Innovators

Andrew Chen on building systems of growth

When you finally get the chance to shake Andrew Chen’s hand, it’s thrilling to learn that he’s not just the friendly Twitter account curating the best insights in tech. Putting a face to the handle is a great reminder that there are real people behind the largest and most pervasive tech companies.  

Andrew Chen, known as an elder statesman of growth, a relatively new field in tech, is one of the most well-respected practitioners in Silicon Valley, leading Uber’s Rider-Side Growth team. And last night, Andrew joined more than 350 guests for Mixpanel Office Hours as the man of the hour where he shared his rubric for building a Growth organization. Because as it turns out, scaling a product isn’t just about one person’s tips and tricks. It’s about building a long-lasting system. 

If you weren’t able to join us for Office Hours, we’ve got you covered. Watch the full video and read Andrew Chen’s top insights below.

 

Silicon Valley has moved past the mere “growth hacker.”

It’s no longer just about one individual working to grow the product. An entire Growth organization consists of product managers, marketers, developers, operations professionals, and beyond. The discipline of growth requires interdisciplinary functions, and today, the industry is no longer depending on just one person to take on the brunt of the work. 

It’s not just about tactics. 

“Putting a smiley face in your subject line because you’ve seen higher open rates is important, but it’s not the end-all. The same goes for making your buttons a certain color because you’ve seen them perform better. These are like potato chips for growth,” says Andrew Chen.

“Beyond the emojis, button colors, and tactics, you have to feed and think about the systems that need to be optimized. You can increase your email conversion rate, but you have to ask – why does that matter? Is that because email is your most important channel? In order to see long term growth beyond the tips and tricks, you have to unwrap the actual profession of growth hacking and see it being more about the complicated systems working in concert with one another.”

“Growth is about proving or disproving a fundamental thesis,” says Andrew.

For example, X company is the affordable vacation rental app while other platforms are focused on higher end properties. Or, Y company is the on-demand service for household errands in a specific geographic area.

Once your team has decided on its thesis, and it’s North Star Metrics, it’s about moving the needle on that and uncovering new ways to do so.

Andrew Chen sees growth in three stages.   

  • The first step is to optimize things like the website, onboarding, landing pages, etc. What are all the ways people get to and start using a product?  Find the “side doors” to a product.  

 

  • Then, a Growth team has to think about other channels. How can a company experiment with a referral program or a paid acquisition program?

 

  • Once a Growth team has exhausted all the traditional means, it’s time to start innovating in ways that are unique to its own product, or finding new platforms to build upon. Venmo’s use of “social proof” is a great example of this. In general, growth is about building and optimizing mechanisms that drive a product’s discovery, adoption and usage.

There’s no ceiling for growth.

“I’ll always remember a good friend of mine joining Facebook at a junior level position when the company was valued at $15 billion dollars,” Andrew remembers. “I thought he was making a horrible mistake by joining the team then. What are you doing, I thought? But at that time, I couldn’t conceive where Facebook was headed. Today it’s valued at  $350 billion, and one day could be valued for a trillion.”

As Andrew shares, from the outside looking in, it’s difficult to see all the ways a company can expand or the new markets it can enter. The discipline of growth requires an unfettered optimism and determination.

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