Spontaneous Word of Mouth

This is Week 01 of 09 of Astra’s Y Combinator Startup School Journal.

Startup School is off and running. Ten weeks, lectures by leaders in tech weekly, ~15k companies jump-starting various growth goals – rad! In this first week, the program officially started, the first four lectures have been given, and the SUS portal and forum were launched. We are lucky enough to be a part of the Advisor track so our group of ~20 companies also has a dedicated advisor from the YC network. 👋 Hi Nicolas!

Given it’s only been 3 days since the program started, much of this week’s content was logistical – how the forum works, how to do “Office Hours” with your advisor or moderator, and legal things your startup should know. A good portion of this was nuts and bolts or covered in last year’s lectures, but there were some juicy morsels, the best of which came from this lecture:

If you can build a product that is so good, people spontaneously tell their friends about it, you have done 80% of the work that you need to be a really successful startup.

I’d heard the YC motto and similar statements like this before, but the detail of this version that I particularly like is the “spontaneously” part. Making something people love is one qualitative measure but for your users to then tell others about it, spontaneously, outside the normal course of a conversation on topic, is another level altogether. Gauntlet thrown!


Now that things are underway, it’s a lot more clear how the program will operate week by week. The lectures are recorded on Tuesdays (with some bonus lectures on later days of the week) and posted to the SUS portal the following day. If you are in the Bay Area you can RSVP to attend in person. And Office Hours are held weekly with the schedule set by the group Advisor/Moderator.

Our key question for this week was what are we going to measure and submit weekly as our key performance indicator for progress. The program content suggests this should be meaningful and reflect user engagement (no vanity metrics allowed). Since Astra is a personal finance app and becoming a “verified” user is the last step in our onboarding funnel, we started there as it’s the hardest to achieve. And our user research and surveys showed us that the median frequency for checking one’s account balances so measuring at one time period “higher” made sense. Monthly Active Verified users (MAVs)? At the advice of our Advisor, we scratched that for the more conventional Monthly Active Users (MAU*s who are verified).

Tip: Even though our derivation of the conventional MAU was more specific to us, having a more conventional “top-line” metric helps those outside your startup readily understand your growth. You can always follow up with more detail.

Beyond that, activities related to the program included:

  • Defined our metric (MAU*s) and goal for the program of 250 MAU*s.
  • Attended Tuesday’s lecture in person and met other founders
    • Recommended – way better than communicating through the forum!
  • Connected Astra’s current partners to SUS Admin regarding offering a special deal to SUS companies.
  • Having special discounts for things like Stripe Atlas, Product Hunt Ship, and Google Cloud for Startups was a great and unexpected benefit of the program.



Last week’s user interviews and our ratio of Verified User to Total Users told us that we have a problem with too much friction in the onboarding process in our app. We knew we needed to address this because, even if we were able to get more eyeballs on the app, we would still have a low conversion ratio to verified users. We also knew we’d need better means to understand our KPI and the impact any changes we make to the app has to that metric. To that end:

    • Developed UX specs to make our onboarding flow less constrained and more intuitive.
    • Fixed a few key bugs related to the verification process.
    • Added properties to our user database to log when users changed state i.e. from signed up to verified.
    • Started developing our own analytics dashboard to track growth, specifically over time.

Quick Area Graph of Users and User State over Time


With a basic dashboard in place, we can not only check our stats more easily and regularly but we will also be able to see when we might have any spikes in our numbers from our other activities. This week we focused on engaging our current “Power Users” as well as planning a series of marketing initiatives to expose the app to more potential users:

  • Send verified users a coffee from Otis, our mascot.
    • ☕ We ran a promotion on launch day.
  • Developed a content marketing plan.
    • Includes this journal and more to come!
  • Started developing a blog for our website.
    • To capture that “juicy SEO” and improve organic search results.

Pulling from our dashboard, this week’s user stats:

  • 161 Total Users (+33)
  • 146 Signed Up Users (+98 *increase mostly from better tracking)
  • 31 Onboarded Users (+10)
  • 17 Verified Users (+5 or 42%)

Although our percentage isn’t affected by the law of large numbers yet, all in all not bad for Week 01. Next up, developing the changes to the onboarding UX! 🚀

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