How Smarterer Grew by More Than 1250% in One Week

We’ve bePowerPoint Smarterer Questionen developing Smarterer for the better part of a year now, quietly building a platform that uses crowd-sourced questions to validate peoples’ social and professional skills.  Like many startups, we have the kernel of a great vision, a huge untapped market need, and a bunch of founders ready to do everything it takes to make it a reality. Also like many startups, during our first 9 months, we found ourselves hunkered down with a good, solid slow growth product.

Developing a company is often a marathon, not a sprint.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t keep searching for the magic button that changes everything.  For Smarterer, a week ago…bam, we found the magic button…

Take a look at the impact so far:

  • 1347% growth in weekly new users
  • 165% increase in questions answered per session
  • 564% lift in questions added per week
  • 400% jump in referrers per week

Before the tweak we had 800,000 questions answered (our key metric that every other metric flows off of), growing at about 10% month over month.  Respectable, but not dramatic or heart-pounding.  Every single day we’d tweak knobs and push buttons and try to create things that move that number significantly.   Then suddenly, with one knob tweak we had more than 250,000 questions answered in just 5 days (1250% growth).

Where we used to spend our time trying to get wind in our sails, we’re now frantically maneuvering the rudder.  As you’d expect the energy of the entire business has changed and the potential for where we go is reimagined, re-believed in and redefined.

Finding the Magic Button:

If you’re in a startup seeking seeking to move out of slow growth mode, some words of advice:

  • Find your key metric early.  It should be something that is a coal-mine canary to all other metrics you care about.  Ours is Questions Answered.  What’s yours?
  • Hammer away at your key metric with laser focus.  Be open to other ideas as your model evolves, but for the most part, just watch that number like a hawk.
  • Solve the customer problem.  Many startups focus on their vision that they think the world needs.  Instead, consider what your potential customer really has to have and would make their world infinitely better, easier, simpler or generally just more fun.
  • Develop the foundation then a series of tiny buildings. Keep tinkering to find the tool that makes users really want to use your system.
  • Code like you’re out of time (because you are). Startup resources are finite and investor confidence is fleeting. The only way to a result is to make as many attempts as possible as frequently as possible. All-nighters will make your business.

And last, but certainly not least, if you keep tinkering, get ready to man the rudder.  Because at some point you’ll hit the button, and then it’s not the size of your boat but what you do with the rudder that counts.

  • http://rob.by Robby Grossman

    What was the magic button for smarterer?

  • http://www.myreci.com/ Vijay Nathan

    Thanks for sharing Dave!  Would you ever consider sharing what the magic button was for Smarterer?

  • Danny Ayers

    How Smarterer Grew by More Than 1250% in One Week
    ok, how?
    (the background interpretation and the lessons learned are interesting, but, er, magic button?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregsometimes Greg Sidelnikov

    It’s easy guys. It used to get 1 visitor per day. Now it’s 12.5.

  • http://rob.by/ Robby Grossman

    From BostInno: “For Smarterer, the change in focus – what Balter calls “the magic button” – was from targeting job seekers to targeting employers… it was shifting attention to employers that caused explosive growth… once an employer decides to embed a test into its job application then every seeker for that opening is guaranteed to be a Smarterer user.”

    http://bostinno.com/2012/01/30/smarterer-hits-magic-button-grows-1250-in-one-week/

    I’m surprised you didn’t put that in the post, Dave. I think it adds a lot of context to your more generalized advice. Congrats on the growth.

  • Danny Ayers

    Thanks Robby, exactly what you say about adding context.

  • http://twitter.com/Eyeppl Amy Gallant Sullivan

    Congrats!  That’s some magic button!  But… how to find that canary in the mine?  It’s one thing to focus on the startup’s vision and another thing to tweak & tinker — but, in order to run the marathon sprinting, is it better to focus on the ‘vision’, the potential customer or the potential investor? What tweak will really make the startup smarterer?

  • http://www.enterdialogue.com Tyson Goodridge

    …Watching and grinning from afar. Nice job Dave and Jennifer- good luck- keep up the good work and let me know how I can help in any way

  • http://twitter.com/Liesel Liesel Pollvogt

    In my experience getting to sustainable user growth is almost always a long, hard slog–it’s inspiring to see something like this.  Keep it going!

  • http://myfavoritebarbie.blogspot.com/ MyFavoriteBarbie

    Great Read, Congratulations… 

  • http://twitter.com/bkasrel Bruce Kasrel

    Great post and amazing results. As a marketer I would also advise you make quick work of making our website reflect this new focus. Right now it still looks like you are going after the show how smart you are message vs the new found magic button message of “get smart people” message. 

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  • Dmiller

    Targeting employers certainly is the “right” place to put extra energy. There is a huge potential for us to add all of our internal tests to this site and to look at the tests already in place to help us find job candidates. It’s not too hard to find a guy that knows how to use a shovel but… finding a guy that knows how to use the shovel and has skills in reading blueprints or driving the backhoe gives that guy an edge. The multi-talented guy or gal is who we want to work with…

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