Notes from Growth Hacking book

Growth Hacking book

Growth Hacker (noun) /’grōth ha-kər/: a highly resourceful and creative marketer singularly focused on high-leverage growth. Growth hackers thrive in resource-constrained environments where money is tight and time is of the essence. Through a mix of creativity and technology, a growth hacker is able to hack through the jungle, uncover buried resources along the way, and construct the tools needed to grow a business. A growth hacker is the figure-it-out-as-we-go adventurer of Indiana Jones mixed with the problem-solving ingenuity of MacGyver.

Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret is a good end to end overview what you need to take into account when running (digital) business.

It is very simple and trivial, but if you are doing Growth Hacking you need to remember, and remind yourself EVERY DAY that your two primary resources are TIME and MONEY. It is always tradeoff to choose between one of these two, while building a business.

Entire book describes so-called ASP – Automated Sales Process:

  1. Attraction (Acquisition)
  2. First Impression
  3. Engage & Educate
  4. Follow-Up
  5. Sales Technology
  6. Referrals & Retention

Many times, when working on a product, we tend to forget about some of above elements. Most companies focus on acquisition, but forget about first impression or education. For people working on particular product many things are obvious, but most of them might be not obvious for new customers.

Attraction (Acquisition)

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.

This is not a case anymore thanks to Facebook and Google! With Facebook ads you can target males in their 30s who live in Seattle, with income in range of $100-150k/year.

When creating targeting profile, authors recommend to take following customer signals into account:

  • gender
  • age
  • profession
  • income
  • living location
  • martial status
  • having kids
  • hobbies
  • interests

A clever way to determine specifically where your target customer spends time is to use a tool called SimilarWeb. Enter your competitor’s URLs into the tool, and scroll down to see exactly where their website traffic is coming from. This is a great way to discover places to “steal” clients away from your competition.

The job of growth hacker is to without spending a dollar more on marketing, acquire the most customers in the least time.

The domino theory of growth hacking states that small wins beget progressively larger wins. Your job as a growth hacker is to identify the lead domino, the first tactic to implement, and line up the subsequent dominoes in ascending level of achievability on a path that leads you to your ultimate goal.

Other acquisition techniques:

  • The four primary categories to keep Attraction tactics organized are direct, search platforms, branding platforms, and other.
  • A framework for identifying high-ROI Attraction opportunities is called advertising arbitrage: seek advertising opportunities where advertising inventory supply outpaces advertiser demand.
  • A strategy for creating cost-efficient advertising opportunities is to marry content creation with commerce.
  • Collaboration opportunities exist where your customer base overlaps with a complementary company and is fertile territory for affiliate, joint venture, comarketing, and other similar types of partnership arrangements.

First Impression

Making first impression is hard, but it’s very important. My takeaway from this section is that you should just look at the best first impression strategies that are out there and use fast follow/copy strategy.

It’s far cheaper to stand on the proverbial shoulders of early-adopting giants than reinvent the proverbial wheel. The trick is to figure out whom to follow.

You need to be on top of that all the time, and update/evolve your first impression technique ALL THE TIME.

Engage & Educate

In order to maximize the persuasive effect of your communication, you must make all three rhetorical appeals of persuasion:

  1. ethos (credibility)
  2. pathos (emotion)
  3. logos (logic)

On top of that, you need USP (Unique Selling Proposition) – succinct summary of what differentiates you from competition.

Use customer-centric words and phrases to describe your product:

  • Words to avoid: “we”, “my ”, “us” and “our”
  • Words to use: “you” and “your”

Social proof helps to engage people, because when people are unsure what to do they mimic the actions of others. Especially, if others are people they know or their friends.


Once you get your customer familiar with your product, you need to remind of yourself.

First step is to get customer information.

It’s important to remember that more information you request from your lead, the more friction there is, which leads to the prospect being less likely to provide the requested information.

Instead of asking explicitly for customer information you can use retargeting campaign using Facebook or Google ads.

There is very thin line between being effective and annoying which may result in losing customer. On the other hand, there is the marketing rule of 7.

The Marketing Rule of 7 states that a prospect needs to “hear” the advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service.

All reach-outs need to follow 4Es:

  1. Engaging
  2. Educational
  3. Entertaining
  4. Emotional

Sales Technology

Upsell – “up” the price by suggesting a more premium product or service.

Cross-sell – encourage you to reach across the aisle and add a complementary product to your order.

Automating your online sales require you to build everything by yourself (time) or use existing solutions (money).

More you automate, and measure the better results and improvements you can make. E.g., sending upsell/cross-sell emails after purchase or even confirmations can help to increase sales.

There is list of recommended tools for automating sales.

Referrals & Retention

Once your customer made the purchase, you need to try to retain him, and encourage to refer your product to others.

Increasing client retention increases Customer Lifetime Value. This allows to spend more on acquisition, which opens up new customer acquisition channels that are otherwise unaffordable.

The most popular and easy retention technique is to send simple holiday or birthday card. However, authors recommend to send holiday cards on less popular holidays, e.g., “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day” card will be more distinctive and more likely to be read than a New Year “Happy Holidays” card

We worked with one of our clients to send a box of See’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day to their top general contractor clients, and they ended up generating more than fifty thousand dollars of contracts from a two – hundred – dollar investment. They also helped several “forgetful” gentlemen look like wonderfully thoughtful husbands when they brought chocolate to their wives on Valentine’s Day.

The best time for applying growth-hacking is after the point of initial purchase at the very bottom of the proverbial funnel.

Testimonial formula: [Specific End Result or Benefit the Customer Received] + [Specific Period of Time] + [Accompanied Customer Emotion] + [Customer Name with Relevant Stats].

Dealing with negative comments, opinions, feedback:

  • Preempt it through satisfaction surveys and other internal feedback forms
  • For a negative truth: admit, apologize, and promote the opposite
  • For a negative lie: state that the comment is inaccurate or invalid, and substantiate your comment

The two primary categories of active referral systems are:

  • financial, e.g, get product after referring a friend
  • in-kind (non-cash), e.g., encourage to share product with friends, or leave review on social media


I really like this book. Although it doesn’t provide direct recipe for growth, it outlines different stages of customer journey very well.

  1. ATTRACT thousands of interested new leads.
  2. Create a powerful FIRST IMPRESSION to set the tone for a consistent, personalized, and professional experience with your company.
  3. ENGAGE & EDUCATE your prospects so they have all the information they need to feel comfortable buying from you.
  4. Implement a seamless FOLLOW-UP process so that no business slips through the cracks and your company is always top-of-mind.
  5. Use SALES TECHNOLOGY to more efficiently close sales, upsell, and cross-sell products and services.
  6. Generate high-value REFERRALS while RETAINING existing clients.

There is complementary list of resources to dive in more on book authors’ website: Especially, check the list of recommended tools for each part of ASP.

Comfort is a death sentence to progress, and progress is what you seek.

What I learned from books in 2019

Books 2019

Last year, I decided to review most interesting books I read last year, and write down my thoughts. Inspiration comes from GatesNotes. This post is long overdue, but I’m glad I managed to publish it before the end of 2020 🙂

  • Deep Learning with Python
    • good overview of different types of ML applications: from basic models than can be mapped to 0 and 1s, through computer vision to text
    • using Keras and writing python to actually train neural nets while reading this book was super helpful in understanding ML
    • I think thanks to this book I understood that I do not want to build Machine Learning models, but rather apply them in products
  • Principles: Life and Work
    • life principles
      • Decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2 – many time we want to achieve things, but we are not willing to acknowledge reality, I’ve been guilty of that many times in the past. Realizing that some things are just harder to do than they appear helps tremendously.
      • open-mindedness and radical transparency are invaluable for rapid learning and effective change
      • look at yourself with other’s eyes – many times (always?) we have totally different image of ourselves than other do
      • 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life: 1) identify clear goals, 2) identify problems, 3) diagnose problems, 4) create a plan how to deal with problems, 5) execute
      • remember that all people are wired very differently (they come from different backgrounds, have different experiences and goals)
      • in his book, Ray Dalio outlines framework for effective decision making: first learn, then decide (be aware of harmful emotions)
    • work principles
      • Ray Dalio believes in meritocracy and radical transparency for running organizations
      • hiring right people is most important thing
      • there is much more that can be found in this great, more detailed summary
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
    • have good values
    • remember that you are not special
    • instead of chasing fame, try to be useful in what you do today
    • struggle for what makes you happy
    • remember that you are probably wrong about majority of things you have opinion about
    • when making decision, imagine yourself 5-10 years from now and think what would you do if you look back
  • Lean Enterprise (book worth reading more than once!)
    • focusing only on maximizing profits has the paradoxical effect of reducing
    • MVPs over long term efforts
    • solid CI is a must for rapid development
    • delivery in small batches is a key to success
    • get hypothesis from user research and validate with A/B testing
    • check this great summary for more
  • 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings
    • this is a sarcastic story how meaningless can actually play on people emotions and make a difference
    • top 10 tricks: Draw a Venn diagram, Translate percentage metrics into fractions, Encourage everyone to “take a step back”, Nod continuously while pretending to take notes, Repeat the last thing the engineer said, but very very slowly, Ask “Will this scale?” no matter what it is, Pace around the room, Ask the presenter to go back a slide, Step out for a phone call, Make fun of yourself
  • Seven Languages in Seven Weeks
    • great book presenting 7 totally different languages that get your out of your comfort zone
  • Measure What Matters
    • book about achieving results through OKR: Objectives and Key Results
    • approach is widely used at google
    • it’s all about defining specific goals (objectives) and steps that would take you there (key results)
  • Designing Data-Intensive Applications
    • this is bible for distributed systems, as well as good prep book for system design interview
  • Why we Sleep
    • probably the most influential book I read in 2019, made me reprioritize life
    • before reading this book, my priorities were: 1) working out and healthy eating, 2) work 3) hobbies
    • after reading this book, my priorities are: 1) sleep, 2) working out and healthy eating, 3) work, 4) hobbies
  • Hello, Startup – awesome book! See separate post.

I’m curious what did you read and learn. Share your thoughts. You can also follow me on GoodReads to stay up to date with my readings!

Speed reading

speed reading

Is your “to read” backlog longer than 100 books? Is there more books than you can read in one year? Mine too!

Solution? Pick top 20, and remove the rest?

That’s one way to go, but there is also another one: speed reading.

I decided to learn a little about speed reading in order to get to some books that I’m curious about, but…not enough to devote a month of reading for them. There are some books I just want to just know what’s in there.

Speed reading is also useful for articles. How many times your friends send you things that take 20 minutes to read, and then you are like “meh…I wish I spent this time by going for a walk”?

How many times you decided that you want to read something because you are very interested in particular topic? How many times you ended up in reading it, and concluding: “if I could go back in time I wouldn’t read it” or “content was not what I was expecting”? How many times you read something and you think: “Yeah, it’s good, but it can be summarized in 1 paragraph”?

Resources to get started

Here is a list of good resources I went through to get familiar with speed reading:

My approach

When I see something that interests me I do not read it from back to back anymore. I skim first, and if it’s good I read it more carefully, or do another, more comprehensive skim. If it’s a book, I read table of contents first.

Sometimes I also read summary at wikisummaries, fourminutebooks or blinkist.

Another heuristic that helps me to make a decision about reading books is to check GoodReads score. If it’s above 4 then it’s promising. Around 4.5 usually end up being very good, worth reading back to back.

For storytelling books, like biographies, I usually pick up an audiobook on Libby or Audible. Then I listen to it while making breakfast or home errands.

For articles, I usually start with summary/conclusion. Many times that’s where I stop…


It’s all about skimming.

If you want to read fast: skim the words, read first sentence of every paragraph, or even just headers or book/article.

Faster reading = worse comprehension. The art of speed reading is to find the sweet spot of how much comprehension you are willing to sacrifice for speed of reading.

Future of Package Delivery is Underground

Underground Package Delivery System

Back in 2016, after reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, I came up with an idea of Underground Package Delivery System. At first it would connect just distribution centers. Then we gonna have local dropbox stations. Like Amazon Lockers. Ultimately: everyone will have dropbox in their homes. You order something on amazon, worker machine sends this to you through underground pipes, you get notification, open dropbox which is next to your closet…and it’s there! Packages will travel like internet packages.

At first, everyone was laughing and told me that it is IMPOSSIBLE! Only a few months later, Amazon was granted a patent for that idea.

I recently discussed this idea with one friend, and decided to re-research it. It looks like a company from UK (Magway) is working on it! Another company, Mole Solutions, has even built 344-foot prototype. They also created awesome video with an overview of the idea:

This is another video of how it would look like:

Are underground delivery systems realistic options for moving packages quickly?

Magway estimates that it would cost 6 Million Dollars per mile. This is actually not bad! Compare this with urban rail cost per mile being up to 1 Billion Dollars (source)!

I know that majority of people see the future in drones, but…do you really want to have entire sky polluted with packages?

Sky of Drones

There is one man, who really believes in tunnels. You know who that is 😉 Hint.

What do you think?

PHP in 2020 it’s not your mama’s PHP

I decided to write this post, because before joining Facebook I thought that PHP is just old, limited language from 2 decades ago when server was responsible for simple form parsing, and generating HTML.

I actually learned web development using PHP in mid-2000s, when I was in middle school. I created my personal blog, and website about very popular back then game Deluxe Ski Jump. I actually still have the source code and recently put it on Azure at – it is in polish, and there is no database:P Didn’t bother to update character encoding from ISO-8859-2 to UTF. Why I used ISO-8859-2? Because my cousin told me to do so! It was real copy/paste programmer back then! Good times 😀

Mark Zuckerberg wrote first version of Facebook around that time using PHP too. LAMP stack was the way to go for web development in 2000s.

A few days after joining facebook I realized that PHP now is full blown OO language. It has classes, interfaces, abstract classes, dependency injection, etc. It is much closer to C# or Java than to PHP that I used to write 15 years ago. At facebook we use Hack (typed PHP). It’s awesome. You have the best of two Worlds: type safety and no compilation! Just save, and refresh to see your changes. Yay! As pure PHP performance is not the best, HHVM performance is an improvement.

In PHP, you can access pretty much every module in the codebase without explicitly referencing it. That’s an extra productivity boost. Or hack:) Intellisense in editors like Nuclide (Atom) or VSCode is pretty good as well. When you add Facebook engineering systems, where everything is so neatly setup to prioritize productivity, you are in heaven 🙂 I know most of PHP devs do not have that luxury, but just sayin’ 😉

If you want to learn more about modern PHP, check out these resources:

As of February 2020, PHP is 5th most popular language on StackOverflow (source)! Just recently taken over by python.

In any means I am not recommending you to learn PHP if you don’t have to. Choose Rust or Go instead! Just wanted to let you know, that PHP changed A LOT! PHP in 2020 is not PHP from Web 1.0 times.