The Growth Loop
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E02 - Yuriy Timen: Lessons from the busiest Growth Advisor in the industry.
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E02 - Yuriy Timen: Lessons from the busiest Growth Advisor in the industry.

Yuriy Timen advised more than 30 startups: Canva, Airtable, Grammarly, Softr, hims, Krisp, Otter.ai and much more.
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A few weeks back, I sat down with Yuriy Timen for a 90-minute chat about Product, Growth, and Leadership.

His energy and the depth of his insights were astonishing.

The episode turned out to be a mini-advising session.

A clear win for you, dear readers and listeners!

My top 10 learnings from the chat:

1 - Don’t rush taking VC Money!

You can bootstrap! It might take 3 to 5 years, growing 30 to 50% YoY, but you can bootstrap to $10M+ ARR. Grammarly bootstrapped to $50M ARR. Moreover, financially healthy growth, proving your unit economics, and Monetization early will turn your startup into a VC hot candy. VCs love that, and you will be able to raise $ at much better terms because your business model will be perceived as less risky.

2 - VCs are a gateway to a talent pool!

No VC money = being locked out of the talent bubble. Why? Candidates don’t value equity in bootstrapped startups simply because there is no pressure to exit. VCs can help threefold. First, add credibility to your startup (think Sequoia or a16z). Second, it makes the liquidity event pressure a real thing. Third, VCs help you access a rockstar talent pool through partners, advisors, etc.

3 - Don’t rush hiring a Growth team!

If you can’t paint a world you want to see for which you think the answer is hiring a growth team, don’t hire a growth team. Don’t hire a growth team if you don’t have a strong hypothesis of where the growth should come from (Channels, PLG, Virality, etc.) or you can’t answer questions with data, or don’t have easily accessible data analytics. And lastly, don’t hire a growth team if you don’t demonstrate a strong PMF.

4 - Growth is a dance!

At early-stage, Series A, you should grow by 20% MoM. You start your Growth journey by focusing on your Activation (= Retention) through your ICP lens and gradually moving away from WoM users. And the more you grow (Acquisition), the more lower-intent users you onboard, so your growth metric drops. At this point, you invest in additional Growth (Retention + Monetization), and PMF works to push the metrics back up. It’s a dance.

5 - SEO is not dead!

Do SEO yourself and save money. See what your competitors are ranking for, and do the same with a twist; don’t go with an agency. It’s a lousy ROI (at least early on). I have 30M+ ARR clients doing SEO in-house, while SEO is the primary acquisition channel, growing it 2X YoY.

6 - Monetize early!

The earlier you monetize, the sooner you will have money to invest in performance marketing. This is why more startups nowadays are going with Trial rather than Freemium. So, once you have PMF and balanced your Activation (Retention), it’s time to invest in Monetization to unblock Paid Acquisition. Don’t wait with Monetization work until your Series B; start early.

7 - Healthy unit economics before Paid!

Doing Performance Marketing at scale before you have the unit economics in place will bankrupt you. You need to make your money at least back. Hence, ensure healthy free-to-paid conversions, renewals, and strong projected LTVs. This is precisely why you need to figure out Retention and Monetization before you scale Performance Marketing.

8 -  Paid is so much simpler nowadays!

Managing Performance Marketing required at least a $1M headcount investment a few years back. Today, I see generalists running $500K paid media on their own across 4 to 5 channels. Ad platforms have become so much easier to use, from automation to AI targeting and creative generation. It’s more of just telling who the users are (by uploading the lookalike), setting the CPA, and the ad platform does the rest. 

9 - Be aware of the 2021 valuation!

Candidates, be aware of bad players pitching their 2024 equity packages based on 2021 valuations. We are at 2024, and the 2021 valuations are anchored in illusion.  It’s a red flag. Those companies will be lucky to grow to those valuations in 5 to 10 years (if at all…). Dear bad player, take the example of Canva, which proactively and publicly lowered its 2021 $50B+ valuation to $26B back in 2023.

10 - Hard skills to groom in 2024!

First, AI, no AI, interpreting data and drawing insights from data by knowing what questions to ask and connecting to business events impacting the underlying metrics is not going anywhere. Second, prompt writing is a thing; generally, it optimizes how we communicate with AI. Lastly, and the most important one, don’t be an asshole. 

Links:

  1. 🟢 Yuriy Timen:

    1. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yuriytimen/

    2. Official Website: https://www.yuriytimen.com/

  2. https://www.recraft.ai/ - Generative AI design tool

  3. https://10web.io/ - Generative AI website builder

  4. https://www.grammarly.com/ - AI writing assistant

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