90% of Startup Growth Advice is 100% Bullshit

Let’s be honest, no one truly knows how Google did it, how Uber did it, how Tilt will do it, but it’s fun to pretend right?

I signed up for GrowthHackers.com today after years of trying to ignore it (I won’t even give them a back link). Being someone immersed in growth for many years, before it was called growth, I figured I should give it a try. The first 10 posts, except one (from a competitor no less) were all self indulgent and 100% crap.

In the tech and startup ecosystem, growth suffers form the narrative fallacy more than any other profession, save maybe venture capital. It is so easy and cheap to look back and explain why something did not work and blame it on events out of our control, or look back at success and paint ourselves the hero, when more than 50% of it could have been blind luck.

Growth marketers are awash with the confirmation bias. How many times do your experiments look to refute a growth hypothesis rather than confirm one? Here’s a great example. I am seriously sick of these kinds of posts. I am not picking on them to be mean or cruel, but it solidifies my view that we are all, for the most part, in some kind of growth circle jerk. Where company X tries something and it works, so then company Y tries the same thing with a little something different and low and behold it works too, and then company Z comes in and changes things ever so slightly… do you see my point? We are not building anything here. There is no real growth, I call this virtual growth, we are counting leaves on a branch that has been divided so many times. There are entire other trees out there, entire new forests, even some desserts that are worth exploring.

So you got a 200% increase, you might have missed a 20000% increase had you tried something bold and failed. Of course adding a pop-up will drive a certain number of signups, of course bugging the shit of your visitors will lead to conversions, I am not saying that we need to not do these from time to time, but do we need to talk about it? Aren’t these axioms by now? Stop telling me how you discovered a new secret to popups, when you just got lucky. If you are looking to confirm a theory you will more often than not find evidence to support it. Start trying to be wrong a lot more.

The best kind of science is done when you are constantly and consistently wrong. Your growth hypotheses should aim to be refuted not confirmed. This point is really important, so it begs to be repeated, your growth hypotheses should aim to be refuted not confirmed. If you are getting more things right than wrong, you are not doing your job. You are likely in a topology that looks something like this:

Growth topologies

It is better to attempt climbing a mountain and failing, then climbing a hill over and over again.

Growth right now is full of hill climbers, we need more mountaineers.

Stop reading all the crap that pervades our industry including this. Leave the circle jerk. Sit down, think about your problems, design experiments to refute your hypotheses, get it wrong 100 times before getting right.


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