Blinkist CEO Shares How Two Key Inflection Points Led to Breakout Growth

Episode 38 December 21, 2020 01:01:12
Blinkist CEO Shares How Two Key Inflection Points Led to Breakout Growth
The Breakout Growth Podcast
Blinkist CEO Shares How Two Key Inflection Points Led to Breakout Growth

Dec 21 2020 | 01:01:12

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Show Notes

“It is a superpower for anyone working in growth to know how to get their own data”

 

CEO Holger Seim and his co-founders developed Blinkist to help users fit learning into their lives by reading or listening to “Blinks” - 15-minute summations of non-fiction books. He explains, “sometimes you need a three-course dinner, sometimes you need a snack, we are the snack.” In this episode of the Breakout Growth Podcast co-hosts, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr dive in with Holger to learn how the company has built a sustainable growth engine where focused effort on improving engagement spins a flywheel of paid acquisition and word-of-mouth expansion and it helps them avoid a dependency on venture capital.

 

In the beginning, growth was slow for Blinkist. The team launched their mobile app in 2013 in their native German-language, and Holger calls this their biggest mistake. But we also learn how the company found traction in the US and then came to realize that adding audio content could improve engagement. Success then blossomed as a process of iterative learning through experimentation, and Holger describes how a cross-functional strike team approach that the company calls “missions” has worked to break down silos and motivate teams.

 

One such mission focused on “cracking” paid acquisition channels proved to be the company’s largest driver of growth, but Holger is quick to point out that it is the product’s value to end-users that makes all growth possible. The Blinkist team always has the customer in focus, working to help them build positive habits around learning. From automatically starting a new recommended title after a user finishes listening, to adding “Shortcasts” (brief summations of podcasts) to its content lineup, Blinkist continuously pushes to improve the user experience.

 

With that intentionality, it is no surprise to find out that the company has adopted a North Star Metric of “Monthly Engaged Users” to align teams against its broader mission to fit learning into people’s lives. So jump in with Sean and Ethan as they find out from Holger Seim how growth is built at Blinkist.

 

We discussed: 

 

* How Holger and his co-founders struggled in their own lives to find time for learning, and why they saw a mobile app as the right solution to this problem (4:42)

 

* Why launching in German to protect a non-existent brand turned out to be a poor decision in hindsight (8:42)

 

* The impact of qualitative feedback and how that led to the addition of audio versions of Blinks (10:50)

 

* How authors and publishers react to finding their content on Blinkist (12:15)

 

* Why the company is focused on mobile apps as its key platforms (16:53)

 

* The company’s push for annual subscriptions (21:27)

 

* Why fast payback windows are profoundly valuable for helping the company optimize for independence (25:50)

 

* The impact of Covid-19; why less commuting has meant less time for reading and learning but has ultimately helped Holger learn to say “no” and improve efficiencies (32:48)

 

* Growing with a North Star Metric of “Monthly Engaged Learners” (36:45)

 

* “Missions”, Blinkist’s cross-functional strike-team approach that has helped drive success  (43:05)

 

And much, much, more . . . 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the breakout growth podcast, where Sean Ellis interviews, leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here's your host Sean Ellis Speaker 1 00:00:24 Episode of the breakout growth podcast, Ethan Gar and I interview Holger seam co-founder and CEO of Blinkist. Blinkist is a mobile app that allows users to listen to 15 minute summaries of nonfiction books. I personally was really impressed with the summaries from our book hacking growth, that a great job of capturing the key takeaways. So Blinkist mission is really to bring learning into people's busy everyday lives. And in this discussion, we see the underlying principles of breakout growth in action to test and learn quickly Holger employees, a cross-functional strike team, where they attack the biggest challenges that could be impeding growth. And so they go on these missions to really figure out what's impeding growth and then work to address those. And that they've really helped to develop strong word of mouth as a result of some of the findings that they had in these missions, as well as building a powerful paid acquisition machine. Speaker 1 00:01:21 So before we get started with the interview, I wanted to let everyone know that we've announced the date of our next cohort of go practice, which is the immersive simulator for learning data-driven product growth. So we're going to be kicking it off on March 10th and Oleg and I in this cohort, we spent an hour and a half with you each week, building on the lessons that you learn in the self-paced simulator. And we're going to be offering a special price for podcast listeners that, uh, that send me a discount request through Twitter. So at Sean Ellis on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn, uh, or message me on LinkedIn. And, uh, if you send me a request before January 1st, I'll send you a discount to get started. And one of the benefits is that you don't have to wait until that cohort starts on March 10th. You're going to be able to get started with the self paced lessons right away. Um, you can learn more about go [email protected], but now let's jump in with Holger, seen founder and CEO of Blinkist and find out what's driving their breakout growth. Speaker 1 00:02:35 Hi there. Welcome to the breakout growth podcast. Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah. And so I'm, I'm joined here by my co-host. Do you think Gar welcome Ethan as well? Hey, good to see both of you. I at least hear us. That's right. That's right. I was, I was checking my webcam to make sure that it wasn't, it wasn't, it wasn't showing me in my morning beauty. So I'm so Hogar, um, we're, we're excited to dig into Blinkist and learn, learn everything about it. Um, congratulations, that definitely looks like you have done some, some great things with the company. Um, before we really get into the, the growth story, can you give us maybe a bit of a explanation on, on what Blinkist is and really the problem that it solves? Speaker 2 00:03:24 Sure. Happy to. We started Blinkus in 2012 to help people to fit learning into their lives. Then we do that by offering the key ideas from the world's best non-fiction books and podcasts in a bite-size format. So when with Blinkist, you can listen to the key ideas from a podcast or from a nonfiction books in 50 minutes, sometimes even less, um, fitted in, um, when you're commuting, when you do the laundry, when you're cooking something, when your eyes are busy, um, but you can listen to something we help you to fill that, uh, at least pockets of time in your day, meaningfully, um, and inspire you and help you to learn something new. Speaker 1 00:04:02 Excellent. Well, I had my first experience with Blinkus yesterday, so I got a chance to, uh, kick the tires on it a bit. And I'll, uh, I'll give you that. I actually, um, was able to track down my book in there, which was very cool and, and listen to that. But, um, before we even kind of get into to my experience and, and, um, more, more about Blinkist, it would be good to kind of rewind all the way back to the beginning. Like when did you start the company and what caused you to feel like there was a need here that, um, was not, uh, was not being met? I mean, this, this need that you said to fit learning into their lives. Was that the initial, was that the initial goal you set out to achieve? Speaker 2 00:04:42 Yes, we had a, um, we didn't have it that grist crisp, but basically that required here from the beginning. So back in 2012, early 2012, my co-founders and I were in jobs where, um, one and a half years out of university and we felt it was very hard to keep up with our learning goals. You would learn on the job, um, in our jobs, but it was hard to fit in reading whether it's books or magazines. It was hard to, yeah, just, um, look beyond what we were doing in our jobs. Um, and we realized that not only we had this problem, um, but a lot of people have this problem. Everyone is curious. Everyone wants to grow personally professionally and be more knowledgeable, but a lot of people have a hard time to fit in all the reading and all the learning they want. Speaker 2 00:05:28 And at the same time, back in 2012, smartphones were still newer, newer than they are today. And the Epic system was just exploding. And we thought, well, everyone, a lot of people complain that they don't have time to read. Um, but at the same time, a lot of people spend more and more time on the smartphones. So we thought, well, if we can bring meaningful learning content to smartphones, to smart phone screens and fit it into those, uh, you know, into those shorter moments, um, when you, when you look at your smartphone, then we can build a great business. That's also problem and, um, and comes at the right time. Um, and that was the starting point. Uh, we, we started, our initial idea was to start very broad with learning than initial name. VocaLink is what's called wait mate. Um, and have you made that helps you to fill waiting times more meaningfully, but then eventually we decided to Sue me in, on books too, because books, you know, providing the key insights from non-fiction books is more specific and it's sounds it's easier to explain and, uh, the value is more explicit. Um, so we assumed in on books, but the, the, the vision and the purpose was always broader. It was always about learning in general and not just, um, yeah, summarizing non-fiction books. Speaker 1 00:06:40 So, so what was the initial content then, Speaker 2 00:06:43 Um, for, for wake med for that prototype, which we never launched by the way that was the initial idea was really just random, um, like topic based content that you could learn in three to five minutes, um, yeah, that that's technically Wikipedia. So you could technically also open big a pedia, uh, while, while waiting and then learn something. So it's probably hard to generate a willingness to pay for that. No, one's going to pay for that. So we thought let's connect it to books and assuming on books, because books are very valuable for people and then books have a price tag, some people have a willingness to for books and, and, and a specific desire to read more books or listen to more books. Um, and that's how we, um, moved from this broad, wait mate, fill your waiting times with learning, um, to a more specific Blinkist key ideas from nonfiction books in 15 minutes. Speaker 1 00:07:35 And so you said you, you never really launched that prototype. So what, um, was that you kind of put the prototype out there to, to more get some feedback on it, and then you honed in on what you felt like was the better opportunity. And what, what did it look like that you actually launched with that? I assume you didn't have thousands of books day one. What, like, when did you say, okay, this is how many books we actually need the launch with and what did that look like? Speaker 2 00:08:01 Yeah, the whole launch library was 50 books, 50 titles, and the capacity we've built was to add 10 titles per month. So it was very, you know, very small, both in terms of library and new books we could release, but we thought with two to three books a week, we can already keep the audience engaged. And especially initially we focused on, um, young professionals that are interested into personal development and professional development. So the topic of focus was also more narrow and we thought, you know, if we give our audience, um, 10 personal growth books a month, that already gets them, um, yeah. How have some to grow and, and gives them a reason to, um, to stay and pay. Speaker 1 00:08:45 And then what language did you initially launch in? Cause I know you're based in Berlin. So was it, did you launch in German or w was it English from the beginning or Speaker 2 00:08:52 The biggest mistake of our lives? We launched in German first. So we, you know, let's, let's launch a, a more controlled, better in a smaller market that is a whole market, uh, to, to learn and then, uh, eventually to expand. And the reason behind that was, which is stupid in hindsight is we didn't want to burn ourselves. We thought if we know, if we launch a product and content that, uh, ultimately is not great and people see it globally, then, um, we may burn our brand and ourselves before we even started. I mean, that's so stupid in hindsight, but that's how we were thinking back then. Speaker 1 00:09:27 People think that way, it's like, you know, the real thing is no one notices <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:09:34 True, but yeah, no one told us back then. So we launched in German, uh, the beginning of 2013 and then expanded to English, uh, beginning of 2014. And that's when things started to work better. The German market was not the best market to start in because here in Germany, people are a little less progressive legal, you know, they need one or two years longer before they adopt digital models and digital subscription back then was, um, um, yeah, wasn't, didn't, didn't work as well. Uh, didn't work so strongly in Germany. Um, but in, in the English speaking markets and specifically in the us, uh, it was much easier to establish that because customers were already used to paying for digital content and then to, to subscribe for consumers descriptions. Speaker 1 00:10:18 Yeah. And then how, how did you, like, what were the signs that you saw that said we're really onto something now this, this really seems to be working let's, let's, let's get aggressive about growing this thing. What was there, do you remember a specific kind of, was it in the data? Was it more qualitative feedback or a combination? Speaker 2 00:10:37 It was both. So qualitative feedback was great from the beginning of everyone we pitched this idea to, uh, was like, well, that's great. I've been waiting for something like that. I do have this problem and I consider that solution. So we always got strong feedback that people have a strong intent for a product like ours. Um, but we couldn't scale it in the beginning. We weren't able to, to really find a, a broad lube and, and, uh, a growth engine and then eventually, and then by the way, we launched with text only. Um, and then in the summer of 2014, we've been to San Francisco to tech crunch, disrupt and talk to people there. And nine out of 10 people said, well, your product is great. Is it available as an audio? Um, so we came back to Berlin and thought, well, you know, we should do audio if everyone in on the West coast. Speaker 2 00:11:23 And those people will usually, uh, have a, have a clear vision of the future. Um, everyone asks us, asks us about audio. We should consider audio. So by the end of 2014, we launched audio. We did some other business model hacks. So we launched an annual subscription, um, instead of a monthly subscription. And, um, these two hacks, adding audio and moving towards an annual subscription, um, really helped us to scale. And also, um, important to say by that time, we had learned all lessons when it comes to digital marketing. So, um, we had the tracking in place. We, um, and we, we knew, uh, how to, how to invest in digital marketing, how to direct things and then how to double down. So all of these things came together by the end of 2014. And then since then it's been a very constant growth driven, mostly by paid acquisition. Speaker 1 00:12:18 Excellent. Well, I'm, I'm excited to dig into the growth engine here pretty quickly, but, um, I wanted to ask, ask one more question kind of on the, um, feedback from authors and feedback from publishers. Um, given that, that, you know, as, as I mentioned a moment ago that I have a book hacking growth and I, you know, naturally the first thing I did when I downloaded the app was to see if my book was in there. And, uh, and it was so I listened to it and I was really impressed how, how it distilled a lot of the key lessons that we had in the book, um, into, uh, into a bite-size kind of 15 minute chunk. And then the next thing I did was took one of my favorite books that I haven't listened, or that I haven't kind of reviewed in a few years, seven habits of highly effective people. And just kind of did that as a, as a reminder of the key concepts from that book. And I found that to be really valuable as well. And so I'm curious if most authors get excited about it, uh, and, and publishers, or if, uh, if there's kind of mixed feedback, is this, is this making it unnecessary to read my book? Or is it, is it more of a marketing channel for my book? I'm curious on that feedback. Speaker 2 00:13:25 Yeah. So there's, uh, most authors are excited. So most authors, uh, um, that discover us and I explore that, um, there, the title is on Blinkist. So even for those that brought that, that had listened on blinkers, they reach out and they're excited and they ask us whether we can publish that titles if it isn't on Blinkist already, because they see the value, um, of, uh, of expanding their audience, um, through Blinkist. Um, so there are also a few authors, but really only a few that reach out and get matched because they wanted to be asked or they don't agree with, uh, how we, you know, how we presented the key insights or they, they are afraid of cannibalization that people listen to the blinks and, uh, no longer read the book, but that's really, I would say factor one to 20. So for every 20 authors that reach out to us and are excited, one reaches out and is skeptical or, um, uh, Matt, and then even, um, those that reach out to us and are rather skeptical, um, uh, probably 50% of them. Speaker 2 00:14:25 We can turn around by explaining what we're doing by sharing some data. Um, so authors are fence. Publishers are a little harder to, uh, to, to make fence. So publishers, we, we do work with a lot of publishers already, but, um, not with everyone already. And it's a, it was a long journey because publishers are a little more concerned about cannibalization, about general digital business models, disrupting their business, which is a quiet, uh, stable and profitable business. Um, but also with them, you know, the more, the longer we in the market and the more we talk, the better we can convince them, we do, we do, we frequently serve your customers. And, um, more than 50% of our customers tell us that blink has helps them to read more books. So they use it to discover new books or they use it, as you said, to, to retain, uh, books or to review them after they read them in full, um, 40% tell us that, um, they use it as a discovery tool. It doesn't have them to read more books, but it helps them to make better choices of which books to read and to dip their toes into other topics that they are not able to read in long form. Um, and then only 9% of people say that they read less books, um, due to blinkers because they find out that, Oh, um, this book, you know, that the key insides, all I needed to know that I no, uh, no need to, to still read the book. So Speaker 1 00:15:47 Person probably wouldn't have read the book anyway. Speaker 2 00:15:50 That's what we're telling publishers as well. That, um, if, if our con I'll think about it that way, if our content really cannibalizes books, then we're not the problem, then the product, Speaker 1 00:16:03 And then cut the fluff, Speaker 2 00:16:06 Absolutely Richard really challenged their product and then, you know, and develop better products, which I don't believe by the way I think most of the books I've read and have value and it's valuable to have, you know, these anecdotes and more examples and more, um, you know, looking at a topic from our perspective, all that is valuable. Um, but it's like, you know, sometimes you need a three course dinner and sometimes you need a snack for on the goal and we're on the go. Speaker 1 00:16:31 I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on, on what Blinkus is all about. Um, from these questions, Ethan, is there anything else that you would kind of dig into to get more of a handle on what the businesses? Speaker 2 00:16:41 Yeah. I have some questions for you year. Um, you know, I went through sort of both tracks the web and the mobile track to you, uh, just to explore Blinkist. And I was curious, um, and I saw you have integrations with Kindle. Um, but is it correct? Is it correct to assume that most of your usage is via mobile? Is that where the world is today? Yes, almost exclusively. Um, we do see some on, on web. We see discovery. Uh, so some people discover on web, but then, uh, you know, built a library and then they consume on mobile and with Kindle it's, it's a feature we built for some of the heavy customers that use us a lot, and that prefer to read on the Kindle, but it's not that having to use, but it's a cheap feature to have. So it's, it's not, didn't, uh, pass a lot of, uh, time to, to implement. Speaker 2 00:17:29 Gotcha. So you definitely see some people who start on the, on the web, but do you try to move them to mobile from there? Or do you really? We don't. I mean, we were agnostic to that. If, if, if users prefer to, um, to consume Blinkist content on desktop, that's fine for us. But since most of our users prefer the mobile apps, we much more effort into a mobile app. So where we don't have feature parity between web and app, you see some features and some experiences on mobile app that are not yet on web web is rather an entry point and I'm a discovery, a discovery product for us. Speaker 3 00:18:04 Gotcha. And you mentioned earlier that, you know, it was sort of a, one of the sort of growth moments for you is when, when you, uh, discovered that people were in the U S were really looking for audio and that kind of drove, um, you know, a step-change improvement for you guys. Um, do you, do you find today, like, like a lot more people are, are actually listening to your content or is it kind of a mix of reading and listening or how has that changed over time? Speaker 2 00:18:30 Yeah, so it, it definitely, um, changed towards audio, uh, nowadays 75% of people rather listen to our content instead of reading and also people who listen, I'm more engaged because it's, you have more moments in your day where you can listen to something versus weeding to something. But that being said, I'm, you know, if you look at the types of learners out there, um, there are as many people who prefer to learn, um, by, uh, via reading then, um, people who prefer to learn by listening. So technically this should be even, um, but I think since we were growing a lot through performance marketing channels, and there's a lot of, you know, lookalike audiences, uh, um, uh, you know, those features then, um, maybe we, um, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy and we add more audio feed people because they are, they have a higher affinity to pay for digital subscriptions. And, um, we have, it's easier for us to target them. So, um, audio is working better for us, but we haven't given up on, on, on reading because there's a lot of readers out there. Speaker 3 00:19:33 Yeah. And just one thing that's I was curious the books that I've listened to, they've been read professionally or by the authors, um, is that have, have you guys explored any speech, uh, text to speech sort of, uh, options to kind of streamline, you know, getting, getting some of your, your books onto, into an audio format? Speaker 2 00:19:52 Not really. I mean, we know the technology that is out there, but, um, the experience is so, um, so inferior to a recorded experience. And since we have 15 minutes of really dense information, um, uh, we wanna, we wanna focus on a recorded, uh, recorded audio versions. It's also, it's not a big cost driver. You can get very good, um, good narrators and talent. Um, that record 15 minutes at a, at an okay price where we, you know, we don't have to record 10, 10 hour audio books, 50 minute version, so we can afford it. And it makes the experience so much better. Also knowledge retention is so much better when you, when you get a more pronounced, um, and, uh, um, narrated version instead of a Texas speech. Speaker 3 00:20:37 Yeah. It makes sense. It's, it's just interesting as the world, you know, we, we keep finding technical solutions to problems. I was just curious how that's, if that's impacted you, but it's, it, it does sense. I mean, it is a really nice experience to listen to somebody, you know, reading the book with in a very natural sort of, uh, Speaker 2 00:20:54 We still get a lot of feedback though. You know, you can make it right for people, some want more British, a British and a writer, someone more Merrigan, a writer. So that's really, it's a really binary topic either. You love it or hate it. You either love or hate a voice. So, um, eventually, you know, I think if technology is there, we will consider Texas speech because then we can more easily offer different, you know, different, different voices. Um, so our customers can select that voice. Speaker 3 00:21:23 Yeah. I mean, that, that technology certainly has improved, but I it's, it's not natural language yet. So interesting. And just, you know, I'd like to learn a little bit more about your business model, how you guys are making money. Um, I noticed that you only offer your trial for the annual subscription, uh, at least on, uh, on mobile. And I was just curious, uh, like, you know, how, how did, how and why did you make that decision? Speaker 2 00:21:46 I mean, we prefer customers signing up for an annual subscription because it gives us a faster return on investment. So as I said, we invest a lot in paid acquisition and someone subscribes for an annual subscription. We get that returned right away and can spin the wheel faster. If they subscribe for monthly subscriptions, we need to wait longer for the money to be returned. So there's, that's a reason why we as a business, um, yeah. Benefit from annual subscriptions. Also lifetime values are higher. Uh, but also from a customer perspective, we learned that blink is a product. Some, some customers use us on a daily or weekly basis, but there are also customers who use us, you know, once a quarter for a week when they're on vacation that have these streaks of, of reading or listening for a week. And then they, then they go sales for two, um, two months. Speaker 2 00:22:34 And we learned that if those customers are on annual subscription and at the end of the year, they look back, they, they got a lot of value out of Blinkist and they're happy to renew, but if they're on a monthly subscription and then have a month where they don't use it, sometimes they get frustrated and, um, and churn. And then it's always harder to get a customer back on a subscription when, uh, when she returned. So that's another reason why from a psychological point of view, annual works better for us. That's why we incentivize annual. We push people towards annual a little bit, um, offering monthly, but we incentivize the annual and that has worked very well for us. That has really helped us to kickstart our growth engine, as I, as I said before. Speaker 3 00:23:17 And there's a lot of experimentation to get to that, to that decision. But, uh, I actually, I worked on, uh, on a mobile app that, uh, had similar situation where you had very different use cases where some people would get value 10 minutes after they use the product and then never use it again. And others would use it month in and month out, some would use it very intermittently. And I think it's, it's very hard to kind of come up with the right model to service, all of those. So, um, but annual of course has a lot of benefits as you, as you explain it, testing where we never Speaker 2 00:23:46 Stop learning in that regard pricing is such a, such an important lever and pricing is not just a, you know, the dollar amount you charge, but also monthly, quarterly annual, do we give a trial or not? How do you present a present things on a subscription screen? So every experiment we run there is always, um, yeah. Surprising results. Speaker 1 00:24:06 Yeah. So that seems like a good transition actually to how you guys are in fact growing. Um, the, so, so you mentioned that you have a faster ROI with the wait when you go, um, annual subscriptions. And it's a really interesting approach, how you're, how you're doing that. You still have the monthly, but you clearly are steering people toward those annual, how, how does that affect the payback window? Do you see like half the time that it takes, you don't have to give the specifics on what payback window you're optimizing toward, but as it does, how much does it cut that part window? Speaker 2 00:24:41 We do give you specifics. We are optimizing for 90 day, uh, payback window. Um, and if you look at our conversion course, uh, most of the conversion happens in the first week, or like on day eight after the, after the free trial ends. Um, so there's a lot of that. That's what we call lead conversions, the conversions we get right away. And then there's like convergence, all the Goodwill, all of the people who sign up don't subscribe right away, but convert at a later point in time. Um, and we have a high, uh, lead factor. Um, so you're optimizing for 90 day payback, but, uh, actually 80% of our budget is, um, returned after month one already. So the wheel fast, because of not way we will get a working capital problem event. Speaker 1 00:25:23 Yeah, we did. We did the same thing, log me in. And, um, we, we mostly did it by just making our annual so much cheaper than, than going monthly. I think it was kind of like just save 65% if you went annual. And that, that took us interestingly to a 90 day payback period as well. That's what, that's what we were really, um, optimizing on. But it, uh, and, and before that it was, it was more than double that. So yeah, it made a huge impact. I it's, it's surprising how, how many companies don't, don't leverage the pushing people toward the cashflow benefit of a, um, I think, I think because they have the assumption that, that it's going to cut significantly on the lifetime value. But one of the things that you said was that when you did that, your lifetime value actually got higher and it may just be the nature of your business, but that's that's, Speaker 2 00:26:13 And that's also, I mean, we, we had to learn the hard way or, or not the hard way, but, uh, we, for a long time, we have operated under this, you know, your CAC, you, your customer acquisition costs should be one third of the LTV, and then you're considered a sustainable business by investors. So we always had a head of target for customer acquisition costs that we deducted from a lifetime value, um, estimates. Um, and that's how we stared the business, but eventually, uh, we realized, well, you know, with this logic, we make us too dependent on, um, for the funding. Uh, we, we don't look at cashflow. Um, um, so, and we may burn through all money too fast and then require additional funding. And then you're dependent on investors, which doesn't feel good for me. Uh, as an entrepreneur, eventually we, we said, well, let's, let's look at payback, uh, and, and, uh, steer the business in a way that it is independent. We can still raise money if we want, but, um, we optimize for independency. Um, and that was, I think, um, two years ago we made that shift. Uh, Speaker 1 00:27:13 It also gives you the ability to cycle those funds multiple times a year, much more often in a year versus if you have a long payback period. Yeah. So, so what are some of the other factors that affect growth in the business beyond that? The paid, uh, customer acquisition? Speaker 2 00:27:28 Um, we definitely see a lot of word of mouth. So we have a very stable, organic ratio or untracked ratio. Um, it it's very stable around 45%. So 55% of our, of our new customers come from track channel. So that's, um, different acquisition channels and then 45% come from OnTrack channels. And a good portion of that is certainly, you know, view through traffic, people who, who see an ad, but don't click, uh, who listened to a podcast ad. And, uh, don't go to the podcast landing page would rather, uh, directly to our, to the app store, but then very good part of that is word of mouth Blinkist isn't or people will, when people learn something, they talk about it, you know, you want to, people want to be knowledgeable or people want to share what they learned, um, and help others out. So we have this inherent, um, um, referral mechanism built in, and that helps us a lot. So, um, the better we are in engaging customers with great content and then keeping them engaged, um, um, the better we can, you know, uh, we can, we can grow through, uh, through word of mouth. Um, Speaker 1 00:28:34 Yeah. Have you tried anything with, or maybe you have something with like affiliate authors? Speaker 2 00:28:39 So we do have, um, an affiliate program. I mean, it's, I consider that also paid acquisition. So where our payday position makes us very broad from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, we're, uh, spend a lot of money on Outbrain and Taboola paid content. Do you have an affiliate program, podcasts influence, uh, a little bit of TV, the Google ecosystem. So, uh, almost all channels we don't do out of home so far, but we're in an, all the digital we're present in all the digital channels. Um, and if he loses one of them, um, we also, we have a referral system. So you can, uh, as a customer, you can refer, um, links to your friends that they get 30 days for free. Um, but that's, we, we never put a lot of effort on referral because we, we saw that those referrals happen organically and revise them, but they rather happen organically. And if we incentivize them too much, then we make a free channel, a actually a paid channel. And that, Speaker 1 00:29:33 Yeah, it's funny. Cause I was, I was always worried about that with log me in. And then, um, we were at Dropbox, it was so early that there wasn't lot of risk in saying, Hey, let's just test a, an incentive on this. And it was interesting to see just how much acceleration happened on those referrals when we added the incentive to it. So it's, uh, yeah, it's, it's, it's hard though, because you know, if it's happening naturally, I was always worried that like, you, you suddenly put compensation with it and then it could actually even slow it down. Speaker 2 00:30:01 Yeah, I think, well, we haven't cracked yet, but that's a bigger endeavor, which we haven't digged into yet new for Dropbox. I believe like sharing, you had an incentive yourself because like Dropbox is inherently social. You want to share files with, with friends mostly. Um, and, uh, that's why you need to invite friends. So they're sharing, it was a network effect. It made the product better for, for both sides, but blink is, we don't have the, you know, we don't, we don't have community features built in, so you can't follow friends, you can't share reading lists or stuff like that. So if you share it right now, there's no benefit for you. Um, and which makes, you know, creates a better, bigger login. Uh, and that's something we've contemplated and something we may build eventually, but it's, uh, um, the other priorities right now that are, um, a little easier to build and prioritize. Speaker 1 00:30:52 Yeah. That's the, that's the hard thing is there's usually, so, so many things you could be doing, it's trying to figure out the ones that you actually put the put enough focus on for them to be successful. But it does feel like to me that, um, you know, like as soon as I heard my book on there, it felt like I could be a really good channel for you guys by promoting my, the Blinkist version of my book. And particularly if there was an incentive, um, you know, kind of an affiliate incentive, if people then ended up paying for the full Blinkist, um, it like that, that there's somehow that, that somehow, um, seems like a good channel to potentially tap into. If you, have you tried anything directly with the author. Speaker 2 00:31:32 I mean, we should definitely talk after that podcast about that. The short answer is no, because I'm usually the intermediary between us and authors or publishers. Um, so we need, you know, deals with publishers or who's excited to get access to the authors because one of authors tell us, you know, all, I would love to work with you, but, uh, um, as long as you haven't figured out things with my publisher, I feel like I can't, um, that's a challenge. We do it. We recently launched short casts, which is key insights from podcasts. And we, we, we create those short casts in collaboration with, uh, with the creators. Um, and that's where, you know, that's what we already leverage affiliate systems, um, is that we, we have direct access to the creators and there's no intermediary in between. And then by the way, I don't want to talk to the bad about publishers, we're making progress. And we have, you know, there are a lot of people that working for publishers that are fans and they want to work for us. It's just, it's, it's a big industry, it's big companies and it takes a little longer to, um, to yeah. To really set up these collaboration collaborations deeply. Speaker 1 00:32:37 Yeah, no, that makes sense. I definitely the, the complication of the, of the publisher layer in there and I'm PR I'm probably just too clueless to know that I'd be stepping on the toes of my publisher. If I did something like that, I said, they'd let me know. So, um, you know, one of the things that I've noticed, particularly with this podcast, which was, which was kind of disturbing to me that I had all this, I launched only, you know, maybe a little over a year ago and had this great momentum every week, getting more popular COVID hit. And suddenly the listeners like dropped in half because I, I think it was because their commutes, uh, got, got cut, uh, or, or disappeared completely. Have you found, um, have you found that, that COVID affected your business in a, in a similar way in terms of, you know, less, less kind of commute listeners? Speaker 2 00:33:25 Yes, definitely. We're in the same boat here. The commute spike and commute was one of the big use cases for us, and that was gone in lockdowns and it came back a little bit in summer. Now it's gone again. So it definitely hurt us. Um, so, so people overall engagement dropped because, uh, some people replaced the commute. Uh, you know, they found new, uh, new pockets of time on their day to link us then, but some didn't manage to, um, and that made it harder to retain or engage people. And, you know, through engagement comes word of mouth. So we also suffered on the new business side a little bit. It's, we're in a lucky position, as I said before, we, we steer the business, uh, with independence in mind so we can get through this time, um, without losing money. Um, and the business is safe and we're still growing, but we're not growing as fast as we wanted to grow. And, and we don't see the engagement that we want to see. Speaker 1 00:34:18 Right. And I, I mean, I think there's a lot of businesses that were directly affected. It's interesting, you know, my, my time at Eventbrite, it was interesting to see kind of Eventbrite, great growth IPO, and then, and then watching their stock with the, uh, with the pandemic drop to, I think it was like $5 or something like in the fives at one point, but just over the last month as the, um, you know, it was different vaccines and other things came out, they're there, they're back up to $15 a share. And I mean, like everyone knows that the pandemic's not going to last forever. So I think the biggest thing is surviving through the pandemic as a business and making sure that cause the fundamentals that work pre pandemic will probably still work post bender. There may be a little less commuting actually, um, in terms of kind of like longer term changes. But did you, did you definitely, I guess as long as you were holding yourself to that, um, payback period in, in your marketing, then, then maybe there was fewer opportunities to get that fast payback period, but you, you already, it sounds like you were pretty conservative in how you approach customer acquisition. Is there, is there anything else that it kind of affected in terms of aggressiveness? Speaker 2 00:35:29 I mean, it's no, technically we, we scaled a little bit back on, on user acquisition to make, to make sure we, yeah, we run that efficiently. We considered investments, you know, um, and looked at, do we really need to hire this, uh, additional, uh, person, do we really need to invest in this and that too many things at the same time? So we, we looked at everything and, and kept here in there without, uh, like we didn't, we didn't need to lay anyone off. Um, and we, uh, we didn't need to make any, any really hard decisions, um, but had to, you know, look a little closer. And it was also mean to a certain extent. It also helped us to, to turn some stones that we haven't turned in a long time and to, to, you know, just, um, apply, um, an efficiency program that you need to apply every now and then it's grown so fast as an organization that sometimes you, um, and as an entrepreneur, um, I'm very opportunity driven. I love to say yes to a lot of things because I'm optimistic and belief, um, always assume something great will come out of it. And then sometimes in times like this, I'm learning to say no more often and to really walk the walk when it comes to focus, because I preach is a lot, but then actually, actually we really focus means to say no to things, uh, opportunities. And that's what we learned in this pandemic. Speaker 1 00:36:50 Yep. And so one of the things that you taught, you've kind of brought up a few times through this conversation is that, um, engagement suffered or we see engagement, um, you know, maybe over people's usage period, they stopped for a while. They start back up. And so it feels like engagement. It's a really important, um, area that you focus on in the business. Do you, is there a specific metric around engagement that Speaker 2 00:37:13 Yes, um, our, our company North star is monthly engaged learners, which is technically monthly active customers. Uh, so every customer that has a content direction is an engaged learner in our definition. And that's the metric that we track most closely, um, in app in both absolute terms, but then also in relative terms, how many of our paying customers engage with blinkers every month? Um, and so this is the company North dye. And then, um, we look at, you know, a lot of metrics that are, I guess, that every company looks at from, you know, new business renewal business to the investment or marketing invest are I paid organic ratio, um, renewal rates for yearly, for monthly, um, the, uh, that that's on the growth side. And on the engagement side, we look at activation. So how many, what's our, uh, visit to sign up, to, to purchase rate? Um, we look at, um, retention cohorts or retention curves. We've won two week, four month, one to month 12 retention, and then also, um, intensity. So for people that are engaged, how many titles do they do they do? They consume every every month. So then Speaker 1 00:38:25 How do you, how do you change sort of the metrics you focus on with the broader team versus your investors as a, is it a lot of the same metrics or do your investors kind of say, just show me the news that the dollar numbers that's, what matters the most, or, um, D do you find that you're, you're emphasizing pretty much the same numbers, both with investors and with the broader team, Speaker 2 00:38:45 Same numbers. I mean, our investors get every, every month they get a financial reporting, which is where we financially driven revenue, new, new, and renewal and costs and then profit or loss. But then every quarter when we, um, we go, um, when we meet for a board meeting, um, we share them the full deck that also our team sees. Uh, so they got a pretty long preread with a management update with all the numbers, all the metrics that I shared. So they can obviously see the, you know, see the high level metrics, but also can drill deeper, um, because I want them to, um, the more they know, the better they can support or the better they can help us see things that we don't see, because sometimes when you're too deep in the business, you sometimes don't see something and then they call out, Hey, by the way, your, um, you know, your, your, your profitability and the jump being in region is much higher than in us. You should maybe shift in all, uh, allocate marketing allocation a little bit. Then sometimes you need someone, an outsider with a fresh perspective to see these little. Speaker 1 00:39:43 Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense, but, but it also, you know, in terms of maybe the finances or the final output that they really care about, but if they don't understand the machine that, that fills the sustainability of growth of the, the, the financial metrics, then, uh, then, then that, then they can maybe steer underinvestment in some, some areas or you have to sell harder investment that it's better if they actually understand how the whole system works. Speaker 2 00:40:07 We're very lucky. We have investors that are, you know, that a lot of them have been operators before. So they're not the classic finance guy who just cares about the revenue, but they love to go deep and they have a, they have a good perspective and, um, and experience and can compare metrics with other companies and, uh, and, and help with benchmarks. Speaker 1 00:40:28 Yeah. Um, so yeah, I think Ethan wants to dig into the organization to some degree here and I, and, and this, uh, and metrics are obviously a heart, a big part of kind of holding the organization accountable. So, um, Ethan, I'm, I'm curious, sort of where you, where do you want to dig on the organization side with this? Speaker 2 00:40:48 Yeah, I think I wanted to actually start with, you know, if you tell us a little bit about, as you've grown, how the organization has changed in terms of where did you start in terms of how you, how you manage growth and, you know, your different teams of product marketing and growth and where, and where is that today versus, you know, when you started yeah. It's, it has started messy and it still is messy. I think it's always, there's no frictionless setup. Like, I think you always, our goal is always to find the setup with the least friction, but, um, but it's always messy because there's no, yeah. There's, you know, when, when people work together, cross-functionally, it becomes messy. Um, because we are all, um, yeah, we're humans. Um, but yeah, we, we started with a very classical, um, functional setups. So we had a marketing team with a product team. Speaker 2 00:41:36 We had a, um, an engineering team, um, a people team and so on and so forth. Um, and potentially like, as in reporting lines, we still have that. So there's still a marketing team and a product team and an engineering team. But, um, what we learned over time is that while, you know, these functional reporting lines help to, to, you know, give people guidance. So if you're a product manager, you want to have a director product who can help you to grow, who can give you feedback. And if you're a, a channel manager on, on Facebook, you want to have a, um, a Facebook lead or a paid social lead that helps you, uh, that does one-on-ones with you and then helps you to get better. Um, so we learned that these functional reporting lines make sense, but then most of the work happens cross-functionally so, um, marketing has to collaborate with product in order to, to make growth work we need. Speaker 2 00:42:26 Um, if we run, I don't know, campaigns on paid content on Outbrain Taboola we need a, um, a web-based funnel. We need an, uh, you know, landing pages or magazine that hosts the article that we share. We need good conversion elements. We need to attract that from end to end. So almost every marketing activity is a needs product, uh, and, and engineering and engineering and data. So it's a cross functional effort. And the same, um, when you, when product is too siloed and just builds features based on what they think is right without, you know, marketers being involved in learning from what world, what resonates with people in marketing, um, then they built, um, without the customer in mind, or they built, uh, yeah, without, you know, without, um, quick market feedback. So in order to, to break down those silos that appeared over time, um, in these functional setups, we created a cross-functional org on top of that reporting org. Speaker 2 00:43:23 And we call that. So every, every half year we create missions and a mission is basically a cross functional team and has a mission lead. And then it has a certain goal. And then it's stuffed. So for example, we have a, um, retinol there. Uh, there, there was a, in past was a mission to crack paid content where we didn't, we didn't, uh, we weren't advertising on Outbrain and Taboola, um, but we wanted to PreK it. We, um, we decided to form a mission. So we had a gentleman enter a copywriter, a web team, like what product team with designer, product manager and engineers, and then an analyst and told them, well, your goal is to crack that, um, to crack that channel. So go for it. And you're fully staffed, uh, um, regardless of reporting lines. Um, so I love that super cool. That helped a lot that requires, you know, some, some more effort in the planning and you need to, you know, really align on strategy. You need to staff those missions. And, uh, um, and yeah, it takes a while to set it up, but then everyone has clarity on what their goal is and what's their priority number one is, or what their priority number one is. And, um, it, uh, creates a much faster execution Speaker 3 00:44:35 Has that North star metric of monthly engaged learners sort of helped, uh, helped that cross-functionality and to, has it helped break down those silos specifically, or, um, are there other tools that you've used that have helped them? Speaker 2 00:44:47 Yeah, so yes, that has certainly helped because ultimately all the missions drive to that North star, um, both whether either w whether we increase engagement or new business, everything drives up monthly engaged learners, if it works well. So that has, you know, that gives people purpose because they know they're not just doing it for them. I mean, some are, um, especially in marketing, uh, people can get very excited about hitting revenue goals, but a lot of people are not excited about hitting revenue goals. And there it's more important to put the customer front that Sandra and the, the, the actual purpose. Why, why are we doing it? So that has certainly helped. But then, um, I think the other thing is really just clarity, clarity on what, uh, how do you fit into the bigger picture? Uh, so what is, what is your mission? What is your purpose of being here in the next six months? Speaker 2 00:45:36 And, and, and with that clarity also empowerment to say no to other things, to say, like, this is what we expect you to do, and we expect you to do, do nothing else. So if someone pulls you in another direction, say no, uh, so that, that has really helped, uh, it, it provides clarity for people. It gives them purpose and it empowers them, um, to then take, take their own decisions. Um, and yeah, and it's fun. I mean, it's, it sounds nicer when I say it here, it's still a lot of friction. There's reality, then there's still, you know, um, people coming through the CRM manager that is in one mission and saying, Hey, I need this little campaign. Can you please help out? Or analysts are always stretched thin. So there's still a lot of pulling into different directions happening. Uh, it's never perfect and missions are always understaffed. Speaker 2 00:46:25 Um, but, uh, it's, it's working much better than in the early days in the early days, you know, we found hers, although the senior leadership team, we always had to negotiate, we always had to, you know, things would be escalated to us. Hey, uh, you know, I need a web team. Um, uh, we should focus on that in the next sprint or this, uh, and then we always needed to make these very tactical decisions. That was, we were a bottleneck and it also, wasn't very empowering for the teams. Um, but, but just a lot of stress for everyone. Speaker 3 00:46:55 Yeah. I think that's, that's super, uh, it's super interesting to hear you describe it that way. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was when I started my last, uh, my, my big role at Deltech, uh, I asked, I actually asked Sean before I started, I said, what's your, your, your key piece of advice for me as I try to lead growth. And he said, teach everyone their role in growth. Um, and we've sort of expanded that to be teach everyone their role in growth against the North star metric. And it sounds like that's really a big part of your culture is making sure people understand how their, their individual work, their, their team, how that produces value Speaker 2 00:47:30 To the company. I'm not an author and teacher. So I can't, can't say it with such nice and succinct words, but that's exactly it, it was good advice in one way or another, compared to most of my advice. Speaker 1 00:47:48 You mentioned that, you know, one of the things that your analysts are, are stretched pretty thin. Um, how, how much, and you also talked about empowerment, how much, uh, kind of, uh, empowerment does the broader team have to and capability to as a broader team, have to pull their own data to, to really understand what's going on in the business in any given time, Speaker 2 00:48:09 Not as much as I would like to, we're still working on it. My, my vision for blink is, is I want it to be very data driven, I believe like, and by the way, I'm not, I think there are a lot of decisions that are more art than science. So I still believe in intuition, but a good intuition needs to be nurtured by data that is quantitative and qualitative. So, and, and for that, I, I want people to, um, I hated when, um, uh, yeah, well, for the example, not that, uh, I'm not thinking of specific names, but when a product manager, isn't data driven, but needs an analyst that babysits, uh, him or her, um, say, Hey, have you considered this data and that data, uh, we have great product managers. So it's really just a random example. Um, and the decision makers need to be data driven by themselves. Speaker 2 00:48:57 And then they need analysts to, you know, sometimes we need deeper analysis or sometimes we need to have something fixed. And that's where the analysts come in. The analyst should be sparing partners, but not babysitters. Um, and we, we try to do that a way you empower the organization. We have, we're working with amplitude, which is a tool. So, um, that empowers everyone to put together their own dashboards, drill down to cohort analysis and go very deep on the product. And then we have Periscope, which is, uh, uh, less self-service. So you can't create a lot of own dashboards, but there you can, you know, um, uh, the V the, this is the halogens team can create some, some predefined experts, and then people can easily access. What's the performance of my Facebook campaign from yesterday, and can easily dig into such things and, and, and filter, um, filter for certain criteria. So these are the two, two, um, you know, employee facing tools that we're using to, um, to empower people, to do their own analysis and then get data quickly. And then, yeah, just analysts doing ad hoc analysis, and then digging deeper, um, when those tools are not, not enough. Speaker 1 00:50:08 Yeah. And hopefully like, yeah, the analyst can be freed up for the really, um, kind of deeper analytical work. But I, I definitely have found that a lot of organizations, including ones where I've run the organization and even, even hold myself guilty of just not for a long time, not taking the time to really learn amplitude. And so just using a few canned reports versus once I finally, once I finally got really good within amplitude, I found, I became a lot more curious to dig in and really understand what was going on and seeing that happen across other teams, it's just, you know, teams that understand what's going on are in a lot better position to approve what's going on. And so it's a it's. Speaker 2 00:50:47 I can also, like I can share a story. I learned, uh, SQL, uh, um, as the CEO of Blinkist in the early days in 2013, when we barely had a data warehouse, I pushed my CTO to, to give me a warehouse. And then I taught myself to, to run queries, to make analysis. And then I built the first, you know, before we hired the, for, for me, the first BI I hire, I build everything myself. I build the dashboards and, um, um, on Periscope and that the transformations, and I'm still using, you know, I still have sometimes, um, uh, when I have time or when I, you know, when I'm in the right mindset, I sometimes go deep on data. Um, and then sometimes I do, I do that, uh, directly in the SQL too. And it helps me, it helps me do nurture my intuition and make better decisions. It's a thing it's a super power for anyone working in growth to, to, to, to, to know how to get their data, whether that's through amplitude or Periscope, or whether by, by going directly in the database, you can do so many things faster when you, when you don't rely on analysts. Um, Speaker 1 00:51:49 Absolutely. And you're, and you're just a lot more curious when you can keep kind of digging that next layer versus being dependent on someone else. Speaker 2 00:51:56 Definitely. And it's not rocket science, everyone who has worked with Xcel, uh, uh, Google sheets can, can learn sequel. Huh? Speaker 1 00:52:03 Absolutely. So, yeah, speaking of, kind of understanding what's going on, but maybe a good, good way to wrap up and we've touched on a lot of this, but, um, really the, the typical path someone takes from how they discover Blinkus to what is the point where the light bulb really goes off and they they're like, Oh my God, I can't live without this thing. And, and really how, how you continue to drive engagement, retention, referral, but we don't need to go into a ton of detail on each cause we're, we're getting short on time, but if you could maybe take us through that path, at least to where they become a raving fan of, of Lincoln, that would be great. Speaker 2 00:52:38 Yeah, sure. I mean, not an acquisition. I already talked a lot about that. We're have really, we're in a lot of, in broad channels. Uh, so there are a lot of entry points for customers to hear about blinkers when they come to us, they usually are driven to the app store because the app is still our core, um, our core product. Uh, and then, um, we were working heavily on the app onboarding, um, to, you know, let people already give us some information, what they're interested in to build the first library for them to customize the experience. And then we usually try to get them into a seven day free trial, um, um, because we want to make money to be fully Frank, but also because, uh, getting people to commit, um, in the first session really helps to activate them because you don't get them to commit in the first session, it gets hotter and hotter than the, the world is so noisy. Speaker 2 00:53:30 Um, there's so many things you could try. Um, then it's easy just to forget that app that you downloaded the other day. So we really try to get a commitment from people in the first session. Um, and that usually happens, um, on our mobile app. We're trying, and we're working hard on shifting more of our acquisition and activation, um, traffic to web because, um, um, if we can lock them in on web, we don't have to pay 30% to Apple or Google, so it's commercially better. Um, and we can track better, like, you know, Apple with the IDFA, uh, once they kill IDFA, it gets harder for us to, to, um, to track our customers and learn which campaigns that came from. And on web, we have much more flexibility. So that's a big challenge because our core product is a mobile app and, and, um, converting people on, on a website without making them see the app, um, is a little challenging, but there is a lot of effort going into that. Speaker 2 00:54:25 But then once people are, when people have gone through the onboarding and I'm committed to a seven day free trial, or even if they skip the first screen that can discover a library, um, and then when they want to read or listen to a title, then we, um, we, um, we show the paywall again and then ask them to, to, uh, commit to a seven day free trial. Um, and once that happened, um, they're in, they can listen to everything, discover everything. Um, and we, um, where we are trying to really activate that. And usually, um, we're really good at, um, activating people, a lot of people, um, or the average, uh, amount of titles that people consume in the first. Um, and then those first seven days is close to 10. So people make use of the trial and, um, people make use of the, of the first month. Speaker 2 00:55:14 Our biggest challenge is to keep them engaged because some, eventually you forget to use us. Um, um, so we're good at and strong act and conversion and activation. We have some work to do on longer-term engagement because yeah, the world is a noisy place. There's a lot of things people could do. We are, um, we need to lean in to use blinkers and really get something out of it. It's not like, you know, it's not like listening to a song on Spotify, which you do more passively, which is more laid back experience. So it requires some commitment and like going to the gym, uh, like working out frequently, um, or eating healthy. It's a, it's a habit that for some people it's hard to keep. So that's, that's our core challenge. Um, um, but yeah, Speaker 3 00:55:59 I was just gonna say, it seems like you've, uh, you have been leaning in on, on that. Uh, we, we both, Sean and I both noticed that when you finish a book, um, there's like an autoplay of a related book. Um, can you tell us a little bit about that? And like, is, was that, has that been a process of experimentation on that? Speaker 2 00:56:15 Yes, it has. And it worked, um, it definitely increased engagement because discovery is one of the, one of the toughest, uh, um, one of the key leavers for us, um, to, to increase engagement when you open the app and you don't find a book that is relevant for you, you leave and you may not come back when you, when the title is finished and we don't provide you with a title that is relevant for you right away. You, you make loss yet and never come back. Um, so, uh, discovery, whether that's, you know, through automated recommendation off, um, um, afternoon, Liz do finish something, or whether that's through editorial recommendations, uh, that provide more context and relevance for titles is high on our, um, priority lists. So there's one mission actually around, um, uh, we call it, you know, uh, developing Blinkist into a trusted guide, uh, where too much of a library still. Um, and we need to become, uh, more of a trusted guide, a smart companion, you know, that teacher that you had in school that sparked your curiosity for a certain topic, um, and, and really made you love that topic and dig deeper. Uh, um, I had one, one of those teachers, the other others weren't that successful, but that's, that's what we have to reach. And we were doing a good job for a lot of people already, but not for all. Um, and that's, that's, that's where we have to focus Speaker 3 00:57:33 That. I wish we could talk all day about that because you have so many opportunities with like machine learning and AI and things you could do on that front. But, um, I know, uh, we're running up on our, on our hour here. So just kind of one last question that we always like to ask our guests is what do you feel like you understand about growth now that maybe you didn't understand a few years ago or that something blink has taught you in the past couple of years? Yeah, Speaker 2 00:57:55 I think it's like growth is a good mix of art and science in the beginning. I thought it was a complete art and I learned that there's a lot of science behind it. There's a lot of that. It's about creating, um, a machine that can iterate fast and, um, being really data driven and, and just testing a lot. And, um, that you can't always explain with intuition, um, what works and what doesn't you just need to test. Um, but at the same time, it remains to be an art. And I think that's where a lot of startups, at least here in Berlin, um, eventually struggle, uh, I think, um, and also why we w we still have to have to learn more. And we're very, we know we we've, we've become very good on the science part and have a well-oiled machine that is optimized, um, into, you know, into the little detail and, and we, we iterate fast, but then it's also about really deeply understanding your customers, not just your current customers, but also the adjacent potential potential customers. And from that deep understanding, hitting a nerve, you know, having that from that insight, really finding the right message that resonates with people, uh, and delivering that message through the right channel and the right creative at the right time. Um, people shouldn't underestimate that, um, because sometimes yeah, the right creative at the right time can, uh, can, can, um, just, uh, double your growth rate. Um, and that's, that's what I see a lot of companies here in Berlin, at least not focusing enough on, Speaker 1 00:59:29 Yeah, that's this, this has been fantastic over had I, you know, some of the key takeaways that I have, um, one, it feels like, you know, you and the team are really focused on that broader mission of, of fitting learning into lives. And I, and I think having that, that mission front and center helped you make that transition quickly to audio when you thought, okay, this is, this is the way people want to learn. And so you could, you could kind of see that that was in, within the mission, but then I also loved this. I haven't really heard it kind of stated this way, that kind of smaller missions that you talked about, like cracking, paid content and using that art and science that you just touched on through, you know, feeding experimentation to keep learning and evolving the business and, and, you know, being disciplined, having those, you know, that the payback period to, to really, um, make sure that you're not being a reckless as you experiment, but, um, but just continue to drive better and better, uh, results I think, within, within what you're doing through that experimentation. So it's, uh, it's an exciting story with Blinkus then I'm sure it's going to continue to be exciting going forward. So thanks for sharing the snapshot of where you are right now. And I know Ethan and I, and probably all the listeners are going to be pretty excited to tune in and watch you going forward from here. Speaker 2 01:00:44 Perfect. Thanks a lot for having me. It was a great conversation. Speaker 1 01:00:47 All right, then. Thanks everyone for tuning. Speaker 0 01:00:50 Thanks everyone. This was great. Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform, and while you're at it subscribe. So you never miss a show until next week.

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