GE 201: How Sean Ellis Built GrowthHackers to 100K Members and Skyrocketed the Growth Hacking Movement (podcast) With Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis

Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Sean Ellis, CEO of GrowthHackers. Sean was the 11th guest on Growth Everywhere and this is his second time on the podcast. Sean has worked with Dropbox and Qualaroo and is also the author of Hacking Growth.

Listen as Sean discusses the importance of running weekly growth experiments for your business, why focus is such an important asset for any founder, how to scale customer acquisition, and what he’s learned about growth from GrowthHackers, Qualaroo and other multi-billion-dollar companies.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Sean Ellis Built GrowthHackers to 100K Members and Skyrocketed the Growth Hacking Movement TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:36 – Leave a review and rating and subscribe to the podcast
  • 00:56 – Eric welcomes Sean Ellis
  • 01:19 – Sean shares about his background
    • 01:21 – Sean worked with two startups that grew to become companies
    • 01:54 – Most of Sean’s work is during the first year of a startup
    • 02:22 – Sean worked with Dropbox, Eventbrite and Lookout
  • 03:02 – Qualaroo was acquired from Kissmetrics
    • 03:11 – Sean worked on Qualaroo and GrowthHackers at about the same time
    • 03:22 – Qualaroo informs the types of tests you need to improve your website
    • 03:38 – Sean sold Qualaroo to focus on GrowthHackers
    • 04:11 – Sean was more focused on selling Qualaroo quickly rather than making a bigger sale
  • 05:15 – GrowthHackers is trying to help companies manage their growth by setting up processes, training, and software
    • 06:06 – GrowthHackers has their own community with hundreds of thousands of members
    • 06:32 – GrowthHackers is Sean’s passion project
    • 07:25 – GrowthHackers increased their monthly rate to $850
  • 08:49 – Experimentation is important for learning how to grow your business
    • 09:27 – Running an experiment follows the same scientific process
  • 09:45 – What’s the one constant thing you see every time in every business? The PRODUCT dictates a lot of the potential of a business
    • 10:21 – The second most important thing is WHO is most passionate about the product
    • 11:02 – Sean then works to find out who else can benefit from the product
    • 11:14 – “It is about understanding the experience that leads to retention”
    • 12:06 – Sean worked on a company where he was able to grow the retention and customer base
    • 13:04 – Sean did a lot of testing to improve the onboarding and highlighted what lead to long term retention
  • 13:46 – Sean’s book was written with Morgan Brown and it was about Sean’s processes as well as the best practices of the companies he’s worked with
    • 14:15 – Marketing a business involves public touch points
    • 15:05 – Sean and Morgan wanted to document how companies grow
    • 15:35 – Sean wants to share to people what growth hacking really is and how they can apply it to their own businesses
    • 16:18 – Sean started to write about his experiences in his own blog and the book is the culmination of all his work with these different companies
    • 17:10 – Sean is passionate about helping people scale and give the most impact
  • 18:04 – The GrowthHackers Conference is a celebration of bringing people together
    • 19:20 – It is about sharing ideas between practitioners
  • 19:52 – GrowthHackers University is built around the Growth Master Role
    • 20:31 – It is a self-paced course through Teachable for people who are running the processes of their companies
  • 21:08 – Sean says the solution to growth is a multi-faceted one and each piece is important
    • 22:20 – Sean and his team manages the load by looking at each piece and finding what needs to be worked on the most
  • 23:31 – What’s the most effective thing you are doing now in terms of customer acquisition? – The community was built on a Twitter queue
    • 24:15 – Aside from Twitter, the community is actively engaging with one another through different channels
  • 25:18 – What’s one big change you made in the last year that’s impacted you or the business in a big way? – Selling Qualaroo
  • 25:35 – What’s one new tool that you added in the last year that added a lot of value for you? Segment
  • 26:01 – What’s one must-read book do you recommend? – Presenting to Win and Influence
  • 27:04 – What’s one blog, publication or podcast do you recommend?The Everything Store, The Upstarts
  • 28:53 – Connect with Sean on Twitter and on GrowthHacker
  • 29:20 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

  1. The potential growth of a company relies heavily on the value of its product.
  2. Business growth is about retention—understand what keeps your customers faithful to you.
  3. Experimentation is KEY to growing your business and needs to be part of your process.

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Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Sean: Experimentation is the way you learn how to grow a business. It's about the quality and velocity of experiments, and it's based on the scientific process.

Speaker 2: Do you want to impact the world and still turn a profit? Then you're in the right place. Welcome to Growth Everywhere. This is the show where you'll find real conversations with real entrepreneurs. They'll share everything from their biggest struggle to the exact strategies they use on a daily basis. If you're ready for a value-packed interview, listen on. Here's your host, Eric Siu.

Eric: Before we jump into today's interview, if you guys could leave a review and a rating and also subscribe as well, that would be a huge help to the podcast. If you actually enjoy the content and you'd like to hear more of it, please support us by leaving us a review and subscribe to the podcast as well, thanks so much.

All right everybody, today we have a repeat guest. His name is Sean Ellis. He's worked with great companies like Dropbox, Qualaroo, and he is now the CEO of GrowthHackers and the author of Hacking Growth. Sean, how's it going?

Sean: It's going great, Eric. Thanks for having me on.

Eric: Yeah, thanks for being back here. Why don't you give people a quick refresher. What's your background? What is your story?

Sean: Sure, yeah. I spent the first ten years of my career working at two startups that came out of the ground floor, zero users on them, and built them up, in the VP Marketing role, to two companies that did Nasdaq IPO filing. I left at the filing at both companies, or I left the role at the filing. The second one was LogMeIn, which is now about a 5 billion dollar valued company. I just, looking back at those two companies, realized that a lot of the really heavy lifting value-add stuff that I was doing and my team was doing was in the first 6 to 12 months of the customer interaction. Once the product was built, once we validated that it was something people actually needed, those first 6 to 12 months were super valuable.

Then I decided I was going to spend the next few years trying to just work in that upfront stage and get really good at that. Otherwise, you don't really get much experience there if you're spending five years with a company like I had been doing. That's when I went to Dropbox and spent six months with them, six months with Eventbrite, Lookout, a bunch of companies where I could just get it down to a systematic process of figuring out what really matters, when does it matter, sequencing, bringing those companies to market. Then launched my own business a few years ago with Qualaroo, and now GrowthHackers.

Eric: Could you talk a little bit about Qualaroo, what it is and what ended up happening to the company?

Sean: As I launched Qualaroo as a business, as we were growing Qualaroo, we actually acquired it from Kissmetrics. It had been just a little side business that they had, and we thought we could run with it. As we were building that up, we started ... GrowthHackers

Sean: Probably Twitter, @seanellis. Obviously if you have any questions, post them on GrowthHackers because we have Q&A on there. I like to jump in and answer them as often as I can.

Eric: If you guys are in LA, check out the GrowthHackers conference. Check out the book as well, Hacking Growth, and if you want to keep learning growth, go to If you're serious about growing your company, get GrowthHackers project. Sean, thanks again for doing this.

Sean: Awesome. Thanks, Eric. Appreciate it.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to this episode of Growth Everywhere. If you loved what you heard, be sure to head back to for today's show notes and a ton of additional resources. Before you go, hit the Subscribe button to avoid missing out on next week's value-packed interview. Enjoy the rest of your week, and remember to take action and continue growing.