Blitzscaling 13: Shishir Mehrotra on Scaling YouTube and The 10 Things That Matter

This is my eleventh blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here. Session 12 notes are here

In session 13,  Shishir Mehrotra, who helped guide YouTube through hyper growth shared 10 things that matter when you scale your early stage organization.

10things that matter

  1. Tailwind is an aviation industry term which means wind pushing the aircraft from its back; resulting in the higher speed of aircraft; opposite of tailwind is “headwind”, which means air is pushing the aircraft from its front, resulting in the slower speed. When applying this term to start-up world; “tailwind” means your start-up is or will be riding an existing wave of change, for example:-early stage businesses working in renewable energy which we taking advantage of society becoming sensitive about the environment.  “Highwind” means your start-up is or will be moving against a reluctance towards a change. for example:- Cloud based businesses 10 years ago was struggling to prove their point to CIO’s that cloud based hosting is way cheaper that on-premise server hosting. Success doesn’t matter whether your early stage business is tailwind or headwind. But being in tailwind, you can avoid many mistakes which headwind start-up businesses has done in past.
  2.  Purpose is one of the core dimensions that motivates people to do what they do. Mastery and autonomy are the other two dimensions. Purpose means connect what you do and why you do it. If you don’t communicate about your purpose, people will keep doing the transactions, which will never lead to WOW for your customers.
  3. Thesis matters means you have to focus on core & simple insights of your domain. Discovering those simple insights is going to take hell lot of time.
  4. Deciding which metrics to measure is very important. At Coca-Cola rather than measuring their market share vs Pepsi, someone at Coca-Cola suggested measuring Coca-Cola share in customer’s stomach. That measure resulted in Coca-Cola investing in packaged food products & drinking water. At YouTube, Shishir and team shifted measuring “Watch time Of YouTube” vs  “Watch time Of Television”. The previous metric that was measured at YouTube was the number of video’s uploaded to ad revenue to the quantity of ad’s coming to office. YouTube set a goal to increase its watch time from 100 million to 1 billion hours of watch time for Television. So setting the right type of metric to measure helps you to accelerate growth in the right direction. Pro tip: Use OKR to measure the progress on your business metrics
  5. Its often hard to make decisions in your business when you don’t have enough data. So you need more and more data to simplify your decision-making. The best decisions are those which simplify your life in making next 10 decisions.
  6.  Every business is a part of eco-system doesn’t matter how big you are. And there are set of people in that ecosystem on you have relied on to make you grow. And it’s very easy to presume their incentives if you don’t ask.Don’t presume things, collect data and/or ask hard questions, you might get more insights on this. For YouTube, their ecosystem is content producers. And YouTube worked hard to come up with the model on how to incentives the content producers.
  7. Value Matters as you grow. Think about your values well in advance before you become big enough that you can’t work on those & you can’t explain them or inculcate them in your employees.
  8. Talent matters alot for growing your organization. Divide your entire landscape of talent into 4 level as follows and compare them on their performance to decide who to take forward and whom to work with and who should be those who get out of the system.

Level 1) Executors: People who do day to day execution

Level 2) How to execute: People who give instruction on how to execute the things

Level 3) Solution to work on: These are the people who identify the solution to problems                       and priorities to execute

Level  4) Which Problems to solve:  These are the people who figure out which problems to solve

When you are starting a company having a small team, people do everything. And if you got a people, specially co-founders who cannot think at all the level, it’s not good. But as you grow, you need people specific for each level. Where companies go wrong is when they compare the performance of people at level 1 with level 2, this means you lack transparency in your organization about the roles. Define proper roles and measure the performance of people among same roles.

9) Your roles matters in an organization and if that role is impacting the work of many people in the organization, you better avoid micromanage your people, or become a dictator or become a one who over empathizes.

10) When you are setting up your goal’s & objectives, your team members should have exposure to the bigger picture. You as CEO have to align every individual with the higher purpose of the organization. This will result in high level of commitment within your organization.

CEO vs Post 2008 Workforce

“What’s wrong with the kids coming out of college, why they behave like by working for the company, they are doing a great service to you”, said the career banker, an entrepreneur and ex-CEO of one of the FinTech company, an arm of largest telco network in India. He continued “Don’t they realize that they should respect the job they have got and should be working hard to excel in their careers”. I can correlate with his pain. As a CEO or as an entrepreneur, you want to execute things faster.  And its people in your organization who can help you achieve that.

ian-schneider-66374

I was looking at the issue of “getting work done” especially in Indian context. To analyze this, I have divided the workforce into 3 generations, from “1965 to 1998”, from “1999 to 2008” and “Post 2008”.

The generation who joined the workforce after 1965’s till 1998, their basic need was to put enough food on the table that family can have it the entire month.The government was the major job creator and India has started moving from socialist to a capitalist economy.

From 1999 to 2008, people who joined the workforce are interested in making sure family moves from lower middle class to upper middle class. And growing sectors like IT & IT enabled services, Banking and Pharma helped many people achieve this. The job priorities are to get more and more money, bonuses, and higher level roles in the company. In a way, this generation was high on extrinsic motivation than intrinsic motivations.

Post-2008 workforce is prominently the part of the knowledge economy. For them, enough food was already there on the table. For post-2008 workforce generation, their needs and priorities are bit different. They want the purpose of their life to be largely fulfilled by their work. They are delaying marriages so that they can attain a certain level of achievement in their career. Thankfully it will also help India in controlling the growing population. Young generation today are much more career-focused than the earlier generation and are much more demanding of their employers. They want to listen more from their CEO about the purpose of the organization, from their department heads and managers where they are heading to as a unit. They want more and more autonomy at work and coaching to attain the mastery.  The minute they see the purpose of this organization is not meaningful enough, they are not getting enough coaching & flexibility to attain the mastery they will switch to your competitor. And it’s not that they don’t want money, but they are far less greedy than earlier generation. They are still high on extrinsic motivation, but very high on intrinsic motivations. To get a detailed understanding on this, I will highly recommend you to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

As CEO and as an organization, you want to get work done. And to get that done with utmost excellence in execution and quality. And you want to identify people in your company who can take your vision & priorities to next level.  You are absolutely right in your ask. But the ways in which you want to get things done from post-2008 generation has just changed. The attention span of digitally enabled generation is far shorter than previous one. By

  • Communicating you purpose, beliefs and expected behaviors,
  • Defining right kind of performance metrics transparently,
  • Enhancing your managerial effectiveness and
  • by giving balanced flexibility, you will be able to take your organization to next level of growth.

The Younger generation doesn’t mind putting up extended hours of effort for your vision & purpose, only ask is to communicate that vision & purpose in a colloquial way and to make them feel the part of it.

Summary of Learnings:

  • Post-2008 work generation doesn’t want corporate emails from your PA’s about your organization purpose, progress, and expected behaviors.
  • Town Halls don’t work. Ask your leadership team to find a more colloquial way of communication.
  • Define performance metrics transparently.
  • Enhance your managerial effectiveness and help them become better coaches

Blitzscaling 12: Nirav Tolia on Growing Nextdoor and the Path to Monetization

This is my tenth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here

Nirav Tolia is  the Co-Founder and CEO of Nextdoor. In session 12, Nirav shared his insights into building Nextdoor and his insights on how to grow fast. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. The median time required to take your start-up to do break even, take it public has increased from 5 years to more than 7 yo 10 years(Stanford Research).
  2. The faster your product/app moves in ranking in app store, the faster it comes down. So slow, steady growth and consistency is still the success formula.
  3. Before scaling your way, do the manual dirty work yourself. This is to validate if what you are going to offer will work or not in offline mode. If it works in offline mode, then put in resources & money to automate the things.
  4. Initially, focus on the quality of your product that solves a problem. Then focus on scaling your product & then sales. Google calls this toothbrush test, which means “Can you create a product which people use at least once a day”.
  5.  Your interpretation & intuition about ‘what is working & what is not’ may be wrong. But if you can define the metrics to challenge your intuition, then you may find the correct path.
  6. Think of your start-up as treadmill where every morning you have to wake up & run on it. You won’t get any credit for the miles covered and remember that you have to run on it again every morning. And if you are not feeling like running a particular morning, and if this starts happening more, than its a serious problem.
  7. If you read the newspaper’s (especially English ones) today, you don’t know what is happening around you in your local communities. The best way to do that is crowdsourcing that news from people living in the local community. That’s what Nextdoor is helping local communities to achieve.
  8. You build user growth, then usage engagement and then revenue scale in that order. But user growth, user engagement & monetization, each of these problems are unique in their own nature & equally difficult. And the way to solve this problem is to divide this problem into stages. That’s the path Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, & Whatsapp has taken.
  9. Five management objectives to focus on at any given point of time. Review these objectives quarterly or annually depending on the stage in which your company is. A framework to implement this is OKR. At qilo, we help organisations by implementing this.
    1. Growth
    2. Engagement
    3. Monetization
    4. Infrastructure
    5. People
  10. As you start to scale , have more and more people in your organisation, you have to start thinking about your people, the various career paths they will have and organisation structure to maximise people performance.
  11. Hire a great HR leader for your growing organisation. Because HR will eventually help you to execute those big goals backwards.
  12. It’s all about your people that will help you move the mountains. CEO’s job is to tell why people should move this mountain.
  13. Your title doesn’t make you leader or entrepreneur; your team and your people do.
  14. Get your mentor who has been there and done that. Ignore theory consultants who throw our jargon’s.
  15. Be extremely cautious about every penny going out of your company while you are on the path of earning revenue.
  16. The basic difference between Google and Facebook is demand fulfilment and demand generation.Google follow’s demand fulfilment model where you come up and search say “digital camera”. And it shows ads related to that. Whereas Facebook follows demand generation, where you see ads of “digital camera” which your friends have shown interested in. This will help you identify which platform suits you for digital marketing.