How to find meaningful metrics — over vanity metrics — for your startup

How to think deeper about what metrics actually mean something for your business and tell the story of success.

Veronica Head
Goodbets Press
Published in
3 min readAug 30, 2019

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Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Number of users, total revenue, funds raised, new hires made. These are all numbers, and numbers that are typically though of as success indicators for a startup. But, are these numbers really meaningful and do they tell the whole story? Sure, your new app might have 10,000 users, but are they engaged with your product? Are they experiencing success, do they keep coming back? Don’t be fooled, this is a vanity metric — meaning it’s simply a number that doesn’t correlate to something actionable. They look great on paper, but that’s it. They aren’t going to move the needle towards success and aren’t going to help you achieve your business goals and find growth. This is important in a startup because you want to be chasing real and actionable growth with your limited resources, instead of vanity. When you focus on vanity over results you set yourself up for failure.

Identifying Vanity Metrics

We’ve established that vanity metrics are not where it’s at, but how do we know if a metric is of the vanity variety? Some very common vanity metrics include things like: page views, number of visitors, email sign-ups, funding raised. Here’s some questions to ask yourself:

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Can I tie this back to real performance?

I ran a mile this week. In fact, I’ve run many miles in my lifetime. But, how fast did I run that mile in? Without that key factor, you’re unable to gauge how I really performed. It could’ve taken me 20 minutes, it could’ve taken me 5 minutes (realistically, it was probably 9 minutes). In this case, miles ran is a vanity metric, but my running pace (i.e. how long it took me to run those miles) is the real indicator of how I’m performing. This is what makes that data meaningful and what gives a real frame of measurement.

Does this tell a story of what’s really happening?

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Veronica Head
Goodbets Press

Impact Driven Engineer & Entrepreneur | Passionate about the Future of Work | Venture for America, Goodbets, Boost