Is Growth the Best Measure of Startup Success?

Startup Growth & Traction
Growth gets a lot of attention in the startup world. A lot of attention. If you Google “startup growth“, you’ll find a plethora of articles, blog posts and tools all suggesting that growth is the most important measure of your startup.

Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, asserts that “The only essential thing is growth“.

In some sense, this attention is well-deserved. But it is often misunderstood and taken out of context.

Growth is, of course, important. Growth is a telling measure of your product/service’s popularity; and, as such, strong growth metrics are invaluable when you’re trying to raise money from investors.

But growth can, and often does, flatter to deceive. And this is something both entrepreneurs and investors should be wary of.

Entrepreneurs need to be careful because “…many founders hurt their companies by focusing on growth too soon“. This is what Sam Altman, the founder of Loopt and President of Y Combinator, wrote in a recent article on the topic of growth.

His reasoning is simple: if you focus too much on early growth and not on actually building a product people love, then at some stage you will encounter the leaky bucket problem where the customers you worked hard to onboard, leave in droves ne’er to return!

But, if you focus on building a great product then you will have better customer retention and, as a result, growth should become increasingly easy as word-of-mouth spreads.

Consider the example of AirBnB who worked and iterated for years before they got the product just right; and then it spread like wildfire because people loved it.

Equally, investors need to be careful because there are often more telling metrics indicating the potential for success of a particular company. An app, for example, may have achieved 100,000 downloads in its first week, but if 95,000 of those users had stopped using the app by the second week, then the impressive early growth suddenly appears deceptive.

So there we have it. Growth should always be important, but it is also important that entrepreneurs and investors espouse a more nuanced attitude to it than believing it to be the ultimate measure of potential and success.

“How to be an Angel Investor” by the founder of Y Combinator and the first SaaS company

Keep calm and be an angel investor

There’s a lot of dross on the internet. Too much of it. Too many people weighing in with half-baked, ill-founded opinions in an attempt to seem like an authority on whatever subject they’ve taken it upon themselves to spout about.

That said, the internet has gone a long way to help ‘democratise’ education; suddenly, people’s horizons have been opened up by the plethora of information available. If you’re bright and motivated, you no longer need a teacher, you can teach yourself with the web as your guide. You just have to be able to sift through garbage to find the gold.

Here I’ve attempted to do this for you. A lot of people like to offer their opinion on the subject of Angel Investing; a lot of people should be more considered. But every now and again it’s nice to get the view of a real authority with a track record in startups and in angel investing. Paul Graham started out as an entrepreneur, founding Viaweb (the first SaaS company) which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998 fora reported $49million. He then founded Y Combinator which has funded over 1000 startups since 2005, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit.

In this essay, he offers his wisdom on how to be an Angel Investor which he describes as “mysterious and complicated” at first but “turns out to be easier than…expected, and also more interesting.”

Well worth a read! Here’s the link: How to be an Angel Investor by Paul Graham

The Best US Startup Accelerators Of 2015

On Tuesday, researchers Yael Hochberg and Susan Cohen released their latest annual rankings of U.S. seed accelerators: picking a top 20 from more than 200 programs that help boost startups. The latest list puts AngelPad in top spot. MuckerLab comes second overall, and Techstars sits in third.