Why We Built Europe’s First Growth Hacking Academy and Are Exploding

A few weeks ago we announced Europe’s first ever growth hacking academy. The responses were huge. The sheer number of applications (we’ll be sharing specifics on this later), press, phone calls, emails, job requests, visits, sign-ups and tweets we received was way over expectations. We see this as a super strong signal that we’re building something necessary. We’re solving a real pain.

But first some background on what growth hacking is, why it’s inevitable and why it has become necessary to train growth hackers. You can skip this part if you already know all this..

Some background

Growth hackers have ushered in a new movement of data and code-based marketing. Like it or not (some don’t) we’re here to stay. One can only drool over impressive growth hacking success stories which we’re told about over and over again. Airbnb’s smart tech team scraped then reverse-engineered Craigslist to piggyback off of their audience and explode growth. Dropbox discovered that traditional marketing methods were too expensive so they created an incentivised referral programme that boosted them from 100000 to 4 million users in 2 years. Hotmail’s “PS I love you” signature, Youtube’s embed code, Pinterest’s auto-follow, Linkedin’s public profiles, Mailbox’s waiting list all have similar data-driven, technically creative growth success stories. Stories that were driven by what we now call a “growth hack”. Growth (helped them grow)+ Hack (technical, creative, sometimes sleazy).

Some argue that growth hacking is just a sub-set of online marketing “same wine, different bottle”. I was a full-stack marketer for 6 years before labelling myself a “growth hacker” and I can promise you it’s much more than marketing as usual.

By steadily dissolving the wall between marketing and product development we growth hackers are redefining online marketing.

It’s not “just” marketing anymore, it’s a mix of product management, coding, lean startup, conversion rate optimisation and digital marketing. I made this sketch to sum it up. Hope it makes some sense..

It’s a strange animal but it has become an indispensable part of the startup world.

The problem is that good growth hackers are extremely hard to come by. Just like billion dollar companies, we refer to good growth hackers as unicorns.

I’m mean gosh… just look at the amount of skills needed to be a “real” growth hacker. Do you know many people who fit this profile?

(ps: Brian Balfour came up with the notion of the t-shaped player).

Not only do growth hackers need these hard skills. They also all share some common principles. I’ve summed them up here:

So let’s take it as a fact that there’s no more denying the spread of this movement. For lack of a better analogy I’d say Growth hacking is to the startup world what the assembly line was to the industrial world. A revolution that just makes sense.

Let’s look at some basic data to back this up.

Type in a simple google trends query for “growth hacking” or “growth hacker” and you’ll see a curve worthy of the rise of SEO or Big Data.

Searches for Growth Hacking or Growth Hacker:

Jobsignal used Angelists’ API. Here they’ve analysed 19577 jobs within startups. They found that the highest in demand skill within the realm of marketing was growth hacking, growing at a staggering monthly 73%

I was recently reading this VentureBeat article in which Sean Ellis (the godfather of growth hacking) mentions a super simple Google search. His search (https://www.google.com/search?q=site:http://linkedin.com/in+growth+hacker&gws_rd=cr,ssl&ei=0HncVcX4FIGoUuajn6AC) reveals he found 18000+ thousand self-named growth hackers listed on Linkedin.

Compare that to the 120000 jobs on Linkedin for startup marketing and growth marketing positions and you’ll understand that there’s a huge imbalance in supply and demand.

Need a job anyone?

With such an imbalance it makes sense that resources are sprawling online to help you become a growth hacker. We’ve tested quite a few of them and some are really awesome. For example this list of 50+ growth hacks by Tiger Tiger is simply delicious.

This course by Justin Mares gives you a great head start on how to become a technical marketer.

But things aren’t only happening online. Brian Balfour the VP of growth at Hubspot has also partnered up with Andrew Chen (current Head of Growth at Uber) to create a full on course in the Silicon Valley.

Want more proof of growth hacking’s sprawl? 500 Startups has recently launched Distro Dojo (http://www.500distro.co/distro-dojo) a growth marketing accelerator operating out of London and Cyberjaya Malaysia. It’s goal? Teach startups how to grow after they raise funds.


Are we Continental Europeans once again going to be late bloomers?

No way…

Why we decided to build a growth hacking academy

We love data, let’s look at some more data… It had been almost 3 years since the last Startup Ecosystem Report which was last released in 2012. The new report came out and only 4 European cities appear in the top 20: London (is that even really Europe? :-D ), Berlin, Paris and wouhou Amsterdam (the city I love and live in).

Speaking of Amsterdam, one caveat from the research was not being able to place Beijing and Shanghai for lack of data. Beijing is estimated to rank in the top 5 and Shanghai to rank in the top 15. This would kick out Amsterdam from the list leaving us with only 3 cities in the top 20.

But the problem is global. If you remeber before we mentioned:

18 000 growth hackers for 120 000 jobs… that’s almost a 7:1 ratio.

So how do we fix this huge talent gap (lack of growth hacking talent and huge demand) whilst also keeping Europe relevant and in the race? Well as founders of Amsterdam’s Growth Hackers Meetup and founders of a growth hacking agency we’ve decided to do our part.

We’ve created Europe’s first ever Growth Hacking Academy, a full-time, 3-month, fully-immersive course.

Come check it out here: www.growthtribeacademy.com

And to do things right we teamed up with some serious partners: StartupAmsterdam (which aims to position Amsterdam as one of the startup capitals of Europe), the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and the University of Amsterdam as well as other high profile supporters: the Dutch VC firm Peak Capital and Catawiki, a startup that recently closed a $82 million Series C growth funding round. We also partnered up with Facebook who has been extremely supportive and helpful.

Here are the 6 principles behind which this academy will be run.

1. Growth hacking is hard, only train the best

It has taken us many days, months, years to learn the skills behind growth hacking: programming, copywriting, data-mining, A/B testing, digital marketing or any other hard skill we mentioned above. So if you’re going to teach growth hacking you should only teach it to voracious learners. We will only select and train the best.

2. Growth Hacking is a team sport

What do you do if you can’t find a technical, creative, marketing-savvy growth hacker? You build a team. Growth hacking will be taught in teams 3 of multi-disciplinary magicians.

3. Growth hacking is a mindset.. teach people at the source

Take away the hard skills, growth hacking is above all a mindset. It’s having a creative, scientific and data-based process to product development and marketing. The easiest way to build a mindset is to get people as early as possible. Before their minds are polluted with “marketing as usual” and “product-dev as usual”. This is one of the reasons we partnered up with major universities. To teach people at the source.

4. Break silos, mix up the skills

Universities in many ways are like large corporations. They’re divided into silos. Economics here, business there and computer science over here. That’s the first barrier we want to break. We are going to build multi-disciplinary teams that will work together.

5. Learn by doing

Just like coding it’s hard to learn growth hacking from a book or a video. The best way to learn is to learn by doing. For that reason students should be placed on real live projects and confronted with real growth opportunities. We’ve partnered up with some of the hottest, fastest growing startups in our ecosystem to challenge the students with real-life growth cases. For example, 2 teams will be immersed within Catawiki a high growth auction startup that just raised 82million€.

6. It’s not just the tricks…but mostly about the process

You’ll always hear about tips and tricks but as we’ve clearly learned looking at hundreds of business models, target audiences, customer journeys and teams, there is no single hack or trick that can be applied to all companies to help them grow. The only way to find great growth engines is to experiment Therefore having a strong experiment framework is more important that cool tricks. We’ll be teaching 50% process… but since tricks are still nice though we’ll also be teaching 50% tricks :)

If you want to find out more come check out our academy or send us an email: academy@growthtribe.nl