Announcing #BeyondFounders – Connecting Entrepreneurs in need with Doers indeed.

Announcing - BeyondFounders

As an eco-system builder, I’m always challenged with finding more Founders to contribute or help other early stage Founders. Normally, successful people have very little time to contribute and many a times, there is no formal platform which allows them to engage on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, our eco-system has many fake mentors and founders who know it all 🙁

I have been fortunate to have access to a lot of Founders who are willing to help and share their learnings with early stage, growth stage companies..,but it has always been a challenge to expand this pool.

A couple of months back, Amarpreet Kalkat of Frrole had reached out to me on why most of the iSPIRT activities are focused only around Founders. How do we extend the same by involving some of the team members in a startup to leverage and also contribute back to the eco-system?

Sometime back, I got a call from Laxman Papineni of AppVirality, he came up with a brilliant suggestion on how he as a Founder would like to get more value from the heads of growth, marketing, product, tech from a well established company. I remember one of the Playbook done by Paras ChopraWingify in Delhi on Content marketing, he invited his head of Growth to share their learnings on what worked and what didn’t work for them. Girish Mathrubootham from Freshdesk at SaaSx3 had invited his team to share their learnings and few months back Ankit Oberoi of AdPushUp invited his colleagues to share their learnings on Content Marketing Playbook.

So, I believe there is a lot of knowledge sitting inside a company which is still untapped and the eco-system is yet to leverage that. Thanks to Laxman, who put a working document and has been kind enough to be an early customer for this beta program called #BeyondFounders.

So, What is that we are trying to solve?

If you’re a founder of SaaS company having trouble figuring/building outbound sales channel. It’s not necessary that you have to wait for Girish (Freshdesk) suggestion or mentorship, you can simply talk to the person who is incharge of Outbound sales at Freshdesk. But, how could you find them? That’s what we are gonna solve here.

Let’s just say that you have persistent problems with breaking that glass ceiling of the elusive 1K/10K MRR figure in Sales – and now you fear plateauing from here on. What if someone just showed you that small process refinement in your Sales cycle that could do the trick and turn the tide?

Apart from Sales, we would like to explore areas like Product Management, Operational Excellence, Growth Hacking.

How do we solve this?

BeyondFounders is an initiative to help startup Founders, equipped with a clear vision and a pinpoint challenge, find the right person (Founder or an executive from a fellow successful startup) to solve their burning problems.

For example: A startup founder with $10K MRR finding it hard to build the right sales process and team to scale further, is looking for an advice from Founder/Head of Sales at a successful startup who have reached $100K MRR.

The Mechanics of #BeyondFounders

How does this work? – Entrepreneurs-in-need fill a detailed form about themselves, their startup, stage they are at, challenges they face, who would they want to talk to (if any preference, so we can request them), etc.

Is this FREE? No, you would be paying back to the community by helping your fellow Entrepreneurs-in-need.


Why should I help? What’s in it for me? You would be really proud helping build a great company from India. Entrepreneurs would appreciate your time and valuable suggestions and may give credits wherever possible. As a Mentor, we expect you to spend at least 60-minutes per week, whenever possible.

You, as a mentor, can either give in-person slots or virtual (Phone/Skype/Hangouts).

If you would like to contribute as a mentor, do send out an email to me at avinash(at) on where you would like to help, the startups that you are currently with and what kind of startups would you be keen to help.


What type of questions can I ask? You should be really really straight with the challenge/problem you’re facing. You can’t come up with a broad problem like “How can I improve my revenue” or “How can I scale by tech infra”. Instead, you should come with questions like “I’m doing XYZ already, how can I generate more leads via outbound” or “How do I improve API response time handling data update asynchronously”.

If you are a startup who would like to be part of this program, do fill out this form, we are only looking at doing a beta program with 5 companies for the next 3-4 months. Please apply before 20th February 2017. We hope to start the first batch of 5 companies by 2nd March 2017

If you would like to volunteer and help in this program managing this, do write to me at avinash(at) 

Thanks to Laxman Papineni of AppVirality whose brainchild this program is. Hoping that you can leverage and also contribute here.

Demystifying Growth Hacking

Too much has been already written about ‘Growth Hacking’. Having been into product space for quite some time, I believe growth hacking is probably the most confused jargon being used in the business world (mainly product businesses).


Hence, thought of writing down my perspective on growth hacking by clearing out few notions around it –

For growth hacking, one should know coding?

I will say it depends on the hack. Some hacks will need a combination of more than one skills but sometimes a hack can be solely executed by a single function.

There is definitely use of technology as an enabler. Technology in growth hacking case generally need not correspond to hardcore coding but to a set of tools that helps you execute the hack quickly.

For example, trying different subject line for e-mails is a growth hack focused solely on content. What you need for it — probably a creative mind and an e-mail marketing and A/B testing tool (the tech part) but definitely not coding.

However if e-mail subject line has to be optimized based on results of earlier e-mail campaigns, then data skills is also needed. From data you should be able to make inferences and thus optimize the current campaign.

So it all depends on the use case.

Copying of popular growth hacks will also give you the similar results –

I think once a hack is in public domain and is widely accepted, then it is no more a growth hack.

For example, if you are a SaaS provider,  you would have known of that putting one price plan as ‘Most Popular’ have resulted in more sign ups for few products.

Should you implement it? Yes.

Will it deliver the same growth? Probably no when compared to products who tried when this hack was still in infancy, as now this hack is more of a hygiene.

However if you can even innovate a bit be it at UI, Content or something else that does the trick for you, congratulations! you have created a hack for yourself. And you need not split it out until you see the results getting flattened out.

 Growth Hacking is only about new user acquisition –

I believe, for any product there are four main metrics that is needed to be improved on a constant basis — User Awareness, User Acquisition, User Engagement and User Retention.

So any activity that can be used to improve any of the four metrics in the least cost or no cost (the ideal situation) can be qualified as a growth hack.

Would be glad to help in case someone needs more information.

P.S: check out this for more detailed view points which had emerged around growth hacking starting 2010 and this clearly tells why there is so much confusion around growth hacking!

Guest Post by Nishith Gupta

Product Management for Startups and Understanding Growth #Playbookrt52

It was a rainy Monsoon Delhi day with heavy downpour, traffic jams and water logging but these couldn’t keep a bunch of entrepreneurs from making it in time to the Product Nation Roundtable focused on Product Management and Growth Hacking.

Led by Round Table veteran who has done it all and scaled Slideshare to great heights, Amit Ranjan, the excite bunch got together in the lovely office of Posist.

The round table kicked off with discussion around Product Management with Amit discussing his learnings and unfolding carious aspects around it step by step.

He defined Product Management as the function that manages the product life cycle through activities like planning, forecasting, production, marketing and has flavours of engineering, design, sales, marketing, data etc.

No matter what the stage of the company is, Product management is relevant, it is carried out by Founders is small startups (say less than 10 in strength) and then there are multiple product managers in big companies.

Important takeaway: “A Product Manager should be the CEO of the product” – Amit Ranjan

443b5ffef7b5079d7b20822404fd3124A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat

The group further analysed many examples of startups such as Uber, Twitter, Slideshare etc. around a model shared by Amit depicting 3 pillars of Product Management which are:

  • Vision
    • align org goals with market conditions & user needs
    • ‘get’ the pulse of the product (think movie directors)
  • Design
    • give shape to the product: feature mix, user experience
  • Execution
    • work with engineering, quality, marketing to deliver

However, a common issue cited by many founders was the issue of making the right hire for such role. The group identified and discussed the various aspects that must be considered while making a hire for the role :

  • Strong product sense/instinct
  • Carries multiple points of views
  • Communicates clearly
  • Simplifies & prioritizes
  • Measures & iterates
  • Understands good design
  • Writes effective copy

The second half of the Round Table was focused around Virality and the art of Growth Hacking with Amit sharing many interesting anecdotes and case studies.

Amit defined Virality as “Marketing built into the product…if the product is viral, it will market itself.

It is different from Word of Mouth, Marketing, Buzz etc and is simply the ability of the product to spread on its own. The role of a Marketer is to enable the product to do so and leverage different mediums to do so.

In Slideshare’s case, it was widgets that worked out very well for distribution. Amit emphasised to a great extent the importance of cracking and working on distribution right from the get go. The ideal scenario of working deeply on product (engagement) as well as channels (distribution) is hardly realised. It is a call that the entrepreneur has to take and has its own pros and cons. In Slideshare’s case, the heavy focus on distribution instead of deep diving into product development to a greater extent helped them erect barrier against new competitors/clones who tried to differentiate with added media support but could not pick up. As a negative, Slideshare faced issues in motivation as it never made users compulsively log in or create deeper engagement on the platform.

1e742688c80a7e0d19ccbafabe8ee071Amit emphasised the importance of tracking the product’s viral coefficient which is the number of additional members every new member brings. It should be greater than 1 for the product to become viral.

Viral Growth

The participants at the Roundtable were:

  1. Ashish Tulsian (Host)
  2. Shashwat Srivastava
  3. Saurabh Arora>
  4. Siddharth Deswal>
  5. Rahul Batra>
  6. Sujan Deswal>
  7. Ankit Singh>
  8. Amir Moin>
  9. Sudhanshu Aggarwal>
  10. Amit Ghasghase <[email protected]>
  11. Mrigank Tripathi
  12. Udit Sajjanhar

Founders share their own growth hack stories and channels’ learnings. For majority, in the B2B scenario, content marketing has worked well to boost the acquisition and few discussed the idea of generating leads from fake Linkedin profiles!

Amit cautioned that one should always be looking out for new channels as a channel that’s working for you today will saturate soon.

The group got some great insights and takeaways to implement from product management and growth’s perspective. Ashish’s hospitality at Posist with amazing Cholley Bhature was cherry on top of the cake

Product Management and Growth Hacking: Things go well when they work together #PlaybookRT in Delhi

Building substandard products in 2015 is no longer an option. Design, which was once a competitive advantage, is today a commodity. Everyone has well designed, frictionless products that promise to solve some problem or the other.

To build the kind of products that users have come to expect of us today, it is important to get the small things right, to know what features to develop and which to push for later, to get as many users to use a feature that you have shipped, and to have a fool proof mechanism to collect actionable user feedback which can be funnelled back into the product roadmap.

Being able to do all of the above effectively requires the product management and growth hacking roles to converge and work across the product lifecycle.

This means understanding in simple terms what these roles are and what metrics to measure their success against. It means that your product manager need to have the diplomacy needed to work alongside engineers, marketing, and leadership at your company. Product Management needs to have a good taste for design and sensitivity for the small details that no one notices but in the end go a long way in delighting users. It also means that your growth team needs to know what tactics should be used to get new users in the door or get current users to use a new feature.

At the 51st iSPIRT #PlaybookRT, every question you’ve ever had about product management and growth hacking will be answered by someone who’s been there and done that. Amit Ranjan co-founded SlideShare and grew it into a the world’s largest community of people who create and consume slide decks.

Amit will be curating the list of 12 startups that will participate in the round table once applications have bee submitted.

If you would like to have a constructive dialogue around how product management and growth hacking can be integrated in to your startups, Apply for the PlaybookRT here


Can you implement Growth hacking in your small business?

With new start-ups coming up on a daily basis, the competition in the market is intense. To be successful in this competitive world, you have to think beyond the ordinary. This is probably why growth hacking has become the go-to word when looking for people you may want to hire! If you can scale your growth beyond a linear curve and find multiple ways to expand your reach multi-dimensionally, you will survive. There is no other way to make our mark.

Growth hacking is not a new thing and unmindful of the same, you might have been using it in a different variant in the recent past.  Here are some powerful marketing tools in your hands as a business entrepreneur, to hack your growth.

  1. Encourage People to use your Products

    If you have started product manufacturing, its popularity among masses can be increased by incorporating a mechanism wherein the actual product can be shared. A business card company by the name of Moo has used this strategy effectively.

    In its pack of business cards, it adds some cards which encourage people to pass it on to other users, giving them discount as an incentive. Try this strategy in promoting your business and you will find that the customer affinity with your range of services will increase randomly.

  2. Identify potential Partners

    Small businesses often grow well if backed by someone who is already established in the market. Identify some of the successful leaders in your niche and try to establish a business linkage with them. Get someone to mentor you, or get them as a customer. If they are doing an event, try to get into some kind of partnership. This will help your business to gain effective visibility in relatively less time.

    PayPal and eBay are a perfect example of this synchronization. eBay was already a successful brand by the time PayPal came up. However, the concept of offering a safer transaction to its customers impressed eBay so much that it tied up with PayPal helping the company grow at a rapid pace.

    Use this strategy in your business promotion initiatives and help it prosper.

  3. Endorsement for your Endeavours

    Endorsement by someone successful in the niche area in which you are trying to get a foothold also has its imminent benefits. Your customers will take you seriously and will start believing in your promotional initiatives. You can hire the services of someone with a visionary outlook and help explain to your customers, the services or ideas you are trying to spread.

  4. Free products along with some Paid Services

    This is another viable method of implementing growth hacking successfully. You should offer some free services or products to the customer initially to build upon their trust levels. These free products or services can be offered in synchronization with paid services.

    A company by the name of Moz has been trying this successfully. One can sign up for free SEO tools on Moz but will have to pay up for premium services. People will eventually connect with you and go for paid services when they find that the quality of your product or service is trustworthy.

  5. Using Social Media Tools

    The advent of social media has drastically changed the way small businesses are perceived. Join the bandwagon and reap the benefits. Link up your promotional content on to the social media platform. The users on the social media channels will do the rest for you and the worth of your business will spread multifold.

    Pinterest has used this growth hacking strategy successfully for promoting its reach. Pinterest allows its users to find up content on the site and share the same on their Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter page.

    Make it easy for people to distribute your content on their social media pages easy and you will be able to connect with users in an effective manner.

Growth hacking has been in use since long. The techniques and tricks of using the same in business promotion have been evolving with time. By incorporating the above listed tips in business promotion you will be able to improve your prospects in the competitive business world and grow at a rapid pace.

This post is contributed by Kritika Prashant, together with team MyOperator, this IIT Delhi alumna is committed to make business calls as efficient and manageable as emails for small businesses in India.

Hiring Is Growth Hacking

Hiring is Growth Hacking applied to organizations.

What does that mean?
It is expensive to pay a staffing consulting $10k – $20k per hire, so creative, guerrilla tactics have to be adopted. Using your network to reach out to your audience, relying on word of mouth, the referral program that extends beyond employees, Quora/Twitter/LinkedIn for lead generation, fancy videos and blog posts with great content, etc.

It can be harder for large companies to do real growth hacking, whether to acquire users or employees, for many reasons, some legitimate: agility, red tape, risk averseness, etc. But there are always inspired employees in these companies making an exception.

So how should one go about hiring like a growth hacker?

1. Double down on metrics
Draw out funnels for every channel you are sourcing candidates from. Measure success rates (define success explicitly: an interview accept? the actual hire?) and work on drop off points. Be ruthless about cutting out the underperforming channels, regardless of how cool they are right now. It is an optimization problem.

2. Growth is a culture
You have to build acquisition and retention into your product DNA. Same for your organization. Every employee should be an evangelist. Every employee should be helping with the hiring process.

3. Initial user experience
If the first interaction requires a prospective candidate to commit to a job search or going through an interview process, it’s an anti-hack. It’s why you choose to ignore those InMails. Elicit a “wow” the first time, then take it from there.

4. Spread success stories
Get new employees to update LinkedIn profiles, Facebook/Twitter statuses immediately. Ask them to blog about their first day. Show off internal successes.

5. Multi multi channel
That’s two “multi”s. Everyone is already multi-channel: they’re on LinkedIn, Quora, Twitter, StackOverflow, etc. Find more channels. Treat everything as a channel. Exactly why this is like growth hacking: the answers are not already available.

6. Create content
Content is one of the best ways to engage your audience. The Kixeye hiring video. The Facebook Engineering blog. Meet The Team sections on so many company websites.

7. Bootstrap
When you’re starting from zero, you have to bootstrap. An online education startup bootstrapped by creating courses themselves from publicly available course material. A local services marketplace bootstrapped by letting you type in any service you wanted, and then going out to find and sign up a provider for that service. An e-commerce selling diapers online started by fulfilling orders by buying diapers from the local Target store.

Got any more growth hacks that can be applied to hiring? Leave a comment, and I’ll add it to this list.

Before you start with Growth Hacking

Building a product startup is exciting. Most startups look to raise capital early and investors look no other measure but traction to take their bets. This need for traction puts immense pressure on the founding team to grow their startup. That leads to implementing multiple tips and tricks to improve the key product metrics – most importantly to show traction to investors. Founders get into the so called ‘growth hacking’ mode.

Growth hacking is the new buzzword in the startup town. There is nothing wrong with ‘hacking growth’ – most of the tricks attempted in this phase end up being short-term techniques. They might work for a while, bring traction for a while (which might lead you to raise investments) but these techniques don’t help in long term and the growth is not sustainable and quickly falls off.

Startups tend to neglect the simplest rules of product management before starting with growth hacking. According to me, here are the 5 Basic Rules of Product Management:

  1. User Engagement > Growth Hacking
  2. Retention > Acquisition
  3. Context > Activity
  4. Own growth channels > External channels
  5. Being Valuable > Being Social

A. User Engagement > Growth Hacking
Remember startups like BranchOut, Glassdoor, Viddy, Socialcam – that famously hacked growth through Facebook Dialog Feeds? Though they showed amazing growth curve initially, it soon fell off. Most users dropped off the product as quickly as they signed up never to return again. Reason – zero engagement on the product. Ensure that there are enough engagement loops on the product before you do any sort of ‘growth hacking’.

B. Retention > Acquisition
Acquiring users is the simplest thing to do, retaining them is the key. Any user acquisition technique should retain a good percentage of acquired users. Not just that., over a period of time the users who dropped off should be reactivated – there should be enough methods to pull them back – emailers / network effects / and so on. If the product has strong engagement features, retention is a easy task.

C. Context > Activity
Most products undermine the importance of context. In today’s world – anything that is not context is considered spam. The finest examples of a context driven product is Quora that lets you follow topics of your interest and helps you discover relevant content. Also important are products like Twitter (that lets you follow users) and Pinterest (that lets you follow boards) to build a information stream in context thats relevant to you. Think of context when you build features.

D. Own Channels > External Channels
Many startups focus on external channels for growth. Branchout was focussed on Facebook Dialog Feeds, Zynga was focused on Facebook Activity Wall, Viddy was focussed on Facebook Open Graph. Perfectly fine – if there are enough engagement loops and good retention strategy. However depending on external channels might not be sustainable – many startups hacked the Facebook Open Graph to get significant users – this led to users complaining about to the noise on Facebook wall, Facebook in return built many approvals / controls to prevent applications from spamming the users and giving users ease to block spam applications.

Large startups like Facebook, Dropbox, WhatsApp were completely focussed on driving growth through channels owned by self and had very little or no external dependence for growth. Don’t depend too much on external platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google (SEO) for growth – build our own channels. Facebook’s journey of growth hacking is well documented. Also Dropbox as mentioned in next point.

E. Being Valuable > Being Social
There are also startups that focus on building ‘too-many’ social sharing features, expecting users to share almost everything and anything on to their social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Users are smart – they don’t fall in this trap and founders keep wondering why no social sharing happens. Instead of trying to be forceful on social, focus on being valuable.

Example –  Dropbox, it was a very valuable product that had super methods to hack growth – by connecting FB or Twitter account with Dropbox and providing users additional storage space by asking them to spread a message to their social circle or invite email contacts.

Concluding Notes:
Can you hack growth first and implement these rules later? No. There are startups that hacked user acquisition and raised initial investment on traction., and later things did not go according to the plan. Not just startups, that leaves even investors wondering what went wrong after the initial impressive growth metrics.

Startups are about growth, no doubt. Getting Techcrunche’d (PR release), top position on Hacker News or Video that goes viral might bring one-time traffic boost / user sign-ups. You can get good amount of traffic by integrating with Facebook Open Graph, optimizing site for Google (SEO) or even paid user acquisition – but make sure that the product has enough engagement, retention loops, value and context to sustain the users you are acquiring!

You may hack growth., but you can’t hack success. Building the next billion dollar company is a big deal!

Why should you attend the inaugural #PNCamp?

I mean, why should you. Haven’t you seen all this already?

If that’s your question, well, no. You haven’t.

The #PNCamp is the first Indian product event that brings together product professionals in a bootcamp format, designed to make you take away a wealth of information and actionable insight.

Based on the highly successful iSPIRT Product Round Tables, it is also a highly curated, limited access  event which ensures that participation and engagement among people actually trying to solve the same set of problems.

We’re almost full now, but if you are interested in the last remaining seats up for grabs & still have doubts, this infographic should clear it up for you.

Well, I have to go now. The team is working hard to put together what we believe is soon to become one of the premier events in the Indian software product landscape.

Mission – To transform India into a Product Nation.

See you in Pune!

Customer discovery meets Indiana Jones at #PNSummit

If you haven’t made up your mind whether you should be at PNSummit, then you’re probably thinking too hard.

It’s not a Conference.

It’s not a Conference.

Yes, I said that twice.

It’s brought to you by iSPIRT ProductNation. And a team of selfless volunteers who want to give back. These guys have regular companies to run. And day jobs. Putting together #PNSummit is back breaking work. But they enjoy it. Ask anyone of them if you think this is hyperbole.

Product companies at different stages have different needs. #PNSummit is styled like a bootcamp. Only, it focuses on the underserved entrepreneur. Is that you? If you’re between 9 months to 18 months old you’re probably searching for a lot of answers. But we don’t have any. All we have is a method. It’s a secret sauce that’s going to be revealed at #PNSummit Customer Discovery Hacking Day on December 4th. This sauce is cooked by Pallav and his team of cohort leaders who will take you through an entire day of… ok let me stop here.

I don’t want to spoil the fun. Not yet. This is for believers. We’re not taking in everyone who applies. It’s selective, based on your current profile. Even if you don’t make it, you’re probably very good at your trade so we’re not being a judge here. Our goal is to have similar minded people in the room, who want to learn and are eager to share. In many ways Discovery Hacking is also about discovering yourself. It’s like Indiana Jones, who never fails to surprise even himself.

Meet us in Pune this December. Only a 100 will make it, so think later, act now. You can apply here.

Sandeep Todi

Co-founder of a software product and a #PNSummit Volunteer

Next Gear into ProductNation Summit

The journey is unstoppable. India has started building software products that the world recognizes… a far cry from the days when it was known only for software programmers and not for software. Through its successful Playbook RoundTables and Community platform, iSPIRT’s ProductNation initiative has touched the lives of hundreds of product entrepreneurs across India.

ProductNation thrives on the strengths of our Volunteer community who are people just like you. This community is proud to announce the ProductNation Summit coming this December in 2013. We will soon be on twitter, just follow us @Product_Nation and the #PNSummit hashtag.

#PNSummit is selflessly hand-crafted by Product folks, a Summit attended exclusively by Product folks. A lot is going to be talked about Customer Discovery and Growth Hacking. #PNSummit has lean forward and lean back sessions and is practitioner led with over 70% of the sessions being interactive. These sessions are no holds barred. They are practical, frank and maybe even brutal. It will be a gurukul, where teacher and taught share the same platform, only the roles are reversed. Yet there is no sage on stage, only like minded peers.

If this sounds like just what you are missing, we’ll be delighted to send you an invite. Just let us know a little more about you, so we can ensure the other folks in the room are also passionate Product folks. Seats are extremely limited and there is a marginal Attendee fee. What gets you in is not the fee, but your passion, i.e., what you do.

Once you’ve been there, you can take back a lot more that what you learn in 2 days. Insights from great like minded people like you, a platform to share and learn for 4-6 months after the summit, and friendships for a lifetime. Seats are extremely limited and open only for the first 100 who get invited.

Your current situation is not important. If you have the mindset, Invites for the lucky 100 will not remain available for long. Gates close on 30th September.