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The Real Engines of Startup Growth (Besides the Product)


The bar has been set pretty high for online-based companies. Established businesses tend to grow gradually over the course of a year, whereas startups have to achieve similar growth in as little as a month. Ok, maybe not literally, but you get the point. Start-up equals growth.

We all love to read about success stories of other companies. The truth is that while the brilliant examples are shining, many of awesome products you haven’t heard of are growing in their shadow. Although they haven’t scored a Facebook or Google-alike scale, they still backup their clients’ businesses. And their success isn’t only product-based.

Good product is a must, but creation is one thing and achieving growth it’s a totally different story.

What are the real engines of growth? What are the factors that have a high impact on company’s growth, but they play second fiddle? Today I’d like to talk about startup growth from a totally different angle.

Execution, Not Strategy

Please type in “startup marketing strategy” in Google. Most of the articles about running a start-up, marketing the product or achieving growth, pinpoint the most obvious examples: use paid advertising, leverage social media, do this, then that, and you have success in your pocket. Sounds familiar?

Almost every start-up out there, more or less, refers to some kind of strategy. Most of them use the same set of marketing tools we all do. The more I think about it, the more clear it is to me. It’s not about strategy – it’s about execution. Here’s why.

Where mediocre strategy execution still struggles to find the right marketing channel, effective one already try to scale the one that seems to work. When the first tries to implement the latest growth hack, the second one tries to improve the existing, proven marketing technique.

The proper execution distinguish between good and awesome.

Mission, Not Money

If you think that companies exist to earn money, you are fundamentally wrong. They are being created to fulfil a specific demand that exists on a market. Of course a company has to earn money. I don’t know any single person who starts a company, because he has too much of free time. Focusing mostly on money creates a very dangerous situation.

When you concentrate on money, you start to pursue after more and more sales. Selling the product is one thing, but it doesn’t define your company’s growth strategy. Solving other people’s problems does.

The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them. – Paul Graham

People, Not Tools

The right tools can make your life much easier. The supply of them is very high on the market right now, so you have plenty of them to choose from.

Most of the costs a particularly company generates, are employees’ salaries. Ok, you may be thinking right now “what is this guy talking about – we all heard about companies bootstrapped in a garage, which noticed an outstanding growth and didn’t have to hire lots of people”. Well… welcome to 2014, where things have got professionalized a bit and the bigger amount of money is involved. Still thinking that the most popular brands in the technology space were built in a garage? Think again.

Instead of asking yourself a question like “What can help me solve the problem?”, you should ask “Who can help me with this?”. People are most valuable and most expensive asset of your company at the same time. No matter how many tools you will decide to acquire, they won’t solve your problems. People will.

Cooperation, not Running in a Silos

I’ve  mentioned this in my previous article about startup marketing. Growth isn’t achieved by accident. It is a result of a collaborative effort.

Search the phrase “the man who invented” on Amazon, and you get 1,860 book results. we have far fewer tales of collaborative or crowd creativity, which is more important in understanding how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. – Walter Issacson

The same as with creativity and innovation, growth isn’t achieved by a single person. Don’t fall into the myth of a lone genius.

If you got to this point, it would be great to hear your opinion. If you feel that I missed something, drop me a message below!