Episodes

Linda Tong

Linda Tong

Linda was a part of the small team that launched the Chrome web browser and the Android operating system. In this episode she talks about the growth of those products, and she gives mobile app makers user acquisition advice.

TOPIC LINDA COVERS

  • What marketing for Chrome and Android means
  • What does Google works on marketing for Chrome and Android
  • Her thoughts about the new UI
  • How she educate people about Android at the launch
  • Her tools she uses and communication strategies
  • What is Tap Joy
  • How does it help developers and advertisers and the whole kind of ecosystem
  • What other tools does she recommend for app developers
  • How big did the marketplace get into public talk about
  • How did her company grow out of a billion devices
  • 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 Linda Tong with us. Linda, thanks for coming on the program.

Linda: Of course. Of course. Thanks for having me.

Bronson: Absolutely. I’m really excited about this. You’ve been involved in some high profile companies products, and I think we’re going to a fun conversation about growth. But let me run through some of the stuff you’ve done. You’re currently at a stealth startup in mobile technology, but before that you were the chief product officer at TAB Joint, and before that you worked on product marketing at Google and you focused on Google Chrome and Android according to the Internet. At least that’s what it tells me. Does that all sound about right?

Linda: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Bronson: Perfect. So I think we’ll do is we’ll kind of start back at Google and we’re going forward to the president. They may well in the interview talking about your new still startup and I’ll see if you can tell us anything cool about it. Yeah. To start with with Google, what does it actually mean to work on marketing for Chrome and Android? Like at a high level, like what do you actually do? And I ask that because I actually don’t know. I mean, you know, it makes sense when you say, you know, the VP of growth around the chief product marketer, you know, at tap joy or whatever. But I actually don’t know what marketing for Chrome and Android would mean. So talk about that a little bit.

Linda: Yeah. Sure thing. So for both teams, I was actually on the launch team. So this is before Chrome actually came out, before people knew what it was. So for both products, I was focused on positioning and branding, naming, translating like all the marketing in 42 languages and then actually coming up with the launch strategy and the user acquisition strategy for them. So for Chrome, it was actually determining the name Chrome for that product, figuring out how we wanted to launch it to the world. It was actually the first product that Google launched in 42 languages across every country. You know, typically we would launch in the U.S. first. So this was a really big launch for us, and a lot of it was actually figuring out how we would translate the name video marketing and make it make sense across all of these countries and all of these languages. And then from there is also doing a lot of user research. This is the first time that Google really went into the browser space, and a lot of people actually don’t know what a browser is. So doing research on how we position it and how we talk about it and how we convince users to actually download it and then teach them how to use it. And for Android, this was a completely different product to launch or launching a phone, an OS and a marketplace all at once. So the marketing side of it was actually doing a lot of branding, working with our own arm and carrier partners to get the Android and Google brands out there and then also market how to use the phone and how to use the OS just because it was towards the beginning of the smartphone era. And at that point, people really were only interacting with an iPhone. So teaching them all the different gestures, the long touches, how to get to apps, how to customize your homescreen, the concept of a widget. And so a lot of that was really education based. You know, working with T-Mobile on the commercials to show off these features. But that was sort of our launch strategy there. Like, you know, just focus on educating.

Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s great. I mean, it sounds like such an incredible experience to be there when Chrome is launching and Android is launching. We’re now they’re so integrated with our daily lives. I mean, there’s huge parts of just society around the world, so that’s awesome. How many people were on the teams? Was it one team in charge of both products? Because I’ve always been confused about the Chrome Android relationship. I mean, I think even recently they fired one of the heads and one group’s assumed the other group. So how does that work back there and what were the marketing teams like?

Linda: It was actually it was actually two totally different team. Chrome was run by what was considered the client group. So any sort of software that you could download at Google was part of the client team. So Google’s will are Google desktop, you know, Picasa, uploader, Chrome, all those were under the same sort of umbrella and that is currently right now under Sundar. It was also under Sundar at that time as well. And so our marketing team at that point was about five people and then Android was actually under this completely other umbrella was the mobile team at Google and under Andy Rubin at that time. And we were only about three people for the launch, but a completely different teams. No real overlap.

Bronson: Yeah. And so how did you end up on both of them? Did you do them one at a time or you were just the one that got to do both?

Linda: Yeah. So I join Chrome as my first team when I joined Google and then after we launched Chrome about two days later, I transitioned over to Android to focus on that launch, which we launched about a month and a half later, and then focused from that point on, on all of the device launches that were coming out. We had about eight successive devices come out in the next six months. So it was just a lot of just a lot of time focused on launching the OS as well as how we specified by Carrier and OEM across all the countries that were once again.

Bronson: Yeah, now maybe it’s just me, but when you say the teams are between three or four and. Five people for each group. That just seems like really understaffed. I mean, were you guys just, like, going crazy trying to launch these products or what?

Linda: We were definitely busy. I definitely only saw I slept at Google and it was it’s a lot of work. But when you have, you know, limited time, limited resources, it forces you to focus on what’s most important. So, you know, we didn’t in everything we did was based on what is the most critical item that we can hit that has the most value for our buck. And so, you know, like with Chrome, we focus a lot on our user acquisition strategy, how to get people to download Chrome and try it out, and how that experience would be when we first ran that, like ran the app or product really. And, and, you know, our acquisition strategy was using a lot of Google tools. So using AdWords, like we eat around in there. So using AdWords, using Cross-Promotional tools, promoting it on the homepage, going through AdSense and promoting on, you know, partners that are very heavy web apps where people might want a better browser. But it was, you know, we really got our bang for our buck there and we kept us focused.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a great insight and this is actually a tactic I use in my own life is I always have an ongoing to do list and when something new arises, I need to do I decide where to stack rank it does it go at number one? Does it go number seven? And I wake up in the morning and I do whatever is at the top. And then because that’s the most important, biggest bang for the buck. And I won’t allow myself to move down the list until I finish that one. And so I think it’s a great way to think about it. I mean, we all are overwhelmed. We all have too much to do. So what is the most important thing? So you mentioned some of the mini acquisition strategies that you use for Chrome, and I’m really interested in this because Chrome, I mean, it grew so much after launch. I mean, browsers are very difficult to launch. I mean, opera has just been stagnant or barely grown or even decreased. Internet Explorer is decreased, but Chrome is just like steadily grew after launch. What channel was kind of the magic channel? Was there one where it’s like, Yes, everyone that goes from that channel to our site does download it, does install it and does love it.

Linda: You know, surprisingly enough, our largest acquisition piece was actually coming through our Edwards labs. A lot of folks. So we didn’t want to use the research before we launched Chrome to figure out how we want to position the product and how we wanted to talk to consumers about it. And it was actually really surprising, and we assumed straight on that people would know what a browser was. And that was actually a really bad assumption. And after doing research, we found that when we said, Hey, you know, what do you use to browse the Internet users if they all use Google? And we’re like, Oh, really? That’s funny. And you know, we’d ask them things like, Oh, do you think that blue is? And they’re like, Oh, the blue means Internet. And I’m like, How do you spell Internet? And they’d be like, E and t e r any, any T. And I was like, Wow. Okay. So people didn’t know that it was for Internet Explorer. They just assumed that meant, you know, some sort of Internet access and they actually never knew what a browser was. So they never really saw the difference between Firefox and Internet Explorer and Safari. They thought of it as just sort of a window to access a web page. And from there they never realized that there are features that are associated with and there is safety and there was ease of use and there were speed. And so those were the things that we felt like we could highlight, right? We didn’t want to actually go out there and screen browser and teach them, you know, all these additional features that Chrome came with. And so we wanted to focus on the really simple things that they could very quickly understand. And so from there, when we launched it, we actually launched as browser like Google Chrome, the browser built by Google. And to really make it clear that this was the Google browser and have that resonate. And then we taught them basically three things. We’re like, it’s a faster browser, it’s a safer browser and it’s easier to use. And, and, you know, all of our AdWords are focused on ease of use, how to search really easily, how to get to Google faster than any than anything else. And that was actually what resonated most with people. And then as they got to use Chrome and as they got better, we’d start teaching them about all the additional features like tab to search and you know, incognito mode and things like that. But in the very beginning we kept it really simple and people were actually looking for a really easy way to search. So, you know, AdWords was actually our best channel.

Bronson: Yeah. Do you think that it’s a it’s a good strategy to focus on a couple features, a couple benefits? Because I know Chrome it does so much. I mean, you guys had rewritten like major parts of like what the browser is and yet you couldn’t really talk about it. You know, you just had to say it’s safer, you know. But is that is that a part of a strategy you think other people should take away?

Linda: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you’re going after, you know, math like consumer math audience, right. It’s you have to focus on making your message incredibly sure, incredibly simple and very easy to understand. And so in general, if you look at any Google download or landing page, it has maybe three or four bullets, nothing more than that. And they keep the bullets under like 15, 20 words because they want it to be really straightforward. They want the user to read it and walk away a second later and understand exactly what they read. And that’s the thing, right? You have to keep things simple. People easily forget if you start hearing them with 100 plus features. If I were to ask anyone right now what they saw in the iOS seven reveal yesterday, they can maybe list one or two features. They’ll just say New UI. Yeah, all right. But it’s going to be a little less the other 50, 60 features. But I think it’s you always have to just keep it simple and then slowly build from there.

Bronson: No, that’s great. It’s kind of a side note. What do you think about the new UI? You mentioned the UI. You know, you’re a product person. I’ve heard everything from its revolutionary to its clip art. You think?

Linda: I mean, in general? I love I love simple. I love very clean it very like flat UI and but it’s also because I come as a product person that’s focus on like speed and performance. And so the less flash you have on it, the last like shiny, the textures, everything like that, that would ruin your performance, I think is always something that I’m willing to sacrifice simply because I actually just want products to work really, really well. And that’s why Google is such a great fit. Everything we build, we try to keep it simple. Look at the Google, okay? There’s really nothing on it. But, you know, I just wanted to be very to the point you can get to where you want to go as fast as you can. And you don’t need to wait for some weird animation to load or some sort of texture or or, you know, some sort of transition. And so I actually like the new UI, but I think a lot of people really like the the shiny pretty feel that was in the previous version.

Bronson: Yeah, I think I’m still on the fence. I’m not sure I need to handle it and play with them more. But I wanted to know because, you know, you’re you’re a mobile person, but then you also helped launch Android. So I had to get your you know, to since okay so if you take a dig at them. So let’s talk about the launch of Android a little bit. You mentioned kind of education was the theme with both of them. Was education how how you have to educate people around Android at the launch. I know you mentioned like long press and things like that. What did that all look like?

Linda: Yeah, I mean, so one of the hardest things with Android was, you know, everybody was looking at buying an iPhone. And a lot of people, you know, a lot of people’s first smartphone was an iPhone. So when you go from an iPhone to Android, when the behavior is different and you’re expecting there to be one button, and therefore you’re like, wait, what do I do? And you know, there’s the window shade concept which didn’t exist, an iPhone at that time. So they’re like, why these icons like sitting up here on the bar and, you know, how do I how do I move all my icons and how do I like, what is this weird clock and how do I get to these widgets? And a lot of these concepts are really foreign to people and they’re not obvious, and they would approach an Android device and treat it like an iPhone and expect to act the exact same way. And when it didn’t, they would get frustrated. And you know, you don’t want to just rebuild the iPhone and put it in a different shell, like we wanted to add value. We want to create new features that we thought people would like, you know, like searching directly from your homescreen, being able to have these sort of widgets. Like we found that once people got used to it, they loved it, but we really had to teach them how to use it because there wasn’t that concept on an iPhone and that was all. They really understood you to teach them a lot of gestures that didn’t really exist. And so yet it’s not like you’re basically trying to teach them how to use a completely different device when they’re expecting an iPhone.

Bronson: Yeah, it seems like it was it would be difficult to do that because it’s one thing if you’re the first person educating them about an iPhone or a smartphone, and then you have to come in and then kind of rewire, you know, the hardware of their brain. It’s going to make it more difficult. How did you actually educate them? Was it just through the commercials and the way they showed the device? Was it through longform kind of, you know, blogging on Google sites? I mean, how do you actually educate people?

Linda: Yeah, we actually we made a ton of videos on the Google side on our and so we told you how to access all the different apps, how to use the different widgets. And we also worked with our carrier partners. They, you know, they ran a lot of commercials on major television networks and during like basketball games and football games. So there’s a lot of reach there where they would create these commercials where you’d see different apps and you’d actually see a person with a hand like you see the finger long pressing and you’d see like a fake vibrate. Like they really wanted to focus on how to actually do these, like these steps of like setting up a widget or downloading an app and changing the location and things. And then from there, we also spent a lot of time doing seminars with our different OEM and carrier partners and their salespeople, so that when you went to, you know, a T-Mobile store to buy a new phone, all the people in that store were educated and they could walk you through a very simple demo of downloading an app, setting up a widget, getting to your home screen and dealing with your notification bar. But, you know, we actually educated like hundreds of different sales folks across T-Mobile’s organization as well as across this organization, and focused on having them also be that one point person that would talk directly with the consumer about how to, you know, do all these different actions.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now, let me ask you this kind of as you look back at your time at Google there, you look back to the launch of Chrome and the launch of Android. What’s the take away where you say, you know what, these are some lessons or maybe one primary lesson I learned that I’ve rolled into everything. I took it to tap joy. I’m taking into my own startup now. It’s a part of who Linda is. Is there any lessons like that?

Linda: I would say never neglect user research. It’s it’s something that I think a lot of people just, you know, in their minds are like, oh, I like this, other people like this. But in reality, you you need to go out and, you know, find some people on Craigslist, whatever it is, but that your idea ideas test out your flow, test out your your strategy, your positioning and see whether it actually resonates. Because a lot of times when you’re working on a product, you have so much more understanding about it. You already have these ideas captured in your mind that you think that are obvious to everybody else and they’re just not. And so, I mean, with Chrome, it was actually a huge learning. Had we gone out there and done this promotion around like the top new features for your browser, people would like what’s a browser, right? And it’s just we actually we ran campaigns that literally showed someone clicking on a Chrome icon on their desktop and getting to a browser because we needed to teach them that it was a browser, right? Just like concept itself was actually, you know, really scary to a lot of users. And had we skipped that, I think I think we actually wouldn’t have nearly as much access as we had.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s an it’s an interesting thing that the more you work on a product, the less you’re the right person to make a decision about the product in some ways, right?

Linda: Absolutely.

Bronson: Because the closer you get, you actually can’t imagine what the positioning should be anymore. And so you have to rely on user research, you know, on customer, you know, development, those kind of things. So I think that’s absolutely great advice. What would you do differently? You know, looking back, is there anything we were like, you know, I wish we had done that sooner or done this differently or change that. Or do you feel like, you know, it was a pretty good process overall?

Linda: I mean, in general, I think the process was pretty good for both launches. You know, the things that will always get out of control whenever you launch a product is, you know, really like managing the cross-functional communication, you know, because the nice thing at Google was product marketing, worked with product management, engineering, sales, legal finance and everyone across the board. And, you know, one of the most important things with a successful launch is having great cross party communication. And I can’t I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s just you really, really have to become a team. You really have to work together. And I wouldn’t say there’s really you know, there was a failure there, but rather I would just say that, like, that’s an area where you can always get better, you know, unless until you all turn into one person, you can always get better.

Bronson: No, it’s great until the same thing because everyone has their own priority list and you have to find a way to make them merge together so that things actually move forward. Are there any best practices you’ve learned? I mean, I’m just asking for my own sake and for the sake of people watching, you know, is there any maybe tools you use? Is there any communication strategies like what do you do to actually do it? Because I know you’re dealing with the same thing in your startup now, probably.

Linda: Oh, yeah. I mean, I just I overcommunicate. There’s you know, I can’t live without emails. I use a lot of product management tools, like currently we use Asana. But, you know, I constantly tag people in a sign and I’m telling them exactly what’s happening. I’m constantly updating, moving things around, you know, always verifying features. And, you know, because we’re a startup, we’re a really small team, and so we can always just scream across the room at each other. But I always make sure that even if we’ve discussed something, I document it, I write it down. So at a later date, we can always go back and check on it. But I think a big part of it is just documenting and communicating.

Bronson: Yeah, you know, nobody’s ever said on the show overcommunicate, but I can wholeheartedly agree. I mean, I, you know, I think it makes for a good friendship’s, for good marriages, for good start ups, you know, until you’ve seen it 100 times, like you haven’t said it, you just have to keep saying the things that matter nonstop. And that’s where communication actually starts to happen. Until someone says, you’re talking too much, you’re not talking enough. That’s my that’s my view anyway. But then again, I’m hosting a show, so of course I’m going to talk now after Google. You were the chief product officer at tap, Joy. So talk to us about today a little bit. What is Tap Joy and specifically how does it help developers and advertisers and that whole kind of ecosystem there?

Linda: Yeah, sure. So tap joy is amiable value exchange, which it sounds kind of bizarre, but what it is, is it’s focused on helping developers who have, you know, who are publishing. Right. So whether it’s a content app or a game or just some sort of productivity app, right? They they’re building this app and they need some way to monetize that app. And then you have the flip side of advertisers who are either building apps through their offering some sort of service who are trying to get mobile distribution. And then in the middle you have the users who are using the apps and they’re also the target for these advertisers. And what we built was a way that we could allow all three parties to essentially win. Right. Developers want to make money. Consumers wanted to get deeper engagement with these apps and advertisers wanted to reach these consumers. And so the base model that we started with was allowing developers who mostly built games, right, to earn revenue by incentivizing their users to interact with ads. In exchange, those users would receive some sort of currency or virtual good. So a typical flow might be you’re playing Farmville, you want more gold coins, you can buy a blueberry patch. And in order to get those coins, you might download, you know, the kayak app and earn like 15 gold coins. So Kayak would basically pay for that download. That money would then go back to the developer and exchange. The user would get 15 coins.

Bronson: Gotcha. It sounds kind of ingenious, you know, when you think about it. And like you said, it sounds kind of like an enigma at the beginning. It’s the exchange of value, but it really is. I mean, you’re exchanging ideas across three different parties there now, a tangible you had a lot of exposure to apps. You see all these apps in your marketplace working with advertisers and you know, you’re building apps yourself, of course. What do you wish more developers knew that would help them distribute and monetize their apps more effectively? Because there’s so many people that they build it and they’re just kind of stuck, you know, they want Angry Birds, but they don’t have Angry Birds. They have something you’ve never heard of. How do they monetize and distribute better? Teach us. Help us.

Linda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so I think distribution monetization are two totally different things. Distribution. If you have enough money, in theory, you can just buy it, right? You can buy installs across the board, but sometimes you don’t have money. And so you have to create this sort of discovery mechanism for yourself. And, you know, I would say look at social media. Build up your fan base, use Twitter like find apps that are like yours and look at their keywords. Right? Think about you’re one of a billion apps, you know, in an app store and what’s going to happen. You know, users are looking for, you know, maybe a casual game and how are they going to find your game if they don’t know that your name is some absurd like kitty cat fighting game or something? I don’t know what it is, but they really have to make it searchable. You have to think about SEO the same way that people thought about SEO on the web, and it’s not about sort of gaming it, but rather just helping people find you really, you know, being incredibly descriptive and, you know, communicating with your users and telling them about what your game is, what you do with the functions are. Because for a lot of people you just can’t find their app. And then they’re like, Oh, I just have to be in the charts. But it’s not about the charts. It’s actually about creating a really valuable description. And then from there, you know, once you get your users, I think the biggest issue that most developers run into is they can build this great app, but they hide it behind this horrible sign up flow. And so you open this app and the first thing it says is like, give me your email, address your birthday, create a password and agree to some absurd terms and conditions and privacy policy. So the user, I’m like, I don’t know what I’m getting into and you want me to give you all this information and and agree to some weird thing where you could take my first child, like, who knows? You know, most people are going to turn around and walk away. And I think that a lot of people should be more innovative about what their set up flows are like. Do a tutorial, let them play for two or 3 minutes where they sign up, but don’t force the user into that right away. Because unless you’re Facebook and a user knows exactly what they’re getting into, they probably don’t know what you do. They probably don’t know what your app does. And so they’re probably not going to sign up.

Bronson: That’s great advice.

Linda: Yeah. And I mean, from there or even if they if they do happen to sign up suddenly, a lot of developers are like, I just need to monetize you. And so the first thought is, I’ve now signed in, I’ve given my life away, I’ve given you my email, I’ve created some password, and now you’re going to spam me. And the first thing you do is like show all these ads at a user and it’s like buy like $5 with the currency and sign up here and download this app and do this and the users like, where were we? I just signed up. I just gave you this information. I still don’t know what you do. And you want me to buy something, right? It shouldn’t matter, right? Well, you know, wait until the third or fourth time that they open the app or wait until they’ve played for five or 6 minutes. But, you know, imagine if you were to go shopping and you walk in to some store you’ve never been in. And the first thing is a sales associate walks up to you and starts pushing like $100 gift cards on you and you’re like, Whoa, I don’t know if I want to even buy anything here. And you’re trying to sell me gift cards, like, what’s the deal? So I think it’s just really thinking through what does that feel like for a user who’s first opening your app? Like, do they even know what you’re doing? Do they know what’s happening? Like thinking about that is really going to help longer term in the monetization category.

Bronson: Yeah. You know, going back to what you said about, you know, user research when you’re launching Chrome and that kind of thing, it’s almost the same sort of thing where you have to put yourself in their shoes and not think about what you want, because if you build the app flow to be what you want, will you want their email, you want their information, you want their credit card, you want them to give you money every month from now on until they die. Like, Yeah, you want obviously, but they don’t want that yet and maybe never. So what do they want? And until you give them something they want, they don’t care what you want.

Linda: Exactly. Exactly.

Bronson: So just being empathetic, like getting outside of yourself. And I think that’s why so many products fail, because people are not empathetic. They actually cannot see the world outside of the way they see the world. And they’re just stuck pushing products on people like salesman, you know?

Linda: So yeah.

Bronson: Definitely, you know, that’s great. Now besides Tab Joey, because I think people should use tap joy if they’re building apps and, you know, trying to trying to monetize them and using the cool kind of value exchanges that tap joy has. But besides tap joy, what other tools do you recommend for app developers that are trying to do either of those three things? Maybe they’re trying to monetize it. Maybe they’re trying to distribute it because, like you said, they’re different. They can come to mine of kind of like tips and tricks, you know, tools to use.

Linda: Yeah, sure thing. And I mean, so I definitely say, like, you stop drawing. But I mean, there are also a lot of sort of counter competitors are either in a similar space or same space, you know, like Bluestacks or Play Haven or, you know, chart booth. Like they’re all kind of in the same space and can’t hurt, you know, to sort of try everything out. But on top of that, I think really thinking about, you know, your how you attract users on a social media level, thinking about, you know, being active on Facebook, being active on Twitter and building your fan base and, you know, own that relationship with your users from the get go and creating some value there, educating them before they even come into your app and they. Giving them a channel to share and allowing them to tell their friends about your app, I think is really important. Social recommended social recommendations in general have been some of the most promising and useful and highly receptive sort of tactics for getting new users. And I think people should definitely not ignore that. And then the second piece is also just aside from just getting more users, I think people really need to focus on reengaging their existing user base. So really focusing on building a strong push notification system that recognizes when someone’s been idle for a certain amount of time and reaching out to them and giving them a reason to come back. I think a lot of developers overlook that, but it’s really actually important and can be incredibly useful.

Bronson: Yeah, no, I think you’re right. It’s overlooked because, you know, you know, you’re building a product and there are some things just have to get done and then re-engagement is not a have to get done kind of thing. And so it’s on the back burner and then you finally get to in a few months too late. So I totally agree. Put it up on the list because it is really important, but you can launch without it, which is part of the problem.

Linda: You know, like.

Bronson: Now it’s actually became quite large. I don’t know what numbers you guys have disclosed, but how big did the marketplace get to that you guys publicly talk about?

Linda: So a little while ago, they actually had a billion device celebration. So there’s over a billion unique devices on that network. And last I checked, they had nearly 10,000 different applications on there. So it’s like developers and advertisers combined. Pretty huge market.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. How did you guys grow that market? I know you were in charge of product there, but, you know, it’s not a it was a small team when you first started there. I think it was five employees. Is that right?

Linda: Yeah. Yeah. So I wasn’t going for. Yeah. You got to.

Bronson: See it grow from those from the bottom up. How did you guys grow out of a billion devices?

Linda: Yeah. I mean, you know, honestly, it’s kind of funny how we started. We actually were a gaming company. We built this game called TAC Defense. It was a tower defense game, and we were a number one app on the App Store for a while. And we were like, How do we make money with this? And started adding, you know, we, we put AdMob in there, we put Millennial in there trying to make the money, but fell rates were terrible. It was probably 30% for banner ads at that time. So we were kind of figuring out different ways to monetize that app. And we eventually stumbled upon, Hey, why don’t we try and get users to click on ads, you know, get them to engage with these ads, and in exchange, we’ll give them more towers for this tower defense game. And we found our CPMs go up about 100 X when we did that. And so we’re telling some of our developer friends who are also in the space and they’re like, Whoa, we how did you do that? And a lot of them got really excited about it. And so at that point, we decided to pivot and become more like a monetization platform. So we built that out and we shared it with a couple of our developer friends and help them essentially monetize their existing users. And they turned around and realized how promising the platform was and began advertising on it. So we created this micro ecosystem across about five or six of the most promising up and coming developers, and that actually seeded our product and exceeded our market. And before we knew it, we started calling other developers and telling them about it. And people would just put, you know, small $5,000 and thousand dollar test budget with us and see they would immediately see results and word spread and the way that we built our product, anyone could essentially sign up and be running within 30 seconds. And so we were having hundreds of developers signing up every day to join us, and it just exponentially grew from there. I mean, it was amazing to watch that sort of growth, but it really just started with a small group of people where we built a product that that worked and, you know, people really loved it. And from there, you know, word of mouth really was our biggest our biggest channel.

Bronson: Yeah. What a great story. Did you guys have any problems growing both sides of the marketplace at the right pace? Because I can imagine at some point you have way too many developers are way too many advertisers. And the supply and demand is don’t match up or work together or was it just kind of just work the way you guys built the system?

Linda: No, there’s definitely supply and demand issues. We focus more on the developers on the publishing side. And for us, that was sort of, you know, those were our guys. Those were our people that we worked with. Those were the gamers. And it really rang home to work with them. And, you know, in the beginning we ceded a lot of our advertising from other ad networks. So we pulled in different ads from like AdMob and Millennial and Quattro before Dyad. And then, you know, as word grew, a lot of developers started using the network themselves. Our publishers actually became our advertisers. And then before we knew it, we actually had way more advertisers than we did developers like publishers. And that’s when we became more of a wall and it became embedded system. And that allowed us to really sort of balance the tail.

Bronson: Yeah. So it wasn’t really a problem. It was an opportunity when you had too many advertisers just beat up the prices for the limited spaces within the games.

Linda: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Bronson: No, that’s great. That’s awesome. Now, looking back at Tabs, you know, I think it’s been a couple of years since you were there. Is that right?

Linda: Yeah.

Bronson: Yeah, yeah. What what are you most proud of looking back? Is it the product tab, Joy? Is it the growth strategy? Is it something else you were a part of there? What are you just super fond of looking back?

Linda: I mean, so those early days were probably the best day of my life. You know, when we were team of six, we were four engineers and two product managers. We had no sales team, no business development, no like, no customer service, nothing. So we built a product that we’re really proud of, and myself and the other PM got the opportunity to focus on everything non engineering. So I was doing customer service, I was doing finance, I was filing our patents, I was, I was cold calling developers and convincing them to jump on board with us and try out our service. And then I was going to their offices and helping them integrator SDK. But it was a lot of hands on work and it was just, you know, wearing a lot of hats. And every day I felt like we’re driving so much, so much change and really impacting the business. And the developers that we signed up in those days were some of the largest developers out there right now. They were by far and away the largest developers after we actually had on our system up until two years ago. Right. So it’s they it it was incredibly rewarding. Like that would just simply change the business. It set us off on a trajectory and it was all everything besides product and marketing were areas that I felt little to no confidence and felt like I was just just guessing and testing out everything. And so it was really, really rewarding just to try it out and actually drive change and accomplish these different goals. So I look back at that and I’m like.

Bronson: Oh, that’s awesome. My guess is you learned a ton in that short period of time. Would that be right?

Linda: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Bronson: And then people don’t get that. Sometimes it’s in the middle of all the chaos and just trying a million things. Now you just learn so many lessons that you know when everything is going great. Like the lessons were learned before that.

Linda: Oh, yeah, definitely. And it is really important. I think it gives it gives you confidence to sort of attack new problems and really feel like you can do anything. And it takes it takes you out of this sort of bucket of, oh, all I can do is product. So we need to hire like 15 other people to do these other functions. You gives you this go getter attitude, which I think is really important for a startup.

Bronson: No, absolutely. Without I mean, you shouldn’t hire people without that. They have to be go getters. Now, after tab, Joy, you were initially going to start your own startup, but then you ended up bumping into some previous Android people and kind of joining forces with your new startup. So walk us through between leaving Tab Joi and getting at the startup you’re working on right now. What did that process kind of look like? Because I know you actually went pretty far down the roadmap of building your own thing a little bit.

Linda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so basically when I left after my goal was, you know, to work on something new, I wanted to stay in Mobile, but I really wanted to build a consumer product that could impact the lives of not just, you know, the tech savvy, but people like my mother and like my friends who who don’t really know much about how to use their phones. I think that we’re really just scratching the surface of mobile right now. And so I wanted to build something that was highly impactful that was, you know, actually solving a real problem. And also just it had a lot of potential, right? Like I wanted to build something big. I’m seeing a lot of startups these days that are sort of focused on just building something small that can get acquired in a year or two and and you can have a small win and move on with life. But, you know, I’m not seeing as many people who are being like Iran Musk who are sort of trying to build like the big, hairy, scary problems that will eventually change the world. And so I wanted to focus on that. I’m at a point in my life where I am incredibly, you know, risk loving, and I have very little fear or very little, you know, dependencies. So I’m like, I might as well take advantage of it, you know, go for the biggest, scariest problem. And so I started working on a big data problem that was focused on the best recommendation system, essentially that you could have. And there are a lot of technical issues with it. And I started looking for a team to help me solve those. And while I was doing that, I ran into one of my good friends who was on the Android team with me, and he was telling me about this very interesting mobile play that he was working on. And I was like, Well, I’ll interesting. I was like, My mobile play would play really well with your mobile play, and we talk a little more and he’s like, You know, you should just join us. And that planted the seed. And then, you know, I was like, Hi, I’m doing my own company, am raising money. Things are going well. Like, we’ll talk. Later on. And then as I kept building and as I kept solving different problems, I kept realizing all the problems that are solving wouldn’t have been problems had I just joined him. And that together our products have actually built something incredibly beautiful and would actually be very useful and solve a lot of real issues for people. And for me, that’s where the passion that is building something that’s awesome. And so I was like, you know, I don’t have to be out of my own company. I just have to work on a product that I’d work on for the next ten years that, you know, I’d be willing to stay on for the rest of my life. And so we got back together and we talked and, you know, he was like, you got to join us. Like, you’re working on something that really, really resonates here. Meet the team. And if you meet the team and love them, then you’re just going to have to join us. I met the team. It was a bunch of other Android folks and it was just it’s people that I gel with as people I love. And our ramp process was perfect and it was just the perfect fit that for me, it didn’t make sense to do anything else.

Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s a great story. I think it’s it’s so cool how you view the whole situation because some people, they just want to be a founder. Like that’s actually priority number one. They don’t care what it is, they don’t care how it works. They just wanna be a founder because they think it looks good on a business card, you know? And the reality is you had this long term view like, what can I do for ten years? Because a startup, it takes so much longer than anybody realizes. The first few years are just spent not knowing what you’re doing and figuring things out. And there’s a few years of like finally getting some traction. Like, it’s hard, hard, long work, especially when you’re doing some of the big data. I mean, there’s so many technical problems that you’re still in still and you’ll be in stealth for who knows how long, you know?

Linda: Absolutely. And I mean, I think that was the thing. Right. It’s it’s the are you ready to do this for ten years or the rest of your life or however long it takes? As for me, you know, I had a lot of folks reach out to me when I left and say, hey, I have this great idea, like I would love for you and your team to build this. And it was this idea that I was like, you know, I don’t really know much about them and I’m not that excited about them, you know, like it. And they’re like, Well, it’s going to be a big business. You’ll make a lot of money. And I’m like, you know, if I think I think at the end of the day, like, I’m going to make enough money to be happy. Like, I don’t need any more. But what I need to do is make sure that I’m spending, you know, while 18 hours a day at my with all my career, I better love it. I better love what I’m doing. I better be incredibly passionate about it. Like you can’t buy that time.

Bronson: Absolutely. Because, you know, it’s so easy to be passionate, like in month one for any idea. Like the makers are passionate for a month about anything in year five. Like passion is not just, you know, something, you can just, you know, create within yourself. You have to deeply love it to keep doing it after many years. So I agree 100%. Now, I’ve heard you talk about some interesting ideas you have around ideas when you’re generating ideas for your startup in terms of how people respond to them. Because most people are looking for everyone to say, Oh, that’s a great idea, just totally do that. And they just want 100% across the board people to love it. When you’re searching for ideas, you actually want some people to not like it. Explain that to us a little bit.

Linda: Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, you need to be able to trigger a reaction. You need to push the boundaries. And if everyone’s on board with it, chances are either it’s not a great idea or it’s an idea that science has tried and failed. You know, why wouldn’t it exist if everyone loved it? I think what you really need to do is think about how can you change things up? How can you how can you push, you know, like different momentum out of people before people are like, why would I use online dating? You know, that’s stupid. Like you have to have interactions with people. And I think it’s like when you have these really unique ideas that cause people to change your behavior and that’s how you really change the world at the end of the day. And so for me, it’s I really do need to find people who actually react negatively and people who react incredibly, positively. And from there, I think either you’re on to something you’re on a something that’s going to cause these reactions that people are really passionate about and that they’re really, you know, they feel that strongly about that you’re doing something that’s going to be important.

Bronson: Yeah. You know, think about, you know, any important person in history. Think about any important movement in history, and it’s polarizing. There’s someone who’s willing to die for it and there’s someone who hates it. I mean, the things that matter, you know, long term in the history of the world are things that polarize people to some degree. So.

Linda: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I, I can’t think of any startup that hasn’t received a lot of negative reaction and positive reaction. You know, the ones that everyone’s like, I love it. I love it. Most of them don’t even get funding. Most of them go nowhere. It’s just, you know, very rarely do you have that reaction.

Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s great because it’s it’s it’s encouraging if some people are pushing back on your idea. But, you know, there’s something there and other people love it. So it’s cool when you’re a founder, come up with ideas to hear input like that. Now, I’ve been in the in the mobile space for a long time. You know, you’ve launched mobile platforms. I mean, you really do know this stuff deeply. And so I know you’re still startup is going to be doing whatever it does, but there’s a lot of opportunities in mobile that are not being addressed now. Like you probably see the holes better than most. You see where there’s gaps in the experience, there’s gaps in the offerings, there’s gaps in the services. What do you think the biggest opportunities left in mobile are? Maybe some the ones you’re not tackling, some other people can can jump on and maybe grab some of them.

Linda: Definitely. I mean, I think there’s I think there’s a lot you know, if you look at just the advertising space alone, I think there’s been essentially zero innovation there. All you’re really doing is taking what you see on the Web and shrinking it to this tiny, tiny size. You know, and the thing is that your phone is incredibly different from your laptop and no one’s really thought about how your experience should change on mobile advertising versus, you know, desktop advertising. And, you know, on top of that, right now, people are really heavily focused on, you know, advertising and games and monetizing games. And what about the guy who built the flashlight app and, you know, New York Times on your phone and on the Web? You know, a lot of it is old school advertising. And I think there’s a lot of potential for someone to focus on monetizing non-gaming and building the new wave of what advertising should look like. So I think there’s a big piece there. And then I think the second piece to go along with that is, you know, people don’t just have a phone anymore. They have a connected TV, a connected tablet, you know, because you can have connected watches, cars, maybe a washing machine. But, you know, you have all these devices that are going to be surrounding you. They’re all connected in theory. They get all talk to each other, like, why not build an experience around that? But I think, you know, you got to you got to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.

Bronson: Yeah. The famous Wayne Gretzky quote, skating. Absolutely. Yeah. I think about that a lot with startups. I really do. You know, like don’t just do what you see right now. Think about what’s happening in 10 minutes in tomorrow, in the future, because that’s where the opportunities are.

Linda: Especially with the long incubation period for startups. You better be planning for three years out.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s for sure. Now, is there anything you can tell us about your new still startup? I won’t pry too much, but you know, anything you want to give us would be cool.

Linda: We’re definitely thinking. I mean, obviously we’re mobile. You know, a big part of what we’re thinking about is, you know, what is the future of mobile looking like? And, you know, what does that look like for users? Like how do you interact with multiple devices and how do you really how how does this behavior change on your phone going online? And then how do we build the best experience to cater to that? MM Yeah.

Bronson: So do you have any ideas when you might have something public or is it still just so stale? You don’t even know what that would look like yet?

Linda: Oh, we’re hoping to make a small announcement sometime later this year, probably Q3, Q4 timeframe.

Bronson: Oh, cool. So we’ll we’ll keep our ears open for that. Well, Lynda, this has been an awesome interview. I have a couple of final questions here for you, kind of high level questions, you know, to give back to the people here a little bit. You know, you’ve done a lot with marketing. You done a lot with product. What’s the single best growth hack that you’ve ever implemented? You know, I know that growth hacks aren’t the the things that actually change your career. But, you know, it’s fun to hear the little things that worked really well. Is there anything you did with Chrome or Android or Tangerine or anything else where you did something you weren’t sure what was going to happen? And then, wow, you know, we actually brought acquisitions abroad, customers or or whatever.

Linda: Well, actually, there is one that I talked to a developer about and he implemented it. And it was actually incredibly brilliant for people who don’t remember. Back in the day when Android Market first launched, they actually only had three charts. It was paid top free and just in. And, you know, the charts were really, really slow moving. They weren’t really changing that much. And so if you were in the top free chart, you were there for quite a while, like probably a month and a half to two months. And this guy was like, man, like, I should be in that chart. My app is awesome, but no one is downloading it. I can’t get discovered. There’s 10,000 apps like what am I going to do? And you know, joked around, I was like, you know, every time you update your app, it shows up and just in. And so we joked around about it and before I knew it, he wrote a script that had him update his app, like automatically update his app every 8 hours. And within about three weeks he’d actually climbed the top three chart without spending a single dollar. No advertising, no marketing whatsoever. All he did was just update you that every 8 hours. Yeah, that’s awesome. And he just got enough enough traffic from the Justin chart that he was able to top the top three. And about six months later, Google rejiggered the algorithm. But for those six months, he sat in the top three charts without a problem. Yeah, so it was pretty awesome. And I love.

Bronson: Stories like that because people don’t realize how much creativity and growth go hand in hand. Oh, you have to get creative, you know? And that’s all those things were. Yeah, there’s a window of opportunity at six months in that case, but six months is a long time to be in the top of a chart. The fix, the glitch.

Linda: You know, I mean, I think he’s ready to retire now. So, yeah.

Bronson: Just from, you know, a burst of creativity, he was able to pull off something that. That’s awesome. Last question here. What’s the best advice that you can give to any startup is trying to grow. It can be anything can be something you already said. It could be something new. But what’s the best advice you have for them?

Linda: Yeah, I mean, I think a big part of it. I am a product person at heart more than anything else. And I think for anyone who’s looking at growing, even if you have the best user acquisition people, even if you. A ton of money to buy insoles or buy users or anything. It’s when it comes down to it, the core issue is, is your product good and are you solving a real problem? And, you know, is it is it easy for users? And so if you can’t nail the very simple product problems right there, it doesn’t matter how many users you buy, they’re going to walk away from you, you know, 20 minutes later. So I think first, nail the end product. Nail down exactly how you’re positioning it. Nail down the use cases. Nail down your target audience. And then from there, throw money at it. Throw money at the users. And, you know, get creative. Think about ways to find your target audience. Like, maybe you have concert goers and maybe you should have people stand outside of concert and give people a QR code to download your app. I don’t know what it is, but, you know, figure out your target audience and and nail down your product first.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great advice. Linda, this has been such an incredible interview. Thank you so much for coming on growth. RTV And just sharing all of your experience and wisdom with us.

Linda: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Are you an entrepreneur who is trying to grow a startup?

Get the strategies, motivation, and in-depth interview with all the details every week!