And, you know, when you’re growing a business like I mean, literally, we would sit down every Monday and we would say, what can we do that will make more money? Right? Hmm. And we will prioritize. And we’ll make a list of, you know, every project we could work on, what the yield was, how much labor we thought it would take of our effort. And then we stack ranked and just like did the stuff at the top of the list.

Ryan: Yeah, I think in all facets of life people forget the the sort of the law of diminishing returns. Do you want to go for in your analogy, do you want to go from 300 to 320? Or do you just accept that 3 to 1 hour away is more, more or less what you’re going to get and and, you know, step on the gas and then think about other avenues that you can raise different, different metrics.

Will: Right? Because if you do enough volume, then you’ll have the money to get the engineer to make the improvement.

Ryan: Right. Yeah, totally. Okay. I guess my last question, I’m Amazon.com then is what do you see now when you look at this massive thing that you created that’s based on a lot of the work that you did and now is sort of it looks like primarily most of the growth comes from television commercials and things like that. What do you what do you sort of think about where it is now? What does it feel like to have been part of this huge thing? And I mean, literally change the way that people date, which I think is very interesting.

Will: It’s cool to have done something that people recognize because, I mean, there’s certainly entrepreneurs that have made more money and they did something no one’s heard of. Right. So you get less juice or that emotional juice. Yeah. And you know, I look at so many startups today that I’m helping with and, you know, is still out there. I mean, like, I don’t think that the dating sites of the day certainly don’t solve 100% of the problems. And and people are working on other cool things. I mean, I feel like we’re all part of this wave that probably has another 50 years or more to go.

Ryan: Yeah, it must be it. It must be interesting to see, you know. Over a decade later, your thing is still there. People are still using it. Meanwhile, these other these other things that have come and went maybe this over more money, but they’re not going to be here. You build something that lasts. I think that’s very interesting.

Will: It mainly has to do with it’s a fundamental human need and none of us invented the fact that people want to date.

Ryan: Right.

Will: But, you know, so it’s just being part of something that fundamental makes a big difference.

Ryan: Totally.

Will: Okay. So if you’re someone put a dog in this room that seems to be whining, you know, let the dog out. All right. Okay.

Ryan: Where are you?

Will: I’m at Tradecraft offices.

Ryan: Okay, well, that leads me to my next question. So you’ve founded something called tradecraft. What is it? And tell us about why that was the project you decided to work on.

Will: So it’s interesting, and there’s two things that I’m doing right now. One of them’s a micro fund and one of them’s tradecraft, and they both actually work together. So tradecraft is coming from the realization that with a few exceptions, most companies don’t fail because of technology. Most most companies fail because they either didn’t solve the product in a way that people cared about or they couldn’t find enough people that their solution was a good fit for it. So we’re trying to create a boot camp, or we’ve actually created a boot camp because we’re fixing to graduate our first cohort that addresses the non-technical side of the equation. So we we’ve got three track sales and BD growth hacking slash digital marketing and design.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: And we feel like all three of those really work in concert to rapidly grow businesses. And so we, we bring in students, we have some curriculum, but then the majority of the emphasis is on working in actual projects to help real companies grow.

Ryan: So I wonder if this ties back to what we were just talking about, which is, you know, addressing the technology, fixing the product. These are the things that are maybe they’re hard things to do, but they’re the easiest or most comfortable thing for people to focus on. And yes, you’re sort of saying like, hey, there’s all of these other skills that are more difficult to quantify, but they’re ultimately what makes or breaks, you know, a smaller company versus a big company. And you just decided to teach those skills.

Will: Not only teach them, but apply.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: So, you know, we look at tradecraft as a way to gather the most talented people. We can, teach them as much as we can have them work on actual process, you know, projects in real companies. But then to create an ecosystem that values those skills because, you know, even the word non-technical, right. Who wants to be non anything, right? What the hell is that.

Ryan: What implies a preference towards technical, which I guess. But it’s saying you’re not as good, you’re good, but you’re not as good as this other default that we assume everyone should be.

Will: Right. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a programmer, I’m technical. I definitely respect that. However, that’s just one part of the equation. Sure. And so, you know, with our inaugural class, we had say close to 400 applications and we brought in the 28 best that we could find. And our goal is to create a talent ecosystem around these skills that we feel like are the most important part of. You know, once you reach what the sirens go by here in time in San Francisco, the. It gets loud down these streets. Oh, yo. All right. So, I mean, we feel like once you reach product market fit that, then, you know, it’s all about telling your story, doing the business deals. You know, it’s growing the company. And that involves a whole set of skills that don’t necessarily get top billing here in Silicon Valley.

Ryan: So how would you compare teaching those skills to the way they’ve typically been taught in the past or not? Not taught, I guess, in sort of traditional marketing education?

Will: Oh, I think I mean, you know, your traditional mortgage or read a lot of marketing books and I bet you have to based on that bookshelf behind you. I don’t think any of it’s wrong. Right. I think there’s very valuable insights in there. However, they’re not taught in a way that allows you to roll up your sleeves the day you walk in a company and start moving the needle. And so we try to focus on that. What’s the the subset that allows you to start producing traction day one?

Ryan: Sure. Well, look, I have two problems with most most marketing books. I mean, one, they’re written by people who are not actually in the marketing game anymore. I mean, even someone like Seth Godin, who I think is very smart and has written a lot of great philosophical stuff, it’s like his last marketing experience was like in the days of Yahoo! And it’s very different now. But then too, I think, you know, most of the lessons that we take from marketing are from people whose job it is to wake up and take a very big company and make it one or 2% bigger. That’s what their marketing does. But that’s it’s a fundamentally different job to take something that doesn’t exist and market it into existence or to go from ten customers to 10,000 customers than it is to go from 10,000 customers to 11,000 customers.

Will: I agree. And it’s there’s different skills along the way in each segment. And I think a lot of the confusion and even when you see people debating each other in the blogs, blogosphere, it’s almost like they’re talking past each other. They’re talking about different segments of the lifecycle and they’re radically different. Right.

Ryan: Like you’re talking about earlier about Match.com, as if you built this thing. Now you want to talk about how to add some of the branding and stuff. And it makes sense that you might take some of those lessons from Fortune 500 companies, but you wouldn’t learn about how to build a growth engine from them because, you know, they might have built their growth engine 50 years ago. And it was a totally different economic environment and and customer interaction when that all happened.

Will: Well, I mean, there was a day when radio was the emerging channel.

Ryan: Right.

Will: Right. And it’s okay. That day is not right.

Ryan: And look what a brand is. And what it means is different in a world where distribution on store shelves was what was required to make a product a success. And now the distribution is essentially equalized because we’re interacting with them on the Internet. Brand is is still very, very important, but it matters in a different way. And I think people deduce a lot of the wrong lesson. So you guys are sitting out and teaching. It’s like, this is what you need to know to launch a company tomorrow.

Will: Well, then we look at it like there’s three different phases. There’s pre product market fit. Then there’s just after product market fit when you’re starting to scale. Mm hmm. And then there’s at scale, and we try to show the students projects within those three sectors, because those are very different places to work, and they require different skill sets. Like if you’re going to help over at trying to say, you know, Yahoo! Or or Google, you know, you’re you’re going to learn to do one very, very specific thing that’s best in the world, right? If you’re at a startup, A, you’re scrambling just to get the first hundred people. And that requires a hell of a lot of different things.

Ryan: Sure. Sure. So look, on the on the site, you sort of got four categories of topics that it looks like you guys teach. Right? You’ve got social and business user experience growth and then sales and business development. What are those four categories mean and where do people fit or need to fit in those in those categories?

Will: So if you look at cells of the body, that’s more about going out and cutting distribution deals with potential partners. Okay. I mean, so that’s one that’s the best damn shirt. Or if you’ve got a model that supports outbound or inbound selsey.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: Just kind of more of your what is it? Predictable revenue type model. We’re working on a project right now where the lifetime value of a customer is $80,000. So directly calling and finding people is right profitable.

Ryan: You don’t need a lot of customers that way, right?

Will: But if I had to call people and get them to pay $15 a month for a dating site, that’s not going to go over totally at all. Right. And so, you know, that track is about teaching those two skill sets so that, you know, we have one company that they’re helping with. They’re doing this down to get distribution for telemedicine. And so it’s all about, you know, finding insurance companies or, you know, different distribution models and then working to deal with them.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: Then you switch over to growth hacking slash digital marketing. And that’s all about, you know, using online pay or unpaid acquisition. So it really depends on the students. So we’re keeping the school small. I mean, in order to get people actively involved on projects, it’s more of a mentorship or apprenticeship type thing because you can’t do that with 100 people. You don’t know them well enough to direct them. So some of it’s up to the individual student, as in like, this is what I’d like to do with my life. Like, I really like to read, I want to do analysis or gosh, this content marketing thing, you know, social media marketing, they really interested me. How do I get good at that? Right. And so we’ve kind of got those two broad areas. And then, you know, there’s the underlying teaching, the analytical mindset, the scientific method, which, you know, you would think after 400 years everyone would get naturally. But they don’t.

Ryan: Know, of course.

Will: So, you know, there’s that core skill set that, you know, everyone needs to know regardless. And then on UX, they’re going through the whole interview. The customer work through the problem sets, do the personas. I mean, and, you know, gosh, that sounds valuable, you know, especially when you’re trying to get a product market fit are making incremental improvements. Right.

Ryan: And then so social. Social and business is.

Will: It’d be more of the content marketing.

Ryan: Got it. Oh, okay. Content marketing. Yeah, that’s very interesting. What? So if that’s what you’re teaching, I guess I have two questions. One, which is what do you find most people are gravitating towards? And then what do you find with your students and prospective students? What’s the one skill that you find yourself needing to teach and reteach the most often? Because it’s either not natural. It’s something people are getting elsewhere. Like what’s that most important skill?

Will: So I have focused most on the role of happy try.

Ryan: Okay.

Will: So I can’t, you know, good, because that’s really my background. I mean, I’ve done some sales in BD, but, you know, we’ve got a great guy, Sean Shepherd, that does that. A lot of it is just teaching the analytical framework of, you know, going through the process of breaking something down into its components and then asking yourself, which of those numbers do I have to change to make an impact? Right. And just getting really good at asking those questions because it’s knowing which lever to pull that’ll have the biggest impact with, you know, given your resources and given the, you know, the way the business works that you’re trying to help. And so just getting people to get comfortable doing that over and over and over and over is probably the biggest thing.

Ryan: That makes sense when you’re when you are when you had your sort of ideal graduate in mind or the ideal company that you want to place them in. Is there a model that springs to mind or are you like like I’m trying to make them into this or I’m trying to place them here. Is there something that you’re looking at as you’re making this up as you go along?

Will: You know, not not really. So it’s really about I mean, one of the first things we do is we have them. Be thoughtful and write down to convey to us what do they want their career to look like in five years and ten years? And then you work backwards because in this it’s down to the school saying small and the class size saying small is I don’t think it’s a one size fits all. I mean, if you look at all the things you could do to grow companies, it’s such a large basket of things. And each individual has a propensity to either be some of them were more social than others hope. Some of them really are super analytical. And so what we do is we try to say, okay, what’s the, you know, the foundation that everybody’s got to know. Like if you can’t do analytics that you shouldn’t call yourself Growth Hacker. Sure. You know. Right. That work regardless of what your method of acquiring customers is. Right. But then the rest of it comes down to what they want to do with their life. And some of them are interested in certain segments. So like we had a group of them that were really hot to trot on wearable fitness as a category. And so one of their projects, I’m really proud of them. They, they launched the first milk for wearables and they had the CTO of Fitbit spoke at it last night and they had like sold 200 tech. And so they’re really focused on that category. And then others of them are really focused on, I want to do this for a living. And so therefore it’s like tracking them through that information.

Ryan: I think is actually something that occurred to me when you when you let me know you’re you’re in San Francisco. So Traidcraft is based there, right?

Will: Yes.

Ryan: And but you built Match.com or the company that became Match.com in Dallas. Are you where are you based now? Are you in?

Will: I made the decision seven years ago. I it’s funny, I had a really it is not a big deal medically, but like I had gallstone bladder and it was impacted and all that stuff and I, I realized I was back in the south and I thought, you know, I’m living past my expiration date. Like if I’d been born two years ago, this is what would have killed me. Right? And I thought, you know, I love technology. I’m going to might start doing what I saying I want to do. And I moved out here seven years ago. And my only regret is I didn’t do it as soon as I sold my company.

Ryan: Wow. Because I was going to ask, like as we’re seeing this sort of model be exported from San Francisco all over the country, how do you feel that that’s affecting marketing and people are building brands? It almost sounds like being based in Dallas was an advantage for you the first time because there wasn’t you weren’t doing it the way that everyone else was doing or able to sort of do it your own way. I wondered what you thought about that.

Will: Well, so I think so. I’ve invested in companies all over the planet, including Little Rock in London. And so I think there are great people and great ideas anywhere you find a cluster of people. Sure. And certainly the world is becoming flatter in terms of being able to information and ideas going forward. There is some magic own being around this, really talented people. And I think if you’re out of the valley, you just pick things that aren’t interesting here or, you know, go left when everyone’s going right. Me, you know. So some of the ideas like the company in Little Rock that I that we put some money on is it’s like fab for southern living. Okay. Well, no one in San Francisco is going to do that, I’m sure. And so my job is I’ll funnel out as much marketing information or things I see working here out to them so that they can jump on the trends.

Ryan: I know that makes a lot of sense. Another question for for me would be what what’s the name mean to you? What does tradecraft mean? What were you thinking when you picked it? And is that part of the the branding lessons that you learned in the first round?

Will: So go to co-founders Misha and Russell. And Russell is actually really good at thinking through, you know, the short term strategy of positioning. And it was to try to give, you know, what we would like to change how. This group of people is branded in the marketplace. And so, you know, ultimately, we would like everyone to think of them as the traction team, you know, versus the non-technical team.

Ryan: Right.

Will: And so trade craft is part of that, you know, making it look, making people realize that this is a craft. It is there is actually technical competence in UX and in sales. It’s just not a program.

Ryan: But what I like about the name is, is it’s like, look, growth hacking to a certain degree, kind of has this almost like get rich quick lottery mentality. It’s like you get the right things, it explodes and you’re saying like, it’s a trade, it’s a job, it’s a skill. You show up every day and you, you know, you plug away at it until at the end of a long amount of time and energy at something, you get a final product that’s excellent rather than a, you know, if you you just get the you’re not a chemist. And if you just get the chemicals right, it explodes.

Will: It is there is a something for nothing mentality or feel to the word go out is fine. I get it. However, it’s really digital marketing and it’s great that they rebranded it. You get a little buzz around it, but it’s okay. You can get lucky once, but to repeat that over and over again is really about skill and dedication at work.

Ryan: Yeah. And I think, you know, finding that magic that builds the growth at first is that that’s very important and that’s very rare. But once that happens the next, then there’s some best practices and sort of principles that you have to operate by. And it sounds like that’s what you’re teaching.

Will: Yes.

Ryan: Um, so and I like this idea of traction versus non non-technical. How did that sort of distinction come up for you and what does it mean?

Will: We spent weeks talking about what’s a word that can we can call people, that we can rally around this better than this crappy non-technical thing. And so finally, I don’t know if it was Meisha or Russell or someone in the office was like traction. And we were all like, yes, that gives a real good sense of what we’re doing without it being kind of overhyped and like, you know, like, you know, Buzzy that I think could be a long term word that could get branded out in the marketplace as we move forward. And part of our strategy and it’s not visible yet is we’re going to create and we have started creating a giant open source project for all the best practices for traction.

Ryan: Wow. And how do you compare contraction and growth? Are those synonyms or are there is there a difference or what?

Will: So growth focus is it focuses on the volume. And I feel like traction could be either volume or yield. And so we want to include the UX design people as part of the traction because, you know, both things move the needle. Well, engineering, I mean, you don’t there’s never not engineering.

Ryan: Well, I think that goes to your analogy about, you know, one of the companies you’re working with that has an $80,000 customer. You know, it’s growth, but it’s it’s also traction. You’ve clearly built a product that people are responding to, that they’re interacting with, and they’re investing large amounts of money. You don’t need a ton of growth there. You just need more traction like that.

Will: Yes. Yeah, there’s that. And that won’t be a hack. That’s just like grinding it out and finding those customers.

Ryan: Yeah, right. And it’s a yeah, it’s gone from door to door and knocking, you know, or crossing a few off the list every day until you’ve, you’ve built something substantial, so. All right, cool. So last, last, final question. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup that’s trying to grow or get traction? What what’s what’s the advice that you find yourself repeating most often to the companies you deal with and the students that you mentor and are trying training.

Will: Is what’s getting to that mindset of like really pulling apart your model and then looking for the least effort, most reward key to work on now and and it may not be the piece you want to work on. It may be the thing you’re the least comfortable with, or maybe it’s the thing you know. But whatever it is, usually if you, you know, if you do the spreadsheet. I was talking with the company here recently and it was funny. Their numbers were, Oh, it cost us $20 to get a customer. We’re making $30 off the customer. You know, we’ve got to find marketing channels that we can make that spend down. We we need. And their margin doubled if they got 16,000 more customers. Double, double.

Ryan: Right.

Will: So $20 times 16,000 is like 30 or $20,000. They just raised half a million. And I’m like, well, are you like, right, there seems to be this hot, this thing you ought to be doing right here, right now, because we’re really waiting for this bullshit thing that doesn’t matter to happen. And I’m like, okay, so stop. I said, Now one or two things. Either you don’t believe the numbers. And you’re acting rationally by not acting or what you just told me, which means you’re lying to me right now, or you’re behaving irrationally and not, you know, not reacting to the numbers. And so it’s just that whole like getting real about the model and then doing what the model says.

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, if, if I was translating that, it sounds like three things are important and, and one is sort of pragmatism. The other, the other is, is sort of fear. Like maybe they’re being held back by fear a little bit. And that might be why they don’t. Spending $320,000 means you’re taking a pretty big bet on your analysis and people might be afraid to do that. And then finally, it’s it’s it’s judging return on investment objectively and saying like, where can we get the most bang for our buck? And once you isolate it, you got to make the decision. You got to move forward.

Will: Well, even like on the fear aspect, it takes them four days for a customer to buy something. Well, the most you’re out is four days of advertising, right? It’s not like you spent the whole 320,000. Holy shit. I’m wrong, you know? Yeah, right. So even then, like, your real exposure is so small that, you know, but. But it’s like time and time again when I talk to people, it’s getting them through that and going, well, like, if what you said is true, then why aren’t you focused on this one number, which would make you make you reach the next level?

Ryan: No, I think I think that’s excellent and very honest advice. I appreciate it. Yeah, go ahead.

Will: Thanks, man. I mean, is there anything else you want to cover?

Ryan: No, no, I think I think that’s it. So everyone, this is Will Bunker, founder of Match.com and now Tradecraft. You can check his stuff out. Is there are there links people should go to or just check out? I’m sure it will be at the bottom of the screen but.

Will: Tradecraft dot com and then that that has the whole story there and then so if they’re looking to raise money at some point, Silicon Valley growth is the fund that tradecraft is put together as well.

Ryan: And can they follow on Twitter, AngelList or anything like that?

Will: Yes, they can w bunker on Twitter and I think will bunker on Angel. Excellent. I’m on there.

Ryan: All right. Well, everyone, check him out and I hope to talk to you all, sir.

Will: Thank you very.

Ryan: Much. Thank you.

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