Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the main things that are killing your growth in your startup.

Growing a startup can seem complex but it doesn’t have to be. There are several things that a you can do that could kill the growth of your startup and knowing what these things are will help you grow your startup to new heights .

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten share some address some of the most common factors and thing founders do that kills or slows down the growth of their startup.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:43 The reason this topic was chosen.

02:51 One of the big reasons startups grow slowly.

03:52 Another big reason that kills startup growth.

05:01 A story about Grammarly.

06:11 Why you shouldn’t be afraid to do the things that are right.

08:04 How Hiten and his team did user testing on Grammarly website.

09:36 Hiten’s thoughts on the simplicity of homepages.

11:38 How to go from non-data driven to data driven.

3 Key Points:

  • If you can’t measure it, are you really doing it?
  • Your homepage should have a double digit conversion rate.
  • If your product can be valuable to a user within minutes of them signing up, you have an obligation to get them to that value as fast as possible.


Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli: In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about the main things that are killing your growth in your start up. The reason why we want to talk about this Hiten is that you just recently were moderating a panel on this very topic with some really amazing growth marketers, right?



Hiten: Yeah, I had three growth marketers on a panel at Drift’s HYPERGROWTH West conference, and the people I had on the panel were a gentleman named Yuriy from Grammarly. He’s been there six and a half years and he’s the head of growth. Then I had Emily who’s from Carta which used to be called eShares, or eShare, I don’t remember, but it’s called Carta. She’s [inaudible] marketing there. Then I had guy named Kamo, who runs a company called Primer. It’s They do a bunch of work with a whole bunch of companies to help them with growth. Specifically around paid acquisition in Facebook and Google, etc. I chose those three people mainly because I think they all give a different perspective. So Grammarly is a B to C company, Carta is a B to B company for the most part, and then with Primer, Kamo sees all kinds of thing around, from B to B to B to C, to market places, he’s worked with Lift and Uber and many other different companies. That’s the panel of the panelist and the title, like you said is “What’s Killing Your Growth?”



Steli: The reason why wanted to talk about this on The Startup Chat was that I came to the conference a little bit after the panel, so I missed the panel, was super bumped about it, but I saw an insane amount of responses. People really were sharing the three things I learned that is killing your start up right now. People were enjoying it, and getting a ton of value, and the audience was primarily marketers. A lot of marketers. I felt like, let’s just take the best tid bits and the biggest ah ha moments and share it with our audience as well.



Hiten: Yeah, and I had some interesting questions like, tell us a story of when the business or the product was not growing. What did you do? I asked them what the number one that kills growth, that they told other people is for them. And the number one trend that these folks have seen around growth. Ill just lay out some of the conclusions or thoughts or whatever that came out of it. I think one of the big ones was, Emily mentioned when she joined Carta, she wanted to start just doing a bunch of tactical marketing things. What she realized is that they didn’t have any measurement framework in place. They didn’t even have sales force set up properly. If she drove leads, or her and her team drove leads, and she started doing, and she started doing any of those initiatives, that have paid acquisition or SEO, and really started getting more out of it, that they’ll be able to measure it. If you can’t measure it, then are you really doing it? That’s what I would say. I think that was a good one for her, which is getting the framework in place, getting the data in place, getting the analytics in place, getting the measurement in place so that she could actually what the outcomes benefits impacts are [inaudible] of what’s she’s doing is. Then, Kamo said one that’s interesting in the end, or the talk that I should share, which basically, when it came to what’s the number one thing killing growth that he tells people, he said you home page. I think lot of what he said had to do with how there’s these big, long homepage’s with all this information. Is that really solving for the majority of people that are coming to your site or are you trying to just appease every single question someone might have about your product, right on your homepage? I think what he really believes in is that your homepage should have a good double digit conversation rate to a lead or a sign up, whatever it is that your product does. Double digits meaning 10, 20, 30 percent. He didn’t say this, but I’ve spent time with him to know that’s how he think about it. When you have all this extraneous things like navigation, too much information, you’re getting away from what people are there to do, which is try it out, get to the next step. These homepages are preventing people from doing that, because they’re built out of compromises. Compromises to solve for every question that any customer might have, when most customers just want to come, and actually just get started, just get going on most sites, and we get in their way. That was the homepage one. I think, one of the things that I really appreciated about Yuriy, was a story he talked about Grammarly. When he joined the company, it was a four paid company. Which means that they only had paid plans. They didn’t have a free plan or anything like that. Now Grammarly is used by millions and millions of people, and they have a massive free plan. They have a Chrome extension, which they didn’t have before. The thing that really shed light to me about with him is, they really, when he came in, they really thought through what do we want to be? How do we want to do this? And really went for changing the business. All the way from the product to the customer base, and even the way that the products are delivered to customers in order to capitalize on the opportunity ahead of them. They also were just a very, very specific grammar checker at the time. Where you downloaded software [inaudible] on the web and you paste it, your content in there, then they really flipped it and made it a lot slicker. If you use Grammarly today, it’s just the Chrome extension. They have a desktop App and other things too, but you plug it in and it gives you super powers when you’re writing. I think that they key there was, don’t be afraid to do the things that are right. Don’t be afraid to go after the bigger addressable market. He said that this allowed them to expand their TAM, which is a total addressable market for the business, and that was a big deal. He also said that that was challenging to do, but they knew it was the right thing. I think that that’s another big one that I took away too.



Steli: That’s beautiful because it points to the thinking … Growth not just being a marketing function, but thinking about growth from an entire company perspective. From, what is it that we’re trying to accomplish with the vision here? What is our total addressable market that we’re going after, and how do we create … They created a much different user and then customer experience ad journey than they had before, which probably was much shorter pathway that they had put in place in terms of coming to the site, and then deciding we’re going to buy the product or not. Am I going to use it a very specific way, versus now, they’re going after a huge amount of people. They allow for a much longer journey, and much more granular journey with their product.



Hiten: Exactly.



Steli: That’s cool stuff. You know the whole … I remember there was a time, I feel like where there was a lot written about … Oh wait, before I even go there, let me quickly ask you, I know that you had done a super detailed, a super valuable breakdown on user onboarding with Grammarly. You guys did a tear down of Grammarly’s user onboarding.



Hiten: Yeah, we did a user testing on a few sites, including Grammarly.



Steli: If people want to see the Grammarly one, because I thought that that was one of the most fascinating ones that you did, what do they have to … What is it you rather … What would they have to type in to Google to find [crosstalk]



Hiten: I never posted it online, so you’re going to have to email me I still need to, cause those are really good. I taught people how to do user testing through Grammarly, Mixmax and Duolingo. We went through onboarding, and just tore it down because we watched video’s of people going through it, and asked them a bunch of questions and all that. You’d have to email me, and ill definitely send you that, but yeah, you’re right, that was some fun stuff.



Steli: All right, beautiful. The thing that I wanted to ask about the website, and what he just had mentioned with the website is trying to give information about anything and everything. Answer all possible questions that somebody could possibly have, verus just solving for the number one problem they have when they come to your site and keeping things simple. I remember there was a trend and a time were a lot was written about having a homepage that has as little links as possible, other than the one actually you want people to take, which is probably to sign up for a trial or something of that nature. And how these long websites with tons of menu items and tons of content, how they were performing much poorer than these almost singular focused landing pages that just had one big button. There was a trend where a lot of, even big companies had super, super simple websites. I think what I’ve noticed in the past two or three years, is that there’s a trend against that again. It’s very rare that I go to a website of any kind of sized company that is hyper focused and super simple, and doesn’t have a lot of menu and link items in the footer or the top left, or something like that. What’s your reading on that, the simplicity of the website and trends in what you’re seeing there?



Hiten: We just swing back and forth. We just swing back and forth. The reason is people put out a bunch of experiments they run and you realize that less stuff is better for a conversion rate. Then, all of a sudden if a site has that, new people come on or whatever, then you turn it into a … Honestly becomes internally a game of compromise, to make multiple stakeholders or teams happy with having more and more stuff on the marketing site. These days, I’m very much opposed to that and very focused on something that I call going back to basics, which is, the basic thing is that, that used to work, it still works. In fact, having a simpler site and really focused on the one goal that people could have on it, really helps you increase your conversions. Here’s the thing, if your product can be valuable in a short amount of time with people within minutes of them signing up, you have an obligation to get that customer, that visitor to your site to that value, as fast as possible. All this crap on your website is getting in the way of that.



Steli: Yeah, beautiful. Now let me ask you, let’s quickly touch on the analytics part. Not being data driven, not having numbers as being one of the main reasons that could kill your growth. I think a lot of times people are paralyzed at how to approach this topic. Especially for companies or start ups that have been around for a minute. We’re not talking about clean slates, day one. We’re talking about, you’ve been around for a year or so. There’s a ton of things that you’re using, but you don’t have really good grasp on your data. So, either you as a founder want to something about it, or you’re hiring a marketing person, and that person wants to do something about it. Any best tips on how to go from, let’s say non data driven to data driven. How to clean house and how to approach this again in a way that’s not too overwhelming and all encompassing-



Hiten: Yeah, I just … I don’t see enough people audit what they’re already doing. What are you already doing? What tools do you have in place? How can you get … It’s really simple, how do you get more utility out of that? Focus on what you already have, and figure out how to get more out of it, out of whatever tools you’re already using. You’re probably using Google analytics. Are you tracking conversions using Google analytics? Probably not. Just start with the basics. The basics there are look at what already implemented and have on your site. Then start figuring out how to more use out of it. Integrate more … Task more data in, or start looking at the reports more. Those are basically the two things you do in analytics. Task more data and look at the reports, and ideally take action based on it. I think just start with where you’re at. Where you’re at is you have a bunch of tools on your site, are you utilizing them? Have you integrated them well enough? If you haven’t, then just do more of that first.



Steli: Beautiful. Any other things that came up as growth killers during the-



Hiten: No, that was honestly the highlights. There’s more content stuff that, and people were tweeting, but at the end of the day those were the things that really stood out to me. I think that, even just asking the question, what’s killing your growth could probably be pretty valuable for most companies out there.



Steli: Beautiful. All right. Ask yourself what is killing our growth right now? That’s it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.



Hiten: See ‘ya.