Max Rencoret grew up in Chile where he first got exposed to its education system, startup culture, economic climate, government and other things that led him to a career in Growth Marketing, where he felt like he could make the most impact in his life. One of Max’s teachers explained the scale of technology, focusing on people, and led Max to start a company (similar to Snapchat) that he grew to 80,000 daily active users targeting Latin America. After Snapchat took over their market and realizing his interest in growth, Max finished his degree and moved to San Francisco to do a 3-month immersive program at Tradecraft. On this episode, Max talks about what it takes to be successful as a Growth Marketer, why learning to code is important, and how the Chilean community supported him here in San Francisco in his work as a Growth Marketing Manager at Samsara.
|Years in Tech||2|
|Current Job||Growth Marketing|
- Growth marketing is a multidisciplinary approach that you can use to significantly increase your revenue. It involves a intraction among design, engineering, and psychology.
- A simple tweak in your product can considerably increase your revenue and your retention rate. That’s what growth can do for your business.
- Even when you’re in a growth role, learning how to code is a very unique skill set. You can do simple tweaks by yourself (without needing the engineers which could take a lot of time) and then test it as fast as possible.
- Always be learning. Realize the power of having a mentor that you can follow on their path. Read articles about them. Attend conferences and events related to your industry and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the smartest guys in the room. Connect with them and learn things from them. You can only bring growth to a company if you allow yourself to grow as a person too.
Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):[01:09] Born in New York City, Max was raised in Chile and studied industrial engineering prior to moving to San Francisco and joining Tradecraft. [01:45] A very interesting history behind the democratic principles of Chile: A 15-year dictatorship and an economic reform that went from 50% poverty to 6% or 7%. Max, being born in 1990, is a “son of economic freedom” [03:43] Start-Up Chile, a government program that gives $40k equity-free for entrepreneurs who want to go and start their business in Chile (if you decide to stay there, they’ll give you 120k to scale that). You also need to give back to the community and develop a new Chilean mindset that they can become founders of their own companies and they can change the world and have the power to do it. [05:41] Max initially got his interest in growth from his professor in Creativity and Innovation class. He then took every startup class he could. [07:11] Max started a company called Blink where they created an app similar to Snapchat (this was exactly the same time that Snapchat was created) and they joined an incubator in Chile that brought them to San Francisco to have exposure with mentors. They then went back to Chile after receiving a call from an interested investor and they were able to raise $250k and built a team [08:34] They got 50,000 users on their first day but they had a retention rate at 2%. What went wrong? So they made one small tweak in their feature that significantly increased their retention rate to around 30% [10:08] Max’s conversation with Jared Kopf, founder of AdRoll over a glass of Pisco Sour: Jared told him the reason they were losing 32% in the sign up flow is because they’re asking for information without giving them the real value proposition. Solution: They added a call-to-action button. As a result, they came down from 32% to 9% loss. [12:16] Max dropped out of college and dedicated his 100% to his company. From an initial boost of 50,000 users and 3% retention, they did all experiments (targeting Latin America) and they started growing, having 80,000 daily active users (Snapchat at this time was 100,000) [12:58] The feature fight: Snapchat raised 3 rounds of investment in 6 months and hired an army of engineers coming with new features every 2 weeks while Blink’s network slowly started diluting until Snapchat finally took over the market [13:51] Attending the Growth Hackers Conference in San Francisco about how to go from 10,000 users to 100,000,000 users and meeting all the smartest guys in the world in one room who talked about growth [15:00] Getting inspired by Andy Johns, growth marketer at Facebook, Twitter, Quota, and now at Wealthfront and one day receiving an email from Misha, founder of Tradecraft inviting him to join the program. Max finished college first, took a 3-month off, and came to San Francisco to do Tradecraft‘s 3-month program with his brother. [17:44] An interest in coding and the mobile advertising world: Max learned how to code iOS apps through watching free video tutorials from a Stanford professor in 3 weeks and he built the Wingo app as part of his learning [18:48] The Wingo app: Users watch an advertising video for 30 seconds and get virtual coins which they could use to redeem prizes. He made the viral loop from scratch and tested it out on 20-25 high school kids and created a WhatsApp group chat for the kids to share all their experiences. Max realized a big arbitrash between the US and Chilean markets. [19:56] Feeling bad for the high school kids who were spending almost 2 hours per day on their phone watching advertising videos, Max closed down the company and gave the money back to kids
[20:30] Lessons Max learned from the Wingo app experience:
- Dealing with advertisers
- Understanding the advertising market
- Taking the product to market
[20:53] What is Tradecraft?
- A three-month program including an 8-week curriculum with each week focused on a particular project
- Practical work with companies doing free consulting for companies wanting to do A/B testing
- Very small classes (5-7 people per class)
- Homework on the weekends + 4 days with instructor to learn deeper things
- An opportunity to meet smart, motivated people coming from different companies and be in a community of people helping each other
- Job search support (how to prepare for interviews and make the right connections)
[24:56] The power of having mentors – Max considers Andy Johns as his mentor. Their 2-minute conversation at the conference was very important to him where he got really good pieces of advice. Fast-forward to 3 years and they met at a bar in San Francisco. Andy recognized him as the guy who created Blink that had 80,000 users but asked him what happened. Since then, Max has read everything Andy has published and trying to follow his career path[26:29] Max has always been interested in consumer products and wanted to work with the smartest guys in the world. He went to look for companies until Nick deWilde, Director of Partnerships of Tradecraft advised him to connect with Samsara, a B2B company that builds sensors for the industrial market. [27:14] Max met with Samsara co-founder Sanjit Biswas (the guy who built Meraki which they sold to Cisco for $1.2 billion and worked at Cisco until he finally decided to leave and build sensors which has been his original vision way before building Meraki) [28:42] How Max defines growth: A very unique interaction between design + engineering + psychology [29:19] Growth in a consumer product: 3 metrics: network effect + viral loop + retention [30:40] Growth in B2B:
- Budgets are insane!
- Both sides getting value out of the transaction
- Getting the right leads and handling them to the sales team to accelerate the sales cycle
- Marketing sits more on the demand gen side
[33:16] Max’s advice for people looking into the growth career path:
- Design and psychology background
- Coding as a unique skill set that adds more value 10x
- Python is great for data analysis: check out their pandas library to help you with data analysis
- Scraping is another good skill to have
[36:42] The trajectory of a growth career path:
- Specialist: Focus on one specific channel and is the best at that one thing and spends all his time doing only that
- Generalist: Doing everything simultaneously; entry level is hard in the case of large companies; you will have all the skill sets in all different channels you can share with the rest of the team (if ever you get promoted to director level)
[43:34] Growth Tools: – Measure the right things so as not to be overwhelmed with data that make no sense
[44:40] Get familiar with all the paid advertising platforms and what you can do with them:
[46:06] Growth tactics – Be humble because there is always more to learn. Always be learning[47:02] Leveraging the Chilean culture: The Chilean community in the Bay Area is relatively small, but having a very family-oriented culture, they never hesitate to support each other.
[49:10] The Lightning Round
Imagine you get dropped in a new city, could be San Francisco. You only have $100 and you’re starting from scratch all over again. What would you do and how would you spend that $100?
- Max would buy a phone with internet connection and use it as his main platform, which will open up all the way from events and meetups as well as go to companies to see what they’re doing or find your way into the city.
When you were going through Blink and you didn’t have that skill to be able to design or to engineer what you wanted to engineer, you’re running through a bunch of roadblocks, was there any music or a movie or something that you watched that helped you get through that?
- Max puts all his faith in God who has been his great companion.
What is the one piece of advice that you would want our listeners and maybe you would give your brother on how to break into the startup via the growth role?
- Be persistent and be learning all the time. Every subway you take, grab your phone and read articles about growth, Test things out. If you invested 2 hours a day in growth, in a year, that’s almost 500 hours. Then add up the weekends invested in growth and that will total to a thousand hours worth of growth, of learning, of reading articles, of reading different opinions from people, watching videos. Spend an hour and a half listening to a good podcast.
What is one thing that you fundamentally believed in that you changed your mind on after you got into startups?
- Max used to think that one single person could not have an impact on society. When he got into tech, he realized that with growth, you can grow anything. You can change the world wherever you are just from your computer. Now with technology and a democratized information, there’s going to be a huge change in education especially with poor people around the world who are going to have access to the Stanford professor.
Articles Mentioned & Resources:
Growth Hackers Conference
Brian Balfour’s Coelevate
Intro: Growing up we’re told that in order to be successful, you have to be a banker, a doctor, or a lawyer. That’s what the gatekeepers want us to think. But we’re a part of something bigger. We’re part of a technological revolution. Either you’re at the table or on the table. Getting eaten. 10X.
Ruben: Yo, yo, yo, this is Ruben here so I’m here with the homies Artur and Timur Meyster and this is the Breaking Into Startups Podcast. Timur, can you please tell the people what we’re doing today?
Timur: Yes, it’s 5 o’clock on a Sunday and we’re sitting in Hack Reactor‘s alumni lounge, on very cushy couches. It’s sunny outside and we have a very special guest who’s going to talk to us about growth. Artur, can you please introduce the guest?
Artur: Yeah, sure. Today, we have Max Rencoret, who is a Growth Marketing Manager at Samsara. Max has a very interesting story of growing up in Chile, starting his own company, and eventually, attending an immersive program called Tradecraft where he learned how to do growth. Max, before we begin, tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you went to school, and what you’re passionate about before you made this big jump in tech.
Max: Sure. I was born in New York City but moved to Chile when I was 2 years old and I lived my whole life there. Chile is this small and narrow country in the very south part of the world. It’s a great country, You can be skiing and surfing in the same day. So it’s amazing. I went to school there. I started Industrial Engineering and then decided to come to San Francisco and then be a part of Tradecraft.
Artur: Awesome. So tell us a little bit about… to take a step back, you told us in the pre-interview a very interesting story about Chile and how it got its democratic principles. Can you tell us that story again?
Max: In the 70’s, we had the first elected communist president in the world. My dad was 15 years old there and he had to do a line to get a kilo of flour and one liter of milk and that would be what you got for your whole family for the day. And those lines took forever. You had to get toilet paper and everything was like that. So then there was like a civil war and the military took over the country, which was a mess. A lot of people died. It was really bad times. We had a dictatorship for 15 years and this dictator did one thing. He was very smart about one thing. Instead of him running the country, he got the best students from Chile and he sent them to study economics in Chicago because Milton Friedman was a teacher there and he basically looked at the world and said, “What’s the country that’s been prosperous in the past years? What model do we want to follow?” So he sent his kids there. They studied economics. They come back to Chile and they make all the major reforms. And they created a constitution that’s super similar to the one that the U.S. has. So the effect of that was that in 30 years, Chile went from 50% poverty to 6% or 7%. So it’s like 1 in 2 people didn’t have any food to eat. They would die every winter because they didn’t have any heating in their houses. And in 30 years, there’s now a country that people have houses. They have cars. They have good education. And then it’s really amazing. I was born in 1990 where the came back with democracy and so I was born in a country that had no communism, no dictatorship, and a solid democracy. So I’m kind of the son of economic freedom in a way and freedom of speech and everything.
Timur: That’s awesome. How is the startup scene in Chile?
Max: It’s pretty interesting. A couple of years ago, when we look 4 or 5, the government started running this program called Start-Up Chile, in which they give $40k equity-free for entrepreneurs that want to go and start their business down in Chile. So if you go, with those $40k, you can get developers. They are way cheaper than they are here in San Francisco and you can build your business there. And if you want to stay and you want to do your company and stay there, they’ll give you $120k to scale that, which for entrepreneurs, it’s free money and at the same time, Chile, we’re getting all the talent. So the U.S. is kicking away the immigrants and we’re saying, “Hey guys, come to my country. Please.” And when they’re in Chile and they’re doing this, they have to give back to the community. So they organize meetups. They go to universities, to colleges, to high schools, and they talk with the kids and you basically talk about your experiences and what you’ve done. You talk about growth, product design, and everything. So that’s really been super helpful for the whole ecosystem to start talking about “You could be a founder of your own company. You can change the world. You have the power to do it.” And before, 5 years ago, it was like, “You could be a good general manager for this company if you stay 30 years in the same company.” And like all the mindset of Chile was you have to have the best grades in school to get the job as an investment banker or whatever and then get your way up into 12, 16-hour job and it was crazy. People weren’t happy and suddenly this whole startup thing accelerates so fast.
Ruben: Tell us a little bit about the education system in Chile and you’re following this industrial engineering path and what was your first initial interest in growth?
Max: I had a teacher, he’s a smart guy. So this teacher sit us down in class and he says, “If you want to be a general manager at the airline company, get out of my class now. This class is not for you.” So a lot of people went out of the class and the guys said, “We’re curious if we stayed” And he started showing us, “The world is more than just being a manager. You could do this. You can start your own company.” This was like in around 2008 where the tech boom was starting but not really, before the crisis in the United States so it was kind of a crazy moment to be talking about startups especially after the bubble. But he was basically pushing us one thing like the customer development. Build a company. Build a base in the customers. Get feedback. Get an MVP and start from there.
Ruben: What was the name of that class?
Max: It was Creativity and Innovation and that professor ended up moving here and he’s now a professor at Berkeley.
Artur: Oh wow. That’s awesome. It sounds like Chile is promoting innovation and you kind of caught the entrepreneur bug in college by taking the scores and then you told us in the pre-interview, you went out on your own venture. What was that like and what did you try to build?
Max: So after this class, I took every startup class I could and we had all of these professors from Stanford that would come to Chile and teach us about cool stuff and I was sold into it. So I was thinking about stuff like looking at problems that I had everyday. So there’s this one random day and I’m drinking a beer with my close friend and with my cousin then. We were wasted and I take a photo of my cousin. This was back in 2011 and I wanted to share it to a couple friends and I was thinking what will happen if these guys would share the photo with their friends and then go viral. My cousin would be in a huge mess. So that’s when we said, why don’t we create an app that I can send you a photo. You see it for 3 seconds and then that’s gone.
Timur: Sounds like some other app that’s…
Max: It was exactly at the same time of Snapchat. Snap too was doing there thing at Stanford. We were in Chile. And we started building our product. We joined an incubator in Chile that brought us to San Francisco, had exposure with mentors 07:58 and everybody loved the product.
Ruben: What was the name of the incubator?
Max: It was Incuba Jose. The company was called Blink. We came here and then we realized that was going to take us 8 months to raise capital. And one day, we get a phone call from Chile, from an investor that say, “I want to invest in your company.” So we go back to Chile. We raised $250k which is like raising $2 million here in the US, build an amazing team. And we were having guys full-time, working and basically trying to figure out if there was prog market fit for what we were building. So what happened is that we were all over the news. There’s a huge PR launch and we got like 50,000 users in the first day. Something insane. And then the retention was super low. It was like 2%. I was like, we spent all that stuff in doing PR, old school stuff and then retention is 2%. We need to figure out what’s ticking?
So we didn’t really know about growth. Coming from Chile, it’s not something you hear in every conversation. The whole Start-Up Chile thing was starting. So one day, by mistake, a friend of mine created a fake user and started sending images to the first time users. So if you would go in the app, you would sign up and then you get a photo from this stranger basically. And people that open that photo, they were way more retain and retention went from 3% to 20 something with just one feature. And I was like, “Wow! That took us 5 minutes to develop. It’s pretty amazing how one tweak can have that effect in retention.” How can we do more of that? So I kind of got into growth by, I wouldn’t say by mistake, but it was a necessity we had. And we had this huge problem that we had to solve. So eventually, we started doing all these small tests. And most of the test will fail. 9 out of 10 tests were bad and actually took our metrics down. But there was one test every now and then that would push our metric up. Everybody was happy again and then we would go do that process again and again. A cool story was that I was at a conference there and I was speaking, pitching my company in front of people that have come from San Francisco and Jared Kopf, the founder of AdRoll was there and Jared said, “Hey Max, I love you enthusiasm. Let’s meet for a Pisco Sour.” And I was like okay that’s awesome.
Ruben: What’s Pisco Sour for the people that don’t know?
Max: Pisco Sour is an amazing drink made out of Pisco which comes out of white wine and lemons and other stuff. You mix it. You drink two of those and then you’re done. It’s going to be a great night.
Timur: I know what I’m getting at the next Happy Hour.
Max: We actually drink it in Chile with the ice. We’re doing Pisco Ice and Coca Cola. It’s the best thing in the world. And everybody drinks it. The hangovers are insane. So we were there, we were drinking this Pisco Sour and Jared looks at the app and he was clicking stuff around and then he’s like, “You’re probably losing 30% of the users in the sign up flow.” Wow we’re losing 32%. They’re so close. And then he goes, “You’re asking for information without giving them the real value proposition.” And he was like, “Why don’t you add a button in the middle of the screen the call-to-action that says Click Me or Click Here, whatever, and when users click it, you show a photo. It shows for like 2 seconds and then it’s gone. And then you click it again and it shows you another photo and then it’s gone.” So we did this feature. We launched it. And from 30% that we’re losing, it came down to 9% which is insane when you’re thinking about thousands of users that’s extra 20% only because of one product tweak. So that’s how I kind of got into growth as well. By doing these tests, seeing the results and learning, it was just amazing.
Ruben: You were doing this while you were in Chile. It’s not a four-year program. It’s a six-year program. So you had done three years and then you froze and then you started this company for how long?
Max: I froze, dropped out of college for almost a year and a half and I was 100% into my company. And so we had the initial boost with 50,000 users that they all went away, leaky bucket, 2% were retained. We’re doing all these experiments and we started growing and eventually we had 80,000 daily active users with the app, Snapchat like 100,000 back in those days. And we were super close. So we were targeting Latin America. In that moment, we knew that Snapchat existed and they were focusing the US and so we said, let’s be the first to market all Latin America. We were in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, some Mexico. Mexico is kind of divided. And then in India. So after that, to finish now the story with the startup, Snapchat raised three rounds of investment in 6 months. They hired an army of engineers and at the end it was a feature fight. They would come with features almost every two weeks and our users started saying, “Hey we have all of our friends inside Blink but look Snapchat has videos. Snapchat has stories,” And then it was a feature fight. And then the network effect that we had created slowly started diluting and then Snapchat took over the market. But for two years, it was definitely like an Amazing Race.
Artur: It sounds like you learned some valuable lessons by starting your own company and then I know you ended up doing Tradecraft and doing growth. Can you take us through the journey of doing your startup and then how did you end up in San Francisco doing Tradecraft?
Max: When I was drawing the company, my big struggle was how do I go from 50,000 users, 80,000 daily active users to millions of users, right? So I was in that and then I get an email from Andrew Chen that I used to follow his blog.
Ruben: Who’s Andrew Chen?
Max: Andrew Chen was one of the first guys to talk about growth publicly and he had a blog that he had a newsletter and wrote a bunch of essays that were pretty cool from the time when he published those articles. So I followed him, read everything he had written, and I got this email saying, “Hey, GrowthHackers Conference. Come to San Francisco. How to Go from 10,000 users to 100 Million Users.” And I was like, oh yeah I’m sold. So back then. I had to come back to college. I had exam week. Whatever. I took my first plane, came to San Francisco and went to that conference. And in one day, there were all these smartest growth guys in the world in that one room, the guys that had done Twitter, Quora, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Voxer. they were there talking about growth and I had this fake concept of growth that I had invented in Chile by testing stuff out with some influence from Andrew Chen, but when I got there it was like wow this is amazing. And I got really inspired specifically with… I met Andy Johns there. He was a growth marketer at Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Wealthfront now. And just his method and way of approaching Growth was the one that made more sense for me.
I got that model basically and took it back to Chile and started telling people about growth, telling about this is how they do it at Facebook. This is how they did it at Dropbox. And that was amazing.
In that conference, the guy that organized that conference was Misha which is the founder of Tradecraft. For a long time, I talked to Misha and say, “Hey Misha, please send me any articles, any videos, any material, books, whatever that you come across with Growth. I really want to learn.” So Misha one day sends me an email saying, “Hey Max, I think you would be a good fit for Tradecraft. It’s this program we’re running.” And I said really want to go but I have to finish college. So I went back to college, finished and then I took three months off and went surfing to Indonesia and then came to San Francisco and did the program for three months.
Timur: Nice. And you also came with your brother, right? Your younger brother joined you on this journey?
Max: He did. He’s a crazy smart kid. I had gotten my ticket to San Francisco and I was already ready to accept that Tradecraft. And my brother said, “If you’re going, why wouldn’t I go?” I can relate as well. So he applied and he got in and he’s only 20 years old but he’s definitely going to become a really good growth marketer. He learned about this really early on into his career, 20 years old, doing college. He was going for engineering. And then he now switched to computer science which is the one that made more sense with what he wants to do and now he’s generating a lot of impact in startups in Chile by applying all the growth stuff that he learned here in Chile and at the same time he’s running classes and teaching people stuff about growth. When he’s 25, he’s going to be a…
Timur: Killer rock star.
Ruben: You and your brother got accepted in Tradecraft. You had these months before you went in to Tradecraft when you were surfing. But you also did something else during that time that you realized that you wanted to learn that was missing while you’re at Blink. What was that?
Max: Between Blink and coming to Tradecraft, I wanted to learn about the mobile advertising world. And I want to learn how to code as well. So when I had Blink, we would lose our main engineer and then we didn’t have any new features for a month and a half. And Snapchat on the other side of the world was taking out features every week. So basically, I would love to be able to code myself and I just googled how to learn how to code iOS apps and the first link I get it says, Stanford professor, HD videos with the PowerPoints and everything, the material, and I started watching these classes that were just amazing. There were people at Stanford paying a lot of money to get the same classes and I was in Chile in the almost southern part of the world seeing those same classes and learning for free. So in three weeks, I learned how to code iOS apps and I decided to build a project to learn by doing. So I built this app called Wingo, which basically users would go in. They could click the button and watch an advertising video that lasted for 30 seconds and they would get this virtual coins which then they could redeem for prizes.
So I built this app being like a funny parrot as a character and I built the viral loop into the app from scratch because I already had the growth mindset into it and I tested it out with 20-25 kids in high school and I did a big group of WhatsApp group with all the kids so that they could share everything or their experiences. I did that and I realized that there was a huge arbitrash between the United States advertising market and the Chilean one. In the US, they were paying me like $5-$10 per 1,000 impressions of the videos. The advertising videos I showed in Chile, I was getting $100 for that. So it was insane and I launched this with these kids and the kids were watching 250 videos per day. That’s like $25 per day per kid. 20 kids. That’s not even one class. And at the end, I just felt bad about doing that because these were kids that should be studying, should be doing sports or reading or doing whatever, but they were spending almost 2 hours per day on their phone watching advertising videos. So I decided to close that company. I gave everything back to the kids, gave them the prizes, gave them the money and said, go do other stuff. It was definitely a huge learning experience in and out of different things – from the coding to dealing with advertisers, learning about the advertising market, and taking your product to market.
Artur: So you mentioned that you and your brother, you both got accepted at Tradecraft. For our listeners, can you just give an overview of what Tradecraft is and what value does it provide to students?
Max: We got accepted at Tradecraft. We moved to San Francisco. And Tradecraft, you have eight weeks of curriculum in which each week you go through specific subject. So one week was for example, conversion rate optimization. You do one week where you get to read a lot about it and you get to do practical work with companies. So we did a lot of free consulting for companies that wanted to so some A/B testing and we would do that for them. What’s amazing is that the classes were really small, five to seven people per class and we had an instructor for the five of us, for the six of us. So the instructor would basically give us the homework. We would do their homework during the weekend and then we had four days with the instructor to really go into deeper things and learn the really amazing stuff. And that experience was great and at the same time you get to meet people that are smart, are motivated, are getting in tech, and these are guys all over San Francisco, in different companies. And Tradecraft creates that community of people that help each other. We have for example a Slack group where everybody shares articles that they think may add value to the community. And if you have a problem, let’s say you want to do A/B testing and you’ve never done it before, you say, “Hey guys, I want to do some A/B testing, can anybody help me?” And you have a guy that worked at 22:15 for five years and he’s this best guy at A/B testing. He sits with you for a couple of hours and he teaches you everything about A/B testing and you accelerate how fast you’re learning by helping each other and that community is really amazing.
Ruben: How long does the program last?
Max: It’s three months and they also help you out a lot with finding a job after that, not necessarily like taking you by the hand and putting you in the company but teaching you the process. How do you do it? How do you realize what companies you want to work for? How do you prepare for interviews? How do you make the right connections so that the probability that you get an interview and a good company increases. That’s the whole point.
Timur: In our pre-interview, you mentioned your criteria for selecting a company and I just love how you came up with that process and what your standards were. Can you tell our listeners how you approach the job search?
Max: At the beginning, I was super into consumer products and that was my thing. And I interviewed a couple companies and when I started talking with whoever was going to be my boss, many of the guys had a consulting background or an investment banking background. I know they’re smart people for sure. But they’re not in tech. They know the basic stuff about growth and they can talk about it but they’re not technical. They don’t understand what people are actually doing. So for me, I wanted to get someone that could get their hands on the weeds with me because that will eventually fasten up, accelerate your learning curve a lot. Basically when I knew that the guy was fro consulting, that would definitely almost immediately be out of my decision. I was looking for a company in which I was working with the smartest guys in the world. I moved from Chile to San Francisco, I wasn’t going to get a shitty job at a whatever company. I was going to work with the best guys and that’s become my mantra.
Timur: So you didn’t just want a job, you wanted the best job and surround yourself with the smartest people that you can learn from and grow in that company, right?
Ruben: And it’s also consistent with everything that you have been through. You’ve gone through these conferences. You’ve introduced yourself to people. People have come up to you. As you’re going through this process for selecting the company with the smartest people in growth, did you have any mentors that guided you in a certain direction? How did you meet those mentors if there are people that you didn’t mention and how did that affect your search?
Max: For me, the person that has influenced me most is Andy Johns. I met Andy at the GrowthHackers Conference a couple of years ago. I remember talking with him for maybe 2 minutes. But for me, they were very important 2 minutes. He told me a couple of advice that are really good and then three years after that, I’m at a bar here in San Francisco. Andy comes in the bar, we started talking. And he looks at me and says, “Hey, I know you. You’re the guy from the GrowthHackers Conference. We met outside. You were doing Blink and you had 80,000 users, what happened?” And that’s when you realize why this guys is the best in the world. It’s insane. So from then, I’ve read everything he’s published and I really like his method and the way he thinks about growth and definitely, looking forward to following what his career path and hopefully one day, I’d work for him but I would serve the coffee at his office if that was what he needed. But just being around those kind of guys, it’s just amazing.
Ruben: It sounds like you’re willing to work with anybody that really had deep knowledge about growth and based off of all your reading, you knew who those people were and it didn’t matter if it was paid or unpaid. You just wanted to learn and follow that type of trajectory.
Max: Yeah I agree 100%.
Artur: How did you end up at your current position?
Max: I was super into consumer products and I didn’t really have a reason why not B2B but it’s just a mindset I had. So basically I want to work with the smartest guys in the world and I was looking at companies and then one day, Nick, from Tradecraft tell me “Hey Max, you should definitely…”
Timur: And we’ve interviewed Nick on the podcast. He’s the Director of Partnerships, right?
Max: Yes.He’s the Program Director at Tradecraft. Very smart guy. And Nick tells me, “Max, you should at least get a coffee or something with people at Samsara. It’s this B2B company that’s building sensors for the industrial market.” And I was like I didn’t understand what they do but okay, sure, why not? If Nick is telling me, it’s because it’s relevant. So I met with the guy that’s now my boss and in that first 5 minutes of the conversation, I could tell that he was a very smart guy. These guys had built Meraki before, It was the company that they sold to Cisco for $1.2 billion, worked at Cisco, did their time at Cisco, a lot of micromanagement you can imagine and then they came out. Sanjit, the CEO, had this vision before starting Meraki that he wanted to build sensors but the technology wasn’t out there yet. So basically, he built Meraki, sold to Cisco, and now he came back to his original vision by building sensors. So when I was supposed to talk with the current, the leadership team was amazing. I could tell that they had a lot of experience. Most of the team come from either MIT or Stanford. They’re very smart people and after having the first interviews, having a boss said if you have a coding problem, he can look at your computer and say, “Let me help you out.” Actually gets your computer and fixes it, it’s just amazing.
Artur: So I actually have two questions for you. For our listeners, it’s a little bit of a philosophical question. But can you explain what growth is in your own words?
Artur: And the second question is, I know what growth is for consumer products, can you also talk about in the context of B2B, what does growth look like for that?
Max: For me, growth is very unique interaction between design, engineering, and psychology. If you think about it, you’d change the color of a button that increases the amount of people that click it. You change the wording or you use the psychological triggers and that increases the amount of people that are retained or that apply. So it’s this mix. It doesn’t come from only one part. It’s a multi-disciplinary thing in which it’s obviously based on numbers, unlike metrics, but the things you do to change these metrics is based on design and psychology.
For a consumer startup, depending on what type of business you have honestly, but in the case of Blink, it was about how do we build that network effect? How do we have a viral loop in which users will invite other people and then those guys at the same time will invite other people so that the company grows? And it comes down to two metrics, or three really. The K factor. If I invite you, how many people on average will you invite? If that’s over one, you have a company that’s growing. And the other thing is the cycle time. So if I’d invite you, how long does it take you to invite your friends? If it takes a year then it’s going to be very slowly led, the internal growth, the viral growth. And the third is retention for me. So these are like the three important things I measure.
There’s obviously like, you could divide the funnel in acquisition, activation, retention, and then revenue. The pirate framework is pretty interesting. And I quite follow it but for me, in a consumer product, if you don’t have a business model based on the app from the first minute and you can’t spend money on paid channels, you need to think about that viral loop and how do you optimize that viral loop.
For the B2B side, it’s very fun because even though it sounds boring, the budgets are insane. When you’re in consumer, you’ve sold socks. Your margins are very small. Where in B2B, and you’re selling sensors for the industrial market, I think both sides are getting value out of that transaction. Where in the consumer, it’s more based on aspirations.
Timur: So in the space where you’re doing growth with other businesses, where do you draw the line between someone who is doing partnerships and reaching out to businesses directly and then someone who’s doing growth which, I would think of growth as acquiring users or customers on a mass scale. What does it look like at your current role?
Max: In the B2B world, many people put marketer’s incentives in the amount of leads they generate. The problem with leads is that most of them may not be qualified. So you’re spending salespeople’s time and you end up losing all your credibility. And marketing loses its credibility as a department inside the company. So for me, it’s more about how do I get the right people? How do I get the right leads? And then handle them to the sales team and which accelerates the sales cycle. So if you outbound call a lead, it will take a long time to close it. If you’re constantly saying, “How do you track your vehicles? How do you do this?” And you’re pushing them with content marketing and with paid and different channels, the guy realizes that he has a problem and he calls you and says, “I want a demo.” He raises his hand. So that guy eventually when the sales guy calls him, he doesn’t even have to pitch the company anymore. He’s already sold into it.So for B2B, growth or marketing sits more on the demand gen side? Even though you can tweak the product, of course, demand gen is related with building landing pages and optimization in that side, you don’t really get into retention because there are different roles that do that. While in consumer, you need to build a whole funnel all the way to retention and then whatever comes after that.
Artur: Awesome. What advice do you have for people who are trying to break into growth and they may have some SEO background, maybe they’ve never done anything growth-related before but are very interested in the field, they love psychology, the love experimenting with things, so what path would you recommend exploring for them?
Max: Having a background in psychology or design, that helps a lot for sure. I think coding is a unique skill set that it adds so much value because you can do much more. For example, if all the way from coding simple HTML and CSS to coding somewhere advanced stuff through Python or anything like that. So for example, if you want to test out a landing page, and you don’t know how to code, then you have to ask engineers, “Hey guys, can you please tweak this small button and make it a little bigger?” And those changes…
Timur: They take time.
Max: They take time right. And as a marketer, you want to be testing as fast as possible. So it’s really handy that you can just get the code, change the HTML yourself. push it to production and be testing in real time whatever you want to test. At the same time in the Python side, it’s really useful to do data analysis with Python. SQL is very limiting and you cannot plot with SQL there stuff that works over SQL that helps you plot. But with Python, you can do anything. There’s a really cool library called pandas. I know you’ve heard of it but…
Timur: Is that an Airbnb? Is that an open source by Airbnb or something else?
Max: I don’t know its source.
Timur: Is it a visualization tool?
Max: No. It’s just a library that makes it very easy to do data analysis. And what’s cool dis that if you know how to code and you can then start scraping. Scraping is an awesome skill to have. You can scrape emails from aside, cross them with Facebook and then run a campaign on those emails on Facebook or other stuff. You can scrape different bunch of sources and just having that skill set adds a lot of value to where you’re going to get hired. If the guy knows how to code, it’s not even one extra point, it’s like 10 extra points.
Artur: In your role now, what percentage of your time would you say you spend coding or doing coding-related task?
Max: I would say 30% or 40% for sure. Especially, for say SEO, you want to tweak the pages, you want to change the images, you want to do all of that. You’re spending time in the actual code. At the same time, with Python, I spend a lot of time scraping sites, getting content information in which I can run some simple email marketing campaigns with the multi-touch things like email and then get those guys on some Facebook and then some display. And then all of those touch points add up to that.The guys now has your brand, subconscious and even if it doesn’t convert, if a guy outbound calls him, he’s heard about Samsara. He’s heard an article about Samsara. So he’s way more familiar with the company and then probably your close rate is way higher. So it’s interesting.
Ruben: And we talked a little bit about this in the pre-chat and it sounds like the growth role, even though a lot of people think it’s non technical, only like marketing-related role. Even though marketing has some technical elements, you recommend learning at least the basic level of coding. You are also probably interacting with salespeople so understanding sales is probably important. But can you talk a little bit about what career trajectory within growth looks like in the different philosophies that your mentors have guided you and then your own perspective on that?
Max: When you think about growth and career path, I think there are two options. You can be a specialist or you can be a generalist. So what’s a specialist? A specialist is the guy that he understands and knows one specific channel and he’s the best at what he does at that one specific thing. So for example, it could be conversion rate optimization or paid acquisition, he’s that guy with paid acquisition, he knows every trick out there and he spends his 12 hours per day doing only that. When I was discussing this with Andy, he was like, “When I need to hire people, I heed to hire a specialist. I need to hire the best guy to do paid acquisition at Wealthfront.” Or something like that. The way I think of growth, it depends on your personality. I think that people are are specialists, they’re fine in doing one thing over and over and over and over and over. For me, I’m just too anxious at moving a lot so I’m more of a generalist. I’m around, I’m doing everything at the same time. And the thing with being a generalist is that you come your entry level… the entry level job for a generalist, it’s hard because you can join a small company that you’re the first growth hire then you’re fine. But if you join a company that has 200 employees then you don’t really have a job unless you are the VP or a Director. So I think being a generalist is fun. We get to test everything and you can do all of that yourself. And it also builds out for one day if you become a Director or VP, you have all the skill sets, you know the different channels that you can then share with the rest of the team.
Ruben: And that’s helpful. The other thing that we like to talk about too is that a lot of the roles in tech or just in different industries tend to be defined and people know what to expect in this type of role and various other roles, a lot of people don’t understand a lot of things that you’ve already shed light on. But what range of compensation do you think people expect at the entry level on a growth level and then how does that look like over time?
Max: The great thing about growth is that if you can master growth, you can eventually start your own company and do really amazing things. Entry level, I think in San Francisco, anybody that makes under $70k can live in the city. It’s very hard with the rent, with the food, with everything. So I think growth pays enough that you can live in the city. It’s not a huge salary but I think in contrast with engineers, which their entry level jobs are very well paid, engineers get kind of stuck more. So for them, they start getting $125 I think and then they’re kind of stuck in that $125 to $180 range. Where I think growth marketers start lower but I think they can definitely increase way more. I don’t think there are a lot of growth marketers out there so being a good growth marketer today is kind of a scarce thing. I would definitely push people to do that. It’s a new thing. Not many people know about it and then if you can understand, if you have a little technical background that you can code, you understand how the internet works, you understand how to, I would never say hack, but how URL works when you’re using URL’s to send parameters to do tracking or stuff, if you have a lot of skill sets and you’ve created the impact in a lot of companies, recruiters are going to call you. You’re one in millions. With any job, there’s always 1 in 10,000 guys that’s the best guy. But in growth, the thing is that people that know how to code, they usually are engineers. People that are good in business usually are in sales. Growth sits kind of, like people are good at design, they’re in design. Growth is like this thing in the middle.People that know how to code, know a little about design, know about business, but they don’t want to do neither of them, they want to be in growth.
Timur: And it also sounds like they’re results-oriented as well because it’s all metrics-driven. Data is a huge component of growth and you get to experiment and run tests. If you could come up with good hypothesis, test them, show that “Hey, we were able to increase user growth by 50% month over month.” To a startup, that could mean extra million dollars or $2 million in revenue. So if you’re the person bringing that in, then you’re going to become the 41:19 pretty well I’m sure.
Max: It’s crazy. We run the eCommerce with my brothers in Chile and at the beginning, I didn’t know anything about this CRO (conversion rate optimization) and then one day after reading an article, I go back to my site and I say, wow this is weird. It’s hard to navigate through and I did basic changes and then in the flow, I would ask for people’s email before actually asking for the credit card. And emails are like names or something. Because I saw there was a huge drop down when the credit card part, so what I would do is basically say, “I have the guy’s email. I have his name. If he drops down, I can go find him somewhere around the web. I could do some re-targeting specifically to those guys on Facebook with a photo of the product that they dropped.” I could send through an email saying “Hey, you dropped this card.” And if you think about it, maybe the guy was right in uni, he saw your eCommerce. He was going to fill in the data but he didn’t have his credit card at that moment and he just forgot about it. With the emails, then you’re inviting him like, “You should remember to buy this product.” You have nice photo of the product and that increased our revenue, it was 2x. And it’s insane that we did all this effort to get to 1x. And then it was like one simple trick and now it’s 2x. It’s double. And those changes, it’s really a passion about growth and doing these things, it’s like wow growth really works.
Artur: And it sounds like for someone who wants to be an entrepreneur, it’s definitely a must-skill to master because like you were saying, these little changes could completely change up the trajectory that your company saddled on. I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of it so it’s pretty cool that we have had you on our podcast to share these tactics to our listeners, why they should care and maybe even go and pull up a growth article tonight and start looking into it. On that note…
Timur: Actually, one last question I want to ask you was, there’s a lot of tools that growth marketers use and I think some of our listeners may have rattled a bit about growth but what are the main tools that you use day to day to measure growth, to run tests, to analyze things and so on?
Max: I think the B2B is kind of different to the B2C world. On B2C, it’s like you need to have a very powerful analytics. Whatever you’re using has to be very powerful. And it’s important to measure the right things. Sometimes you measure everything and then you’re overwhelmed with all these data that doesn’t make any sense. You can’t come up with real conclusions and things so… it’s just so much everything from like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, KISSmetrics, Heap Analytics – the analytics part. For the testing, I use Optimizely but I’m not an A/B testing expert. Pretty sure that there are better platforms out there. Optimizely is just like the plug and play one that’s very easy to work with. There are a lot of people that are starting to use the test thing canvas that the GrowthHackers is offering, which is a very easy way to keep track of all the tests you’re doing and running constantly and what’s easy to build, what’s not, and what’s the impact and decide what feature is the next one on the pipeline. I think you need to be familiar with all the advertising platforms. So Facebook, Twitter Search, YouTube.
Max: Instagram, Pinterest.
Max: Snapchat. Tumblr.
Artur: And when you say familiar, do you mean understand their marketing ad plans and stuff?
Max: More of what you can actually do with that platform. And so for example, when Facebook came up with the custom audience, you can upload a bunch of emails and then target those guys on Facebook. So the list that you gave, that’s pretty powerful because if you go to an event, and then you gather emails and now you have 5,000 emails from just asking for people that are interested in your product but not necessarily bought, you can go on Facebook and target those guys with that. So for example, Pinterest doesn’t have that. So on Pinterest, you’re kind of throwing your money away in a way because it’s hard to target the right people. But at the same time it offers a bunch of opportunity. For guys that are a little more hacky and can find their way into knowing so much about Pinterest ads as it is right now that they can have an advantage over the rest of the market that’s not really investing much time or money into Pinterest for example. So definitely know all the paid channels.
And it’s important always to be humble and know that there’s always more to learn. Whoever call himself a master, he’s dead. You need to specifically with growth, it’s changing so fast. Google just launched a new feature 2 months ago and it goes to game changer for every marketer out there and these types of things you need to be on top of everything. You need to be learning. Even in the smallest medium article from the random guy, there’s always a hint. There’s always something that you can use to build your skill set and learn more at the end.
Ruben: And you’ve definitely shared a lot of gems. Before going into The Lightning Round that Timur will tell you about, when Nick introduced us to you, clearly your family is important to you, your culture is important to you, and you’re clearly a master networker as well. He talked about how you leveraged your Chilean culture as well since you’ve been out here. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Max: Sure. The Chilean network here is funny. We are these guys. We are the small team always. I think we’re one of the smallest populations here and in a way it’s been great because coming from Chile, we have this natural thing of supporting each other and helping all the Chilean and I think what’s nice is that the Chileans how are here are the guys that decided to be different. Chile is a country that is very family-oriented and it’s an easy country. You can have a basic job that pays everything you want to do. You can travel a lot and it’s easy. But there’s not much happening. It’s like this cool chill place where everything is working. If you decide to move to San Francisco, it’s different because not only you’re in a $2,000-rent in which every month, it’s like you need to figure out what you’re going to do because it’s causing you 2k. Whereas rent in Chile could be like $500. So I’ve met a bunch of Chileans here. There have been a couple of success stories, which also helps this new generation of people coming to the Bay Area. And they’re very friendly and open. You can just send them an email and say, “Hey, I’m Max.” And they’re happy to share their network with you and share their experience and talk about it. But I think Chile, when we play soccer, so football for us, that’s when we really get together and that doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter whatever, your background, we all get together. The whole country gets united and we are all watching that TV and supporting our team. When we won the Cup America a couple of weeks ago, we were so happy. The party just went on for days and days and days. And it’s just amazing being able to share that with other Chileans here in San Francisco.
Timur: That’s awesome. So the next part of our podcast. It’s The Lightning Round and that’s when Artur, Ruben, and I will ask you a series of questions and try to provide us with short answers, but our listeners really want to know about the strategies, the tactics, the resources that you’ve used to get where you are today. So with that said Artur, take it away.
Artur: Yeah so this question takes you back to the basics. Imagine you get dropped in a new city, could be San Francisco. You only have $100 and you’re starting from scratch all over again. What would you do and how would you spend that $100?
Max: It’s an awesome question. I would buy a phone with internet connection and that will be it. I would use that as my main platform because with the phone with an internet connection, you can ask for food. They’;; give you food. You can sleep on the streets with all these cool guys here. And the rest, you can figure it out. But having internet connection will open up all the way from like events, meetups. You can go to companies to see what they’re doing and you can find your way into the city.
Ruben: Great answer. So take us through some of your most frustrating experiences. Let’s say when you were going through Blink and you didn’t have that skill to be able to design or to engineer what you wanted to engineer, you’re running through a bunch of roadblocks, was there any music or a movie or something that you watched that helped you get through that?
Max: I think when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s so hard that if you base everything in stuff from the world, if that thing breaks then you’re going to break. So God’s been a great companion for me. I just have everything on him. So for me, what happens is just a result of following his path and so that will never break. Even if you’re in the shittiest moments in your life, if you put and you have your faith on Him, you’re totally fine. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Artur: Awesome. So the next question, it’s about one piece of advice but since you mentioned that your brother also did a Tradecraft and potentially if he could move out to SF once he’s done with college, what is the one piece of advice that you would want our listeners and maybe you would give your brother on how to break into the startup via the growth role.
Max: Is this for people who are here in the city or are from outside?
Timur: Let’s just say people who just wanted a growth. Maybe they’re planning on coming to SF, maybe they want to go to New York, maybe they want to break in on their own city, but what is that one piece of advice?
Max: It’s very important to be persistent and to be learning all the time. Every subway you take, grab your phone and read articles about growth, Every opportunity you have to test things out, go. What’s the worst thing that can happen by building an app, testing it out, and having 20 users that use it? That’s fine. You learn a lot. If I think about Chile, it was like every time I use public transportation which was everyday to go to my university and back, that was like an hour trip everyday. And I said, okay so if I invest 2 hours a day in growth, in a year; that’s almost like 500 hours. That’s pretty good. And then add up the weekends I’m investing in growth as well. Now i have like a thousand hours worth of growth, of learning, of reading articles, of reading different opinions from people, watching videos…
Timur: Listening to podcast.
Max: Listening to podcast. Every time I go to the gym for example, spend an hour and a half listening to a good podcast. It’s just awesome. You’re there. You’re rowing or running or doing whatever and you’re hearing this amazing speaker that you can always have, there’s always gems in those conversations.
Artur: And from your story alone, it sounds like it wasn’t a coincidence that you ended up at Samsara and you’re doing growth for them. You’ve been passionate about growth for like 3-4 years. You’ve gone to all these conferences then you did Tradecraft. so when you’re passionate about this single topic and you want to be the best, companies will hire you because they know how good you are and how much value you can bring.
Ruben: And not just the best from a subject perspective too like you know the people that are the best. And not just the people, you know the faces. So when you walk in the room, you recognize them and you can introduce yourself. So respect.
Artur: So going through this process, what is one thing that you fundamentally believed in that you changed your mind on after you got into startups?
Max: I thought before that one single person could not have an impact on society. It was because it’s very hard when you’re by yourself. You don’t have any money and big interest groups are running everything. So really come out with a voice and change things that you don’t agree with. When I got into tech I realized that with growth, you can grow anything. You can grow, for me, that was the biggest thing. I was a guy, from our computer, can change the world wherever he is. He can make political statements. He can…
Timur: Start Twitter campaigns. Start a revolution, right?
Max: Yeah, and I do believe it. I think that now with technology, a democratized information, there’s going to be a huge change in education especially with poor people around the world and they’re going to have access to the Stanford professor.
Ruben: To their smartphone that they bought with their $100.
Max: Yeah. And one day if I can help out doing that kind of stuff, I’ll be very happy of helping guys that didn’t have the same opportunities.
Ruben: And last question, can you share one online resource or a few online resources for people that are interested in following the growth path?
Max: I’m a big fan of GrowthHackers.com. It’s become a place where like a marketplace for blog articles. If you don’t have much time, just read the top articles everyday. The one that gets the most up votes. Subscribe to the newsletters as well. I think Brian Balfour has also amazing stuff, Coelevate. And when you read an article and you think that the guy that wrote it said something smart, go to his Twitter and start following him on Twitter. Start following him on Medium. See what other articles he’s posted and then one day you’re going to meet him at a meetup and you’re going to know way more about him.
Artur: Awesome. What’s the best way for our listeners to get in touch with you because you’ve had a lot of gems and I’m sure people will have questions. Are you on any social media?
Max: Happy to help with anything I can. LinkedIn would be the easiest one. I have my Twitter and my email there. I usually respond to emails as fast as I can so email is probably a great channel. You can look it up in my LinkedIn. If you look for Max R. Rencoret or you can send me an email directly to the Tradecraft email so it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timur: And we’ll definitely include that in the show notes as well for our listeners.
Artur: Sweet. Well, it was a great podcast and thanks for coming on the show man.
Ruben: Thank you Max.
Max: Thank you guys for the invitation. It was awesome.