Part 2: 27 Interview Questions to Find the GREAT Growth Hackers (& Weed Out the Big Talkers)

In my last article, I gave the 7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know, but there’s still some tools you need to have in your toolkit to find a GREAT growth hacker. Why? Because big talking growth hackers will blow smoke that may blind founders who are not trained in interviewing GREAT growth hackers.

For example, you may ask one of my focus area questions, like:

“Do you have experience with Mixpanel?”
A Big Talking Growth Hacker will answer: Absolutely I used it all the time in my past role.
But what they really mean: The engineer sitting next to me was always talking about the difference between events and properties, but I don’t understand it.

Or you might ask:

“How about Google Analytics?”
A Big Talking Growth Hacker will answer: It’s my favorite app. I know it inside out.
But what they really mean:  I’m used to going in, finding a graph that looks up and to the right, and then sticking it into a presentation to show it to my boss.

It’s one thing to know the term, it’s a totally different thing to have done used it at the scale and proficiency your startup needs.

Below are 27 Interview Questions to Find the GREAT Growth Hackers (& Weed Out the Big Talkers):

1. They know how to get traffic

  • Question 1: Without using Dropbox, Facebook, and Hotmail, what are your favorite viral loops in the market? How would you design a viral loop for our business? Are there any tools you’d use that don’t require coding? Desired Answer: if they don’t have one, that means they aren’t looking for one. If you’re a curious growth hacker, you probably encountered one in the last couple of days.
  • Question 2: If we were to hire you, what would you do the first week to improve our SEO rankings? What tools would you use? What websites, access, and passwords will you need? Desired Answer: Do they ask for Webmaster Tools? Google Analytics? Do they know some SEO Tools?
  • Question 3: In previous jobs, what was your paid advertising budget and goals?
  • Question 4: In Adwords, do you prefer single keyword ad groups or grouping? Up to how many keywords in each one? Desired Answer: It doesn’t matter their answer. There are good reasons for both. That being said, be aware if they seem to think, “I can’t believe this guy goes into that much detail…” If so, they probably are not proficient.
  • Question 5: Ask them about a particular pay-per-click metric (cost per install, per signup, per free trial). Ask them about CTRs from past ads to see if they remember them.
  • Question 6: We run Adwords Campaigns for Countries/Cities/Regions to Achieve {X} business objective… What campaigns would you run, and how would you structure them? Further Prompts: What will be the break up of the campaigns or ad groups? What are the settings they’d pick?
  • Question 7: We run Facebook Ads on Multiple Countries/Cities/Regions to Achieve {X} business objective. What campaigns would you run, and how would you structure them? Further Prompts: What will be the break up of the campaigns or AdSet? What will be their settings on Facebook? What will be the audiences they’d target? What will be the conversion pixel they’d optimize for?Also, look for them to tell you how they’d do a remarketing campaign for retention.

2. They are a tracking pro

  • Question 7: What were your Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tagging practices on your last job? Further Prompts: How did you tag people coming from Facebook Ads vs. people coming from Facebook Social? How did you do email marketing vs. search?
  • Question 8: Given what you know about our business, what are the main events and properties you’ll send to our tracking software? What would be the code that you’d send to engineers? (Give them a computer to Google it). Desired Answer: When Googling, they should go right to the developer’s documentation of Mixpanel, Amplitude, or Kissmetrics and grab the javascript.
  • Question 9: What Split Testing Software do you recommend we use? Why? How is it different from the others?
  • Question 10: If we were to do a Split Test of our landing page/checkout/{insert section you want}, what would be the level of confidence you’d want? How would you know if the test is statistically valid?

3. They write persuasive copy

  • Question 11: Create a Facebook Ad for our business based on X landing page.
  • Question 12: How would you improve X landing page headline? What would be an alternative headline you’d test? Desired Answer: You’re looking for how quickly the candidate come up with persuasive wording, and if you like the wording. After all, the ads the candidate writes represent your company!
  • Question 13: If we were to do a content marketing effort (like write an article, webinar, ebook, or white paper), which one would you choose? What would be its title and the table of contents?

4. They convert using UI/UX design

  • Question 14: Aside from Slack, what’s your favorite onboarding funnel? Why?
  • Question 15: How would you improve our onboarding? (Show them your current onboarding)
  • Question 16: Tell them they can ask questions about what you do in other channels, cases. Desired Answer: See if they think multichannel.
  • Question 17: What are some of your favorite landing pages from real companies? Desired Answer: Will tell us if they are paying attention to landing pages.
  • Question 18: How do you get inspired? How do you save things you like? Desired Answer: They should have a folder or tool they use to store cool things.

5. They know how to handle data

  • Question 19: What dashboard would you build for our business? What are 5-10 key metrics you would monitor? In what timespan?
  • Question 20: Write SQL (Structured Query Language) to query the number of {“x” events} per week for this year.

6. They’re a great communicator

  • Question 21: How would you write an email to one of our engineers to implement the changes you suggested to our landing page/onboarding? What extra info you would add? Desired Answer: You want somebody that is clear and will support things with pictures, video, and links to API documentation/libraries.

7. They a stubborn learner

  • Question 22: Can you remember something that took several experiments to crack?
  • Question 23: Give an example of a time in your life when you persisted. Desired Answer: This can be a personal experience. Do they have a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Have they finished an Ironman?
  • Question 24: What blogs do you read regularly?
  • Question 25: What book are you currently reading?
  • Question 26: What podcasts do you subscribe to?
  • Question 27: What are some conferences you want to attend? Courses your want to do? Desired Answer: You want to see that they are learning continuously. You also want to know how they keep themselves updated.

Depending on the candidate’s knowledge the interview can last more than an hour. Give them a heads up, and let them know you ask very detailed real world questions. You can also send some of your questions in advance via email (but send only some to ensure they don’t have a someone helping them answer).

These questions are VERY specific. If you’re not a trained growth hacker, you might not know the answers yourself. But these 27 questions will trigger good conversations, and you’ll see how much your candidate actually knows by how they explain it to you.

I honestly believe interviewing this way will save you A LOT of time, money, and headaches. You’ll avoid the Big Talkers or at least you’ll know if you decided to hire one or a half-baked Growth Hacker)! And most importantly, I guarantee, these questions will help you find a GREAT growth hacker.

FAQs

Do you have a Hiring Book/Interviewing Book to Recommend?

Who by Geoff Smart. It is a more digestible, less corporate version the book “Topgrading,” written by the author’s dad, Brad Smart (the guy who helped Jack Welch at GE). If you want a thick book to knock someone out, I do think Topgrading is a better choice. It’s boring and dry, but who says hiring should be fun!

Does he/she need to know how to code?

No. But it helps! A LOT. A least the minimum to be able to communicate effectively with engineers (depending on the engineer… this is not an easy task!)

Do they need to be proficient in all these areas?

This is about hiring a GREAT Growth Hacker, right? If you want GREAT, yeah they do.

But I understand sometimes you get what you can pay for. At least these areas / questions will help you understand their weaknesses, so they can improve or you can hire help or outsourcers to support weaker areas.

IMPORTANT: I’m talking about hiring A SINGLE person. Once you are showered with money in your Series A, B, C… Z, you’re probably better off creating a “Growth Team” where areas are covered by more than one person.

My Ask for You?

Was this article helpful? Yes?

Then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Share it Everywhere. Yes, EVERYWHERE.

Twitter, Facebook, GrowthHackers.com, email it to friends & CEOs.

It will help A LOT of founders conduct better interviews and avoid VERY COSTLY mistakes.

And of course… let me know on Twitter (@juanmartitegui) what you think!

If I get enough love… I’ll write next about How to Create & Train a Growth Hacker (with training resources included)… This is great if you can’t hire a growth hire with enough experience or expertise.

 


Made in Argentina, Juan Martitegui is the Founder of VirtualiaNet, The Biggest Teleworking School in the Hispanic Market. With more than 11,000 students (and growing rapidly), he and his team teach people how to find and perform in jobs they love without commuting or going into a traditional office. When Juan is not working on his businesses, he is probably finding great startups to invest on as a 500 Startups Venture Partner in the 500 startups fund, reading some strange book on evolutionary psychology and persuasion, trying to improve his Rubik’s cube solving times, or spending time as a father of Pedro and Felipe and husband to Marina. For more from Juan, follow him on Linkedin or Twitter.

Part 1:  7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know Inside & Out

Since I started working at 500 Startups the question I get asked most often (aside from, “What’s Dave’s email address?”) is, “Do you know a great Growth Hacker?”

And my always answer is, “No I don’t. If I did I’d hire him myself”

Why? Because since the term “Growth Hacker” (definition here, here and here) was coined, thousands of people have popped up claiming to be a GREAT growth hacker… But few people actually are a GREAT growth hacker.

To make sure you’re hiring someone who’s actually a GREAT, it’s important to make sure they’ve “been there, done that”. Do your due diligence by deep diving into these 7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know:

  1. They know how to get traffic
    • What’s your experience with Facebook Ads?
    • What’s your experience with Adwords?
    • What’s your SEO experience?
    • What’s your experience designing and implementing viral loops?
  1. They are a tracking pro
    • What’s your experience with Google Analytics?
    • What’s your experience using Mixpanel, Amplitude, Kissmetrics, or another tracking tool?
    • What your experience with Google Tag Manager?
    • What’s your experience with Javascript?
    • What’s your experience split testing? Do you have a software preference for split testing?  
  1. They write persuasive copy
    • What’s your experience writing ads?
    • What’s your experience writing lifecycle emails?
    • What’s your experience writing landing page headlines?
    • What’s your experience launching and maintaining content marketing initiatives?
  1. They convert using UI/UX design
    • What’s your experience designing landing pages?
    • Have they ever designed a funnel?
    • What’s their favorite landing page software?
  1. They know how to handle data
    • How good are you with numbers?
    • Do you know how to use excel?
  1. They’re a great communicator
    • How clear of a communicator are you?
  1. They a stubborn learner
    • Do you love to learn?
    • Are you persistent?

Your candidate isn’t a great growth marketer if they don’t know these 7 focus areas inside and out. Make sure you deep dive into each of these buckets, so that you don’t make the painful and COSTLY mistake of hiring the wrong person.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week when I help you weed out the “big talkers” who can BS the above focus area questions.

 


Made in Argentina, Juan Martitegui is the Founder of VirtualiaNet, The Biggest Teleworking School in the Hispanic Market. With more than 11,000 students (and growing rapidly), he and his team teach people how to find and perform in jobs they love without commuting or going into a traditional office. When Juan is not working on his businesses, he is probably finding great startups to invest on as a 500 Startups Venture Partner in the 500 startups fund, reading some strange book on evolutionary psychology and persuasion, trying to improve his Rubik’s cube solving times, or spending time as a father of Pedro and Felipe and husband to Marina. For more from Juan, follow him on Linkedin or Twitter.

Growth Hacking the MENA Region

Following up on our earlier post announcing the first closing of 500 Falcons, our fund for the Middle East and North Africa, we’re going to be posting a few more announcements on the MENA region and the meaningful ecosystem-building projects we’re working on.

As we’ve been investing in the region over the last 6 years, we’ve seen a lot of similarities between the Middle East and other emerging entrepreneurial markets in comparison to the startups we see in Silicon Valley. One particular area of focus that we felt needed a big boost was growth hacking. Growth hacking in simple terms is data-driven, online customer acquisition and distribution methodologies that have evolved as a distinct skill set from either traditional business development, sales or marketing. For this reason, we thought it made a lot of sense to bring our Series A Program  to the region with QSTP. Our inaugural Batch 1 kicked off with 9 post-seed startups on the 30th of April and will continue through the 30th July. In addition to arming the batch companies with the skills and processes to scale their businesses quickly, we’re coaching them on presentation and fundraising so they can achieve progression into their next funding round.

Our partnership with the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and the Qatar Foundation has been a fruitful one for startups in the MENA region, as it has enabled us to bring our growth hacking superpowered “Distro Team” to the region to transfer knowledge and best practices around rapid growth and distribution.

The program was led by Nate Gilmore, along with Saalim Chowdhury, Andy Young, Nopadon Wongpakdee, Nemo Chu, Roula Khatib, Mathew Johnson and 500 Falcons partner, Sharif El-Badawi.

The Series A Program, which is the first 500 Startups program in the MENA region, is a 3 month program hyper-focused on teaching late seed stage companies growth (sales and marketing teams) and modern distribution hacking techniques.  The program consists of a 1 month in-residency training (at QSTP) followed by 2 months of mentoring.  Here are a few of the tools that the startups develop expertise in over the 3 months:

The 1 month in-residence culminated in an exciting Investor Day where the startups pitched their companies to an auditorium full of investors and key stakeholders. All 9 startups received tremendous interest for their Series A rounds.

The startups have already begun achieving great results in the Dojo during the first month and we’re excited to work with Batch 1 for the next two months as they run countless more experiments across their funnels.  Here are just a few of the comments heard in the Dojo:

It puts you in beast mode about your business.
Very tangible and structured learnings. Great chance
to learn from other founders and team members
.
Legit and honest feedback, no BS. Amazing help
from experts to uncover growth avenues.
We learned a customer driven, clear, repeatable
and measurable way to make changes that
have an impact every week.

Check out each of the 9 companies, hailing from 4 countries, who were part of the first batch of MENA companies that joined the program:

 

Eat – eatapp.co

Eat allows you to find restaurants around you and confirm your reservation in less than three clicks. It has two products, one for restaurants, and another for consumers. The consumer app is simple. No need to call! The restaurants have an iPad installed at the front desk. This app allows restaurants to internally manage reservations and tables, and to notify the consumer app about availabilities.

Edfa3ly – edfa3ly.co

Edfa3ly provides the Middle East with a personal shopping service to buy Western goods without any of the hassles and confusion of cross border shipping.  Orders are fast and guaranteed.

 

Eventtus – eventtus.com

Eventtus is an event engagement platform and mobile app for event planning, networking and ticketing. Eventtus helps event organizers create an interactive mobile app for their events in few minutes. Through the app, organizers share content, such as the agenda/logistics, speaker bios, and exhibitors. Polls and surveys provide real-time feedback, and Eventtus’ post-event analytics help organizers understand their audiences, measure success, and improve future planning.

 

Mumm – getmumm.com

Mumm, the first word many of us ever learned to exemplify food that we got from our most trusted source, our Moms. Mumm is an online marketplace for delicious Home Cooked Meals. Cooked by Moms, Housewives and Freelance Chefs near you. Order your food and it will arrive fresh and healthy.

 

Ghinwa – ghinwa.com

Ghinwa is the Snapchat for singing.  Download the app, sing along to your favorite tune, apply Ghinwa exclusive background music and filters and share with your loved ones.

 

 

Justmop – justmop.com

Justmop.com is a website and mobile app connecting individuals looking for cleaning services with well-trained & pre-screened cleaning service providers across the gulf.

 

 

Meddy – meddy.co

Meddy helps you find best doctors in the gulf based on patient reviews and credentials. Browse doctor profiles with their background information, get reviews from other patients going to that doctor and get clinic locations. Make an informed health decision based on knowledge, not chance.

Find Doctor profiles, patient reviews, clinic locations. Helping you make informed health decisions.

 

Souq Al Mal – souqalmal.com

Souqalmal.com (Souq al Mal is Arabic for ‘money market’) is the #1 comparison website in the Middle East and lets you compare and buy financial and insurance products. With more than 360 credit cards, 450 bank accounts, 147 personal loans, 100 car loans, 105 mortgages, 1143 mobile phone plans, 150 broadband plans, 280 schools and 234 nurseries and 100+ car deals, plus 115 SME financial products, the consumer portal allows customers to do their homework using up-to-date, unbiased information.

 

 

 

Taskty – taskty.com

Taskty is the #1 online home service market in Egypt.  Taskty provides home cleaning, washing upholstery, plumbing, electricity, insect control, photography events and many other services.

Taskty services are guaranteed for quality at extremely competitive prices.

 

 

7 Marketing Secrets from 500 Startups Demo Days

Have Fun, Get Deals Done – The Future of Marketing is the Brand Experience

Pitching to top Silicon Valley investors like Tim Draper is nerve-racking. It helps when he’s dressed in a superhero costume.

From Valentine’s Day-Themed (Batch 19) to Summer of Love-Themed (Batch 20), 500 Startups Demo Day is more than a pitch day, it’s a festival where everyone has fun and gets deals done.

Here’s a look back at lessons we’ve learned from the last 7 Demo Days, and how 500 Startups stumbled upon creating the unique pitch day in Silicon Valley.

1. Listen to Your Audience

Back in the day, 500 Startups Demo Day was pretty basic (see Batch 8):


500 Startups Founding Partner, Dave McClure, speaking at 500 Batch 8 Demo Day (back when the most colorful thing at Demo Day was Dave’s language).

During Batch 13 Demo Day, things got a little bit more interesting.

It all started when I bought Dave a unicorn hoodie for his birthday, which happened to coincide with the Batch 13 Preview Day (an invite-only sneak peek to Demo Day). To our surprise, many investors and founders in the audience loved Dave’s unexpected fashion statement, talking and tweeting about it.

Dave noted the audience engagement and decided to wear the unicorn costume again on Demo Day. He also encouraged Founding Partner Christine Tsai, a former ballerina, to wear a rainbow tutu. Again, the response was extremely positive at Demo Day. Silicon Valley Business Journal even dedicated an article to Unicorn theme.

The lightbulb turned on, and we saw the potential marketing value in bringing creativity to our Demo Days. But it wasn’t a mere fluke — we listened to the audience feedback, saw the marketing value, and applied it.

 

2. Turn Challenges into Creative Advantage

When planning for Batch 14 Demo Day, we found out the only day the venue was available was the day before Halloween. We were not happy. Typically we tried to plan our events around major holidays, like Halloween, assuming people would be busy attending their own company parties. We were worried about not having enough investors attend our event, but we couldn’t change the date. So we decided to exploit the timing instead. Thus, Demo-Ween was born.

In our past Demo Days, we always focused on the pitches, not wanting to take away from the big day of our batch companies. However, the thematic timing forced us to look at the Demo Days from a different angle. We decided to make Demo Days more entertaining. We added the Halloween theme to our Demo Day, aka “Demo-ween” — presenting the content in a new form. The new form of Demo Day allowed startups and investors to dress up, have fun, and get deals done together.

As a result, the Demo-ween not only helped us maintain the previous demo day attendance, it also attracted more international investors than ever before (50% increase). By presenting the content in a more engaging format, we turned a challenge into our competitive advantage.

The first Demo-ween was so successful, we decided to make it an annual theme. 




3. Use Product-Launches to Rejuvenate Your Brand

In 2016, we started adding speciality tracks to our seed program, starting with a Fintech track in the Batch 16 program.

In order to highlight our new Fintech focus, we made the Batch 16 Demo Day poker themed. In order to create an authentic experience, the 500 events team hired a top poker player to give attendees poker lessons and play blackjack. Founding Partners Dave McClure and Christine Tsai also dressed up for the poker theme.

Partly in thanks to a successful Fintech-Themed Demo Day, we saw a 23% increase in Fintech applications to the following batch.

4. Embrace Company Culture

During the Batch 17 program in June 2016, the 500 team and batch companies attended the San Francisco Pride Parade. Pride inspired us to redefine the meaning of “unicorn” at 500. In tech, a unicorn company means a billion dollar company valuation. We decided that being a unicorn also brings about a sense of love and unity. We are not only about making profits and increasing portfolio company valuations but also about celebrating people and culture.

The momentum of the Pride Month continued into our Demo Day planning process. We wanted to use the upcoming Demo Day as a platform to promote 500’s company value of embracing diversity and inclusion. We chose the theme “Beauty & the Geek” based on our B17 tracks Fashion & B2B and decided to break down gender stereotypes by having Dave dress up as the “Beauty” and Christine the “Geek”.

After Demo Day, Microsoft offered to sponsor our efforts to advocate diversity in tech by supporting our Unity and Inclusion Summits. Our open and embracing culture has attracted a very diverse group of companies. In our latest batch, Batch 20, 36% of our batch companies were international (from 10 different countries), 20.5% of companies had at least one female founder, and 25% of companies had a black / Latinx founder.

 

5. Make It About Your People

At the end of the Batch 17 Demo Day, a flash mob of the 500 team appeared from the audience and started dancing on stage with Dave. The big screen started playing videos of venture capital investors and founders of successful 500 portfolio companies around the world wishing Dave a happy birthday. The B17 Demo Day happened to be Dave’s 50th birthday and our 500 family planned a surprise for Dave.

The Demo Day birthday surprise is just one example of the many things that we would do simply because we care about people. We build the 500 brand by connecting with people on a personal level.

6. Create Positive Emotion

From the previous Demo Days, we began to see that themes created a supportive environment for founders and investors to develop relationships. For Batch 19, we chose a Valentine’s Day theme because we wanted to bring more emotion into the experience.

We dressed up our founders as Cupid (Christine) and the Queen of Hearts (Dave) and decorated the stage with all shades of pink and hearts. Investors could give batch companies Valentine cards that said, “I have my eyes on you!”.



 

7. Leverage Culture & History

Our Batch 20 program was based in San Francisco around the same time as the city’s 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” – the 1967 summer event that drew nearly 100,000 young people to the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Starting from early spring 2017, streets in San Francisco were decorated with the “Summer of Love” theme. We decided to do the same theme for our Demo Day to pay tribute to the city’s history.

With flowers, rainbow-colored lighting and our emcee in a Grateful Dead bear costume, this Demo Day brought a sense of nostalgia to the city many 500 Startups team members call home.



Conclusion

Our Demo Days are instrumental in building the 500 brand. We strive to create an organic ecosystem of investors, founders, and corporate partners by providing meaningful and engaging content to our audience.

If your goal is to stand out from the crowd and flaunt your unique brand to the world, don’t forget to incorporate these 7 Marketing Lessons from 500 Startups Demo Days:

  1. Listen to the Audience: Gather feedback from your audience, catch the opportunity, and act on it
  2. Reframe the Challenge: Look at the problem from another perspective and turn challenges into advantages
  3. Inspire with your products: Rejuvenate your brand with new products
  4. Embrace Company Culture: Integrate the company values and culture to create a powerful marketing message
  5. Focus on People: Build a people-centric ecosystem to organically grow your business
  6. Engage your audience with Emotions: Create Positive emotions to Drive Connection and Awareness
  7. Integrate Art into Business: Leverage the power of culture and history in your marketing

500 Batch 22 begins July 24th, 2017 in San Francisco.

Click Here to apply for our the Batch 22 Seed Program.

More from Yiying Lu: 


yiyinglu-profile-square

Yiying Lu is award-winning bilingual (English & Chinese) artist and designer. Born in Shanghai China, Educated in Sydney Australia & London UK, now based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, she currently is a Design Lecturer at the NYU Shanghai Program on Creativity & Innovation. She is also an individual creative consultant who provides talks & workshops for global startups and corporate innovation teams on design thinking, entrepreneurship & creativity. Her projects have been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, Forbes, NBC News, TIME, CNN, BBC, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch, Mashable, and The Huffington Post. She was named a “Top 10 Emerging Leader in Innovation” in the Microsoft Next 100 series. For more from Yiying, you can follow her on TwitterLinkedin and Medium.

 

3 Visual Marketing Lessons it Took Me a lot of Money to Learn

Guest Blogger – Brittany Murlas, Mentor, 500 Startups

Optimizing adds on Pinterest isn’t necessarily straightforward, and can often involve a lot of trial and error. Brittany Murlas, a mentor for 500 Startups, spent time and money navigating what works and what doesn’t on the platform and imparts her hard-earned lessons below. Read on so you avoid the same mistakes, and instead, profit from BIG growth like she did.

 

Lesson #1: Build for platform.

You know to design your Facebook ads differently than your Google ads, but do you tweak your Facebook ads for promotion on Instagram? Now I do.

We humans open different apps for different reasons. I open Facebook for entertainment, SnapChat for connection, and Pinterest for ideas. My intent varies drastically with each.

So as marketers, if we remain content rearranging the same successful assets and copy, then we leave serious money on the table. With each ad platform, it’s our job to understand the intentions of our potential clickers.

For instance, I go to Instagram to lose myself in aspirational imagery. So my guess is the two beautiful square-ish lifestyle photos below performed very well on Instagram. But I saw them on Pinterest & Facebook instead, and since I open Pinterest for ideas and Facebook for entertainment, neither ad gave me reason to click.

  

 

Lesson #2: Make your ads look like they belong there.

Native ads are the coolest. Native ads are like getting asked to Senior prom when you’re a Freshman. If you fit in, you’re in for the night of your life. Stick out as the Freshman (you are)…well, then you might as well catch an Uber Pool back.

Native ads are a gift to us growth marketers, and we must respect them by blending in as we’re supposed to. Let’s talk through three examples.

While I really like Lyft’s idea here (i.e., I pin stuff I want to do, and Lyft can give me the cash to do those things), their Promoted Pin sticks out as an ad. Sure it grabs my attention and I may click, but I’d never save it my Pinterest account, which limits virality. However, if I came across a Lyft pin titled “How to quit your job and fund your dream” (a very pinteresting title) I’d not only click the pin and read the content, I’d also save it and share it with a friend. Huzzah!

It’s clear SoFi has done its research when it comes to pin design. Even with prominent text, this pin blends in with the Pinterest feed. What I’d change is the copy. The title reads like a HuffPo article, when folks come to Pinterest to browse ideas, not information. Something like “How to use personal loans instead of credit cards” should perform better.

What made me stop on this ad is that I thought it was actually shared on Facebook by my friend Lauren. A reminder that our target audience should be our source of greatest inspiration.

 

Lesson #3: Play with average designs.

Below, “the Real Real” ad below is stunning. It catches my eye. I admire the pretty photo. I read, and then I realize “this is an ad.” I move on.

Tiek’s ad is basic. It’s boring. But it is pure, sweet genius. This pin looks like it was designed by a mom blogger in Illinois, not a NYC-based ad designer, which gives me the trust I need to pour over the details of this ad. This is extraordinarily clickable content (for my boys out there this is a like a, “Are Bose really worth the price?” ad), and when I do click, instead of being taken to the Tiek’s website, I land on an independent review. The reviewer confirms Tiek’s really are worth the price (didn’t see that coming!), so I click to the Tiek’s website, find my favorite color and save it to my “Presents I Want” Pinterest Board.

 

Want MORE Pinterest expertise? Check out Brittany’s talk at 500 Startups Weapons of Mass Distribution 2016:

And her Marketing Hell Week 2015 talk here:

 


Brittany’s been building small enterprises since high school. As BabyList.com’s second employee, Brittany was responsible for 15x growth, making BabyList.com the most popular online baby registry. She is known as an expert in marketing to women and parents. Now, Brittany is building a feminist book club for kids, thelittlefeminist.com. For more from Brittany, you can follow her on Twitter and Linkedin.

500 Startups “Hacks Health” with Planned Parenthood Partnership

500 Startups has announced today a partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America to offer more opportunities for both growth and technology to be applied to Planned Parenthood’s digital health offerings.  Planned Parenthood will be sending its Spot On app team through the 500 Seed Program in 2017, which is known for its tactical approach to rapid customer acquisition, also known as “growth hacking”.

Spot On is Planned Parenthood’s free, award-winning birth control and period tracking mobile app that empowers people to take control of their period, their birth control, and their sexual health.  The goal of this partnership is to enable and empower more people to use Planned Parenthood digital tools to take charge of their health. The first project will be focused on Spot On. Subsequent projects will focus on other Planned Parenthood assets.

“We realized that 500 can help non-profits gain more reach and have an even bigger impact on the world by offering the same growth hacking resources we provide our startups,” said Rebecca Woodcock, EIR at 500 Startups. “Rather than do nothing, we decided to take action to positively affect the trajectory of the non-profits like Planned Parenthood, who has a mission we believe in.”

To kick off this ongoing relationship, Planned Parenthood and 500 Startups are planning a “growth hackathon” April 22-23 to help more people access the Spot On app. The partnership is part of Tech Stands with Planned Parenthood, an effort by tech leaders and innovators to show their support for Planned Parenthood’s health centers and patients and calling on their peers to do the same.

“We’re incredibly grateful for 500 Startups’ support of Planned Parenthood and thrilled to work with them to find new and innovative ways to share Spot On, our popular period tracker and birth control app,” said Jenny Friedler, Senior Director, Digital Product Lab at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  “Planned Parenthood was founded on the radical idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams. Technology helps us bring that information and care to the millions of people who rely on us — whether they’re on their phones or in a health center.”  

500 Startups recently launched a digital health accelerator as part of their core seed program, lead by Rebecca Woodcock their Entrepreneur-in-Residence, a startup founder with direct experience in building healthcare and digital health related startups.

ABOUT PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 650 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

500 Startups Launches its First Distro Bootcamp in Israel

500 Startups has launched its first “distro bootcamp” in Israel in partnership with Google, Amazon AWS, Poalim Hi-Tech, Meitar and WeWork and has selected 9 B2B companies for its first cohort.

Distro Bootcamp is a selective 4 week education program specifically designed from the ground up to help pre-seed and seed stage companies develop a systematic approach to reach product market fit, and assist founders with sales, marketing and distribution.

The program is uncompromisingly focused on actionable training and taught by the 500 Startups in-house distribution team from San Francisco and London with 1-on-1 sessions with International and local entrepreneurs.

The program stems from and is a shorter, compact version of our Series A program that runs globally with 12 different locations since 2015.

Adam Benayoun, 500 Startups Israeli Venture Partner says:

“Israel is often praised for being home to the most startups and venture capital per capita, however while Israel has produced a great number of startups – many are still struggling to reach product market fit. Marketing and distribution expertise is exactly what we are hoping to bring to Israel through the Distro Bootcamp to solve that problem.”

Startups in the bootcamp will have access to the distribution team and 500 Startups’ large network of mentors and partners to monitor their progress. Additionally, each company is given $25k in funding earmarked for marketing experiment in exchange for 1% of the company.

Maya Gura – CEO and co-founder at MissBeez (a 500 Startups portfolio company) says:

“My experience with Adam and the team at 500 Startups was very unusual as it’s rare to meet investors who are so hands on and proactively work to help entrepreneurs. Their expertise in growth, primarily for consumer oriented products like Missbeez, is essential for any startup to grow rapidly while constantly measuring and testing KPIs. As we expand from one major city to another and new verticals, we are capable to utilize these best practices to increase virality, liquidity, and gain traction.”

Since 500 Startups officially announced it was launching in Israel a year and a half ago, it has made 11 seed investments including Panoply (Raised $7M from Intel Capital) and RapidAPI (Raised $3.5M from Andreessen Horowitz)

The 9 companies selected for the first cohort are:

Wizer –

Wizer accelerates teaching to meet the needs of the 21-century students. Create, analyze, collaborate and personalize the learning experience is as easy as making a worksheet. Wizer quickly reached 300K users with 30% monthly organic growth rate, through word-of-mouth.

Distrybite –

Distribyte provides a simplified cloud environment for companies seeking to expand their digital presence. Our novel runtime powers the most complex workloads addressing the entire software lifecycle. Distribyte ensures the release of high quality software products, with predictable results, in a fraction of the budget.

CybeReady –

CybeReady reduces the risks of phishing through automated end-user training. The CybeReady automated simulation engine allows companies worldwide to instantly deploy a fully customizable and operational solution, covering their weakest link with proven KPIs. The company has paying customers from six different countries, on an annual subscription basis

Ubeya –

Ubeya is Uber for temporary workforce in the events industry. Ubeya provides a SAAS platform for businesses from the events industry to manage their workforce. Connecting between staffing agencies and event companies for staff on a daily basis.

Ondigo –

ONDiGO is an AI & automation platform that boosts the bottom-line performance of sales/accounts teams. ONDiGO is leveraging quantitative indicators such as: trends, sentiment and engagement velocity to increase win-rate, shorten sales cycles and capture repeatable-success-patterns. ONDiGO provides VP Sales with powerful visibility into their team’s performance, activity, and major KPIs. Sales-ops will see what works and what doesn’t in the company’s pipeline, account management, and customer success. Some of ONDiGO’s notable customers: Payoneer, Rakuten, Matomy, Clicktale, Groupon, Natural Intelligence, Keywee, Quad Analytics, Silicon Valley Education Foundation.”

Udobu –

Udobu helps better monetize live sports events. Sports clubs and media rights holders struggle with inventory and capacity utilization as well as revenue generation issues. Already working with top clubs from Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A, udobu addresses these challenges using its proprietary fan behavior prediction technology.

MuvingAPP –

Moving is stressful – so we’re changing. With MuvingApp, you can create a digital, Visual Inventory in less than 10 minutes. It facilitates a transparent, easier moving experience as well as a myriad of related services: packing, insurance and even connect utilities in your new house – All through one App.

GeenQ –

GreenQ, a young, innovative and growing company aiming to bring the best technology to the waste pickup space. Moving fast with strategic partners, we are working to fulfill our vision to improve the urban living habitat. Our smart waste management services were designed to meet the needs of collection vendors, system integrators, and municipalities.

Market Beyond –

Market Beyond provides Fortune 500 companies with actionable, real-time, product level insight to increase market share. Our platform uncovers our customers’ blind spots in a fragmented e-commerce space by deriving insight from billions of e-shoppers’ decisions across the global e-commerce universe

For further information please contact: Adam Benayoun at adamb@500startups.com and read more here via TechCrunch

#500FAMILY

Recently, a 500 colleague posted this on social media:

“Diversity and equality is NOT about women who succeed because they sacrifice everything else so they “have nothing else to do but work”. It’s about EVERYONE stepping up to the plate and pitching in. So we as a society don’t ever have to choose life OR work, but rather being able to do both well.”

This colleague isn’t a parent, nor is he planning to have kids anytime soon. Yet he still felt adamantly about the importance of gender parity and acknowledging that it’s everyone’s responsibility.

Breaking down barriers is tough. Many companies make the mistake of dismissing diversity early on, only to realize later how foundational it is to their success or failure. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that makes a company diverse. In order to have a meaningful impact, companies should value diversity and inclusion from Day One. This applies to how they design their parental leave policy.

At 500, our policy is 12 weeks of fully paid leave for all parents in the U.S. Parents can choose to take this leave consecutively, or spread it out through the first 12 months after birth. Despite the fact that only 21% of the 500 team are parents, we know that may change. In fact, in 2017 alone, there will be 8 babies born on the 500 team. We feel strongly about supporting our team and making sure they have time to recover, bond with their families, and find their bearings as they get used to a new normal. Given how crazy this period can be, we also feel that making that time fully paid is important. The last thing new parents need to worry about is whether money is coming in the door. The sad reality is that in the U.S., only 13% of workers have access to paid parental leave, and the U.S. trails 41 other nations in not mandating paid leave.

Admittedly, we’re aware that our parental leave policy may pale in comparison to other companies or even national leave policies worldwide. As 500 grows, we aim to keep improving upon our parental leave policy as well as all of our company offerings. Also, given that we’re a global team spanning 23 countries, we’re working hard to be mindful of different standards in each market and balancing that with 500’s core values.

We also feel that it’s important to acknowledge the fact that many men and women share in childcare responsibilities. Especially in this day and age, where nearly 50% of women are the breadwinners​, and there exist many different kinds of parents and parental relationships — two moms, two dads, single parents, co-parents, and so on. At the end of the day, regardless of one’s orientation or identification or relationship status, parents are parents. And that was the motivation for making it 12 weeks across the board, rather than separating maternity vs. paternity.

There’s a good amount of research out there that shows generous parental leave policies have a significant positive impact on employee retention and morale. While some companies (particularly startups) worry that the added costs are detrimental, the reality is that such costs pale in comparison to losing talent outright. Moreover, it’s an excellent way to attract great talent. People want to join teams where they’ll feel supported. For parents, that means not having to “hide” the fact that they are parents or worry about being judged for doing what they need to do for their kids.

The boys enjoying La Jolla Beach

Truth? When I was pregnant (both times), I experienced a lot of anxiety about how it would impact me professionally. I worried about being hit with the Motherhood Penalty, how my colleagues would perceive me, how others in VC would perceive me, how I’d juggle running 500 with raising kids. I remember cringing when people would ask me whether I’d be returning to 500 after I gave birth. The first few months postpartum were incredibly challenging, and it took awhile before I felt like myself again. While everyone’s experience is different, my own experience certainly was instrumental in shaping 500’s parental leave policy. I didn’t want others to feel as anxious as I did, nor did I ever want them to worry that they’d be treated differently at 500. That isn’t the kind of culture we want to build.

Restroom signage at the 500 offices in SF and Mountain View

It was important to us to create a parental leave policy that echoed our core values. Diversity and inclusion is not just an attractive tagline for marketing purposes. It is evident in everything we do — our team, our portfolio investments, our parental leave policy, our office restroom signage (see above photo). We work hard and attempt to do the impossible, yet we respect the fact that we’re all human and are constantly juggling our professional and personal lives. We’re committed to creating an inclusive environment where talented people are empowered to do amazing things, yet don’t feel torn about having to choose between work and life.

Like one of our EIRs delivering a fireside chat while feeding his 5 week-old son.

500 EIR Chris Neumann’s baby bottle of choice is Lifefactory

Thanks to my 500 colleagues for their feedback on this post, particularly Elizabeth Yin, Dave McClure, Clayton Bryan, Kelsey Cullen, Monica Matison, & Chris Neumann. Special nod to Tim Chae for being that “500 colleague” I quoted.

7 UX / UI Design Tips to Improve Your Startup Growth

Below is a collection of my tips and feedback from a creative branding workshop I led during the most recent 500 Startups’ seed accelerator program, Batch 19. The goal was to teach startups to apply design thinking methods to improve their UX/UI , and thus increase user acquisition and market growth.

Did you know the human attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s?
[Fun Fact about Attention Span] Goldfish: 9 seconds > Human: 8 seconds. 😱

Yep, your website has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time to get your key message to your audience.

How do you do it? Here are 7 Design Thinking Tips to Improve Your Growth Rate 🔑:

1. Integrate

Combine a strong marketing message (content) with effective visuals (form).

My Feedback for Bstow: Bstow rounds up your spare change to charity.

Below is the original design for the top half of Bstow’s  home page. It has a simple marketing message, “Donate spare change to charity”. However, at first glance, the website looks like it’s featuring an analytics product.

Neither of the key visuals, the app interface on the phone nor the blue background, reflect the marketing message – “donation” and “charity”. How does the graph on the phone have anything to do with charity? Why the blue background?  They are disconnected. There is no integration of the form & the content.

bstow-old-top

I asked the founders to look at their analytics and see which part of the website gets the most engagement. They told me the most engagement comes from the “causes” section, which on the website you have to scroll all the way down to find:

bstow-attention

Yep, that’s a lot of scrolling… By the time you scroll down to the causes, those Goldfish have already lost their attention – let alone humans!

I suggested the Bstow team integrate their charity causes into the homepage visuals by using the iPhone screen as a frame, showcasing charity partners’ content one by one.

Homepage After Feedback: Team Bstow came back with the new home page designs below: Boom! 💥

bstow

2. Manifest:

Present your company with a short, punchy tagline & visual, make it clear and obvious to the mind. This helps people remember who you are and what you do.

My Feedback for Scopio: Scopio is a search engine to find and license images on social media.

Homepage before Feedback:
scopio-homepage-before

Get a short and effective tagline (6-8 words) that conveys both HOW your company works and WHY you do what you do (your purpose, cause & belief).

Combine the original two lines on your website homepage,“Search engine and licensing platform for trending photos & videos on social media” and “Discover Moments and Tell Stories”, into a simple and effective one-liner.

Homepage After Feedback (version 1):

“Real Images Engage Audiences” is a much more effective tagline. Now how can we show (even better) that these photos are taken by real people?

scopio-1
When using very light weight text over the video, it’s VERY hard to read the tagline and explanation. I suggested changing the text, “A cutting-edge platform…,” into a one-liner.

The more clear and obvious you can make this, the better.

Homepage After Feedback (version 2 – current): Team Scopio came back with the new home page designs below. You can view the full site here.
scopio

3. Portray:

Depict your product/service vividly, let it come to life through visual storytelling.

My Feedback for ShearShare: ShearShare connects salon owners to stylists to fill empty salon chairs.

Below is ShearShare’s original Homepage:

shear-share-before

On the home page, a static image of a phone with the app search bar text, “Where do you want to work?,” is not the best use of the precious space.

Let’s make it more vivid and engaging, by actually showing the audience how this app works. Embed the Demo video on your demo page as an animated .gif or video on the phone.

You can see my above feedback into the mockup below.
shearshare-after

After the Feedback: Team ShearShare came back with a much improved homepage animation seen below. You can view the full site here. 👊
final_home

4. Reuse

Whether you are a new or established company, branding consistency always matters, because your brand is reflected in your logo and messaging. One of easiest ways to improve your branding consistency is by examining the visual consistency of your site/app. Reuse and reapply your branding colors and elements throughout the site and app, to create a unified look and feel.

My Feedback for ChangeJar: ChangeJar is a mobile cash platform optimized for small retail payments.

This is ChangeJar’s current logo:
changejar-logo

But if you look at their icon page, the main branding has not been maintained. It’s completely different with white on a purple background.
changejar-icos_before

To remain consistent across your whole site (and aid in brand recognition), add the green color from your brand/logo and/or the “jar” icon to the design of these icons below:

I made the mock up below to highlight the dollar signs in the green color from your brand logo. Now these icons look more consistent with your brand:
changejar-icos_after

Also, the current Favicon is hard to read when it’s white on green gradient. Its design/color scheme is not consistent with the current logo.

Current Logo:
changejar-logo

Current Favicon:
changejar-favicon-before

I suggest making it the same design & color scheme as the current logo. See the mockup below:
changejar-favicon-after

Similarly, here is Scopio’s current logo and it’s current set of icons (more on Scopio below):
scopio-icon-before
I suggest you reuse the Symbol from the logo/brand as much as possible like below:
scopio-icon-after

5. Organize

You can organize content by color making it easier for people to remember your brand name or for the audiences to differentiate the business.

When it comes to content marketing, color can help you stand out from the crowd. According to NeuroMarketing, “if a good color sells, the right color sells better.”

Color is an important emotional cue in content marketing. Different colors and their combinations will evoke different emotions and feelings. It is vital to choose the right color(s) which represents your identity truthfully and effectively.

According to CoSchedule, people make a judgment about your content in 90 seconds or less. And up to 90% of the judgment in that 90 seconds is influenced by color. Marketer Neil Patel gives further proof of how colors affect conversion rate, revealing that 85% of consumer-based buying decisions comes from color and that full-color ads in magazines get recognized 26% more than black and white ads. Color helps people recognize your brand by up to 80%. It’s important to choose your brand color carefully and stick with it.

My Feedback for Aumet: Aumet allows medical suppliers & distributors to do business with companies no matter where they are.

Here is Aumet’s current website:
aumet-before

Since “Aumet” is a made-up name, I recommend highlighting two different syllables, using two different colors, to help users learn how to spell and pronounce your name

Also, because your target audience is both medical suppliers and distributors, it makes sense to use the same two colors to highlight the two different target audiences.  

Since your brand is targeting the medical industry, the current mint green works well as the main color. I would suggest your additional color be something like blue to compliment the green. Here is a simple mockup of how this could be done:aumet-after

If your business market is facing both B2C and B2B, like Aumet and ChangeJar, I would also suggest using two different colors for the two different consumer audiences.  


6.
Visualize

A picture is worth a thousand words: Applying effective visuals helps to arouse emotion within your audience, creating an instant connection with your company.

My Design Feedback for TalentBase: TalentBase is an HR software for growing enterprises in Africa.

Below is their current website homepage:

talentbase-before

Very straightforward website with all its functions. My overall feedback with your current branding & logo is: It’s too plain and there’s a lack of engagement.

If you are a B2B company, remember the foundation of business is still human. I love what Jack Ma suggests, whether your business market is B2C or B2B, it’s all about P2P, People to People.

I suggest you either add a secondary color that works with the existing blue color or add a set of colors inspired by your market, African HR (Human Resources) professionals. Start with Africa, and its people!

I have mocked the site with photos of real African professionals,  with the same text/content from the current site. Do you see and feel the difference?
talentbase1
talentbase2
talentbase3
talentbase4
talentbase5
talentbase6

Showing the faces of the workforce arouses emotion within your audience, thus establishing trust and loyalty between your audience and your company.

7. Elaborate

“Elaborate” means provide more context and add additional details, which can help others (e.g. your users or investors) to have a better understanding of what your business is.

My Feedback for ChangeJar: ChangeJar is a mobile cash platform optimized for small retail payments.
changejar-logo

The width of the logo type and the symbol in the current logo looks a bit too thin, especially when it’s being scaled into a smaller size. It’s hard to see. Keep “change” in white, but change “jar” to green.

Also, add a dollar sign or currency symbol in the logo. At the moment the logo only conveys the notion of a jar, but it doesn’t indicate money. Adding a money symbol will help your audience subconsciously digest what your company (a payments provider) does. As you scale internationally, change the currency symbol. You can already create multiple mockups with a dollar “$” sign, pound “£”, euro “€”, and Japanese or Chinese sign “¥”, etc.

I mocked up the above suggestions below:
changejar_after

If you want, you can even animate it with the different currencies, like this:
changejar-logo-animated

To summarize, here are the 7 Design Thinking Tips to Improve Your Growth Rate:

1. Integrate: 
Combine marketing message with effective visual content
2. Manifest: Make your message clear and obvious to the mind
3. Portray:
Depict your product / service vividly, let it come to life
4. Reuse:
Re-apply visual elements to achieve visual consistency
5. Organize: 
Categorize content by color to help users read & remember better
6. Visualize: 
Use visuals to engage and establish emotional connections
7. Elaborate: Provide context to help users understand your business better

And if you are paying close attention, you will notice the initials of each tips make the word “IMPROVE” (I know, so nerdy 🤓 right? But admit it, this just made your day!)

💰🦄🔑

500 Batch 22 begins July 24th, 2017 in San Francisco.

Click Here to apply for our the Batch 22 Seed Program.

 

See also:

7 Marketing Secrets from 500 Startups Demo Days
7 Design Hacks to Improve Your Startup Logo Designs


yiyinglu-profile-square

Yiying Lu is award-winning bilingual (English & Chinese) artist and designer. Born in Shanghai China, Educated in Sydney Australia & London UK, now based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, she currently is a Design Lecturer at the NYU Shanghai Program on Creativity & Innovation. She is also an individual creative consultant who provides talks & workshops for global startups and corporate innovation teams on design thinking, entrepreneurship & creativity. Her projects have been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, Forbes, NBC News, TIME, CNN, BBC, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch, Mashable, and The Huffington Post. She was named a “Top 10 Emerging Leader in Innovation” in the Microsoft Next 100 series. For more from Yiying, you can follow her on TwitterLinkedin and Medium.