Episodes

Jesse Farmer

Jesse Farmer

Jesse is a computer programmer and entrepreneur that has co-founded Dev Bootcamp and Everlane. He is an expert on virality and helped Everlane gain its early growth.

TOPIC JESSE COVERS

  • Viral growth and its importance in business
  • The success of Everlane’s viral pre-launch campaign
  • His experience learning about viral growth through the Facebook platform
  • His involvement in and knowledge of viral growth, specifically in relation to Everlane and Adam nomics
  • The strategy and techniques used by Everlane to drive initial sign ups and build up demand prior to launch
  • The strategies used by Everlane to build up a large following on Tumblr
  • Potential for exponential growth (K factor, reproduction number)
  • Factors that increase inherent motivation or interest in product
  • Ability to retain users and keep them engaged beyond initial acquisition
  • His background in math and is able to approach problems with a focus on spotting patterns and identifying assumptions
  • Successful companies often have a unique perspective or belief that others in their industry do not hold
  • And a whole lot more

LINKS & RESOURCES

WATCH THE INTERVIEW

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READ THE TRANSCRIPTION

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

Jesse: Thanks for having.

Bronson: Me. Absolutely. We’re glad to have you because you have quite a reputation around viral growth, your understanding of it, your ability to achieve it. So let’s kind of start with that. That’s what our audience is interested in. So let’s just jump right into that. Tell us about some of the things you’ve started, some of the ventures you’ve started. And tell us about the growth those companies have had. And don’t be afraid to brag.

Jesse: All right. I’ll do my best. So probably the most well known thing I’ve worked on is I co-founded this company called Everlane, and we’re like an online only vertically integrated fashion retailer. I left there about a year ago after being there for about two one half years. But before I left, we had about a month before our store opened, which was November of 2011. We launched a sort of viral get into Avaline early sort of campaign. And we signed up in the course of two weeks, a few hundred thousand people pre-launch. Yeah. So there were, there were a few days where we were signing up people at a, at a rate of like a few thousand people per hour. Wow. Which we didn’t really expect, but. For four people who ever worked on that Facebook platform. One of the early things I did was this project called Adam nomics, which was like an analytics platform for the Facebook Facebook platform. If you’ve ever used app datacom, it’s it’s virtual. It’s virtually the same version of the same product. But this was at a time, which is sort of the first one. I launched it in 27. So that was. That was the environment where I learned a lot of the stuff, along with a lot of other people who were self-taught before that. You sort of I mean, the Facebook platform was really the first opportunity for people to learn this on their own. Before that, you had to work for a company like Facebook or PayPal or so, some company that had this knowledge already baked into the team culture.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. So you talked about that, the initiative, you guys had to drive those initial sign ups forever. Lane Even before you launched. Break that down for us a little bit. I mean, was it just a simple landing page that happened to go viral because they loved what your product was about? Or were there things that you guys did to kind of allow it to spread, which I’m guessing is what happened?

Jesse: Both. I mean. I think. It’s a little bit like Magic Act in the sense that when when people see the final results, like the rabbit getting pulled out of the hat, that’s that’s really all they remember. But they don’t they don’t they don’t know all the work that went into. Creating a stage for people to be amazed. So we did literally. I mean, the. The page had pretty standard hooks. There were like tiered incentives. Invite five friends, get it? November 1st, invite 15. Get a free T-shirt. 25, I think, was like a $25 credit and 50 was free shipping for life. So I think a lot of people mistook the that for the cause, but that wasn’t the cause. People were already really interested in Everlane and in fact, about a year earlier we built up. I don’t know this for sure for sure, but we were one of the fastest growing tumblers, I think, ever in the history of Tumbler. We had built up over the course of a month the largest men’s fashion tumbler at the time. There are large of their much larger ones now one of the largest fashion tumblers overall. And that was definitely a concerted effort like we had we had software to do some some of the stuff for us. We were we were really focused on what content did really well. And I think without that 6 to 8 months of lead up of people knowing about us on Tumblr and elsewhere, they wouldn’t have been interested in Avaline to begin with. Like one of the analogies I use sometimes is it’s like a imagine. It’s like a pipe that’s under a lot of pressure. They invite the invite pages. Really just the pressure of these people are like, I want it, I want it, I want it. And we’re like, well, just invite five friends and you can get in and and they, and they’ll do it. So the much harder thing was the building up the demand, the easier part was building the mechanism to release that demand. And and the way I said it makes it sound much like much more confident than we were at the time. Of course, like what we knew people were interested. It wasn’t until this page sort of lit the fire that we saw just how interested people were.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. So you talked about that, the initiative, you guys had to drive those initial sign ups forever. Lane Even before you launched. Break that down for us a little bit. I mean, was it just a simple landing page that happened to go viral because they loved what your product was about? Or were there things that you guys did to kind of allow it to spread, which I’m guessing is what happened?

Jesse: Both. I mean. I think. It’s a little bit like Magic Act in the sense that when when people see the final results, like the rabbit getting pulled out of the hat, that’s that’s really all they remember. But they don’t they don’t they don’t know all the work that went into. Creating a stage for people to be amazed. So we did literally. I mean, the. The page had pretty standard hooks. There were like tiered incentives. Invite five friends, get it? November 1st, invite 15. Get a free T-shirt. 25, I think, was like a $25 credit and 50 was free shipping for life. So I think a lot of people mistook the that for the cause, but that wasn’t the cause. People were already really interested in Everlane and in fact, about a year earlier we built up. I don’t know this for sure for sure, but we were one of the fastest growing tumblers, I think, ever in the history of Tumbler. We had built up over the course of a month the largest men’s fashion tumbler at the time. There are large of their much larger ones now one of the largest fashion tumblers overall. And that was definitely a concerted effort like we had we had software to do some some of the stuff for us. We were we were really focused on what content did really well. And I think without that 6 to 8 months of lead up of people knowing about us on Tumblr and elsewhere, they wouldn’t have been interested in Avaline to begin with. Like one of the analogies I use sometimes is it’s like a imagine. It’s like a pipe that’s under a lot of pressure. They invite the invite pages. Really just the pressure of these people are like, I want it, I want it, I want it. And we’re like, well, just invite five friends and you can get in and and they, and they’ll do it. So the much harder thing was the building up the demand, the easier part was building the mechanism to release that demand. And and the way I said it makes it sound much like much more confident than we were at the time. Of course, like what we knew people were interested. It wasn’t until this page sort of lit the fire that we saw just how interested people were.

Bronson: So now it makes a lot of sense. When you were creating the content for the Tumblr blog, was that all in house content? Were you guys working with other people to, you know, guest blog for you guys? What was your strategy to kind of pull together such a huge audience on Tumblr?

Jesse: The content was. Almost entirely the work of my co-founder Michael Brisbane. And then I had written some software that would. Do you do standard sort of viral things like following unfollow people that that that sort of thing on Tumblr. And we also at the time had this curated program. So you deliberately seek out high profile Twitter blog or Tumblr bloggers, Twitter personalities, that sort of thing, to be curators forever and so on and so forth. That eventually fell by the wayside pretty quickly. But and I’ll say when things wound up going viral. 95% of our traffic was from Facebook and Twitter, so. Mm hmm. So the effect our growth on temblor had overall is it’s hard to it’s hard to pinpoint, except I think without it, people wouldn’t have had the general interest in our brand, like say, yeah, but it’s not easy to directly attribute it like, Oh yeah, these people bootstrapped our viral growth process later. That’s not really what happened. Sure.

Bronson: And it’s probably messy because I’m sure your Tumblr is being pushed to your Twitter account. Your Facebook, of course. Yeah. So where, you know, they may have been in your world for months on Tumblr and then clicked on it from Twitter, who knows?

Jesse: Exactly.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, you talked about how you really cut your teeth on the Facebook platform, but you also have another leg up, I think. You have a degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago. In your mind, do you think a degree like that understanding of statistics, does it age your ability to grow products, or is it really not that big a deal? It just seems like it would be.

Jesse: I think you hate me, but I think, you know, everybody relies on the tools they have. So among the people I know, I maybe tend to I’m I’m able to approach things more mathematically, but I know plenty of people who don’t have that background and have other have other ways of sort of thinking through these issues. So I think if you were to talk to people who know me and work with me, they would say maybe jokingly like, when I want to be, I can be incredibly precise. I am very quickly able to identify both stated and unstated assumptions. Mm hmm. I think I have a sort of a knack for maybe. Spotting, spotting patterns faster than other people. And I’ll save for a four year math degree. That’s basically what a math degree is. It’s about adding sort of. I don’t see seeing opportunities for abstraction and being really efficient at like inductive and deductive reasoning. But I know other people who are much more I mean, I’m a pretty product centric guy, too, but I know people who are product centric. Mm hmm. You are successful in that dimension and otherwise.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And this is another question I would ask you, because I after looking at your blog, it seems like you have kind of a high level view of viral growth that a lot of people don’t have. So I wanted to ask you specifically to explain viral growth to us. What is it? And then I also know that you mentioned frictionless communication when you talk about it sometimes. And what are those things mean?

Jesse: Sure. So at a high level of viral growth, is any. You. It’s as old as time itself. I mean, you basically take some social network where we define social network to be as broad as possible. So. The US Postal Service would be an example. Basically, anywhere there’s an opportunity for two people to communicate with each other or one person to communicate at other people and. One person on that network starts. Doing something. Behaving in a certain way. Mm hmm. And in the same way, I actually just got over a flu, so I have sort of disease on the mind. But in the same way that, uh, you know, a flu isn’t. It isn’t an epidemic. It’s a it’s something called like a pandemic in the sense that every person who gets infected with the flu generally infects about one other person. So, you know, it tends to never grow or shrink, but just sort of float, float around the world continuously infecting everybody. Uh huh. If it’s if it’s more than one, then it will slowly grow to encompass every single person. And so that that situation, that number sometimes called the K factor, sometimes called the reproduction number, is sometimes called the viral coefficient is what we measure. It’s basically the ratio of however many people are. Doing something. The ratio of however, of of the number of people doing something to the number of new people who start doing it as a result of it. Yeah. So that’s, that’s sort of the, the basic math and. I forget the second half of what you said.

Bronson: The frictionless communication. Oh, right. Yeah.

Jesse: Right. So. In most in most sort of viral, if you’re designing, let’s say, something to facilitate this communication, there’s sort of two opposing forces. There’s. If you run your high school chemistry, right? There’s this idea of like activation energy. So you have maybe two molecules that are sort of bound together really tightly and a third one hitting it. And unless that third one is moving fast enough, it’s not able to does that the energy to break these different bonds. And so. It’s it’s the same way when people are, for example, deciding to sign up for a new service or share something with their friends. There’s there’s a there’s a theme pushing them, which is their inherent motivation to overcome whatever hurdles might be in their way. But there’s also friction in the opposing direction. So when you’re when you’re thinking about optimizing a flow, you can think about increasing one. What can I do to make people more interested so that maybe they’ll like, Oh, they’ll be willing to do more in order to get whatever they think they can get or. Making it eat. Making it cost less, so to speak. So those are those. Those are usually the two knobs you’re. You’re playing with.

Bronson: Yeah. So either reducing friction or increasing energy to one or the other to kind of break through and get something moving forward.

Jesse: And ideally, both. I mean, usually a combination of both.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. I want to ask you about one of the misconceptions of viral growth. I notice also online, you talked about how it’s not really exponential that we sometimes, you know, use the words interchangeably. It’s exponential, it’s viral. And they mean the same thing. Does it the hockey stick. But you talk about a plateau. What do you mean by that?

Jesse: Sure it’s. I don’t think this is this will be surprising to anyone who’s experienced it.

Bronson: But now.

Jesse: Obviously. Something can grow exponentially forever. It’ll. You’ll just exhaust the 6 billion people. Once you have 6 billion monthly active users, there’s nowhere more to go. So in that sort of silly thought experiment, you could imagine, like, sort of like hockey stick and stealing. Mm hmm. That’s obviously not how it really happens. Know there’s you can think of it like, what’s a good example? I was the Harlem Shake a stick like the Harlem Shake. All right. Why not? Yeah. That there’s there’s a certain subset of the population who is. Ever even possibly going to adopt that behavior. I like my parent. My parents are, for example, sort of already immune to adoption, their behavior. They’re never they’re never going to do the Harlem Shake. So you’re never talking about 6 billion people. You’re talking about you’re already talking about some three defined ceiling as much smaller. And instead of getting what happens is you don’t get this literally an exponential curve. You have. Some resource that is being consumed. Some population that is is growing. And once those two things you get it’s called a logistic curve and S-curve, but it becomes exponential in it as the ratio of whatever the material is supporting that population declines. As the population grows, it starts to plateau out. And when we’re talking about the use of a product. Generally unlike. Living organisms. It doesn’t reproduce forever. So once you hit that plateau, your your user base can start to. Sort of evaporate. Mm hmm. Like what sort of a imagine? There’s a site that only a million people in the world are ever going to use it. Once you have those million people signed up, every user who churns would be like a little a little mark off the top. So, yeah, there’s there’s a point in a any website’s growth usually earlier than people expect where. Engagement becomes more important than raw growth. Yeah, there’s not. There’s an argument that always should be. Right. But that even even at the strictest mathematical level, you need people coming back and reengaging with your product because you’re you’re not acquiring enough. The velocity of what you’re acquiring new users is now decelerating.

Bronson: Yeah, you’re optimizing for the later parts of the funnel now, not just the acquisition on the very front end because you’ve kind of lost it and it’s just not there. Now, let me ask you a practical question about the curves of actual growth that you’ve seen. You talked about how there is a plateau. Do you see mini plateaus when you look at, you know, when you have millions of monthly active users? But to get there, did you plateau? And then you had another ramp up and another plateau or was it pretty was it was it a nice, smooth curve, just practically speaking, because you’ve seen curves bigger than what a lot of other people have seen. You know what I mean?

Jesse: Sure. So. Yeah. The models we use to describe this stuff and the math is always much neater than the reality. And I’ve seen both. I’ve seen curves which don’t even have a plateau. They look like, you know, they wind up looking something like this. Mm hmm. For example, I’ve seen things that are much, much slower where the sort of the beginning tail could be years long. I mean, in many ways, it really was that like we. We didn’t launch our for sale. Obviously, we selling physical goods. Right. So there’s it’s not just, hey, let’s iterate fast on some social application we’ve dealt. There’s like capital constraints and cost of goods sold and all these things that have to go into it. But. Or even something that’s mount considering that we like Airbnb is a good example where they had basically three years before it started taking off. So you see you see all types and also in terms of sort of what population is sort of susceptible to your product. Mm hmm. Oftentimes these things are big step functions in a product’s growth. So something like Twitter might be a good example where if you look at Twitter’s growth curve, is actually a pretty discreet moment in time. Basically, when when Oprah started using Twitter where. It’s following a certain kind of curve, which is it’s viral. It’s clearly viral. Then Oprah happens and it’s it’s all of a sudden it’s on a new sort of a new plane. So pretty much any permutation of the events you can imagine, you can find some product which will have has like a body that. Yeah.

Bronson: Thanks for sharing on that because I wanted to ask you that because a lot of entrepreneurs are looking at their own curves and they’re comparing them to these perfect mathematical drawings that others are blogging about. And it never matches up and either gives them too much confidence or they’re too discouraged. And probably neither of those are good that the growth you have is the growth you have, and that’s what you’re working with. When you start a new project and you’re considering its potential for growth, you have all this experience that you’re bringing in to deciding, Am I going to work with this project? I’m going to take it on. What are some of the factors you consider? What do you look at our new product or new idea that make you think, all right, this has legs, this could grow, this might work, or you see it in, you’re like, all right, this this is debt. It doesn’t really have potential, even though everybody’s really excited about it. What factors really get your attention?

Jesse: That’s a good question, because I think. I’ve experienced enough wear so I won’t go into the whole story, but maybe we can talk about it later. I was starting a company with some friends and we had like a Facebook application to create polls which had like 1050 million monthly active users. And that happened over the course of like a month, basically sort of like day one zero end of month 50 million. Wow. And. It sort of. It collapsed just as quickly. Mm hmm. Right. That is to say, I’ve you know, I’ve experienced enough things like that or seen enough things like that where we’re growth per se. Like even if I see something growing really fast. Mm hmm. Um, you can sometimes there’s a there’s a smell of. I don’t it doesn’t it doesn’t feel like this has the, like the fundamental hook that is, is really necessary for some thinking long term, like. Honestly, that for me would fall into that category. Like when Turntable FM came out, I felt the same way. Where is it? It’s. It’s growing. Mm hmm. And the product’s kind of cool, but it feels less like. Like, Oh, my, holy cow, this is something really new. There’s something, like, viscerally profound about what the product is doing. Mm hmm. And it seems more like, oh, this is okay. This is cool, and, oh, this is cool. But those things tend to come and go. And I think people confuse the the sort of the smoke and the fire, so to speak, like the converse is true, too, right? You see? You see, it’s you see things like Instagram and Facebook are sort of growing exponentially and people are just as prone to say the opposite, which is like, oh, this is just a fad. Oh, this isn’t right. So there’s. That’s I guess a long one of those thing like growth alone isn’t a strong enough indicator to differentiate those two categories of products. There’s something fundamental about Instagram. Mm hmm. Even though early on, the growth curves of, like, say, Instagram term tableware, this was very similar. Yeah, but there’s something there’s something different about those products. I don’t if I had, like, a, like a scientific method to to finger those things out, I would I would obviously be a very wealthy man, but yeah, I. There is a bit of a spidey sense for me personally. The. Well, the thing that’s always worked for me is. I think, Peter. Peter Thiel always he had this great, great concept of, you know, successful companies have know something that nobody else does. Like you have to have a secret. It might not be literally a secret. It might just be something they believe, which is true that everyone else believes is false. So Google believe they can make money off the search. Everyone else is like it’s impossible. But they knew something nobody else did. And. I really think that’s true. And when I’m looking for stuff for for for me to do the thing that interests me the most personally are. I don’t ever lean into boot camp, which is what I’m working on now. I fall into this category of. Take taking something sort of that straddles two dramatically different fields where people in Silicon Valley thought it was weird that you were vertically integrating like that. We were making clothes and people in retail were like, I don’t I don’t quite get why this is so. What’s so special about this website you’re making? Yeah. And sort of trying to trying to find that that middle ground where the intersection of these two fields is more interesting than sort of either one of them alone.

Bronson: Yeah. No, I think it’s a great answer. It really gives us a window into your mind and use the word there. You know, something’s visceral and I think that’s what it comes down to. You know, I mean, I was just like you. I used turntable and it was cool and I liked it. But every time I used it, I liked it less. And then eventually I just didn’t care anymore. And I can’t quantify that. I don’t know what that equation is, you know, and yet I know it’s there when I see it. So I think you’re absolutely right about those things. You’re also a growth hacking consultant on Clarity FM, and I was looking through some of the comments that people left on your profile there, and they were all just glowing. You know, it was one of the best conversations I had. He’s a wealth of information. He really challenged us. I mean, people really enjoyed their time with you as a paid consultant on clarity. And so I want to ask you, what advice do you find yourself giving kind of over and over to startups that want to grow? I’m sure there’s some common threads that you could just kind of hit record and then play it back for them on every conversation.

Jesse: Yeah, it really depends on what stage the product is at. So some of the people I talked to on clarity were still exploring their ideas. And a lot of it resonates around similar themes. Like, uh. What would be what would be a good example? So for example, oftentimes I think when people are first starting out, when they talk to me, especially because of my math background and I used to do stuff analytics. Mm hmm. They want to know a well, what about a B testing? What things should I test? And I’ll say early on that the quantitative approach is not generally as useful. But as a more sort of ethnographic approach, like a more anthropological approach where. You have to you have to sort of look. Look for more qualitative signals. Things like. Are there people who for some reason really love or like just have a strong reaction to a product, whether it’s love or hate or do most people? Almost you’ve got a different. But by early on, it tends to be more about looking, sort of looking for outliers. Mm hmm. And oftentimes, people are. They just want to know, like, wow, well, we’ll iterate our way to success. And I know some people who have managed to do that. It’s always been really hard for me. It’s much easier to. First try to figure out. Sort of what the thing is that’s getting people in the gut. And then once you have that kernel, try to try to grow it out from there. Another common theme is. Trying to talk to people about sort of what? You know, Warren Buffett always says he likes to invest in companies with moats, like companies that have sort of a national defense, like Coke has their brand. There’s nothing is going to assail that. Yeah. So that I think that’s also just as true in startups, but it tends to look more like. Why? Like why is something like YouTube more valuable than something that aggregates videos from across a wide range of sites? Or why is something like Groupon ignoring? Sure. Sort of. Whatever their reason, financial stuff, you know. But in theory, in a world where Groupon is like a valuable thing. Why are they more valuable than a site that aggregates daily deals like. I think. But fundamentally it’s because they. Like. They have the raw material. Other people are building stuff on. So I was talking with someone who who’s trying to build a social network, for example, and he was trying to sort of get everyone under the sun to use it. And it’s like, well, look, you have it was a social network for like medical professionals. And there was a certain class, a medical professional, that he really wanted on the site. And so my advice to him was basically, you should just. You should go after you should go after them because, one, you can go out of your way to make them feel special. Like like this isn’t just, hey, you’re you’re one among a million. You’re like one among 10,000. These are your peers, and you’re awesome. So of course, you want to be awesome on my site. And it makes it easier to build the product because now you’re building it for fewer people. Mm hmm. In addition, you have access to these people who. Whose opinions like industry cares about. Right? You have you now have this resource that you can basically start charging access for. Mm hmm. So that’s. That’s also a pretty common team. Mm hmm. Another common theme, as is, which is sort of what’s happening right now. So much of the advice is is really product specific. So it’s like really deeply tied to the psychology of the user base and. Giving advice divorced from that it comes off almost as like. It’s just cliche, meaningless, vague phrases. It’s hard to see how to take the general approach and apply it to a specific situation. So I usually try to get when I’m talking with people holding right on that like. So I need to talk really specifically about who your customers are, because any advice I would give you in general would. You would almost laugh at how. Almost useless. It felt like I really just were talking about.

Bronson: Yeah. Now that makes no sense. Let me ask you this. When you’re on calls with start ups, you know. You know what you know. Like you understand where your expertize lies. What questions you wish they would ask you. You get on the phone and they’re worried about X, and you know that Y is the thing that’s going to kill them or you know that Y is where you really add value. Are there any questions? You’re like, Oh, just love to get on a phone call and then ask me X, Y and Z. Because then they walk around with some actionable information. Or does anything come to mind?

Jesse: Nothing comes to mind immediately, to be honest, I would say. You know, it depends on what they’re again, what their what their specific mindset is. So. One thing I’m maybe to the surprise of many people, I’m sort of skeptical of this a like a purely metrics driven approach. I think. Most people don the cloak of being data driven as and they justify that by saying we’re going to do away with politics, will let data make the decisions but most people don’t really do that. They. They wind up in the same politics just using sort of a different language. But they’re they’re still making the same arguments. They’re just now using this seemingly objective numbers, while some versus objective, of course. And this is it like to try and get people to really, truly think deeply about like what these numbers are sort of really saying. And if if you dove in deep enough and do math and statistics. Mm hmm. It it can it can quantify its own uncertainty. So you can be precise about when you need to make a judgment call. So one piece of advice I can give is like the most important thing is knowing when you’re making a data driven decision and knowing when you’re making a judgment call, like being being okay, making a judgment call. But don’t. Making a judgment call, they’ll be like, well, you can’t make a decision. We have data or here’s some half baked data that I’m going to use to make myself more comfortable and then make was actually really a judgment call like unless this just isn’t enough to help you make your decision, just like it makes a frickin decision. So oftentimes I push people in that direction. Sometimes I give them more tactical advice, like. People really like comparing how they’re doing to other applications, but things like the viral coefficient. It actually doesn’t make sense to compare it from sort of application to application. There’s, there’s so many details that it’s very. Or. I get annoyed when people sometimes use meaningless metrics like. Average number of friends invited which. You know the curve for most invites. If you were to make like a histogram where the bottom was, number of friends invited and then the height was like the number of people who invited that many. So zero 1 to 3. And every viral application that’s this super star power curve. So it’s like 50% like nobody, 25% invite wine, 12.5% invite two and so on down at the end of the line, way down there, there’s like four people your way. Also invited 5000 people. And it does and I mean, it makes I think the median is X would be actually slightly better. But the mean for sure is a lot like basically when the median median degree is when you have a bell curve and but you don’t have a double curve anymore. So it it’s more dangerous than just being wrong. It actually, like puts you in the wrong mindset because the average number of friends invited is going to be some ridiculously low number, like two or three. And so you’ll start thinking things like, well, look at all these people who haven’t played in anybody. What, what if we got half of them to just invite one? What would that do to a viral coefficient? And you start thinking of all these cockamamie features to just, just get people just inviting one friend and never really thinking like, well, one. Is it is it harder to make half of these zeros and fight one than making this person who invited 500 invite 750? Probably it’s easier. And also these people who invited nobody are the people. It’s like people didn’t like anybody or people who didn’t care about your application in the first place. Like the people who invited one are the people who accidentally clicked invite all their friends. You know, like it’s not until you get up to 510 that it’s actually people who are, for some reason, opting into this process of yours. So yeah, it’s oftentimes like I love having those conversations with people when they’re open to them of being like, you actually have to be careful about how you think about numbers, not just because it might not be accurate, but it actually puts you in a mindset where you’re, you’re, you’re contemplating rubbish futures and it’s true. It’s. Yeah, I.

Bronson: Absolutely thank you for that. You know, data driven is a mask that can cover up a lot of sins. So thanks for showing us some of those. I had another question I want to ask about Everlane, and then I want you to tell us a little bit about Dev Bootcamp, what’s currently focused on with Everlane. You kind of already talk us through the initial growth, the Tumblr, the the launch page, some of the incentives and that kind of system after that kind of was over or, you know, plateaued, whatever, or that segment of growth was over. Where did you guys really see your growth coming from after that? As it started to mature more as a product was out there in the world, did you guys dove into pay per click or social or PR content? You know, do you keep you on content? What was the main channel you guys really honed on once you got some, you know, some traction there?

Jesse: Yeah. So forever, Lane. The raw viral growth tapered off by a flare up by a fair amount. I mean, it was still like. Ten x 20 x what it was before it launched in terms of daily growth. But the biggest help was get in early. And so we launched and now we’re getting in early. Every once in a while there was an opportunity to have that kind of thing again, like get early access to some upcoming collection, that sort of thing. But for the most part, the three main channels for Everlane were I mean, it remains social, so we remain super engaged, but in a more community management kind of way and less in a hey, let’s think of clever viral trucks kind of way content and then sort of PR and media were sort of the three main channels. So what we were doing was interesting enough that people wanted to write about what everyone was doing and what avaline meant about the future of retail, online and that sort of thing.

Bronson: So when you say community management, what did that look like? Was it just really good customer support or do you mean much more than that?

Jesse: No, that’s definitely a big part of it. So sort of from start to finish, I mean. Well. So Avaline I was responsible for. Essentially the DOE website and. Like that website. Is to ascertain what? The Apple store is to Apple or what the J.Crew store is to J.Crew as you walk in. And it should be like as soon as you cross that threshold, you realize you’re in some you’re in some new, hopefully amazing universe that really speaks to you. So we try to, from start to finish, make sure every experience was was on the nose in terms of aligning with what you’re trying to do. I. I know the crap out of our team probably was how obsessed I was over ah like ah, checkout flow, um, and all that kind of stuff including. So customer support was all a part of that and we would do little things like. I wish I had some airline stuff here with me right now, but there were like little notes that went out in all the things we shipped. So we just. We just tried to. We saw it more as a as a like. It’s like it’s like a luck. Luck is sort of like a surface area, right? It’s that. The more things like that you do, the more likely some amazing thing is going to happen. So we just try to have as many sort of novel, exciting touch points and make people feel sort of pretty, pretty special. Yeah, but our website was differentiated enough and our like onboarding experience, which our first onboarding experience was designed and built almost totally by one of our lead engineers, not you. So people like really like that sort of interactive graphic you that would sort of tell that story and if I were cheaper and that kind of stuff. And so so those little touches like that really make people go, Holy crap. And then, yeah, also, I mean, just like active on Facebook and Twitter, uh, we learned really early on the power. Sharing information in the in the seems almost silly retrospect but. Sharing information in a shareable way, like when when we make announcements now, we almost always just publish an image because an image is way easier to share than a bunch of text. You can agree, post it to your Facebook wall. You can forward it to your friend. You can. It’s on your phone. You can text it to someone. Yeah. I mean, that’s basically why infographics work.

Bronson: Yeah. You actually didn’t. You have a really popular infographic I’m just now remembering thinking of another company.

Jesse: No, no, we did. Yeah, yeah.

Bronson: A pipeline of like actually how much it cost another company to manufacture all these things, how much it cost to die this year, why you’re paying such a huge markup. People went crazy over that.

Jesse: They did? Yeah. That we. Yeah. We deliberately sort of wanted to cause a stir. I mean, part of our brand from day one was about, I think anytime someone’s thinking about branding, it’s you always sort of want to look where everybody is and then try to not move like 180 degrees, but sort of move 90 degrees to that. So when you look at retailers of Everlane’s caliber, they tend to be more aloof, less, less transparent, less human feeling. And so we decided, okay, well, we have to be all more of those things. And especially on the lab where things like transparency, openness and the feeling that people are getting access to information that was kept a secret before. Yeah. Even though it wasn’t really I mean, it was. But you had to really dig for it to find it. No it was broadcast to. Yeah right. Exactly. So being able to sort of package that and put it all in one place and something that and contextualize ability that is something no one had. Had done in that way before. Mm hmm. At least not a not really a retail brands and yeah people some of our competitors got frustrated by it because it sort of, it implied that they were charging too much. Uh, but yeah, that, that definitely sparked off a bunch of sort of attention. Yeah.

Bronson: Well, let me ask you about what you’re working on right now, your work service, boot camp. So you’re not, you know, active with every lane, you know, day to day. Now it seems like you’re really pouring their energy into the camp. So tell us, what is it, you know, when did it start and use this to recruit some people?

Jesse: Okay. So. All right. Um, boot camp is a nine week, incredibly intense training program for junior software engineers. We started it about a year ago, along with my co-founders, Shareef Bouchet and Dave Hoover. And it’s actually been a year last January. And, um. If you subscribe to the sort of Malcolm Gladwell 10000 hours of labor practice thing, then that boot camp is basically the first 1000 hours. So these these nine weeks are super intense for the students who come in looking for a job. Our placement rate is about 90%. So 90% of them leave their boot camp with a job inside two or three months after graduating. And companies who have hired from us include. Let’s see. Twitter chipmunk. Exac give it a lab start by climate Corp. Tap Joy. I don’t know the list. I could go on with the list but yeah. Companies of that caliber. So. Education is something I’ve been really interested in. Curriculum, pedagogical philosophy, theory of education. And in fact and I’ve had jobs where when I was bored, I would rent out tutoring services for myself on Craigslist. So I sort of decided to. To make a job for myself where teacher. Teacher just gets to come out and play along with. Entrepreneur Jesse and product Jesse and whatever. Engineer. Jesse Yeah, that’s great.

Bronson: Tell us logistically how it works. Do they move to where Dev Bootcamp is or they do it at long distance? Logistically, has it breakdown?

Jesse: Yeah. So it’s, it’s in its in location right now. We have a location in San Francisco, California, in Grand Chinatown. We’re opening up a new location in Chicago on April 22nd. And yet as people move so far, they’ve moved to San Francisco. We grew out. We graduated about 120 students last year will be graduating. 2 to 3 times that this year. And. Yeah. About half our students ignoring the people who have already applied in Chicago. Just San Francisco. Well, half the students are from the Bay Area. 45% are from other parts of the United States, and 5% are from other countries.

Bronson: Yeah. And who should be applying? Just so people watching this know if they’re in the market, if they’re in your target market, are you looking for people right out of high school or are you looking for people with a little bit of experience? What are you really going after here?

Jesse: We’re looking for anyone who. Sort of knows in their heart of hearts that they want to be a software engineer regardless of age or background. The youngest student we’ve had a 17, the oldest we’ve had is 56. So the median age is late, middle 20. So like 27 to 30, usually about. It depends. Again, like so our first Chicago class, for example, most of the students are at or over 30. And from from class to class, it varies. So sometimes it’s younger, sometimes it’s older. But that’s that’s roughly the age. I mean, there are a handful of buckets, so some people do it. You have students do it between high school and college is have people do it right after college. We’ve had people do it sort of 3 to 4 years into their career saying like, this isn’t what I want to do. We’ve had other people for whom this is their second or third career transition. You know, we’ve had we had like a former attorney who’s worked at a lot of top Silicon Valley law firms, gone be an engineer at tap, join, for example.

Bronson: That’s great. What’s the website where people can go to apply for that.

Jesse: It’s dev bootcamp D VP camp dot com the boot camp.

Bronson: It must’ve been an awesome interview. Let me ask you one last question to kind of wrap it up and put a bow on it. So what’s the best advice you have for anyone that wants to create a company that has the potential to grow? What would you say to them?

Jesse: To be able to answer the question like. You really fundamentally understand. Why? What you think you’re doing will work. Why this thing? Above all other things. And. And don’t be. Don’t be tempted by. Stories of amazing, explosive, quick viral growth. It’s it’s almost always a double edged sword in the sense that. Companies who who look for growth first to look for growth and then decide what to do based on what winds up growing there. Oftentimes, their products feel a lot more hollow and they’re they’re much less sustainable because they don’t they don’t they don’t have a core. It’s like a it’s like it’s like a house. It’s like, yeah, it’s like a house without a foundation. So I would encourage I would encourage people to, like, sort of really fundamentally understand what mission they’re on before they decide. Okay. It’s like mission first and then figure out your whatever tactics you want to do to make the mission succeed rather than let the tactics dictate the mission.

Bronson: Perfect. Thank you again for coming on the show, Jesse. It’s been awesome.

Jesse: Yeah, my pleasure.

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