Sunday, June 29, 2014

What is Growth Hacking?

The term 'growth hacking' was coined by a blogger called Sean Ellis in 2010. It is a marketing method that combines social networking with critical thinking and throws creativity into the mix. It is becoming an integral ingredient to lean marketing and therefore particularly useful to start-ups.

Growth Hacking can Grow Your Business

One of the biggest problems start-ups are faced with is a lack of capital. Not having unlimited funds to hire marketing wizards and not having enough experience with traditional marketing to do it in-house has caused many a start-up's demise. Marketers and advertising agencies are aware of the value of their expertise and charge accordingly. The ideal situation for any new entrepreneur is to find a way of making existing technology, like their online presence, work as marketing tools or to have built-in marketing tools in the actual product. In other words, let the business grow itself through itself.

Does this sound complicated?

It is not complicated, really. A simple and simply great example of a marketing tool built into a product is Twitter. When Twitter started out, they had a problem with retention. Although new users signed up by the dozen, not many became active. Instead of spending a fortune on jacking up their conventional marketing, Twitter took a different approach. First of all they figured out the problem, which was that users were not likely to be active if they didn't have people they knew on Twitter to interact with; to get users to start interacting, Twitter had to get their friends and family to join. This was achieved with a technical, creative and practical solution; they built in the functionality of 'Suggested User Lists'. Just like this simple and extremely effective growth hack, you can leverage growth hacking to build your business, even with limited funds.

A Pinch of Creativity and a Dash of Tech Savvy

Many of the most renowned websites use growth hacks to create brand awareness and improve profits. Social networking sites Facebook and Pinterest both used exclusivity as a launching pad to getting the numbers in. Dropbox used a referral program that gave out free storage space for every signup and Hotmail added a tagline in every signature, on every email sent by their 20 something thousand subscribers inviting recipients to sign up. Whatever product you are punting, start by looking at the systems in place. The first question to ask is: 'How can this be automated to my benefit?' Instead of spending money on Adwords or ad agencies, try to figure out how to reach your target audience through creatively using technology. Research Organic SEO methods; research keywords, look at what competitors are doing in their social media streams and blog, blog blog. If this doesn't get the desired results, look at hiring a growth hacker at a fraction of the cost of an ad agency.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Self-Drive Cars and the Future of Transportation

Self-Drive Cars
Google recently announced a prototype of a totally self-drive car. After running modified cars with Google self-drive technology and clocking up more than 700,000 miles, it has decided to move to the next stage. The prototype (which is still a long way from production) has no driver controls and is powered by battery.
Many people are probably asking themselves, "Would I ever buy one of these?" and are probably giving themselves a negative response. They are suspicious about a device that takes away their control. But in order to understand this innovation's potential, we need to dig a little deeper.

We need to consider the increasing challenges to modern transportation, and the innovations of recent years. In the same week that Google announced its self-drive car prototype there were two other significant transportation stories:
1. Faced with the increasing health-threatening air pollution, the Chinese government announced that it is taking six million older cars that do not comply with emissions standards off the road. Some 31% of Beijing's air pollution is caused by cars, so the new law is expected to make a serious impact.
2. Uber, the transportation network startup whose value has rocketed up to $12b. announced that it is seeking $500m in additional venture capital. ReadWrite web has an article "Why Uber, not HP is the Future of Technology". Uber has been expanding its operations to more than a hundred cities around the world, despite many legal challenges from many traditional taxi companies.

There have been other important innovations in transportation news in the recent period.
- Beginning from the 1970's more than 500 cities, in every continent, have established bicycle rental schemes. Within the 2 year period between 2011 to 2013, the number of bicycles in such schemes doubled to more than 500,000. Millions of commuters now rely on these programs.
- Electric or hybrid vehicles are beginning to take off. The Chinese have made electric vehicles mandatory for public transportation, including taxis. Cities from New Delhi to San Francisco have been establishing charging stations and government incentives. Constant advances in battery technology are bringing down the costs.

So going back to the thought, "Would you buy a Google self-drive car?", well that may be entirely the wrong question. You need to take into consideration all of the other transportation stories, and let your imagination run a little.
Imagine a city where Google teams up with a company like Uber to create a fleet of self-drive taxis. In your mobile phone app you key in a route, and moments later, an electric Uber Google self-drive taxi stops on the curb. Better and safer than a rental bike, cheaper than a normal taxi, cleaner than the smog producing vehicles that threaten our health. And no need to own a car.