Alistair Croll on Lean Analytics and Growth Hacking


Lean Analytics

Don’t sell what you can make, make what you can sell.

First product: a tool to learn what you should’ve built in the first place.

We’re all liars.

Most startups don’t know what they’ll be when they grow up. (e.g. Flicker)

Analytics can help. Measurement of movement towards your business goals.

Purpose: iterate to product/market fit before the money runs out.

A Good Metric:

  • Comparative
  • Understandable
  • Ratio / Rate
  • Behavior-changing (most important)

Metrics make you know yourself.

Acquisition-oriented versus Loyalty-oriented.

  • Qualitative / Quantitative Exploratory / Reporting
  • Cohort / Segment / AB Test / Multivariate Analysis

Must learn to look at data properly. Don’t drag yourself down with the past.

Eric’s three engines of growth:

  • Stickiness
  • Virality
  • Price

Dave’s Pirate Metrics: Acquisition -> Activation -> Retention -> Revenue -> Referral.

Virality before revenue: cuts down the amortized cost for each customer.

Prepaid problem: months before you find out that customers are gone. Trick: send out emails some time after subscription. (would you like to cancel model)

Business model diagram.

Focus is hard to achieve. Find one metric that matters.

Drawing some lines in the sand. Not knowing what normal is makes you do stupid things.


  • 5-7% weekly growth
  • 10% visitor engagement/day
  • 2-5% monthly churn: last-ditch appeals and reactivation
  • Calculate customer lifetime: CAC under 1/3 of CLV

Lean Analytic Cycle:

  • Change the line in the sand only when the customers allow you to do so.
  • Instinct: with data, find commonality; without data, good guess.

AirBnB case with professional photography:

  1. gut instinct (hypothesis)
  2. candidate solution (MVP)
  3. measure the results
  4. make a decision

Circle of Friends case study.

Data-driven iteration.

Growth Hacking


  1. Use people and technology to increase a key metric in your business (by automation)
  2. Optimize a factor you think is correlated with growth
  3. Data-driven learning + Subversiveness + Guerrilla marketing

Not about building things, but people caring about what you build.

We pay attention to interesting things.

Lagging / Leading Metric Correlation / Causality

Growth hacking demystified: Pick a metric to change -> Find correlation -> Test causality -> Optimize the causal factor

Growth “hacking” is making a system to do something it wasn’t supposed to do. (e.g. LinkedIn API, early day AirBnB and Craiglist, Airport baggage delivery system)

A vision that obvious in hindsight + Take baby steps to get there.

How not to Fail

Why businesses die:

  1. Incompetence
  2. Lack of managerial experience
  3. Lack of industry experience

An entrepreneur is (maybe) not a founder. The goal is to discover a new business model in an uncertain environment. Learning trumps planning. A startup is an organization desgined to search for a sustainable repeatable business model.

Degrees of uncertainty: Market with unmet need -> Job to be done -> Business diagram -> Business model -> Business plan

Early on, growth is everything. Need customers to keep learning. Also a substitute for solvency.

Three currencies of the Internet: Reputation, Attention, and Money. Startup success is often about your exchange rate between the three.

Business model – keep it simple. Start with the customer journey. Job to be done.


  • Hacker + Hustler + Designer + Analyst
  • Product CEO / Sales CEO / Finance CEO 5-minute favor.

Your growth problem is probably a marketing problem.

Message map. Like a funnel.

People do things because they want to get laid, paid, made, or afraid.

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