Dreamit Perspectives


Education Reform for Startups

Education Reform for Startups

This panel dives into the new regulations for schools that impact education technology startups. How is regulation impacting the ability of edtech companies to operate within schools? Is regulation hampering innovation in public schools compared to the innovation in private/charter schools? Panelists will give an overview of the big trends in education reform and provide a overview of opportunities and hurdles for founders in edtech.

Utilizing Social Selling Techniques for Your Startup

Utilizing Social Selling Techniques for Your Startup

If you are one of the dwindling number of people who still think that social media in sales is a waste of time, you should be aware of the power of social selling techniques. Social selling is changing the way that sales occur. Social selling is the intersection of three different types of sales processes. 

Scaling Businesses with High Touch Services

As startups move beyond their first few pilots and initial customers, they need to learn how to manage multiple customers in a more scalable fashion while still delivering high-touch customer services. This panel dives into how successful founders built processes to scale.


5 Tips for Building Your Sales Pipeline

5 Tips for Building Your Sales Pipeline

Building your sales pipeline requires a strategy that will vary from startup to startup, but it is always one of the most complicated and stressful parts of building a company. We'll be hosting a webinar on October 26 on the topic of building and maintaining a sales pipeline, but here are a few tips in advance. 

Storytelling for Startups

Great storytelling can be your most powerful tool for disseminating your vision. Stories are scientifically proven to stimulate different regions of the brain and change how we act in life. When we hear about a character that is moving, the motor cortex in our brain responds. When we hear a word like citrus, the olfactory portion of our brain lights up. Stories offer founders and marketers the opportunity to literally synchronize a customer’s brain with the message behind the story they are telling (scientists call this neurocoupling), and this obviously has profound implications for selling a product.

How to Find and Leverage a Killer Advisory Board

Last week we hosted a panel about the importance of Advisory Boards for startups. Unlike a board of directors, an advisory board is much more informal and commonly utilized on an ad hoc basis by founders when they need help. Advisors make critical introductions, provide essential tactical advice regarding business strategy, fill in knowledge gaps, and signal to the market that your startup is worth engaging with.

Edtech News Roundup

Edtech News Roundup

Success Academy reveals some of their secret methods. 

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff donates $8.5 to San Francisco public schools. 

There are thousands of edtech for school administrators to choose from. Here are some ways  that school administrators can go about choosing the right ones.

Here are a list of the 50 best apps that teachers are using, segmented by category. 

Stanford has created an artificial intelligence summer camp for girls to expand the way computer science, AI, and robotics is perceived. 

What we're reading in digital health news

What we're reading in digital health news

Digital health companies raised nearly $224 million in August, with $70 million going to Accolade Health. 

Pregnancy apps are the second largest digital health app category. Here's how one startup is changing the way we think of prenatal care. 

Here are the factors driving digital health investment in China. There has already been over $1.1 billion invested in the space in the first half of 2016.

EdTech News Roundup

EdTech News Roundup

Virtual reality is being used to monitor behavior (how your body reacts, how you behave, etc.) in online classrooms. This technology is solving problems of a shortage of teachers around the world. Bloomberg

Are curriculum demands to blame for slow adoption of edtech in schools? Schools are sometimes forced to use tech only for test prep, and much of what curriculums are based on is not applicable to real world skills. This article discusses how the role of tech is changing the role of teachers. Read More

Here's a list of 50 must read higher ed IT blogs EdTech Magazine

Digital Health News Roundup

Digital Health News Roundup

ClearCare has raised $60M from Battery Ventures to expand products and explore acquisitions. The company produces a cloud platform used by home care agencies for things such as workers' comp, scheduling, tax credits, and quality of care monitoring. MedCity News

McKinsey released a report on digital health technology, how it is transforming healthcare and how health systems can accelerate the adoption of these types of technology, McKinsey & Co.

In the past 5 years, health insurers have sunk $900 million into digital health startups. Here is what they are betting will be the future of digital health. MedCity News

The New Yorker writes about what Aetna's withdrawal means for the future of Obamacare. New Yorker

Digital Health News Roundup

Digital Health News Roundup

Here are 9 ways consumer driven technology is redefining healthcare. Some of these include AI to assist doctors, blockchain technology, and chatbots for healthcare. Read More

Doctors and hospitals are changing the way they think about medical errors and adopting more transparency. Read More

300 million people around the world suffer from asthma. This report by Asthma UK outlines how technology is transforming how people are treated for this condition. Read More

NY based health insurance company Oscar is pulling away from the New Jersey and Dallas-Fort Worth markets. MedCity News

Do digital health tools require reimbursement under third-party payment programs to find success? Read More

Apple acquires health data startup Gliimpse. "The app Founded in 2013, Gliimpse collates users’ personal health data from different platforms, turning information from labs, hospitals, and pharmacies into a single shareable report. This report can be used to provide doctors with a complete medical record, but Gliimpse also suggests that users donate it anonymously to a "national health graph," which would provide raw material to researchers seeking medical breakthroughs." The Verge

The future of healthcare is arriving. Singularity University breaks out 8 areas that you need to watch in healthcare. Read More

"If I wanted to have an easy job, you know, I could go be a software developer at Facebook.” That's from someone who works in healthcare IT. This article dives into how design and usability experts at Epic figure out their products. Read More

Designing for diabetes is difficult because it's actually a collective term for different diseases with different pathophysiology, prevalence, and solution sets. Diabetes affects 86 million people. This MedCity News article outlines the state of tech solutions for diabetes and what's lacking. Read More

"Health care could use some really good design." Healthcare is full of friction, AI and other trends may force healthcare in that direction. Read More 

EdTech News Roundup

EdTech News Roundup

What We're Reading

Facebook has launched a personalized learning platform that puts students in charge of their own lesson plans. This fall, 120 schools in the Summit Public Schools charter network in Silicon Valley will introduce the system, called "Summit Personalized Learning." Read More

Is edtech the next fintech? TechCrunch points out that edtech spending is $5 trillion per annum, but the amount invested in edtech in 2015 was less than the amount invested in Uber alone. Read More

Quizlet recently raised $12M from Union Square Ventures. The new CEO talks about his first 100 days at the company, growing internationally, creating tools that can be used universally, and consolidation in the edtech space. Read More

AltSchool has raised $130 million to create a full stack customized approach to tackling personalized education in schools. CEO Max Ventilla spoke with TechCrunch about data privacy concerns, the power of network effects in edtech, opening up the AltSchool platform, and the components needed to fully utilize the AltSchool platform. Read More

Higher ed startup Byndr raises $700 from the Education Design Studio of the University of Pennsylvania, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and a group of investors. Read More

Here is a list of 5 security technologies that schools have adopted since Sandy Hook. Since this tragic event, teachers around the country have been equipped with technology to respond quickly in emergencies (Dreamit has invested in one such solution, Ruvna). Read More

EdSurge published an incredibly helpful infographic of the K-12 edtech conferences that you need to know for the upcoming year. Read More

Via EdSurge

Via EdSurge

Digital Health News Roundup

Digital Health News Roundup

The Harvard Business Review published an article on the next wave of hospital innovation that is making patients safer. The focus has shifted to 'high reliability organizing,' which means attention to frontline practices, leadership support for responding to and learning from errors, and a cultural shift toward teamwork and care coordination. Read More

Dreamit Chief Investment Officer Karen Griffith Gryga Receives Leadership Legacy Award from Vistage

Dreamit Chief Investment Officer Karen Griffith Gryga Receives Leadership Legacy Award from Vistage

Dreamit's very own Chief Investment Officer, Karen Griffith Gryga, recently received the Leadership Legacy Award from Vistage. Every year, Vistage presents the Leadership Legacy Award to small business executives who work at companies with revenues from $5 to $100 million. The recipient of the Leadership Legacy Award is someone who truly embodies Vistage's core values of trust, caring, challenge, and growth.

Dreamit and Blackboard Announce Partnership to Accelerate EdTech Startup Success

Dreamit and Blackboard Announce Partnership to Accelerate EdTech Startup Success

Dreamit, a leading global startup accelerator, and Blackboard Inc., the world's leading education technology company, today announced a strategic partnership focused on driving innovation in EdTech. The partnership will provide mentoring, customer and partner development and marketing support to an exclusive group of high-potential startups participating in Dreamit EdTech.

Investor Roadshows vs. Demo Days: Maximizing Value for Startups

Demo days are to startup accelerators what turkey is to Thanksgiving. People eat turkey on Thanksgiving because it’s a tradition and it tastes pretty good. That said, most people would argue that filet mignon is tastier than turkey. In the same vein, many people in the tech world have demo day fatigue and believe that there must be better alternatives to this industry standard.

We know demos days. Dreamit has been around since 2008 (when Techstars and Y Combinator and our accelerator were the only players in the game). At our demo days, startups have been given an opportunity to pitch to dozens of angel investors and venture capitalists. The goal was always to provide a platform for founders to get the word out about their startups and to meet as many investors as possible.

But are demo days really the most effective way for startups to raise money at the end of an accelerator program? A few years ago, someone on Quora asked Mark Suster why he doesn’t attend demo days. This was Mark’s response:

don’t believe in Demo Days. I think they are a showcase of who is the best at on-stage presentations and who is the best coached & polished. It’s why at Launchpad LA we don’t do Demo Days.
I prefer to come before the Demo Day. I prefer 1-on-1 interaction. I like to get to know the companies, their issues, their struggles, their plans. Demo Day doesn’t tell you any of that.
I’m not saying Demo Days have zero value. They teach companies to present their ideas cogently and in front of a crowd. But mostly they produce too much hype, too little value.

Jordan Cooper, a Special Advisor at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, talked about some of the downsides of demo day in an article on his blog. Specifically, he said, “The accelerator is creating a market for the bottom half of their class by exposing them to weak investors…[and] Demo days create an environment for both entrepreneurs and investors that encourages unthoughtful partnership.”

Suster and Cooper laid out some excellent points for why demo day might not be the best way for a startup to raise funding. Here are some other reasons why accelerators should rethink demo day so they provide the most value to founders.

A few other reasons why accelerators should rethink demo day

According to a search on F6S, there are 893 accelerator programs spread across the world. Many of the 893 startup accelerators that exist can’t be outstanding because only a few tech accelerators consistently stand out from the rest. An accelerator that isn’t outstanding can’t organize an outstanding demo day with the world’s best investors.

This means that many startups spend months preparing for demo day even though they’re meeting less connected and experienced investors at it. It’s a big problem for founders to spend tons of precious time getting ready to pitch investors who can’t provide the best advice or the most add-on value.

In his book Startup Sacrilege for the Underdog EntrepreneurPaul Orlandolays out many points that explain why demo days are often ineffective but persist nonetheless. He also gives some alternative ways to achieve the same goals.

  1. Some claim that demo days increase morale levels at startups going through an accelerator. There are definitely cheaper ways to attain raise moral. Orlando suggests throwing a party or end-of-program celebration for the companies in your accelerator as an alternative.
  2. Most demo days don’t end with startups getting funding. Founders often present their products in front of large crowds while a crowded room of low-level associates from venture firms either pay attention or pay closer attention to their Twitter feeds. Demo day can lead to quality meetings, but it is at its heart a passive event for most investors. Demo days are often followed by a short fair in which investors can meet founders, but most of these meetings are very short and superficial.
  3. Demo days help founders become better presenters. This is probably true, but is this a valuable use of a founder’s time? Accelerators tend to spend an inordinate amount of time prepping startups for the demo day. Instead of prepping for demo day, founders should be building their product, finding product-market fit, and acquiring customers. In the end, if you are great at presenting a mediocre product, what have you really achieved?
  4. Demo days are a good way for accelerator programs to get publicity and increase clout, some claim. Accelerators can get publicity with or without demo days. With a proliferation of industry specific blogs, there are more ways than ever to get attention for accelerators and the startups in them. Find the story and make a relationship with a journalist. This will lead to both a better quality, more in depth startup profile, and it will spare reporters and bloggers from having to attend another demo day.
  5. Almost every startup accelerator has their portfolio startups do a demo day, but that doesn’t mean demo days are the most effective way for accelerator companies to raise money. Demo days tend to work for the top accelerator programs like Y Combinator and TechStars because these accelerators consistently recruit extremely high quality startups. However, investors consistently express fatigue at the sheer number of demo days.

Improving the way accelerator startups raise funding: enter the investor roadshow

With these considerations in mind, the team at Dreamit decided to rethink our approach to ‘demo days.’ We created a two-week program called the investor roadshow at the end of our 14 week cycle. About a month before you go on the roadshow, you give the managing directors and operators at Dreamit a wish list of investors you want to meet with. After submitting your investor wish list, our team helps you add more investors to the list that are a good fit for your product and industry.

You give reamit a wish list of investors that you want to pitch. Then, our managing directors and operators set up pitch meetings with as many of those investors as possible.

You give reamit a wish list of investors that you want to pitch. Then, our managing directors and operators set up pitch meetings with as many of those investors as possible.

Then, Dreamit’s managing directors and operators set up 20-minute to 1-hour pitch meetings with as many investors on your wish list as possible. Over the course of the two-week roadshow, you can expect to have at least 15 to 30 in-depth meetings with venture capitalists and angel investors.

Several weeks before the roadshow, Dreamit managing directors teach you the ins and outs of fundraising, how to create the perfect pitch deck, how to answer the difficult questions that investors are likely to ask, and more. If you have questions about how to improve your pitch deck or prep for investor meetings, you have a dedicated team to help.

The week before the investor roadshow is dedicated to intense pitch prep. You have an opportunity to practice your pitch in front of managing directors, executives, and members of our investor network. In these pitch prep meetings, our team will help you perfect your pitch by providing feedback, questioning the assumptions in your deck, and asking you all of the questions that investors might have.

Dreamit provides you with intense pitch prep before you go on the roadshow.

Dreamit provides you with intense pitch prep before you go on the roadshow.

By the time you start the investor roadshow, you’ll be prepared to impress VC’s and raise funding. On the actual roadshow, you’ll have several long meetings with investors every day. Very few, if any, of the investors you meet with on the roadshow will commit to funding your company during that first meeting. In fact, it’ll probably take another two to three months to actually close your round.

This bespoke alternative to the demo day is similar to how private companies operate pre-IPO. They embark on an investor roadshow to convince institutional investors to commit to buying their stock. For big private companies, this is an extremely effective way to ensure that their IPO’s are successful.

At Dreamit, we’ve found that investor roadshows are great at helping small startups raise funding too. In fact, Dreamit is the first tech accelerator to have its portfolio companies go on an investor roadshow. Our companies have and will continue to benefit from having an investor roadshow at the end of the accelerator.

Applications for our fall edtech and digital health programs are now open!

Apply now!

By Jack Kaufman (@kaufman_jack)


A Founder’s Guide to Growth Hacking: Growth & Digital Marketing Tips for Seed Stage Startups

Sean Ellis (CEO of Qualaroo and creator of Growthhackers.com) coined the term growth hacking to describe the process of growing users very quickly using innovative, scalable, repeatable, and testable methods.

Growth hackers don’t have to be marketers; in fact, they often have no marketing experience. Many are engineers, salespeople, designers, or product managers.

Successful growth hackers are always in high demand. They start their own companies or work at venture capital firms. They’re irreplaceable and have probably don’t often think about the issue of job security. For example, Chamath Palihapitiya growth hacked at Facebook for several years as the leader of its International User Growth team. His strategies and leadership helped grow Facebook to nearly a billion users. He is now worth close to a billion dollars and runs Social Capital, one of the world’s best venture capital firms (invested in Box, CommonBondSlack, & more).

Successful Cases of Growth Hacking

Successful Cases of Growth Hacking

Without growth hacking, Dropbox, Airbnb, Uber, and many more companies would not be household names.

Dropbox gained tens of thousands of users in just days by releasing its famous explainer video. Airbnb’s early growth happened thanks to its publicity stunts at the 2008 Republican National Convention. This growth hack gave Airbnb the early traction it needed to stay in business. Uber built up its supply of drivers early on by partnering with black car companies in each new launch city. Black car companies made extra money and Uber got tons of drivers with relatively little effort.

With this comprehensive guide on growth hacking and digital marketing, you’ll learn how to get the traction your startup needs.

Use stretch goals with SMART goals to achieve rapid growth

In Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, he teaches people and teams how to get more work done using the SMART goals strategy.

Stretch goals are the objectives that seem difficult or downright impossible to achieve. How can we safely send a colony of people to live on Mars in the next 20 years? What needs to happen to reduce fossil fuel usage by 50% in the next 30 years and how can we make it happen? These aren’t goals with clear trajectories. Yet, the importance of achieving these goals is profound.Stretch goals can be daunting to work on because people usually don’t have any idea where to start with them.

In contrast to stretch goals, companies should also implement SMART goals, which are “Specific,” “Measurable,” “Attainable,” “Realistic,” and “Timely.” Because stretch goals seem so difficult to achieve, you need to have SMART sub-goals for them. If you don’t break a stretch goal down into manageable parts, you’ll get overwhelmed and do no work.

VIA Oracle

VIA Oracle

You should have an overarching growth goal for your company. Make the overarching growth goal a stretch goal that seems impossible to meet. Does having $200,000 in revenue at the end of your business’s first year seem achievable? Great! Make that revenue goal $1,000,000 and actually challenge yourself to get to it.

Once you have a growth stretch goal in mind, come up with a series of SMART goals you’ll need to achieve it. You don’t have to know every SMART goal right away. But, write down several SMART goals at the start so you can immediately start working on growth.

By pairing stretch goals with SMART goals, you’ll be forced to create and use growth hacks to distribute your product. This is why pairing stretch and SMART goals is so effective when growth hacking. The audacity of your stretch goal will force you to innovate when it comes to marketing and achieve faster growth than you ever thought possible.

The Bullseye Framework for growth hacking and getting traction

There are 19 different traction channels you can use to grow your business rapidly according to the book Traction. Traction channels are a distinct bundle of related strategies and tactics for growing a startup. Examples of traction channels include email marketing, SEO, and PR.

According to Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, the creators of the traction channel concept, you should mainly invest in one traction channel at a time. With 19 traction channels to choose from, you might be wondering how to pick the best one for your business. After all, if you should only invest in one channel it better be the one that drives the biggest results.

You’ll use Gabe Weinberg and Justin Mare’s Bullseye Framework to find the best traction channel for your business.

3 Components of the Bullseye Framework:

  1. Brainstorming every traction channel with “The Outer Ring”
Brainstorm a few ideas you can use for each of the 19 traction channels.

Brainstorm a few ideas you can use for each of the 19 traction channels.

In this step of the Bullseye Framework you should think of a few ideas to use with each traction channel. Offline ads are an example of a traction channel. Ads on TNT, billboard ads in Illinois, or advertising across the country’s rock radio stations are specific growth ideas within the offline ad traction channel.

Write your ideas for each traction channel out on paper. Try to make these ideas as useful and realistic as possible for your business. Circle the best growth strategy for each traction channel.

Research which traction channels your competitors have used successfully. Look at what successful and failed companies in your industry did to grow. This sort of research will become very helpful at the next stage of the Bullseye Framework.

2. Testing your most promising traction channels in “The Middle Ring”

Unleash your inner scientist and test out four or five traction channels during the second stage of the Bullseye Framework.

Unleash your inner scientist and test out four or five traction channels during the second stage of the Bullseye Framework.

Choose four or five of the traction channels that you think have the best shot at moving the needle for your business. Then, take the best traction idea for each of these channels and run a low-cost test for it. Here is a list of ideas you can use to run traction tests for every traction channel.

You want to answer these questions with your traction channel tests:

  • What is the cost of customer acquisition with this channel?
  • How many potential customers can I reach with this channel?
  • Will this channel give you the type of customers you want for your business right now?

Run your tests for each traction channel at the same time. Don’t spend more than a hundred to two hundred bucks when testing each channel. Also, don’t go all in on one traction channel before testing at least a few different ones. Get enough data to prove which strategy will best grow your company and then scale up your spending on that strategy.

3. “The Inner Ring” — Focusing on the traction channel that works best in testing

After testing different traction channels, focus on the best-performing one.

After testing different traction channels, focus on the best-performing one.

Assuming you did your homework, one of the traction channels you tested in step two of this framework hopefully produced some traction. Once you know which traction channel and strategy perform best, you should invest nearly all of your resources into them.

You try to maximize what your main traction channel does for your company at each of its different growth stages. You maximize results by going all in on a particular traction channel. As your startup grows and changes, the primary traction channel you use to grow will change too. You’ll know it’s time to switch traction strategies when your current channel starts to become less effective.

If none of your traction tests produce traction during step two of the framework, you should repeat the process until you find an effective channel. Please don’t make the mistake of using a traction channel that was ineffective during testing. Besides that, avoid the pitfall of not investing most of your growth resources into your best-performing traction channel.

With the Bullseye Framework you will find a traction channel to grow your business. Now, let’s take a look at the 19 different traction channels and how they work.

19 customer acquisition (traction) channels

In their famous book Traction, Gabe Weinberg and Justin Mares laid out the 19 different traction channels businesses use for growth, tried and true ways to grow any business. Below is a brief description of each traction channel along with an example of a business that growth hacked each channel to success.

1. Targeting blogs — Blogs want to write about startups and services that will help their readers live better lives. Find blogs in your market, pitch them on how your business will help their readers, and ask for them to write about you. Noah Kagan used this strategy at Mint.com to help the company get more than 1 million users in six months.

2. Sales — Consumer products generally don’t need salespeople or sales teams to convince consumers to buy them. That said, many B2B products (especially ones being sold to large, enterprise customers) need a sales team and process to close deals. Sales is tricky and expensive. So, make sure your product absolutely needs a sales team before going out and building one. Startups that have used sales as their main growth channel are Zuora, Qualtrics, Tanium, Docker, ConvertKit, and more. To learn more about sales, read The Ultimate Sales MachineJason Lemkin’s blog, and SPIN Selling.

3. Content marketing — Your potential customers want to earn more money, be better at their jobs, and know more about their industries. With content marketing, you provide free education to potential customers about your industry and build a valuable audience over time (like this article :)). As your audience begins to trust your brand thanks to the free and valuable content you release, they (you) become your customers. Companies like Buffer and Groove have used content marketing as the backbone of their startup growth strategies to great success.

Content marketing is one of the best ways to grow B2B businesses in the long run.

Content marketing is one of the best ways to grow B2B businesses in the long run.

4. Public relations — The media loves to talk about exciting companies that are changing the world. When online media companies cover your business, you’re doing them a favor because you’re giving them fodder for more page views. Startups that have used PR to ignite huge growth include DuckDuckGo, Tinder, and Snapchat. To learn more about PR read this book by Ryan Holiday and this book by Jason Kincaid.

5. Email marketing — Social media doesn’t have very good conversion rates. Email marketing has the best conversion rates. People buy stuff in droves over email. Building up an engaged and loyal email list is a great way to grow your product and increase sales. Companies and startups that got traction using email marketing include Jackthreads, Groupon, and AppSumo.

6. Existing platforms — There are a few enormous platforms like the App Store, Facebook, Google Play, Stripe, and more that you can build your business on. If your business gets featured and promoted by one of these platforms, it will grow fast and furiously. Evernote used the App Store as a platform when it launched to quickly get millions of users. Baremetrics used Stripe as a platform to grow to $25,000 in MRR in just a few months.

7. Unconventional PR — Startups have used publicity stunts, viral videos, and acts of customer appreciation to fuel rocket ship growth for decades. Richard Branson is famous for using publicity stunts to launch new lines of business at Virgin Group. Josh Kopelman persuaded a town to rename itself as his company, Half.com, which helped propel him and the business to huge heights. Blendtec used viral videos to increase the sales of its blenders many times over. Companies like Grasshopper and Hipmunk have used customer appreciation to increase word of mouth marketing for their products.

8. Engineering as marketing — Releasing free tools that help your customers do their jobs better is an excellent way to grow your business. These tools should be valuable, well-designed, and easy-to-use. HubSpot released its Marketing Grader tool for free early on and it has generated more than a million leads. More recently, companies like Crew and Runscope have used engineering as marketing in the form of free tools to turbocharge their growth.

9. Trade shows — Companies can network and promote their products in person at trade shows. Startups like RJ Metrics have successfully gotten big sales and started relationships with important partners at trade shows. To use trade shows as an effective growth tool read the chapter about them inTraction.

10. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — Websites, articles, and videos that get to the top of Google, Bing, Youtube, and other big search engines receive tons of traffic and customers. Often, companies need to use another traction channel like content marketing, publicity, or an unconventional PR strategy in order for SEO to work. Companies that have used SEO to grow and become successful are Moz, RetailMeNot, and Wikipedia. To learn more about SEO check out Backlinko and The Moz Blog.

11. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) — Using paid ads in Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines to promote your product are all examples of SEM. If you need to scale up sales of your product, SEM can be a good way to do it. Using SEM effectively and profitably takes time and thousands of dollars of test ads. But, once you get it right it can lead to huge profits. Startups and companies like Constant Contact, Bigcommerce, and Groupon have used SEM to grow in leaps and bounds.

12. Business development — Partnerships have been used by companies of all sizes for years to increase growth. In Traction, Gabe Weinberg and Justin Mares lay out five different types of partnerships, which are standard partnerships, joint ventures, licensing, distribution deals, and supply partners. It’s very hard for companies to close partnership deals, but they can be invaluable. Google got its initial burst of traction by partnering with Yahoo to power their search engine. Delicious used a partnership with The Washington Post to increase its traffic and land lots of other key partners.

13. Offline events — People love to attend conferences and get-togethers where they can network, learn, and have fun. As the host of an offline event, your company will have countless opportunities to grow its brand, talk with customers, and close key deals. HubSpot’s annual INBOUND conference brings 10,000 marketers together with HubSpot and its various products at the center of it. Other companies like Product Hunt sponsor or host smaller meetups cities all over the world to grow its community. Finally, you can throw a party as a way to schmooze with leads and promote your business. Uber is famous for throwing big parties in all of their launch cities.

14. Social and display advertisements — Advertising on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other large social networks can be very effective at getting cost-effective leads and customers. Wordstream, Intercom, Tipsy Elves, and Chubbies have all used social and display advertising as effective traction channel. To learn more about how to effectively use social and display ads, read the AdEspresso blogthe MixRank blog, and Coelevate.

15. Affiliate programs — When someone receives money or some other compensation in exchange for promoting the successful sale of a product, an affiliate program is at work. With affiliate marketing you can have tens to thousands of influential bloggers and people promoting your product in exchange for a cut of each sale. Startups like WP Engine, BenchOlark, AWeber, and more have used affiliate programs as an important traction channel. To make your affiliate program more successful, considering joining an affiliate network like ShareASaleCJ, and ClickBank.

16. Speaking engagements — Speaking at conferences and other live events can be a great way to build business relationships with future customers, partners, and friends. That said, most of the time conference talks won’t lead to any tangible business results in the short term. Be mindful of this fact when looking for speaking gigs. Speaking at conferences is often a product of success, not a cause of it.

17. Viral marketing (customer invites and viral loops) — Any successful social network or company that allows users to join for free most likely used viral marketing. Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites used viral marketing to create explosive growth. With effective viral marketing you create a system where each new user invites at least one more user after they sign up. The average number of users each new user refers to a product is its viral coefficient. If you use the viral marketing traction channel, your goal should be to have a viral coefficient greater than one. Viral marketing is much tougher than it looks, which means you should be careful when using this traction channel.

18. Community building — Some products like Stack Overflow, Product Hunt, and Reddit have communities at their core. Ryan Hoover wrote an excellent article on how to start and grow an effective community-based product. If you want to build a community-based product, use Ryan’s article and the chapter about community-building in Traction as your starting points. Communities can be built and fostered to grow other products too. Y Combinator’s brand has grown directly in line with the growth of its Hacker News community. Another example is Qualaroo’s customer base and revenue growing as its GrowthHackers.com community has grown.

19. Offline ads — TV, magazine, newspaper, radio, billboard, yellow pages, infomercials and direct mail ads fall under the offline ad umbrella. Some offline advertisements can be extremely expensive and don’t make sense to use when trying to growth hack your company. That said, purchasing remnant advertising can be an inexpensive way to show your business to lots of people. Startups like Uber, Jet.com, Squarespace, SeatGeek, and SoFi have used offline ads successfully.

What You Can Do Today

Individual growth hacks to grow your business immediately

1. Keep your signup experience extremely simple — Limit the number of fields users have to fill out when signing up for your product. First, get users to sign up with minimal information like their name, email address, and password. Then, once they’re in, have them fill out the other information you need from them. When users see signup flows that are too long, they often abandon the signup process before finishing it.

2. The Website Launch Checklist — Your product’s website doesn’t have to be perfect when it launches, but it should be professional, SEO-ready, well-designed, usable, and secure. Use this website launch checklist from HubSpot before launching your product to make sure its website is up to par. With a launch-ready website, you’ll get more press, traffic, and customers from the start.

3. Test your site for UX issues with UsersThink — If your product isn’t usable, people won’t USE it frequently and it won’t grow. You should try to improve your product’s UX every day. One way to improve your product’s UX is to ask people for feedback on its usability. UsersThink gives you an army of users that provide professional UX feedback. Pricing starts at $39 on UsersThink, but the feedback you receive from it will be invaluable.

4. Improve your site’s speedFaster websites get more customers, have lower bounced traffic, and receive better usability ratings. If you make your product and website faster, it will grow faster. Having a fast website should be a top priority for growth and UX. Use this article as a guide for decreasing page load time and increasing site speed.

5. Add social proof to your landing pages — Did a press outlet cover your product? Have high-profile customers vetted your product with an outstanding review? Put them on your website! Social proof provide security to potential customers.

6. Keep your homepage as minimal as possible — If your homepage has too much content visitors will get distracted and leave. Write persuasive copy with compelling visuals on your homepage, but don’t overdo it. The old adage “Less is more” works well for homepage design and most other design projects too. Check out this article for inspiration and guidance when it comes to creating simple, effective home pages.

7. Use integration marketing to fuel product growth — Your product would likely benefit from integrating with other products that have public APIs. Aim to create one product integration every month. After finishing each integration reach out to the team that runs the other product and ask them if they’d like to do a co-marketing campaign. Some percentage of the products you integrate with will want to do a big announcement to their customers about the integration. You should announce new integrations to your customers too.

8. Guest post on large and successful blogs — With guest posting you get to borrow another audience, provide value to them, and bring some of those people back to your own product. Give big or important blogs in your market specific pitches about what you’d like to for guest posts on their sites. Write only your best content for guest blog posts so you get invited back to write more of them.

9. Share your content on relevant online communities and forums — There are lots of different forums and online communities for every market and niche. A few of these forums are Hacker News, Growth Hackers, Designer News, Inbound.org, and more. Reddit has thousands of forums with thousands of members in each forum. Find the forums relevant to your product’s industry and share your new content to them. Be careful not to over promote your own work in forums as most members will not appreciate over promotion.Reddit has thousands of communities to which you can potentially share your product and content.

Reddit has thousands of communities to which you can potentially share your product and content.

Reddit has thousands of communities to which you can potentially share your product and content.

10. Ask influencers to share your content and product — There are thousands of influencers in every market. These influencers have anywhere from thousands to millions of followers. Build relationships with influencers over time by promoting their content, leaving comments on their content, and updating them on your work. Then, when you have a well-established relationship with these influencers, ask them to share your content and product.

11. Retarget visitors who aren’t already customers — Most of the visitors who come to your site just one time won’t convert into customers. Most prospective customers need to see or hear about your product seven times before they feel ready to buy it. Use retargeting software like Perfect Audience and AdRoll to bring non-customers that visit your product back to it. Retargeting can print money when used correctly so give it a shot.

12. Add a member referral program — PayPal, Dropbox, and Uber have all used member referral programs to achieve explosive growth. Give the referrer and the referred user money or free service for every referral that happens. This is known as a double-sided referral program and for consumer goods or software products it works extremely well.

13. Comment/review books on Amazon in your market — There are tons of books on Amazon about every topic, market, and niche. Even the most obscure niche likely has more than 1,000 books about it on Amazon. You should read books about your market and niche as a way to increase the odds of making your product successful. Then, when you’re done reading them, write a brief review or comment about how the book helped or didn’t help you run your business. Link back to your product in the review and watch traffic increase over time.

14. Use exit intent to get more email subscribers — Lots of visitors leave your website without signing up for your email list. As visitors get ready to leave, ask them to sign up for your email list using a well-timed popup optin form. Services like Bounce ExchangeExit Monitor, and SumoMe make using exit intent forms easy.

15. Submit your company to startup directories — There are hundreds of startup directories that feature exciting new startups. You should submit your startup to all of these directories. Some percentage of visitors to the directories will go to your product. Not only that, but having links to your products in tons of directories will give your SEO efforts a nice boost.

16. Give exclusive offers to Meetup group owners to send to their members — Lots of Meetup groups have thousands of members. There are usually a few organizers for each Meetup. Meetup organizers can message their thousands of members with meeting details, updates, and other pertinent information. Befriend the people who organize Meetups related to your market/niche. Then, pitch these Meetup organizers infrequently about helpful content and product updates they should send to their group members.

17. Promote new content on LinkedIn/Facebook groups — There are thousands of Facebook and LinkedIn groups with thousands of members in many of them. Join these groups, gain the trust of their members, and eventually post your best content or products to them. Don’t over promote your own work in these groups as you’ll get banned for it. Just try to be helpful and provide value to people when you can and the huge audiences in these groups will flock to your product.

18. Use HARO to find free/easy pressHARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. It’s an email list that reporters and bloggers go to when they need expert sources for their stories. Become an expert in your field, respond to requests on HARO, and get easy press for yourself or your startup.

19. Offer lead magnets to email subscribers — Give your website visitors a good reason to subscribe to your company’s email newsletter. Offer visitors a lead magnet (an exclusive piece of content like a white paper or video series) when they sign up for your email list. Do this and watch your visitor to email subscriber conversion rate skyrocket.

20. Promote your product on relevant daily deal sites — Every small business owner knows that Groupon and LivingSocial can be a good way to get lots of new customers. There are plenty of daily deal sites for online businesses that can brings tons of new customers at a low cost. Sites like AppSumoMightyDeals, and Deal Fuel have huge audiences looking to buy products at a discount. Partner with one of these sites to get a big short-term increase in revenue

21. Put your company in your email footer — You probably send a bunch of emails every day. The recipients of any of those emails could be your startup’s next big customer or partner. Link to your startup in your email signature and include a brief description of the product in it as well. The additional traffic you get from this growth hack will add up and be meaningful over time.

22. Repurpose content to get more mileage out of it — Every blog post can be turned into a video, podcast, book chapter, Vine, Tweet, inspirational Instagram post, and more. Content doesn’t have to stop providing value in its first version. Work smarter by using your existing content to create new content for users of other platforms and services. As long as the recreated/repurposed content is high-quality stuff, your audience will love it in its new form.

Recycle and repurpose your content across platforms.

Recycle and repurpose your content across platforms.

23. Do joint webinars with other companies — Two is better than one rings true for most marketing initiatives. Partner with a startup that makes a complementary product to your product. Offer to do a joint educational webinar with them. Promote the webinar to your audience and get them to do the same with their audience. For the actual webinar have one employee from each company educate attendees about a topic relevant to their needs. Finally, at the end of the webinar leave time for each employee to do quick product pitches.

24. Cold email potential customers — Send 10 to 20 personalized cold emails to prospective customers every day asking them to give your product a try. This isn’t a scalable growth hack, but the feedback and conversations you have will make it worth your time. And, in the early days of your company you should do things that don’t scale anyway.

25. Get featured in other apps’ marketplaces — Lots of big platforms like SalesforceShopify, Zendesk, and more have marketplaces where integration partners can list their products. These marketplaces get thousands of visitors every day. Get to know the partner teams at products that you plan to integrate with. Then, when you launch the integration ask the partner team to feature your product in their marketplace. Getting featured in big products’ partner marketplaces is a great way to work smarter and get more out of product integrations.

26. Personally call new users or customers within 24 hours of them signing up — After users/customers sign up for your product, you should give them a ring and thank them for trying it out. On the call you should also ask them if they have any questions or need any help. Calling as many new customers as possible will help you get valuable product feedback and increase word of mouth marketing too.

27. Tweet or mention new users/customers and thank them — Set up a Zap in Zapier that automatically sends a Tweet of thanks to new users and customers. New users will appreciate the warm welcome and be more likely to continue giving your product a shot. Some of those users will be so happy that they’ll tell their friends and colleagues about the nice Tweet you sent them. Word of mouth marketing is one of the highest converting and cheapest growth tactics.

28. Offer extended free trials to those who haven’t yet converted — Some prospective customers need to use your product for a longer period of time than what you offer in a free trial. Offer to extend these users’ free trials for an extra 7 to 14 days so they can get to know your product better. Some percentage of these extended free trial users will become paying customers instead of forgetting about your startup forever.

29. Use dunning emails to avoid failed charges — ConvertKit, a startup that publicly publishes its financial metrics, has had more than 800 failed charges per month over the last four months. Failed charges due to expired credit cards are a huge source of lost revenue. Dunning emails ask customers to update their payment information when it expires. Avoid frustrating lost revenue by sending dunning emails to customers with expired credit cards.

Don’t let failed charges cost you hard-earned revenue. Use dunning emails to encourage customers to update their expired credit card information.

Don’t let failed charges cost you hard-earned revenue. Use dunning emails to encourage customers to update their expired credit card information.

30. Make it easy for customers to pay for your product on an annual basis — Cash is king for every business. With more upfront cash you can improve your product faster, grow more quickly, and better serve your existing customers. Asking customers to pay for your product annually instead of monthly is one of the best ways to increase your business’s cash flow. Offer customers a two to three month MRR discount if they upgrade to annual billing.

31. Syndicate your content across multiple platforms — Most marketers only post their content to one platform. Usually, that platform is their company’s blog. Instead of only putting written content on your blog, syndicate it to Medium and LinkedIn Pulse. Don’t just put educational videos on Youtube. Post them to Wistia and Vimeo too. iTunes is the dominant podcast host, but you should also post podcasts to Stitcher and Soundcloud. Create smarter content that does more work for you by syndicating it to multiple sites and platforms.

32. Don’t require a post-signup confirmation — Some products require users to confirm their accounts by clicking a link in their email inbox after they sign up. While this helps prevent spam signups, it also slows down your signup flow. Inevitably, some percentage of users will forget to confirm their accounts and never come back to your product. Make it easy for users to start using your product as fast as possible by not requiring them to confirm their accounts. Then, figure out a way to delete spam signups if that issue arises.

33. Figure out your product’s “Ah ha” moment and get users to it as fast as possible — Users of every product have a point where they get hooked and keep coming back. This is a product’s “Ah ha” moment. The “Ah ha” moment for Facebook users is when they find ten friends in fewer than seven days. It will take plenty of time and lots of data analysis to find your product’s “Ah ha” moment. When you discover it, make sure users get to it as quickly as possible and your growth will skyrocket.

34. Send users and customers exclusive content — All people, including your customers, like to feel special. One way to make customers and users feel special is by sending them exclusive content. This could be educational content about your product, reports about the landscape of your industries, funny videos, etc. The key for this growth hack to work is that your exclusive customer content has to be exclusive and of the highest quality. Don’t send exclusive content to your users and customers that you wouldn’t send to a panel of world leaders. That’s a good rule for creating content that is ridiculously good.

More Resources

Don’t let your growth hacking and digital marketing education stop with this article. Read other articles, books, and resources to learn as much about growth as possible. Distribution and growth problems are the number one cause of startup failure. Know everything there is to know about growing a business so your startup doesn’t fail because of a lack of growth.

  1. Growth Hacker TV
  2. The GrowthHackers online community
  3. QuickSprout’s “Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking”
  4. Andrew Chen’s blog
  5. The growth hacking topic on Quora
  6. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday
  7. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover
  8. SaaS Growth Strategies
  9. The Growth Hacking Handbook by Jon Yongfook
  10. Seth Godin’s blog and books
  11. The SumoMe blog
  12. Noah Kagan’s OkDork
  13. Sujan Patel’s blog
  14. Buck Fifty MBA from Nate Desmond
  15. Brian Dean’s Backlinko
  16. Talk to an expert growth hacker on Clarity.fm
  17. The Growth Hacking subreddit
  18. GrowthLab from Ramit Sethi
  19. The Gleam Blog
  20. Copy Hackers

Learn more about Dreamit Ventures and the Dreamit Accelerator here. We are currently accepting applications for the fall accelerator cycle, which kicks off in mid September. This article was created by Dreamit’s own Jack Kaufman. Find him on Twitter here.

New Report Calling for Diversity Inclusion

New Report Calling for Diversity Inclusion

In a new research report, Inner City Business Growth and JPMorgan Chase & Co. address a long-time issue: the inclusion of women and minorities in high-tech incubators and accelerators. Although women and minorities independently make up almost 50% of the millennial population, neither of these demographics fair well in venture capitalism when compared to their white male counterparts. Worse, neither women nor minorities make up even a quarter of entrepreneurs, let alone entrepreneurs of high-growth, high-tech firms.


The barriers faced by women and minorities fall into four categories: recruitment, selection biases, culture, and program design. With psychologists noting that investors are more likely to seek out and select people who look and act like themselves, marginalized groups rarely make the cut. When they do, they may be deterred by an exclusive or perceived-to-be exclusive culture or a program design that simply does not fit their model of work. Consider the working mother who may offer insight into untapped markets but cannot commit to the popular night hours of incubators and accelerators. What about low-income families, who tend to be minorities, that cannot afford the often on-site travel requirement? These populations lack the opportunity to bring their fresh insight and original ideas to the marketplace.


Women and minorities must be specifically targeted in recruitment, selection, and implementation of tech accelerators and incubators. While accelerators like Dreamit have already seen a “dramatic increase of founders of color in their application pool” as a result of intentional efforts, onboarding also plays a large role. In recent years, women-focused, minority-focused, and even veteran-focused incubators and accelerators have established themselves. Other organizations have built targeted programs such as Dreamit’s Athena program, in which the company brings in a minimum of four women-led startups to each cohort with the backing of a Pennsylvania State grant.


This effort is only the beginning of an increasingly discussed issue. Click here, to read more.