y conbinator主办了一次 讲座 ，演讲人Chamath Palihapitiya在facebook早期增长小组的筹建和现任COO的引进中都扮演了比较重要的角色。
Let’s talk about growth. Everyone asks me because this is what everyone wants to know, it’s like what was the secret, it’s almost as if we’re the NSA and we’ve developed something and nobody knows, or some secret backroom negotiations between us and government. It’s none of that shit. We did three really obvious brain dead things and the reality was we lacked enough self-awareness and ego to frankly just continue to do these very simple things over and over and over again, repetitively, monotonously to a point where every time we used to see things move in one direction or another we would either keep doing them or stop doing them and not second guess ourselves.
I tell people, “You know, look, we actually just looked at a lot of data, we measured a lot of stuff, we tested a lot of stuff, and we tried a lot of stuff.” Now that masks over a lot of more nuanced understanding but at an extremely high level that’s really what we did. What’s shocking to me is when I see a lot of products out there it’s unbelievable to me that people are trying to shroud products in this veneer of complexity that makes themselves seem like so good and so smart and, “I’m this fucking hipster,” and, “I’m riding the Muni in San Francisco,” and, “Look at my Oolong green tea that I bought organically,” and, “Look at these rip tight skinny jeans that I bought.”
It’s like you’ve got to get over yourself. Measure some shit. Try some shit. Test some more shit. Throw the stuff that doesn’t work. It’s not that complicated. I see app after app after app and I get inundated. When I download and I try them I’m like, “Did you even spend eight seconds using your own product?” It’s unbelievable the lack of dogfooding that happens.
So most people when they think about growth they think it’s this convoluted thing where you’re trying to generate these extra normal behaviors in people. That’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is a very simple elegant understanding of product value and consumer behavior. When you shroud yourself and all the bullshit veneer, and this is the single biggest problem in the valley today, you will miss the mark.
The problem is we’re in this massive long tail where you’ve had these seminal huge successes occur and now you have all these people who have two choices and they’re extremely difficult choices. Choice number one is you do what you think is right, independent of what the external feedback tells you. Choice number two is you do what you read about, and what you get credit for, and what people tell you is interesting. That second-class of things destroys products and it destroys people’s ability to build something interesting.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job if that specific set of values isn’t imbued in what you’re building. You will fail and it doesn’t matter. Right now that is the one most important thing that if you’re going to leave away with this is just don’t believe the hype and the bullshit that we’re in right now.
How do we do this? We didn’t even come up with this framework. A guy worked for me. I’m not going to say who it is because I was literally like nine times I was going to fire this numb skull. Once he came to me and said, “Chamath at eBay we had this framework.” EBay, this is 2000. I’m like, “EBay, eBay sucks. What can I learn from eBay?” He said, “Well, we had this framework we used at eBay.” We tweaked it a little bit and what I realized was, “Oh my gosh, you know, there’s this massive amount of complexity when expressed in simplicity can be extremely useful.”
The tweaks that we made, eBay is a different product and eBay now is a wonderful company doing really, really well. What? Come on, it’s doing really well. Was we created a framework in which we applied those three very simple principles of measuring, testing, and trying things. We said, “Okay, the biggest risk that we had is we’d alienate the people that trust us today and use the product.” When you alienate someone what happens is it’s actually not palatable generally in top level metrics but there’s just this extremely long tail.
Anecdotally you can look at companies, and not to pick on HP as an example, but you look at HP. You’re signaling me? 10 minutes? I have 10 minutes left? Jesus Christ, okay. You ask yourself. I know Meg Whitman. She’s actually a really great CEO. So what happened? Well, there’s no product innovation right now and we have to figure out where their growth comes from. When you trace that thing back it’s a decision that was made maybe five or six years ago when it was all about cutting costs and optimizing for structure revenue. So you realize, “Okay, well that’s the long tail. That’s how long it takes these things to manifest.”
Similarly my biggest fear was we spam our users and we trick them and it will alienate these people. You won’t see it today but you’ll see in three years from now or four years from now, and it accelerates when you compound that with a competitor who actually builds a better product that doesn’t alienate people. The most important thing that we did against our framework was I teased out virality and said you cannot do it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t touch it. I don’t want you to give me any product plans that revolve around this idea of virality. I don’t want to hear it.
What I want to hear about is the three most difficult and hard problems that any consumer product has to deal with. How to get people on the front door? How to get them to an “Aha” moment as quickly as possible? And then how do you deliver core product value as often as possible? After all of that is said and done only then can you propose to me how you are going to get people to get more people. That single decision about not even allowing the conversation to revolve around this last thing in my opinion was the most important thing that we did.
When I look again in the landscape, things that scale understand that principle, whether it’s explicitly or intuitively, and things that don’t and also things that have this amazingly steep rise and then fall off a cliff and there are really visible examples of that today also ignore that principle. It’s the discipline to not optimize for the thing that gives you the shortest and most immediate ROI because that is never the sustainable thing that allows you to build something useful.
So when you boil that all up the most important two high-level takeaways that we had and after all of this stuff was we got to eliminate ego. Ego manifests itself every day. I talked about it earlier. It’s the ego of basically living a lifestyle and a vision and like a Twitter stream than it is actually like living the life of an entrepreneur building good product and trying to deliver core product value. That takes ego, meaning you have to be comfortable not being rewarded in the short term.
Then the second is to invalidate all the lore. In any given product there’s always people who strut around the office like, “You know, I have this gut feeling. It’s all about gut feeling.” Most people with gut feeling are fucking morons. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They just don’t. If we lived on gut feeling you can look at what happens when you live on gut feeling. Look at the financial markets, look at how government works, look at how all of these industries that are completely broken. Gut feel is not useful because most people can’t predict correctly. We know this.
One of the most important things that we did was just invalidate all of the lore. As much as we didn’t do stuff all we did was disprove all of the random anecdotal nonsense that filtered around the company. “Well I think it’s this, and people are using it because of that, and I want do this.” It’s like, “Where did you pull that out of?” You know where they pulled it out of. Again, you want to do it, to go back and reinforce a sense of ego.
A lot of people don’t have a culture within a company that allows these two things to happen. If you can’t be extremely clinical and extremely unemotionally detached from the thing that you’re building you will make these massive mistakes and things won’t grow because you don’t understand what’s happened.
It takes a really special type of person to not believe the bullshit, and an even more special person to not conflate luck and skill. You have to be, if you’re in this type of job in my opinion, relatively cynical. You can be confident. Fuck, you can be arrogant, it doesn’t really matter. But you can’t believe your own BS, because when you do you start to compound these massively structural mistakes that again don’t expose core product value and then don’t allow real engagement and real product value to emerge. You don’t listen to consumers because you think it’s all about your gut. You don’t bother doing any of the traditional straightforward obvious things that would allow you to answer very straightforward obvious questions, and you lose yourself.
Most people unfortunately just don’t know what they’re talking about. I hate this letter. This letter is the dumbest letter in the alphabet. You people are doing more when you focus on this to ruin the internet for the entire human race. Don’t talk about this anymore. Just stop. Talk about being in the weeds and not understanding what you’re doing. There’s no context when you talk about this. None whatsoever. You are spammers, and spamming is pathetic, and it ruins the experience. Don’t do it.
We never talked about this once. It never came up once. I didn’t have some little guy tickling the ivories on his little Excel spreadsheet, telling me what k values were. Tell me how I’m acquiring people, tell me how we’re doing getting them into their “Aha” moment, and tell me core engagement.
Don’t give me these low-level abstractions that allow you to validate, get short term results in ROI that don’t mean anything. Don’t focus on things that destroy long term value. Don’t give me stuff that allows you to trick yourself into thinking you know what you’re talking about. I’d rather you say you don’t know and I’d rather us to figure stuff out together.
What I don’t want to have happen is a culture where you take these short term things, you start working on it in the absence of context, and you have these meteoric rises and what you have is massive turn fall off and everyone’s looking around with their hands in the pockets thinking, “Well, what just happened. I thought I was doing a really great job.” You’re not doing a really great job. You optimized a variable. Now there maybe somebody on your team that should be doing that, but they should be doing that in the context of something much more important. So you destroy a lot of value when you abstract away that high-level goal to something so ridiculously stupid.
I’m raining on everybody’s parade today. Core product value is really allusive and most products don’t have any. I actually fundamentally believe that. But I also believe that most products can have some value. So when you put those two things together, again you go back to the discipline of do you really know what your building and why? Do you really understand how to marry things that maybe non intuitive for people, but really are the important things that people need?
I remember when we were launching in Asia. We created a team. The history of Facebook just very quickly. I started Facebook. My team launched Facebook platform, huge success. Then we do this big deal with Microsoft, we raise a huge round. At the tail end of that around it’s like, “Oh, we’re going to launch a bunch of ad products to validate this valuation, and we’re going to do all this stuff.” My team goes out and we built three products.
Again, talk about conflating luck and skill. I had all these people, all of our best guys working on this product with me which we called Socialize and [Beak 17:15]. Then we had another thing doing sponsored stories, and then we had another team focused on an online self-service ad product. Most of the resources in mindshare, none of the resources in mindshare. Eight people our best engineers, product managers two people.
Fast-forward to today, all of the revenue, billions of dollars, scaling inordinately, lawsuits. FTC suing us. People telling me on the New York Times I lied about how cross-site scripting worked. I’m not going to lie about cross-site scripting to the New York Times. New York Times, okay, guy, I mean really? That’s I’m going to lie to you guys about? So stupid. It just goes to show you at that point we were seeing this what looked like monotonically negative growth and we’re like, “Oh my god, what’s happening?” That’s like 25, 30 million people. We came up with this idea, “Okay, we’re going to focus on growth.” We went created a team.
As part of that we said, “We’re going to internationalize, we’re going to launch, and we’re just going to go everywhere all over the world.” Again, we dogfooded our own product and we used Facebook platform to create this crowdsourcing translation which was really successful. But long story short we get to Japan, Korea, and it’s a constant refrain. I go around the valley. I talk to some folks who have done this before, the guys at Yahoo, the guys at Google, the guys at eBay, just to get a sense of how did you think about it. All these people had the same answer. “Well, we take these MBA’s who really want to live on an expat package and we send them out there.” You’re just like, “Okay, well that’s not the right answer.”
First thing we did was we hired only native people in those native markets. I had these guys trying to be, “I have an MBA from Harvard. You know, I really want to spend time.” I’m like, “Get the fuck out of my office. Go to ba.com buy a ticket, get out of my face. You’re not going to travel on the company dime.”
But you hire all these people natively. We had this amazing guy that we hired in Japan. [Inaudible 19:11] said, “You know, it’s really important to actually have specific elements of the profile be different because in Japan the culture dynamic is different.” We said, “Well, what does that mean to you?” He said, “Well maybe it means you know, putting your blood type on the profile.” You’re like, “That makes no sense.”
But it makes no sense to us. But it makes sense to him. So we developed this flexibility where were like, “Okay, well, maybe the connections we’re trying to make in that market are a little too allusive.” This product that worked here just didn’t have any context here.
You would say, “Well, Facebook has clear product value,” but in Japan at the time it didn’t.So having the courage to reset and redefine what it means in any given market again takes a lot of courage. We did it, and now it’s massively scaling. Then all of the sudden the light bulb goes off and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s like we don’t know what we don’t know.” In every single market people react differently, they behave differently, they speak different languages. Guess what, Spanish is not Spanish. Maybe they know that. Five minutes. I got it. I’m on it.
The point is even when you think something works it probably doesn’t work for everyone, and finding a framework that allows you to actually restructure and reorganize the things that you’re doing to expose value in different ways to different people in different situations is an extremely important thing. Again, it goes back to how do you live in a world where you’re willing to redefine and reset the things that are independent of what the short term feedback loop is telling you. It’s a very difficult proposition.
We knew we were going to beat MySpace when we had 45 million users. They had 115 million. We just knew. We used to just like, “That was not what we celebrated.” We celebrated at 45 million. It was like a high five. We’re like, “All right, let’s get back to work.” The reason was because we had started to do enough things right where we could just see now we understood what we’re doing. After all the testing, all the iterating, all of this stuff, you know what the single biggest thing we realized? Get any individual to seven friends in 10 days. That was it. You want a keystone? That was our keystone. There’s not much more complexity than that.
There’s an entire team now, hundreds of people that have helped ramp this product to a billion users based on that one simple rule. So if you were looking for a lot of complexity I couldn’t give it to you. But we were able to reframe the entire experience around that one simple premise, a very simple elegant statement of what it was to both capture core product value, to define what it meant to be able to onboard into a product that allowed you to communicate, to get into a network, to find density, and then to basically iterate around that.
Then what we did at that company was we talked about nothing else. Every Q&A, every all hands nothing was spoken about other than this. Monetization didn’t really come up. Platform came up but again in a secondary or tertiary context. But it was the single sole focus. But because we had defined it in this very elegant way that expressed it as a function of product value it was something that everyone could intrinsically wrap their arms around.
Again another reason why focusing on abstracting growth down to these low-level things is not right. The person that runs growth on any team has to be strategic and capable enough to engage on the core strategy of the product. Because then you allow yourself to up level the conversation and have it become the most important framework in which you organized an entire company, how equity is given, how expenses are generated, how things are focused on, who gets hired, who gets fired.
But when you understand core product value and then you could basically pivot around it and create these loops that expose that over and over and over again this becomes the most important and obvious thing to do. In the few companies that I help now with this context, when they do that and when it’s the CEO or when it’s the cofounder who are living in that world and living in this context they’ve consistently systematically every single one has been successful, every single one of them.
I’ve also meet a lot of people who ask all these questions. They’re like, “Hey, I’d love to really …” I meet them and they’re kind of d-bags. They’re like way too quantish and way too passive aggressive and a little agro. It reminds me of something that’s actually again a lot more important than the short term ability for people to focus on short term results, which is in this battle between culture and capability culture wins every time. What you value is really what you achieve. So when you see these companies again today that had these massive apexes like rocket ship growth and now some are public and now are going through just unbelievable wrenching, gut-wrenching change, negative spiraling turn downwards, what you realize is that’s not a growth problem, although it seems numerically a growth problem. What that is is a product value and culture problem.
When you’re focused on again K K K K K K K. Well, not KKK but you get the point. Another reason why K sucks, right? I mean use it three times you’re racist, like Jesus. But the point is that’s the type of stop that always comes back and it gets you. To short term optimization it never works. You have to work backwards from what is the thing that people are here to do, what is the “Aha” moment that they want? Why cannot they give that to them as fast as possible? Measuring that in days is unrealistic. Measuring it in hours is unrealistic. Measuring it in minutes is necessary but not sufficient. But like, “How do you get that to seconds? How do you get that to hundreds of milliseconds?” That’s how you win.
If you even can’t understand what the thing does optimizing all of this stuff over time I think it just creates these really bad crappy companies that all they do is just spam and destroy the internet for everybody else.
To this end this is really what I want to leave you with, which is you probably expected a bunch of formulas and stuff. You have to really understand this. Go back to that first slide, detached, egoless, focused on what’s important, not living the hype, not trying to follow some lifestyle, but doing what you think is important, focusing on core value, ruthlessly prioritizing, and getting people who believe in these things. These are the values that we originally wrote in terms of how we recruit.
Again, it may seem like a crazy thing but for all the CEOs here all of you people should be writing this down. This is how you should recruit. It worked for us. I give this to every single company I invest in. It works for most of them. These are things that in my mind are so obvious, blindingly glaringly obvious. People make mistakes around these things all the time.
A very high IQ, self-explanatory, a strong sense of purpose are people that will not buckle under short term pressure, a relentless focus on success just so competitive that you will do whatever it takes to win, aggressive and competitive people who always respect the person but constantly challenge the idea, a high quality bar that borders on perfectionism, just nothing is ever good, you win, something improves by 10 basis points, now it needs to improve by 20 basis points, now it needs to improve by a percent. That living in that world is just a really great dynamic. People who are comfortable taking something that works and saying it doesn’t work here unless just reset start again. It just takes a lot of courage.
When that guy came to me Japan and said, “Hey, I think we need to introduce a blood type,” or our team in Korea came with a bunch of different ideas, or our team in India came up with this really clever way of engaging with Facebook over a phone, you have to be willing to take yourself out of your own biases and find people who are willing to come up with things that again are unconventional, another reason why you can’t live in the bubble that is the valley.
There are too many problems and too many products that are focused on solving the needs of the one percent of the one percent that live here. The reality is there are seven billion people in the world. Most have never even used the PC. Most are coming straight into a world of phones. They’re living in entirely different context, they have completely different socio-economic paradigms, and you have to be able to be sensitive enough to empathize with where they’re coming from.
High integrity I think speaks for itself. It’s really easy to focus on short term results. I just don’t think there’s enough of the long term thinking, being able to take some arrows along the way in the short term because you’re trying to build something for the long term, and having a culture and set of values where that’s rewarded.
A perfect example of this is LinkedIn. Reid Hoffman is an extremely good friend of mine. That is an unbelievable company, built over 10 years 11 years of just working, working, working. Friendster comes out of nowhere. We didn’t panic. MySpace comes out of nowhere. We didn’t panic. Facebook came out of nowhere. We didn’t panic. Just built a great product, we just kept working and working, did not take the short easy way out. You have to respect that because when those guys win they win and they win in scale and they win for a long time.
Surround yourself with good people seems obvious but I see a lot of people who are just not comfortable recruiting people that are better than them. The best thing that I did was recruit four people to my team. My original growth team was James Wang, who was the engineering lead on Facebook platform, Naomi Gleit who was the most tenured employee at Facebook and one of our best product managers, Alex Schultz who is this unbelievable crazy growth guy, and Javier Olivan who ran International for me, and Blake Ross who’s the product manager and also founded FireFox. All of these guys were dramatically better than I was. All I did was enable a framework and create discipline, and they all thrived. The great thing when I left was didn’t miss a beat. That’s really, really a good sign.
Then the last thing is cares about building real value over perception. I like Oolong green tea as much as the next guy. It doesn’t make anything happen. I like skinny jeans too, more on girls than guys but whatever. It doesn’t mean anything. Right now we’re living in a world where you can get distracted by things that don’t matter and the superficiality of how you think things should be done versus the things that need to get done. That takes a lot of courage.