Last Update: 11/6 @ 4:30PM
This post is part of the live coverage of Echelon 2012, Asia’s leading tech startup event happening on June 11 – 12. If you spot typos, slight inaccuracies or need more clarification, do leave a comment in the post and we’ll address it in the next edit.
For the first panel of discussion, we see Kristine Lauria moderating our Startup Growth and Scaling panel consisting of Bart Myers, Brian Wong, John Fearon, Cjin Cheng, and Simone Brunozzi.
When asked about user acquisition during its early phase, Cjin of Cubie Messenger, a startup which has more than 1 million downloads, shared more about the inherent nature of the app. The app requires one to invite his/her friends and thereby created a viral effect of Cubie messenger, which was further fueled by social sharing on twitter and instagram. For sidereel, Bart shared that they leveraged on the free YouTube to spread its presence. Bart also mentioned that after the initial presence, Sidereel used Facebook ads to get more users, which in his opinion, is a effective channel to reach users primarily for building an extension of your users and community. John relied on Google clicks where he bought 40million clicks in 2 months because Facebook ads doesnt work for dropmyemail as it redirects to facebook likes, but not actual users.
For Dropmyemail, John said that a clever use of clean design complemented by images can give a good user conversion rate, where his company saw a 3-4% user conversion user registration. For Kiip, Brian mentioned that in order to convert users, you have to work back to who your user is and see who uses your product.
On how to identify your user
“You have to be annoying in identifying your users”, says Brian. He categorizes users into two: those whom you think use your product, and those that actually use your product, and to find out these users, you have to be constantly communicating with them. Bart built onto that by adding that startups can leverage on tools like google analytics where you have to go beyond your dashboard and drill in to understand what your users are doing on your website. Familiarize with at least one tool and figure out the ‘signature’ of a quality user. Before you identify that signature, you should avoid heavy user acquisition cost. Mixpanel and Flurry are among the tools that were mentioned on the panel.
On first hires and scaling
Hiring and scaling is interesting for Brian who shared one golden advise from his experience of scaling to a 30 person team now: “During your hypergrowth, hire young people with no kids!” Brian gave the reasoning behind this, and according to him, startup hypergrowth is a stage full of stress where your first hires have to be able to handle all the stress, at the same time juggle his/her personal time. Another advise from Brian, who is in his early 20s, is that it’s advisable to hire a jack of all trades, someone who can do a bit of everything. Brian also brought up the rule of 7, where the culture of a company/startup changes at 7 people. For Bart, it is crucial to hire someone to manage the community and to identify community evangelist, and this is important even for bootstrapped company where he advised that one can hire interns to do this.
How to avoid what will go wrong when you scale
Kiip tackles this by demanding all support emails to be directed to the CEO’s email. “Everything will go wrong”, and with the support emails, Brian can identify trends and then dedicate a time to fix and introduce new features or tweak some. In his opinion, it is crucial to bury deep and keep in touch with the developers community to follow the latest development in technology and best practices to build a kick ass backend infrastructure that can help you scale without crashing your system.