Can you measure pirate metrics BEFORE you hit the high seas?

Can you measure Activation before you actually have a product?

Or to re-state the question in the timber-shivering language:

Can you measure pirate metrics BEFORE you hit the high seas?

Pirate metrics

Here at the CA Accelerator, we are big fans of Ash Maurya.

One of the many tactics that me and the other founders in our incubator are fond of is the use of Ash’s customer factory model…and pirate metrics.

SIDENOTE: I have been interviewing a lot of folks for a Product Marketing Manager role recently and have discovered through those conversations that though some marketing folks might not know the term “Pirate metrics”, they may actually know/understand the digital marketing conversion funnel process.

So for those that don’t know Pirate Metrics here they are:


Dave McLure explains Pirate Metrics in this deck:

Is this the right room for an argument?

Anywise, at lunchtime today a bunch of the founders and team members in the CA Accelerator were talking about measuring pirate metrics and instrumenting products.

Then we got into a bit of a philosophical debate…

We were all agreed that Acquisition could be defined as a new user coming to your website.

We were all agreed that Activation could be defined as someone signing up to actually use your product. Or perhaps starting to use your product. Or perhaps even better…when they have started to get true value from your product…you know, getting to that moment of joy: say when a user first gets that goose-bumpy, smile-raising, oh-wow-that’s-cool, Hey-Toby!-you-have-to-come-in-here-and-see-this! feeling.

The argument started when we talked about what happens before you get a product. NOTE: It wasn’t really an argument, just a passionate difference of opinion :-)

Say for WhoZoo right now, the MVP is not yet available.

Sure, folks can sign up for the upcoming trial on the website at

One school of thought in the room, was that you can’t count a new user signing up for a trial as an Activation, because you haven’t really activated them. In essence, you’re just kidding yourself…misleading yourself…and possibly misleading others as to how well you are doing.

Personally, I take a different view.

Sure, the folks that sign up for a trial might not actually trial the product when it is available. Also, the conversion rate from Acquisition > Activation, prior to the MVP, when Activation just means signing up for a trial…might well be different from the conversion rate from Acquisition > Activation, after the MVP is available, when Activation really does mean, say, using the product and getting to that moment of joy (getting Toby off the couch in the other room…and in front of this cool new product).

My view was, that although Activation does indeed mean two different things before and after the MVP is available…thinking in terms of Activation pre-MVP is a really good muscle to build.

A good muscle technically (how do you instrument and capture Activation pre-MVP?), a good muscle emotionally (how often do you look at the numbers?…how do you not get addicted to staring at the real time analytics?), and how do you dashboard or share the pre-MVP metrics with team and stakeholders?

Back to the pirate analogy, I rather think that even before we hit the high (post-MVP) seas…we can have a lovely time pottering around the bay…getting our metrics thinking ship-shape and Bristol fashion.


Founder @ WhoZoo
Serendipity. Engineered.

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