20VC When to Make Your First Growth Hire Senior or Junior How To Onboard Them How To Monitor Their Progress from Growth Leaders @ Facebook, Instagram, Lyft, Instacart, Miro and more

Summary Notes


In the podcast "20 Growth," industry leaders from top companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Uber discuss the critical timing and strategy behind hiring growth teams. Casey Winters, Elena Verna, Kieran Flanagan, Andy Johns, Bangaly Kaba, and Adam Fishman share insights on the necessity of establishing product-market fit before considering a growth hire. They emphasize the importance of founders understanding their core growth mechanics and caution against hiring too senior or too junior. The consensus is to start with a mid-level, technically proficient individual who can straddle product and data analysis. Effective onboarding is likened to customer activation, with a 30-60-90 day plan focusing on learning, strategy iteration, and long-term planning. Growth should be integrated into product development, not treated as an afterthought, and should involve frequent user engagement to truly understand customer value.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Growth Teams and Hiring

  • The podcast focuses on strategies for starting and scaling growth teams.
  • The right timing for the first growth hire is a central question for founders.
  • The discussion includes insights from leaders at major tech companies.

"When is the right time to make my first growth hire? Should that hire be senior or junior? And how do we onboard growth teams?"

The quote raises the primary concerns for founders regarding the initiation and development of growth teams within their startups.

Timing of First Growth Hire

  • Product-market fit is a signal to prioritize growth.
  • Startups often form growth teams organically rather than immediately hiring a head of growth.
  • Early employees with an interest in growth can evolve into growth leaders.

"At Pinterest as soon as possible after product market fit. That's when growth becomes the number one concern of most startups, and that's where you need to be building out that capability."

Casey Winters emphasizes the importance of establishing a focus on growth immediately after achieving product-market fit, implying that growth should then become a startup's primary focus.

Demonstrating Value of Growth to Potential Hires

  • Showcasing an existing team's success in growth is crucial to attract senior growth leaders.
  • Founders should invest in growth resources before hiring a growth leader.
  • A successful internal growth team can be a selling point for hiring external growth talent.

"Basically all you do is you show an existing team that's gotten to work and had success and been rewarded for that success."

Casey Winters suggests that to attract a high-quality growth leader, a company should demonstrate that it already values and invests in growth through its existing team's successes.

Effective Onboarding for Growth Teams

  • Onboarding at startups is often not optimized.
  • New hires should spend time understanding the company's data and customer base.
  • Growth leaders need to balance data analysis with customer interaction.
  • Building relationships within the company is essential for growth leaders.

"Another big part of it is setting this person up to actually meet real customers so that they can truly understand the core value that customers find in it."

Casey Winters stresses the importance of growth leaders understanding the customers and the core product value, which is essential for connecting potential users to the product.

The Pitfalls of Premature Growth Teams

  • Hiring a growth team before achieving product-market fit can be wasteful.
  • Growth should be a collective responsibility within the founding team.
  • Outsourcing growth responsibility early on can lead to inefficiency.

"If you don't have a product market fit, what are you growing?"

Elena Verna points out that without product-market fit, efforts directed towards growth may not be fruitful, highlighting the importance of timing in building a growth team.## Mistakes in Hiring for Growth

  • Hiring a growth team prematurely, before product-market fit, is a common mistake.
  • Creating a growth team without a collaborative effort across the company can lead to problems.
  • A growth team requires a company culture with a growth mindset, data accountability, and scientific methods.
  • Companies often err by chasing an external head of growth instead of fostering internal talent.
  • Hiring externally for growth too early can lead to rejection of the new hire due to lack of integration with the company culture.

"So I think hiring pre product market fit, big, big mistake. Hiring right after product market fit without actually figuring out how to create some of the traction is a big mistake as well."

This quote emphasizes the error of hiring a growth team too early in the company's development, either before finding product-market fit or immediately after without establishing traction.

"I think the biggest mistake that I've seen in the companies hiring is they chase after that head of growth position from the beginning without understanding who internally can create that growth evolution, as opposed to creating growth revolution with an external talent that can potentially just be rejected out of the ecosystem right away."

The quote highlights the mistake of prioritizing the hiring of an external head of growth over nurturing internal talent that could lead to a more organic and accepted growth process within the company.

Onboarding Process for Growth Teams

  • Not having a data team ready for the growth team is a critical mistake in the onboarding process.
  • Growth teams require data analysts and data literacy to make informed decisions rather than relying on intuition.
  • Expecting immediate wins from a newly hired growth team can hinder their ability to create sustainable systems.
  • The onboarding process should involve equipping the growth team with the necessary data support and setting realistic expectations for progress.

"Not having data team ready for growth team. So hiring growth team before you have data analysts or data literacy in your company, before you're data informed or hiring growth, and not attaching any data analysts into their purview."

This quote points out the error of not having a data team in place to support the growth team, which is essential for making data-informed decisions rather than guesses.

"Expecting wins right away. You hire your growth person, your growth team, and then the three months you expect a forecast lift."

The quote discusses the unrealistic expectation that a growth team will deliver immediate results, which can lead to disappointment and pressure on the team.

Timing for Building a Growth Team

  • Startups should find product-market fit before focusing on growth.
  • Hiring a growth leader to find product-market fit is a misconception; product development and growth require different approaches.
  • Product-market fit involves creating a product that users love, which can involve an element of luck.
  • The right time to build a growth team is when the company has a product that users love, and there's a need to accelerate growth.

"I think one mistake startups sometimes make, and I've made this mistake myself as well... Trying to focus on growth too early."

This quote warns against the common startup mistake of prioritizing growth efforts before establishing product-market fit.

"You don't want to start growing if you're drilling in the wrong place. You want to make sure you've hit that oil first."

The metaphor used in the quote illustrates the importance of ensuring the product is desirable and needed in the market before scaling up growth efforts.

Optimal Onboarding for Growth Leaders

  • A formal onboarding process is not strictly necessary for experienced growth leaders.
  • It's important to have team members ready to support the new growth leader from day one.
  • The initial growth team should ideally include members who have been with the company for some time and understand its workings.
  • Setting clear goals and having a plan to reach them is crucial for a growth leader's first month.

"I don't think you necessarily have to have an amazing onboarding set up for this new head of growth that you're hiring."

This quote suggests that while a structured onboarding process can be helpful, it is not absolutely necessary for an experienced growth leader who can navigate the company with some initial guidance.

"One of the first things that needs to happen for any growth leader is to just figure out what is the goal."

The quote emphasizes the importance of having clear objectives for the growth leader, which is a key part of the onboarding process and setting the direction for the growth team's efforts.

When to Hire the First Growth Hire

  • The right time for a first growth hire depends on the specific metric that needs improvement.
  • Founders may start with a single engineer focused on a core metric like retention.
  • A growth leader becomes necessary when the team grows and requires management bandwidth.
  • Growth can be applicable even pre-product market fit when integrated into the product roadmap.

"I've talked to great companies who have started growth with a single engineer. If you really define a core metric that you want that engineer to move."

This quote suggests that a single engineer focused on a specific metric can initiate growth efforts, highlighting the importance of targeted actions rather than a broad approach from the outset.

"When you need a leader is when you need the bandwidth. Because for the most part, when you have engineers or you have these kind of dotted group people, they're reporting up to the founder, or maybe they're reporting up to someone else."

The quote points out that a formal growth leader is needed when the growth-related workload and team size increase to a point where direct founder oversight is no longer efficient.## Growth Pre Product Market Fit

  • Growth can be integrated into the product roadmap instead of being an afterthought.
  • Building features into the product that facilitate growth can give a competitive edge.
  • Genius.com is highlighted as an example where an innovative feature (annotation of rap lyrics) differentiated the product and led to better growth.
  • Pre product market fit, growth considerations should influence how engineers and product managers design the product.

"Proper growth function is series A and beyond, right. And that's like typically the advice you would give like series A beyond. You have things that you want to start to actually grow. Why would you want to do that? Pre product market fit? Well, actually growth can be instilled in your product roadmap rather than being an afterthought."

This quote explains that while conventional wisdom suggests focusing on growth post-Series A funding, there is merit to considering growth strategies during the product development phase.

Onboarding for Growth and Marketing Hires

  • Onboarding is often poorly executed across the industry.
  • The implementation of a 100-day plan for new hires can improve onboarding effectiveness.
  • The plan includes scheduled meetings with key team members and sets expectations for the first few months.
  • The objective is to ensure new hires understand their role, team, and path to success rather than achieving specific goals within the first 100 days.

"We build 100 day plans for people. Because when you come into a new role, you're like, oh, wow, what do I do? Right? And it's actually in remote. Actually remote onboarding is a whole other topic, like remote work. Onboarding."

This quote outlines the strategy of using a structured 100-day plan to guide new hires through their initial period at a company, emphasizing understanding over task completion.

Hiring a Head of Growth

  • The right time to hire a head of growth is after achieving product market fit and experiencing exponential organic growth.
  • The first growth hire should have a balance of product insight and technical proficiency.
  • An early growth leader should be capable of analyzing data, setting up experiments, and understanding customer experience.

"I wouldn't even consider hiring a head of growth or building a growth team until you have a clear indicator of product market fit, which is some amount of exponential organic growth."

This quote emphasizes that a company should wait for a clear sign of product market fit, demonstrated through organic growth, before investing in a growth team.

Optimal Onboarding for a Growth Role

  • Onboarding for a growth role should focus on establishing a strategic framework for understanding growth.
  • The framework should address market opportunities, core product value, moments of delight, and customer acquisition methods.
  • The growth leader should assess these areas to provide a comprehensive growth strategy to the CEO.

"What is your strategic framework? How do you think about the growth of this as a business? My preferred starting point if I go into any company, is I'd like to begin with this background of assessing market times, core product value times, moments of delight times ability to acquire customers."

The quote highlights the importance of having a strategic framework that encompasses various factors contributing to growth, which the growth leader should develop and communicate to the company leadership.

Founder's Understanding of Growth Flywheels

  • Before hiring for growth, a founder should understand their product's core growth mechanics.
  • Outsourcing growth efforts without this understanding is challenging.
  • Founders should identify the primary flywheel that accelerates their business and then hire someone to scale it further.

"It's really hard to outsource growth and say, like, hey, how do growth come, like, make us grow if the founder doesn't really know what makes the product move the needle to start, and what you want is you want the founders to kind of figure out the core mechanic, the one core mechanic that is accelerating the business."

This quote emphasizes the necessity for founders to have a deep understanding of what drives their product's growth before seeking external growth experts to amplify these effects.## Founder's Knowledge of Ecosystem

  • Founders must deeply understand their company's growth mechanisms and ecosystem.
  • This knowledge is crucial for effective collaboration with the head of growth.

There was stuff that I was telling them as a consultant of, like, here's where I think you should go. But it was really incredible how well they knew their own ecosystem.

The quote emphasizes the importance of founders having an in-depth understanding of their company's ecosystem, which enables them to make informed decisions and guide their growth strategies effectively.

Hiring for Growth Roles

  • Startups should consider hiring more junior growth roles initially.
  • A senior hire is better at system building and enabling teams for scale.
  • A junior hire with core skills in the company's primary growth mechanic can be more beneficial in early stages.
  • The goal is to hire someone who can execute key growth drivers and expand their skills over time.

I usually actually tell people to start junior. The reason why is a couple things.

This quote suggests that hiring junior talent can be advantageous for startups because they bring core skills necessary for the company's immediate growth needs and have the potential to develop into senior leaders.

Onboarding Process for Growth Roles

  • The onboarding process should include a "listening tour," data analysis, and customer conversations.
  • Understanding both sides of a marketplace and validating insights with data is critical.
  • The goal of onboarding is to quickly provide context to the new hire so they can contribute to growth strategies.

You've got to learn the business and learn really what makes the business tick and understand what your cross functional stakeholders are saying, especially in marketplaces.

This quote highlights the importance of a comprehensive onboarding process that equips a new growth hire with a deep understanding of the business and its stakeholders, which is particularly crucial in marketplace models.

Adam Fishman's Background

  • Adam Fishman has extensive experience in product and growth roles across various companies.
  • He has held leadership positions at Imperfect Foods, Patreon, and Lyft.

And finally, in this masterclass, we have the one and only Adam Fishman.

This quote introduces Adam Fishman as a seasoned professional in the field of growth, indicating that his insights are based on substantial experience and success in the area.

Deciding Between Junior and Senior Growth Hires

  • The decision to hire junior or senior growth personnel depends on the company's growth model, required skills, and founder involvement.
  • A mid-level "player-coach" is often the ideal first hire for growth roles.
  • Avoid hiring too junior and risk having a team without direction, or too senior and lack a hands-on contributor.

It depends on a few factors.

The quote suggests that hiring for growth roles is not one-size-fits-all and should be based on specific factors such as the company's stage, growth model, and the founder's management style.

Onboarding Mid-Level Growth Hires

  • Onboarding should be structured with clear 30, 60, and 90-day plans.
  • The new hire should focus on learning, relationship building, and evaluating the team initially.
  • Subsequent months should involve iterating on growth strategy and long-term planning.
  • Founders should invest significant time with new hires to ensure their success.

I think about it like onboarding a customer.

This quote draws a parallel between onboarding an employee and a customer, emphasizing the need for a well-structured onboarding process that ensures the long-term success of the hire, much like a customer's activation experience affects their retention.

TripActions and Robin: Workplace Solutions

  • TripActions offers a streamlined platform for business travel and expense management.
  • Robin provides a flexible workplace platform that supports hybrid work environments.

Trip Actions was born out of the realization that business travel should be easy.

The quote introduces TripActions as a solution to the often cumbersome process of business travel booking and expense reporting, suggesting it simplifies these tasks for both travelers and companies.

So it's time to make hybrid work for everyone with Robin.

This quote introduces Robin as a tool that facilitates hybrid work models, indicating its relevance in the current trend towards flexible work arrangements.

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