Chamath Palihapitiya (ex-VP User Growth, Mobile & International at Facebook) gave an intense keynote at the opening of the Growth Hacker conference on Friday. He had a few high-level takeaways that are really valuable for anyone working on growing a post PM-fit product. Beyond a simple framework of 'measure things, test things, and try things', and operating with full awareness of Acquisition, Activation, Engagement, and Virality, the growth team under Chamath was guided by a few other unique principles.
I attended the event as part of my work trying to grow Quibb - a new product to reinvent professional news, starting with the tech & startup vertical. My goal isn't to build a general social network, but rather, to focus on creating something for high-end professional audiences. In fact, Quibb only accepts the top 30% of applicants right now, which isn't very common for startups just trying to chase hockey sticks. For all of these reasons, I was curious what Chamath had to say and how it might fit into my work with Quibb.
Anyway, here are some of the notes that I took from Chamath's talk:
Be disciplined and wait for virality
The Facebook growth team focused on getting people in the front door, getting them to an 'aha moment' asap, and then continuing to offer them the core product value as often as possible. Often growth teams recognize and follow the Acquisition, Activation, Engagement, and Virality framework - but according to Chamath, it takes a special type of person to recognize when it's okay to focus on virality, and extreme discipline to withold from the immediate growth that can come from virality. People often focus on this too soon, without realizing that virality can only function in a value-enhancing way once the previous 3 parts of the framework are established and strong.
"Core product value is elusive and most products don't have any" -Chamath
Eliminate ego and lore
Great growth people do not follow or seek to enhance their own ego. They recognize that they can't rely on their ego and short feedback loops to find something that works - there are other insights that are needed to create a great product. Similarly, you need to constantly question lore that's built into an organization or coming from people within the company. The best growth people are able to collect data to derive insights to constantly question and invalidate this type of (often wrong) information.
"The hard truth - most people don't know what they're talking about" - Chamath
Beware of too much abstraction
Specifically related to k (viral factor), you cannot maximize for this value alone. According to Chamath, it's completely separate from the actual product itself, and will lead you to create a product with little core value. It's a valuable number to know and keep track of - but it becomes meaningless if that's all you think of. You need to work off of deep insights about your users. For example, at Facebook, they realized that they needed to get a new user to 7 friends in 10 days. To do that, they didn't just look at an abstract value - they needed to find engaged users, and back out to understand them. How did they get to that state? They had to take the time to really look at and understand those engaged users.
"Growth is about a very simple elegant understanding of product value and consumer behavior" - Chamath
These principles are very important to create a product that can sustainably grow. To grow a PM-fit product is difficult, and takes more than the basic mentality of 'measure, test, and try things'. The Facebook growth team under Chamath was successful in growing the userbase by having such strong values around creating a truly valuable product, questioning whatever their gut/company lore told them, and making sure to really understand how and why users became engaged.