We’ve been 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.