I’ve now helped dozens of teams get ready for a first product launch in Area 120. This is the advice I usually give a bit in advance of the big day. It applies to web and mobile apps.

1. Separate your Analytics

Don’t mix development and production usage in analytics. In the early stages of your product, when you don’t have a lot of users, your team will be accessing your site or app more in aggregate than your users do. Your usage will skew the results. Set up a new property ID in Google Analytics for production usage.

2. Good URLs

Make sure your URLs are…

It happens most often to people with an engineering background like myself: You have an idea for a new app. It’s a better mousetrap — so much better than existing apps solving the same problem! People are going to love it, and everyone will use this. It will be super successful.

Except it won’t.

A product which is better than existing alternatives won’t automatically be more popular. The build-a-better-mousetrap playbook is itself a trap.

Here’s how it usually plays out:

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The Build-a-Better-Mousetrap Trap

The build-a-better-mousetrap trap usually plays out in six acts:

  1. A design and engineering team is hired to build the brilliant…

You might spend years building a product only to see your startup die because you can’t grow or monetize it. Here’s an example how to avoid that fate.

I often advise founders with consumer or prosumer ideas to de-risk the growth channel first. My advice is almost always ignored.

One reason is that there aren’t compelling examples of how to do this. When I’m asked, I mostly point at Tim Ferriss’ example of two entrepreneurs selling French sailor shirts in the 4-Hour Workweek. But that example doesn’t feel right because most entrepreneurs aren’t trying to start a niche e-commerce play.

Startups and Area 120 projects often ask me to share metrics related to user acquisition: What does it cost me to acquire users via ads? How likely is it that someone will give me notification permissions?

Here’s a list of useful growth-related metrics that you can use as a basis for estimation. I’ll try to keep these updated when I can, and will add to it over time if I find more relevant stats.

Each metric is followed by a source, and the year in which the data was collected. …

Startup spend way too much time and too many resources on building native mobile apps for iOS and Android. In this post I want to convince you that you should be pouring resources building for web and mobile web instead, especially if you’re a startup with limited resources.

Building apps is sexy. But building websites will make your startup more likely to succeed.

Your parents think of startup as apps, so you can tell them about it. Maybe Apple will feature you in their next WWDC video. …

Retaining users is critical to your startup’s success. But how do you do it? In this post, we’ll discuss 11 concrete ways to keep them coming back.

Startup growth breaks down into two components: The first is getting lots of users, ideally by creating a viral product. The second piece is keeping those users, also known as “retention”. Even small differences in retention can make a huge difference to business success: Higher retention increases increases your active user numbers and your revenue, while decreasing your costs. But while everyone keeps emphasizing how important retention is, and how it’s getting harder

If your startup is building a consumer product, your product has to be viral. For consumer products, the average revenue per user tends to be relatively low, so you won’t be able to afford spending much on advertising or sales. It’s hard to slap a viral channel onto an existing product, and you’ll have to think about how to make viral growth happen right at the start.

Consumer product startups have to bake a viral channel into their product from the get-go. They can’t merely glue it on later.

Sam Altman of YCombinator says that your product has to be…

The factor that determines most of the outcome of your startup is the one you have the least control over: Timing.

If you want to start the next $100M revenue, $1B+ valuation company, you have to find a market that is small enough but growing quickly.

There four types of markets you can find yourself in as a startup:

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Your startup’s fate depends on if and when there is growth in the market you’re addressing. I know two of these scenarios well. My first startup, reMail, was an email productivity startup in 2009, which fell neatly into #2: Email was…

The goal in any venture-funded startup is to get to at least $100M in annual revenue. That’s what you need to be valued at $1B or more by public markets, which is the kind of outcome that will generate sufficient returns for a venture fund. As a startup founder, you’ll ask yourself: How can my company get to the $100M revenue mark?

All startups with $100M or more in revenue fall into 3 buckets: Their products are either viral, marketed, or sold. The company’s user growth mechanism determines most of the business, and will determine the path to $100M.


For large tech companies, the number of employees represents your bandwidth: How many products can you develop and maintain? How many big contracts can you land? How many products or ads can you sell? And so on.

I was curious how large technology companies grew their employee count over time. Early in successful startups, headcount growth is exponential, but how far would that continue in large companies?

Luckily, there’s a lot of information out there about how these companies grew: Books have been written recounting their early days, and in their S-1 IPO filings, and subsequent quarterly and annual reports…

Gabor Cselle

I'm a Partner at Area 120, Google's internal startup incubator. Previously, I co-founded Namo Media (acquired by Twitter) and reMail (acquired by Google).

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