Growth is one of the key concerns of every startup. According to YC founder Paul Graham, startup = growth. Most early stage companies die because they can’t grow further.
There might be many reasons why startups face growth challenge or growth of a particular company slows down, lack of marketing, product-market-fit and so forth but the growth of a company is largely driven by a single factor, at least for a certain period of time.
It is a product that people love.
Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, the second most valuable unicorn home-sharing startup, is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds when it comes to growth and culture. Airbnb has grown significantly over the past few years and valued at US $30 billion in its most recent funding round.
Brian knows a thing or two about growth. In an interview, Checky illustrates his understanding of how growth works.
I always believe that the way you grow is the way that, you know, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs talked about how they grow. You grow when people love your products. And so when they love it, they tell other people.
Then he goes on describe how he takes growth at Airbnb:
I used to tell the company -- in Silicon Valley, everyone's focused on growth.They're focused on the numbers going up. I say we should focus on making sure people have great trips. If everyone comes and they have a great trip, they tell other people about it.
70 to 80 percent of a growth comes from the word of mouth, and you can actually measure where the mouth. And so worth of mouth is how we grow. And that all happens when having great trips.
Sam Altman of YC wrote a wonderful post a couple months back titled ‘before growth’. In the article, Altman goes on to illustrates how often people get growth wrong. The entire point, in short, is pursuing growth before achieving product-market-fit or before building a product that people love ends up in disaster. Altman wrote:
“A startup that prematurely targets a growth goal often ends up making a nebulous product that some users sort of like and papering over this with ‘growth hacking’. That sort of works—at least, it will fool investors for awhile until they start digging into retention numbers— but eventually, the music stops.
I think the right initial metric is “do any users love our product so much they spontaneously tell other people to use it?” Until that’s a “yes”, founders are generally better off focusing on this instead of a growth target.”
We have seen a couple of companies to die in 2016 and there will be more to join as we go. Bangladesh startup ecosystem is very young and we have a long way to go. But it is important for founders to understand that starting something is the easy part of building a company, the real challenge is staying in the game and win. For that, there is no alternative than building something that people want.