Figma’s Early Days: Growth Marketing Lessons

Sean Whitney
Craft Ventures
Published in
5 min readJan 20, 2023


A conversation with early Growth Marketer Toni Gemayel on how he scaled growth marketing at Figma.

Sean Whitney, Craft Ventures investor and early Figma team member, sat down with Toni Gemayel, Figma’s first growth marketer, to talk about how he scaled growth marketing at Figma.

Building a solid growth marketing function is mission-critical for every startup, but especially for companies dependent on a PLG or freemium motion. Founders and early teams must develop, test and iterate to find winning growth strategies, which requires a special combination of creativity, technical skill, and rigor.

For the first chat in my conversation series with early Figma leaders, I sat down with Toni Gemayel to talk about the early days of building out and scaling Figma’s growth efforts. I summarized a few of Toni’s hot takes — keep scrolling for his insights, and check out his video.

Toni shares three lessons he learned building out the growth marketing function at Figma.


Creating content that resonates with your audience and drives engagement is critical to the growth marketing function. The number one pitfall: creating content just for the sake of it, without properly considering its quality or relevance to your product and your audience.

As Toni put it, this is “motion without progress.” In order to build a top-of-funnel machine, the content must be interesting. When other marketers tell Toni their content isn’t getting traction, his first question is “would you read it?” More often than not, a failed piece of content was written for the purpose of filling an editorial calendar — and winds up being boring, un-engaging, or irrelevant to the target audience.

Figma’s approach to creating content was to focus on being original and creative. Toni and the team constantly asked if they would actually want to read or share the content they’re creating. If the answer was no, they scrapped it. Toni advises to avoid generic, sales-oriented content at all costs. Figma did this by “being militant about not sending content we didn’t want to read.”


A surefire way to produce meaningful content is to actually use your product. This allows you to better understand your users and their needs. Doing market research and gathering insights is important, but without understanding the ‘why’ behind customer adoption and usage, it’s difficult to create content that is relevant. The same is true when figuring out the keywords that will move the SEO needle.

To generate creative ideas that would resonate with various users, Toni would first turn to the product to understand existing and potential users’ interests. Then he would assess if he could fill the funnel with content that was relevant.

For example, while at its core, Figma is a tool for designers, other user types would have to love the tool in order to drive organization-wide adoption — including developers, PMs, marketers, and copywriters. The growth team would ask: what are ways that we can show people that this tool is unique and interesting outside of our core use case?”

As Toni put it, Figma had a unique business because it was able to solve for something that a lot of different user types were looking for. It was the growth team’s job of identifying the myriad of possibilities for content that would show potential users “what we do better than everybody else.” A prioritization and ROI discussion would follow that would determine how the team would spend its time and resources, versus a generic content machine that doesn’t drive the proper engagement.

Toni’s use of the product led him to lean into design systems. He recommended Figma purchase the domain, which continues to be one of top signup generators for Figma today.


The challenge with building out a growth function in a company’s early days is knowing what skill sets to hire for. Growth marketers come in a variety of forms — some are great at SEO, others are brilliant content creators, some may have a technical background, and others might have deep data and analytical skills. Toni looks for “growth athletes — people that can run up and down the stack.” A growth athlete has a core understanding of the different components of growth marketing, but also has a few specialties. Everybody should be “speed obsessed, experimentation minded, and want to throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

For a first growth hire, founders should look for individuals who have a willingness and ability to learn and master new concepts quickly. Having basic skills is important, but so is learning on the job: the best way to become a growth athlete is to do the work yourself. Rather than outsourcing to agencies immediately, Toni and the early growth team “did all their own stunts,” which enabled them to build skills and knowledge, and a deep understanding of Figma’s users.

This created two important cultural norms: team-wide empathy for the problems users were trying to solve, and a shared understanding of the challenges across the marketing stack.

What worked well for Figma’s growth team may not be best for every company or product, but the lessons are valuable when examining how your growth team is performing. Use your product, understand your users, be purposeful in your efforts, and foster a culture of learning and development. The fireside chat with Toni is full of other insights as well as more-tactical advice on growth strategies. Reach out to me ( or @sean_whit on twitter) for access to the full hour chat.

Next up in my conversation series with early Figma operators is Kyle Parrish — the very first sales leader at Figma on February 2nd. We’ll be chatting about product-led sales, what to look for in your first sales reps, how to maintain a productive relationship with product & engineering, and much more! Register here.

Register here to join us on February 2nd