Growth was on the agenda at the Traction Conference this week.
The Traction Conference was held on June 17th and 18th in Vancouver, and attendees were witness to an incredible amount of expertise delivered on growth, marketing, and analytics from over 30 CEOs, founders, and Growth Hackers from companies such as Hootsuite, Lyft, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Marketo, among many others.
Over 500 people attended the event which was presented by Launch Academy, Victory Square Labs, and Boast Capital.
The conference kicked off Friday evening in the downtown club Aura, where attendees had an opportunity to network with each other and the speakers, afterward listening to a panel discussion on mobile growth with Alexander Peh of PayPal Canada, David Mausolf, the Head of Acquisition at Lyft, Dinkar Jain from Twitter, and Joseph Thompson, the new VP Marketing & Communications at BuildDirect.
This was followed by a panel breaking down the role, techniques, and myths of one of the central topics of the conference: the growth hacker. Exceptional speakers Aaron Ginn from Everlane, Dave Zohrob from Angellist and Viraj Mody from Dropbox, shared in the honest discussion which included growth stories from their respective companies, as well as failures and the lessons that emerged from them.
In between panels came the announcement of the launch of Victory Square Ventures, a $30 million fund focusing on technology companies disrupting the sports, health, and entertainment industries.
The bulk of the speakers took the stage on Thursday at the Harbour Event Centre, in a flow of back-to-back fireside chats, panels, and solo presentations.
Two major highlights of the day happened to be the first two events.
First, Gerrit De Vynck from Bloomberg sat down with Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes for a fireside chat, in which he provided some of the thoughts and values that guided decisions early in Hootsuite’s story: “We were doing a lot of organic, we were marketing, but we didn’t have a $20,000 a month PR agency. When we were building our product, we focused on product fundamentals. Engaging in marketing and advertising can be very expensive, and for a young startup, I would rather put my $20,000 a month into engineering, and we did that.”
Holmes provided a very candid and down-to-earth account of Hootsuite’s growth, and encouragement for attendees thinking about funding: “I have to say to everyone in this room though, that now is absolutely the best time to fundraise in the history of mankind for software. It is pretty fantastic,” Holmes said. “You’ve got tools like AngelList, you’ve got a lot of great stories. Recon – $175 million dollar exit. A lot of that cap table is in Vancouver. Those people are going to be looking to reallocate money and make other bets. Fantastic time to be fund raising.”
This was immediately followed by Lynda Weinman, creator of online education agency Lynda.com which was founded in 1995 and acquired earlier this year for $1.5 billion by Linkedin. Weinman took the stage to describe the origin story of Lynda.com with a granular account of the influence of her unconventional education, her early adoption of the Macintosh for animation and special effects which led to a contract with William Shatner on Star Trek 5 and a worldwide speaking tour with Apple, her self-education of web design and introduction to scalable income with her book on the topic, and the road to Lynda.com’s acquisition. Attendees almost unanimously considered her presentation to be among the most inspiring.
Every speaker delivered highly distilled value to the audience. Here are but a few of the other highlights of the event.
- Jeff Lawson, the CEO of Twilio, discussing his personal and humorously difficult lesson of learning that you must have conviction in your product, and not simply build it for its own sake, lest you end up with a less-than-ideal mindset for an entrepreneur, like for instance, hating your customers.
- Joseph Thompson, recently on-boarded VP of Marketing with BuildDirect, discussed the future of branding, making the customers the heroes as Airbnb does, and his role in the fascinating Gillette campaign in China, Shave Sexy, which aimed to move men away from dry shaving. The campaign moved the needle significantly and created a torrent of positive press, memes, and virality.
- Aaron Ginn, Head of Growth with Everlane and former Head of Growth at StumbleUpon presented Persuasion Tactics & Behavioural Economics for Hypergrowth, discussing ‘growth-product fit’ and products, features, and marketing as they relate to Maslow’s Hierarchy. In a sentence, he described how ‘When you’re trying to find ‘growth-product fit’, you’re trying to find this one desire that your users are trying to do that is everlasting, that all humanity somewhat, somehow wants to solve, and you leverage that, and you build a feature on top of that.”
The day and a half of the conference was dense with actionable, stimulating, and relatable accounts, insights, and guiding philosophies that were motivation rocket fuel for the ambitious entrepreneur.