“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.”
— Sam Altman in BEFORE GROWTH
“There’s an initial period of slow or no growth while the startup tries to figure out what it’s doing. As the startup figures out how to make something lots of people want and how to reach those people, there’s a period of rapid growth.”
–Paul Graham in STARTUP = GROWTH
“Leaky buckets don’t need more water, they need their holes fixed. It’s a rookie mistake to focus on customer acquisition instead of customer retention, especially early in a startup’s life.”
— David Jaxon in Product strategy — retention trumps acquisition
“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.”
— Sam Altman BEFORE GROWTH
“Would we miss you?” Would customers miss your product if it didn’t show up? If you closed your doors or turned off your website would your customers email you?
— Seth Godin in WOULD WE MISS YOU?
Growth is just a function of # visitors * % that convert to users * % that stay users.
The secret is that you need all three of these variables to grow to drive your business, but if you don’t fix the % that stay users, the other two don’t matter at all. See David Jaxon’s How low retention of customers and suppliers bankrupted Homejoy for a detailed anecdote.
You may be tempted to spend some money to acquire users to “learn”, but most likely your time would be better spent going out and physically “installing” users and getting their feedback. See Paul Graham’s Do Things that Don’t Scale.