Last month, Astra completed Demand Curve’s four-week Growth Training Program. After coming back up for air – it really was an exhilarating and intense bootcamp-like experience – we’ve had a chance to gain enough altitude to understand the impact it had for the trajectory of our startup.
I’ll share details around why we decided to apply for the program, what it was like going through a growth marketing bootcamp, and the results we were able to achieve upon completing it.
Let’s start with what we achieved by taking the program: numbers, evidence, and finally an actual engine for growth.
By the end of the program last month, we saw a massive improvement across the board on our acquisition metrics. It has been exciting to see a step function change in growth rates, conversion rates, and even cumulative numbers. And that has meant crossing key milestones at a more rapid clip. A quick breakdown:
Here’s what our growth looks like in pictures:
Because of the above numbers, and with our ads running with tracking in place, we also now have a statistically significant data set to draw insights and conclusions.
What’s our Cost of Acquisition? Are our value propositions resonating with potential users? How are our users behaving? And does that match our long term hypothesis?
We can now answer these questions with data.
For instance, we always envisioned that Astra would integrate with all bank accounts, but we assumed most users would be connecting their traditional big bank accounts.
In fact, we are seeing a much more frequent set of upstarts (aka “neobanks”) connected than expected – after Chase and Bank of America, Chime ranks as the third most connected institution, reinforcing our hypothesis about universality!
Lastly, and most importantly, we now have a proven engine for growth (even though we have only scratched the surface so far). We have a variety of levers we can adjust experiment more quickly, to grow faster, or convert better. Even though it was a lot of work to get the basics in place, Astra’s engine can work mostly in the background, it’s tunable, and even capable of further optimization.
For Astra, 2018 was all about getting our MVP launched and learning from our users so we could iterate on our product.
By December, we saw signs of potential and stickiness, but we had one lagging metric: users.
Before the new year, we had passed 100 verified users on the platform and had 400 users overall. Month over month, we had a pretty consistent 27% growth rate, which was great, but we didn’t see it accelerating, nor did we have enough data to really understand the value potential users might see in Astra.
With the data we had, we knew:
Breaking that down in terms of growth, we had to prioritize both quality and speed of growth. Our users have to share bank credentials and verify identities just to use the most valuable feature of the app, so we had a high bar to cross.
We had chipped away at growth experiments: a press release here, a co-marketing article with one of our great partners there; brute forcing by onboarding friends one by one this month; embedding ourselves in subreddits for that month.
It wasn’t systematic. It wasn’t methodical. We weren’t sure what to prioritize.
So while we felt we were well on our way to engaging users, the acquisition and conversion part was much more nebulous. Were our value props resonating? Did our onboarding flow have too much friction? Did people even care?
Enter Demand Curve
None of our core team had much marketing experience and this seemed like it would hit the key areas we would need to round out our growth equation. And we would be learning the content in a mentored program instead of outsourcing it. It would be a sizable investment for an early stage startup like us, but we decided that we’d be able to answer so many of our open questions while learning the growth skills we lacked. So we applied!
In short: prepare, get into a routine, and buckle your seat belt. 🏃♂️
The program has a trajectory but does not have a predefined track that all companies have to follow. You work with your mentor to align the specifics of the content they’ve produced to your needs, and then make progress each day through a feedback cycle.
We probably only touched 65% of the available material, yet we still were able to really achieve a lot across a number of fronts. It was definitely a reach for our small team, but the mentors, curriculum design, and infrastructure made it all work and result in a productive experience.
Here’s more on what that was like from a day-by-day and week-by-week perspective:
The Daily Cadence
For four weeks, Monday through Friday, the Demand Curve program had daily readings, objectives, and feedback touch points:
The program is described in three parts, but our experience really broke down across five weeks in practice:
Pro Tip: Do NOT underestimate how much time any one of these sections might take here and as much as you can, front load efforts so that all the revisions and reflection can be applied DURING the mentored curriculum. This is not a waterfall sequence – there will be additional items to tackle after each week.
Week 0: Prep (before program starts)
Week 1: Strategy
Week 2: Creative
Week 3: Acquisition
Week 4: Conversion
Now rinse and repeat!
For a company at our stage with a product launched but just hitting our stride, this program was invaluable in reinforcing our direction and boosting our confidence to take on our next big challenge.
If you’re a founder with similar questions, if you’re a startup trying to build your own engine for growth, and you’re ready for an impactful (and wild) ride, this program was a great use of our time.
Ad Astra! 🚀