Growth Hacking: What is it? We go Back to Basics.10 min read

If you don't know what Growth Hacking is, you're already several steps behind!

What is Growth Hacking?

It’s a term that’s been sweeping the nation.

And if you’re in the marketing industry, Growth hacking isn’t something you can ignore, even when there’s direct proof of its popularity.

Where did the term “Growth Hacking” come from?

The term was coined by Sean Ellis back in 2010 and many field experts have already shared their stances on this topic.

But there’s a wave of future growth hackers, growth marketers, technical marketers to be, all asking “What is Growth Hacking?”.

This is your introduction to Growth Hacking.

We have entered a new era.

An era where walls between data analysis, coding and marketing have dissolved.

An era where large marketing campaigns have been replaced by a mindset of smaller experiments and incremental testing.

An era where marketers are much more technical and analytical and no longer depend on developers.

Welcome to the age of Growth Hacking.

Now… what exactly is Growth Hacking?

A Wikipedia page will tell you that it’s “a process of rapid experimentation across a range of marketing channels to identify the most effective ways to grow a business.”

Although definitely true, Growth Hacking is so much more…

Growth Hacking is a mindset. A skillset. An approach. A strategy. A vision.

Here’s a list of Growth Hacking material to get you started:

But the biggest Growth Hacking WOW moments come from hearing the success stories.

Famous Growth Hacking Case Studies


Airbnb is the go-to Growth Hacking example. It’s a story about true hustlers who didn’t mind getting their hands dirty and created one of the most famous travel platforms in the world.

In a nutshell, what started as a ‘bed and breakfast on air mattresses’ model grew into a legacy that even the Hilton Hotels chain can be envious of.

Airbnb’s Growth Hacking story

Airbnb is famous for many things, one of them being creating election-themed breakfast cereal and selling it at convention parties during the Obama/McCain race to raise some initial capital… that was Hustle 101, but let’s not focus too much on it.

The “hack” that they’re most famous for is the way they reverse engineered Craigslist. Back in 2010, Airbnb found a way to hack the giant platform to make use of Craigslist’s customers.

They built a bot that redirected people viewing apartment listings on Craigslist to Airbnb.

The result? Intense traction = staggering growth.

Was this ethical? Probably not… Extremely smart? Absolutely! Check out their full story here.

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Udemy is another example of a Growth Hacking case study.

With over 30000+ educational videos and 7 million students worldwide, Udemy is one of the world’s largest online educational platforms.

However, their success didn’t come immediately, as the startup struggled greatly during its growth stage. They couldn’t find teachers to upload videos and therefore couldn’t attract students to watch.

So, how did they go about overcoming this hurdle?

Simply, they decided to scrape thousands of educational videos from YouTube and host them on Udemy. Quite a similar story to AirBnB actually.

Visitors got drawn in by this, which motivated teachers to begin uploading their own videos on Udemy. This is how their journey turned into a growth hacking success story.

Listen to this interview with the founder of Udemy, Gagan Biyani, to learn the full Growth Hacking story.

What do these Growth Hacking stories have in common?

  1. They used OPNs: ‘Other People’s Networks’, to grow. Udemy used YouTube, Airbnb used Craigslist and Dropbox used their customer’s personal networks.
  2. The ratio of their success represented 80% best practices and 20% subversiveness. As Alistair Croll puts it “Most big successes have a little bit of evil in them”.
  3. They were carried out by people with skills, which most digital marketers didn’t have: web scraping, coding and rapid experimentation.

Three years from now, it will be the norm for marketers to have these powers.

And speaking of what makes a Growth Hacker…


The Personality of a Growth Hacker

The skillset of a growth hacker is powerful. We call them T-shaped players:

  • 20% of the knowledge of all major skills delivers 80% of output
  • Growth Hackers are usually specialised in 2 / 3 skills (e.g. CRO & Programming) & have vast knowledge across all fields related to technical marketing

Rare people possess these qualities. They’re unique and in high demand. A 1:7 supply/demand ratio, to be exact!

Growth Hacking vs. Digital Marketing: What’s the difference?

Unlike the digital marketer (although this is rapidly changing), a Growth Hacker spreads themselves throughout the entire conversion funnel.

Of course, marketing skills like copywriting, behavioural psychology, A/B testing and channel expertise are still necessary. But tomorrow’s marketer can also throw up a landing page in a few hours, scrape a website to gather data and run some SQL queries to find internal data.

The modern marketer no longer depends on developers to get the job done. The marketer of 2019 and the future is a Growth Hacker.

Why is Growth Hacking important?

  1. Traditional marketing channels are expensive and saturated
  2. Most projects focus heavily on the product, but the real challenge is with distribution
  3. New channels are popping up very rapidly
  4. Acquiring is not enough!! Activation and Retention are key!
  5. It’s all about ROI
  6. It’s not about the tips and tricks. You need a PROCESS.

Processes will differ by all means. There’s no one-for-all solution. “The only way to find great growth engines is to experiment” as our founder, David Arnoux, says.

Growth Hacking is important and we’re not the only ones to say that. Industry experts from around the world acknowledge the new direction and even become devout promoters of it. They recognise the importance of an updated and diverse skill set, the value in the new mindset and the advantage that comes from having a well-oiled machine for a Growth Team.

And speaking of Growth Teams… 

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 Growth Hacking is a team sport

Many entrepreneurs truly believe that they can work as a one-man orchestra. This becomes their downfall in the end.

Their pitfall is thinking that Growth Hacking is a one-man sport. If your company is small, it can be… But growth is nothing, if not a team effort.

The “biggest and baddest” companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and Uber, know this very well… Which is why they are the early adopters of Growth Teams.

Heck, even the automobile industry is jumping on board… According to an article by, Tesla is now building a Growth Team “from scratch” by hiring their first Growth Hackers from Facebook and Uber.

So, how to use Growth Hacking to get ahead?

At this point, you should be convinced that you absolutely need a growth team in your company, but here lies yet another dilemma: which growth team model to opt for?

Yes, there are different models and choosing the right one will ensure your company’s growth.

As Andrew McInnes writes in his article, after interviewing 20 growth VPs, his team came identified two types of growth team models: the Independent Model and the Functional Model.

The Independent Model, which is used at Uber and Facebook, comes in 2 versions:

In our interview with Nilan Peiris, the VP of Growth at TransferWise, we found out that this Fintech startup structures its growth teams around KPIs. Basically, they discovered that all their customers care about is for the product to be cheap, fast and easy to use. So they formed Growth Teams around these three things – their main KPIs.

Although this is an unconventional model, TransferWise’s success clearly indicates that it’s working for them. You can find more Growth Team forming tips from Nilan in our blog post How To Imprint Growth Into Your Company’s DNA.

At the end of the day, growth hacking isn’t about forming growth teams. It’s about building a growth-oriented culture in your company.

To quote an article by Kissmetrics, “…a growth-oriented culture comes through sharing of results, getting people vested in the process, and making growth and analysis a regular part of the culture, language, and behaviour of the company.”

In other words: everyone should keep their eyes on the prize!

In the words of our founder:

“Growth hacking is to the startup world, what the assembly line was to the industrial world. A revolution that just makes sense.”

Want to become a marketer of the future?

Want to bring your company to the next level?

Discover our Growth Hacking, A.I. for marketing and blockchain courses here.

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