The History of Growth Hacking! | Marketing and Networking University

The History of Growth Hacking!

History of Growth Hacking


The internet has not only changed the way entrepreneurs and businesses market to the world, but it has also added new techniques and tools that were not available before. One of the most interesting is growth hacking, a technique that began in 2010 and has exploded onto the internet marketing scene. Understanding what growth hacking is all about starts with its history and how it has been employed in the past

What is Growth Hacking?

This form of marketing is based on the premise that there is limited startup capital available for growing the business. Although, growth hacking techniques can be used by entrepreneurs, small and large business owners. The focus of growth hacking is based on the product’s growth potential and focuses on being innovative, scalable, and connecting to the potential user.

Unlike traditional marketing methods that separate the design and effectiveness of the product from the overall effort, growth hacking utilizes them to maximize its full potential. Like guerilla marketing in terms of the capital used for promotion, growth hacking is primarily focused on growing the business as rapidly as possible. The underlying principle is that a company that is growing can overcome many of the challenges it will face as it expands. Only when the level of growth has reached a pre-set point do other forms of marketing come into play.

Growth hacking also redefines the term “product” which used to mean a physical item such as shampoo, cars, or air conditioners. With the internet, companies like Facebook or Twitter are considered products. This means that intellectual materials, software programs, and the like are now considered products to be promoted like their physical counterparts.


Growth Hacking Sean Ellis


Origins of Growth Hacking.

The term “growth hacking” began in 2010 when Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacker” which he defined as someone whose true commitment is growth and all resources are directed to improving growth potential. The term was expanded by Andrew Chen, who wrote an article titled, “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing” where the term was defined for a much wider audience.

By 2012, Aaron Ginn noted that a growth hacker is considered someone who has a mindset of data, creativity, and curiosity in the publication, TechCrunch. By the following year, Sean Ellis had combined with Dylan La Com, Everette Taylor, Morgan Brown, and several others to start GrowthHackers. This was a community that offered software as a service (SaaS) which augmented the growth process.

Later in 2013, the Second Annual Growth Hackers Conference in San Francisco produced individuals who had used the techniques on social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more. Today, growth hacking has developed to the point where it has become a mainstream tactic of marketing to help companies expand rapidly on the internet.

Sean’s success at setting up several internet companies and helping them to achieve remarkable growth in a short time quickly earned him a powerful reputation. A few of the companies he assisted had an IPO and this led Sean to become one of the most powerful marketing individuals for growing internet companies. His basic technique was to come in, set up the right systems, change mindsets to a growth mentality, and then leave so that he could help others.

However, growth hacking was not just another form of marketing, it required a different skill set. Sean found this out when he tried to find a replacement to take over his services. Standard or traditional marketers and those educated in the traditional means of promoting a company were not well suited to the specific skills of growth hacking.

So, it was no surprise that Sean began looking for growth hackers instead of traditional marketers. They understand that growth is the only goal that is considered successful. This means that all strategies were based on growth so that the company could expand as quickly as possible.

Dropbox to Hotmail to AirBnB and Beyond

Because growth hacking views delivery systems like social media as products, they can also boost the sales of other products. An early example was YouTube adding a “Confirm Channel Subscription” to the end of their URL. While it only works on desktop and laptop computers, it did manage to grow the subscription base by 400%.

Another example is Dropbox which can provide you with free cloud storage if you can get someone to sign up with you. This means that you are using one product to sell another product which helps redefine the meaning of growth in today’s internet world.

Sean Ellis managed to take Dropbox and grow it tremendously using the basic concepts of growth hacking. Simple email sites like Hotmail can be used as products to promote and sell other products which creates a chain that boosts the company’s growth overall. When Hotmail included their “PS I Love You” that offered a link to others so they could have free online mail, it was an example of growth hacking at its finest.

AirBnB has managed to take it a step further by bringing together technology and clever thinking when they accessed the Craigslist site and brought in their base of support through automated listing generators. Called “Post to Craigslist”, it was a remarkably simple, but powerful idea that helped their clients access a powerful website that provided customer support.

There are many examples of growth hacking today that account for the massive rise of small businesses and entrepreneurs into larger companies. Sean Ellis’ vision has resulted in a wholesale change of just how to massively grow a business and overcome many of the challenges faced when just starting up. This simple, but powerful approach has resulted in considerable success that continues to expand today.

It’s important for business owners to remember that growth hacking is not just focusing on a single product, but using different products in pushing them to their maximum potential. Getting the most out of growth hacking results in creating large businesses from small ones through clever use of the internet and stacking products with delivery systems with other products.



November 3, 2017