Greylock’s Andy Johns on Web Growth: “You’re Training a Mentality”

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about Facebook’s fixation on data earlier this year, and Johns said the time he spent at Facebook “was the best two years of business training I could have asked for.”

Johns said driving Facebook-style growth is a process that requires continual experimentation and a willingness to take risks. “Growth begins with the founders,” he said. “To go from being a college directory to the social fabric of the Internet, you have to take risks.”

So when do you start building a growth team?

“Building that knowledge should start from day one,” Johns said. When he left Quora earlier this year, Johns said eight of the company’s 50 employees worked on growth. At Facebook, the growth team had about 45 people when he left in 2010.

When Johns left Facebook to joinTwitter, he said Twitter was not a data-driven company. At that time, Twitter’s headcount was soaring, and the company was caught up in a discussion of new features that could be included on Twitter’s website. Many of the new hires wanted to contribute, “and the way they wanted to contribute was to build more features, which is bullshit,” Johns said. “They wanted to treat the signup page like YouTube.”

Johns viewed additional features as a distraction. He said Twitter’s greatest value is enabling users to create a personalized stream of information, and he wanted new users to be able to sign up quickly. So Johns devised an experiment that offered an alternate sign-up page to 10 percent of Twitter’s first-time visitors.

“It emphasized sign-ups,” Johns said. “It was either sign in and give me your e-mail address or get the fuck out.”

He ran the experiment for two days, and the alternate sign-up page increased Twitter’s registrations by 60,000 users a day. “It was the single biggest step change in the growth of Twitter,” Johns said, adding he implemented the changes immediately.

It also serves as an example of the type of experiments that Johns continually runs to measure … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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