Make growth your obsession 

Once you have more users, more revenue and more brand equity, all other problems become much easier to solve. Faster growth solves (nearly) all problems.

Growth and distribution should be your top priority, because getting users is harder than it seems. It is poor distribution—not product—that is the number one cause of startup failure. Prioritise accordingly.


  • Faster growth demonstrates that you’ve probably found something interesting. Fast growth is exciting, and people want to be on your team: engineers, investors, and new customers. Everyone wants to be where the excitement is.
  • Express how you measure growth in simple terms: for most companies it should be either i) revenue growth, or ii) growth of active users. These numbers are hard to game, and hard to misinterpret.
  • If you are the CEO of a company, it follows from the above that most of your time as a founder should be dedicated to unlocking marketing and sales. As long as you bring in new revenue, all else will be taken care of by others.
  • Foster a culture obsessed with growth. Make it a core value across the company, not just the growth team. Everyone should be thinking about how to acquire more users and make customers stickier.
  • As we’ll see in later chapters, the stronger growth tends to come from mechanisms that make make users love the product, and makes them stick around for a long time. Customer obsession goes well with a focus on growth!

In Practice

In 2012 Paul Graham published the essay “Startups = Growth”, in which he convincingly argued this law. He starts out:

A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of "exit." The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.

(...)  The good news is, if you get growth, everything else tends to fall into place. Which means you can use growth like a compass to make almost every decision you face.

Paul Graham is not the only person to think this. Eric Schmidt—former Executive Chairman and CEO of Google—used to say that “growth solves (nearly) all problems”. Y Combinator used “growth solves (nearly) all problems” to drive the same point home. Famous venture capitalist Peter Thiel said that lack of distribution and growth is the number one cause of startup failure. Ignore at your own peril!

Pair with

Systems, not hacks