1. What Are You Up to These Days That You’re Passionate About?
First of all, thanks for having me on the show. Good to be here and be chatting.
So I think in terms of what I like doing, I left a pretty cushy job at Google to start my own thing to ultimately be able to do what I want to do, which for me is a huge happiness factor – just being able to work on the stuff that I want to on a day-to-day basis. In terms of my day-to-day is trying to help entrepreneurs and executives with their overall strategy, usually focused on growth. It takes several forms, not just growth hacking or online, it takes a lot of different forms. Being able to work with leaders in various levels, be it in smaller tech companies or larger more traditional organizations.
You’re dealing with these core very strategic issues, you’re there almost like a business psychologist trying to figure out how to help these companies get to the next level, how do you help them stave off, or if it’s a declining industry, for example, how do you turn it around? It’s a lot of fun, you’re pushing your mental limits to the extreme in trying to solve these deep strategic issues, it’s not cookie-cutter commodity kind of thing that we’re trying to provide in my new gig.
With tech startups and tech SMBs that are post-traction and gaining revenue, it’s not really pure startup trying to figure out what you’re doing, those are usually focused more on “we want to grow, we want to scale.” It’s very deep technology conversations, it’s very deep go-to-market conversations. As well as corporate development, so how do you build your company to be acquired, to be bought, if that’s your goal of course.
Or the opposite if you want to grow to be able to acquire different pieces that you’re missing. It’s a very different conversation than we have with more traditional organizations, which tend to focus more on – I hate to use the term digital transformation because it’s a bit of a buzzword, but it’s more increasing velocity, how do you go faster.
Usually, in more traditional organizations, they haven’t been able to match where their customers are. Their customers are more advanced in terms of how they’re using their products and services, so it’s a playing a game of catch-up with their end consumers. It’s more about velocity, they require things such as internal team, internal talent, to integrate partners. Bigger companies to have more resources so they tend to bring in other parties to the table to help them grow.
Ultimately, what’s fun about what we do is we play bit of a connector between those two worlds. So, tech SMBs would like to have partnerships with bigger and more traditional organizations as clients, and larger traditional companies can learn a lot from the DNA of a tech company. Being matchmaker between those two worlds is a lot of fun right now. I don’t know if forever we’ll have a nice split between those two customer sets, but right now it’s fun to basically help both sides equally.
2. How Did You Consistently Generate 50% Growth for Google Montreal?
I can’t take too much credit for that. At Google the product is obviously world-class. In this case, my role was being an evangelist, speakers were coming in as high-level consultants to help companies, understand how they spend across different channels. And obviously we spend on online media, it’s much more measurable, it’s more tied to performance metrics.
So once you’re able to prove profitability, then spend as long as you’re reaching a certain ROI objective. It wasn’t that hard when you have world-class products behind you. So the challenge here is convincing executives that the world is changed, and the old way of budgeting or siloing your marketing department is passé. So for a example a lot of the firms I’ve worked with have fixed marketing budgets, and when it gets to May 30th and we spent the last money, then we shut off. As a startup, that makes no sense. Spend as long as I’m hitting my LTB objectives, for example. So being able to coach companies and tell them “hey guys, you’re leaving money on the table by not focusing on performance,” that was the big factor that helped people understand “hey we need to shift in terms of how we operate,” specifically when it comes to market.
3. What Have You Learned in Your Experience With Large Corporations That Can Be Applied to Startups?
I think smaller companies can definitely learn from larger ones as well. If you want to use the word startup, they tend to run in a lot of different directions and don’t necessarily follow a very good planning process. I think bigger companies, once you reach a bigger scale, you need to be more structured. But I think a lot of the smaller companies can benefit from applying strategic planning methodologies to what they’re doing.
So at the start of the year, figuring out where you want to go, what your objectives are, and reverse-engineering that process. I think the advantage that startups have is they can do this in an Agile fashion, so really re-iterate and pivot quickly based on what they’ve learned. I think smaller startups don’t want to become the big bureaucracies that they’re trying to disrupt, but at the same time, as soon as they’re getting traction, they’re applying management methodologies that mimic those big companies. They have to think a little bit differently, when it comes to simple things like management practices.
4. What Are Your Thoughts on Growth Hacking?
How can I say this politely? I think the word growth hacking means everything and nothing today. It’s become a real big buzzword. That being said, behind it there is some real fundamental interesting stuff that this domain is applying. In the beginning marketers were like “Hey we want to be growth hackers too, don’t leave all the fun stuff to the engineers.”
But today, it basically boils down to a lot of the stuff that you see in marketing, like acquisition, retention, and engagement, which all fall under the traditional marketing hat. It’s a big difference with growth hacking as an entity is the methodology behind it – being able to iterate quickly, being able to deploy multiple tests.
Over time, I think the buzzword will fade, it won’t really be called that, it will roll back to the traditional marketing practice. Marketing as a whole will benefit as a result. So things like being able experiment quickly, making a lot of tests and fail, being really super user-centric in terms of your approach. I think that these are all things that a lot of companies are still learning to doing well.
I think the word will fade, but the actual practice of marketing is gonna basically change. Because as we’re all connected as you know, data points are only continuing to multiply so data-driven marketing is the way forward.
I don’t think we’ll go back to the past paradigm of “hey my audience is females age 25-54 and I need to reach them via traditional media.” The way you measure them and apply the program is gonna be completely different. The hacking part refers to, I remember back in the day you’d figure out tips and tricks on the facebook platform let’s say, you could hack some parts that people hadn’t figured out yet. You’re able to get little areas of growth that people haven’t figured out, and there’s where the word hack came from.
Now it’s a catch-all phrase for everything that’s growth, which is fine, it puts a light on it in a positive manner, but I think we just need to remember what we’re trying to achieve ultimately, it’s about growing in a profitable way for a company.
5. What Advice Would You Give to a Startup Looking to Raise Capital?
I think it’s very contextually-based. I think it’s hard to give catch-all advice to everyone, because really depends on the context of every specific startup.
The one thing I’ve seen lately and it’s been around for two years now, is there’s a lot of appraise for companies that raise money, which is a positive milestone, you cannot deny it. If someone decides to write you a big check, it’s a good thing, obviously, but it’s almost displaced real-performance metrics.
People celebrate the success of raising but not realize it’s just a milestone along the way. And a lot of startups are focused on just raising. You don’t realized you’re just buying yourself a boss, basically, or several bosses who are now holding your feet to the fire, and making sure that you’re performing.
I don’t think it’s necessary for every single startup to raise. It depends on where they are in their life cycle. Ultimately, as the head strategist and the person who calls the shots, he needs to figure out when is the right time to do it, and what the money is going to be used for. Really knowing that I have products that work and I need to hire 5-10 people, 5 people in marketing, 15 engineers, and hit the ground running. Then I have a legitimate reason for growing and asking for money. But if you’re not quite certain and you don’t have a certain game plan as to why you need to raise, I think it needs to be re-evaluated.
If you’re doing a seed round and you have a really good idea but you don’t have traction yet, that’s fine, it’s pretty congruent to capital. There’s a certain subset of investors interested in very early stage. I’ve done some of that kind of investment too in the past, where It’s a powerpoint, there is no real prototype or MVP. But in that case, you need to be very solid on on the proposing.
If you’re doing a photo-sharing app, no one is going to be that interested today.
If you’re doing something very cool that has a solid chance of success, even if it’s one out of 100 – startups are still a risky endeavor – you’re putting more chances on your side to win with an investor and win in the marketplace.
One thing that we focus on is helping companies with putting an Agile practice in place, so I like how you called the group Agile, I really think you brought it from an agility perspective. Software is “eating the world” today. And the main methodology used to build software nowadays is Agile. Applying the Agile methodology to your management practice has a huge benefit as well, because you’re able to re-iterate quickly and on an ongoing basis. It’s not a one-time thing where you’re doing an A/B test for example, it’s part of an always on practice that you have to have in place.