Sorry mate, no silver bullets.

Growth is hard.

In the past weeks, one topic came up again and again, in scarily similar situations and conversations. My job puts me in touch with hundreds of early stage (and I mean early) companies and their founders. Usually these guys haven’t started a company before, and also haven’t spent too much time in product focused companies or successful startups. That is what makes most of them so hungry, ambitious, and driven: the belief in being able to do better and faster than others.

Now, this belief doesn’t stop or go away with most entrepreneurs, but it is usually very soon accompanied by either an unstoppable drive to just DO SOMETHING or an insatiable hunger to learn and find out how to actually be better and faster. These two extremes are obviously healthy for neither founder nor startup success, and thus hopefully mitigated by advice or exhaustion.

This is why my position is great: I can see, analyse and share insight from over 70 portfolio companies, and of course also from the more than 200 companies per year that come to our events. My observation is that at one point the above will happen: either the decision to double down, or to learn the shit out of best practices that can help pave the way out of startup stalemate.

The single most important observation for founders usually comes after they have launched the first version of their product: It is crazy hard to get distribution, i.e. large scale adaption for your product. A lot of teams then start looking exhaustively for the one silver bullet that will save them. This is usually an attempt to:

  • get covered on Techcrunch or another blog they read themselves
  • get a celebrity user (in recent times, celebrity user-investor)
  • publish an infographic
  • start posting to HN/Reddit/Twitter/etc about their startups

Obviously, none of these work.

To quote my math teacher from high school: “It’s not supposed to be easy. You guys are smart.”

That’s why Growth Hacking is the new cool. With the lean startup methodology, there is now a somewhat scientific method to building product. Growth Hacking takes care of the next step – or is supposed to find at least some copper bullets.

(BTW, not everybody thinks so)