18 Startup Resources That Have Changed How I Approach Growth

The 18 startup resources that have a shaped how I approach growing a company.

I’ve been trying to read more books this year and I’m doing alright if we count audiobooks. (And we are.) I’ve leveraged recommendations from podcasts or favorite blogs to get the best startup or marketing reads. Here are 18 badass books, videos, blogs or podcast about growing a startup that have probably saved me. In no particular order . . .

(1) How to Start a Startup: Alex Schultz, Growth at Facebook (Video)
What I liked: The entire ‘How to Start a Startup’ series was awesome and this talk was my favorite. Hearing how ‘Zuck’ was relentless about his focus on growth was inspiring. And his overall analysis of how they leveraged a user’s ‘magic moment‘ to retain them for the long term.

(2) Lean Startup Marketing by Sean Ellis (Book)
What I liked: Sean Ellis lead growth at Dropbox and this book is essentially a marketer’s guide to growing a startup. It’s so rich with knowledge and tips you’ll find yourself taking note after note.

(3) The Viral Startup by Andrew Chen (Book)
What I liked: Andrew is now the head of growth at Uber and if you are a stats or numbers person then you’ll love his approach to growth. This is his blog in book form but it’s absolutely worth the read.

(4) Traction by Gabriel Weinberg (Book)
What I liked: They breakdown the 19 traction channels for finding users/customers and have strong case studies. I took those 19 channels and built them into our growth model. It’s great for getting inspiration for growth ideas.

(5) Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg (Book)
What I liked: It dissects the history of viral growth across the most revolutionary startups. Consider it your growth history lesson.

(6) Growth Engines by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown (Book)
What I liked: Growth case studies on top of growth case studies. Great for coming up with growth ideas for your own projects.

(7) Hooked by Nir Eyal & Ryan Hoover (Book)
What I liked: It’s a playbook for how Product Hunt build their retention engine. If you’re building a community then it’s a must read.

(8) The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes (Book)
What I liked: Horrible title. Awesome book. Honestly, this might be my favorite. I have never dog-eared so many pages in a book. Just read it.

(9) What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn (Book)
What I liked: If you’re at all focused on branding then read this. Denise has you analyze your brand from 7 verticals. It’s somewhat straight forward but a necessary read when it comes to branding.

(10) First Round Capital Review (Blog)
What I liked: This might be the best VC blog out there. Every post is long form and it’s insights from their existing portfolio companies. They cover everything from growth and sales to product design and hiring. It’s like getting your startup MBA in blog form.

(11) GrowthHackers.com (Forum)
What I liked: The AMA’s and case studies are second to none in the growth industry. Plus it’s run by the guy who invented growth hacking.

(12) Startup Grind (Podcast)
What I liked: Great storytelling from entrepreneurs in San Fran, NYC, London and all over. Nice listen for the daily commute.

(13) The Growth Show (Podcast)
What I liked: Short quick hits with industry leaders about specific examples of growth. Do it.

(14) Paul Graham’s Essays (Blog)
What I liked: The Y Combinator founder wrote a series of essays that are a must read for anyone getting into startups. He tackles everything from how to come up with an idea to why growth is the #1 thing that matters.

(15) Neil Patel (Blog)
What I liked: Warning: you’re about to get lots of emails. But the guy knows his stuff and offers lots of thoughtful tips and, dare I say, hacks.

(16) The Pmarca Blog eBook by Marc Andreessen (eBook)
What I liked: When Marc Andressen speaks you listen. I think he night be the smartest person on this list – need to get everyone’s SAT scores to confirm that. He is extremely good at explaining hard concepts in the startup world.

(17) The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (Book)
What I liked: The entire damn book, the rap references and the brutally honest truths about growing a company. I have read this one twice.

(18) Feld Thoughts (Blog)
What I liked: Brad Feld is an entrepreneur turned VC that’s also written some awesome books about startups. His blog is a nice snapshot of what’s happening in the current startup space from his founder-friendly perspective.

6 Must-Watch Growth Hacking Videos

The 6 growth hacking videos that have changed the way we approach marketing and user acquisition at our startup.

WHO: Alex Schultz
WHERE: ‘How to Start a Startup’ at Stanford University (2014)
WHAT I LIKED: The entire ‘How to Start a Startup’ series was awesome and this talk was my favorite. Hearing how ‘Zuck’ was relentless about his focus on growth was inspiring. And his overall analysis of how they leveraged a user’s ‘magic moment’ to retain them for the long term.

WHO: Noah Kagan
WHERE: ‘Search Love Conference’ in NYC (2011)
WHAT I LIKED: Noah gives you his exact playbook for growing users. It’s a great talk that gets into the blocking & tackling of growing your business and sales. Lots of great intel to apply to your business. Plus, he tosses out his cell number and crowd-sources the audience for . . . sex. Link here.

WHO: Chamath Palihapitiya
WHERE: ‘Growth, Myths & Anecdotes’ Talk (2012)
WHAT I LIKED: Hearing how he managed the uber-talented growth team at Facebook. The fact that he never focused on virality until he nailed the 3 hardest things: 1) getting people in the door, 2) delivering the ‘magic moment’ as fast as possible, and (3) delivering core product value as often as possible. (Good insight at the 9 minute mark.)

WHO: Sean Ellis
WHERE: ‘Growing Your Startup’ at Pioneers Festival (2012)
WHAT I LIKED: The emphasis on Product Market Fit and how to validate it before focusing on growth and talking to users. Then he dives into the principles of growth at a startup — pretty helpful since he invented the term “growth hacker.” This serves as a growth manual for any startup.

WHO: Josh Elman
WHERE: ‘Grow Conference’ Talk (2013)
WHAT I LIKED: No fluff — which is nice. He dives right into case studies from Twitter and Linkedin about the double viral loop, the learn flow & user accounting. Good A/B testing examples that have helped drive our tests. (And lots of pretty graphs.)

WHO: Neil Patel
WHERE: ‘Growth Hacking’ at Pioneers Festival (2014)
WHAT I LIKED: Neil breaks down how & where to find your customers. Some strong examples on integrating with powerful distribution platforms to spread the word. But the best part is the Q/A section when he rattles off growth ideas for random businesses.

15 Mobile Stats You Need to Know Before You Start Marketing

A look at 15 eye-opening smartphone stats to help you understand potential users.

Just walking around NYC it’s not hard to see the power of mobile.

And I’m guilty. (I do everything but shower with my iPhone.)

At our startup, every design and product iteration begins with mobile in mind or as the top priority. It’s how over 50% of our users consume our website, blog, email, or app. And that number is only going up as we’re even embracing bigger mobile screens. (Sadly, the Zoolander phone didn’t win out.)

To truly process the impact of this mobile movement, I dug up 15 staggering stats to help you understand the mobile phone user. Here we go:

  1. 50 Billion texts are sent on WhatsApp everyday.
  2. 6.3 Billion texts are sent per day in the US.
  3. The average American sends and receives 35 texts per day.
  4. You check your phone 150 times per day.
  5. The US adults spends an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices.
  6. 80% of internet users own a smartphone.
  7. 78% of Facebook users are mobile-only.
  8. More email is read on mobile than on desktop email clients.
  9. Text messages have a 98% open rate (Email is 22%)
  10. The average response time per text is 90 Seconds (Email is 2.5 days)
  11. A texting campaign is 8 times more likely to be shared then an email campaign
  12. 44.7% of email opens occur on a mobile device.
  13. Over half of smartphone users grab their smartphone immediately after waking up.
  14. By 2019, mobile advertising will represent 72% of all US digital ad spending.
  15. Traffic from mobile devices is now nearly 50 percent of overall online U.S. retail traffic.

And one last note on mobile stats comes from Benedict Evans at Andreessen Horowitz. He created graph showing where people use there mobile phones. Turns out that mobile doesn’t really mean mobile. See his graph here.

Good luck with your marketing.

I got these stats from freely.net, SlickText, GSMA, WhatsApp and Forrester Research.


How We Got Our First 20,000 Emails

This is how we used our product’s “magic moment” to activate users and get our email list to 20,000 email addresses.

The conversion funnel.

Apparently, it means you need to convert people.

Well, we f*ed that part up.

When we launched our product we were focused on the top part of the conversion funnel: driving traffic. For us, this is done with SEO, content marketing & affiliates/partners. After optimizing all of our pages, links, headlines, images and whatever else, we succeed. Over 70% of our traffic was coming in from Google and we had significant month over month.


Well, that was until we noticed our sign up conversion rate was less than 0.5%. We‘re losing thousands of email address every single day.


We didn’t completely ignore this. We had a basic pop-up with the standard prompt about joining a list. Users closed it at a record speed.

We tried pop-ups with humor, stats emphasizing social proof & sensational headlines. But they didn’t move the needle. Then saw this talk by Alex Schultz and it changed our approach. We decided to focus on our “magic moment.”

Magic moment is essentially figuring out when your product adds the most value to your users and that’s when you ask for something.

And it’s about getting to this moment as fast as possible.  (1) Get people in door, (2) Get people to magic moment & (3) Deliver core value as often as possible.

Another way to thing about it is finding the moment when your users are the most exited about your product. The second they derive the most value from your website and say, “F* yeah this is awesome”, is the moment when you want to activate a user.

Here is how we did that.

  1. Understand the user’s intent. Users coming to a specific landing page through search are great because you already have an idea of their intent. EX: a person coming to the James Bond sunglasses page has a strong intent to figure out where they can get the sunglasses from the movie.
  2. Find the Magic Moment. For this one, you need to get emotional. Think of the problem the person is trying to solve and then identify the peak moment when you solve that users problem. For us, it was when they saw the sunglasses on James Bond and the words “Exact Match” and “Buy.” This is when they understand our full value proposition and we can ask them to become a member of TheTake.
  3. Say why They Should Join. Make sure the understand what they’ll get out of this product.  And be very very clear.
  4. Test. And Test Some More. Test everything from the copy, images, GIFs, timing and segments to optimize this experience.

The Result: We’re able to convert over 13% of users across desktop, mobile & app because we understand our magic moment. And we understand how our users experience our product.

Up next, figuring how the heck to get them back to our site. But that’s for another blog post.