Paul Graham on Growth Hacking

Paul Graham

The auspicious Paul Graham, in his How to Start a Startup course lecture #3, said:

“Whenever you hear anyone talk about ‘growth hacks,’ just mentally translate it in your mind into ‘bullshit’.”

This remark harried a few growth hackers, but I think for the most part, he’s right. Lots of people who talk about growth hacking have no idea what they’re talking about. Or they’re trying to sell you on a get-rich-quick scheme.

But notice how Paul said “growth hacks” not “growth hacking.” I think PG is simply trying to dispel the idea of silver bullet tactics, not insulting what we do as marketers.

I’m sure if someone interviewed Paul and asked him, “Do you tell your companies to do split testing, test different traffic channels, and experiment with their on-boarding and referral flows?” He’d say, “Hell yes.”

It’s just semantics. This is no different than saying Agile is bullshit. Or Lean is bullshit.

For those of you that do believe that growth hacking is completely useless, I’d encourage you to read my essay Growth Hacking = People + Process. Hopefully it’ll renew your perspective on this overhyped concept, because there is tremendous value in hiring the right people to do systematic marketing experiments aimed at increasing your company’s growth.

Growth hacking works. And if you’re too cynical to look past the hype and see the value in the underlying process, then you’re just shooting in the dark.