Ken Zi Wang
Ken is the founder of Growthathon, an event that brings together companies with growth hackers. It’s a hackathon for growth experts. He is also the founder of Fandrop, a company that engineers virality.
TOPIC KEN COVERS
- His background in Growthathon
- What is Growth about
- How the views on growth hacking and growth hackers evolved through this event
- What are the key things that he learned about growth
- What aspects of growth are the most obsessed
- What is Fan drop does
- He creates content and distribution it to the people
- His best advice to any startup trying to grow and acquire users
- And a whole lot more
LINKS & RESOURCES
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
READ THE TRANSCRIPTION
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Kenzie Wayne with us. Ken, thanks so much for coming on the program.
Ken: Thanks for having me.
Bronson: Bronson Absolutely. Now, Ken, you’re the founder of Growth, Ethan. Sounds pretty interesting. So what is growth? Ethan.
Ken: Slow growth. That is short for growth hackathons. And the premise of growth sound is to bring startups and growth hackers together and have growth hackers participating. Some challenges in a different verticals outside of startups. And then we look at the metrics we get from these challenges and then decide on what are the best new tactics that we can implement for these startups in different verticals.
Bronson: Yeah. So is it mainly about the companies getting growth or is it mainly about the people learning or is it about both?
Ken: It’s everything. Yeah, it’s it’s a it’s designed to be an ecosystem. So we bring mentors, speakers, aspiring of hackers, and also companies all together. It’s designed in a way that we can start to foster a community. So the event was held last year in December in San Francisco. It was sold out at 250 people tickets. And so we had four speakers, 13 mentors and eight companies that participated in in this event. And it was was very successful and got a lot of very good, really good results for for startups in the way that they are returning the $5,000 worth of gifts to the participants.
Bronson: Well, that’s great. So what really motivated you to create growth a thon? What was the reason behind it?
Ken: So the idea for growth came out from a gathering at Stanford Sunfire Labs. So my friends and I are chatting. What is if we have only one metrics to look at for startups to be under venture capitalists, you know, what would it be? Would it be the team or market or the product? But, you know, that’s the triangle they always talk about. However, when it really comes down to giving the funding, it’s really just traction. You know, don’t you have a kick ass team or a kick ass product or, you know, sometimes market, you know, because you can trademark later on. But it comes to the hockey stick growth. And then we look around our, you know, my colleague startups are just crying out for help. You know, a lot of them are stuck at the stage of oh one, 1000 to 2000 users, you know, just know utilizing their own social circle. But, but going beyond that, it’s extremely difficult to, ah, to find these, these, these distribution channels and also we try to retain users. We thought wouldn’t be cool if we can crowdsource the indication as well as, as well as, you know, the, the, the process of finding channels. Yeah. Wow. So it has to be done through a format almost like hackathon. So that’s one growth hackathon process on wheels for now.
Bronson: Makes sense. So, you know, you started this thing and you’ve interacted with a lot of growth hackers at, you know, your event. How have your views on growth hacking and growth hackers kind of evolved through this event?
Ken: Absolutely. So I’ve known some growth hackers before the event happened. So I know growth hackers are very analytical driven. From my point of view, and I’ll talk about it from the general public’s point of view, also from my perspective, I fear that growth hackers are are are becoming more and more analytical and much extra, which is really good. You know, before I think a lot of hackers that I interacted with were that would talk about the metrics are the the vanity metrics such as page views, such as the number of users and things like that. But I think now more and more growth hackers are sticking with the metrics that make sense for their own vertical because, you know, for B2B or B2C or for, you know, for for a news app versus a social network app, the metrics that you should look at should be completely different. So I think growth hackers are getting more and more savvy with looking at metrics like from the public standpoint. I see that now. Tiger Woods was viewed almost as a marketer to a lot of people. But now I see more and more younger folks are realizing that growth happens a lot more. Just being a marketer, it’s it’s from design and product and also marketing point of view to get users for a startup to grow your startup both on your user base as well as your team as well as your company. So it’s it’s a very it’s very broad. It’s a very broad space.
Bronson: Yeah. If the last growth goes on, what were some of the key things that you learned about growth, maybe from the speakers, maybe from the teams, maybe from the companies or some of the key things that you personally learned about growth?
Ken: I personally learned that, you know, if you if you put your mind to it, you know, even for someone that’s new to the field, could achieve something that’s that’s quite substantial. So one of the participants from our event was quite new to the field, and he was previously doing lots of analytics at a different consumer company. But he, he really wanted to tackle a challenge for a common list. So he just spent a lot of time on trying out different, different ways to, to, to gain game email addresses and also gain possibilities of getting, getting users for farming. And he spent days and nights on on the house figuring out ways to reach across the Web. Even though he’s not a programmer, but he’s able to out scripts with some software is out there and that just shows if you put your mind to it, you can win challenges, even though even if you’re not a developer, even if you don’t know coding, you can still figure out ways to crawl the web. And that’s the first step to it.
Bronson: Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about that. Like what was he doing because the audience would be interested in that. What was he doing to crawl the web and and what was he doing? What kind of data was he gathering? What was he doing with it?
Ken: So he did a few interesting experiments. So he he wanted to gain a database of email addresses for people that may be interested in apartments. So he went to a software site, it’s called Uber. And he he built a few scripts. And and based on those scripts, he’s able to draw different email databases from from from the sites and forums where there are a lot of people talking about apartment searching, which then enabled him to gather this massive email database of people that may be in that, you know, that are more likely to be in that vertical. Mm hmm.
Bronson: No, that’s great. What were some of the other teams that performed really well during these challenges? Give us some examples of of the teams that did well and then tell us about what they actually did to drive that growth.
Ken: Absolutely. So 111 team that I interact with very, very much in this contest is one that participated in my companies challenge. So my company, FanDuel, I like that one. Absolutely. Get give us growth. Right.
Ken: So give us ideas. So so yeah. So the team participated in the challenge where the goal is very straightforward. It’s to get as many as many users sign up to a particular landing page as possible. So what he ended up doing is through Facebook marketing and he’s this expert. He’s an expert on Facebook marketing. When we when we build of this this challenge, we didn’t think paid advertising would be would be ones that people would be willing to try, because we’re not providing the we’re not providing the cost for for doing that. So we thought it would be more from a free marketing standpoint, organic growth standpoint, but the participant actually spend some money to do this Facebook marketing campaign. But the result is is outstanding. So we spent $80 but got 3000 signups.
Bronson: Well, how do you do that? Please tell us a secret.
Ken: So he was he was able to leverage just the right message and the right demographics. And he he was able to and also the right timing for for campaigns is able to really conduct super effective campaigns with lots of impressions of. The high conversions force you to get a large amount of users very quickly. So that’s very impressive. And so after the contest is over, we invited him to work with us for a while. Just then, of course, just for Facebook advertising. That also opened up doors for us because before then we had spent $0. We weren’t a believer or paid marketing. We were just very much attacking ourselves. You know, I’m three channels ourselves. But after he participated, as he got us, you know, the sign up showed us the results. So that’s a breakdown. We were very impressed and we then looked into more paid advertising channels.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Are there any other examples of teams that did really well that you can think of? Are those the main ones?
Ken: Absolutely, yeah. Another startup that participated at family actually gave them inspiration for them to conduct a very large campaign themselves. So few days after growth, as our founders went on to do a campaign where they gave incentives for bloggers to to blog about to blog about their site through a different landing page. So they had a contest where others will compete against themselves. So in a way, it’s more like an ecosystem play. They had a landing page for bloggers to participate, to challenge and get the words out. In return. The bloggers would get are gifts from from family.
Bronson: So they like what kinds of gifts would they be getting?
Ken: So they were giving out iPads and Kindle fires for four mom bloggers. And that’s the.
Bronson: For the blogs that drove the most traffic to this page. Ended up winning one of these items.
Bronson: Okay. So they did their own growth a thon within a growth thon for a specific company?
Ken: Yes. Yes, yes. Basically. And they had their own magics and dashboard and went really well. I think they got something like 50,000 registrants within a week or something. So it’s wow, it, it’s very successful for them. But they got inspired by one of the attendees. I participate.
Bronson: No, it makes so much sense. Now, when I asked you earlier what you learned from all this, and one of the things you said was that it’s possible that you don’t have to know a lot. And if you have to just try it and focus in a short amount of time, you can see real growth. And now after hearing two or three of these stories, it’s like, oh, now it’s you Akin saying like literally they got 3000 sign ups or they got 3000 sign ups with $80 and Facebook ads. I mean, those are real numbers. Those are the numbers that matter. And they did it within a week timeframe. So that’s awesome. Thank you so much for for sharing those things with us. Let me ask you this. You know, I see how you guys have kind of set up a girls a thon and you kind of brought together a little marketplace. You have the companies on one side, you have the growth hackers on the other side. Do you think there’s a place in the future online to maybe do this at scale? You know, because I think about like, you know, Odesk or Elance, I go on there and you can hire a programmer for, you know, X dollars an hour. Do you think they’ll ever be kind of an ad skill marketplace for growth hackers where a company comes and says, I need a growth hacker, I’m trying to do this, I’m trying to grow to this number and people bid on it or whatever. Do you think something like that’s possible?
Ken: It’s happening?
Bronson: Yeah. How so?
Ken: I think I think it’s I think that’s that’s what’s going to happen. Yeah. I think I think it’s it’s really hard to say, you know, what kind of platform that would be. But I think there are enough demands these days for for that to happen. And I think the challenge the challenge is really how do define that growth? HACKER Because it’s such a new term and there’s still, you know, lots of gray areas in growth, hacking, growth, hacker growth hacking and quality control is is probably one of the the most challenging part. You know, how does this platform validate, you know, this certain growth hacker is a five star growth hacker versus someone that’s more like an amateur, but just self proclaimed growth hacker wannabe. And that will be the most challenging part. But if there is a service that can guarantee a certain kind of growth hacking for a startup, why wouldn’t they?
Bronson: Absolutely. It’s worth it. Yeah. Instead of going to one, you know, advertising channel and trying to do it, you just go to the person who understands all the channels or all the different, you know, avenues, and you just pay them and you know, it works. So yeah, I agree. I think the future is going to be exciting. For growth hacking go ahead.
Ken: For you outsourcing your VP of marketing right this year. Get them to take care of a part of your VP of marketing work at the and these guys since they’re so metrics driven they will get your results. So it’s not just like a billboard. I spent $100,000 on that. But, you know, how do you measure the returns? It’s it’s a lot more practical for for startups.
Bronson: Yeah. So let me ask you this online. I noticed on some of your profiles that is said that you obsessed with growth, right. What aspects of growth are you most obsessed with right now? Like, what is Kim currently thinking about in terms of growth? You know, because growth is a big idea. What are you focused on now that you’re interested in learning more about or that you’re trying to do for your own company?
Ken: Well, my obsession is this broad.
Bronson: Yeah, okay.
Ken: I interesting all aspects of growth, but for me, I if I were to pick a couple of areas, I would say I’m very interested in the ecosystem play, just like how an example is just basically how we thought of growth. You know, we thought of all these players that are, you know, the participants that are coming in to us to, uh, to, to counter the, onto the ecosystem. But everybody, everybody would take home, you know, some something good. So it’s a win win situation for everyone. And then in the case of family leave, they also achieve the same results. So that’s something I’m very interested in. You know, we did a campaign for for VentureBeat in a similar way where my company was a campaign platform for other startups to join, and we were able to get lots of traffic for, for VentureBeat at the same time provide lots of prizes back to those startups. So in that case, you know, it’s, it’s an ecosystem play. I mean, I’m interested in is inspiring and that’s very difficult to do. And if if, if there are new channels happening and, you know, if there’s a new viral loop for that’s that’s opened up the startups that discover that first would would be able to acquire lots of users and that’s something I’m actively looking every day to to find these new viral loops.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Those zero day exploits that you can take advantage of before they’re closed off for everyone, right? Yeah. What what kinds of people should consider attending your next growth a thon? The people listening to this, which ones of them should be like, you know, maybe they should come to that.
Ken: Um, the people that want to actually be more, more on a do side than to talk say it’s a, you know, there’s no textbook on growth hacking. Yeah. So a lot of it is just about doing that. Like I said, you know, these these participants, you know, they the winners weren’t necessarily a a big name growth hacker. You know, it’s it’s it’s, you know, it’s really just depending how much you want to actually participate. And, you know, if you are if you are, if you are, you know, persevere enough to actually carry through these these, you know, these these processes and actually are diligent enough to track all these results. So someone that are interested in do more would be perfect for for it goes them.
Bronson: Yeah. So it’s tough to know when is the next growth on and how can they get tickets to it so you can plug it here a little bit there.
Ken: Let’s put it that way. Well, it’s very, very soon. Okay. We’re we’re still thinking of the format. We’re trying we’re testing now smaller smaller format, smaller events now, because we think the best result may be achieved. One, it’s more intimate kind of setting when there’s only one or two companies and just 20 or 30 people, you know, participating. So we had a Japanese version of this just about a month ago. So my friend used to carve out that go to start with Japan. It was a smaller setting, which we felt would be a lot more appropriate because when we did our event it was eight startups, so it was a lot of startups and that’s quite easy. It creates lots of lots of work during that doing that during that event. And so it’s harder to keep track of every one, but if it’s smaller than there will be more people doing the challenges for each startup, then we can look at the results more carefully. So what we’re doing now is we’re testing. These smaller events, different formats, and see which one would possibly produce the best results for participants and also for startups.
Bronson: Yeah, so we’re going to go to learn more. Is it growth with Omnicom? Is that right?
Ken: Yes. Go to Tom Barker.
Bronson: All right. So you can go there and they can find out dates, times, you know, details, all that stuff. And they’ll be kind of a place where you update. Awesome. So you mentioned your own company earlier. So let’s talk about your company for a second. Fang drop. You’re the founder of Fang Drop. What is Fang drop?
Ken: So often Job is a viral marketing platform. So we conduct viral marketing campaigns. And the way we do is that we have a viral content platform that provides a level of traction for us to be able to jumpstart these campaigns. So for a viral for a viral campaign to be to be successful, you need two things. One, you need the initial jump start on your are your traffic shoes are you good level? So we provide the traffic and also the network as a service. So some of the clients we work with include charity. So Public Enemy and also when should be coming up them on Mobile this week. Yeah. So that’s that’s what that’s what we do. It’s viral content platform, viral marketing.
Bronson: Okay. So tell me specifically, like what would happen if my company came to you and I said, okay, I want to leverage your network and I loved your platform. What would that actually mean? Are you creating content for me and distributing it to people? I mean, what does it actually look like? You know, below that. Below the surface a little bit.
Ken: Yes. If you were to do a campaign with us, we would think of content for you. And then when we do the campaign, we would our platform would provide you with certain traction to jumpstart that campaign. And once it reaches to a breaking point, just like the hockey stick graph, then spread it everywhere to our network to to get the best possible fact for you and get the buzz going.
Bronson: Okay, so your network goes beyond fan drop itself. You have other kind of partners that you send it to to kind of, you know, make the effect exponential at some point.
Ken: Yes. We have a syndicated network.
Bronson: God. Yes. Is that really the heart of it? The secret sauce is that network syndication that you have going?
Ken: I would say the secret sauce is is is traffic and initial traction on our side. At the same time, there’s an algorithm figuring out when to add more gasoline.
Bronson: Okay. So it’s when you use the network, you have that actually important also.
Bronson: Yeah. And then were you going to say there was a third thing?
Ken: The third thing is the network.
Bronson: Yeah. Gotcha. All right, cool. So when did our fan drop launch?
Ken: So we launched last year, October for the first time. Soft launched. At that time, we we saw lots of traction. So we wanted to be able to utilize the traction more effectively and also Twitter algorithm. So we did a relaunch this year in January.
Bronson: Okay, great. And what kinds of growth have you experienced as a company yourself?
Ken: So for the initial month, we already got 1 million page views right off the bat and so have been growing by 40 to 50% per month.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, what are your primary channels for growth at Fan Drop? I know we mentioned, you know, you’re starting to try Facebook ads, but primarily where is most that traffic coming from? What are you doing to drive it?
Ken: Absolutely. So for now, we served a lot of our traffic came from Google, which is a SEO work because all the all about your hours are as SEO optimized as well as Facebook, viral loops and also all kinds of social bookmarking sites, including StumbleUpon and many other social networking sites. We’re not even though we’ve tested some paid advertising channels, but still, that’s not our focus. Majority of our all of our traffic are non-paid. So we don’t have advertising or marketing budget or we’ve been just growing mostly organically.
Bronson: Yeah. Have there been any like one time things you’ve done that have spiked growth, maybe things that aren’t repeatable or sustainable, but you tried it and surprisingly it worked really well. Anything like that you can think of.
Ken: Right. So in our case, we did think of campaigns like that, but they all turned out to be repeatable also.
Bronson: So, yeah, that’s good. It’s a good problem.
Ken: Right? That’s a good thing. So it’s sort of these ecosystem plays where we get we get participants to come on to the platform to produce results. At the same time, you know, we give them an incentive for them to to come back again. And that’s been working out really well. So it may is it may seem like a one time thing for a particular company, but we take the same model and reproduce it for another company. So, for example, we did a campaign for VentureBeat just about a month ago at South by Southwest, and we were able to so within the contest last about four days, we were able to get 220,000 visits to the site as well as over 30,000 social speakers. So that kind of results were very good. A one time thing for us doing South by Southwest for VentureBeat, where we can we can really do the same kind of contests for other events too. So now we’re doing it for demo mobile. So it’s the same model?
Bronson: Yeah, that’s correct. So far, what’s been the most difficult part about growing fan drop? It seems like it’s gone really well. Has there been anything that’s been really difficult that you’re trying to figure out about the growth of it?
Ken: So because the site looks like a content site, so the most difficult part for us would be to convert the consumers into actively returned users, to get them to get them to make a log in with us. It’s not it’s not a top priority for us right now, because for us to jumpstart viral campaigns, there’s only one thing that matters, which is traffic. You know, the page views to the landing page that matters the most. So it’s still not it’s still not the primary focus. Right. We felt that once we are able to grow the network and as well as have all editorial content to grow and beside at the same time with, you know, implement more better activation and tactics to convert those consumers into are into a lot of their users very soon. But that there will be that will be one of the several challenging things for our service in particular.
Bronson: Yeah. No, absolutely. There’s always something to, to improve what’s what’s on the horizon, any strategies that you want to try that you haven’t had a chance to try yet just because of resources or time that you think, oh, I want to try this and see if I can even make that via virality go faster. I want to try this and see if I can grow fan draw even more.
Ken: Absolutely. So we, me and the growth attackers on the team, we share a spreadsheet and a spreadsheet as a growth hacking spreadsheet. And there are a list of 2030 things that we want to try. And we have been trying, but. These are these are the 2030 things that we were going to have to do. And they are time consuming. But we approach it from a very static German standpoint. And so we put everything into a spreadsheet and then we track the results and they are within two, three growth members of the team. Yeah, so plenty of things to check. You know, I can give you some examples in auto scripting. Posting to social bookmarking sites is one of them. That’s sort of where I’m finding, you know, finding viral content aggregate on the site to leverage them to get more and more tractions and also viral loops. We found some other viral loops that we want to try. These are all on horizon.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. What I can attest that, you know, fan drive works because when I went to the site, it was hard for me to leave. I, I want to stick around and read more, and I kept clicking around. And so you’re doing something right there. But I noticed that you have a fan draw page of your own where you list the 30 best articles on growth hacking. So obviously I’m sucked in there and I can’t leave. And so I’m looking around tech and all these articles. Tell us maybe a couple of your favorite articles on that list about growth hacking and why you put them on there, why you feel like they were worth putting on the top 30 list.
Ken: Absolutely. So. Well, you know, first thing is that there are not 30 articles in it. Yeah, I mean, there’s 30 articles. And, you know, I found that if I name, you know, because people are drawn into 30 best 20 best ideas to name 30. But there probably are 50 articles in that I’m trying to get to 30. Yeah.
Bronson: So notice to be honest. So I didn’t even counter care.
Ken: But they’re probably 15, you know, right now in there. My favorite would be I like Andy Charles. You know, he’s a Facebook experience. You know how to do the Facebook team. And I also like the better part of SEO. He’s his take on on viral coefficient and how the how to improve the fact that you know it’s very scientific and I like that kind of articles.
Bronson: Yeah. No, that’s great. And if people are looking for those, they can probably just do a a Google search for fan drop, you know, 30 best growth hacking articles and they’ll be able to find, right?
Ken: Yes, absolutely.
Bronson: Yeah, because I would recommend going to check it out. It’s a cool resource. Okay. This has been an awesome interview. Let me ask you one last question, kind of a high level question here. What’s the best advice that you can give to any startup that’s trying to grow and acquire users?
Ken: I would say, you know, it will be just, you know, somewhere on a team needs to be needs to be open minded enough to try different things and try to talk to as many group of people as possible and try to educate yourself on the best ways to find someone to bring on board to grow the startup. At the same time, I think the founders need to understand different growth channels and really know what are the value metrics and what are, you know, what are the single metric that you should be on board with for this month or next month? But it should only be one or two metrics that matters to the entire team at a single time. So the team can really focus on just the. Just roll that by one single metric so that over time my, my best must best active engage with the community, check out new awesome blog material check out your friends and and learn. You know we’re all learners here because schools have been it’s one year old, you know. So it’s it’s really near and just, you know, try to absorb as much as as we all can.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s great advice. Ken, again, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the program.
Ken: Thank you.