How to get customers for your product is a huge area of interest these days as we see the rise of the “growth hacker.” Venture capital firm Greylock Partners is making an interesting move today relating to this new focus, adding Andy Johns as a Growth Strategist in Residence.
Johns most recently worked at Quora where he led growth efforts, including email retention and more. He also worked in growth at Facebook, where he established SEO efforts at the social network, and he helped build a growth system at Twitter. According to Greylock, Johns has accelerate growth nearly 10x at each of the three companies, first creating the frameworks and data models to understand engagement and then coming up with programs based on those learnings.
Traditionally, the EIR role has been around bringing in successful executives and entrepreneurs in-house who need a place to hang out for a while as they figure out what their next company will be. Many times these execs will also advise and help the firm’s portfolio startups, as well. While the entrepreneur in residence role has existed for some time now, Greylock has been adding a different twist to this program over the past few years.
In 2011, Greylock brought on former LinkedIn Chief Scientist DJ Patil as a Data Scientist in Residence, which at the time was a new position for a VC firm to add. Having an expert in growth, especially one that has been part of some of the fastest-growing social networks of recent time, is yet another value-add for its startups.
Greylock principal Josh Elman, who worked with Johns at Twitter and Facebook, says that the firm’s philosophy on hiring EIRs has always been to bring in the best in their field who can spend time with the firm. “Andy is the expert on user growth,” he says.
As Greylock explains, creating growth and engagement for startups is even more challenging in this climate as there are so many dynamic distribution channels, including Facebook, Twitter, iOS, Android, Google+, Pinterest, address books, push notifications, email, SMS, and others. “In a world where users have an ever-increasing set of options, navigating all of these to build long-term durable systems for engagement has become increasingly challenging,” the firm says. “We decided that we wanted an in-house expert to help us and our companies with this on a full-time basis.”
In his role as Growth Strategist in Residence, Johns is going to help portfolio startups navigate these challenges and create durable user growth and engagement. He’ll work with startups on measuring and creating the right metrics and dashboards, developing new features and tests to increase growth and engagement, among other things. Elman says that people are realizing that using Facebook and Twitter can help grow user bases, but to sustain this growth and engagement is a separate challenge. Johns has been able to create network effects for a number of well-known (and fast-growing) companies.
It’s also worth noting that Greylock last week scored another talent win, adding Jerry Chen to the investment team covering enterprise.