'The Science of Growth': What Facebook knew, but Friendster didn't
April 24, 2016 12:00 AM
By Brian Rossi / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With more than 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. and $128 billion in global venture capital money raised in 2015, the demand for product management guidance is in full swing. “The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster — and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust,” was written by an entrepreneur and venture capitalist Sean Ammirati, an instructor at Carnegie Mellon University who sold his company to LinkedIn.
"THE SCIENCE OF GROWTH: HOW FACEBOOK BEAT FRIENDSTER — AND HOW NINE OTHER STARTUPS LEFT THE REST IN THE DUST"
By Sean Ammirati St. Martin’s Press ($27.99).
Mr. Ammirati offers up some tried and true practices that are supported by his research methodology described in the introduction. He provides a “data informed” view of companies such as PayPal, Automattic (Wordpress), LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. He argues that ruthless prioritization, among other things, helped these companies beat out their competitors.
Mr. Ammirati does an excellent job incorporating companies that the reader is familiar with to drive home the key takeaways. He tells a story about Coke and Pepsi and how Pepsi was in need of a new bottle design to compete with Coke’s signature 6.5 ounce glass bottle. According to Mr. Ammirati, John Sculley, then Pepsi’s CEO, leveraged a “data informed” process that led to the creation of the plastic two-liter bottle.
After noticing in their trials that customers were drinking all of the Pepsi in the smaller bottles, Mr. Sculley hypothesized that they would increase customer satisfaction by offering larger quantities. It turned out that Walmart loved the new bottle design, too. Because it was made out of durable plastic instead of frail glass, it was no longer at high risk of breaking during transport and deployment. As a result of being “data informed” rather than “data driven,” Pepsi avoided the failure of simply creating a 6.5 ounce bottle with only slight modifications. Instead, they defined an entirely new product category, optimized logistics, and reduced a barrier to entry with retailers. These types of thought-provoking anecdotes are a common component scattered throughout the chapters.
“The Science of Growth” is a wonderful companion to the canonical product management blueprint, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, which Mr. Ammirati references several times throughout the book. “The Science of Growth” leverages the lean entrepreneurship movement as the foundation for its lessons. “Lean” business practices are often characterized by their utilization of people and resources with a systematic efficiency in order to validate and then scale an idea.
Mr. Ammirati walks the reader through early phases of entrepreneurship, beginning with idea validation. He encourages thoughtful analysis of market size and the importance of the first interaction. He goes as far as coining an augmentation of Eric Ries’ popularized phrase “Minimum Viable Product (MVP),” which Mr. Ammirati refers to as the “Minimum Awesome Product (MAP).” His point is well delivered in relation to a user’s first interaction with a product, stating, “… the product’s essential benefits can’t be realized if delivered through a horrible experience.”
Mr. Ammirati then emphasizes the need for “the product to be awesome even with limited features if you really want to validate your assumption about its ultimate success.”
In a space crowded with books on similar topics, “The Science of Growth” delivers on its promise to “show the secret of ‘the science of growth’ and how to cultivate it in any organization.”
Through a blend of well-described examples and personal experiences, this book outlines a process that can be repeated across most business sectors. Entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and product managers alike could benefit from the lessons in Sean Ammirati’s book.
Brian Rossi is senior manager of Product at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and co-founder of Preps. com. Twitter: @brianprossi
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