What Brexit & Andrew Mason Taught Me About Growing Startups

My brother called me last week, and he asked me what I thought of Brexit. I started to fumble a response — I guess I thought spending a couple of hours in a UK airport in 2010 qualified me to have an opinion.

But then I stepped back. I realized that all I knew about the “British withdrawal from the European Union” was that, well, the British withdrew from the European Union.

Shortly after, I caught this Andrew Mason-YC interview. They asked him “what he believed that few people would agree with”. He said this, and it blew me away.

It’s okay to not have an opinion about everything.

While I’m still pretty reckless when it comes to giving opinions, I’ve started to be more conscious of the value in not having one at all — especially when it comes to growth and startups.

One of my favorite books is Traction — a book about frameworks for acquisition for Internet businesses. Two of the books earliest and most important takeaways are the following:

  1. Most founders consider using only traction channels with which they’re already familiar.
  2. It’s hard to predict the traction channel that will work best.

I’ve certainly been guilty of #1, only to then learn #2 too late. If you’re just sticking to what you know and executing tests based on what you already believe to be true, you’re probably leaving a lot on the table.

Growth is hard, but the pathway to growth is simple —

# tests run * test success rate * test impact

In other words, testing velocity is the lifeblood of growth. More tests run means more thoughtful hypothesis, which leads to a) higher “success rates” and b) higher certainty around “impact”.

If you’re not starting and finishing tests, nothing else matters. And few things get in the way more of putting things into the world than having too many opinions.

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