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5 actually useful tips on how to grow your startup

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How many startups launched last year? How many of them succeeded?

Some data suggests that up to 95 percent of startups fail, but it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint why it happens. Some of them fail simply because they didn’t create something people want, while great many vanish due to the wrong execution of their growth and marketing.

Growth is key, yet growing a startup is really hard and most founders struggle with it.

What makes it even harder is the overwhelming amount of tactics and the “one size fits all” hacks that dictate how we should be running our own growth and marketing efforts.

Usually these tips are meant to be an inspiration, but a lot of founders take them too seriously and apply them directly — regardless of the context of their product or customers.

I think this happens because many founders love “short-cuts” and fantasize about hockey-stick curves. Stories we’ve heard about Dropbox, Airbnb or other unicorns have led us to believe that growth is about chasing this one silver bullet that will magically change the course of our history.

However, we forget that what these startups actually did was to ask a single question: “What marketing channel(s) will help us find our dream customers?” This led them to establish a growth process that involved lots of experimentation, measurement and learning to get their growth machine up and running.

It might seem easy and appealing to talk about building a growth machine, but how can you start this process from scratch? These are the five lessons I have learned:

1) Don’t take hacks out of their context

One thing is clear, there is no silver bullet. No unicorn you’ve ever heard of made it overnight.

Dropbox was doing Google AdWords before introducing the “Refer a friend for more space”.

Hotmail was considering billboards and doing Radio ads (yes, believe me!) before introducing their wildly glorified viral loop “P.S. I love you, get your free email at Hotmail.”

They didn’t sit around and spend their time trying to come up with the one ‘hack’ that would save their buisness. What worked for others won’t work for you simply because your audience, your model, your customer decision process are different. Your business is different, plain and simple. To make the most of what you read, always try to understand the context of the hack that’s being discussed: What was the audience? What was the business model? What’s the customer decision process?

By answering these questions, you start making assumptions of why this might work for you as well. Comparing your business to the context of the hack is important in prioritizing what you work on.

For the hacks to work, your competition might be a good starting point to identify the patterns of success.

2) Don’t experiment with many acquisition channels at once

Focus always wins.

Almost all successful startups or companies get the majority of their scale from a single channel.
However, with so many channels to consider, most founders are tempted to try a bit of everything instead of going all in on one thing

Yet, doing so is equivalent to shooting yourself in the head, because it will require more time to learn from your experiments, therefore taking longer to decide whether to kill a channel or double down on it. As a result, you end up with no focus.

3) If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

No startup can find a sustainable business model without occasionally pausing to get directions, and these directions are derived from examining the right metrics.

As Head of Growth at my company, a big part of my job is to regularly check upon my metrics. In fact, we have a big screen in the center of our office hall that shows our growth metrics and their progress on a daily basis.

This sounds a bit stressful, doesn’t it? I might have been sceptical at first, but it turned out to be extremely helpful. Measuring my performance makes me accountable. I’m forced to confront inconvenient truths and always look for ways to improve the results.

It’s very important to define your growth metrics and measure them constantly. Customer acquisition without a clear set of objectives is just a random activity.

You’ll always track and review multiple numbers, but pick a minimal set of key performance indicators (KPIs), which you’ll track and report everyday. Capture everything, but focus on what’s important.

In the book Lean Analytics, the authors introduce the concept of OMTM — the One Metric that Matters. The OMTM is the one number you’re completely focused on above everything else for your current stage. It could be N° of customers per week, churn, N° of new active users, N° of paid subscribers, cost of acquisition — basically anything that has a direct impact on your company performance.

4) Do things that don’t scale

When your startups is taking its first step, by all means get your friends and family to use the product — and don’t stop there. Email your local community groups, get those blog mentions and engage with potential users over Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News or other niche forums.

Most founders know about this tactic, but they usually refrain from unscalable strategies. The reason is that the numbers seem so small at first and they start thinking “is it really worth it?.” This can’t be how the big, famous startups got started, they think. The mistake they make is dismiss the power of compound growth.

When you have a small user base, little things can drive a high percent growth. As Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder explains: “If you have 100 users and keep growing at 10 percent a week you’ll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you’ll have 14,000 users, and after two years you’ll have two million.”

The other benefit of using methods that don’t scale is the ability to get in close contact with your users. And everybody knows how crucial it is to engage with potential customers directly, especially if you are still working on a product/market fit. Getting in direct contact with the user can be an essential step way to learn if you have the right product.

5) Focus on a small niche

Who do we actually want to work with?

Most of us start with a product idea, never thinking about who we want as ideal customers.

Many investors give startup entrepreneurs this terrible piece of advice: “Your ideas are too small. You need to think bigger and go after a larger market.“ When you’ve found the unusual idea to base your startup on, don’t go too broad too quickly.

This may sound counter-intuitive because most founders fear that if they start small, they will lose potential customers on the way. Startups are more likely to accelerate growth by narrowing their target demographic, better understanding customer needs, building more focused products, and tailoring their marketing message to their specific audience.

Later on, after getting initial traction with a small audience, startups can grow their market and expand product offerings to go after bigger market segments.

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Gadgets

The BecDot is a toy that helps teach vision-impaired kids to read braille

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Learning braille is a skill that, like most, is best learned at an early age by those who need it. But toddlers with vision impairment often have few or no options to do so, leaving them behind their peers academically and socially. The BecDot is a toy created by parents facing that challenge that teaches kids braille in a fun, simple way, and is both robust and affordable.

Beth and Jake Lacourse’s daughter Rebecca (that’s her up top playing with the prototype) was born with Usher Syndrome, a common cause of blindness and deafness. After finding existing braille toys and teaching tools either too basic, too complex, or too expensive, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Jake happens to have a background in product design, having worked for years at a company that creates simple, durable environmental sensors. But this was a unique challenge — how to make a toy that doubles as a braille teaching aid? Months later, however, he had created a prototype of a production device, albeit with a one-off 3D printed case.

You can see it in action at the TechCrunch booth at CES here:

The BecDot has a colorfully lit surface on which toys equipped with NFC tags (programmed through an app) can be placed. Once the tag is detected, for instance on a toy cow, up to four braille letters appear, formed by lifted pegs: C-O-W. The device can also emit a sound uploaded by the parent or teacher.

It’s simple, yes — as toys should be for kids this age. Yet it affords blind and partially sighted kids the opportunity to learn the alphabet and identify short words at the same time and in much the same way as sighted children. And with the sounds, lights, and the possibility of integration with books and lessons, kids will likely find it plenty of fun.

Here it’s worth noting that kids with disabilities often suffer doubly, first from simply not having the same senses or mobility as other kids, but secondly from the social isolation that results from not being able to interact with those kids as naturally as they interact with one another. This in turn causes them to fall further behind, isolating them further, and so on in a self-perpetuating cycle. This effect snowballs as time goes on, shrinking kids’ prospects of higher education and employment. We’re talking 70 percent unemployed here.

The BecDot and devices like it could help short circuit that cycle, both allowing kids to connect with others and learn on their own through play.

One of the things holding back devices like this is the complexity and cost of braille displays. If you think what’s behind an LCD is complicated, imagine if every pixel needed to actually move up and down independently and withstand frequent handling. The braille equivalents of e-readers can cost thousands to display a sentence or two at a time — but of course kids don’t need that.

Unsatisfied with the available options, Jake decided to engineer his own. He created a simple Scotch yoke mechanism that can control up to three dots at a time, meaning two of them can create a braille letter. It’s all controlled by an Arduino Uno. Simple means cheap, and the other parts are far from expensive; he told me that his bill of materials right now is around $50, and he could probably get it below $30.

Such a low cost would make the BecDot highly attractive, I should think, for any school with vision-impaired students. And of course there’s nothing stopping sighted kids from playing with the gadget either, as I’m sure they will.

Right now the BecDot is only in prototype phase, but the Lacourses sounded optimistic during CES, when I met with them. They’d been selected for a reward and exhibition by Not Impossible, an organization that creates and advocates for tech in the humanitarian space. Jake tells me that their time at the show exceeded his expectations, and that they got a chance to speak with people who can help both move the device towards market and advance the message he and Beth are trying to get out.

Toys like this (follow-up devices could have more letters or spaces for input) could help close the literacy and socialization gap that leads to many deaf and blind people being unemployed and dependent on others later in life. And having educational toys aimed at underserved, marginalized, and at-risk populations seems obvious in retrospect. It’s a simple idea in some ways, but only made possible by a creative and innovative application of technology and, of course, love.

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Entertainment

Game of Thrones finale nerve-wracking to film, says Maisie Williams; ‘Show has been my safety net’

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PTI

Jan,18 2018 14:57 58 IST

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams said she is slightly nervous for the finale season of the fantasy epic show.

Maisie Williams. Image from Facebook/@ConstanceMaisieWilliams

Maisie Williams. Image from Facebook/@ConstanceMaisieWilliams

The -year-old actor, who will next be seen in the film Early Man, said the end of the hit HBO series will take away her “safety blanket” but she is game for newer challenges.

“I’m currently filming for the final season, which is all a bit weird. It’s been my entire career.
“It’s exciting now that I can do more things like this (Early Man) and really shape my career to things that I want to do, but it’s a little bit nerve-wracking because this has been my safety blanket and safety net,” Williams said on the show Lorraine.

The actor, who plays Arya Stark in the blockbuster series, said it was difficult for her to strike a balance between her studies and the show.

“I was 12 when I got the part. I juggled both work and school at the same time for a while, but it was such an intense schedule. I went through school and GCSEs, but my character only got bigger and bigger so I was homeschooled for a little while and it was a strange little time. It feels ages ago now,” she said.
Game of Thrones does not return until 2019.

Published Date: Jan 18, 2018 14:57 PM | Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 14:57 PM

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Filmfare Awards 2018: Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Secret Superstar receive multiple nominations; see complete list

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The 63rd edition of the Jio Filmfare Awards is all set to take place on 20 January at Dome NSCI SVP Stadium in Mumbai, and the complete list of nominations was announced recently.

The Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt starrer Badrinath Ki Dulhania has received several nominations and so has Zaira Wasim and Aamir Khan’s Secret Superstar. Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon’s Bareilly Ki Barfi also received a fair number of nominations.

Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha managed to get itself a Best Film nomination while Shah Rukh Khan too got himself a nomination for Best Actor for crime-drama Raees.

Posters of Badrinath Ki Dulhani and Secret Superstar.

Posters of Badrinath Ki Dulhani and Secret Superstar.

Here are the complete list of Nominees for the 63rd Filmfare Awards (2018):

Best Film

  1. Badrinath Ki Dulhania
  2. Bareilly Ki Barfi
  3. Hindi Medium
  4. Secret Superstar
  5. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha

Best Director

  1. Advait Chandan – Secret Superstar
  2. Ashwini Iyer Tiwari – Bareilly Ki Barfi
  3. Ssket Chaudhary – Hindi Medium
  4. Shashank Khaitan – Badrinath Ki Dulhania
  5. Shree Narayan Singh – Toilet: Ek Prem Katha

Best Actor in a Leading Role (Male)

  1. Akshay Kumar – Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
  2. Ayushmann Khurrana – Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
  3. Hrithik Roshan – Kaabil
  4. Irrfan Khan – Hindi Medium
  5. Shah Rukh Khan – Raees
  6. Varun Dhawan – Badrinath Ki Dulhania

Best Actor in a Leading Role (Female)

  1. Alia Bhatt – Badrinath Ki Dulhania
  2. Bhumi Pednekar – Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
  3. Saba Qamar – Hindi Medium
  4. Sridevi – Mom
  5. Vidya Balan – Tumhari Sulu
  6. Zaira Wasim – Secret Superstar

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Male)

  1. Aamir Khan – Secret Superstar
  2. Deepak Dobriyal – Hindi Medium
  3. Manav Kaul – Tumhari Sulu
  4. Nawazuddin Siddiqui – Mom
  5. Pankaj Tripathi – Newton
  6. Rajkummar Rao – Bareilly Ki Barfi

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Female)

  1. Meher Vij – Secret Superstar
  2. Ratna Pathak Shah – Lipstick Under My Burkha
  3. Seema Pahwa – Bareilly Ki Barfi
  4. Seema Pahwa – Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
  5. Tillotama Shome – A Death In The Gunj

Best Music Album

  1. Badrinath Ki Dulhania – Amaal Mallik, Tanishk Bagchi and Akhil Sachdeva
  2. Bareilly Ki Barfi – Arko, Tanishk Bagchi, Samira Koppikar, Sameer Uddin and Vayu
  3. Half Girlfriend – Mithoon, Tanishk Bagchi, Rishi Rich, Farhan Saeed, Rahul Mishra, Ami Mishra
  4. Jab Harry Met Sejal – Pritam
  5. Jagga Jasoos – Pritam
  6. Secret Superstar – Amit Trivedi

Best Lyrics

  1. Amitabh Bhattacharya – ‘Galti Se Mistake’ (Jagga Jasoos)
  2. Amitabh Bhattacharya – ‘Ullu Ka Pattha’ (Jagga Jasoos)
  3. Arko Pravo Mukherjee – ‘Nazm Nazm’ (Bareilly Ki Barfi)
  4. Kausar Munir – ‘Maana Ke Hum’ (Meri Pyaari Bindu)
  5. Kausar Munir – ‘Nachdi Phira’ (Secret Superstar)
  6. Santanu Ghatak – ‘Rafu’ (Tumhari Sulu)

Best Playback Singer (Male)

  1. Akhil Sachdeva – ‘Humsafar’ (Badrinath Ki Dulhania)
  2. Arijit Singh – ‘Roke Na Ruke Naina’ (Badrinath Ki Dulhania)
  3. Arijit Singh – ‘Zaalima’ (Raees)
  4. Arko Pravo Mukherjee – ‘Nazm Nazm’ (Bareilly Ki Barfi)
  5. Ash King – ‘Baarish’ (Half Girlfriend)
  6. Sachin Sanghvi – ‘Kho Diya’ (Bhoomi)

Best Playback Singer (Female)

  1. Meghna Mishra – ‘Nachdi Phira’ (Secret Superstar)
  2. Monali Thakur – ‘Khol De Baahein’ (Meri Pyaari Bindu)
  3. Nikhita Gandhi – ‘Ghar’ (Jab Harry Met Sejal)
  4. Ronkini Gupta – ‘Rafu’ (Tumhari Sulu)
  5. Shashaa Tirupati – ‘Kanha’ (Shubh Mangal Saavdhan)
  6. Shreya Ghoshal – ‘Thodi Der’ (Half Girlfriend)

Best Action

  1. Allan Amin – Jagga Jasoos
  2. Franz Spilhaus – Commando 2
  3. Harpal Singh Pali and Ravi Kumar – Rangoon
  4. K Ravi Verma – Raees
  5. Tom Struthers – Tiger Zinda Hai

Best Background Score

  1. Alokananda Dasgupta – Trapped
  2. AR Rahman – Mom
  3. Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor – Daddy
  4. Pritam – Jagga Jasoos
  5. Sagar Desai – A Death In The Gunj
  6. Tajdar Junaid – Mukti Bhawan

Best Production Design

  1. Anita Rajgopalan Lata, Donal Raegan Gracy – Raees
  2. Parul Sondh – Daddy
  3. Siddharth Sirohi – A Death In The Gunj
  4. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray – Rangoon

Best Costume

  1. Dolly Ahluwalia – Rangoon
  2. Nidhi and Divya Gambhir – Daddy
  3. Rohit Chaturvedi – A Death In The Gunj

Best Sound Design

  1. Anish John – Trapped
  2. Baylon Fonseca and Dhiman Karmakar – Raees
  3. Nihar Ranjan Samal – Mom
  4. Subhash Sahoo – Tumhari Sulu
  5. Udit Duseja – Daddy

Best Editing

  1. Aarif Sheikh and Manas Mittal – A Death In The Gunj
  2. Monisha R Baldawa – Mom
  3. Nitin Baid – Trapped
  4. Shweta Venkat Mathew – Newton

Best Choreography

  1. Ganesh Acharya – (Badri Ki Dulhania – Badrinath Ki Dulhania)
  2. Shiamak Davar (‘Ullu Ka Pattha’ – Jagga Jasoos)
  3. Sudesh Adhana – (‘Bloody Hell‘ – Rangoon)
  4. Vijay Ganguly – (‘Ban Ja Rani’ Tumhari Sulu)
  5. Vijay Ganguly – (‘Khaana Khaake‘ – Jagga Jasoos)
  6. Vijay Ganguly and Ruel Dausan Varindani (‘Galti Se Mistake‘ – Jagga Jasoos)

Best Original Story

  1. Amit Joshi – Trapped
  2. Amit V Masurkar – Newton
  3. Rahul Dahiya – G Kutta Se
  4. Shanker Raman and Sourabh Ratnu – Gurgaon
  5. Shubhashish Bhutiani – Mukti Bhawan
  6. Suresh Triveni – Tumhari Sulu

Best Dialogue

  1. Hitesh Kewaliya – Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
  2. Mayank Tweari and Amit V Masurkar – Newton
  3. Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain – Bareilly Ki Barfi
  4. Subhash Kapoor – Jolly LLB 2
  5. Suresh Triveni, Vijay Maurya – Tumhari Sulu

Best Screenplay

  1. Advait Chandan – Secret Superstar
  2. Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta – Trapped
  3. Mayank Tewari and Amit V Masurkar – Newton
  4. Shubhashish Bhutiani – Mukti Bhawan
  5. Subhash Kapoor – Jolly LLB 2

Best Cinematography

  1. Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar – Daddy
  2. Pankaj Kumar – Rangoon
  3. Ravi Varman – Jagga Jasoos
  4. Sirsha Ray – A Death In The Gunj
  5. Swapnil S Sonawane – Newton

Published Date: Jan 18, 2018 16:26 PM | Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 16:40 PM

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